Is it conceivable that a pair of movie sirens named Barbara were under a deadly curse? Both Barbara Nichols and Barbara Payton appeared in hoorror and sci-fi films, and died tragic,premature deaths, as did a handful of other such actresses.
Were nefarious forces possibly enraged by their appearances in projects which touched upon the sacred subject matter of their shadowy domain? Please consider the following evidence for these two vixens:
-Barbara Nichols(1929-1976): This curvaceous blonde knockout with an unforgettable Brooklynese accent (born Barbara Nickerauer) encountered alien cloners in "The Human Duplicators"(1965). An extraterrestrial scientist, Kolos (Richard Kiel, before his archetypal role as "Jaws" in the 007 series), was engaged in a nefarious plot to substitute key humans with bionic replicas, such as noted scientist Dr. Vaughn Dornheimer (portrayed by George Macready, seen in many sci-fi and horror efforts, such as 1944's "Soul of a Monster").
However, special agent Glenn Martin (George Nader, known for 1953's "Robot Monster"), abetted by his assistant, Gale Wilson (Nichols), attempted to upset the project. However, he was captured by the alien. But, just as all looked hopeless, the egotistical Dornheimer clone suddenly tried to wrest power from Kolos, initiating a cyborg revolt!
As an added complication, Kolos had become enamored of Dornheimer's blind niece (portrayed by Dolores Faith, co-star of 1965's "Mutiny In Outer Space"), and developed second thoughts about the invasion. Ultimately, the clones were destroyed in a ferocious battle, Martin was manumitted, and Kolos abandoned the project and departed earth.
Barbara also had a small role as an exotic beauty, Flora, in George Pal's "The Power"( 1968), involving a think tank that included an extraterrestrial agent, Arthur Nordlund (Michael Rennie, best remembered for 1951's "The Day The Earth Stood Still"), who was employing his telekinetic powers to kill off the institute's resident geniuses.
However, another scientist at the center, Professor James Tanner(George Hamilton, before his days as Dracula in "Love at First Bite"(1979)), was also discovering his own latent psychokinesis. Abetting him was another scientist, Dr.Margery Lansing (Suzanne Pleshette, five years after her memorable role in "The Birds"). The pair met a wide spectrum of characters on their quest to identify the murderer, as well as avoid being dispatched by him, including Flora. In the end, Tanner bested Nordlund in a grueling confrontation between the psychically gifted!
However, Barbara's best-remembered role may be that of ecdysiast Liz Powell, a hospitalized patient who was repeatedly drawn to a basement morgue in the 1961 "Twilight Zone" episode,"Room 22." Each time she approached the door, a sinister-looking female morgue attendant (Arlene Sax, later seen as Major Hessel in 1978's "Dracula's Dog") swung open the doors and menacingly said, "Room for one more, honey!"
After Liz's discharge, that very same woman, as an airline stewardess, greeted her with that very same invitation as she was about to board the plane, inducing her to wisely flee for her life...the plane exploded soon after takeoff a few moments later. Jonathan Harris (Dr.Zachary Smith on TV's "Lost In Space") essayed the role of her doctor, skeptical of her late-night supernatural encounters.
In the late 60s and early 70s, most of Barbara's appearances were on the little silver screen. Sadly, she passed away from a liver ailment at just age 47 on Tuesday, October 5, 1976.
-Contrary to its title, 1961's "Manfish" (in which Barbara portrayed the sultry Mimi) involved only a boat bearing that name and not a chimera, despite the fact that Lon Chaney Jr. was a costar!
-Dolores Faith, the blind gal in "The Human Duplicators," portrayed a mute alien girl, Zetha, in 1961's "The Phantom Planet."
-In 1967, Michael Rennie portrayed a nefarious ET on earth in the TV series, "The Invaders"(as Magnus, aka Pierre Alquist), and again in 1970 in the sci-fi flick, "Assignment Terror"(as Dr.Odo Warnoff).
