Wednesday, December 26, 2012

My Latest HuffPost Blog:Were 2 Screen Sirens Named Barbara Cursed?

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. Ruehl Facts: -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. Ruehl Facts: -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!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

My Latest HuffPost Blog: Secrets of 1st Show On The Sci-Fi Channel!

Dr. Franklin Ruehl, Ph.D. Host, 'Mysteries From Beyond the Other Dominion' GET UPDATES FROM Dr. Franklin Ruehl, Ph.D. Like 71 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!