October isn’t just about Halloween and all things spooky – there’s the MLB Playoffs going on, and since everybody knows what a Boston sports fanatic I am, I’d just like to give a shout-out to my beloved Red Sox, your 2018 American League Champs! David Price finally earned his first postseason victory after oh-so-many tries, Number Nine hitter Jackie Bradley Jr. is your ALCS MVP, and first year manager Alex Cora gets to celebrate his 43rd birthday in grand style! The champagne is flowing in Houston, but these 108 game winning Boys From Fenway aren’t done yet. Next stop: The World Series! Until then, enjoy the party – we’ve got four more wins to go!
“Lizzie Borden took an axe,
and gave her mother forty whacks,
When she saw what she had done,
She gave her father forty-one!”
– anonymous schoolyard rhyme
On a hot August morning in 1892, the brutal double murder of Andrew Borden and his second wife Abby in the New England mill town of Fall River, Massachusetts shocked the nation. Andrew’s 32-year-old spinster daughter Lizzie Borden was accused of the ghastly crimes and brought to trial. The sensational headline-producing trial lasted thirteen days, and she was acquitted by a jury of her peers. To this day, the killings remain unsolved, with speculation still running rampant among true crime buffs. Did Lizzie Borden really hack her father and stepmother to death?
There are plenty of other suspects in the case, as I learned while taking the guided tour of The Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast Museum (yes, it’s a real B&B, and you can stay overnight – if you dare!!). Fall River is just a hop, skip, and a jump down the highway from where I live and, since I’m familiar with the city (I spent five years working there), I decided to make the pilgrimage to the site of 19th Century America’s most horrific murders. Our friendly tour guide James did a splendid job walking about twenty of us through the refurbished home, as we walked where Lizzie once trod and stood in the exact spots the gruesome killings occurred 126 years ago.
Lizzie’s older sister Emma was supposedly still in New Bedford (my hometown), where she and Lizzie had gone in June after a heated family argument (Lizzie had returned alone). A 25-year-old Irish immigrant named Bridget Sullivan, called ‘Maggie’ by the family and employed as a house maid, was in the house that day. And John Vinnicum Morse, Andrew’s brother-in-law from his first marriage, had arrived the night before the murders occurred, allegedly to discuss some business matters with Andrew. There were also reports of two strange men hanging around the neighborhood in the days prior to the murders. Yet it was Lizzie who was arrested and tried, her story fluctuating and contradictory during the coroner’s inquest, possibly due to the copious amounts of morphine she was getting from her doctor to calm her down. Did one or more of these people do the dastardly deed – after all, sister Emma inherited Andrew’s $350,000 fortune (worth about 12 million today) and generously split it with Lizzie. Did she return early from New Bedford that fateful day? What exactly was this ‘business’ Morse had with Andrew? Were Lizzie and Bridget in more than an employer-employee relationship? And who were these strangers prowling around Second Street? The world may never know, but it’s sure fun to speculate!
(By the way, that old rhyme isn’t true – Andrew received about 10 blows to the skull, while Abby got 18)
Behind the Borden House is a gift shop in the family barn (actually a reproduction; the original barn was demolished in 2005), where the 1975 TV-Movie THE LEGEND OF LIZZIE BORDEN starring Elizabeth Montgomery plays continuously. There are books, DVD’s, bobbleheads, t-shirts, even golf balls (for you weekend “hackers” out there!). The Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast Museum is located at 230 Second Street in Fall River, MA (about a half-block from the courthouse), and if you spend the night you get an extended tour complete with information about some paranormal activities that’ve allegedly happened in this real-life house of horrors. Definitely worth your time if you’re in the area. Just make sure you sleep with one eye open!!
(All text and photos by me, your morbid Cracked Rear Viewer!)
The fourth annual Halloween Havoc is now in effect – 31 Horror Films in 31 Days! And this year, we celebrate the classic Universal Monster movies all month long! To quench your bloody thirst for all things horror, here are Ten Trailers of Terror as a preview of scary attractions:
The Black Cat (1934)
Dracula’s Daughter (1936)
The Mummy’s Hand (1940)
Invisible Agent (1942)
Frankenstein Meets The Wolf Man (1943)
Captive Wild Woman (1943)
Phantom of the Opera (1943)
House of Dracula (1945)
Creature From The Black Lagoon (1954)
The frightening fun starts tonight!
