My Latest HuffPost Blog("Curse on 3 Screen Sirens")
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.
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