Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Our annual post of 'New Year's Evil'

 By Steve D. Stones Happy Days star Roz Kelly stars in this early 1980s slasher film directed by Emmett Alston. Like so many horror films of the 1980s, this one is an attempt to cash in on the success of John Carpenter’s Halloween franchise.

Kelly is a punk rock mother hosting a New Year’s Eve party at a hip New Wave music club in downtown Los Angeles. Her teenage son comes to see her at the club with flowers, but she completely ignores him. A maniac killer, played by Kip Niven, calls Kelly at the club hotline to inform her that he will commit a murder every hour until 12 midnight as part of his New Year’s resolution. A club worker named Yvonne is the first victim to be killed in a bathtub in a club dressing room.

The second victim is a pretty blonde nurse at the local hospital. The killer predictably poses as a new hospital orderly who lures the nurse into a hospital room with champagne and proceeds to stab her to death after making out with her. Another nurse at the hospital discovers her body in a closet.

The killer continues to call Kelly at the music club in a disguised voice to inform her that he is committing murders. He even plays a taped recording over the phone of him stabbing the nurse at the hospital. Kelly is now forced to take his threats seriously. She asks the local police department for police protection.

By now the viewer has been exposed to lots of really bad punk rock performances, zebra striped T-shirts, and 1980s mullet hairstyles. Where are The Ramones, The Misfits and The Sex Pistols when we need them?

Feeling rejected by his mother, Kelly’s son sees his mother performing on television at the club with a punk band. In a fit of anger, he tears apart the roses he brought for her, and stretches one of her red nylon stalkings over his face as if he is about to become a killer himself. This is a particularly confusing scene because by now we already know who the killer is and what he looks like, so any attempt to suggest that the killer could be Kelly’s son seems unnecessary. The killer now shows up at another dance club in L.A. dressed in an obviously fake moustache and three-piece suit. He tells another pretty blonde girl at the bar that he is a business agent for many Hollywood actors in town. He convinces her to leave the club to attend a business party. She refuses to go alone with him, so she takes one of her club friends with her.

This spoils the plans of the killer to get her alone. The three drive in the killer’s Mercedes to a gas station, where the killer strangles one of the girls with a bag full of marijuana. He hides in a Dumpster to attack the second girl as she comes out of the gas station with a bottle of champagne. The killer stabs her to death. As the killer flees the scene, he is harassed at a stop light by a motorcycle gang. The killer speeds away from the motorcycle gang and hides out at a local drive-in theatre.

The movie screen advertises a film entitled Blood Feast as a feature playing at the theatre, but it is not Herschel Gordon Lewis’ schlock masterpiece from 1963, unfortunately. After stealing another car from a young couple making out at the drive-in, the killer shows up at the New Wave club, manages to club a police officer in the head at a back entrance, and puts his police uniform on, which conveniently fits him perfectly. Under police protection outside her dressing room, Kelly sits in front of a mirror putting on make-up as the killer suddenly appears in her room in a jogging outfit and a Halloween mask.

She sees him in the mirror, but is not frightened. He removes the mask, and reveals himself to be Richard Sullivan, her husband. She is not frightened by his presence because she has no idea he is the killer. As the couple gets into an elevator, it becomes evident to Kelly that her husband is the killer.

He holds a knife up to her and saying:“I’m fed up . . . You’re just like all the other women in my life. Women are manipulative, deceitful, immoral and very, very selfish!”

His reasoning for killing here seems very petty and unnecessary. Wouldn’t his actions make him “manipulative, deceitful, immoral and selfish?” If he was so fed up with his wife, why didn’t he just request a divorce from her? Why go through the troubles of killing several innocent women to get to her? In the post O.J. Simpson and Scott Peterson world we live in today, it seems highly unlikely that a man would go on a killing spree killing innocent victims just to prove a point with his wife.

However, I realize this film was made long before the O.J. Simpson ordeal of the1990s, and the Scott Peterson ordeal early in this decade. As the film comes to an end, Richard chains his wife to the bottom of the elevator and is chased by policemen who fire shots at him. He is chased to the top balcony of the building, where he puts the Halloween mask back on and jumps off the building, committing suicide. His son emotionally removes the mask from him.

