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Friday, January 22, 2016

Bay of the Living Dead: Classic Horror With a Dash of Olive

Posted By on Fri, Jan 22, 2016 at 5:30 PM

  • Olive Films
Welcome to Bay of the Living Dead, a regular column about the horror genre.

Those of us who've reached a "certain age" might recall those bygone days of attending our local cinemas palaces. Going to the movies back then meant walking to a single screen theater, usually a short distance from our homes, and standing underneath an old fashioned marquee where a smiling older lady, probably one of our neighbors, sold us a ticket — San Francisco's Balboa and Vogue Theaters, both still operating today, are charming cases in point.

Back in the day I often cut classes so I could rush to similar theaters in Brooklyn, New York like the Marboro, Mayfair or the Canarsie, to catch the latest horror film release. Movies often opened on Wednesdays during that era and to my young mind waiting until the weekend to see a new fright flick was a fate worse than death. 

British horror ruled the box office during those glorious years. Olive Films, purveyors of classic, fully remastered and restored films on DVD and Blu-ray, now offers three releases sure to bring back warm memories of your childhood nightmares.

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Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Bay of the Living Dead: Kathleen Cody Steps Back Into the Shadows

Posted By on Wed, Dec 30, 2015 at 12:00 PM

  • Big Finish Productions
Welcome to Bay of the Living Dead, a twice-a-month column about the horror genre.

When viewers of Dark Shadows last saw Hallie Stokes, she was lying dead in the tower room of the great house of Collinwood, one of many who fell victim to the malevolent ghost of Gerard Stiles—the ghost was himself possessed by the soul of the evil 17th century warlock Judah Zachary. Barnabas Collins and Julia Hoffman were about to travel back to the year 1840, where they hoped to prevent Gerard's death. which would in turn prevent the deaths of Hallie and all of the others who lived in the grand old mansion. It was the summer of 1970, and viewers were watching the horror-themed soap opera's final major storyline before it's cancellation in April 1971.

Hallie was played by Kathleen Cody, a stunningly beautiful young actress who had been working since she was a little girl. Soap operas, TV commercials, prime-time TV, theater, and modeling. Cody had done it all by the time she was cast as Hallie at age 15. The best was yet to come—Cody went on to become a contract player at the Walt Disney Company, starring in hit family films like Snowball Express and SuperdadThen, she disappeared.

Kathleen Cody gave it all up in the mid-1980s in order to play her greatest role: mom.

Now, Cody and Hallie are back. Kathleen Cody is the top billed star of Dark Shadows: Tainted Lovean audio drama produced on CD by UK based Big Finish Productions. It's the second such CD that Cody has starred in. She first revisited the Dark Shadows universe, and her character, in last year's Dark Shadows: Carriage of the Damnedan eerie chiller in which the now adult Hallie recalls having lived two lives—the life in which she died at the hands of Gerard Stiles, and the whole new life she leads after her friends Barnabas and Julia successfully changed the course of history during their sojourn to 1840. As I reported in Fangoria Magazine, Carriage of the Damned, served to tie up some pesky "loose ends", unresolved plot points from that 1840 journey. 

  • Big Finish Productions
In Tainted Love, Hallie is now evil. Determined to win the love of her childhood friend David Collins, she has turned to the Dark Arts, using witchcraft to lure her man into her spider's web. The relationship between the adult Hallie and David is not unlike that of the iconic Dark Shadows characters of Barnabas and Angelique, she being the witch who turned Barnabas into a vampire out of revenge for scorning her love back in 1795.

"It's fun playing the role of Hallie again after 45 years," Cody told SF Weekly, speaking from her home in Florida. "It's more fun than playing Hallie in the original role back in 1970 actually, and the reason for that is multi-layered. Number one: I'm older and my approach to Hallie is to try and understand why she acts the way she does, why she says what she says. Hallie is older too, although time goes slower in Hallie's world then mine!  Hallie at the time of Tainted Love is about 29 yrs old, so it was time to understand how life affected her. And that's where creating a backstory and character development summary came in handy. It gave me a chance to analyze the character of Hallie, who was virtually characterless in 1970 at 15 yrs old. It was time to create a character and a backstory to understand her. She's a troubled soul and with good reason."

