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Born today in 1896: General James Doolittle


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Castle or Corman?

William Castle (1914-1977) and Roger Corman (b. 1926) are known for their [usually] low-budget, [usually] high-concept movies.

Castle typically incorporated some kind of gimmick into his pictures — joy buzzers installed into selected seats, nurses stationed in the lobby, a magic coin, a 45-second “fright break” timer overlaid onto the screen, burial insurance for patrons who might die of shock, and so forth.

Corman is probably best known for 1960’s Little Shop of Horrors which featured a human-eating plant and Jack Nicholson as a masochistic dental patient. It went on to spawn a stage musical — which itself then ricocheted back into yet another movie, directed by John Waters (who himself grew up as a Castle zealot).

Naturally Vincent Price saw plenty of action with both Castle and Corman. He plays child-killing Richard III in Tower of London, and in The Tingler he exhorts us to “Scream! Scream for your lives!!”

In The Thing With Two Heads, Ray Milland is a cantankerous and openly racist physician who, as a consequence of multiple organ failure, has to have his head grafted onto the body of a black death row inmate played by Rosie Greer. Much of the film consists of this bizarre Milland-Greer “Thing” racing around the countryside on a minibike.

The one A-list picture in this glorious morass was Rosemary’s Baby, produced by William Castle and directed by a new Polish kid hardly anybody had then heard of named Roman Polanski. Castle himself appears in a cameo as the man waiting for Mia Farrow to get off a pay phone.

Let’s see if you can tell some of the pictures of William Castle and Roger Corman apart:

1. 13 Frightened Girls (banned in Finland)
2. Attack of the Crab Monsters
3. House on Haunted Hill
4. Let’s Kill Uncle
5. Not of This Earth
6. The Thing With Two Heads
7. The Tingler
8. X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes
9. Tower of London
10. Zotz!

Highlight the answers below with your cursor:

1. Castle
2. Corman [starring Russell Johnson]
3. Castle [starring Vincent Price]
4. Castle [starring Nigel Bruce]
5. Corman [starring Beverly Garland]
6. Corman (producer)
7. Castle [starring Vincent Price]
8. Corman [starring Ray Milland]
9. Corman [starring Vincent Price]
10. Castle [starring Tom Poston]

The Ex-Presidents Club

Warren G Harding Harding, telling those damn kids to stay off his lawn
The greatest number of current and former US presidents to survive simultaneously has been six. This has happened three times. The first of those (4 March 1861 to 18 January 1862) was Van Buren, Tyler, Fillmore, Pierce, Buchanan, and Lincoln. Next (20 January 1993 to 22 April 1994): Nixon, Ford, Carter, Regan, Bush I, and Clinton. Last (21 January 2001 to 5 June 2004): Ford, Carter, Regan, Clinton, and both Bushes.

When Barack Obama assumes office in January 2009, he will — or at least should — have four living predecessors.

Six times there have been no living ex-presidents. The most recent such interval was between Nixon’s second inauguration on 22 January 1973 and his resignation on 9 August 1974.

Three US presidents have been survived by their mothers: James Polk, James Garfield, and John Kennedy. Kennedy’s maternal grandmother, Mary Josephine Hannon Fitzgerald, also survived him. Only presidents Harding and Kennedy were survived by their fathers.

Popular media-marinated clichés we could all do without (Part II)

True believers

These are people who take something seriously that the reporters think (or their editor wants them to think) is codswallop. Of course all but the very weirdest religions are exempt.

The mother of all [fill in phenomenon or human act of your choice]

Hmm. Why on earth should should we revel in a catch phrase popularized by Saddam Hussein during the first gulf war?

Left [him or her] for dead

How do we know this? In many cases that might have been true, but I’m sure many perpetrators only left their victim for “hurt” or simply scrambled away without giving the matter a second thought.

So many years at hard labor

Under Nazi Germany or in the Soviet Gulag this would certainly have been accurate, but rarely nowadays in the US. Most of our inmates do work in some fashion — making street signs, staffing a call center, or cooking food, say — but not usually at something people would visualize as truly Cool Hand Luke-style hard. More than anything else, we just stress and bore our convicts to death.

Save 20% Off!

This reminds me of things like “minus 50 below zero.” You either save 20%, or you get 20% off.

Obviously this driver has no consideration for the lives of bystanders [heard over cop-cam video of a rough car chase]

Again with the clairvoyance. In many cases the speeding motorist probably tried very, very hard not to hit anybody despite his or her desperation to escape.

Popular media-marinated clichés we could all do without (Part I)

They used the Jaws of Life

Any excuse to trot this out. Why not just say the rescuers cut the victim out of the wreckage, as they would have done in any era, with or without fancy hydraulics?

Watched in horror

Anyone who sees something that came out tragically, or at least might have, is automatically declared to have done this. For all we know, the witnesses may well have been only moderately worried or, if they didn’t properly assess the situation or anticipate an unhappy outcome, quite indifferent or even intrigued.

Common law husband/wife

Always said about someone else, preferably someone missing an alarming percentage of their teeth and/or languishing in a trailer park.

A bus plunged...

When buses accidentally go downward someplace where they’re not supposed to, they always plunge. I suppose it has something to do with the fact that they’re long and skinny, at least remotely like a bathroom plunger save for the rubber cup at the end.

When asked if he or she was a hero, the answer was no

Resolved: If I ever rescue a child from a sewer pipe or jump into the driver’s seat of a loaded bus to keep it from “plunging” somewhere horrible, I’ll say yes, I certainly am a hero. Please print my picture on the front page above the fold and shower me with whatever accolades you have available.