The film ends with a shot of Kelly being wheeled into an ambulance. The driver of the ambulance is wearing Richard’s Halloween mask, and the paramedic on the passenger side lies dead on the floor of the ambulance. Could the killer now be Kelly’s son?

NEW YEAR’S EVIL follows in the long line-up of so many 1980s slasher/horror films. Like Silent Night, Deadly Night, My Bloody Valentine, Christmas Evil, Don’t Open ‘Til Christmas, April Fool’s Day, Mother’s Day, and so many others, NEW YEAR’S EVIL is an attempt to use a holiday title to cash in on the slasher craze of the 1980s. Watch it below:

Monday, December 21, 2015

Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny ... It NEEDS riffs

By Steve D. Stones

I thought I had seen all the terrible Christmas movies to be watched, until I recently saw “Santa and The Ice Cream Bunny.” The folks at RiffTrax, formerly Mystery Science Theatre 3000, provided hilarious commentary about the film on the evening of Thursday December 3. Without their commentary, I may have walked out of the theatre. The movie is so bad that it is not listed in any film encyclopedia I own. No film critic seems to be anxious to write about “Santa and The Ice Cream Bunny.” It is on the Internet Movie Database.

Somehow Santa ends up stranded on the beaches of Florida soaking up the sun in his sleigh. His reindeer have abandoned him. He calls on some local children to help him get his sleigh back in operation. Each child is called by their name, except one little girl Santa calls "Kid." The children bring farm animals one by one to try and attach to Santa's sleigh. None of the farm animals, including a sheep and donkey, wants to be hitched to the sleigh.

The children suggest that Santa take a plane back to the North Pole, but he refuses to leave his sleigh abandoned. He complains about the Florida heat and sheds some of his clothing. Since Santa's sleigh is empty, the viewer is confused as to whether or not Christmas is over, or if Santa is just behind in delivering presents to children for Christmas.

With the failed attempt to get his sleigh in operation, Santa decides to take a rest and tell the children a story. Suddenly, the movie abruptly shifts to the story of Jack and The Beanstalk. This sequence was produced by Barry Mahon, a director who made soft-core sex features and films about fairy tales appealing to children. Other prints of “Santa and The Ice Cream Bunny” insert Mahon's Thumbelina (1970).

Jack purchases some seeds from Honest John — a cow salesman. Jack lives in a land where everyone is dressed like the Partridge Family. What follows is a series of bad musical performances by little Jack and the giant he steals a golden goose and harp from. Jack stands in front of out-of-focus, rear-projected images of the giant as he attempts to steal the poorly sculpted paper mache goose and harp on the table in front of the sleeping giant.

As the story of Jack and The Beanstalk finishes, Santa reappears on the Florida beach with the children. Suddenly, an antique fire truck driven by someone in a bad bunny costume appears to take Santa back to the North Pole.

This ice cream bunny makes the evil bunny in “Donnie Darko” (2001) look like the Trix rabbit or Bugs Bunny. He drives the fire truck like a drunken clown, nearly running over a dog and steering into pot holes. The most freaky part is when the bunny winks at a little girl who runs up to him after the fire truck arrives on the beach.

Before “Santa and The Ice Cream Bunny,” RiffTrax screened three Christmas shorts — “Santa Claus's Story,” “The Tales of Custard The Dragon” and “Santa's Enchanted Village.” The three shorts are also really bad holiday entertainment, but the RiffTrax commentary makes them more enjoyable to watch.

The one good aspect going for “Santa and The Ice Cream Bunny” is the beautiful black, white and red poster art created for the film of Santa in the fire truck with the ice cream bunny. This poster is likely a sought after collector's item for fans of bad movies.

For a much better holiday feature by Mahon, see the animated “Santa and The Three Bears” (1970).