Kathleen Cody, with David Henesy, on Dark Shadows in 1970. - DAN CURTIS PRODUCTIONS
  • Dan Curtis Productions
  • Kathleen Cody, with David Henesy, on Dark Shadows in 1970.
Some of the backstory which Cody refers to is revealed in Carriage of the Damned and Tainted Love. Cody worked closely with Big Finish writers and producers David Darlington and Joseph Lidster in developing Hallie's grown up persona—Cody was kind enough to share some of her own thoughts on how the character might develop over the years:

"Hallie Stokes had been a totally vulnerable, unprepared and powerless young girl going up against the paranormal forces that were waiting for her since she first stepped foot into Collinwood in 1970. What she went through back in 1970-1971 had changed her life forever and Hallie was determined never to be vulnerable, helpless or powerless again.

In her struggle to learn how to deal with the psychological trauma (PTSD?) she experienced all those years ago, Hallie Stokes took her first step over the line into the dark side. She was determined that no one would know what she was doing developing her skills in witchcraft and her understanding of the paranormal world. She would still act the sweet, innocent, responsible, dutiful and (in her eyes) boring young lady everyone had always viewed her as.

But Hallie knew she was so much more than that. As she delved deeper, her knowledge grew... and so did her passion and power. She hides her anger well, but inside she keeps track of each person, known or unknown, alive or dead, who has taken something from her, betrayed her or abandoned her. Determined to keep her power a secret until the right time comes, there is only one person Hallie feels she must make understand. Although David turned away from her as she tried to explain the path she was on once before, the man she fell in love with years ago would not betray her! She was sure of this. They would be together as they always had been, once he really understood.

The time had come. Hallie vowed she would never be helpless again. And with that vow, Hallie Stokes unwittingly began following in the footsteps of Angelique."

In a plot twist that my surprise original Dark Shadows viewers, Tainted Love includes a sexual liaison between Hallie and David Collins. It was a natural progression for the two characters, according to Cody.

"I've heard it said by so many Dark Shadows  fans that David and Hallie would have married," she said. "So, it's not a surprise that in Tainted Love we see a romantic attraction between the both of them! What might be a little bit shocking to the older generation of Dark Shadows fans is that they actually do consummate their attraction for each other, but without the ritual of marriage, as probably would have been done on the soap back in the 70's. And the dialogue between the two of them is a little more explicit to the act than what you would have heard on the original series also, but after all... It is 2015 now!"

These days, Kathleen Cody lives a life of quiet, happy retirement. Though she's enjoying her return to the house of Dark Shadows, she has no plans to resume a full time acting career. But she's certainly open to doing more audio dramas for Big 
Kathleen Cody today. - KATHLEEN CODY
  • Kathleen Cody
  • Kathleen Cody today.
Finish Productions, and now has a Facebook page where she connects with fans.

"I enjoy talking to all my fans on Facebook and Twitter, not just Dark Shadows fans but fans from all the work I did during my professional career," Cody said. "By now I have settled into a comfortable and friendly exchange with all, and I think my fans know that I care about them and that mostly I want my Facebook profile page and my fan group, Kathleen Cody Fan Groupto be a safe place for anyone to come and feel welcome and comfortable."

As we previously reported in this column, the Dark Shadows fan world has been invaded by a number of unsavory types, bullies who consider the show their personal property. Cody will have none of it in her corner of the Dark Shadows universe.

"Unfortunately, everyone must deal with bullies," she points out. "Words hurt, and sometimes those words are intentionally meant to hurt. Adult cyberbullying by small groups within Dark Shadows fandom is unacceptable and says more about the person or persons doing the bullying then the hurtful words being thrown out at their targets."

