From the set…Ib Melchior

On May 23rd, Mark and I had the great privilege of interviewing Ib Melchior, writer/ director of  The Angry Red Planet (1959) and The Time Travelers (1964).

I asked Melchior how he first came to be interested in science fiction:

“Actually I was born in Denmark and never heard of science fiction until I got over here in 1938. And then I met Sturgeon, Heinlein, Hubbard – L. Ron Hubbard – in New York and they got me interested. Then I started reading it and I found that good science fiction is really fantastic. A lot of science fiction predicts what is actually going to happen and that made me very interested.”

The Angry Red Planet uses a unique special effect called “Cinemagic,” which resembles solarization in still photography. The images of Mars in the film are a deep red with areas that resemble a negative. Melchior explained that before using the effect, he had to come up with a way to make it plausible to the audience:

“I don’t like to do something that doesn’t make sense. And it wouldn’t make sense to have Mars like that. I mean, why? But it was the remembrance of a woman whose mind was damaged and this is the way she saw it. Then it makes sense. And that’s how I used it. Whenever she’s thinking and talking, it’s in Cinemagic.”

Naura Hayden in “Cinemagic”

Mark and I  were also treated to a tour of Melchior’s home, including his office, which houses some sci-fi treasures such as original props from The Angry Red Planet and The Time Travelers.

You would be hard-pressed to name someone who has led a more fascinating life than Ib Melchior.  In fact you might say his time in Hollywood is among the least interesting of his experiences.

Ib Melchior

In addition to writing science fiction films, he is the writer of eight novels, and several non-fiction works, including a biography of his father, opera singer and actor Lauritz Melchior, entitled Lauritz Melchior: The Golden Years of Bayreuth. He also collaborated with his wife, designer Cleo Baldon on two books — Reflections on the Pool: California Designs for Swimming and Steps & Stairways.

In 1975, his short story The Racer was produced by Roger Corman as Death Race 2000. It was remade in 2008 as Death Race, starring Jason Statham with direction by Paul W.S. Anderson.

In 1982, he wrote the play Hour of Vengeance, based on the Viking story of Amleth, which is also the source work for William Shakespeare’s Hamlet. The play was awarded the Hamlet Award for best playwriting by the Shakespeare Society of America.

Melchior’s autobiography Case By Case: A US Army Counterintelligence Agent in World War II (1993) documents his time spent in Europe as a staff sergeant with the US Counterintelligence Corps.

If you want to learn more about this truly intrepid man, I recommend Ib Melchior:  Man of Imagination by Robert Skotak, an excellent biography.


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Just confirmed…Richard Erdman

We are pleased to announce that Richard Erdman will appear in Monsters, Martians and Mad Scientists: Horror in the Atomic Age.

Mr. Erdman appeared in the 1959 film Face of Fire with James Whitmore and Cameron Mitchell. The film is based on the 1898 novella The Monster by Stephen Crane.

While not a horror film in the traditional sense, Face of Fire explores what happens when  Monk, a handsome well-liked handyman, is severely disfigured by a chemical fire while saving the town doctor’s son. One critic called Crane’s story “a study of prejudice, fear and isolation in a small town.”

There are a number of interesting parallels between Face of Fire and the horror classic Frankenstein. I look forward to discussing this thoughtful and complex film with Mr. Erdman.

Mr. Erdman also appeared in several film noirs, most notably Cry Danger (1951), starring Dick Powell and Rhonda Fleming. When filming began, Powell reportedly told Erdman, “You have the best role in the film – you know that right?”

Regis Toomey, Dick Powell and Richard Erdman in Cry Danger

Richard Erdman currently appears on the NBC hit series Community.

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Just confirmed…Lisa Davis

I am pleased to announce that we will be interviewing Lisa Davis for Monsters, Martians and Mad Scientists: Horror in the Atomic Age.  Ms. Davis appeared as Motiya in Edward Bernds’ cult classic The Queen of Outer Space.

Lisa Davis (left) in The Queen of Outer Space

In addition, Ms. Davis is known for providing the voice of Anita in Walt Disney’s animated classic 101 Dalmations.

We look forward to interviewing Ms. Davis about her experiences making what has been called “the most sexist film of all time.”

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Just confirmed…Phyllis Coates

Phyllis Coates has been added to the line-up of Monsters, Martians and Mad Scientists: Horror in the Atomic Age!

