The Worst Horror Movie Ever Made; “The Thing That Wouldnt, Couldnt and shouldnt Die”

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I had thought that being a ripe 60 year old a horror fan / monster kid, that I had seen nearly every horror film ever made. I also thought that I had been rather successful at sorting through most bad films made. That is until I had the unique pleasure of seeing the movie “The Thing That Couldn’t Die”.  In my opinion, “The Thing That Couldn’t die” COULD quite possibly the worst horror film ever made. How any movie could be worst than an Ed Wood production is truely perplexing.

According to Author Jeremy Lunt of IMDB;

A psychically gifted young woman discovers a centuries-old crate buried on her aunt’s ranch. Opening it, her family discovers the living head of Gideon Drew, a 16th century devil worshiper who was beheaded by Sir Francis Drake. Written by Jeremy Lunt <durlinlunt@acadia.net>

The movie quickly opens up with the gifted young woman using a devining rod to locate water while in the presence of the entire cast of the movie, (obviously the fastest case of character development I’ve ever seen in a movie) and inadvertently discovers an ancient wooden box which they believe to contain treasure. But eventually the cast opens the box to find the living disembodied head of a satanic cult member from the 16th century. If that don’t take the cake… Then the head takes over peoples thinking and makes them think and do evil things (sounds like the modern news media), eventually the head demands that the its new minions find its body so it can get reattached. (Logical)  to its body and use the head and body to take over the world (sounds like divorce court).

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BEFORE                                                                              AFTER

body head body

In between

No super glue needed

But it just so happens that the when the original head was found, a magic amulet (why is there always a magic amulet?) was found near the burial site.  The amulet is crucial to the plot because it behaves like a Christian cross when repulsing the evil head and body. Not to spoil the end of the movie, which ends rather abruptly, the amulet somehow repulses the head (and body) and turns it into a skeleton. But the plot jumps so quickly that the viewer has no choice but to fill in many blanks that the writer and director misses. The movie was filmed in black and white which added to some of the movies creepy ultra mystic feeling (just kidding) though the sets were fairly modern and extremely simple.  The actors skills were limited at best (with the exception of the head who turns out to be the best actor of the entire cast). My biggest gripe about the movie has nothing to do with the acting or sets, but the fact that they ripped off the music from the Creature from the Black Lagoon. SERIOUSLY????Every time you see the head you hear the creature music.. not cool. The movie climaxes in the end when the head is reunited with the body and then commences with a tirade of hilarious insults (obviously stemming from weeks and weeks of living with the other cast members and working with the worst script ever written).

Music from “The Things That Could’nt die”

Music from “The Creature From the Black Lagoon”

Chicago Area Horror Hosts

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As kids in the 70’s we would rush home on Saturdays evening to the words;

Gruesome ghouls and grisly ghosts,

Wretched souls and cursed hosts.

Vampires bite and villains creep,

Demons scream and shadows sleep.

Blood runs cold in every man,

Fog rolls in and coffins slam.

Mortals quake and full moon rise,

Creatures haunt and terrorize.

Those creepy spoken words were accompanied by haunting music, the slow motion images of the original Universal movie monsters, Dracula, his sidekick Renfield, Frankensteins Monster, the wolfman, the mummy scrolling across the TV screen. The words and the music were the intro to the now famous “Creature Features” show in Chicago during the 1970’s and produced and aired on WGN TV in Chicago.

Creature Features normally showed all the classic Universal Horror movies from the 1930s and 1940s, including, the Mummy Dracula, Frankenstein, The Creature From the Black Lagoons and others. They also aired old RKO films like King Kong, Son of Kong, and the original Mighty Joe Young. They also showed movies produced and distributed by American International Pictures. This included all the Roger Corman Bmovies of the 1950s and 1960s like The Raven, and The Terror, plus most of the Japanese “monster movies” produced by Toho Studios, and Daiei Motion Picture Company (famous for their Godzilla and Gamera movies). Adding to the line-up were the Britishmade horror films by Hammer Film Productions, like The Curse of Frankenstein, Dracula: Prince of Darkness, The Phantom of the Opera, The Curse of the Werewolf, and The Hound of the Baskervilles. But many also admired the fact Creature Features aired of all the “nuclear monster” and “space alien” science fiction movies Created in the 1950s. These movies covered the nuclear age and held the idea of giant mutant monsters or aliens from outer space terrorizing Earth. Some of these movies included Attack of the 50 Foot Woman, The Amazing Colossal Man, Them!, Tarantula, The Thing from Another World, It Came from Outer Space, The War of the Worlds and Forbidden Planet which was a cutting edge sci-fi movie and laid the ground work for future scifi genre / space movies. Whereas Creature Features may have for the hardcore horror sci-fi genre fan, we also had a horror host alternative in the horror show host Svengoolie.

