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Sunday, June 28, 2009

The Brain That Wouldn't Die


THE BRAIN THAT WOULDN’T DIE: Just find a new girlfriend!

By Steve D. Stones

The first question I always ask myself every time I watch this drive-in schlock masterpiece from 1959 is: “Would any man want a girlfriend with a sewn-on head?”

It’s such a simple question with a simple answer, yet the main character, played by Jason “Herb” Evers, is determined to keep his fiancé’s head alive after it is severed from her body in a terrible car crash.

Evers spends most of the film desperately looking for a beautiful young body to attach to his fiancé’s head. He hangs out at bathing beauty contests and a figure model class drooling over curvy cuties to replace his fiancé’s body. He finds just the right body of a brunette named Doris at the figure model class. She conveniently has deep scars on her face, but her body is to die for (no pun intended).



As for me, if I lost my girlfriend in a car accident, instead of keeping her head alive, I think I would be looking for a new girlfriend. Why go through the trouble of looking for a new body when you can just find the entire package, right? This is a large part of the unintentional humor of the film. What’s even funnier is when the severed head argues with the lab assistant as to whether or not it is right and ethical for them to be keeping her alive. Why be half dead when you can die a full death?

Perhaps the film is trying to make a statement about unconditional, unyielding love? Evers loves his fiancé deeply, and the loss of her body is not going to change his love for her. Even if it means he has to commit murder to keep her alive.

The film has many of the clichés in horror films that we’ve all come to identify. A monster is kept locked away in a closet and patched together by a mad doctor, much like Frankenstein’s monster. A loyal, yet deformed laboratory assistant stands by the mad doctor, despite his fear of the monster in the closet and his determination to suggest that their experiments are ethically wrong. The mad doctor is a playboy at heart who may love his fiancé, but deep down has a lust for other women too. We’ve seen this formula before.

Although The Brain That Wouldn’t Die began production in 1959, it was not released until 1962. The ending of the film shows the title as: The Head That Wouldn’t Die. It is the first film that I’m aware of that brings graphic violence to the screen, even pre-dating Herschell Gordon Lewis’ graphically violent Blood Feast.

The lab assistant has his right arm torn off by the monster in the closet. He drags the right side of his body up against the lab walls, smearing blood everywhere. The monster bites off a large section of Herb Evers’ neck, and then spits it on the lab floor as the camera zooms in on it closely. This was graphic stuff for the early 1960s. Television prints of the film had to cut out these two scenes in order to be able to show the film on TV.

One unique aspect of the film is its unconventional ending. Normally the good-looking guy, in this case the mad doctor played by Evers, gets the girl and a happy ending occurs. In The Brain That Wouldn’t Die, it’s the monster that gets away with the girl, while the handsome man lies bleeding and dying in his laboratory. This is a bit more original than most conventional low-budget horror films.

If you ever find yourself in the same situation as the mad doctor in this film, I think it would be best just to go out and find yourself a new girlfriend. After all, why go through the trouble of sawing off the head of another woman just to use the body for your girlfriend’s head? Nature didn’t intend for heads to be replaced with different bodies, so why waste your time improving on nature? This is what makes the plot of The Brain That Wouldn’t Die so absurd, yet fun to watch. Keep the popcorn close by.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE: PLAYING AT A LOCAL LIBRARY NEAR YOU!


By Steve D. Stones

It has been a long time dream of mine for nearly twenty years to see Ed
Wood’s “anti-masterpiece” Plan 9 From Outer Space on a big movie screen.
That dream came true on Saturday June 20th, 2009 when a new local library in my community, the Pleasant Valley Branch Library in South Ogden, screened the cult classic in a state of the art “Black Box Theater.”

Doug Gibson and his family picked me up about forty minutes before the movie was scheduled to play. We wanted to make sure not to miss a single
moment of the film. I climbed into the Gibson Family van and
immediately began reciting lines from the film. “My friends, can your
heart stand the shocking facts about grave robbers from outer space?” I
was contemplating what it would be like to see Criswell’s head fill up
the entire movie screen as he said that line. What a treat this was
going to be!

The rain was pouring heavily during our drive to the library. This was
not going to spoil my anticipation of seeing the greatest “bad movie” of
all time in an actual movie theater. In fact, I wondered if Ed Wood
enjoyed rainy days and would see this as the perfect day to be showing
Plan 9 or any of his films.

The theater was completely empty when we arrived. This gave us a chance
to pick the best seats in the house. By the time the film began, the
theater filled to about 40-plus people. This was a bigger turn out than I
had expected. Doug and I found ourselves reciting lines in the film
before they were even said. We even jokingly made Ad Lib comments about
actors and their lines, much like Mike Nelson and his robots on the
Mystery Science Theater 3000 TV show. This was a lot of fun for us.

I was completely amazed at how great Plan 9 looked up on the big movie
screen. Criswell’s “spit curl” looked like a perfect ocean wave to “hang
10” on with your surfboard. Best of all, close-ups of Vampira gave
better details of her beautiful cleavage and shiny, phallic fingernails.

