Grandpa and the Midnight Mutants

In 1990, Atari and Radioactive Software released an interesting action game for the Atari 7800 system called Midnight Mutants. The game dealt with a young boy’s quest to save his grandfather, who has been turned into a pumpkin by Dr. Evil. What’s really interesting about the game is that, as you can see from the screenshots from the game shown here, the grandfather in question is Grandpa Munster! Or is he?

You see, the game technically wasn’t related to The Munsters. Apparently, only the use of Al Lewis’ likeness was licensed. But, thanks to his appearance being so strongly linked to his portrayal of “Grandpa” from the series and since he was used to represent the captured grandfather of the game’s protagonist, many assumed that the game involved Grandpa Munster. If the rights holders for The Munsters had attempted any legal action, I’d assume that Radioactive Software and Atari would’ve pointed out that since the main character was named Jimmy Harkman, then it would mean that his grandfather would be named “Grandpa Harkman” and wasn’t related to character from The Munsters in any way. I’m not saying that it would necessarily hold up in court, but I’m sure they’d make that sort of argument. Although the character from the TV series is informally referred to as “Grandpa Munster” by many, he was actually referred to as “Count Dracula” in a few episodes of the show. This is because he was only the father-in-law of Herman Munster.

This unusual licensing strategy was also used on other occasions. Lewis hosted horror movies on TBS as “Grampa” during the 80’s and also hosted a series of VHS tapes from Vintage Video (aka AmVest Video). Notice that, although the Amazon listings refer to him as “Grandpa Munster,” he is merely called “Grampa” on the packaging. In these appearances, he did not wear the same makeup design used in The Munsters television series or films (with the exception of Grampa’s Sci-Fi Hits, which marked his only appearance in makeup as “Grampa”).

I have to wonder why they chose to use “Grandpa” in that game. Were reruns of The Munsters really all that popular with the youth of the time? Perhaps they were inspired by a similar game for the NES called Fester’s Quest, which featured characters from The Addams Family. However, unlike Midnight Mutants, this game had licensed the characters. But even if that was the case, one has to wonder why they thought that children of the 80’s would want to buy a game about a character from a 60’s sitcom battling aliens.

Is this the end of civilization as we know it?

MGM/Comcast’s “Impact” OnDemand channel is now offering the 1986 post-apocalyptic trash classic Robot Holocaust for free. Yes, as in the one that appeared on Mystery Science Theater 3000.

Although the film’s print is very good and has all the footage that was cut from the MST3K version, those who remember Wizard Video’s claim that it was “too gory for the silver screen” are going to be disappointed. Although it does have its fair share of severed limbs, it isn’t very gory and the tagline was only putting a positive spin the fact that it was a direct-to-video movie. On the plus side, it’s chock full of killer robots, mutants, buck-toothed worms and other bizarre creatures!

I hope that it gets a DVD release under MGM’s Midnite Movies line sometime soon, if only to see what movie it would be paired with. My best guess would be the similarly-themed Mutant Hunt. I love the original VHS box art for that movie; not only does it make promises it can’t keep regarding the film’s quality, but it also appears to show a half-naked Inspector Gadget going on a rampage.

Also, the big switch from analog broadcasting to digital is scheduled for midnight tonight! It also seems that even those who have converter boxes or cable might experience a little trouble. From what I could glean from the news today, you might have to press your remote’s menu button and hit any option that has the word “Scan” in it if you are unable to get certain channels. You can find more information on the matter by looking around here.

I’m sure that some of you readers have fiddled with a TV antenna trying to get some horror movie to tune in a little clearer or settled with a snowy TV signal from a distant station since they were airing something you desperately wanted to see. Although the switchover will make that impossible for modern viewers, some will surely miss the ability to do that sort of thing. If you have any memories like this which you want to share, please feel free to leave a comment.