The fourth annual ‘Halloween Havoc!’ extravaganza begins Tuesday October 1st here on Cracked Rear Viewer! Lovers of classic horror films will want to follow along as I post a fright flick review every day for the month of October, and this year, there’s a twist… I’ll be taking a fond look back at all the classic Universal Monster Movies! All your favorite boogeymen will be here – Boris and Bela, Lon and John (Carradine, that is!), Elsa and Evelyn, and a (g)host of other stars. There’ll be Frankenstein’s Monster, Count Dracula, The Wolf Man, The Mummy, The Creature from the Black Lagoon, mad doctors and fiendish henchmen – what more could you ask for this Halloween season! Be sure to join Cracked Rear Viewer all October long for a monstrously good time!
And in case you want to get a (severed) head start, check out these previous Universal Horror posts from the Cracked Rear Viewer crypt:
DRACULA – THE OLD DARK HOUSE – THE MUMMY – MURDERS IN THE RUE MORGUE – THE RAVEN – THE INVISIBLE MAN RETURNS – THE INVISIBLE WOMAN – MAN MADE MONSTER – THE WOLF MAN – HOLD THAT GHOST – THE MAD GHOUL – HOUSE OF FRANKENSTEIN – ABBOTT & COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN – TARANTULA – THE BIRDS – JAWS
The name Gary Kurtz isn’t well known except among STAR WARS fans. Along with his partner George Lucas, Kurtz produced the first two films in the original trilogy, and had a lot to do with the franchise’s early success. Gary Kurtz passed away yesterday at age 78 of cancer, and as I looked back on his filmography, I found he was much more than just the “Star Wars” guy.
Gary Kurtz, like many young tyros back in the 1960’s, was a graduate of what’s known as the Roger Corman School of Filmmaking. Getting his start as an assistant director on Monte Hellman’s 1965 Western RIDE IN THE WHIRLWIND, cowritten by and co-starring another Corman alum, Jack Nicholson , Kurtz worked in various capacities on such Corman-related films as VOYAGE TO THE PLANET OF PREHISTORIC WOMEN (production manager), BEACH BALL (camera operator, assistant director, 2nd unit director), QUEEN OF BLOOD (production manager), and THE SHOOTING (assistant cameraman). You just don’t get an education like that in film school!
After working as an editor, assistant director, and production manager on the Crown-International epic THE HOSTAGE, Kurtz joined Hellman again as associate producer for 1971’s existential road movie TWO LANE BLACKTOP, starring singer James Taylor and Warren Oates. He also got an associate producer gig that same year on Oates’s ode to film noir, CHANDLER . Hooking up with young producer/director George Lucas, Kurtz was co-producer on the hit AMERICAN GRAFFITI , a nostalgic look at teenage life that spawned a 50’s music revival and led to the TV show HAPPY DAYS.
Lucas and Kurtz fought to get their next project made. No one was interested in a sci-fi film that harkened back to the days of Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers, but the pair persisted, and in 1977 20th Century-Fox released STAR WARS, a mega-hit that’s become a cultural touchstone for millions. Three years later, the sequel THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK became another solid success. Kurtz left the series after a falling out with Lucas, who he claimed was more interested in merchandising than advancing the story. He teamed with Muppet masters Jim Henson and Frank Oz to produce THE DARK CRYSTAL, which became a hit and has a large cult following today.
Kurtz’s later projects included the flops RETURN TO OZ and SLIPSTREAM (with STAR WARS’ Mark Hamill), the rarely seen animated THE THIEF AND THE COBBLER, and the animated Christian children’s TV series FRIENDS AND HEROES. He may not have been the most famous name in the “Star Wars Universe”, but Gary Kurtz certainly made his mark in American movies. Rest in peace, young Jedi.
