Archive for the People Category

A Tribute to Vincent Price

Posted in Media, Movies and shows, People, Videos and Clips with tags , , , , , , , , , on October 18, 2019 by ranranami

A lover, and some might even say expert on art and food, a brilliant dramatic actor, and an even more brilliant character actor who chewed the scenery so well in his performances that he might as well have seasoned and sauteed them first. A man who could bring such charm to his role that even the lowest budget picture he might have worked on had an air of class to it regardless of the plot or dialog. Yes, my friends, it’s finally time – – to talk about my idol, Vincent Price.

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I legitimately tried to think of one role he was lackluster in, one part Mister Price was just obviously in need of a paycheck. Even the many many advertisements he sponsored later in his life. Nothing came to mind. He was just that good. What’s more, half of his villains I couldn’t help but love. Except, of course, for the rare few he played an absolute bastard. Don’t let that fool you though, he was very good at that too.

Born in 1911 in St. Louis to a pretty well-off family, he had the good fortune to begin life with a good education, unsurprisingly getting a bachelors in history and language at Yale. This was also where he began to act, and later in life he would return to a production he likely knew very well, playing Sir Despard Murgatroyd in Ruddigore which I can’t recommend enough if you’re fond of Gilbert and Sullivan operettas. Expanding his education at the University of London, studying art and even more history, his acting career began. In fact, he worked with Orson Welles’s Mercurey Theatre. It wasn’t long before he moved on to Broadway, and in 1938 his film acting career began. Dragonwyck (1946) is probably one of my absolute favorite early pictures of his before he truly blossomed as a well-known horror actor in particular. His roles were so varied that it would be impossible to list them all here without turning this short tribute into a lengthy biography, but suffice it to say House of Wax (1953) really marks when the horror element of his career took off.

He did fantastic voice-work in radio, and if you ever get the chance you absolutely have to dig up some episodes of The Saint, wherein he played a sort of detective crime-fighter with a Robin Hood flair.

Vincent was also a bit of an art philanthropist, donating 2000+ works from his collection over the years to the LA College and helping create the country’s first teaching art collection. He wrote many wonderful cookbooks (one of which I’ve had my eye on for several years, A Treasury of Great Recipes). If the world had a dozen more people like Vincent Price, I can’t imagine we wouldn’t have a modern renaissance. Sadly, however, there was only one. A legend in his or anyone else’s time. All that being said, here is a wonderful tribute by LordStoneRaven.

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Featured Phobia: Catoptrophobia (fear of mirrors)

Posted in People, Videos and Clips with tags , , , , , , , , on October 15, 2019 by ranranami

Say that one three times fast. Catoptrophobia, catoptrophiblia, catroptohobi…Let’s just call it fear of mirrors. This should be one we’re all well aware of, and why not? Everyone is raised on some myth about a monster in the mirror, usually Bloody Mary, sometimes Candyman if you prefer horror movies to stories. When we’re toddlers, we learn about object permanence, and examining your reflection is a major part of the process. It’s also oddly magical in a manner of speaking. You see yourself, and deep down the primitive part of your soul may wonder whether that’s actually you looking back, or something far more sinister.

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Catoptrophobia isn’t really about fearing the mirror itself. It’s the reflection. Reflection of the self, of objects, or even words being mouthed. Some people find this fear so entrenched that even seeing a shiny surface that can reflect an image back, whether it’s clear or not. A vast majority of sufferers associate mirrors with the supernatural, and these fears can often stem from religious or superstitious beliefs. Sometimes it merely relates to poor self image, as with those suffering from body dysmorphia.

Gradual exposure, psychotherapy, and ‘talk therapy’ through support groups are common ways of treating this fear. However, given that it can relate to concerns about the supernatural, even homeopathic remedies might have a place for the sufferer who believes in them. At the end of the day, my only real advice to you is fairly simple. You can run, you can even hide your reflection, but never break a mirror. I think you know why.