Linger Longer II: The Legend of Jimmy’s Gold

Opie and Anthony fans are well acquainted with Jim Norton’s multi-talented character, “Ted Sheckler.” In this installment, Ted looks back on his career as a ghost hunter. First we have the full length (audio only) version uploaded by Yarsh29:

For those of you with slower connections, here’s the animated “best of” version by cokelogic (uploaded by foresaken797):

As with most great Youtube videos, neither of these are “work safe.” By way, am I the only one who’s noticed that all the ghost hunters on television basically act like Ted? Despite going to places for the sole purpose of looking for evidence of the paranormal, they run away screaming bloody murder if anything actually happens!

Oh May! George Takei and Asian Pacific American Heritage Month

I Love The Power Glove. It's So Bad.

I recently discovered that May is Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. Seeing as the GdL strives to be all-inclusive, I haven chosen to celebrate by devoting this entry to the famous Japanese-American named George Takei. Although most people think of him as “Lt. Hikaru Sulu” from Star Trek or the funny guy who joked about raping Tim Hardaway, Mr. Takei has done so much more than that in the world of horror/sci-fi.

George Hosato Takei (now George Hosato Takei Altman)was born in Los Angeles, California during the year 1937. He began his Hollywood career doing uncredited dubbing work for the American versions of Rodan (1957-US version) and Gigantis the Fire Monster (1959-US version) (aka Godzilla Raids Again). Decades later, Takei would reveal the rationale for the bizarre (and out-of-date) “banana oil” line during an appearance on Late Night with Conan O’Brien. Another noteworthy event in his early acting career was his appearance on a controversial (and somewhat supernatural) episode of The Twilight Zone called “The Encounter” in 1964. Perhaps drawing upon the time when his family and he were forced to live in internment camps during World War II, Takei played a young Japanese-American and the tension he faces with a racist WWII veteran.

In 1966, he got a part on a show that made him famous: Star Trek (1966-1969). Not surprisingly, he also appeared in the animated series (1973-1974), the various Star Trek movies (1979-1991) and an appearance on Star Trek: Voyager (1996). His fame from the Trek franchise (and his talent) also led to appearances in other genre films and television shows, such as his appearances in the sci-fi western films Oblivion (1994) and Oblivion II: Backlash (1996). This was followed by an appearance on the television series Space Cases (1997) and a part in the movie Bug Buster (1998). More recently, he has appeared in AI Assault (2006), the short film Showdown of the Godz (2008), an episode of Star Wars: The Clone Wars (2009) and a role in the animated movie Scooby-Doo and the Samurai Sword (2009). Personally, I find his role in Showdown of the Godz to be particularly interesting, as be plays the fictional owner of the real-life Monster Sushi restaurant.

For those who want to read about the non sci-fi/horror aspects of George Takei’s life and career (including his work in politics), I recommend visiting the following:

The Official George Takei website
George Takei’s IMDB profile
George Takei’s Wikipedia entry

The above PD image was photographed by Bill Hrybyk and is taken from Nasa.gov

Happy Cinco de Mayo!

What better way for Gravedigger’s Local 16 to celebrate this fine day than to pay tribute to K. Gordon Murray? Not only was he the son of a funeral parlor director, but he’s also responsible for bringing tons of Mexican horror movies to the America. If not for him, many would not have experienced weird and wonderful films like The Robot vs. The Aztec Mummy, The Brainiac, Doctor of Doom, and The Vampire’s Coffin. He was also the first person to introduce the greatness that is El Santo to English-speaking audiences, albeit renamed as “Samson.” To learn more about Mr. Murray and the films he distributed, check out “The Wonder World of K. Gordon Murray” and his Wikipedia entry.

Old news and New news

I was talking with the Abominable N. Oremac recently about the upcoming A Nightmare on Elm Street remake and he informed me that Variety has reported that Jackie Earle Haley is going to be the new Freddy Krueger. Although I’m glad the oft-rumored for the role Billy Bob Thornton didn’t get the part, I would have cast Ryan Stiles. I know it’s an odd-sounding choice, but the man looks eerily like Robert Englund did in his younger days. Then again, I wouldn’t have even greenlit the remake if it were up to me.