This review was originally published in the Standard-Examiner newspaper. Art by Steve D. Stones.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Our favorite Christmas films -- Doug Gibson and Steve Stones

Hello Plan9Crunch readers, in honor of the holidays, bloggers Steve D. Stones and I, Doug Gibson, offer readers our five favorite Christmastime films. We hope you enjoy reading our picks and perhaps you will sample one or two as Christmas day approaches. So, here we go!

Doug Gibson’s list of favorite Christmas/holiday-themed films
1). “A Christmas Carol,” 1951: “Oh! But he was a tight-fisted hand at the grindstone, Scrooge. a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous old sinner! Hard and sharp as flint, from which no steel had ever struck out generous fire; secret, and self-contained, and solitary as an oyster”  Simply put, Alastair Sim best represents Scrooge as depicted by Charles Dickens.  His redemption after visits from three spirits is also the best, most joyfully portrayed on film. Old screen veterans Kathleen Harrison and Ernest Thesiger also add spice and cheer to this adaptation.

2). “A Christmas Carol,” 1984: George C. Scott’s portrayal of London’s meanest businessman is superb, and just a tad below Sim’s definitive portrayal. Scott gives Scrooge a faint of air whimsy and humor, even when he’s coveting pennies within sight of beggars. To be fair to Scott, it translates well to the screen. Edward Woodward, as an imposing, scolding Ghost of Christmas Present, is the best Christmas ghost captured on the screen.

3). “Going My Way,” 1944: Bing Crosby, as Father Chuck O’Malley is a joy for Christmas, mixing wonderful songs with a story about a talented young priest called to a struggling to secretly help a grizzled old veteran priest, Father Fitzgibbon, (wonderfully played by Barry Fitzgerald) back on its financial feet. Perhaps no other film captures life in the heart of NYC so well. The finally scene, in which Father Fitzgibbon is reunited with his mother after a half-century, will cause the driest cynic to tear up.

4). “Miracle on 34th Street,” 1947: This witty tale of Santa Claus on trialbasically made Edmund Gwenn iconic as who Santa Claus is. The most tear-inducing scene is Gwenn’s Santa speaking Dutch with a WW2 orphan girl at Macy’s. There are two main threads in this marvelous slice-of-NYC life film. The first involves a witty court fight to legitimize Gwenn’s Santa. The second is Gwenn’s quiet but effective campaign to teach a cynical mom and her impressionable daughter the true spirit of Christmas.

5) “The Shop Around the Corner,” 1940: I love this Christmas film, where two shop clerks, who initially actually have a history of disliking each other, share love notes as anonymous pen pals. Jimmy Stewart is great as the male lead, and Margaret Sullavan is beautiful as the shopgirl. This is based on a Hungarian play, and is set in “Budapest,” which looks like the most beautiful city on Earth.

Steve D. Stones’  list of favorite Christmas/Holiday themed films
1). Santa Claus Conquers The Martians (1964). This favorite pick is predictable, but how can anyone resist a Christmas movie with dopey characters named Drop-O, Keemar, Voldar, Girmar and Bomar? The acting, dialogue, make-up, sets and costumes are amateur, at best, but the film has a lot of heart. John Call in the role of Santa Claus is irresistible, and may be the only convincing character in the entire film. Watch for the cheap spaceships designed from toilet paper rolls and toilet plungers are used as ray guns.  No toilet humor is involved. The green Martian make-up is lightly applied to many of the actors, likely for lack of budget. Don’t miss it! See Doug Gibson and I review this film as a video-cast on this web-site.

2). Die-Hard (1988). Yes, believe it or not, this box office action yarn can be considered a “Christmas movie.” Not since Sylvester Stallone played John Rambo in “First Blood” (1982) has Bruce Willis’ John McClane action hero had such great appeal to mass audiences.  His famous “Yippy-Ki-Yah-Mother-Fu*#er” line has become a staple of popular cinema culture. McClane takes on a group of European terrorists on Christmas Eve who have seized a high rise building in Los Angeles.  The result is a dynamite, edge of your seat action film that never lets up, and allows the audience to cheer for the killing of every bad guy McClane chalks up on his arm with a marker. Willis is perfect in this role, and went on to make three more in the series. This is a film where you’ll find yourself cheering for police and law enforcement.