Additionally, I can’t resist sharing this scene from my favorite Nightmare on Elm Street film (part 4), so for those who haven’t seen it – – you may want to sit this one out.

A Tribute to Elsa Lanchester

Posted in Media, People, Videos and Clips with tags , , , , , on October 11, 2019 by ranranami

I have never seen a silver siren more enchanting than the young Elsa Lanchester. I have never seen a more amusing screen character as a wife or a nurse than Elsa. I have never seen any other actor who could compare to all of the wonderful facets of Ms. Lanchester’s personality.

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Though in an interview I’d like to share with you in this entry, it was clear she had no fondness for Isadora Duncan, I can forgive her this. Born into a moderately controversial family in 1902 (English socialists, radicals, anti-marriage, and at one point Elsa’s mother was committed to an asylum by her grandfather to prove a rather angry point). Elsa’s first dream in life was becoming a dancer, and she spent a couple of years at Isadora Duncan’s Bellevue School before her education there was cut short by the approaching dangers of WW1. So she attended another school, and at the age of 12 was teaching dance to other girls for room and board.

When she was 18, Elsa made her stage debut and also founded the Children’s Theater. Her early career was very colorful, as Elsa danced and sang onstage and in a night club she co-owned with Harold Scott. After a few small pictures with friends, she went on tour to Broadway and was eventually picked up by MGM in the golden age of studio contracts.

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Elsa did not pick one or the other, nor did she take breaks. Throughout her life she did constant theatrical work, laboring over music revues and night club acts, while making her occasional film appearance. The Bride will always follow modern audiences in memory, even for those who have ye to see the film, because she was just that wonderful.

A Tribute to Robert Z’Dar

Posted in Media, People, Videos and Clips with tags , , , , , , , on October 16, 2018 by ranranami

I don’t think there is any actor with a more distinctive face than the late Robert Z’Dar. My first recollection of him wasn’t his melodramatic bit role in Tango and Cash, nor was it his most famous part of all as the titular character of Maniac Cop. It wasn’t even the super villain samurai in Samurai Cop (huh, just noticed a theme there.) It was an oddly-voiced side character in the MST3K take on Soultaker. Other than the forgotten Estevez (Joe), Robert just stood out. He always did. No matter the size of the role.

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Robert J. Zdarsky acted in 121 films before his unfortunate and sudden passing at the age of 64 from cardiac arrest shortly before he was supposed to appear at Pensacon, a multi-genre convention in Pensacola, Florida. He was a man of many faces (especially the large-chinned variety), a college football player, a musician (singer/keyboardist/guitarist), a Chippendales dancer, a police officer, and most importantly–an actor.

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He took his genetic condition (cherubism) and used it to his advantage. It didn’t hold him back in the least as a character actor, and in fact added something really fun to his roles. Robert could never be mistaken for the good guy or the typical henchman (even when he was), and he had such a fantastic voice. He fought and beat throat cancer, which changed his voice irreversibly, but there was still something about his delivery despite this when he spoke, and his enthusiasm in his interviews was truly charming. I haven’t found even one negative comment about Robert as a person, and I’m pretty sure he was probably a fun person to be around. Mister Z’Dar, you were one of a kind, and villain or not–you deserve to be remembered. Credit for the following tribute video goes to Vernon Williams.

A Tribute to Peter Lorre

Posted in Media, People, Videos and Clips with tags , , , , , , , on October 4, 2018 by ranranami

 

The below video was created by Youtube user ZZ, and her channel is really worth checking out!

The nervous henchman and ‘doctor’ of a scarred maniac. The mentally deranged child killer stalking the streets of pre-WW2 Berlin. A conniving, greasy villain. A mad scientist fascinated with one woman and the macabre experiment he performs on her husband. An innocent victim of war driven to crime. Abusive alcoholic. Charming playboy. Most of these roles do not sound nuanced in a sentence which does little justice to a talent so often overlooked. Who am I talking about, ladies and gentlemen? None other than Peter Lorre himself. As if the video above and the title of the post didn’t make that painfully obvious.