Many other details I had previously overlooked came to light on the big
screen. For example, I never noticed that Mona McKinnon is wearing a
blouse with sparkling glitter in one scene with Gregory Walcott. This is
a detail that gets lost on the small screen.

Another overlooked detail is the scene of McKinnon running around in her
nightgown in the cemetery. She runs past two wooden cross grave markers
lying flat on the ground. Everyone is familiar with the famous scene of
the paramedic knocking over a wood grave marker in the cemetery, but I
had never noticed McKinnon running past two lying on the ground before.

Close-ups of aliens Dudley Manlove and Joanna Lee at their headquarters
shows great contrast of tactile textures and patterns on the drapery
behind them. From a technical standpoint, Plan 9 looks so much better
when viewed on a big movie screen.

It should be noted that this year marks the fiftieth anniversary of the
release of Plan 9 From Outer Space. This is all the more reason why I am
thankful I was able to see the film on a big movie screen. Now, if only
Ed Wood could have returned from the dead to make a few comments about his “anti-masterpiece,” that would have made the day even more complete. Happy 50th Birthday Plan 9!!! You do age like fine wine!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Getting to know ... RedVamp


Interview by Doug Gibson

The gothic beauty pictured here is RedVamp, who also answers to Missy. Blessed with beautiful, real chestnut red hair and a model's physique, the Texas native has gained fame as a gothic model in ads for products that include jewelry and clothing. She's a fixture in genre magazines and cult trade shows, including "Gothic Beauty," "Bite Me," "Dark Realms" and "The Chronicles." She gained a niche in the cult movies genre by hosting a show for ScreamTV.net. RedVamp's Classic Tales of Horror earned a fan following with the beautiful host offering insight to cult films that included Nosferatiu, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, House on Haunted Hill, and The Terror. An excerpt is below.Classic Tales - Boris Karloff

In her personal life, RedVamp is a happily married mom with children. In fact, she just gave birth a new member of her family. She has a unique gothic look for the 21st century but adds a dash Carrol Borland's "Luna" mystery and Vampira's poise. Besides her modeling and film-hosting career, RedVamp has a degree in psychology and donates her time working with autistic children, as well as other challenged youngsters.

We wanted to get to know her better, so we sent her a list of questions that she was kind enough to answer. So, enjoy getting to know RedVamp. (Her Web site, http://www.redvamp.com/ is currently under construction, but there's a link to her MySpace page: http://www.myspace.com/redvamp )

The RedVamp Interview

1) You live your Red Vamp persona and that makes you distinct from Elvira, who is a character. I'm wondering, what similar person is an inspiration for you? I regard Vampira as an entertainer who lived her life like her persona. Was she an inspiration for you? What about Carrol Borland?

I do admire women such as Vampira and Elvira and I suppose that I have a similar look to Carrol Borland’s character in Mark of the Vampire, but honestly, my style and persona are simply just me being me! The RedVamp persona and look just naturally came about from my own likes, tastes, and interests. That really is who I am in everyday life. As far as horror hosting, I can take some inspiration from those such as Elvira and Vampira, but I have never tried to mimic or be like any one particular person.

2) What influenced you to pursue gothic modeling and fashion? Also, tell us about some of the items, jewelry, that you sell.

I’ve modeled on and off since childhood, but the gothic modeling came about as an adult, when I no longer fit the mainstream look. The style, fashion, and look was, again, just naturally what I liked and who I was, so various designers, websites, magazines, etc. in the gothic world thought that I was a good fit for them. I don’t personally sell any items, but I have modeled for various designers that sell gothic clothing, jewelry, and accessories such as Gothica by Amira, After Dark Jewelry, Azrael’s Accomplice, Crimson Empress, Deadamore Handbags, Madame LeGoth, etc.

3) When you had the ScreamTV host show, you went to some cult films/horror trade shows. What was that like? Is it interesting to meet people that are a part of the genre, either by association (Bela Lugosi Jr., Sara Karloff) or industry persons, such as the late Vampira or Forrest J. Ackerman and others?

Meeting people in the industry has been one of the greatest benefits of making appearances at conventions. I’m such a huge Lugosi, Karloff, and Chaney fan that I was thrilled to meet the offspring of these greats and get to know them a little bit. The celebrities, themselves, are great, too. I was honored to meet Ben Chapmen, before he passed away, and Julia Adams from the Creature from the Black Lagoon. Those associated with the classics have been my favorites to meet, but I’ve also enjoyed meeting many actors from the modern films, as well.

4) You mention you enjoy early horror and 60s horror genres. What it is about Nosferatu that makes it a classic for you? The same for Dracula, Frankenstein, Bride of Frankenstein ... What are some other films that you consider significant in the genre. I'm interested in films that you like from 40s, 50s and 60s.

