Happy Birthday Malcolm McDowell

It may be the 13th, but it’s not a Friday.

June 13th is the birthday of Malcolm McDowell.

I have been a fan of his for ages.  I find his acting is mesmerizing, ranging from the science fiction romance of Time After Time to the dramatic intensity of an escape from fascist Germany in Voyage of the Damned.  He has collaborated with such celebrated directors as Stanley Kubrick for the horrors of a futuristic society in A Clockwork Orange and Lindsay Anderson for a dramatic critique of modern society in the Mick Travis films.  His diverse work in continuing series include the comedy Pearl as well as Mozart in the Jungle.

I’ve been lucky enough to meet him at several conventions.  At the last one when I sat down next to him, he commented, “You again?  You’re at all of these.”  I had him sign Never Apologize, a dvd of his one man show about Lindsay Anderson.  When he asked me if I had watched it, I luckily replied that I had and recalled the final scene.  I suppose I satisfied his curiosity, otherwise he warned he might have to quiz me on it.

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Myself holding Never Apologize with Malcolm McDowell.
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Zombie vs. Vampire

Just because a guy gets drenched with fake blood to roam about in search of brains, he’s automatically labeled a zombie expert.

I must admit that years ago I approached appearing in Trailer Park of the Living Dead with a limited amount of zombie knowledge.  I had watched the vintage version of Night of the Living Dead but had not seen most of that film’s sequels or more modern renderings like 28 Days Later, in which I believe zombies have actually sped up quite a bit.  In fact I confess that of the usual lineup of iconic horror characters, my preference lies with those fun fanged denizens of the night – vampires!

Both vampires and zombies have their fair share of the horror market and fans’ hearts – as well as their throats or brains.  I’ve gotten to play a vampire briefly in Mortal and have stumbled around as a zombie in a few low budget pictures.  I thought I might indulge in a comparison.

1.  A Horrific Heritage – For far reaching historic and global folklore, the vampire seems far ahead.  Some point as far back as the biblical Lilith for the vampire’s bloody origins.  Plus thanks to Bram Stoker and Dracula, the vampire has a far loftier literary heritage.  WINNER – VAMPIRE.

2. The Confidence Factor – Gotta go with zombies on this one.  Ever heard of a zombie questioning its existence or trying to blend in with humanity?  Hell no!  They just want to eat your brains and make no excuses for it!   WINNER – ZOMBIE.

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My zombie guise for a previous film shoot.

3.  Masters of Movie Mayhem – Both Bela Lugosi and Christopher Lee made impressive Draculas.  There are few films as atmospheric with creepiness and chills as the silent Nosferatu.  This vampire was hideous to look at, a far cry from today’s pretty boy bloodsuckers.  The zombie has also undergone quite a few cinematic makeovers, starting with White Zombie…hey here’s Bela again!  But it was Night of the Living Dead that took the zombie from laboring mindlessly at home on a plantation and gave him an appetite for freshly freed organs.  Night of the Living Dead really renovated the whole zombie myth and released low budget movie makers’ most graphic dreams.  DRAW.

4.  Convention Fun –  I’m no stranger to horror cons, and it seems that the zombie isn’t either!  I’ve seen tables touting the chance to have your picture taken with a zombie, the opportunity to have your zombie portrait drawn, and even been given a zombie survival packet.  I always see a few bloody zombies wandering about.  Course maybe the vampires are just blending in…  WINNER – ZOMBIES.

5.  TV Terrors – While The Walking Dead is currently very popular on TV – Vampires seem a lot more active in this field.  TV vampires range from Dark Shadows in the 60’s to Buffy to Tru Blood.  WINNER – VAMPIRES.

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Playing zombie with a female friend in Trailer Park of the Living Dead. Hope Romero would be pleased with my ghoulish performance.

6.  The Better Role – This is my favorite category, where I get to plug the films I acted oh so briefly in.  After the application of latex to my face to give me ghoulish good looks and being soaked with red liquid to prove I meant bloody business, I was ready to join the zombie horde in Trailer Park of the Living Dead.  I’m not sure that I can say that it was a meaty role, but the character certainly was fond of meat as he wandered through woods and pursued an ice cream truck more interested in its drivers then its frosty treats.  There were plenty of victims and organs available for a zombie to indulge in on the set as you get in the zen mindset of a walking monster whose only desire is to satisfy his horrible hunger to the tune of his own growl.  Of course once you’re out of that mindset and character there’s the cleaning up to do.  A lot.  I think I had a bright pink under my fingernails for a week after the first shoot.  But I’ve learned that dial’s glycerine based soap are a wonder for removing fake blood, so I am wiser now.  There was cleaning up to do after my most recent role as lead male zombie from an idea I had conceived.  For my vampire role in Mortal, there was no such makeup concerns.  In fact the sole wardrobe instructions were to wear black.  And there was no mindless roaming through the woods, I was on a quite cool set.  The vampire has long been the most talkative of monsters and I was given the challenge of a line.  I delivered it appropriately enough through the various takes.  Okay, perhaps I flubbed it once.  So how do I pick the better role?  I had a great time playing both creatures.  Perhaps I should just wait and see which role I receive an award for.  DRAW

