Michael Gough, most famous for playing butler/aide-de-camp Alfred Pennyworth in the first Warner Brothers BATMAN series, passed away today, March 17th. He was 94.
He appeared as the kindly and resourceful Alfred in Tim Burton’s BATMAN (1989), amd BATMAN RETURNS, and in Joel Schumacher’s BATMAN FOREVER and BATMAN AND ROBIN. He also appeared in character for a series of OnStar commercials.
However, Michael Gough was a versatile actor, often playing flinty authority figures and deep-dyed villains with a sadistic streak, in films such as HORRORS OF THE BLACK MUSEUM (1959), KONGA (1961), THE BLACK ZOO (1963), and TROG (1970).
Some of his genre films include: the proto-science fiction comedy THE MAN IN THE WHITE SUIT (1951), the ground-breaking HORROR OF DRACULA (1958), an alien in THEY CAME FROM BEYOND SPACE (1967), as well as many other roles in THE SKULL, CURSE OF THE CRIMSON ALTAR (THE CRIMSON CULT, 1968), CRUCIBLE OF HORRROR, THE LEGEND OF HELL HOUSE (1973), THE BOYS FROM BRAZIL (1978), VENOM, (1981), TOP SECRET! (1984), A CRISTMAS CAROL (1984), ARTHUR THE KING, (1987), THE SERPENT AND THE RAINBOW (1988), NOSTRADAMUS (1994), THE HAUNTING OF HELEN WALKER (1995), and SLEEPY HOLLOW (1999) .
On UK television, he was also a familiar face. His genre credits include SHERLOCK HOLMES (1955), ROBIN HOOD, THE AVENGERS (first in 1965, as the inventor of the Cybernauts) DOCTOR WHO (playing both the Celestial Toymaker [pictured ]and the in the `80’s Time Lord Councilor Hedin), THE SAINT, THE CHAMPIONS, MOONBASE 3, BLAKES 7, THE LITTLE VAMPIRE (1986), and the ADVENTURES OF YOUNG INDIANNA JONES.
Michael Gough had been retired from on-screen work, but did voice acting for THE CORPSE BRIDE, ALICE IN WONDERLAND, and the soon to be released ALL-STAR SUPERMAN.
Michael Gough, most famous for playing butler/aide-de-camp Alfred Pennyworth in the first Warner Brothers BATMAN series, passed away today, March 17th. He was 94.
Nicholas Courtney (William Nicholas Stone Courtney), best known to scif-fi fans as DOCTOR WHO’s Brigadier General Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart, passed away Febuary 22nd. He was 81.
Nicholas Courtney appeared in many UK televsion programs and stage productions, including THE AVENGERS, THE SAINT, and THE CHAMPIONS.
However, DOCTOR WHO was the series that gave him the most exposure. He appeared in over 100 episodes as guest star and series regular. He appeared with all six original series Doctors, five of them as the same character.
He began as future Earth secret agent Bret Vyon, with first doctor William Hartnell. With second Doctor Patrick Troughton, he took over at the last moment the role of British Col. Lethbridge-Stewart for the 1968 serial The Web of Fear.
When next seen he had been assigned to UNIT (United Nations Intellegence Task Force), and promoted to Brigader General.
When it was decided to “ground” the third Doctor (John Pertwee), Nicholas Courtney’s Brigader was made the head of UNIT’s UK branch, and he offered the Time Lord the position of their ‘Scientific Advisor’. This gave the Doctor access to resources and a semi-offical standing that aided him in his adventures.
Originally seeming rather stiff and “by-the-book”, eventually the writers and Courtney invested “the Brig” with a quiet and dry sense of humor. He and the Doctor were often at loggerheads, Lethridge-Stewart taking an aggressive military approach to situations the Doctor preferred to deal with using science and reason. They traded barbs and sometimes disagreed bitterly, yet there remained a sense that they respected and liked each other, deep down.