Cody hopes that Dark Shadows fans who want to enjoy the show in a relaxed, respectful and fun environment will seek membership in her fan group. "I've been fortunate to have met many wonderful people through my association with Dark Shadows over the years," she said. "I find it easier to focus on healthy personal and professional relationships. So many of the  Dark Shadows  fans have given a wonderful response to Tainted Love, and for that I am most grateful."     

Happy New Year!                                            

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Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Bay of the Living Dead: Thundercrack Returns!

Posted By on Tue, Dec 8, 2015 at 10:00 AM

Man and ape. - SYNAPSE FILMS
  • Synapse Films
  • Man and ape.

Welcome to Bay of the Living Dead, a twice-a-month column about the horror genre. 

Curt McDowell was a San Francisco treasure. The openly gay filmmaker spent much of his short life making bizarre underground films which pushed the boundaries of cinema and of onscreen sexuality. Though rarely screened, McDowell's Thundercrack (1975) is perhaps the auteur's best known work. 

Thundercrack is about to enjoy a bit of a renaissance. On Dec. 11, drag superstar Peaches Christ brings the film to the venerable Castro Theater for two screenings, in conjunction with the film's release on Blu-ray courtesy of Synapse Films

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Monday, November 9, 2015

Bay of the Living Dead: The Last Case of August T. Harrison

Posted By on Mon, Nov 9, 2015 at 12:00 PM

  • Hollinsworth Productions
Welcome to Bay of the Living Dead, a twice-a-month column about the horror genre.

Wunderkind filmmaker Ansel Faraj was the subject of the very first edition of this column. He was featured again some months later. I'm delighted to chat with Faraj for a third time on the eve of the release of his latest film, The Last Case of August T. Harrison. 

Faraj is a genius. Working on shoestring budgets, he writes and directs feature films and shorts which are inspired by the classic horror movies and film noirs that fueled his imagination during his childhood. He is his own editor, putting his no-budget masterpieces together on his home computer. The results are often mesmerizing.

In his new film The Last Case of August T. Harrison, Faraj offers a unique premise. What if the stories of the great horror writer H.P. Lovecraft were actually works of non-fiction? What if Lovecraft wrote his tales in order to warn the world of impending doom?

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Tuesday, October 27, 2015

The Golden Age of TV Movies: Count Dracula (1977)

Posted By on Tue, Oct 27, 2015 at 11:00 AM

Count Dracula title card - BBC
  • BBC
  • Count Dracula title card

Welcome to The Golden Age of TV Movies, a monthly column about those wonderful TV movies of yesteryear.

So many versions of Draculaso little time to watch them all.

Count Dracula was produced for BBC TV in 1977. It aired stateside as part of PBS' Great Performances series. For many years afterwards Count Dracula was a Halloween staple on a number of PBS stations. From its initial airings onward, this impressively ambitious two-and-a-half hour adaptation of Bram Stoker's 1897 novel has been hailed as one of the finest and most literate translations of the book, and one of the most faithful to the source material.

In his book Hollywood Gothic: The Tangled Web of Dracula From Novel to Stage to Screen, noted horror film historian David. J Skal had this to say about Count Dracula: "The most careful adaptation of the novel to date. And the most successful."

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Tuesday, October 20, 2015

New on Video: Dickish Dennis Miller in Tales from the Crypt Presents: Bordello of Blood

Posted By on Tue, Oct 20, 2015 at 3:00 PM


As I mentioned when discussing Gravy, comedy and horror are tricky as hell to successfully combine. Gravy got it right, as did the Evil Dead sequels (more on those later), and the original Tales from the Crypt HBO series. But not so much the second Crypt feature film, 1996’s Tales from the Crypt: Bordello of Blood. It’s far from the worst movie ever made — which @midori_1189 on Twitter has authoritatively informed me is Jem and the Holograms, so that settles that! — but it’s also a fiasco where nothing went right behind the camera, and as a result nothing quite works in front of the camera, either. Thankfully, Shout! Factory is releasing it on Blu-ray this week along with a documentary and commentary which get to the bottom of what went wrong. (Spoiler: Dennis Miller.)