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Leaving us at only 59 years old from an unfortunate stroke after years of alcoholism and morphine addiction due to chronic pain, Peter Lorre had more depth than any actor I can think of today – – and yet hardly any of his roles made this man the star. Even in his break-out role, where Lorre shined so brightly and darkly at the same time, ‘M’, most of the film was focused on the events surrounding his character. Only at the very end do we really get some wonderful scenes with Peter Lorre that drove home so beautifully how much of a talent he was. The film ‘The Face Behind the Mask’ (1941) is absolutely incredible.

Getting his start in experimental and improvisational theatre in Berlin. Hungarian-born under the name László Loewenstein, it wasn’t long after ‘M’ that Peter got his next great role in ‘The Man Who Knew Too Much’. It is unfortunate that he was so type-cast, despite how well he played the roles. I would like to take a moment to thank Peter for giving the world so much with his performances, and to end this tribute with a lovely quote from Vincent Price upon hearing of his friend’s, passing:

Peter was the most inventive actor I’ve ever known. He was a great scholar, an accomplished dramatic actor and a masterful comedian. “Peter liked to make pictures which entertained people, not critics. He didn’t have any pretensions about conveying messages to the world.

A Tribute to Paul Naschy

Posted in Media, People, Videos and Clips with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 30, 2017 by ranranami

How best to describe Paul Naschy? Was he Lon Chaney with the face of John Saxon? Was he the Vincent Price of Spain? To tell you the truth, Paul Naschy was one of a kind. Actor, director, screenwriter, and even sometimes producer. He wore every mask at one point or another, and played ever role, from Wolfman to Frankenstein, to Dracula, and even Satan himself.

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Where Lon Chaney Jr played the American Wolfman, Naschy’s Casanova version of the role practically chewed the scenery. No matter the quality of a film, the poor dubbing, or awful edited versions that have been butchered a hundred times for American audiences, there’s no denying how compelling Naschy still is in those films. He was just that good. He was also known to be a fantastic, down-to-earth kind of person, too, which goes a long way in my book for any major star.

Shout Factory just released some epic collections of Naschy films I’d like to get my hands on, having settled for some of those more questionable releases I’ve mentioned, and it was about time too.

I couldn’t resist ending on this fantastic tribute video I found. I hope some day more of the world will really come to appreciate this brilliant man. Oh, and by the way, happy halloween!

Grim History: Leonarda Cianciulli, ‘The Soap Maker of Correggio’

Posted in Media, People with tags , , , , , , , , , , on October 8, 2017 by ranranami

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“I made lots of crunchy tea cakes and served them to the ladies who came to visit, though Giuseppe and I also ate them.”

A loving mother. The perfect neighbor. A friend. A pillar of the community. A woman so kind, that she thought nothing of giving away her lovingly-crafted bars of soap to any and everyone she knew. She ran a small shop, which I’m sure supported the family well enough.

Leonarda did not have an easy life. She’d attempted suicide as a young girl multiple times. As a young woman she committed fraud and landed in jail. After that, when she and her husband moved to another town, their home was destroyed in an earthquake. She had seventeen pregnancies, three of them being miscarried, and ten of them died as children. It’s no wonder she became so very protective of the four she had left.

She was a very superstitious woman. In her youth, she went to multiple fortune-tellers, desperate no doubt for some bright glint of hope in her future. One of them told her she would lose all of her children, and one can only wonder if the fear of this awful fate was self-fulfilling. Did she spend every waking hour in her pregnancy in fear? Did she fill her children with tonics or syrups to keep them well, only to poison them with the tinctures that were meant to save? We’ll never know what happened to all of those lost ones, but we do know that Leonarda desperately loved the remaining four.