3). Scrooge (1935). Although there have been many screen adaptations with larger budgets of Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” classic, this one is a particular favorite of mine because it was the first VHS video I ever bought with my allowance money when I was 13. The dated, worn out look of the film helps add to its nostalgic quality.  Ebenezer Scrooge is played by Sir Seymour Hicks, who also co-wrote the script. Hicks is perfectly cast. The film is as poverty looking as its subject matter, but is worthy of a viewing just to see what one of the first screen adaptations of this Dickens classic looks like. Most public domain prints run 58 minutes, but an extended version runs over 80 minutes. Even the 58 minute versions list the film length on the box cover as 83 minutes. Don’t be fooled by this.

4). Black Christmas (1974). It has often been said that John Carpenter’s 1978 film – “Halloween” ushered in the so-called “slasher” horror films of the 1980s. Halloween owes a great deal to this holiday horror feature. Beautiful Olivia Hussey plays a college girl with boyfriend problems living in a sorority house, who is terrorized on Christmas Eve by threatening phone calls. The phone caller-killer is never shown on screen, adding to the suspense. He hides in the attic of the sorority house, which makes perfect since, considering how cold it is outside on Christmas Eve. The film was also marketed as Silent Night, Evil Night and Stranger In The House.

5). Santa Claus (1959). Not to be confused with the 1994 Tim Allen movie, or the 1985 Dudley Moore film of the same title, this bizarre 1959 Mexican import is notorious for VHS prints that cut out scenes involving the devil. Santa Claus also shows scenes of children from different countries
singing Christmas carols in their native languages at Santa’s workshop at the North Pole. The film has a moral tale to warn children not to steal the toys they want just because their parents may not have the money to buy them for Christmas.  It’s not known why public domain prints cut out all the scenes of the devil, but those scenes depict the devil as playful and ridiculous and are an important part of the film. Perhaps the scenes were cut so as not to scare children?

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Santa Claus Conquers the Martians -- The video review

 "Hurray for Santy Claus!" was the cheery theme song for the ultra-bizarre 1960s kiddie-matinee Christmas cult classic "Santa Claus Conquers the Martians." The hyper-low budget, so-bad-it's-good blend of sci-fi and holiday cheer hung around theaters for more than a decade. In the past couple of generations, it was named one of the 50 Worst Films by the Medved brothers, was spoofed by Mystery Science Theater 3000 and is still ubiquitous as a DVD offering in dollar stores. In the video podcast above, Steve D. Stones and I, along with camera help from Jennifer Thorsted, dissect this wonderful film. And, by, we're in the screening room of the beautiful Art House Cinema 502 theater, located at 158  Historic 25th Street in Ogden, Utah.
-- Doug Gibson

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Tom Weaver talks Poverty Row Horrors with Plan9Crunch

Interview by Doug Gibson

At Plan9Crunch, we are pleased, and indeed honored, to present an interview with Tom Weaver, who over the course of a couple generations has written scores of books and articles detailing in-depth research into many areas of cult films. Of his books, Weaver has done groundbreaking research on many topics, including films of John Carradine, the Universal horror films of 1931 to the late 40s, and poverty-row horrors of the 1940s.

It's that final subject, Poverty Row Horrors, that Weaver has been kind enough to answer several questions we had regarding his wonderful book, "Poverty Row Horrors" (McFarland), that he wrote with research assistance from Michael and John Brunas. It's a fascinating look at that magical era (1940 to a bit past World War II) in which Monogram, PRC and Republic made low-budget films of the Universal-type horror films. Ironically, around the time the war ended, the Universal horrors were starting to resemble the Monogram and PRC horrors.

-- RELATED: Our review of "Poverty Row Horrors," by Tom Weaver

Bu we digress, here is the interview with Mr. Weaver:

PLAN 9 CRUNCH: Monogram, PRC, Republic, how did they see these B movies in terms of stars, artistic quality, plots and perhaps most importantly, economics?

