#TBT: The “EXXXpress Yourself, Stephen King” Edition

Happy Birthday to the KING of Literary Ho-rror, Mr. Stephen King!
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We’ve been talking about this gentleman a lot recently (but also, always because he rules ;)). With trips to The Dark Tower and visits from IT, the recent ho-rror scene has really been dominated by this man who has been in the public eye for over 40 years.  He has weaved timeless nightmares from the mundane and has created creatures that have haunted us for decades and will continue to do so. Stephen King is truly a SHINING star in terror whose words will CARRIE on through the ages… but do you know what’s truly scary?

Stephen King hamming it up in an American EXXXpress commercial!
That’s f-right, kreeps! King made a ghoulish TV appearance for American Express back in the ’80s!
Like Vincent Price in his numerous commercial appearances, King plays up his spooky persona in a deliciously campy way. Dressed as a villain in one of Corman’s Poe films, Stephen King puns his way through a Gothic mansion before promoting the credit card. It’s truly magnificent!

For some conteXXXt, here’s a groovy 1984 article from PEOPLE:

A flash of lightning, banging doors, scurrying hunchbacks, disembodied human arms…and the cameras are rolling. As fog sifts through the haunted house—an old mansion ghouled up for the occasion—horror novelist Stephen King emerges from the gloom with a flaming taper in one hand and a sinister raven in the other. “Do you know me?” he asks.

Then he gestures toward a table littered with applications for a well-known credit card. “Isn’t life a little scary without it?” asks the maestro of macabre fiction. “The next time you visit your favorite haunt, why not apply for an American Express card?”

King’s gig, which will air in late September, highlights the 10th anniversary of one of TV’s most spectacularly successful commercials. When American Express shot the first spot in 1974 of the now famous ad series, featuring a parade of high achievers whose names are often better known than their faces, only six million people owned Amex cards. Now there are some 18 million. And Amex attributes a big part of the rise to their ads—of which King’s is the 61st and most flamboyant. “We are getting more ambitious with our spots,” concedes Glen Gilbert, director of advertising for Amex. “They’re so well established now, it gives us a chance to experiment and have a little more fun.”

The pioneer flasher of the little green card on TV was actor Norman (Three’s Company) Fell, who did a modest talk piece at the check-in desk of a hotel. And Fell remains the only subject who did not say, “Do you know me?” Rather, he began with “Thanks to TV a lot of people know my face, but not many know my name.”

After Fell the ads swung into the familiar opener that has held through all the spots leading into the spectacular by King, who, like most other Amex guests, confesses he was tickled to be asked to appear. “It’s just such a compliment,” says King, whose new novel, The Talisman, co-authored with Peter Straub, will appear soon after the ad. King did the spot more for laughs than for celebrity. “Certainly it’s not going to do much for my literary reputation, although,” he cracks, “many would say that I don’t have a literary reputation to worry about.”

One thing’s for sure. King, whose writings and film versions of Carrie and The Shining have earned him millions, didn’t do the ad for money. And neither have most of the other guest hosts. The $10,000 payment, plus residuals, has not changed in 10 years.

Despite the modest fee Amex has no trouble finding subjects. Together with Ogilvy & Mather, the Manhattan agency that created the campaign, Amex selects the potpourri of known-unknowns for the spots. Though hundreds of unsolicited requests pour in each year, the agency tactfully puts off the volunteers. “I can’t think of an instance in which we chose someone who approached us first,” says an Ogilvy & Mather executive.

One of the most successful invitations went to the late William Miller, Barry Goldwater’s running mate in the 1964 Presidential election. “It was amazing the recognition he got from the ads,” says his widow, Stephanie. “He used to say, ‘I definitely recommend that before someone runs for Vice-President, they do an American Express commercial!’ ”

Another especially popular advertisement was the one in which Tom Landry, the stonefaced coach of the Dallas Cowboys, appeared in a Western saloon decked out as a cowboy and surrounded by redskins—Washington Redskins, that is, in football garb. “My reputation is sort of stoic, which is planned,” says Landry, “so a lot of people were surprised.”

Other Amex stars were themselves surprised to find that the ads improved not only their image but also sales of their products. “It helped business,” says Roy Jacuzzi, founder of the whirlpool-bath company that bears his name. In 1982 he posed in one of his creations with a rubber duck—and artfully saved the show when the whirlpool quit during filming. Roy jumped out and, off-camera, shimmied under the tub with a pair of pliers and a wrench. The bath soon whirled back to life, with the cameras rolling again and a happy proprietor bubbling inside.

Opera star Roberta Peters agrees the spots provide a business boost. “It definitely helped bring people to the opera,” she says of her 1980 commercial. Peters also admits she is recognized more often since doing the ad. While she was trying unsuccessfully to flag down a Manhattan cab one day, a woman stuck her head out of a car window and yelled, “Do it da way you do it in da cammercial!” Peters obliged. She held up her hand and launched into a soprano trill. “Taaaxiii!”