It was the unflappable, matter-of-fact way of confronting the bizarre menaces he faced that made the Brig such an audience favorite. Encountering a stone medieval gargoyle come to life in 1971’s The Daemons, Nicholas Courtney made the somewhat ludicrous line “Jenkins; chap with the wings, there. Five rounds rapid” seem utterly reasonable and very much in character.
After Tom Baker became the fourth Doctor, Nicholas Courtney was no longer a regular, but would continue to guest star when the Doctor returned to contemporary Earth (although it was sometimes implied that the UNIT adventures took place around ten years in the future from the time they were made).
With fifth Doctor Peter Davison, Courtney played Lethbridge-Stewart in Mawdryn Undead and The Five Doctors. Though he did not appear with sixth Doctor Colin Baker on the actual series, they did work together as the characters in the charity 3-D special Dimensions In Time. (Not broadcast in the U.S.)
Nicholas Courtney appeared with seventh Doctor Sylvester McCoy in 1989’s Battlefield, and would later reprise his role in various audio productions for the BBC and licensed Big Finish DOCTOR WHO audio dramas.
Courtney became a fan favorite, attending a number of conventions and charming audiences once again.
Though he did not appear on the revived DOCTOR WHO, the character was mentioned several times, and Courtney did guest star as Sir Alistair Lethbrige-Stewart with former companion Sarah Jane Smith (Liz Sladen) on the spin-0ff THE SARAH JANE ADVENTURES in the 2008 two-parter Enemy of the Bane.
Five Rounds Rapid became the title of his autobiography.
Having visited Nicholas Courtney just days before he died, Tom Baker wrote on his Website:
“Of all the characters in Doctor Who there is no doubt that he was the most loved by the fans for his wonderful portrayal of the rather pompous Brigadier. “Five rounds rapid” was the line we all loved, always addressed to Sergeant Benton.
Nick’s close friends simply adored him. There was a certain innocence in his personality that was utterly endearing. He was very easy to tease, and I did my share, which made him shake his head in disbelief when he realised he had been had.
He was a wonderful companion and his friends would call each other or e-mail to relate the latest little stories of a night out with the Brig. He had a marvellous resonant voice which he used brilliantly when it was his turn to spin a yarn. And his background was fascinating too: born in Alexandria, Egypt, he was brought up speaking French and Arabic. Later he perfected English and after a few drinks he would speak in Latin tags to great comic effect.
We shall miss him terribly.”
On January 30, 2011, iconic – and very prolific – composer John Barry passed away, after being in ill health for some time. He was seventy-seven years old. There is little doubt a great many will be saddened at the loss of one of film’s truly cherished friends.
Barry was an emotionally introspective and poetic composer whose haunting themes and pulsing atmospheric rhythms gained him far reaching notoriety. He was also a five time Oscar winner (BORN FREE – both score and song; THE LION IN WINTER; OUT OF AFRICA; DANCES WITH WOLVES), a Grammy winner (DANCES WITH WOLVES), and two time BAFTA winner (The Lion in Winter and the Academy Fellowship). In addition to his many other nominations he was nominated for 11 Golden Globe awards, taking home a win for OUT OF AFRICA. Though his work was far from limited to the genre, he contributed several excellent scores to science fiction, fantasy, and horror films – including, of course, several Bond films.
Born John Barry Prendergast in 1933, this son of a movie theater owner in York, England, would grow up to become a sentimental favorite composer of film and film music fans all over the world.
On a somewhat personal note, I was strongly affected by his work when I was very young; it was Barry who instilled within me a deep love for film music that has been with me most of my life. My parents had a collection of record albums that included an interesting mix of musical genres and within that mix were two quite specific albums that captured my attention: GOLDFINGER and YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE, two very famous James Bond scores. At the time I was too young to really know anything about James Bond, but once I discovered these two treasures I was altogether captivated. I even wrote my own stories to some of my favorite TV shows at the time and recorded my little dramas onto cassette using these two albums as the ‘scores’ for what I considered my ‘radio dramas.’ For me there has always been an acute connection to Mr. Barry’s work. And in this I know I am far from alone.