-Barbara Payton(1927-1967): This blonde bombshell (born Barbara Redfield) starred as Dina Van Gelder in 1951's "Bride Of The Gorilla," a film in which her hubby (played by Raymond Burr before his watershed 1956 role as reporter Steve Martin in "Godzilla") was transmogrified into a gorilla by a native witch as punishment for slaying her daughter. Dina was mauled off-screen by the simian, but her body was shown strewn on the ground after the gorilla was mortally wounded and resumed human form in the end.
A solid supporting cast included Tom Conway (of 1942's "Cat People" fame), Paul Cavanagh (seen in many horror flicks, such as 1959's "The Four Skulls of Jonathan Drake"), and Lon Chaney Jr. as the local constable rather than the ape man! It was during the filming of this production that actors Franchot Tone and Tom Neal had a memorable fight over Payton's affections, with Neal's punch sending Tone to the hospital in a coma that lasted some 18 hours!
And, in 1953's "The Four Sided Triangle," she portrayed a beauty , Lena, loved by two scientists. The rejected suitor (Stephen Murray, seen in 1954's suspense thriller, "The Stranger's Hand") then created her clone, Helen, who, as logic would dictate, also favored the other man!
Both the scientist and Helen died in a fiery lab explosion in the finale, while Lena escaped to safety, although it was not immediately clear whether it was the original or the clone who had survived.
As her career waned, Barbara embraced drugs and alcohol, and was arrested several times. Once, in 1962, she was stabbed by a drunkard and required 38 stitches to bind the wound! She detailed her dissolute lifestyle in a 1963 tell-all book, "I am Not Ashamed." It was actually ghost-written, with Barbara receiving just $1,000 for it.
Unfortunately, she died of an apparent heart attack at just 40 on Monday, May 8,1967.
-Both Barbara and actress Jessica Lange were born in the small NE Minnesota town of Cloquet!
-After each day's filming of the Gary Cooper western "Dallas" (1950), the crew would raise her petticoat up on a flagpole, setting it at half-staff at the Warner Brothers studio!
-In her later years, she always carried with her a small statue of St.Jude!
Dr. Franklin Ruehl, Ph.D.
Host, 'Mysteries From Beyond the Other Dominion'
GET UPDATES FROM Dr. Franklin Ruehl, Ph.D.
Secrets of the Very First Original Sci-Fi Program
Posted: 12/05/2012 1:54 pm
Why don't UFOs land in big cities? Is our moon possibly an artificial body? Does the phantom army of Mount Kilimanjaro materialize yearly?
These are among the intriguing questions that I posed on the very first episode of my series, Mysteries From Beyond The Other Dominion, which was one of the four original series to debut on the Sci-Fi channel when it was launched back in 1992. For the record, the other three new series were Inside Space, The Science Show and Sci-Fi Buzz.
This year, Sci-Fi (rechristened SyFy) is celebrating its 20th Anniversary with a two-hour special slated to air on December 10th with several re-runs.
For me, it was an absolutely exciting period to play an integral part in the beginning of such a channel devoted to one of my favorite topics! Each of my episodes ran 30 minutes, airing initially at 9:30 p.m. on Sundays, with re-airings at 1:30 a.m. the following morning and again the following Sunday morning at 9:30 a.m.
I packed as much material as I possibly could into each episode, covering a broad spectrum of subjects. For example, that first episode also included the following diverse topics:
• The history of sunglasses
• T. Rex secrets
• The world's largest rose bush
• How a biscuit timer foiled a robbery
• How to get gum off of your shoe
• Film factoids: Boris Karloff, Clayton Moore, Bela Lugosi
• Video mailbag: phony UFO footage
I also included fascinating on-screen factoids and challenged the viewers with a trivia question.
And, at the conclusion of each episode, I invited the audience to submit questions, photos and videos, noting that, "We don't promise to use anything that you submit, but if we do, you will achieve a small measure of fame, which is a heck of a lot better than a slap on the belly with a wet trout!"
My ability to land my program on Sci-Fi was a virtual miracle! For months, I was endeavoring to promote my concept of a program presenting the scientific evidence for controversial subjects, such as UFOs and ETs, paranormal phenomena, cryptozoological entities and anything else of a bizarre and intriguing nature.