Unlike the somewhat serious opening of creature features intro, Svengoolie greeted us with a macabre smile, and was surrounded by talking skulls, dis-embodied voices, corny humor, a peculiar taste in filmography, and of course Svegoolies signature flying rubber chickens.

Svengoolie first appeared on the Screaming Yellow Theater, which aired on WFLD (Channel 32) from September 18, 1970 until late summer 1973. Svengoolie was played in this series by Jerry G. Bishop. In later seasons, Rich Koz—a fan of the show who used to send in sketch ideas—became one of the show’s writers.

On June 16, 1979, Son of Svengoolie began showing on WFLD, Chicago, with Koz in the title role. The show also aired briefly on other sister (i.e., Field Communications-controlled) stations in Philadelphia, Boston, San Francisco, and Detroit. The series ran until WFLD (at that time owned by Metromedia) was sold to Rupert Murdoch’s Fox Television Stations Group in 1986 to become a part of the newly-created Fox network. However management canceled the show after deciding it was not an appropriate fit for their new programming . After 334 shows, the final episode aired January 25, 1986. But Svengoolie could not be kept in the coffin and Koz later returned to WFLD in various roles, mainly as the host of its Fox Kids Club and The Koz Zone weekday afternoon children’s programming, even appearing as an announcer on the Fox network’s 1988 New Year’s Eve broadcast.

The series returned to the air on December 31, 1994 on WCIU (Channel 26), using just “Svengoolie” as its name; Koz took over the role of Svengoolie when Bishop told Koz that he “believed he was grown up enough now to no longer be just the Son.” The show opens with a reference to early radio broadcasting:

Calling all stations, clear the air lanes, clear all air lanes for the big broadcast Koz also hosted a weekly Three Stooges Stooge-a-palooza show on WCIU.A running gag throughout the series is the repeated utterance of the word “Berwyn”, the name of a Chicago suburb. (This was a parody of the way “Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In” and Johnny Carson would jokingly refer to “Beautiful Downtown Burbank.”

Another recurring gag involves the flying rubber chickens being thrown at Svengoolie after a one of his signature corny jokes, usually at the end of each show. Koz and the show have won numerous regional Emmy awards, and Koz was admitted to the Emmy “Silver Circle” in 2004 for “outstanding contributions to Chicago television.”

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Today Svengoolie, (Rich Koz) is a Chicago icon with a huge following. Koz has taken Svengoolie on the road and makes regular appearances around the Chicago area, where he meets and greets his followers, helps to judge costume contests and signs his much coveted autograph.

 

THE THING!!!!!!!!!!!!

THE THING Yes Monster Fans, it’s that time of the year again. Time to hunker down in front of your electric heater or throw another log on the fire. winter time IS COMING in a majority of the English speaking world. That means ankle deep snow, freezing cold and winter jackets. But for a monster fan, the freezing cold background of winter has always been a great back drop for a horror movie. And plenty of them come to mind. From silent night, deadly night, 30 days of night, The Snow Beast (which by the way had an all star cast of Bo Svenson, Yvette Mimieux and Clint Walker) and of course our all time classic favorite Sci-fi movie 17 “THE THING” (From another world). “THE THING” (From Another World)was the quintessential sci-fi / monster movies which captured the fears of the atomic age, UFO’s and monsters made from vegetable matter. A quick synopsis; A group of arctic scientists and military types find a UFO buried under the arctic ice sheet. Not knowing to leave well enough alone, they use thermite grenades to uncover and release the alien occupant of the craft. Once the alien (not a mammal but more plant like… fear your garden!) runs amok throughout the arctic base in an attempt to plant (literally) new aliens to take over the planet.

THEM!

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THEM, Was probably the best known atomic age gigantic monster movies second only Godzilla. (at least in the authors opinion). Made in 1954 the black and white science fiction film is about a nest of gigantic (caused by atomic testing..no duck and cover here) ants. It is based on a story by George Worthing Yates. It was developed into a screenplay by Ted Sherdeman and Russell Hughes for Warner Bros. Pictures Inc., and was produced by David Weisbart and directed by Gordon Douglas. It starred James Whitmore, who went on to play in many other big budget films, Edmund Gwenn, Joan Weldon and James Arness who was better known for his role as Marshal Matt Dillon in the western TV series Gun Smoke.Being One of the first of the “nuclear monster” movies, and the first “big bug” film, Them! was nominated for an Oscar for Special Effects and won a Golden Reel Award for Best Sound Editing. James Whitmore fires his Thompson Machine gun on a giant ant.