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Director Kat Lehmer and I on the set of Mortal.

Monsters have always held my attention, whether presented by a storyteller, upon the written page or upon a screen.  Homer’s Odyssey featured various horrific creatures, most notably the Cyclops which had a hankering for human flesh.  Other monsters like werewolves and vampires have invaded our nightmares in various forms.   Scientists such as Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein have sought to learn life’s mystery by mastering science with frightening results.  I have attempted to channel the impulses of classic creatures for my book, Certain Shadows I Have Known.  It is about a hit man forced to deal with supernatural threats from a previous assignment.  It is available via publisher https://www.rowanvalebooks.com/book/certain-shadows-i-have-known or at Amazon.

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Zombie Love and Stranger Thoughts

The early hours of Sunday morning proceeded in a customary manner, with laundry.  The principal goal was to wash out the fake blood garnered on them.

Around 10 A.M. I and others interested in performing as zombies arrived at a friend’s property in Cecil county Maryland to act out a short film I had devised entitled Zombie Love.  I had the role of lead male zombie and the featured female zombie was portrayed by Kitty McKiddy.  In the story I literally loose my heart to her.  With the aid of Rio LaCour, who was responsible for zombie makeup effects, and Joseph Russo I hope to have the editing of the footage soon complete.  The final product will be released on youtube.

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Kitty McKiddy and W. P. Rigler in Zombie Love.

 

In the meantime, my new work from Rowanvale books is to be released on May 31st.  It is entitled Stranger Thoughts and contains horror stories, poetry, plus The Ultimate Guide to Dating While Avoiding Supernatural Menaces.  It is available for order direct from the publisher or at Amazon.

https://www.rowanvalebooks.com/book/stranger-thoughts

or

 

Chiller Strikes

I recently returned to Parsippany New Jersey for the convention of every type of celebrity – Chiller.  I had missed both of last year’s Chillers due to health problems.  I was moving a bit slower this time and depending at times on my handy third leg (cane), but as a whole it was quite a fun excursion, getting away to see some familiar faces – both in the way of old acquaintances and celebrities.

I met a favorite actor, Peter Scolari, best known for his TV work such as Bosom Buddies and Newhart.  I remember him in a memorable episode from The New Twilight Zone in which he played a person who claimed fake visions/memories from a past life but whose regressive abilities proved true.  I mentioned the show to which Scolari replied, “Oh yeah, I forgot that.”  A New Twilight Zone pic for next con?  For a picture together behind his table, he told me to carefully take my time.  I sauntered next to him using my cane.

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Peter Scolari and I.

Other favorite celebrities encountered there included Jennifer O’Niell of Scanners fame and Candy Clark.  Clark appeared in two favorite films.  The Man Who Fell to Earth with David Bowie and Blue Thunder with Malcolm McDowell.

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Jennifer O’Neill and I.
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Myself and Candy Clark.

Upcoming Events

With several books out and one about to be released, what better time is there to enjoy my creative spirit and indulge in a bit of self-promotion?

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My zombie guise for a previous film shoot.

On May 11th I’ll attempt to shoot a zombie short film from a futuristic and ironic idea of mine.  Among my many creative hats for the project will be that of lead zombie.  As the only lines will includes growls and I need not worry about shuffling or limping, it’s a role I was predestined for.  Extras are needed to portray other members of the walking dead.  My friend Rio LaCour, maker of Trailer Park of the Living Dead, is helping out with makeup/special effects.  The shoot is to be at a friend’s field by his barn.  The start time is slated for 10 A.M. at 919 Bouchelle Road in Elkton Maryland.  All are welcome to engage in the event.  Just be sure to wear old, nondescript clothes as well as be prepared to get dirty and/or fake bloody.

