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Monday, October 5, 2015

Bay of the Living Dead: Halloween Horrors Around Town

Posted By on Mon, Oct 5, 2015 at 2:00 PM

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Welcome, Great Pumpkins. It's October, and Halloween will soon be upon us. All Hallow's Eve is the High Holy Day for ghouls and goblins, and there's plenty of fun things happening around town to satisfy your bloodthirsty appetite. 

Now underway at the charming Balboa Theater: a week long celebration of the life of Jack Pierce. Pierce (1889-1968) was a make-up artist extraordinaire during Hollywood's Golden Age. Though he worked within a variety of genres—Pierce was the make-up artist for TV's classic sitcom Mr. Ed—Pierce is best remembered for his groundbreaking work on the Universal Monster movies of the 1930s. Legendary creatures like Frankenstein's Monster, The Wolfman and The Mummy are all the handiwork of Jack Pierce.

Balboa's Jack Pierce tribute coincides not only with the commencement of this year's Halloween season, but with the DVD release of Jack Pierce: The Man Who Made the Monsters,, the extraordinary new documentary by Bay Area resident Strephon Taylor. The 82 minute film screens at the Balboa at 7pm every night through Thursday October 8. Taylor's film will be sandwiched in between big screen showings of classic chillers like Frankenstein Meets The Wolfman (1943), House of Dracula (1945) and James Whale's extraordinarily gay-centric masterpiece he Bride of Frankenstein (1935). 

Jack Pierce: The Man Who Made the Monsters is an extraordinary tale in its own right. Taylor follows Pierce from his youth in Greece to his teen years right here in San Francisco—where he survived the Great Quake of 1906—to Hollywood, where his amazing talent was discovered. The documentary is strong on film clips and stills, and is partially told in Pierce's own voice. Taylor found an audio interview that Pierce granted to KHJ TV in Los Angeles in 1962. As a series of stills illustrates his words, its Pierce himself who explains the process by which he designed the terrifying face of the Frankenstein Monster. 

The film follows Pierce through his twenty year tenure at Universal to his days as a freelancer, working in B movies during the 1950s. No matter if he was working on a major studio production, a piece of drive-in shlock or a TV sitcom, Pierce was the consummate artist. Jack Pierce: The Man Who Made the Monsters is an important work, required viewing for classic horror buffs and film historians of all stripes.

The Balboa Theater is at 38th Avenue and Balboa Avenue in the Outer Richmond. The week's full schedule can be seen at the Balboa's website: 

More Universal Horror abounds on October 25 and 28 when TCM and Fathom events join forces to offer a fabulously eerie double feature: Tod Browning's Dracula (1931) with Bela Lugosi and the legendary Spanish Dracula  (1931), 
The Lugosi/Browning film is credited as the first horror film of the talkie era, and the first movie chiller in which the supernatural hocus-pocus was real, and not explained away as a hoax. It was a smash in it's day. The film paved the way for James Whale's Frankenstein later that same year and the 15 year cycle of horror movies which followed.

The Spanish Dracula, shot concurrently on the same sets as the Lugosi film, was filmed for the South American market. Though Lugosi's gave the definitive performance as the thirsty count in the English version, the Spanish Dracula is actually considered by many to be the better film cinematically, featuring fluid camerawork which is missing from the stagebound Browning film. 

But hey, don't take our word for it. This creepy double bill can be seen at the AMC Van Ness (Van Ness and O'Farrell) or the Century 9 (Market and Powell) at 2 and 7 pm.  Tickets can be purchased at 
Listen to them, the children of the night, what music they make......

Shocktoberfest is back! - THRILLPEDDLERS
  • Thrillpeddlers
  • Shocktoberfest is back!
And finally, if you'd rather experience your horrors live on stage right before your eyes, you might want to check out  Shocktoberfest 16: Curse of the Cobra. This annual shock and chill show from Thrillpeddlers rises from the grave for 28 performances at the Hypnodrome starting October 7. Shocktoberfest  is a wild recreation of the Grand Guignol shows that were all the rage during the 19th Century.

"I had a boyhood fascination with curses and cobras," Russell Blackwood, the show's creator, tells SF Weekly. 

The evening comprises of several short plays, all of which feature horrific themes, with a little skin thrown in for good measure. The plays vary in length, though none of them run longer than thirty minutes.

"It's not a show to bring your kids to," Blackwood tells us, "It exploits taboos in an extreme manner. It's a cavalcade of terror and taboo that exposes the artifice of the American Dream."

The actor/director admits that he's a real life skeptic about the supernatural. "But that doesn't mean I'm not drawn to it as entertainment," he said. 

The show, Blackwood promises, will "exploit the eroticism and the mysteries of the South Pacific".

Sounds like fun! For ticket info, check out:      

Happy Halloween!             

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