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Friday, October 9, 2015

New on Video: Great Big Gobs of Greasy Long-Pig Guts in Gravy

Posted By on Fri, Oct 9, 2015 at 2:00 PM


Comedy and horror are notoriously difficult to get right. That’s case when they’re separate genres, and moreso when they’re combined. For every Evil Dead 2, there’s a dozen Transylvania 6-5000s. (Okay, that ratio may be off a skosh, but you get the point.) And in spite of all-too-cleverly beginning with a character saying they’re from Haddonsfield, the town from John Carpenter’s Halloween, James Roday’s horror-comedy Gravy, which Shout! Factory just released on Blu-ray, gets it right.

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Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Bay of the Living Dead: Classic Horror Stars Join Forces

Posted By on Tue, Sep 15, 2015 at 4:00 PM

Blu Ray box cover - KINO LORBER
  • Kino Lorber
  • Blu Ray box cover

Welcome to Bay of the Living Dead, a twice-monthly column about the horror genre. 

Once upon a time we had horror stars — versatile, classically trained actors who built entire careers on their appearances in scary movies. Actors like Boris Karloff (1887-1969), Christopher Lee (1922-2015), and others mesmerized generations with their iconic performances in dozens of films which were often based on, or inspired by, works of classic literature or ancient legends. Legendary creatures like Count Dracula (portrayed by Lee in an impressive nine films), Frankenstein's Monster (played by Karloff three times during the 1930s) , and the works of Edgar Allan Poe were among the many tales which could always be counted upon to fill a cinema.

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Monday, August 24, 2015

Bay of the Living Dead: Billy Clift Has Bette Davis Eyes

Posted By on Mon, Aug 24, 2015 at 2:00 PM

  • Facebook
Welcome to Bay of the Living Dead,  a twice-a-month column about the horror genre.

Robert Aldrich’s Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte (1965) remains one of the best known and beloved titles in the Bette Davis filmography. 

Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte was the follow-up to Aldrich’s Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962), the surprise box office smash in which real-life rivals and bitter enemies Davis and Joan Crawford co-starred as two mad sisters. Both former movie stars, they lived in total isolation in a decaying Hollywood mansion, where Jane (Davis) retreated into a disturbing fantasy world. Creepy and campy, Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? titillated moviegoers who were no doubt well-aware of the enmity between the two legendary ladies — was there a grain of truth to the scenes in which a maniacally insane Davis tormented a wheelchair-bound Crawford?

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Thursday, August 6, 2015

Bay of the Living Dead: Scream Factory Brings Classic Chillers Back From the Dead

Posted By on Thu, Aug 6, 2015 at 11:00 AM

Blu Ray Box Cover - SCREAM FACTORY
  • Scream Factory
  • Blu Ray Box Cover

Welcome to Bay of the Living Dead, a twice-a-month column about the horror genre.

Shout! Factory, purveyor of quality DVDs and Blu-Rays, has released fully remastered and restored discs of several classic drive-in chillers. The films date back to the 1970s, the final decade in which single-screen cinemas were the norm. These were the waning days of Hammer Films, Amicus Productions, and American International Pictures, the three low-budget independent studios who ruled the horror genre for nearly 20 years.

Shout Factory offers these titles via Scream Factory, their horror subsidiary label. The films have never looked better.

Hammer Films’ The Vampire Lovers (1970) was a product of its time. The film was made during an era of unprecedented permissiveness and social change. The gay liberation movement was just getting underway in the aftermath of the Stonewall Riots, and the sexual revolution was in full swing.

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  • clipping at Brava Theater Sept. 11
    Sub Pop recording artists 'clipping.' brought their brand of noise-driven experimental hip hop to the closing night of 2016's San Francisco Electronic Music Fest this past Sunday. The packed Brava Theater hosted an initially seated crowd that ended the night jumping and dancing against the front of the stage. The trio performed a set focused on their recently released Sci-Fi Horror concept album, 'Splendor & Misery', then delved into their dancier and more aggressive back catalogue, and recent single 'Wriggle'. Opening performances included local experimental electronic duo 'Tujurikkuja' and computer music artist 'Madalyn Merkey.'"