Remember that post I did about the “Lost Collection” from Lionsgate? Well, I have some bad news. The Amazon.com reviews for the Slaughter High DVD reveal that the transfer is full frame and poor looking. In fact, it sounds like they just reused the print from the 2007 FEARnet showing. Unless this was truly the only print that was available (including checking for old theatrical prints), this is simply inexcusable. I’m shocked that Lionsgate took such a gigantic step backward.

Speaking of FEARnet, I noticed that the latest updates for the Comcast cable version include Phantasm II and all the Toxic Avenger movies. All I can say is: HELL. YES.

Wait, that’s not true. I can also note how this (and the recent showing of the first and fourth Toxic Avenger movies on G4) destroys Lloyd Kaufman’s theory of cable channels having some sort of anti-Troma grudge. Personally, I suspect that the reason cable channels weren’t trying to play Troma stuff around that time was due to the fact that DirecTV already had the licenses. It’s nothing personal against Mr. Kaufman or Troma, but that comment from the interview always bothered me.

While we’re on the subject of OnDemand, I recommend also checking the other “Free Movies” sections rather than just sticking to FEARnet. For example, Pumpkinhead and The White Buffalo can be found there, but not in the “FEARnet” section. Also Movieplex (under the “Premium Channels” section) has a bunch of (free) horror and science fiction titles, including the complete Planet of the Apes film series.

IFC has a Friday night (technically early Saturday) “grindhouse” slot at midnight where they play lots of cult films. Although they show recent horror films and non-horror stuff, they also have been known to play oldies but goodies like Goke, Bodysnatcher from Hell. You can check out their grindhouse scheduling information here.

I’ve noticed that both AMC and the Sci-Fi channel seem to give really inconvenient late night/early morning timeslots (both for the initial showings and repeats) to the sort of older horror/sci-fi films I’m interested in. Sci-Fi is the worst of the two, as it plays those sorts of films at 4:00 am and never does a repeat showing. My guess is that AMC’s trying to emulate the late night slots for horror films of the old days while Sci-Fi is burning off titles they’ve licensed, under the idea that less people would turn in for an “old” movie if they aired it during normal hours. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather watch stuff like Frankenstein meets the Space Monster than reruns of Lost or Breaking Bad.

That reminds me, I’m stunned that Sci-Fi’s decision to change their name to “SyFy” isn’t some sort of April Fools’ joke (link provided by N. Oremac). Apparently this is since they can’t trademark the term “Sci-Fi” since it’s too commonplace (more on that here). I honestly don’t see why they consider that such a big deal. After all, they already own the scifi.com domain name and could have trademarked the phrase “The Sci-Fi Channel” instead. They could have taken after the Canadian equivalent of their channel by giving it a one word name, trademarking the name, and then adding “The Sci-Fi Channel” as a subtitle. Or if they wanted to be smartasses, they could’ve trademarked “sciffy,” a nickname often used by people online to make fun of the channel.

But I digress. Getting back on topic, I didn’t see any particularly interesting movie listings for Sci-Fi this weekend in my TV listings, but I did find some stuff on AMC tonight:

King Kong (70’s remake) 11:30-2:30 am
And Now the Screaming Starts 2:30-4:30 am (early Saturday)
Blood of Dracula 4:30-6:00 am (early Saturday)

For those not in the Eastern/Standard time area, please check your local listings or AMC’s website for the times.

Since I’m doing cable TV schedules, here’s what’s playing on “This TV” tomorrow:

Amityville II: The Possession 8:00-10:00 pm
Amityville 3D 10:00-12:00 am
The Angry Red Planet 12:00-2:00 am (early Sunday)
Attack of the Puppet People 2:00-4:00 am (early Sunday)

Sunday:

The Comedy of Terrors 11:00-1:00 pm
Twice Told Tales 1:00-3:30 pm
Tower of London 3:30-5:00 pm
The Haunted Palace 5:00-7:00 pm
Madhouse 7:00-9:00 pm
The Oblong Box 9:00-11:00 pm
Theater of Blood 11:00-1:00 am
Cry of the Banshee 1:00-3:00 am (early Monday)

I should note that, based on my briefly watching Once Bitten on the channel last month, that there are commercial breaks and some films might be edited for content. As I noted in the AMC listings, all times given are Eastern/Standard and people in other areas should check their local listings or the This TV website for the times.