For your viewing pleasure, here’s the commercial:

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, STEPHEN KING!!! SLEEPWALKERS RULES!!!! 🙂 xoxo

Splatterday Mourning Cartoons: Jeffrey Combs – Man of 1,000 Voices

A very Happy Birthday to the Re-Animator himself, Mr. Jeffrey Combs!

There’s no earthly way to express how much I freakin’ ADORE Mr. Jeffrey Combs!!!!!!!! He’s been in phenomenal fright films, has made many Star Trek appearances, played Doctor Strange (Doctor Mordrid counts!), and is always just the screamiest, dreamiest weirdo in anything he graces! *swooooooooooooooon* 🙂

In addition to being beyond seXXXy, Jeffrey Combs is to Lovecraftian sin-ema what Vincent Price is to Poe. He’s been named “the first Lovecraftian actor” for his frequent appearances in Lovecraft adaptations, even playing the cosmic ho-rror author a few times. Of corpse, of all his great HPL roles, his best and most iconic will always be his masterfully insane performance as Dr. Herbert West in the Re-Animator films. With his insane intensity and wicked wit, Dr. West is easily one of the greatest mad doctors to ever mess with the natural order.

One asss-pect of Mr. Combs that doesn’t seem to get a lot of attention is his career as a voice actor. Starting with his freaky-deaky turn as The Scarecrow in The New Batman Adventures, Mr. Combs has done his fair share of voice work for cartoons and video games. While he mostly does the spooky stuff in live-action, Mr. Combs tends to lend his voice to superheroes and supervillains. His wonderous work includes Question in Justice League Unlimited, Kite Man in Batman: The Brave and the Bold, The Leader in The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, Brainiac in Injustice 2, and Ratchet in Transformers: Prime. Way to speak out, Mr. Combs! 🙂

As a testament to his greatness and in observance of Splatterday Mourning, we’ve eXXXhumed some of the epically epic voice work of Jeffrey Combs! First, a video showcasing his many cartoon appearances…

…and a full episode of Scooby-Doo: Mystery Incorporated featuring Mr. Combs as H.P. Love… er, Hatecraft! What better way to ho-nor Combs than with his portrayal of the man who made him a fright icon? 🙂


Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated S01E12… by cgssthd

Happy Birthday, Jeffrey Combs! Stay SeXXXy! 😉

#TBT: The “Happy Birthday, Dario Argento” Edition

Happy Birthday to that maestro of Italian ho-rror, Dario Argento!

From his very first picture back in 1970, Signor Argento has been haunting our collective nightmares with some of the most maddeningly beautiful ho-rror films in the world. I mean, the dude puts the “gore” in “gore-geous”! With jaw-dropping camera work, fabulous visuals, and his frequent use of startling colors,  Dario Argento brings a painterly beauty to the canvas of cinema. Among his masterworks are Deep Red, site favorite SuspiriaPhenomena with Jennifer Connelly, and 1987’s Opera.


In ho-nor of this mad artist’s birthaversary, we dug up this groovy documentary on the man. It features interviews with ho-rror legends, including John Carpenter, Alice Cooper, and Jessica Harper. Enjoy, Kreeps! 🙂

Happy Birthday, Dario! Stay scary! 🙂

Happy Birthday, H.P. Lovecraft!

An eldritch birthday to that teller of weird tales, Mr. H.P. Lovecraft!
While not a particularly popular writer in his own time, Mr. Lovecraft has certainly become a towering figure in the realm of horror literature, as undying as the great monsters he wrote of. His tales of cosmic abominations beyond the comprehension of mortal minds have inspired great mortal minds like Robert Bloch, Stephen King, Guillermo del Toro, Clive Barker, John Carpenter, Neil Gaiman, and a great many more. At least 38 motion pictures have been based on his works, starting 1963’s The Haunted Palace. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu has become a gargantuan icon in geek culture, spawning plushies and novelty gifts enough to fill a billion Grand Canyons. There can be denying Lovecraft’s influence upon our beloved genre.
In Ho-nor of Lovecraft’s birthday, here’s Jeffrey “Herbert West” Combs reading Herbert West–Reanimator. Enjoy. 🙂






Happy Birthday, The Devil Rides Out!

On this day in 1968, all Hell broke loose…

Happy Birthday to Hammer’s sensational Satanic SuspenStory, The Devil Rides Out!