Barry would go on to score eleven of those Ian Fleming-based secret agent films and in so doing would cement a very solid position in the history of his profession. Musician-composer Monty Norman did score the first Bond film, DR. NO; however, Barry arranged and performed the version of the 007 theme heard in the film, which arguably would become the most famous theme music in the history of cinema, as well as one of the most re-recorded. (Some have speculated that Barry actually composed the theme — although the piece is credited to Norman. It certainly fits Barry’s style like a glove.)
In a 1996 interview with Film Score Monthly, Barry credited big band leader Stan Kenton with the inspiration for the Bond style. “I think the genesis of the Bond sound was most certainly that Kentonesque sharp attack,” he said, pointing out Kenton’s brassy sound and notes that hit extreme highs and lows.
THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS would be his final Bond installment in 1987, and in 2006 when asked by the The Sunday Express of London why he never scored another in the series he replied, “I gave up after (that). I’d exhausted all my ideas, rung all the changes possible. It was a formula that had run its course. The best had been done as far as I was concerned.”
Though he is perhaps best known for the work he did on the Bond series, those scores are merely a fraction of his body of work. He would eventually write the music for well over a hundred productions. And in that there would be television, stage and radio – not to mention very personal efforts – that would beckon him to put pencil to music sheet. For instance, in 2006 he would work with ten well-known tenors on an album titled HERE’S TO THE HEROES. In that effort lyrics were written by lyricist and friend Don Black for Barry themes and a very pleasant, well-selling listening experience was the result.
John Barry was one of the most romantic film composers of his or any generation. Even his action cues have a romantic, moody quality which beg multiple listenings. And several films owe much of their critical and audience liking to his sweeping, moving style. OUT OF AFRICA and DANCES WITH WOLVES are two clear examples. These scores simply ascend with a lush beauty that instantly envelopes the viewer/listener and conjures something in the heart that refuses to be denied.
Many composers, especially modern ones, have a style that, although not bad, can be fairly easily interchanged. Barry, however, was wholly himself. No one has ever sounded quite like him. And though he has on occasion been criticized for works which sound too similar, he consistently turned out material that continues to delight, stimulate and yet at the same time sooth the soul. The imagination of audiences and listeners of his music will continue to bloom as time marches on.
We all have our inspirations in life and Kenton wasn’t the only influence on Barry’s. In fact, it all inadvertently started with his father and those theater chains. As a teen Barry operated the projectors in some of those movie houses and fell in love with cinema and especially its music. He cites composers like Bernard Herrmann, Erich Korngold and Max Stern as some of those who worked their magic on him.
Once bitten by the bug Barry went on to study piano and composition, and then played trumpet in dance bands and later in a military band. Eventually he formed his own successful band, The John Barry Seven, and wound up playing backup for a popular BBC program. The band’s style was rather jazzy and sassy, which was just what the current crop of directors was looking for. He began getting film engagements and with FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE (the Bond producers didn’t forget his stylish DR. NO contribution) in 1963, and ZULU and GOLDFINGER (which pushed the Beatles’ A Hard Day’s Night off the top spot of the album charts and won Barry a gold disc) in 1964, he was off and running in cinema. Eventually he would go on to score potent and very memorable works for films like MIDNIGHT COWBOY; THE LAST VALLEY; WALKABOUT; MARY, QUEEN OF SCOTS; ROBIN AND MARIAN; KING KONG (from 1976); THE DEEP; HANOVER STREET; THE BLACK HOLE; RAISE THE TITANIC; FRANCIS; BODY HEAT; HIGH ROAD TO CHINA; Francis Ford Coppola’s THE COTTON CLUB (which won a Grammy for Best Jazz Instrumental); Oscar nominated CHAPLIN, and the list goes on and on.
