Obituary: Kay Linaker (1913 – 2008)

Kay LinakerThe Vault of Horror reports the sad news that actress-writer Kay Linaker has died. Linkaker has a small but significant role in horror movie history: under her pen name Kate Phillips, she co-wrote the screenplay for the 1958 version of THE BLOB, the film “That Made Steve McQueen a Star and Gave Horror a New and Ever-Changing Shape” (according to the headline for the retrospective of the film that Cinefantastique ran in the January 1989 issue).
Linaker attended the American Academy of Dramatic Arts and appeared Read More

Obituary: Hazel Court (1926-2008)

THE RAVEN: a publicity still of Hazel Court, who played Lenore in this ersatz adaptation of Poe's poemAnother Queen has screamed her final scream. Hazel Court, who starred in two of the greatest horror films ever made, died yesterday at the age of 82. The cause of death was not mentioned in the initial announcement, which was made here on the Classic Horror Film Board. 
Court’s contribution to the horror genre was small but significant. Although most of her credits were in episodic television (including a TWILIGHT ZONE episode titled “The Fear”), she also appeared in over half a dozen horror films, including GHOST SHIP (1952), DEVIL GIRL FROM MARS (1954), and DR. BLOOD’S COFFIN (1961). Moving back and forth across the Atlantic, she appeared in two productions for England’s Hammer Films, CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1957) and THE MAN WHO COULD CHEAT DEATH (1959), and in three for American International Pictures, THE PREMATURE BURIAL (1962), THE RAVEN (1963), and MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH (1964). Read More

CFQ Web Surfing 03/30/08

SONG AT MIDNIGHTScary Movie: Ma Xu Weibang and Song at Midnight (1937): At Kung Fu Cinema, Jean Lukitsh takes a fond look back at “China’s first true horror film,” an adaptation of Gaston Leroux’s The Phantom of the Opera.
Horror Icon Richard Widmark, 93, Dies: At Cinematical, Peter Martin makes an unconvincing attempt to paint the Hollywood actor as a horror star, based on his well-remembered protrait of grinning evil in KISS OF DEATH. Someone, Martin neglects to mention Widmark’s one true horror film, Hammer Film’s 1976 swan song TO THE DEVIL, A DAUGHTER, co-starring Christopher Lee.

Obituary: Arthur C. Clarke

Science-fiction author Arthur C. Clarke died at 1:30am Wednesday morning in Sri Lanka. The prolific author won several Hugo and Nebula awards for his numerous books, which included both fiction and non-fiction, many of them promoting the future of space travel and exploration. His most famous titles include Childhood’s End, Rendezvous with Rama, and of course 2001: A Space Odyssey.

The Star Child from 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY

The last of these was an outgrowth of the 1968 film that Clarke co-wrote with producer-director Stanley Kubrick, inspired by Clarke’s short story “The Sentinel.” The novel was written in conjunction with the screenplay, which formed the basis for the most monumental and important science-fiction film in the history of the genre. Clarke went on to write several sequels, including 2010, 2061, and 3001: The Final Odyssey. The first of these was adapted into a movie by writer-director Peter Hyams.
You can read a more detailed obituary, written by Ravi Nessman, here.

Obituary: Leonard Rosenmann

Jeffrey Pidgeon has a nice tribute to film composer Leonard Rosenmann, who died on Tuesday, March 4 from a heart attack. Rosenmann was 83. In a long and varied career, Rosenmann did too much fine work to be pigeon-holed as a genre composer; nevertheless, he did memorable work on several films: FANTASTIC VOYAGE (1966), Ralph Bakshi’s LORD OF THE RINGS (1978), BENEATH THE PLANET OF THE APES (1970), BATTLE FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES (1973), THE CAR (1977), PROPHECY (1979), STAR TREK IV: THE VOYAGE HOME (1986), and ROBOCOP 2 (1990).

Star Trek fans will recall that after the glorious orchestral adventure music that Jerry Goldsmith and James Horner brought to the first three TREK features, Rosenmann was brought in for a change of pace on THE VOYAGE HOME, The film eschewed phaser and firepower in favor of a comic adventure about saving the whales, and Rosenmann played right along, emphazing the human, uplifting aspects of the Trek universe.

Obituary: Ben Chapman

Ben Chapman, the actor who played the title role in THE CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON, has died. No official obituaries have posted yet, but the news can be found, with much heartfelt fan reaction, in this thread at the Classic Horror Movies message board.

In a way, the Creature from the Black Lagon is unique among the pantheon of Universal Monsters. A product of the 1950s, when science-fiction had overtaken Gothic literature as the inspiration for creature features, the Gill-Man somehow became as memorable to fans as the established characters like Dracula, Frankenstein, the Mummy, and the Wolfman, who had haunted the screen courtesy of Universal Studios in the 1930s. The Creature may have been an off-shoot of evolution, rather than the result of a curse, but he was every bit as effective as his older relatives. And he did share at least one common trait with them: a propensity for sweeping the leading lady off her feet.
Born in 1925, Chapman played the Creature on land in the 1954 sci-fi film, shot in 3-D (Ricou Browning swam the role underwater). In recent years, the former actor was a welcome face at fan conventions, and he was also interviewed for a couple of video productions celebrating his most famous role: BACK TO THE BLACK LAGOON: A CREATURE CHRONICLE (2000) and CREATURE FEATURE: 50 YEARS OF THE GILL-MAN (2004).

Obituary: Roy Scheider

Actor Roy Scheider, who starred in perhaps the biggest horror blockbuster ever, died on Sunday afternoon. He was seventy-five.

'We need a bigger boat!'

Although not a genre specialist, Scheider will forever be remembered by millions of fans for his starring role as Chief Brody in JAWS (1975), the horror hit that became the biggest box office grosser of all time. (It was subsequently surpassed by STAR WARS.) Scheider reprised his role in the less successful sequel JAWS 2 (1978).
In a wide and varied career that included a co-starring role in the 1971 Best Picture THE FRENCH CONNECTION, Scheider’s genre roles were few and far between. He made his debut in THE CURSE OF THE LIVING CORPSE in 1964. He starred in Bob Fosse’s fantasy-musical ALL THAT JAZZ (1979). He played the lead in the Hitchcockian horror-thriller STILL OF THE NIGHT (1982). And he had a memorable role in David Cronenberg’s surreal adaptation of William S. Burrough’s NAKED LUNCH (1991).
You can read the New York Times’ obituary for Scheider here.

Obituary: Movie Poster Illustrator John Alvin

John Alvin, who created posters for E.T., YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN, STAR WARS, ALIEN JURASSIC PARK, LORD OF THE RINGS, and HARRY POTTER – died on February 6 at the age of 59, from a heart attack. Alvin began his career in 1974 with BLAZING SADDLES; he also created posters for Disney animated films: ALADDIN, BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, THE LITTLE MERMAID, PINOCCHIO, and THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME.
Newsday.com has an obituary here.

Vampira, R.I.P.

On the Classic Horror Film Board, genre journalist Tom Weaver reports that Maila Nurmi has died. Nurmi was best known as the ’50s television horror hostess Vampira, the prototype for the later Elvira (Cassandra Petersen). The very first of host of a horror movie program (according to Elena M. Watson’s Television Horror Movies Hosts), Vampira’s trademark shtick was a shrill scream followed by vaudeville jokes at the expense of the movies she screened; one of her favorite pastimes was searching for her pet spider Rollo (whom she could never find).

Unfortunately, it appears that none of Vampira’s old television shows was preserved for posterity; most fans know her work (if at all) through her appearance in the legendary bad movie PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE, in which recreated her Vampira look as the “Vampire Woman” supposedly married to Bela Lugosi’s “Ghoul Man.” Later, Nurmi had a few other film credits, such as SEX KITTENS GO TO COLLEGE and  THE MAGIC SWORD (in which she played a witch called “The Hag”).
So far, there have been no obituaries in major outlets, just a few mentions online of Nurmi’s passing (in The Dark Vault and on Blogging L.A.) However, you can read a nice tribute to Vampira by our friend Chris Stangl over at The Exploding Kinetoscope.

The Death of Hercules

Wow, I did not realize that Reg Park had died until I stumbled upon this obituary written by Tim Lucas over at VideoWatchblog. Park played Hercules in a couple of fantasy-oriented sword-and-sandal epics back in the early ’60s, HERCULS CONQUERS ATLANTIS and HERCULES IN THE HAUNTED WORLD. The later retains a certain cult appeal because was directed by genre expert Mario Bava, and it co-stars Christopher Lee (Dracula for a generation of movie-goers, before playing Count Dooku in ATTACK OF THE CLONES and Saruman in LORD OF THE RINGS.
Lucas’s obit is a heart-felt piece that makes you appreciate Park’s contribution to the role, even if you are not a big fan of Italian muscleman epics. If you want a quick introduction to the genre, check out the video below, which I shot at an exhibition of photographs and posters called “Beefcake Babylon: the Iconography of Sword & Sandal Epics.” Park shows up in some of the photos, along with his predecessor in the role of Hercules, Steve Reeves.