Based on the Dennis Wheatley novel of the same name, The Devil Rides Out is an unusual entry in the Hammer canon. While still technically a period piece (set in 1929), it’s not the normal Victorian Gothic fare one associates with the studio. The classically cinematic monsters Hammer was so fond of are absent here, instead replaced with a far more flagitious form of evil: the Devil himself.
The Devil Rides Out represents the very best of British ho-rror cinema. Enveloped in supernatural terror and drenched in menace, the film is perhaps the most legitimately terrifying beast unleashed by Hammer Studios and director Terence Fisher. It moves at an incredibly brisk pace, each moment rich with exquisite horror. Hammer music maniac James Bernard provides a superbly thunderous score that ranks among his best.


The film also gives the inimitable Sir Christopher Lee the rare chance to play the hero, an opportunity taken to its full potential. As The Duc de Richleau, Sir Christopher is as suave and urbane as ever, playing the part like an occultist Sherlock Holmes. In a career of perfect performances, Lee’s work here is among his best. As his Satanic adversary, Charles “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” Gray gives a brilliantly silky portrayal of pure evil. Makes ya wish these two had another Hammer film to go at each other’s throats…

In ho-nor of this fright film favorite, here’s a clip from the film. I must issue a word of friendly warning: if you are arachnophobic, I strongly urge you NOT to watch this clip.

For the rest of you… Enjoy:

Happy Birthday, The Devil Rides Out!

The Freaks Shall Inherit the Earth: Happy Birthday, Tod Browning!

(Ho-stess’s Note: Mr. Browning’s bday was actually yesterday, but my comp got itself an STD and needed a day to recover. Can’t NOT celebrate someone so rad, though, so as always when I’m late w stuff, just #gowithit, please… 😉 xoxo)

Happy Birthday(ish ;)) to cinema’s dark ringmaster, Mr. Tod Browning!
While he directed a wide variety of films in many genres, Mr. Browning is known for his many ho-orr films and bizarre melodramas. Like many of us, Browning was utterly obsessed with carnivals and circuses. So much so that he literally ran away with the circus. Tod lived the dream and traveled with many sideshows, carnivals, and circuses. Some of Browning’s jobs included being a talker for the The Wild Man of Borneo, performed a burial act as “The Living Corpse,” and performed as a clown with Ringling Brothers Circus. Browning later worked in vaudeville as an actor, dancer, and magician.
Browning may have left the circus, but the circus never left him. Many of Browning’s films dealt with the sideshow in fascinating, often macabre ways. No doubt due to his eXXXperience, his circus pictures has an air of authenticity to them. Browning would hire actual sideshow performers, giving audiences a genuine taste of the beautifully unique side of show business. Of all his circus pictures, his most beloved is 1932’s Freaks, a cl-ass-sick of ho-rror sinema that’s as powerful today as it was back then.
Browning often collaborated with site favorite Lon Chaney, resulting in some of the best work in both men’s careers. Between 1919 and 1929, Browning and Chaney made 10 films together, most dealing with misfits and the bizarre. Among their films was London After Midnight, the legendary lost vampire film that still fascinates and eludes horror aficionados. While they made many great films together, our favorite is 1927’s The Unknown and we recommend it to anyone who wants an introduction to their peculiar style,

The Unknown, in its entirety: 

Beyond the circus pictures, Browning made other brilliant contributions to the ho-rror genre. In 1931, he directed Dracula with Bela Lugosi. The film was originally intended to be another Chaney/Browning collaboration, but Chaney sadly passed away before it could happen. However, the film we got is one of the most important American ho-rror films ever made and launched the career of another great macabre movie star. Lugosi and Browning would later sink their teeth into Mark of the Vampire, a remake of the aforementioned London After Midnight. Browning’s final fright film was The Devil Doll, a wonderfully weird picture about a cross-dressing criminal using miniaturized humans to exact his revenge.
Happy Birthday, Tod! You made sinema a circus of ho-rrors! 🙂 xoxo

#FBF: The “Happy Birthday, Shelley Duvall!” Edition

Happy Birthday to the always amazing Ms. Shelley Duvall! 🙂

Shelley Duvall is one of the most awesomely eccentric women in entertainment history. She made her film debut in Robert Altman’s utterly bizarre Brewster McCloud.  After that, Ms. Duvall teamed up with Altman for six more films: McCabe & Mrs. Miller (1971), Thieves Like Us (1974), Nashville (1975), Buffalo Bill and the Indians, or Sitting Bull’s History Lesson (1976), 3 Women (1977), and  Popeye (1980). For her work in 3 Women, she earned the Best Actress prize at the Cannes Film Festival. Beyond Mr. Altman, Ms. Duvall worked with Woody Allen in Annie Hall (1977), Terry Gilliam in Time Bandits (1981), and Steve Martin in Roxanne (1987).

