Friday, June 25, 2010

Confessions of a Scream Queen


CONFESSIONS OF A SCREAM QUEEN is a new Bear Manor Media book by Matt Beckoff which is not necessarily what it seems to be at first glance. For one, Matt himself is NOT a Scream Queen. For another, the term tends to be more associated with low budget ladies such as Brinke Stevens and Linnea Quigley who rose to prominence in the horror field since the 1980's and yet they are nowhere to be found here. In fact, this is a delightful and enjoyable collection of conversations--NOT interviews--with a number of much more familiar (in some cases at least), mainstream folks.

As seen here, Matt's style is not that of a hardcore interviewer. There are no deep philosophical questions, no set-ups, no jabs and also no follow-ups when a statement might seem to call for one. No, these are, as stated in his introduction, conversations. A few breezy minutes with each of his subjects reminiscing about shared memories and giving a bit of anecdotal film history.

The Scream Queens involved here are, in more or less chronological order:
Carla Laemmle (DRACULA)
Lupita Tovar (the Spanish DRACULA)
Janet Ann Gallow (the little girl in GHOST OF FRANKENSTEIN)
Elena Verdugo (HOUSE OF FRANKENSTEIN)
Colleen Gray (THE LEECH WOMAN)
Kathleen Hughes (IT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE)
Judith O'Dea (NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD)
Karen Black (THE FAMILY PLOT)
Ingrid Pitt (THE VAMPIRE LOVERS)
Jessica Harper (SUSPIRIA)
Marilyn Burns (THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE)
Betsy Palmer (FRIDAY THE THIRTEENTH)
Dee Wallace (THE HOWLING)
P.J. Soles (HALLOWEEN)
Adrienne Barbeau (THE FOG)

Even the less than riveting chapters are pleasant--like a meeting with an old acquaintance. There are a few revelations but mostly some old stories, in some cases trotted out for the umpteenth time and just as entertaining as ever but by now perhaps somewhat enhanced. Some funny behind-the-scenes bits as well as some personal promotion.

My favorite conversations, in no particular order, are those with Karen Black, P.J. Soles, Dee Wallace, Betsy Palmer and Marilyn Burns.

Karen Black's eccentric recollections include her working with the great Alfred Hitchcock on his final film and finding him to be still every bit the perverse legend he was said to be.

P.J. Soles I love! Always have! STRIPES, CARRIE, HALLOWEEN and the magical accident that is ROCK 'N' ROLL HIGH SCHOOL. Her tale about never having heard of the Ramones--and not even liking their music when she was given tapes!-- when cast as their number one fan is priceless.

As a lifelong buff for the panel game shows of the 1950's-1980's, I have always adored Betsy Palmer and it's interesting to read how she's come to terms with the fact that a quick little job she did as a homicidal mom decades ago has now become a pivotal part of horror film history.

I spoke with Dee Wallace briefly on the telephone many years ago and found her to be quite soft-spoken and self-effacing in real life. She still comes across that way here even as she details working with Rob Zombie!

I respect THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE as a horror film more than like it but there's no denying that the Marilyn Burns piece here in the book is easily one of the most fascinating. Her details behind the filming and about dealing with all the years of fame since for just that one picture are fun and informative.

For horror fans, there are quite simply people here you aren't going to find a lot about elsewhere. For that reason alone, you should get this book. When I finished, I literally felt as though I had spent a day at a Scream Queen Convention in some imaginary hotel and that I was privileged to be tagging along with Matt and sitting in on brief, friendly meetings with all of these absolutely delightful people. I wanted to keep looking around for more!


No comments: