Q&A interviews with Hazel Court, Yvette Vickers, Richard Matheson, and other creators of SciFi and Horror movies.
SCIENCE FICTION STARS AND HORROR HEROES, Tom Weaver, 2006, McFarland and Company, 448pp, index, photos
A remarkable collection of Q&A interviews with actors, actresses, directors, producers, writers, and others who made science fiction and horror movies of old. The interviews themselves are excellently done. Author Tom Weaver has produced a series of these over the years, documenting science fiction and horror movie-making of the 1950’s and 1960’s. This is the first I’ve bought and read and am glad I did. I love this stuff.
In this cool collection, Richard Matheson tells of his increasing turn towards humor with the Roger Corman Edgar Alan Poe movies, Yvette Vickers discusses how she didn’t find Attack of the Giant Leeches scarey but did get creeped out making the cave sequence, Kim Hunter discusses in detail the difficulties with the ape make-up in the Planet of the Apes movies, actor Richard Devon explains why he finally turned his back on Roger Corman, Robert Shayne talks about his run as Inspector Henderson on TV’s Adventures of Superman and says George Reeves was not worried about typecasting as often alleged, while Phyllis Coates explains she quit after the first season of Superman to avoid being typecast and turned to B-westerns. You’ll find that Acquanetta, who got typed as a “jungle girl”, owed her unlikey name to the shortening of her actual name: Burnuacquenetta, a Native name meaning Burning Fire, Deep Water.
Some of the interviewees have passed away in the few short years since publication (2006), being of an advanced age already since their careers thrived in the 1950’s and 1960’s. Tragically, Yvette Vickers of Giant Leeches and Attack of the 50 Foot Woman, and a 1959 Playboy centerfold, was discovered by a neighbor in 2011 at her home, dead for at least a year, death due to natural causes. Newspapers prominentaly reported the passing of Hazel Court as well, the red-headed star of Hammer Horror and Corman’s Edgar Alan Poe movies, who died in 2008. Others happily remain with us. Richard Matheson (I Am Legend, Incredible Shrinking Man, Poe movies) is still producing work, for example.
Anna Lee (and others throughout the book) describe how much they enjoyed working with gentle Boris Karloff. Others commented on how Peter Lorre adlibbed a lot of his lines, to the consternation of fellow actors. (Jack Nicholson remarked on the same thing in Roger Corman’s autobiography years ago…Nicholson says Vincent Price adjusted but it drove classically-trained Karloff nuts.
In this book, one interviewee notes that Basil Rathbone bore up under it, but was known to ask Peter if he was going to get somewhere near the script in the next sequence so Rathbone would recognize his cues.)
One thing that comes through all these interviews is how much effort went into making even these low budget movies. (Perhaps “especially” these low budget movies because there was no money to buy solutions.) The interviewees cheerfully admit when they were in something that they didn’t take seriously, something they occasionally didn’t even remember, but still, the effort put into it comes through., again and again.
As I read this book, I popped DVD’s into my player for a marathon presentation of The Abominable Dr. Phibes, Dr. Phibes Rises Again, The Land Unknown, Mole People, and Attack of the Giant Leeches. It seemed appropriate.
These books are not cheap. Even used on Amazon they are $30 to $40 apiece, but they are great if you are a fan of these old movies like me. Author Tom Weaver points out that science fiction and fantasy is probably the only area for which there are fans who buy magazines about how the movies were made. There’s no Famous Monsters of Filmland for B-Westerns, mysteries, or romances. Not that there aren’t fans, but no fan base that would support magazines like Filmfax, Starlog, or Fangoria, from which these interviews have been compiled.
Cover of Attack of the Giant Leeches