On July 13, I’ll be among the writers at an author’s signing event.  It is to be held in picturesque Havre de Grace Md at The Spencer Silver Bed and Breakfast.  The building, like the town, is steeped in history and there are tales of paranormal activity.  What else could one ask for?  I shall be one of several authors in attendance with books for sale.

Once autumn returns I’ll return to Amazicon for the 7th incarnation of this event.  The convention features actors, artists and other celebrities.  Previous guests have included William Sanderson of the classic sci-fi film Blade Runner and the TV sitcom Newhart.  I’ll be there at a table with my books in the dealers room, which is generally filled with all a collector could dream of, from DVDs to books.  Amazicon 7 will be on November 15-17 at the Clarion Hotel 76 Industrial Highway, Essington Pa.

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Myself with William Sanderson, who wields a familiar book.

Feel free to contact me for further details via twitter where I can be found as riglerwrites or my W.P. Rigler facebook page.

My newest book, entitled Stranger Thoughts, is due out from Rowanvale Books at the end of May.  It includes horror tales and poetry as well as The Ultimate Guide to Dating While Avoiding Supernatural Menaces.  My last book released via Rowanvale Books was called Certain Shadows I Have Known.  It is the supernatural adventures of a desperate hit man.  It is available at Amazon or directly via Rowanvale Books.

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https://www.rowanvalebooks.com/book/certain-shadows-i-have-known

Anthony Perkins Remembered

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Gary Lockwood with Anthony Perkins in The Tall Story.

April 4th marks the 87th anniversary of the birth of Anthony Perkins.  While undoubtedly best known as Norman Bates, the career of Anthony Perkins is multifaceted and enduring.  Anthony continued the Perkins acting legacy as handed down from his father Osgood, whose roles were mainly in silent films before his untimely death.  Anthony Perkins set out to take Hollywood by storm from the start and did with diverse performances ranging from Friendly Persuasion (for which he received a best supporting actor Oscar nomination) to The Actress.  Perkins’ early roles ranged from leading man in romantic pics like Goodbye Again to adventure outings like Green Mansions.  He was also adept at comedy, as proved by his work in Tall Story.  Tall Story cast Perkins as an honest if naïve basketball star courted by Jane Fonda.  That film also offered an early acting opportunity to Gary Lockwood, who appeared in it as a basketball player.

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Gary Lockwood and I at the sci-fi convention, Shore Leave.

During a sci-fi con I had the chance to meet Gary Lockwood and even share a meal with him.  It was fascinating to discuss his sci-fi work (in 2001 A Space Odyssey & Star Trek) and I couldn’t help mentioning my interest in Tall Story and Anthony Perkins to him.  Upon reflection he mused that he didn’t feel Anthony Perkins was properly utilized by Hollywood, which sought to manufacture him into a star.  Anthony Perkins was an ACTOR.  Perhaps this is a reason Perkins had better luck with starring roles in European films after Psycho.  It seems European cinema is more accepting of its lead actors disguising their appearance or star reputations for their parts, such as Laurence Olivier.  Hollywood wants easily prepackaged stars like John Wayne, whose mere name or image is a link to a specific film genre.  Perkins thrived in Europe and upon his return to the states became a marvelous character actor in supporting roles as witnessed in Murder on the Orient Express and Catch 22.

At any rate I do think that Anthony Perkins’ European films are just as good as his masterpiece outing as Norman Bates in Psycho.  Below are some of my favorites from Anthony Perkins’ body of work.

FRIENDLY PERSUASION: Directed by William Wyler, this tale of Quaker life during the Civil War was Anthony Perkins’ second film.  As the son of a successful farmer (played by Gary Cooper), Perkins had a role that allowed him to show both sensitivity and determination as he questions the moral ambiguity of participating in war.

PSYCHO: Alfred Hitchcock was determined to make a low budget black and white masterpiece in the style of the Hitchcock TV series – with an addition of sex and realistic violence.  Mutated from the story of real life serial killer Ed Gein, Psycho shocked audiences upon its release and still does.  Anthony Perkins’ Norman Bates is highly sympathetic, despite his obvious nervous disposition and dark secrets.  Norman Bates was the role Perkins would become most identified with and would play three more times.

GOODBYE AGAIN: Anthony Perkins is a part of a three sided love affair.  The object of his affection is the older Ingrid Bergman, who although attracted to his youthful zest cannot bare to part from her less then sympathetic husband.  One of Perkins’ first European films.