Then, one Sunday morning, I read an article about public access TV in the L.A.Times. While I had hard about it before, this article motivated me to go that route. Then, an editor I was writing UFO articles for recommended that a friend of his, the editor of L.A. Style Magazine, profile me in their "Characters" section. When that was published, a fellow, Marc Lafia, was leafing through the issue hunting for photos that a pal of his had taken when he noticed the write-up about yours truly. He and his partner, Todd Stevens, were looking for someone to produce a TV series for. We turned out a few pilots, but there were no takers.
Then, Todd joined the production team of Major Dad in its penultimate season being filmed at Universal Studios. He showed my tapes to Michael Lansbury (nephew of actress Angela Lansbury), who was head of new programming there. Again, there was no apparent interest. Then, a few months later, Universal and USA Network jointly purchased the fledgling Sci-Fi Channel whose founder lacked the wherewithal to launch it. As a result, my program was selected to premiere on the channel. This certainly represents a classic case of not what you know, but who you know!
Unfortunately, after two seasons with respectable ratings, the program was not renewed, this despite the fact that two Universal execs were arguing in front of me over who was my biggest fan!
One problem during that embryonic phase was a shortfall of cable systems airing the channel. For example, my system in Glendale, CA did not start airing Sci-Fi until 1996, four years later.
I, of course, am ready to return to the channel, having prepared a brand new contingent of episodes. I only await their call!
Now, until next time, may the power of the cosmos be with you! Yes! Yes! Yes!
Did a Lethal Curse Plague Three 1950s Screen Sirens?
Posted: 11/21/2012 12:24 pm
Mari Blanchard! Peggie Castle! Allison Hayes! Incredibly, death stalked each one of these three gorgeous scream queens of the 1950s! All met tragic, premature demises by the time they reached their 40s! It definitely appears that a deadly curse was acting upon them. The chances for an incredible coincidence of this magnitude would be absolutely astronomical!
Conceivably, dark forces may have somehow been angered by their appearances in movies which touched upon the sacred subject matter of their shadowy domain! But, before you decide one way or the other, please consider the case of each one detailed herewith:
-Mari Blanchard(1927-1970): This leggy blonde stunner (born Mary Blanchard) had often been cast as a villainess in secondary roles in a succession of adventures, mysteries, and westerns until she landed her first leading role as Queen Allura of Venus in 1953's Abbott And Costello Go To Mars.
Working as maintenance men at a missile base, Bud and Lou accidentally launched themselves in an experimental rocketship that first landed in New Orleans during Mardi Gras where they picked up two fugitives from justice as stowaways, then headed for Mars, but were enigmatically diverted to Venus where they encountered a colony of captivating females led by Mari. After a typical series of hi-jinks, they eluded her clutches and returned safely to earth.
In undoubtedly her best cinematic role, she was the title character in 1957's She Devil, about an ordinary woman, Kyra Zelas, dying of tuberculosis. Two biochemists (played by Albert Dekker, star of 1940's Dr.Cyclops, and Jack Kelly, co-star of 1956's Forbidden Planet), injected her with a fruit fly serum that not only cured her, but transformed her into an evil female totally lacking in conscience, endowed with extraordinary strength.
She played the part to perfection! John Archer (star of 1950's Destination Moon) was a wealthy gent enchanted by her charms. Ultimately, the scientists killed Mari by suffusing her with her own carbon dioxide as she slept! This entry was directed by Kurt Neumann, noted for such excellent efforts as Rocketship X-M (1950) and The Fly (1958).
And, in her final film role, she was Sylvia Ward, a resurrected cadaver in Heidegger's Experiment, the first entry of a trilogy in 1963's Twice-Told Tales. Her fiancé, Dr. Carl Heidegger (Sebastian Cabot, previously seen in 1960's The Time Machine), and his best friend, Alex Medbourne (Vincent Price, whose first horror role was as the Invisible Man in 1940's "The Invisible Man Returns"), discovered her entombed body still as youthful as the day she died some 38 years earlier, apparently preserved by water dripping down upon it.