His work for a modestly budgeted fantasy film in 1980 called SOMEWHERE IN TIME helped place that film in cult classic status. Starring Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour, it didn’t garner much attention from audiences or critics upon its initial release, but its video release and airing on television gave it new life, with many thanks due to the beautiful melodies Barry wrote for it. It is one of his most beloved works. This is the type of almost spiritual elevation he could bring to a motion picture.
Director Sydney Pollack once said, “You can’t listen to his music without seeing movies in your head.” It is hard to imagine a better compliment, or epitaph, than that for a film composer.
Seems that it was a good call, us taking the news portion of The Cinefantastique Podcast and mating it with what had to date been called the Cinefantastique Post-Mortem Podcast. Word that Ridley Scott is turning his scheduled ALIEN prequel into a kinda non-prequel puts Steve Biodrowski, Lawrence French, and Dan Persons in a ruminative mood, prompting a discussion of the cursed genre of prequels, followed by a desperate quest for the handful of “early years” follow-ups good enough to merit actual being watched.
Before that, there’ll be news and discussion of upcoming releases, a couple of listener responses to our SEASON OF THE WITCH review, and some thoughts on the nominees for Best Make-Up Oscars. Plus, many, many tangents and asides. Come join us!
The Guardian reports that Pete Postlethwaite died on January 2 of cancer. The 64-year-old thespian, who earned fame and respect for his Oscar-nominated performance in IN THE NAME OF THE FATHER (1993), had a wide-ranging resume that extended back to 1975; included were numerous genre titles: ALIEN 3 (1992), JAMES AND THE GIANT PEACH (1996), DRAGONHEART (1996), THE LOST WORLD: JURASSIC PARK (1997), ALICE IN WONDERLAND (a 1999 TV movie), ANIMAL FARM (a 1999 animated telefilm), DARK WATER (2005), AEON FLUX (2005), THE OMEN (2006), GHOST SON (2007), SOLOMON KANE (2009), CLASH OF THE TITANS, and INCEPTION (2010).
Postlethwaite was one of those consistently good character actor who was always worth watching; never a star, he was always memorable in his supporting roles. Case in point: despite the critical bile hurled at CLASH OF THE TITANS, Postlethwaite breathed a convincing humanity into his role as Spyros, so that his death carried the dramatic weight necessary to anchor Perseus’ quest to unseat the gods.
Postlethwaite’s last credit was KILLING BONO, scheduled for U.K. release in April.
Anne Francis, best known to most readers as Altaira ‘Alta’ Morbius in 1956’s SF Classic FORBIDDEN PLANET, passed away Saturday, January 1st 2011. She was 80.
Francis made a good impression with audiences in the role of the intelligent, but naive and innocently sexy castaway, and became of favorite of SF film fans.
Her co-star and love interest in that film, Lesile Nielsen, died November 28th, 2010.
Born Anne Lloyd Francis, she was sometimes billed that way, particularly in later years. A good and popular performer, she appeared in many films and television shows.
In 1965, she appeared on the detective show BURKE’S LAW as HONEY WEST, soon spun off as it’s own ABC series in 1966-67.
Based on a series of novels about a female private detective by Gloria and Forest Fickling (“G.G. Fickling”), the TV version was a kind mix of James Bond and THE AVENGERS’ Emma Peel, dressing up in a black bodysuit for spying and fighting. She also used a number of then borderline science-fictional surveillance devices and weapons.
Only lasting one season of 30 episodes, it nevertheless had it’s own short-lived Gold Key comic book.
Other genere-related appearences include the live TV anthologies SUSPENSE (1949) and LIGHTS OUT, She appeared in the film THE ROCKET MAN (1954), two episodes of THE TWILIGHT ZONE (Jess-Belle and The After Hours), KRAFT SUSPENSE THEATER, two connected episodes of THE MAN FROM UNCLE as a villianess, several ALFRED HITCHCOCK’s, germ warfare thriller THE SATAN BUG (1965), THE INVADERS, MISSION IMPOSSIBLE, supernatural TV movie HAUNTS OF THE VERY RICH (1972), KUNG FU, WONDER WOMAN, FANTASY ISLAND (both incarantions) MAZES AND MONSTERS (1982), and even an episode of the CONAN television series.