 Weaver: I started interviewing Hollywood old-timers and writing about old movies in the early to mid-1980s, by which time most of the people who made the Poverty Row horror movies were long gone, so I never got to ask them questions like that. I don’t know that anyone else ever did either. I assume – and assuming is all I’m doing – that they saw that there was a market for these movies, based on the success that Universal was having with their “franchise monsters,” and tried to cut into the pie. “Artistic quality,” “plots,” all those considerations … I’d also bet that only a few of them, like Edgar G. Ulmer and Frank Wisbar, gave those things much thought. The “average” Monogram writer or director probably didn’t much care if his next assignment was a comedy or a horror movie or a Western, as long as the checks cleared. I hope that doesn’t sound cynical but I’ve talked to lots of TV writers and they were in it for the bread, and almost none of them had the episodes they had written in their home video collections – if they even HAD home video collections! In the 1940s, Sam Katzman himself called his horror movies “moron pictures” and said he couldn’t understand why people wanted to see them!

PLAN 9 CRUNCH: Of the horror genre stars who played in these films (I'll omit Karloff) who was the most successful artistically, and economically for the producers?

Weaver: Well, Bela Lugosi was the most successful from a standpoint of getting people to watch the movies – he made movies for Monogram on and off for about ten years, so obviously they were popular. And then they were popular on TV and now they’re popular on home video, and if really good-quality prints of his Monograms turned up in 2015, I’m sure a lot of fans would buy them even though they’ve probably bought all of Lugosi’s Monogram movies ten times by now, in various formats. Were any of them successful “artistically”? Well, you’d have to define “artistically” for me before I could answer that. “Artistically,” Carradine and Lugosi and Zucco would probably rather be working in any other movie then being made in Hollywood, then in something like RETURN OF THE APE MAN. These WERE good actors who’d been on the stage and been in fine movies, and they probably considered it a little embarrassing to work for the smallest Hollywood studios in movies that probably even kids laughed at. I’m sure they were happy for the work, happy to be making a living … and they’d have probably been happy if their next movie wasn’t going to have a Flying Serpent or a guy in a gorilla suit starring in it.

PLAN 9 CRUNCH: You mention in the book that Monogram budgeted these films to have a profit of less than $2,000. What were the budgets and cast salaries for these films generally. Name star? Non-name stars? Supporting people, such as Frank Moran, Minerva Urecal, etc.

Weaver: No one would love to know the answers to those questions more than I would. But if there’s paperwork for these movies anywhere, I don’t know where. I was able to find out that John Carradine made $3,000 a week on VOODOO MAN, which probably TOOK a week. That’s not bad – heck, if somebody offered me a $3000-a-week job now, 2015, I’d crawl over broken glass to get it, so imagine what that was like in 1944. But I’m sure the no-name supporting players got Screen Actors Guild scale, whatever that was at the time. In the 1930s the Weiss family had to be the cheapest producers in Hollywood, and recently someone dug up a lot of their records. They paid some of their minor actors just a few dollars a day, in the depths of the Depression.

PLAN 9 CRUNCH: What non-name actors do you think distinguished themselves in these low-budget films? And among directors and crew, who were some of the better professionals?

Weaver: I’m no huge fan of either BLUEBEARD or STRANGLER OF THE SWAMP but I think it’s obvious that their directors, Edgar Ulmer and Frank Wisbar respectively, tried to give ‘em a lot more TLC than the average Poverty Row horror director. Also Joseph H. Lewis, who directed Lugosi’s INVISIBLE GHOST. Performance-wise I’ve got some favorites that nobody talks about: Henry Victor as a Lugosi-like villain in KING OF THE ZOMBIES, Ralph Morgan as the victim of acromegaly in THE MONSTER MAKER, maybe a couple more. And I also enjoy leading ladies who are a bit brighter and/or spunkier than the norm, which would be Joan Barclay in BLACK DRAGONS, Louise Currie in THE APE MAN, Jean Parker in BLUEBEARD. Although maybe that’s as much thanks to the writers as to the actresses. Another reason that not-much is known about these movies behind-the-scenes, beyond the fact that the moviemakers were pretty much all dead before anybody started asking ‘em questions, is … they were made so quickly that, decades later, the people involved barely remembered them. Every Poverty Row actor or actress I talked to … they were good for one or two anecdotes, MAYBE, and that was IT. And that’s understandable. When I’m 80, and somebody asks me about a job that took me three days when I was 30 and hadn’t thought about since, they ain’t gettin’ NUTHIN’ out of me, I promise you!