Cat in the Brain

OM NOM NOM

It seems that Lucio Fulci has directed one gory horror movie too many, as hallucinations plague him at every turn. Being offered steak at a restaurant makes him flash back to a man feasting on human flesh and hacking up a corpse with a chainsaw, while seeing a cameraman filming him for a documentary makes him hallucinate about a Nazi orgy and attack the woman interviewing him. To make matters worse, the psychiatrist he visits for help is even crazier than he is! Using hypnosis, he makes the director’s hallucinations worse and makes it so that he’ll think he’s guilty of the murders after hearing a high pitched noise. That way, he can commit a series of murders and use Fulci as the fall guy. Which madman will ultimately take the blame? You’ll have to watch the movie to find out!

Cat in the Brain, also known as Nightmare Concert, was originally released in Italy as Un Gatto nel cervello in 1990. The film’s biggest claim to fame is the fact that it’s mostly comprised of footage from other films that Fulci or his daughter, Camilla, were involved in. These films include Zombie, Touch of Death (aka When Alice Broke the Mirror), The Ghosts of Sodom, Massacre, The Beyond (music only), Bloody Psycho (aka The Snake House), Escape from Death, Hansel and Gretel, and The Broken Mirror (aka Don’t Be Afraid of Aunt Martha). Sometimes the stock footage is used to represent movies while other instances are supposed to be actual occurrences or madness-induced visions. Due to the clever nature of the editing, it’s often hard to tell whether or not the events playing out onscreen are supposed to be real or not. This, along with the repetition of certain elements (Flashbacks to death scenes, eerie moans, people being slapped and Fulci’s attempts to reassure himself he’s not the killer) in the movie also adds to the effect that the viewer is becoming as mentally unbalanced as the main character.

While not as unintentionally funny as Pieces, Cat in the Brain still has its fair share of laughs. Although the scene of a cat eating some grey matter is an interesting way of demonstrating the protagonist’s initial descent into insanity, the cat puppet utilized for the scene is hilariously awful-looking. There’s plenty of over-the-top gore and ludicrous kills, such as a decapitation via storage chest. Lucio Fulci is definitely a better director than he is an actor, as his hammy acting is obvious even when dubbed over. Although the editor made a valiant effort to seamlessly blend all the different footage together, there are times when it’s obvious that the killer isn’t in the same location as the victim. For example, it may be early evening when the psychiatrist is going after a victim in one scene, while scenes featuring the victim will be occurring in broad daylight!

So, why make a movie out of so much stock footage? There are actually several theories on the matter. Some feel that Fulci was getting sick of doing horror films and wanted to do a movie that explained his dissatisfaction to the audience and yet had enough violence and gore to keep his fans happy. Others have volunteered that Fulci wanted to create a movie so gory that it would be impossible for distributors to edit out the gore and still have a feature-length film, as his films were often censored by distributors in other countries. However, the most popular theory seems to be that Fulci was trying to provide social commentary on the public’s response to his work (especially critics). This seems to be the most likely possibility, as the film has Fulci noting that nobody would buy tickets if he made movies about love and the antagonist remarks “[d]oesn’t that stupid old theory say violence onscreen provokes violence” during his plot to frame his patient. “Stupid” is certainly an appropriate term for that theory, since numerous film editors and movie critics would be homicidal maniacs if this were true. This theory also explains the massive use of stock footage. Let’s face it, doing a movie about Lucio Fulci playing himself would seem ridiculous if they didn’t use stuff from his old movies in some way. Also, using stock footage was probably the cheapest way to get a lot of gore scenes (which was probably Fulci’s way of poking fun at people who said his films had too much gore).

