Close, but no cigar: Louis Bromfield and Hollywood

In the heyday of Louis Bromfield's time as a popular American novelist -- a member of the post-World War I generation that produced F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway -- he quite naturally found his talent in demand in the nation's film capital, which for a period not only utilized his published fiction as source material but also put him to work on original screenplays and adaptations.

Indeed, while his name was seen on screen as often as his works appeared on the bestseller lists, studios were drawn to his swift and very human tales of souls and families at odds with themselves as well as the world around them and the rotting traditions that entrap them. Many of the movies derived from his novels and short fiction could be classified as romances, the greatest of which was Twentieth Century-Fox's version of his 1937 crowd pleaser THE RAINS CAME. And some fell into the subgenre of "weepers," as evidenced with the 1934 production THE LIFE OF VERGIE WINTERS,…

Remembering science fiction icon William Phipps

When retired screen and television actor William Edward Phipps died June 1, 2018, at 96 in Santa Monica, Calif., most print and online sources identified him to readers as the voice of Prince Charming in Walt Disney's 1950 animated classic CINDERELLA. Not a bad thing to be remembered for, but you had to read on or dig a little further to discover that as the science fiction craze took hold of Hollywood in the '50s, Phipps was one of the more visible thespians cast in such outstanding examples of the genre as THE WAR OF THE WORLDS and INVADERS FROM MARS, as well as a lesser production, CAT-WOMEN ON THE MOON, all from 1953.

To generations that grew up viewing these and other productions of the like on TV, Phipps' face and voice offered a reassuring presence amidst the otherworldly chaos that had come to visit us on Earth. Although he played his share of villains over the years, the native of Vincennes, Ind., projected the image of an all-American guy that found its way into h…

Review: An education in forgotten horrors

THE FORGOTTEN HORRORS READER, by Michael H. Price, with George E. Turner and Christina Renteria Price. Lower Klopstokia: Cremo Studios, 2017. 364 pages. $30.

The FORGOTTEN HORRORS franchise started by Michael H. Price and George E. Turner with the publication of the original FH study in 1979 continues today as it marches through the 1960s with honest, informed and fascinating criticism of low-budget chillers and their appeal to moviegoers. A recent offshoot from the work of Price and Turner have been collections of essays, criticism and history of movies that may not have fallen into the FH category but have enough similarity to be considered part of the family.

Among these are FORGOTTEN HORRORS TO THE Nth DEGREE: DISPATCHES FROM A COLLAPSING GENRE (with John Wooley, 2013) which took a fun and absorbing look at product that used to haunt drive-ins from the '60s until the '80s, then found a later life on local TV, videotape and digital forms of home entertainment. Such studies ha…

Horror in broad daylight: 'Doctor Blood's Coffin'

Produced at a time when the movie horror market was dominated by the works of Britain's Hammer Films and Roger Corman's stylish Edgar Allan Poe adaptations, DOCTOR BLOOD'S COFFIN (1961) is a standout for its vivid use of location and updating of Mary Shelley's FRANKENSTEIN. The 91-minute film shot in color plays out its Gothic horrors against an unsuspecting rural community and sun-splashed atmosphere that lends a high contrast to the evil that lunges from the darkness.

The relationship between the film's protagonist, Dr. Peter Blood (Kieron Moore) and Victor Frankenstein is evident since both young men are convinced their individual brilliance as surgeons has destined them to do something great -- namely, bring life to the dead. And no matter how much common sense and opposition are hurled at them, they are set on a course of achieving their dream, even if it costs the lives of other people. The difference posed by DOCTOR BLOOD'S COFFIN with the Shelley origina…

Turning Poe's mystery tales into movies

Though notoriously difficult to translate into workable screenplays, the works of Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849) have provided Hollywood and international filmmakers with a fertile source of story material. Be it his fiction or such poetic classics as "The Raven" (1845), Poe's works continue to inspire filmic imagery with a basis in the themes and ideas the author explored during his hectic career as one of America's first literary giants.

Best known as one of initial and uniquely American fantasists and creator of horrors, as in "The Tell Tale Heart" and "The Black Cat" (both published in 1843), Poe is also recognized as the creator of modern detective fiction, the well-spring of deductive reasoning as the solution to murder and crime puzzles later expanded upon by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and his creation, Sherlock Holmes. For much of C. Auguste Dupin, Poe's occasional Paris-based sleuth whose fame lies in three stories, was worked by Holmes' …