roger corman

Queen of Schlock! The B Movies Queens: Gothic Scream Queen Barbara Steele

Tis the time of year, when things are gloomier, night falls faster and the night air carries an eeriness. On our evening walk, guided by the brightness of the full moon, we can hear the howls of werewolf in the distance, and when we pass the seemingly abandoned manor, we see the curtains flutter, leaving use to wonder if it is a ghost or the wind finding its way through a broken pane. Do we run or stand and observe the night as it creeps in around us? In a situation like this, it’s best to take guidance from the dark Goddess herself, Barbara Steele. What would she do in a situation like this? Barbara would grab the biggest candelabra she could find and would wrap her delicate fingers around it, holding onto her skirt, walking forward, fearless, letting curiosity win her over as we’ve known her to do in every single gothic horror she has starred in!

I’m sorry… did I hear someone in the back ask who Barbara Steele was? How DARE you! Barbara Steele is the ultimate gothic horror scream queen. She is the dark Goddess!

Barbara Steele is a British actress, best known for the Italian Gothic horror movies she starred in, mostly in the 1960s. Many will know her for her breakthrough role in Black Sunday (1960) while others will know her from her later role as Dr. Julia Hoffman / Countess Natalie Du Pres in Dark Shadows (1991).

***During the 1960s, Steele starred in a string of Italian horror films, including Black Sunday (1960), The Horrible Dr. Hichcock (1962), The Ghost (1963), The Long Hair of Death (1964), Castle of Blood (1964), Terror-Creatures from the Grave and Nightmare Castle (both 1965). She also starred in Roger Corman‘s 1961 adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe‘s short story The Pit and the Pendulum and the British film Curse of the Crimson Altar (1968).

Steele returned to the horror genre in the later 1970s, appearing in three horror films: David Cronenberg‘s Shivers (a.k.a. They Came From Within) (1975), Piranha (1978), and Silent Scream (1979). *** {source Wikipedia}

My all time favourite Barbara Steele movies are Castle of Blood, Nightmare Castle and Black Sunday. I’ve seen all three on both DVD and on the big screen. Viewing them on the big screen is of course the best way to view them, and I’m grateful that The Bloor Cinema showed them (they are no longer around) Recently, we showed The She Beast at Killer B Cinema. Right before Covid struck. It was a definite crowd pleaser. A little She Beast trivia, because Barbara Steele was only available for one day, she was kept on the set during 18 hours of shooting. It was a gruelling day, but the producer felt it was necessary. Apparently, she was beyond angry with him.

One thing that has always bothered me about movies starring Barbara Steele is they dubbed her voice and British accent in many of them. This was done for American audiences and unfortunately, in many cases, the only copies available. (they did the same to Caroline Munro)

I’ve been a fan of gothic horror for a very long time and I owe that to Barbara Steele. I was introduced to her when I was a teenager and I have adored her ever since. I get cravings to watch her movies when the gloom of November creeps in. There is a spookiness about the wind blowing through the barren trees, that goes hand-in-hand with the ultimate scream queen.

What is your favourite Barbara Steele movie?

Each month I run a b-movie night called Killer B Cinema. Join Lizzie Violet & Zoltan Du Lac for a monthly evening of b-moves from the 1950s to 1990s! There will also be trivia with prizes & much more! Please follow us on Instagram and Facebook!

Queen of Schlock! Wasp Woman of the 1950s and Today.

During COVID we’ve been watching a lot of television shows and movies from the 1950s, especially horror and sci-fi. Though entertaining and revisiting a simpler time of no computers or cell phones is nice, there is a certain way of life that is a consistent thread/trend throughout each of these shows/movies and one that is very, very apparent in The Wasp Woman. Now don’t be silly, I’m not going to give it all away in the first paragraph. Read on dear human. Read on!

The Wasp Woman (a.k.a. The Bee Girl and Insect Woman) is a 1959, independently made, American black-and-white science fiction-horror film, produced and directed by Roger Corman, that stars Susan CabotAnthony EisleyMichael Mark, and Barboura Morris. The film was originally released by Filmgroup as a double feature with Beast from Haunted Cave.[1][2] To pad out the film’s running time when it was released to television two years later, a new prologue was added by director Jack Hill.

The founder and owner of a large cosmetics company, Janice Starlin (Susan Cabot), is disturbed when her firm’s sales begin to drop after it becomes apparent to her customer base that she is aging. Zinthrop has been able to extract enzymes from the royal jelly of the queen wasp that can reverse the aging process. Janice agrees to fund further research, at great cost, provided she can serve as his human subject. Displeased with the slowness of the results, she breaks into the scientist’s laboratory after hours and injects herself with extra doses of the formula. {source Wikipedia} This is where the true horror begins!

I love this movie for so many reasons. My number one reason usually isn’t the script, it’s the monster and in this case the Wasp Woman. The make-up department did an amazing job making her look horrifying (head and hands of a wasp). I, myself have a phobia with wasps and hornets and was uncomfortable not only watching the scenes where they showed real wasps but by the actual wasp woman costuming. The things that scare you the most, right?

What audience was this movie meant for? According to Tim Dirks, The Wasp Woman was one of a wave of “cheap teen movies” released for the drive-in market. They consisted of “exploitative, cheap fare created especially for them [teens] in a newly-established teen/drive-in genre”. {source Wikipedia} Now that drive-in theatres have become popular again due to COVID, I’m hoping one of them does 1950s b-movies and the original double bill of The Wasp Woman and Beast From the Haunted Cave.

I think one of my favourite things about Roger Corman is many of his movies touch on the dark side of humanity. The Wasp Woman is definitely one of them. Another of my favourite things is he is able to make a movie for as little money as possible. The film was made for an estimated budget of $50,000. We are considering making our own b-movies and Roger Corman continues to inspire us. You will also notice that musical score from this movie was used in several other Corman movies including Little Shop of Horrors. The Wasp Woman‘s musical score, written by Fred Katz.

Star Susan Cabot, who I loved in this movie and many others, had a tragic end to her life. In the 1980s, she was suffering from severe mental illness, including depression and suicidal thoughts. On December 10, 1986, Cabot’s only child, 22-year-old Timothy Roman, bludgeoned her to death in their Los Angeles home after Cabot awoke in a panicked state and attacked him. It was a heart-breaking end to Susan’s life.

Someone did an amazing job cleaning up the quality of this version. Give it a watch before it vanishes from YouTube!

Oh yes, the trend I was speaking of. The one where women aren’t allowed to age gracefully, get old and definitely shouldn’t get gray hair or wrinkles. Ya that one. Sadly, not much has changed over the decades. Society still hasn’t learned to stop bullying women about their appearance and continue to set ridiculous standards. Many women still inject themselves with poison and unknown substances just to appear thin and youthful. When it comes to that part of the movie, 2020 is no different than in 1959.

Each month I run a b-movie night called Killer B Cinema. Join Lizzie Violet & Zoltan Du Lac for a monthly evening of b-moves from the 1950s to 1990s! There will also be trivia with prizes & much more! Please follow us on Instagram and Facebook!

Redheads Writing In Cafes: B-movie Makers Who Inspire Me

I have always been madly in love with b-movies. Especially, 1950s b-movies. I’m extra in love with bad b-movies. The badder the better and especially in times like this. We need something fun to distract ourselves.

Prior to pandemic jail my husband and I ran a monthly b-movie night called Killer B Cinema. We were trying to figure out how to keep it going on YouTube, but they make it incredibly hard for you to do that. So, we are on hiatus until we figure something else out. We are praying that our venue (See-Scape in the Junction) continues to be ok, so when we get out of jail we can continue on. In the meantime, we are working on another way to show our movies.

The movies themselves are a lot of fun, however, for me anyway, there is something about the determination and passion of the people behind the movies that truly inspires me. Makers, writers, directors and producers such Ed Wood Jr., Roger Corman, William Castle, and Herman Cohen are tops for me with extra fondness for Ed Wood.

Why Ed Wood Jr.? Why not Ed Wood Jr.! To me, he was a genius. Not only was he a genius, he has a determination and passion that is beyond inspiring. Ed Wood Jr., would do anything and everything it took to get his movies completed and to the big screen. Many considered his films laughable, and critics panned him, but he never, ever stopped. Every once in a while, when I’m feeling discouraged and on the cusp of quitting, I remind myself, that Ed Wood Jr., never gave up. If he has no money, he would find ways to build his sets. Couldn’t afford actors, he’d cast friends, heck most of the actors who worked for him, were in several of his movies and continued to work with him knowing they may never get paid. They wanted his movies to succeed just as much as he did. Those same actors often helped to build sets, do make-up, wore their own clothing and even helped finance when they could.

Roger Corman is another film maker who got his movies done the same way. The 1960 version of Little Shop of Horrors, has many of the actors doing lighting, sets, make-up and wardrobe. Actress Jackie Joseph, who played Audrey (the human) wore her own clothing for the movie.

On a rainy or snowy day, it’s comforting to have a marathon of these kinds of movies, it has also inspired my husband and I to start making our own b-movie. If we follow the lead of those who inspire us, if we have a camera, the world is ours! If you remember your own passion, the world can be yours too!

Below are a few of their movies for you to watch (YouTube). Enjoy!