Grindhouse Releasing pulled out all the stops for their deluxe, two disc release of Cat in the Brain. In fact, I understand that this release marks the first time the director’s cut was released on DVD in America. This would explain why their release is nine minutes longer than Image Entertainment’s 2002 release. If that wasn’t enough, the extras alone make this a definite upgrade for those who purchased the Image DVD (more on those later). The film is presented in a beautiful anamorphic widescreen transfer with both English and Italian mono tracks. Seeing the original quality of the footage used in the film’s trailer shows just how much work Grindhouse put into remastering it. Both audio tracks are crystal clear and are complimented by removable English subtitles.

The special features for disc one include animated menus and chapter stops, the original Italian trailer, the US trailer created by Grindhouse Releasing, a slideshow made up of various production stills and promotional materials, and a twenty-odd minute Q&A session with Lucio Fulci and his interpreter at the 1996 Fangoria Weekend of Horrors convention. Disc two offers several interviews, biographies/filmographies for Lucio Fulci and Brett Halsey (the cannibal mentioned earlier in this review), and previews. As usual, the filmographies come with interview segments or trailers for films that the biography subject was involved in.

There are two 1995 interviews with Fulci (“Genre Terrorist” and “The Television Years,” both of which are subtitled), a single English-language interview with Brett Halsey from 2005 and a few brief (subtitled) segments under the banner “Memories of Lucio.” These include comments on Fulci by Jeoffrey Kennedy (who played Inspector Gabrielli in Cat in the Brain), Sacha Marsa Darwin (who played the woman in the oven in footage reused for Cat in the Brain), and Malisa Lango (who played the unfaithful wife in Cat in the Brain). These mini-interviews are actually promotional snippets from a DVD called Lucio Fulci Remembered Vol. 1 by Paura Productions, who seem to be connected to Tempe Video in some way. Getting back to the “main” interviews, they clock in around forty-someodd minutes each and cover a variety of topics. Brett Halsey discusses his career, coming to Italy and his thoughts about footage of him being used in Cat in the Brain during his interview, while Fulci discusses his career, television, his dislike of psychiatrists, and the making of the film (among other things).

Rounding things out are the liner notes and two Easter eggs. Although the liner notes by Lucio’s daughter Antonella Fulci, horror novelist David J. Schow and Hostel director Eli Roth are informative and offer some insight on the possible meanings of the film, they’re also chock full of spoilers. One Easter egg can be found on disc one by highlighting the Fangoria option on the “Special Features” menu and hitting left. This leads to an icon that, when pressed, plays a clip of Fucli signing autographs at the Fangoria convention. The other egg can be found on disc two by highlighting the “Main Menu” option on the “Interviews” section and hit left to reveal a clip of Lucio Fulci discussing television and the difficulties he had in getting things accepted. Oh, and the first 2,499 DVDs come with a limited edition lenticular cover. Actually, the official number is the first 2,500 DVDs, but since I already got a copy…

Special thanks to Grindhouse Releasing for the review copy!

Record Store Day is coming!

Mark your calendars: Saturday, April 18th is Record Store Day. Much like how Free Comic Book Day lures people to comic stores in the hopes they’ll do some impulse shopping, Record Store Day seeks to celebrate and preserve the independent record store business. Sales on used CDs and DVDs, live performances, free refreshments and promotional goodies are all part of the promotional effort (although it varies from store to store).

It may seem odd that a blog devoted to horror stuff is promoting this, but there’s actually a method to my madness. Record stores have helped me (and presumably others) get my hands on music and horror DVDs that the big retailers just don’t carry, especially titles from independent companies and distributors. I’ve saved a lot of money over the years by buying used DVDs from record stores and I’ve lost count of the times I’ve sold off some DVDs and CDs in order to purchase something I’ve had my eye on.

Horror fans also might be interested to know that Bruce Springsteen will be releasing a record (yes, as in vinyl) containing the once online-exclusive song “A Night with the Jersey Devil” as part of the RSD celebration.