Read more about Anee Francis’s life and carreer at The L.A. Times.
Verne Langdon was a multi-talented make-up artist, mask maker, musician, composer, record producer, writer, occasional actor, and even a wrestler in his time. He passed away Saturday, January 1st, at the age of 69.
Langdon was a familiar name and face to readers of Famous Monsters Of Filmland magazine in the 1960’s and 70’s. He wrote a few articles, but was also written about, as he was behind many of the famous masks of the Universal Studios monsters made by the Don Post Studios, and sold in the magazine.
He recorded a An Evening with Boris Karloff and His Friends for Decca Records, and composed and performed two albums of horror-oriented music, Vampire At The Harpsicord and Phantom of The Organ. Langdon also recorded a number of non-genre music albums, available on CD.
Responible for many of Don Post’s famous masks, he designed his own original, The Zombie, which is highly prized today by mask collectors.
Verne Langdon also produced and designed live shows featuring monsters and make-up for Universal Studios.
Film & TV credits include THE HAUNTED PALACE, THE COMEDY OF TERRORS, the PAT PAULSON TV show, and the PLANET OF THE APES film series, working with designer John Chambers.
His official website can supply more details about his life, showing that Verne Langdom was still active with a wide range of projects and horror/sci-fi fandom up until his death.
News via The Classic Horror Film Board.
“A fierey Horse with the speed of light, a cloud of dust and a hearty ‘Hi-yo Sil-ver! The Lone Ranger Rides Again!'”
For most people who remember those words, they are indelibly related in the mind with the voice of radio/TV announcer Fred Foy.
Foy passed away yesterday, December 22nd, 2011 at the age of 89.
Begining as an actor/announcer for radio just before World War II, during wich he served in the Army’s Armed Forces Radio, in 1948 Fred Foy was selected as the announcer for THE LONE RANGER radio series. He replaced announcer Harry Golden, and became the voice most associated with the series.
In fact, as Foy related with relish, he actually played the Lone Ranger in a single episode (March 29, 1954). Lead actor Brace Beemer had come down with a bad case of laryngitis, and watched as his announcer played his role. Afterwards, Beemer, who had be one of the announcer/narrators of the series before replacing Earle W. Grasier as the Lone Ranger, said words to the effect of: “Pretty good, Foy. Lets just say, I’ll never miss another show.”
Acting as well as announcing for WXYZ Radio in Detroit, where the syndicated shows originated, Fred Foy also played usually small roles on THE LONE RANGER, THE GREEN HORNET, and SERGEANT PRESTON OF THE YUKON. He would play Sgt. Preston a number of times, though I don’t have the details at hand.
When THE LONE RANGER debuted on television, the earliest episodes featured actor Gerald Mohr (ANGRY RED PLANET) as announcer/narrator. Though he possesed a fine voice, his grim delivery was not what people expected, and the producers soon had Fred Foy record the shows opening and needed narration in his trademark high- energy style. These were done from Detroit and sent out to the West Coast, so he never worked with the TV cast.
Fred Foy gave the show a sense of breathless urgency and enthusiasm; you could tell he loved it. Having met him and heard him speak a number of times, I found out he really was a fan of high adventure. He subscribed to relatively recent pulp reprints of The Spider, according to then-publisher Rich Harvey, and delighted in appearing at Old Time Radio conventions, often announcing or playing the leads in THE LONE RANGER and THE GREEN HORNET, his voice having lost nothing of it’s power over the decades.
Fred Foy became an announcer for ABC, and narrated documentaries in later years.
With Fenaday as producer, Irvin Kershner would shoot multiple episodes of the Nick Adams starring Western THE REBEL.
Equally adept at drama and comedy, Kershner would direct films such as 1966’s A FINE MADNESS (starring Sean Connery), THE FLIM-FLAM MAN, and the Barbara Striesand starring UP THE SANDBOX (1972), which featured surreal fantasy sequences.
