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!

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