The men ingested some of the chemically pure water, which rejuvenated them. Sylvia was also revivified, but tragedy ensued when Carl learned that she actually loved Alex. Ultimately, in an unforgettably dramatic scene, while standing, she suddenly turned into a skeleton, then crumpled to dust, just after Carl was killed in a struggle with Alex, who himself began to age. Upon returning to her crypt, he discovered that the miracle water had ceased dripping, thereby ending his short-lived dream of eternal life!
Mari continued to appear on TV programs through 1968, still retaining her exquisite looks.
Unfortunately, after a long battle with cancer, she succumbed to the disease at just age 43 on Sunday, May 10,1970 while at the Motion Picture Country Home and Hospital in Woodland Hills,CA.
-Mari, who had been studying dance as a youngster, developed polio at age nine and was unable to walk for three grueling years, yet made a remarkable recovery by age 12!
-Lola Albright (co-star of 1957's Monolith Monsters) essayed the role of the "She Devil" in an earlier 1952 version entitled The Miraculous Serum on TV's Tales of Tomorrow.
-Anita Ekberg was briefly seen as one of the Venusians in Abbott and Costello Go To Mars.
-Peggie Castle(1927-1973): After a succession of small roles in assorted westerns, adventures, and mysteries, this tall, green-eyed blonde spellbinder won the co-starring role in the 1957 sci-fi flick, Beginning of the End. As hard-edged photojournalist Audrey Aimes, she joined forces with entomologist Dr. Ed Wainwright (Peter Graves, star of 1952's Red Planet Mars), who discovered that a research project involving radioactive fertilizer inadvertently created a swarm of titanic grasshoppers. When they invaded Chicago, Wainwright utilized amplified mating calls to lure the hoppers into Lake Michigan where they drowned!
Peggie then starred in the 1958 horror pic, Back From the Dead, essaying the challenging role of a woman, Miranda, possessed by the evil spirit of her husband's first wife, Felicia, who had jumped to her death from a cliff. She effectively alternated between the two personalities. Her distressed spouse, Dick Anthony (Arthur Franz, star of many sci-fi/horror flicks, such as 1958's Monster on the Campus), along with her sister (Marsha Hunt, memorable for being menaced by a humanlike queen bee in the 1964's The Outer Limits episode, "ZZZZZ"), sought to exorcise the demon within while Felicia's parents (James Bell, the murderous museum curator in 1942's The Leopard Man, and Helen Wallace, Jimmy Olsen's mom in the 1952 Adventures of Superman episode, "The Secret of Superman") and a master satanist (Otto Reichow, who played an atomic reactor expert in the 1958 Boris Karloff vehicle, "Frankensein-1970"), endeavored to subdue Miranda. In the end, Miranda was cleansed, regaining her soul, with Felicia's dad and mentor dead, and her mom paralyzed from a stroke!
She acted in just one more film, the Mario Lanza vehicle, The Seven Hills of Rome, in 1958. Peggie continued on TV for a while longer, snaring a regular role as the captivating Lily Merrill on TV's Lawman from 1958 to 1961. Then, her career ended and she reportedly turned to alcohol.
Unluckily, Peggie died from a combination of cirrhosis of the liver and heart failure at just age 46 on Saturday, August 11,1973.
-She was occasionally billed under the alternate names of Peggy Castle and Peggy Call!
-Peggie played a vixen named "Venus" in the 1954 Mickey Spillane mystery, "The Long Wait"
-The 1947 film, "The Beginning of the End," starring Brian Donlevy (Dr. Bernard Quatermass in 1956's "The Creeping Unknown" and 1957's "The Enemy From Space"), dealt with the development of the atomic bomb!
-Allison Hayes(1930-1977): A statuesque brunette femme fatale (born Mary Jane Hayes), she starred in her first dark feature in 1957, horrormeister Roger Corman's The Undead, as the evil witch Livia who battled a good witch, Meg Maud (portrayed by veteran actress Dorothy Neumann whose best role was undoubtedly as a wiccan in 1963's The Terror with Boris Karloff), over the fate of a woman, Diana Love (Pamela Duncan, the evil Shima in 1954 on the TV series, Rocky Jones, Space Ranger), whose spirit had travelled from the present to a past, 12th century incarnation, Helene, during a hypnotic regression session.