In 1978, Irvin Kershner directed the ESP/Horror thriller THE EYES OF LAURA MARS, based on a screenplay by John Carpenter (HALLOWEEN).
George Lucas, who was a student of Kershner’s when he taught at the University of Southern California, chose him to direct the second STAR WARS film, THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK. Irvin Kershner was able to give the film both a sense of continuity with the previous installment and a darker, more sophisticated visual touch.
Kershner was reunited with star Sean Connery again on the non-series James Bond film NEVER SAY NEVER AGAIN (1983, an updated remake of THUNDERBALL.
In 1990 he directed ROBOCOP 2, an action-packed sequel to the original, quite competent but not as satisfying as the first in the series.
After directing an episode of SEAQUEST DSV (aka SEAQUEST 2032) in 1993, he retired from the film business.
Picking up the nickname “Kersh” during EMPIRE, Irvin Kershner was apparently a well-liked man among his fellow filmmakers, and certainly a memorable director for genre fans.
Born in the North West Territory of Canada, he attended Toronto’s Academy of Radio Arts before moving to New York and joining The Neighborhood Playhouse. Soon he became a regular performer in live television, including a number of science fiction-themed shows.
Among the live performances were OUT THERE (1951), LIGHTS OUT, SUSPENSE, and several episodes of TALES OF TOMORROW (1952-53). In one of the TALES shows, Appointment on Mars, Nielsen’s astronaut character was supposed to shoot another (played by Brian Keith). However, the prop gun refused to fire its blanks during the live program, so he was forced to rush his adversary and strangle him instead.
His powerful voice and leading man looks lent Leslie Nielsen an air of authority, making him a natural for FORBIDDEN PLANET’s serious-minded skipper of the United Planet’s Cruiser C57D. Nielsen invested the stock character with a touch of quiet humor in lighter situations and a sense of at-times barely-controlled fury at the strange predicament that imperils his ship and crew.
For Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color, Nielsen played Col. Francis Marion in the eight-part THE SWAMP FOX, based on the historical figure, who was an originator of the use of intelligence-gathering and guerilla tactics during the Revolutionary War.
He appeared in episodes of THRILLER and ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS, starred as modern policeman Lt. Price Adams in THE NEW BREED (1961-62).
In 1965, he played 19th century occult detective Brett Kingsford in DARK INTRUDER, originally planned as a supernatural mystery series to be called THE BLACK CLOAK. Not picked up by a network, Universal released it as a feature film.
During the 60’s and 70’s Leslie Nielsen appeared on many TV shows, often playing straightforward or ruthlessly corrupt authority figures. SF/Fantasy shows included VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA, WILD WILD WEST, and THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E.
TV Movies NIGHT SLAVES, THE AQUARIANS, HAUSER’S MEMORY (all 1970) shared some SF slant. Nielsen guested in two episodes of the supernatural anthology THE EVIL TOUCH (1973-74), played a recurring adversary for Caine in KUNG FU, and faced off against a bear in the ecological SF flick DAY OF THE ANIMALS (1977).
Leslie Nielsen visited FANTASY ISLAND three times (1978-80) before spoofing his screen image in AIRPLANE. He brought a deadpan delivery of nonsensical dialog as Dr. Rumack in the 1980 film, a chance to show off his real-life sense of humor and love of the absurd.
This film would lead to a short-lived TV series POLICE SQUAD! as the disconnected from reality Detective Frank Drebbin, later spun off into the NAKED GUN films, and eventually other thick-headed characters in comedies such as THE CREATURE WASN’T NICE and DRACULA: DEAD AND LOVING IT.
He also appeared in horror movies PROM NIGHT (1980) and CREEPSHOW (1982), and horror spoofs REPOSSESSED (1990), and SCARY MOVIE 3 & 4.
Leslie Nielsen is sure to be missed, by several generations of TV and Movie viewers, and fans of both genre and mainstream entertainment.