PLAN 9 CRUNCH: Why did the genre falter after World War II? Perhaps as importantly, why were they successful during World War 2?

Weaver: Universal made horror popular again with SON OF FRANKENSTEIN, which made a LOT of money for a horror flick, and then THE CAT AND THE CANARY and THE GHOST BREAKERS with Bob Hope were hits that inspired more horror-comedies, and then the Val Lewton movies did unexpectedly well. They were good escapism for blue-collar types and kids and, if a studio didn’t put too much money into ‘em, they were assured a profit. It’s weird, it seems like all the studios were always following Universal’s lead when it came to the horrors: DRACULA and FRANKENSTEIN were hits so the other studios started making them. In the mid-1930s they were getting LESS popular and civic groups were complaining about horror pictures here and abroad and Universal stopped making them, so everybody else stopped too; and in the mid-1940s Universal merged with International Pictures and decreed no more horrors, no more Westerns, no more B-pictures, and again all the other studios ALSO dropped the horrors.

PLAN 9 CRUNCH: Republic's films seem to have higher production values but lack traditional horror elements? Why was that?

Weaver: There were great, efficient crews working at Republic and they could make their cheapies look darn good, and did. I don’t think too many people at Monogram or PRC were sitting up nights trying to figure out how to make their movies look better. In fact, PRC movies HAD to look cheap – I’m told that to save money, they used the cheapest kind of film, film that newsreel cameramen used, so the movies probably looked old and dupey when they were brand new. As for the horror elements in Republic movies, it seems to me that their writers just weren’t cut out for monsters. They TRIED to come up with “something a little different” sometimes – a vampire in Africa who walks in sunlight and gets into fights; a Catman, a vampire-like joker they called a zombie, etc. They’d establish these offbeat horror characters and then didn’t know what to DO with them, so they have ‘em get into fights and chases, as if they were still writing a serial or a Western. Weird!

PLAN 9 CRUNCH: You're harsh at times in your assessments but fair. Do you think these films are overrated due to honor bestowed to stars and genre. What's the best Poverty Row offering in your opinion, from artistic and entertainment values?

Weaver: My favorite is probably THE DEVIL BAT because I like the murder-a-reel plot, I like the monster even though it’s the next thing to a kite I guess, and Bela actually seems like he’s having a good time playing the villain. I know that’s not the answer you’re “supposed” to give, I know BLUEBEARD and STRANGLER OF THE SWAMP have the best reps – and there ARE good things about them. But they’re so somber, no fun. And so cheap-looking. Both are PRCs and both look like they’re from 1919 because of the film stock, because they’re so dark, because they’re so drab. They make a Republic movie like LADY AND THE MONSTER look like an MGM super-production!

And this last question is from my co-blogger at Plan9Crunch, Steve D. Stones.

PLAN 9 CRUNCHMr. Weaver, you often are very critical of the films and directors you write about. Even though some of your criticism is warranted, do you still find some entertainment value in many of the bottom of the barrel films you write about? Since art and entertainment is very subjective, would you ever admit that there is something hip and unique about finding "bad movies" entertaining and worth one's time to view them?

Weaver: I find things to like in just about all of these movies, or (obviously!) I wouldn’t want to write about them. Who sits down and says to himself, “I hate B-Westerns” or “I never like musical comedies” and then their next thought is, “I should watch a ton of them and spend a year writing a book about them!” But when I actually sit down and have to critique these things, sometimes scene by scene, it CAN come out sounding pretty negative. Yes I kinda like THE APE MAN because Bela’s first scene is kinda funny and the scene of him running around town with the ape is darn funny and the ending, in its penny-ante way, is halfway exciting. Fine, there’s four minutes that I really like. But you’ve also got to write about the movie’s OTHER 60 minutes which I don’t think ANYbody much likes! So, yes, sometimes I’m sure my enthusiasm gets washed away by the tidal wave of complaints.