Ms. Coates is most famous for her role as the original Lois Lane in the film Superman and the Mole-Men (1951) as well as the first season of the Adventures of Superman television series (1952).

George Reeves and Phyllis Coates

In addition, she appeared in several other films and serials of interest to Atomic Age fans, including Invasion USA (1952), Perils of the Jungle (1953), Jungle Drums of Africa (1953), Panther Girl of the Kongo (1955), I Was a Teenage Frankenstein (1957), and The Incredible Petrified World (1957).

We are extremely excited to have Ms. Coates in the film! I look forward to posting a “From the set” report in the coming weeks.

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Just confirmed…James Best

We are delighted to announce that James Best has been added to the lineup of Monsters, Martians and Mad Scientists: Horror in the Atomic Age.

Mr. Best is a Writer/Director/Producer/Actor most famous for the role of Sheriff Roscoe Coltrane on The Dukes of Hazzard. In addition to his work on television, he has also appeared in 83 feature films, working alongside the likes of Humphrey Bogart, James Stewart, Audie Murphy, Henry Fonda, Rock Hudson, Anthony Quinn and Burt Reynolds.

In 1959, he starred in The Killer Shrews with Ingrid Goude. The film’s plot is classic Atomic Age material. Wikipedia describes it as follows: “…a doctor works to make humans half-size. This, apparently, will reduce world hunger as smaller humans would presumably eat less. Unfortunately, his experiments have also created some giant, venomous shrews.”

The Killer Shrews (1959)

In 2012, Mr. Best co-wrote and co-starred in a sequel to the film, Return of the Killer Shrews. The film will be screened at the Action on Film International Film Festival on August 24th.

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From the set…Coleen Gray

On July 21st, Mark and I interviewed Coleen Gray. It was a rare privilege to interview an actor who has appeared in so many of my favorite films, including the film noir classics The Killing and Nightmare Alley as well as Red River in which she costarred with John Wayne and Montgomery Clift.

Coleen Gray with Tyrone Power in Nightmare Alley (1947)

For our documentary Monsters, Martians and Mad Scientists: Horror in the Atomic Age, Ms. Gray kindly discussed the three genre films she made during the post-nuclear era.

Her first foray into horror was 1957’s The Vampire.  She told us she had absolutely no hesitation about appearing in a horror film: “Never occurred to me. Some people say the same thing about crime pictures or westerns. It’s a part. It’s work.”

Ms. Gray also felt The Vampire was misnamed: “They should have called it The Werewolf Vampire…he changed into an animal, sort of, which was not the usual vampire visage.”

John Beal in The Vampire (1957)

Her next horror role came three years later in Universal’s The Leech Woman. Although she found the plot to be “ridiculous,”  the picture holds a special place among her films: “It was the one and only time in my career in which I got the top billing so I’m very fond of The Leech Woman.”

Coleen Gray and Grant Withers in The Leech Woman (1960)

For The Phantom Planet (1961), Ms. Gray took on the sci-fi role of Liara. She didn’t find the film or her role in it to be notableable, but she did recall one of her costars. “I remember Dolores Faith. It was her first picture and she looked a little like Elizabeth Taylor. I think they were anxious to groom her and make a star out of her. This was a vehicle for her as I understand it.”

Laura McCullough and Coleen Gray

We look forward to sharing more of Ms. Gray’s recollections with you in Monsters, Martians and Mad Scientists: Horror in the Atomic Age.

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Just confirmed…Peggy Webber

It is my pleasure to announce that Peggy Webber will appear in Monsters, Martians and Mad Scientists: Horror in the Atomic Age.

In 1958, Ms. Webber appeared in two genre films — The Screaming Skull and The Space Children.

The Screaming Skull featured the provocative tag line “The tortured ghost who claims vengeance in the bride’s bedroom!” The film costarred John Hudson and Russ Conway.

The Space Children was directed by Jack Arnold and used equally exciting advertising: “Slowly…and with horror the parents realized THEIR CHILDREN WERE THE SLAVES OF ‘THE THING’ FROM OUTER SPACE!”

In addition to acting, Ms. Webber has also worked behind the camera writing, producing and directing early television shows. In fact, she wrote and directed the first Colgate Comedy Hour on film when she was just 22 years old!

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