Movie plot (with a little help from IMDB & wikipedia) The movie begins as a simple suspense story, with police combing the desert for missing persons and unexplained deaths. The giant ants don’t make and appearance until almost a third of the way into the film, but when they do it’s quite dramatic. New Mexico State Police troopers (first it was Roswell, then the giant ants) Ben Peterson (James Whitmore) and Ed Blackburn (Chris Drake) discover a little girl in shock, wandering the desert near Alamogordo. They retrace her steps to a mobile home owned by an FBI agent named Ellinson, who was on vacation in the area with his wife and two children. The side of the trailer was ripped open from the outside, with a hole big enough to drive a truck (or a giant ant) through, and of course, the rest of the family is missing and presumed dead. The girl briefly responds when strange sounds echo out of the desert wind. More mysterious deaths and disappearances occur in the area. A general store owner named “Gramps” Johnson is found dead in his store, which was literally torn apart. No money was taken from the register, but a barrel of sugar was smashed open. Gramps’ empty rifle has been fired and is twisted out of shape. Peterson leaves to check on the little girl and make a report, leaving Blackburn to guard Gramps’ store. Not long afterward, Blackburn hears a strange noise outside and leaves to investigate. Offcamera, there is the sound of gunshots, the strange sound gets louder, and Blackburn screams. A single strange footprint bigger than a mountain lion’s is found near the trailer, and a plaster cast of it is made and sent to Washington, D.C. The police think there is a maniac killer on the loose, but Peterson’s boss points out that Gramps, a known marksman, fired all of his ammunition at his attacker. Even more puzzling is the coroner’s determination of Johnson’s cause of death: broken neck and back, skull fracture, crushed abdomen, and “enough formic acid in his body to kill twenty men”. FBI agent Robert Graham (James Arness) is unable to identify the footprint, and it attracts the attention of Harold (Edmund Gwenn) and Pat Medford (Joan Weldon), a father/daughter team of entomologists from the Department of Agriculture. (Thank God for the Feds) Harold has a theory, but he won’t present it until he tries an experiment on the Ellinson girl and examines the footprint site. He exposes the girl to formic acid, reviving her from a catatonic state; she screams, “Them! Them!” Harold’s theory is validated when he sees the footprint, measuring eighteen centimeters across.

Both Graham and Peterson are frustrated that Medford has not revealed his theory, but Harold explains that he is trying to avoid a nationwide panic. Pat encounters an eight foot long specimen of foraging ant. The lawmen fire their revolvers at the monster, to little effect. On Harold’s advice, Peterson and Graham shoot off the creature’s antennae, blinding it, and then kill it by firing a submachine gun into it.  Harold finally relents and reveals that the ant was mutated by radiation from the first atom bomb tests, conducted near Alamogordo. A U.S. Air Force General O’Brien (Onslow Stevens) brings in a squadron to locate the ants’ nest and exterminate the inhabitants with poison gas. Pat finds evidence that two queens have hatched but are absent; they have flown away to establish new colonies. Trying to avoid a general panic, the government covertly investigates reports of unusual activity or sightings of “flying saucers”. One report leads them to a rail yard where a crushed boxcar is missing its cargo of forty tons of sugar. Another report takes them to a Brownsville, Texas, hospital and a pilot who claims that his small plane was forced down by UFOs resembling giant ants. One of the queens is finally discovered, having invaded the hold of a freighter. The vessel is sunk by a U.S. Navy cruiser. The investigators use unusual methods to ensure that the general public does not learn about the ants. An alcoholic in a Los Angeles hospital “drunk tank” reveals that he saw giant ants flying around outside his window. The investigators receive a report of a man and his two young sons who have disappeared while flying a model airplane near the Los Angeles River; the man’s mutilated body and the airplane are found near a large storm drain system. Given the significant  threat to the city, the U.S. Army holds a press conference to reveal the existence of the giant ants. The Army declares martial law and a curfew for the city. More troops are assigned to the area to find and assault the new nest. Peterson finds the two missing boys alive deep in the storm drain, but they are trapped near the ants’ nest. He calls for reinforcements but goes in alone to rescue the boys. He gets the boys to safety, but before he can escape he is mortally wounded by an ant. Graham arrives with reinforcements and they fight off the swarming ants. A cave-in temporarily cuts off Graham from the rest of the men; several ants charge him, but he is able to hold them off long enough for the other troops to tunnel through the debris and come to his rescue. The queen and egg chamber are then destroyed with flamethrowers. Harold issues a grim warning that “The atomic genie has been let out of the bottle,” and further horrors may await mankind. “When man entered the atomic age, he opened the door to a new world. What we may eventually find in that new world, no one can predict.”