Shelley Duvall went on to become an unconventional icon of fantasy television. In 1982, Duvall narrated, ho-sted, and was eXXXecutive producer on the fantasy anthology Faerie Tale Theatre, which won a Peabody Award, TCA Award and Golden CableACE. The series is quite wonderful, filled with beloved Ho-llywood stars, theatrical effects, and an offbeat charm. Any series that has Vincent Price as the Magic Mirror in Snow White and Jeff Goldblum as the Big Bad Wolf in Three Little Pigs is pure magic in my book. 🙂
In 1985, she created Tall Tales & Legends, another fantasy anthology. That series only lasted 9 episodes, but it earned Duvall an Emmy nomination. It’s worth noting that one of the 9 episodes is an adaptation of ho-rror classic The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. That’s a story we lose our heads over… 😉

Speaking of ho-rror, Ms. Duvall has dabbled in spooky stuff a few times. As most of you know, she played Wendy Torrance in Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining, a favorite of many, many fright fans. She also starred in Frankenweenie (1984) by Tim Burton, who would go on to direct a Faerie Tale Theater episode. In the (jugular) vein of her previous shows, Duvall created a short-lived ho-rror anthology called Nightmare Classics. Keep it kreepy, Ms. Duvall! 🙂

In ho-nor of her birthday, we dug up an episode of Nightmare Classics! It’s a vamp-tastic retelling of Sheridan le Fanu’s Carmilla, starring Meg “Psycho II” Tilly and Roddy “Fright Night McDowall. Enjoy, Fright Fiends!

Happy Birthday, Shelley Duvall! You truly are a Shining star! 🙂 xoxo

#TBT, Part DeuXXX: Happy Birthday, Ray Harryhausen!

Happy Birthday to Cinema’s Great Magician, Ray Harryhausen!

 

As you cool ghouls and groovy ghoulies probably know, Ray Harryhausen was the mightiest stop motion animator in the cosmos. He was both Prometheus and Athena, sculpting creatures from clay and breathing life into them. Mr. Harryhausen brought many great monsters into existence with just his skilled hands and superhuman patience. What he did was magic, pure and simple.

In ho-nor of Mr. Harryhausen, we’ve dug up this groovy interview… conducted by Mr. Tim Burton! In it, you’ll hear Ray talk about the birth of several of his creations, watch Tim Burton try not give in to his inner-fanboy, and see the two mess around with a flying saucer from Earth vs. The Flying Saucers! It’s an incredible watch for lovers of fantastic cinema and Master Harryhausen. Enjoy, Kinky Ho-mies! 🙂 xoxo

Happy Birthday, Ray! Thanks for all the cinematic magic. 🙂 xoxo

#TBT: It’s Good to Be the King: Happy Birthday, Mel Brooks!

(#TBT to yesterday when I should’ve posted this…The sentiment remains the same, though, even if I’m sliiiiiiiiiiightly late with it. 😉 xoxo)

Happy 91st Birthday to a legend among legends, Mr. Mel Brooks!

There are really no words to properly describe the gargantuan impact Mr. Brooks has had on comedy, film, and, well… everything.  In his seven decades in show business, he’s pushed boundaries, made generations ho-wl with laughter, brought the film parody to its zenith, and showed us the high value of a cheap joke. He’s one of the very few people to score an EGOT (an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar, and a Tony) and, with a one-man show opening in Vegas, shows no signs of slowing down at 91.
In addition to all of that, Mel Brooks also has some serious ho-rror cred. He directed Young Frankenstein and Dracula: Dead and Loving It, the former being (arguably) one of the greatest and most respectful horror spoofs of all time. As for actual ho-rror films, Brooks produced Cronenberg’s The Fly and The Doctor and the Devils by Hammer legend Freddie Francis. While not strictly horror, he also produced David Lynch’s haunting The Elephant Man. In 2015, Mr. Brooks lent his voice to the vampire Vlad in Hotel Transylvania 2.

Happy Birthday, Mel Brooks! May you live to be 2000! 🙂 xoxoxo

Slashy Birthday, Dear Jason!

“You see, Jason was my son, and today is his birthday…”

-Pamela Voorhees

Happy Birthday to the seXXXiest, man-meatiest, machete-swingingest movie monster to ever camp it up: Jason “Mah Boo” Voorhees!!! 🙂

Born on June 13th of 1946, Jason was a humble child destined for greatness. After a childhood spent at Camp Crystal Lake (mostly the lake), Jason matured faster than most children… in that he went from 11 to 30 in just five years.

They grow up so fast…

After heroically saving his town from loitering teenagers, Jason became one of the biggest icons of the ’80s. His beautiful mug was plastered on t-shits, toys, a video game for the NES, and just about everything else a ghoul could dream of. The success of Jason Voorhees really opened the doors for Undead American actors in Hollywood.
Jason lives… in the hearts and minds of us. After over 30 years of slashin’, stabbin’, and face-smashin’, the ol’ boy shows no sign of stoppin’. In fact, Jason recently made his grand return to video games, proving that he’s taken over all forms of media as easily as he took Manhattan.

Happy Birthday, Jason! We raise our machetes high in you ho-nor. xoxo