As download-based distribution of music and movies becomes more and more popular, the survival of indie record stores becomes more and more threatened. Instead of going to their local record store(s) to check out and buy discs, many are opting for the ease of downloading stuff from Amazon, iTunes, and the like. That, combined with competition from big chain stores are driving business away from record stores. And let’s face it: you won’t be able to resell .mp3s you don’t want if you need extra cash, but you can do that with CDs and DVDs at record stores. So let’s help keep a good thing going by supporting our local record stores!

To see which stores are participating, check out the official Record Store Day website.

Lost and Found

Imagine my surprise when I found a reference to Lionsgate Entertainment releasing a “Lost Collection” tomorrow while reading the Wikipedia entry for Repossessed. Searching for “the lost collection” on Amazon yielded the following movies:

My Best Friend’s a Vampire
Repossessed
Slaughter High

For the sake of completeness, here are the non-horror titles in the collection:

Hiding Out
Homer and Eddie
Irreconcilable Differences
Morgan Stewart’s Coming Home
Night Before

According to the profiles on Amazon.com, the DVDs will include special trivia tracks. However, they also seem to indicate that all the DVD transfers are in the 1.33: 1 aspect ratio (fullscreen). I couldn’t find any information about the original aspect ratios for any of the horror titles, but the Internet Movie Database pages for Hiding Out, Homer and Eddie, and Irreconcilable Differences note that those titles have an aspect ratio of 1.85: 1. So unless it’s an error on the part of Amazon or the IMDB, this could mean that the transfers were cropped from their original aspect ratios. The only other option I can think of is that the films were shot open matte, which basically means that nothing will be cropped out when the film is presented in fullscreen.

I can only hope that Lionsgate did not choose to use cropped transfers, as it would be a giant step back from their widescreen releases of Alligator and The Monster Squad. If they didn’t, then I hope that the next batch of forgotten 80’s films includes Blood Diner and Demonwarp.

I also found out that, thanks to a chance reading of Entertainment Weekly at the doctor’s office, Warner Brothers is opening a website called warnerarchive.com. The Warner Archive Collection will offer over 100 movies that have previously gone unreleased for sale via DVD and paid downloads. I haven’t had the time to go through the list of films, so here’s hoping that some horror and sci-fi movies get included in the mix.

Bob Eggleton Rules

Who is Bob Eggleton? He’s a renowned sci-fi/fantasy/horror artist whose work has appeared on countless book and magazine covers. He’s won the Hugo Award for Best Professional Artist a whopping eight times, along with snagging the Chesley Award for Artistic Achievement. He’s even got an asteroid named after him! To see why he’s received such honors, check out the artwork at his official website, blog, and samples from The Book of Sea Monsters.

Critters: Special Edition?

Back when the special editions of the original Star Wars trilogy came out, I saw a pay-per-view listing for Critters: Special Edition. Despite all my searching, I can’t find any information about the supposed special edition online. My best guess is that it was it was a widescreen version of the film using the alternate ending. Does anyone out there have any information about this particular version of Critters?

Relics and Reptiles

I was surprised to discover that not only was the movie The Relic based on a novel, but that said novel also had a sequel! In fact, you can read a sample chapter from said sequel, Reliquary, here.

Speaking of samples, you can also read samples from The Relic, an early draft of The Relic, and other novels by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child at their official website. I highly recommend checking it out, as the behind-the-scenes notes provided more insight on the creation of the reptile monster than the film did. Similarly, the Wikipedia entry for The Relic notes the various differences between the novel and film version of The Relic (but also has many spoilers).

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Remember that “Leprechaun in Mobile, Alabama” thing from a few years back? The one with that inspired a hilarious rap remix? Well, someone combined it with the trailer from the movie Leprechaun and the world is better for it:

Speaking of the Leprechaun franchise, does anyone else out there remember a segment from Entertainment Tonight where the Crypt Keeper claimed that he killed and ate the Leprechaun for harassing Jennifer Aniston in the first movie? As I recall, he made him into a “nice Irish stew.” In short, the Crypt Keeper is hardcore. Watch your backs, Freddy and Jason…

TGIF13 II: WOOF WOOF WOOF!