Livia, who periodically transmogrified herself into a black cat or bat, was ultimately dispatched by the hero with a knife to the gut, which triggered her final morphing into a dead cat with a blade sticking out of it! In an intriguing twist, the heroine opted to let herself be beheaded so that her future incarnations could enjoy their lives! And, as an added twist, the hypnotist, Quintus Ratcliff(Val Dufour, oft seen in TV westerns and soap operas), who initiated the experiment, found himself trapped in the past, with his empty suit of clothes sitting at his desk in the present effectively shown as a counterpoise. To top it off, Satan (Richard Devon, who appeared in many sci-fi/horror productions, such as 1957's Blood of Dracula) was taunting him for his blunder, promising to reserve a place in Hell for him!
Corman produced this to capitalize on the interest in past life regression generated by the celebrated Bridey Murphy case. Being unable to afford the rights to the book, he created his own version. But, because another movie, "The Search For Bridey Murphy" (starring Teresa Wright and Louis Hayward) beat him to the punch and interest began to decline in the subject matter, he changed the title from "The Trance of Diana Love" to the somewhat misleading "The Undead," suggestive more of vampirism than reincarnation!
Her next horror entry was The Zombies Of Mora Tau (1957), in which she portrayed Mona, the unhappy wife of George Harrison (Joel Ashley, who started his career in "Dead Pigeon," an episode of the 1949-50 TV suspense anthology, Lights Out), who was transformed into a female zombie, and went on a killing spree before being offed.
In The Unearthly (1957), she was psychiatric patient Grace Thomas sent to a mad scientist's sanitarium (Dr. Charles Conway, ably characterized by John Carradine, who portrayed many a mad scientist in his long career, such as in 1943's Captive Wild Woman), where the patients were subjected to experiments designed to render them immortal, but which transmogrified them into creatures. Tor Johnson was seen in a familiar role as Lobo (his character's name in 1955's Bride of the Monster with Bela Lugosi), one of Conway's assistants. Predictably, Grace was rescued by an undercover cop (Myron Healey, star of the 1962 Japanese-American monster flick, Varan, The Unbelievable) as Conway was killed. The production wound up with an impressive scene of several of his creations in the basement, with a detective asking pointedly, "What if they DO live forever?"
Allison's next entry was The Disembodied (1957), where as Tonda Metz, wife of an older man (John Wengraf, co-star of 1954's sci-fi robotic thriller, "Gog") engaged in jungle research, she employed voodoo in an attempt to rid herself of him. Ultimately, she was once again knifed to death, this time by a vengeful native girl!
Then, in 1958, Allison (as Nancy Fowler Archer) was handed the title role in the film that made her a cult figure, Attack Of The 50-Foot Woman. Her hypertropism resulted from an encounter with an alien in a spacecraft while riding around in a jealous rage in the desert. Once she attained her gargantuan proportions, she said nothing, merely setting out to exact comeuppance upon her philandering hubby (William Hudson, who was also in 1957's The Amazing Colossal Man) and the local gal (Yvette Vickers, star of 1959's Attack of the Giant Leeches) he had been getting cozy with. Finally, Allison was electrocuted by high tension wires... and granted cinematic immortality!
In 1960's The Hypnotic Eye, she was Justine, the assistant to a stage mesmerist, Desmond (Jacques Bergerac, who twice played the character Freddie The Fence on the Batman TV series), whose post-hypnotic suggestions had attractive females disfiguring themselves in a variety of grotesque ways. For instance, one beauty unwittingly applied acid to her face! It turned out that Allison was influencing him in this nefarious venture as misplaced retribution for her own disfigured face, revealed in a dramatic mask-ripping scene at the end, when she screamed at a rival female, "You like my face? Then you may have it." Justine then fell to her death from a theater scaffolding, landing next to Desmond, who had been gunned down moments before.
And, as Donna, the fiancee of an ill-fated astronaut in The Crawling Hand (1963), she and other cast members (including Kent Taylor, star of 1962's The Day Mars Invaded Earth) were menaced by that spaceman's severed hand, which, possessed by an alien intelligence, had an unrelenting urge to strangle humans. It was dispatched when a hungry kitty mistook it for a rodent! Meow!