I love finding good things in a “bad” movie, or finding an unheard-of movie with a lot to recommend it, and sharing my opinions with other fans so that maybe they’ll give the movie another look. When people who buy my books contact me, there are two things they can say that I especially like hearing. Number one, that I wrote about a movie in such a way that it got them to rewatch it. That’s kinda what it’s all about, if you ask me. I love it when I’m reading a book and the discussion turns to a movie that I’ve seen, but not in a long time, and the writer writes about its best scenes and best performances and enthuses about it in such a way that after a while I have the attitude of “Forget about reading this book, I’m gonna go watch those movies.”

The other thing I love hearing is that people read my books in the bathroom. Maybe every writer won’t admit this, probably doesn’t LIKE admitting this, but – that IS the highest compliment you can get!

We'e grateful for Tom Weaver for taking the time to share his cult films expertise with our readers.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

'Joi Lansing - A Body To Die For' - A Love Story

By Steve D. Stones

I first became obsessed with Joi Lansing when I saw her kissing actor Arthur Franz in The Atomic Submarine (1959). Next, I saw Lansing in an opening sequence in Queen of Outer Space (1958) kissing actor Patrick Waltz. Ms. Lansing had the act of kissing down to an art.

Lansing's good looks and charming smile were not her only valuable assets. Her singing talents also made her stand out as an actress. She had a successful singing act in New York and Las Vegas. Lansing sang with country star Ferlin Husky in the cult classic - Hillbillies In A Haunted House (1967).

"Joi Lansing - A Body To Die For, A Love Story," (BearManor Media)  follows the last four years of her life before dying of breast cancer in August 1972 at age 43. The book is told from the perspective of Lansing's friend and lover - Rachel Lansing, aka Ivory Hunter, aka author Alexis Hunter. Lansing and Hunter met while filming the 1969 schlock movie - Bigfoot. Hunter wore an ape costume in the film.

Raised in Kansas, Hunter grew up watching lots of TV and immediately became infatuated with Lansing after seeing her on The Bob Cummings Show in the early 1960s. Her family relocated to Charter Oak, California, just thirty miles from Hollywood.  This brought her closer to her dream of starring in movies.

Hunter states in the opening prologue of the book that she had three specific reasons for writing the book. First, to warn readers of the dangers of silicone injections, which was part of the pain Lansing suffered during the last years of her life. Hunter also had a desire to express how vulnerable and fragile Lansing's self image was as a result of the pressures to remain young and beautiful in Hollywood.

Finally, Hunter had a desire to express just how strong love can endure between two human beings, regardless of their sexual orientation. Lansing may have been married to a man and thought to be "straight," but her connection with Hunter made the two soul mates in their short time together. The reader really gets a strong sense of just how much the two women loved and respected each other.

Hunter spends lots of time describing an almost day by day account the meals she, Lansing and Lansing's husband Stan ate in restaurants, as well as the places they traveled in the four years they were together. Hunter was fortunate enough to meet a number of Hollywood celebrities because of her relationship with Lansing, including Elvis, James Brown and Frank Sinatra. Sinatra once dated Lansing.

This touching story of Lansing and Hunter's life and their final days together brings tears to the reader's eyes. Hunter was by Lansing's side until the very end, sleeping next to her in a hospital bed every night.

As the book came to a close, I found myself being curious about Hunter's life today. She mentions she is an artist  who creates paintings and jewelry. Did she ever find new love? Also, what happened to Lansing's husband Stan? Is Hunter still a part of Lansing's family today? Perhaps these are not important questions for the reader to know the answers? What is important is that the two women shared a loving bond together in a short period of time.

For a complete resume of Lansing's career, refer to her page on the Internet Movie Database. She has a long and impressive list of television shows and movies she starred in during her twenty-eight year career. Happy reading.