It wasn’t long after the earlier fortune was told, that she had her palm read by yet another gypsy in almost Hollywood-esque fashion. Her reading would spell out a far worse fate than meeting a tall, dark stranger. She was told that in her right hand the gypsy saw prison, and in the left a criminal asylum.

I don’t doubt Leonarda spent her time crafting wards against the evil eye, tearing out her hair, and doing all manner of strange things one would expect of a madwoman behind closed doors. Somehow, after these two terrible fortunes in her life, and with the knowledge that her eldest son would be joining the army to fight in World War II, Leonarda decided she had to do something horrible to protect him.  But what could satisfy the blood-hungry fate that had snatched so many of her children from her?

Perhaps she thought she could simply swap one life for another. Appease death with someone else’s life. After all, she’d begun to dig into a bit of fortune-telling herself. It isn’t hard to believe a madwoman would give herself such a reading. So, Leonarda planned. She selected three friends, women who may very well have reminded Leonarda of herself. They were middle-aged, and ready to change their lives.

Her first victim, Faustina Setti, wanted companionship. She was lonely. Leonarda persuaded her that she would have to move to Pola, but there was the perfect man waiting for her there. Cleverly, she convinced Faustina to write several letters to be sent to her friends and family when she arrived. Then, on the morning Faustina was to leave, they shared some wine.

Faustina’s glass was drugged. One can only hope she didn’t suffer when that gleaming ax was hefted above Leonarda’s head, and that the death was quick. Poor Faustina’s body was cut into nine pieces and the blood was drained into a basin. Leonarda seemed to delight in recounting her story later after she’d been caught, likening her story to a recipe one would expect to find in an insane grandmother’s cook book:

“I threw the pieces into a pot, added seven kilos of caustic soda, which I had bought to make soap, and stirred the mixture until the pieces dissolved in a thick, dark mush that I poured into several buckets and emptied in a nearby septic tank. As for the blood in the basin, I waited until it had coagulated, dried it in the oven, ground it and mixed it with flour, sugar, chocolate, milk and eggs, as well as a bit of margarine, kneading all the ingredients together. I made lots of crunchy tea cakes and served them to the ladies who came to visit, though Giuseppe and I also ate them.“

Giuseppe was her eldest son. The one planning to enlist. Imagine the motherly delight she must have felt, serving up the remains of her former friend and client, while the death of that woman surely meant he would live that much longer. Still, it wasn’t enough, and after Leonarda’s first literal taste of death….

She wanted more.

The second victim, Francesca Soavi, suffered much the same fate. She’d been looking for a job. Unfortunately, she picked the wrong place to find it. This time, Leonarda told her to begin writing postcards to her friends and family, sending them while she was still in Correggio. Waste not want not, as they say. This time, however, Leonarda took a little money from her victim as well. 3000 lire, to be precise. Murder was becoming far more than a mother’s desperate acts of love, but something quite profitable to boot.

Her third, final, and most famous (or formerly famous) victim was Virginia Cacioppo. An opera singer who had passed her prime, but the passion for art lived on. Poor Virginia didn’t question why Leonarda apparently knew a powerful, mysterious ‘theatre impresario’ looking for a secretary. After all, she was a fortune-teller. A sweet, kind woman. A friend. A friend with 50,000 lire, and astonishing jewelry. Tokens of another life.

Instead of just stopping at tea-cakes, however, Leonarda decided to earn her infamous title…

“…her flesh was fat and white, when it had melted I added a bottle of cologne, and after a long time on the boil I was able to make some most acceptable creamy soap. I gave bars to neighbours and acquaintances. The cakes, too, were better: that woman was really sweet.”

Virginia’s sister-in-law reported her missing, and it wasn’t long before the police made inquiries with Leonarda. She confessed, unashamed, and judging by her accounts, seems to have gloried in it. Her first prophecy was happily fulfilled. Leonarda would spend the next thirty years in prison, and her final three in a mental asylum.