G.S. Monsters After Midnight (c)

Photo Courtesy of emovie poster

Insect Monster Movies, Godzilla 2014 by Gene Stevens

I was cruising the Monster-Net this morning and I ran into an IMDB (Internet Movie Data Base) posting about “insect related monster movies”. IMDB Insect Monster Movie List The Insect monster movie genre dominated the 1950’s period in horror and movie such as “THEM” , The Monster that Challenged the World and “The Fly” became the Go-to-scare-me movies on the mid 20th century. Those movies and such others found their way into the hearts of young monsters kids when they migrated into the homes of every American who owned a TV Set. Insect monsters became the favorite of many monster kids who watched their favorite monster movie horror hosts of Creature Features on local TV. But the Insect Monsters are still creeping around our back porches across the country and around the world. One recent incarnation of a large evil bug showed up in the movie Godzilla 2014. That huge, ugly and radioactive cockroach was is called the M.U.T.O (Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organism) “MUTO: Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organism. It is, however, no longer terrestrial; it is airborne.” The M.U.T.O. Was a force to be reckoned with. My favorite part of Godzilla was watching the female M.U.T.O leaving Yucca Mountain Radioactive containment and strolling through Las Vegas. I once lost a large sum of money in Reno and I was fantasizing that the M.U.T.O. was stepping on the Casino where I lost my bank roll.

I enjoyed Godzilla 2014, I think my biggest complaints about the movie surrounded the human characters and the fact that part of the movie was shot in the dark which made in hard to see on my home theater set up. The story line also lost some continuity on the ground, but I guess it could be written off as the “fog of disaster”. We also know very little about the main characters, Godzilla and the M.U.T.Os, except for the fact that two scientists claim that they were members of the animal community when the earth was forming in high radiation levels (The M.U.T.Os loved to eat nuclear bombs…yum!). But after all it was a Godzilla movie.. no intro or back story needed.

Photo courtesy of http://godzilla.wikia.com/wiki/M.U.T.O.

G.S. Monsters After Midnight

Remembering London After Midnight, The famed lost film! Up-date 2015

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LONDON AFTER MIDNIGHT, THE LOST FILM; BY GENE STEVENS

London After Midnight, the title turns many heads in the monster kid community! Lon Chaney’s (SR.) famed lost film helped to lay the ground work as one of the first in a string of vampire movies. Though very sedate in its approach compared to the early silent “Nosfertu” which still scares me to this very day, Chaney’s work cast him in multiple roles and the movie sets became a model for future horror movies for years to come.

For several years now rumors have persisted that the infamous lost London After Midnight was located in a film vault in California.  Also known as The Hypnotist. The 1927 American silent film of the horror genre was distributed by Metro Goldwyn Mayer and was based on the short story “The Hypnotist” by Tod Browning who also directed the film. London After Midnight starred Lon Chaney, Marceline Day Conrad Nagel, Henry B Walthall, and Polly Morgan. The movie is now lost and remains one of the most famous and eagerly sought of all lost films of all time. The last known copy was destroyed in the 1967 MGM vault fire. In 2002, Turner Classic movies aired a reconstructed version using the original script and film stills. Synopsis: The film is set in London during the 1920‘s,and is one of the earliest movies (besides “Nosferatu” 1922) in the vampire genre. Character, Sir Roger Balfour is found shot to death in his home. Inspector Burke (Lon Chaney) of Scotland Yard is called in to investigate. The suspects are Williams (the butler), Sir James Hamlin and his nephew, Arthur Hibbs. A suicide note is found and the case is supposedly closed. Five years later, the old residence of Balfour is taken up by a man in a beaver-skin hat, with large fangs and gruesome, sunken eyes. His assistant is a ghostly woman, with flowing robes and raven black hair. Could it be Balfour, returned from the dead.. an original zombie or vampire?