I received the following message on my Cracked Rear Viewer Facebook Page:
“Stories from your Page are not being shown in News Feed. This could be due to activities from your Page that don’t comply with Facebook policies. This limit is temporary and expires Thursday, September 13, at 10:42 PM.”
What caused this temporary jailing? Why, none other than the late Burt Reynolds! This was the so-called ‘offense’:
Yeah, Burt’s infamous COSMOPLOITAN centerfold from back in 1972. As you can plainly see (or not see), Burt has his arm strategically hiding his junk, so the offending picture in question DOES NOT SHOW any offending body parts. Who exactly is offended by this, Facebook? Anti-bearskin rug advocates? Hairy-body shamers?
Furthermore, Facebook, I don’t choose the photos that accompany my blog posts on your platform. YOU do. Or rather, YOUR algorithms. Instead of printing the first pic in my blog posts (like Twitter does), YOU go with whatever YOUR algorithms decide; sometimes the third picture, sometimes the fourth, sometimes the last. So let me get this straight: MY PAGE gets a weeklong sentence in Facebook Jail for something YOU CHOSE, that I had NO CONTROL WHATSOEVER over.
Somewhere in Hollywood Heaven, Burt Reynolds is laughing his ass off:
(Oh well, at least the food’s better than in real jail!!)
They say deaths happen in threes, and though it may be just an old wives’ tale, in the past few days movie lovers lost three underappreciated actresses. They may not have been mega-stars, but each contributed in her own way to the world of classic movies. In their honor, here’s three capsule looks at a trio of talented ladies no longer with us:
Gloria Jean (1926-2018) was probably the best known of the three, a Universal starlet of the 1940’s. She was signed by the studio as the next Deanna Durbin, who’d moved on to more mature roles. Possessing a sweet soprano voice, Gloria made her film debut in THE UNDER-PUP (1939), and followed with two hits, A LITTLE BIT OF HEAVEN and IF I HAD MY WAY (both 1940), the latter co-starring with Bing Crosby. My favorite Gloria Jean part is where she plays a fictional version of herself opposite W.C. Fields in the surrealist comedy NEVER GIVE A SUCKER AN EVEN BREAK (1941) as “Uncle Bill’s” niece. Gloria’s segment in Julian Duvivier’s FLESH AND FANTASY (1943) was cut from the film, and turned into a movie of it’s own, the excellent film noir DESTINY. She spent most of the 40’s in a series of low-budget teenage musicals (WHAT’S COOKIN’?, GET HEP TO LOVE, PARDON MY RHYTHM), with Donald O’Connor and Peggy Ryan usually on board. Leaving Universal in 1945, she freelanced without much success. By the late 1950’s, Gloria Jean was out of show biz and working as a restaurant hostess, later for a cosmetics firm, but fans of 40’s musicals will always remember perky little Gloria Jean in her heyday as a star.
CAROLE SHELLEY (1939-2018) was known primarily for one role, but it was a doozy: Gwendolyn Pigeon, one of THE ODD COUPLE’s Pigeon Sisters. Alongside Monica Evans as sister Cecily, Carole played the part in the original Broadway production, the 1968 film version, and for the first season of the TV series. Carole was mainly known for her stage work, winning a Tony for 1979’s THE ELEPHANT MAN, and creating the role of Madame Morrible in the original production of WICKED, but she did some films (two entries in the CARRY ON comedies, THE BOSTON STRANGLER, QUIZ SHOW, and as Aunt Clara in the 2005 big screen remake of BEWITCHED), and some voice work for Disney (THE ARISTOCATS, ROBIN HOOD, HERCULES).
JACQUELINE PEARCE (1943-2018) is fondly remembered by horror/sci-fi fans for starring in 1966’s PLAGUE OF THE ZOMBIES and the title role of THE REPTILE. Jacqueline was the villainous Servalan in the British sci-fi series BLAKE’S 7, and the terrifying Chessene in the 1985 DOCTOR WHO serial “The Two Doctors”. When she wasn’t scaring the daylights out of audiences, she portrayed Jerry Lewis’s wife in the 1968 farce DON’T RAISE THE BRIDGE, LOWER THE RIVER.