Jason Voorhees (presumably Kane Hodder) appears on The Arsenio Hall Show to promote Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan. This ranks right up there with Pinhead’s appearance on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.

Duane L. Jones (1936-1988)

There is no joke here...only respect.

Although his name might not be as recognizable as Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, or Robert Englund, Duane Jones is one of the most important people in American horror cinema.

Jones is best known for his role as “Ben,” a man who faces many difficulties while trying to lead (and save) a group of people trapped in a house besieged by zombies, in George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead (1968). Due to the social commentary in Romero’s “Dead” films, many have assumed the character of Ben was specifically written for a black male in order for his struggles to comment on race relations. However, it is noted in Elite Entertainment’s Night of the Living Dead: Millennium Edition DVD that the role wasn’t written with a specific ethnic group in mind. Duane Jones got the part because he gave the best audition out of those trying out for the role. According to Karl Hardman, who portrayed Ben’s rival in the film, the character of Ben was originally written as an uneducated trucker. Being a well-educated man and not liking the characterization, Duane Jones chose to alter the character’s dialogue.

Although the fact that he was in a classic horror film (which popularized the concept of flesh-eating zombies) alone would have made him an important figure in the history of horror cinema, Duane Jones did so much more. Positive portrayals of an African American in a horror film were few and far between during that period of American history. Usually when black people appeared in horror movies, it was either in small roles as servants, jungle natives, or as cowardly and supposedly “comedic” characters. However, his character in Night of the Living Dead was a brave, calm, and intelligent man (due in part to changes Jones made in the character’s portrayal).

It is often said that Duane Jones was the first African American actor to have a leading role in a horror movie. Not knowing about how black people were cast in horror films made in other countries and knowing that some horror films with all (or mostly) African American casts existed before Night of the Living Dead, I’m not sure if that claim is 100% accurate. The films in question include Drums o’ Voodoo (1934), The Devil’s Daughter (1939), and Son of Ingagi (1940). Judging from what I could find about those films, the protagonists all appear to be females and they seem to have been shown in theaters that catered to black audiences. By contrast, Night of the Living Dead was given wide theatrical distribution. Even if some other actor was the first black actor to star in a horror movie, Duane Jones would still the first black actor to have a starring role in a mainstream American horror film.

In a 1988 interview included on the special features of the Night of the Living Dead: Millennium Edition DVD, Jones expressed concern that people would only see him as “Ben,” despite his roles in other films. While researching his filmography in preparation for this blog entry, I was surprised to see that the bulk of his acting work was in horror films. Not counting his two non-horror film roles, Duane Jones appeared in Night of the Living Dead (1968), Ganja and Hess (1973), Vampires (1986), Negatives (1988), Fright House (1988), and To Die For (1989, filmed in 1988).

However, his work wasn’t limited to acting in films. His Wikipedia article says he taught acting at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, served as executive director at the Richard Allen Center for Culture, and taught theatre at the State University of New York at Old Westbury. Interestingly enough, there’s a recital hall there which is named after him. Although he died of cardiopulmonary arrest in 1988, his legacy still lives on. Even though he disliked how his first horror role overshadowed his other work, I hope that he took pride in the fact that the traits he gave the character made such a positive impact in the history of American cinema.

Linger Longer

Some poor schmuck went on “The Opie & Anthony Show” in order to promote his low budget horror movie, Gap. Although the hosts got some licks in, comedian Louis CK took it upon himself to brutally rip apart all aspects of the film as its pretentious creator tries (and fails) to defend himself. Here’s part one of this gloriously not safe for work masterpiece:

The other six parts are available on Pestz4Evah’s Youtube channel.

UPDATE:

Thanks to Jasonayeiter, you can listen to the complete, unedited beating as a single video OR watch clips of the film synched up to the hilarious running commentary:

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