She continued acting on both the large and small screen through 1967, but never achieved the level of success she had hoped for.
Sadly, Allison died from blood poisoning related to a transfusion to treat leukemia (or possibly lead poisoning caused by tainted calcium supplements) at just age 47 on Sunday, February 27,1977.
- In one pre-transformation scene in The Zombies of Mora Tau, Allison yelled so effectively when approached by zombies that the scream was used in two later, 1959 films, Frankenstein's Daughter and Missile To The Moon.
-Perhaps because of the fascination with Sputnik, launched a year earlier, the characters in Attack of The 50-Foot Woman repeatedly referred to the alien spacecraft as a "satellite" rather than a "UFO" or "flying saucer."
-Both Allison and Beverly Garland (star of 1959's The Alligator People) donned holsters as they battled it out in the 1956 Roger Corman oater, Gunslinger.
Related Film Factoids:
Dr. Franklin Ruehl, Ph.D.
Host, 'Mysteries From Beyond the Other Dominion'
GET UPDATES FROM Dr. Franklin Ruehl, Ph.D.
3 New Fascinating Horror Film Factoids!
Posted: 10/25/2012 11:54 am
A surprising true story was incorporated in The Masque of the Red Death! The stars of The Gorgon hated the creature! Color mitigated the horrific effects of I Was A Teenage Frankenstein!
Roger Corman's 1964 Edgar Allan Poe horror flick, The Masque of the Red Death, afforded Vincent Price a superb role as the evil Prince Prospero who is sheltering several aristocrats in his castle from the plague. In a major masquerade scene, the dwarf Hop Toad (Skip Martin) leads the villainous Alfredo (Patrick Magee) attired in a gorilla suit in chains to the ballroom, then proceeds to burn him to death for unchivalrous remarks about his inamorata, the dwarf Esmeralda (actually a child actress, Verina Greenlaw).
This segment was drawn from a Poe short story, "Hop-Frog," which was based on an actual 1393 incident in which French King Charles VI and five of his lords costumed and chained themselves as wild men, then caught fire due to an errant spark, with four of the aristos dying. The incident became celebrated as the "Ball of the Burning Men."
Ruehl Fact: Co-star Jane Asher asked Roger Corman if she could invite a friend, an unknown musician named Paul, to the set, which he allowed her to do. That pal turned out to be Paul McCartney who lunched with them, then made his debut with the Beatles that evening in London!
Barbara Shelley, who had the title role in 1964's The Gorgon, was Peter Cushing's assistant, Carla Hoffmann, at an asylum who periodically morphed into a snake-haired Gorgon. She pleaded with producer Anthony Nelson Keys to allow her to wear a wig that featured live, non-venomous green garden snakes, but he demurred, claiming it would cost too much to create such a headpiece. But, after he saw the final version, he admitted that the theatrical snakes looked chintzy and regretted not going along with her suggestion.
Co-star Christopher Lee commented, "The only thing wrong with The Gorgon is the 'Gorgon!' "
Ruehl Fact: Shelley's creature was named Megaera, who was one of the three Fates (or Erinyes), not one of the Gorgons, who were named Medusa, Stheno, and Euryale!
In the original theatrical release of 1957's I Was A Teenage Frankenstein, the black-and-white film suddenly morphed into technicolor when Professor Frankenstein (veteran character actor Whit Bissell) completed his work on the teen monster (Gary Conway).
Unfortunately, the shock of suddenly seeing the creature was muted by the fact that part of his hideous face was visible before he turned to the camera, in effect, showing his physiognomy in gentle gradations. Today, on TV, the colorized portion typically remains B&W.
Bissell uttered a classic cinematic phrase when he impatiently admonished his creation, "Answer me! You have a civil tongue in your head. I know... I sewed it in there!"
Ruehl Fact: Bissell was also the scientist who transformed Michael Landon into a lycanthrope in 1957's I Was A Teenage Werewolf.
Cosmic Theatre: "Scared To Death"
Cosmic Theatre: "Satanic Rites of Dracula"
Cosmic Theatre: The Brain That Wouldn't Die"