THE TRIAL: Director Orson Welles’ version of the Franz Kafka novel finds Perkins as Joseph K.  Society seems out to get poor Joseph for something Joseph claims to be unaware of.  Is he guilty or not?  Depends on who you ask.  At any rate, the theme of one man lost in the mechanisms of society and the grandiose visuals of this film echo in later movies like Terry Gilliam’s Brazil.

EDGE OF SANITY: Anthony Perkins’ later starring roles tended toward horror films, and in this genre effort he plays the iconic literary characters Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde with gusto.  This version of the classic Robert Louis Stephens novel incorporated heavy drug use and Jack the Ripper.

 

Remembering Patrick McGoohan

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Patrick McGoohan as Number Six.

March 19th is the anniversary of the birth of the compelling and charismatic actor, director and writer Patrick McGoohan.  Probably his most famous role was that of Number Six in The Prisoner.

The Prisoner was a TV show Patrick McGoohan at least co-conceived, starred in, and wrote as well as directed various episodes of, both under his own name and pen names.  The series debuted in the 60’s when the spy genre was all the rage, from Bond on the big screen to TV undertakings like The Man From U.N.C.L.E. or The Avengers.  McGoohan himself had starred as super-spy John Drake in two series, Danger Man and Secret Agent.  Allegedly, McGoohan had grown bored of the genre and wanted to do a series more cerebral and thought provoking.  The Prisoner certainly deserved the label thought provoking as well as enigmatic and bizarre, especially by standards set by 60’s TV.

The Prisoner revolved around the resignation of a spy played by McGoohan, which resulted in the character’s transportation to an enigmatic village.  The village had a serene and tranquil visage, but was impossible to escape.  Populated by a sinister administration with an ever changing face of authority, McGoohan’s character was always referred to as Number Six and he could never be sure who was running the village.  The show had surreal and sci-fi aspects including a balloon referred to as Rover which fetched back with uncanny ease those who attempted escape.  Issues explored in the show remain relevant today – including drug use, government influence and education vs mind control.  These themes were not so easily or ever undertaken by your average spy show, but their exploration appealed to Patrick McGoohan.  Perhaps that’s why McGoohan felt such a close bond with the series that he merged himself with the role, even giving Number Six his March 19 birthday.

Viewers could always expect the unexpected from the series.  It never settled for the simple hero-villain dynamic and many viewers were confused or disappointed by the show’s 17th episode finale which failed to offer a tidy conclusion.  Yet the show was hailed by critics – one going so far as to call the series “an oasis in the vast wasteland of television.”

Patrick McGoohan will probably always best be remembered with fans as Number 6, but he had numerous roles of interest.  He played both heroes and villains.  He was memorable as both leading man and character actor.  Some other noteworthy roles include…

Patrick McGoohan may well have first been noticed by American audiences for the lead role in Disney’s 1963 version of The Scarecrow of Romney Marsh.  He portrayed Dr. Syn, a vicar by day and the masked leader of a gang of smugglers by night, who thwarted the wicked efforts of the local British officials.  The series consisted of three one hour episodes which was carved into a two hour movie on occasion.  It was set in the British countryside and featured abundant swashbuckling on McGoohan’s part amid lavish sets.  And it had one catchy theme song that ended with a chilling laugh!

Two Emmies were awarded Patrick McGoohan for his work on Columbo.  He guest starred in four episodes as different murderers, none of whom could best the determined detective in the crumpled overcoat.  McGoohan directed two of the episodes he appeared in, as well as episodes which featured Robert Vaughn and Billy Connelly.  Peter Falk (Coumbo) and McGoohan apparently had a good friendship, as McGoohan’s work on the series ranged from the 70’s to the dawn of the new millennium.  Falk even authored the forward for a biography about Patrick McGoohan.

On the big screen, Patrick McGoohan played a ruthless spy in Ice Station Zebra.  Made at the height of the could war, McGoohan’s character was in a rush to ice station zebra to retrieve a downed satellite with vital secret footage before the Russians could get it.  This film was Howard Hughes’ favorite and he reportedly viewed it hundreds of times.  I had the chance to chat with actor Ron Masak, who appeared in the movie, and he confirmed the submarine used in scenes for the film was authentic.

Perhaps McGoohan’s best known recent role was in Mel Gibson’s 1995 Academy Award winning Bravheart.  McGoohan played King Edward Longshanks, the nemesis of Gibson’s heroic freedom fighter, Willliam Wallace.

Patrick McGoohan died on January 13, 2009, leaving behind a plethora of great TV and film roles.

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Myself and Ron Masak at the Williamsburg Film Festival.
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Rock Hudson and Patrick McGoohan in Ice Station Zebra.