Nosferatu was basically the original vampire film and Count Orlok, one of the first monsters of film. Nosferatu, along with Dracula, Frankenstein, Bride of Frankenstein, etc. paved the way for the genre and had a huge influence on the public’s perception of the vampire, the monster, etc. Who does not think of Lugosi when they conjure an image of Dracula or who does not visualize and image of Karloff when thinking about Frankenstein? These movies are classics because they created these images in our minds. Even though there have been modern remakes, the images of the modern versions have not dethroned the originals. For example, the average person is not going to think of De Niro’s portrayal of the monster in Frankenstein, but rather Karloff’s. Other films that are most definitely significant and are classics are Phantom of the Opera, The Wolfman, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, The Creature from the Black Lagoon, and a multitude of Vincent Price films and Hammer films with actors such as Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing, just to name a few.

5) How does having a degree in psychology and working with autistic and mentally challenged children enhance your life. Is it a help to your gothic and film genre work? You have a family, including a new baby. Does your genre work have an influence in your home and personal life.

I haven’t really put the degree to work much, out of choice, but I am quite proud to have completed it and I may someday pursue a doctorate in neuroscience or other medical science, as that is where my interests in the field truly lie. Working with autistic children was very rewarding for me and I am blessed to know many special needs people and also have a special needs brother-in-law. My oldest daughter is now involved with working with special needs kids and adults and wants to be a special education teacher, so I am very proud of her. I don’t know that I would say having a degree or working with special needs people has been a help in gothic or film genre work, but personally, it has helped shape who I am, what I perceive as important, and what I am sensitive to. In regards to my family, my children, my new baby girl, etc., they are the number one priority in my life and everything else will always take a backseat. I wouldn’t say that my genre work really has an influence on my home and personal life, because I do always make sure that my family and marriage come first, so other than the occasional magazine, poster, photo, etc. the kids don’t see much of it and they are used to my own personal style, our home décor, etc. being influenced by the gothic genre and classic horror, because that is just who I am and how they’ve always known me.

6) What are your preferred tastes in gothic, horror and fantasy literature?

I don’t do much reading these days being busy with a new baby, but I do love Edgar Allen Poe and I am also a fan of Anne Rice. I also like to read “haunted history” type books about different haunted locations all over the world.

7) You mention that one advantage of the old films is there's less gore and more atmosphere. Is that why you don't tend to focus on newer genre films, although you mention you like the 92 Dracula?

Exactly! However, films such as the ’92 Dracula are in the same vein as the classics and don’t really have the gore either (not on the level of most modern horror), which is exactly why I like it. It remains true to the storyline. Unnecessary gore takes away from a good storyline, in my opinion.

Follow-up questions

1) You mention you enjoy Vincent Price films. His talent, someone said, was that he could both be scary and keep his tongue in his cheek. What are some Price films you enjoy the most. Some I love include Tower of London, Masque of the Red Death and Witchfinder General?

There are so many Price films and I’ve seen so many over the years that it is hard to pick particular favorites, but House on Haunted Hill, The Pit and the Pendulum, The Bat, The Haunted Palace, Witchfinder General, and the Abominable Dr. Phibes are a few that I’ve seen in recent years and enjoyed. I also absolutely loved his role in Edward Scissorhands, although it was much smaller than planned due to his health, and his narration in the Tim Burton short “Vincent”. In addition, I appreciate Vincent Price for his TV appearances, voice work, and radio work as much as I do for his movie roles.

2) What is your favorite Poe story and why?

Once again, it is difficult to choose, but the first one that comes to mind is the Tell-Tale Heart. I also enjoy his poetry. The Raven and Annabel Lee are a couple of my favorites. I’m currently reading the complete collection of Poe and have quite a ways to go, so my favorites may change as I work my way through.

3) Finally, I was intrigued you like Haunted History. I confess to being addicted to Ghost Hunters although I'm not sure I believe what I'm seeing. What are some historical "hauntings" that fascinate you and why?

I love to read about haunted castles and haunted locations in Britain, Ireland, Scotland, as well as Europe, in general. When I was about five years old, my parents took a trip to England and came back to tell me about all the haunted castles that they visited and the history behind them. I’ve been intrigued ever since. I am also very interested in many US locations, and have taken a particular interest in hauntings in the French Quarter of New Orleans, where my husband and I have visited regularly. We have made it a point to stay at many of the haunted hotels there, take the haunted history tours, etc. We have also sought out visiting other haunted locations around the US, such as St. Augustine, FL, San Francisco, etc. I would eventually like to visit other historical haunted sites in the US such as Gettysburg and Salem.

We thank RedVamp for taking the time to speak with Plan9Crunch. Here's one more clip from her cult horror hosting show: Classic Tales of Horror - The Terror

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

FearNET notes Plan9Crunch's reviewing skills


Here at Plan 9 Crunch we are pleased as punch to have been noted by FearNET.com as providin one of the five top tweet, via Twitter, reviews of Sam Raimi's new film, "Drag Me to Hell." See a terrifying still from the film above!

We saw it last Saturday and loved it. It's vintage Raimi, along the lines of his Evil Dead trilogy. Here is our tweet review (it had to 140 characters or less!


Overall, vintage Raimi, lots of shocks, chills and humor with cheesy ending that Claudio Fragasso would love: 3 stars!



You can see the Top 5 Tweet reviews at this FearNET link!


http://www.fearnet.com/news/b15720_drag_me_twitter.html


-- Doug Gibson