THE BACK STORY OF LONDON AFTER MIDNIGHT

The story of the search for the lost film has grown into an internet legend, and it’s star Lon Chaney “The Man of a Thousand Faces” has a cult like following even today. An internet search of the horror classic reveals several websites and youtube movies dedicated to “London After Midnight”. But probably the most interesting is a story is to be found posted on an internet message board called the Horror Drunx, dated July, 23rd 2008, at web address http://thehorrordrunx.yuku.com/topic/753 by an author using the name of Sid Terror. In which he claims to have run into a copy of the film which was being stored in a film storage facility in Los Angeles. The following is an excerpt from his story in which Sid Terror states; “Yes. It is true. For those who scoff and doubt (I’m sure you will be legion) that the most notorious lost film of all times was located, I will say it again with authority and conviction… I, Sid Terror, saw Lon Chaney’s lost classic LONDON AFTER MIDNIGHT with my own eyes. Without a doubt. No I am not talking about a recreation made completely from still photos, I’m talking about the entire long-lost motion-picture!” “From what I saw, the film was in remarkably good condition also, showing little or no signs of dreaded “nitrate cancer”. My inspection complete, as I carefully and reverently closed the film cans, it occurred to me… I could be the first person in the last 40+ years to have actually opened those film cans. And I was one of a handful of people still alive on the planet who can say he “saw” the film LONDON AFTER MIDNIGHT. Not projected. But I saw it. A few things puzzled me. If the film cans were labeled THE HYPNOTIST, why did the title card on the film say LONDON AFTER MIDNIGHT? Also, Rosalind (and employee of Bonded film storage) had told me that the film was “incomplete,” possibly missing as much as a reel… Yet, the number of reels and running time (72 to 78 minutes, depending on which research book you check) seemed to match. All I could add up from those facts could be that the film WAS complete, but whomever had checked the print was… A) Used to seeing films with a running time of 90 minutes to two hours long, the modern day norm for a feature length film– but not the norm for 1927. B) Whomever checked in the film had failed to figure in that silent films have a slightly shorter footage length, because instead of running at 24 frames per second as is required for sound film, they run at approximately 18 frames per second, making the duration one-third longer. My years of hands-on experience as a projectionist and filmmaker had taught me just a few things that maybe the average film vault worker may not know as second nature. Before I left the shelf where the treasure of a Monster Kid’s lifetime sat, I pulled a black Sharpie pen from my pocket. Below THE HYPNOTIST on the labels of the film cans, I added “A.K.A. LONDON AFTER MIDNIGHT. I had found it, the most infamous lost film on the planet, it was the least I could do to make sure it did not get lost so easily again. In fact, at that point, it was almost all I could do.”

The story claimed that the storage facility where London After Midnight was stored, eventually closed doors and the films were moved to different locations. The story intrigued me (to say the least), so I began my own investigation. Initially, I took the path of least resistance and I attempted to contact the author of the “found article” Sid Terror by email. I felt that the KISS (keep it simple stupid) method would be the best route to take. This attempt however, failed and I have yet to hear from Sid terror via email. One good sign was that the email address didn’t bounce back, so that’s probably a pretty good indicator that it still exists, but whether its owner does (or not) is a whole different story.  I then checked on the location of the film vault, which was alleged to have been located at 5890 West Jefferson Blvd, Los Angeles, CA. The facility was a film storage facility that was referred to by multiple names, including the Turner/Jefferson facility, the Jefferson Film Storage Facility and “Bonded Film Storage” which seems to be actual business name, though nothing is certain here. A simple internet check revealed that the location is still home to film / movie related businesses, though this fact neither adds or detracts from the mystery.

In August of 2015, I inadvertently discovered more information about “London After Midnight” I was however sworn to secrecy and I after much thought, I can only reveal our secret in this short poem;

The moon does shine upon the face.

Light falls from the face onto the pages of the book.

Time does seal the lips.

But the eyes see and reel from the truth

Behind the door safe and sound

Big ben lights the night and tolls the hour

But only one person knows

And sudden terror rules the night

Monsters After Midnight Magazine and beyond!

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In 2013 I gave a very bloody (though black and white) birth to Monsters After Midnight Magazine. The idea of the magazine was to keep the memories of the classic monster genre alive for future generations. I was however not fully prepared for the nightmare that accompanied the creation of such a publication. Though I found many monster fans and monsters kids who loved the genre and did their best to support the magazine, They contributed articles, gave me fantastic moral support and offered wonderful reviews of the magazines content.

But in today’s horror world, magazines have found their way into the trash bin of American history. The monster movie genre has found a whole new cave to dwell in. The new lair is to be found in places like facebook, blogs and websites. The awesome side of this monsterous fact is that monster fans can immediately interact with the content. This attribute is magical in many ways.