Susan King

Sept. 20, 2013 | 7:00 a.m.

Leatherface actor Gunnar Hansen on slasher past, ‘Chain Saw’ memoir

Gunnar Hansen is best known for his role as the masked murderer Leatherface in the 1974 classic horror film "The Texas Chain Saw Massacre." (Chronicle Books)
Leatherface. Just the name can send waves of fear and revulsion through an entire generation of filmgoers. Not so for Gunnar Hansen, the actor who played the demented killer in “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre” and who has, over the years, grown to love him. In the 1974 horror movie from director Tobe Hooper, the mentally disturbed Leatherface, who wears a mask of human skin, and his equally depraved and cannibalistic clan terrorize five friends who have ventured into the backwoods with their blades and butchery skills. Only Sally (Marilyn Burns) manages to escape becoming dinner. Perhaps more chilling than the film’s plot is the reactions from fans Hansen sometimes encounters. “I used to find that there were women who were excited to meet me,” Hansen said. “When they discovered that I wasn’t like Leatherface, some were relieved — but […]
June 12, 2013 | 3:10 p.m.

‘Tribute: Marilyn Monroe’ comic explores icon’s life and loves

'Tribute: Marilyn Monroe' (featured image)
Where haven’t you seen Marilyn Monroe, star of such classics as 1953′s “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” and 1959′s “Some Like It Hot”? Her early death at age 36 launched an entire industry of memorabilia — her image can be found on plates, T-shirts, posters, paintings and more. She was even the subject of a short-lived Broadway musical. And the iconic sex symbol now has her own comic book. “Tribute: Marilyn Monroe,” written by Dina Gachman with art by Nathan Girten and cover by Rob Aragon, is part of the “Tribute” comic book series from Bluewater Productions, which brings the lives of classic entertainers to graphic life. Something of a primer in all things Marilyn, “Tribute” explores Monroe’s tumultuous life through her own words, those of her husbands, including baseball giant Joe DiMaggio and playwright Arthur Miller, and others who knew her, […]
Jan. 25, 2013 | 5:47 p.m.

Angus Scrimm, ‘Phantasm’s’ Tall Man, still a striking presence

Angus Scrimm, the Tall Man in 'Phantasm' (featured image)
Angus Scrimm always thought that he would be the star of “sophisticated, witty drawing-room comedies.” But instead of making people laugh, Scrimm’s been scaring the heck out of audiences as the malevolent “Tall Man” in Don Coscarelli’s 1979 cult horror favorite “Phantasm” and its three popular sequels. Scrimm’s Tall Man is one of the great icons of R-rated horror films. A menacing mortician with a grotesque stare and superhuman strength — he can pick up and throw a casket into the back of a hearse like it’s a paper towel — the Tall Man transforms the dead into zombie dwarfs that do his evil bidding. His weapon of choice is also memorable: a deadly silver sphere that hurls through the air and attaches itself to his victims’ faces. It’s because of the Tall Man plus his roles in such horror […]
Oct. 17, 2012 | 4:56 p.m.

Universal horror: ‘Essential’ Blu-ray spotlights classic actors

"Dracula" (Los Angeles Times archives)
The month of October has been a big one for fans of Universal’s landmark horror films — the classic movies have not only been the subject of an ongoing tribute at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences here in Los Angeles but they’ve also been reissued on Blu-ray as part of a new set, “Universal Classic Monsters: The Essential Collection.” The set includes eight of the seminal films from the studio’s golden age of horror. In order to commemorate its 100th anniversary, the studio painstakingly restored the picture and sound of the classic films in its library, the legendary horror movies among them. The set features pristine iterations of Tod Browning’s 1931 “Dracula,” and the Spanish-language version starring Carlos Villarias and Lupita Tovar that was shot concurrently with Browning’s production; James Whale’s 1931 “Frankenstein” and 1935’s “Bride of […]
Oct. 08, 2012 | 6:53 p.m.

‘E.T.’: Kathleen Kennedy on Spielberg, Lucas and making of a classic

Kathleen Kennedy, producer of "E.T.," holds drawings of the now-beloved extraterrestrial. Astrid Kamar, center, and her husband, Pascal, show off an E.T. toy. Pascal Kamar's company was the first licensed to make the E.T. plush toy. (Courtesy Joy Kamar)
Kathleen Kennedy has a résumé nearly unmatched in Hollywood — over the years, she’s produced such respected films as “The Color Purple,” “Empire of the Sun,” “Jurassic Park,” “The Sixth Sense,” “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” and the upcoming historical epic, “Lincoln.” In June, George Lucas named Kennedy, 59, as co-chair for his vast Lucasfilm empire. One prominent feature of her lengthy filmography is Kennedy’s long-running collaboration with Steven Spielberg — she first worked with him as a production assistant on his costly flop, “1941,” then as associate producer on 1981’s “Raiders of the Lost Ark”; along with her husband, producer Frank Marshall, and Spielberg, she created the successful production company Amblin and served as its president until 1992, when she and Marshall formed the Kennedy/Marshall Co. Her first producer credit came in 1982 with Spielberg’s beloved boy-and-his-alien fantasy […]
Oct. 04, 2012 | 7:00 a.m.

James Bond: A tuneful 50-year overview from the movie academy

Sean Connery as James bond in"Goldfinger." (MGM)
This post has been corrected. See note at the bottom for details. Over the last half-century, the actors who have played James Bond have come and gone, and so have the type of villains that the sexy, martini-drinking 007 thwarts before the final credits. But there’s been one constant in the Bond films: “The James Bond Theme,” penned by British songwriter Monty Norman and arranged by composer John Barry for the first Bond film, 1962′s “Dr. No.” And during the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ “The Music of Bond: The First 50 Years” celebration Friday evening — which also will mark the 50th anniversary of “Dr. No” opening in England — at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills, guitarist Vic Flick, who supplied the famous guitar lick for the jazzy theme, will be playing that music on […]
Oct. 02, 2012 | 2:00 p.m.

Ben Burtt on the sound of ‘Raiders,’ ‘ET’ and Spielberg’s inspiration

Ben Burtt (Mel Melcon/Los Angeles Times)
The last few weeks have been a real and vivid trip down memory lane for Oscar-winning sound designer and sound effects editor Ben Burtt. The man who created the hum of the light saber, Darth Vader’s ominous, synthetic breathing and even the languages spoken by various “Star Wars” creatures is celebrating a new look at some other of his landmark cinematic achievements. He restored the sound for Steven Spielberg’s classic adventure “Raiders of the Lost Ark” for last month’s Blu-Ray release of “Indiana Jones: The Complete Adventures,” and his handiwork also is on display in the upcoming 30th anniversary Blu-ray  release of “E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial.” (Burtt created the voice for Elliott’s otherworldly best friend for Spielberg’s beloved family film from a recording of his wife sleeping while she had a cold.) Burtt earned Oscars for special achievement for sound effects […]
July 03, 2012 | 7:30 p.m.

‘Twilight Zone’: Dark magic and alien charms, revisited

To enter "The Twilight Zone," click through the photo gallery... (photo credit: CBS)
“This is the fifth dimension beyond that which is known to man. It is a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity. It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition, and it lies between the pit of man’s fears and the summit of his knowledge. This is the dimension of imagination. It is an area we call the Twilight Zone.” With those lines, delivered by Rod Serling with his distinctive diction and deep voice, the television audience of America took its first step into an eerie, one-of-a-kind corner of television storytelling. The CBS anthology series was revolutionary so it’s fitting that Syfy will air an Independence Day “Twilight Zone” marathon that begins Wednesday at 8 a.m. and wraps up 5 a.m. Thursday. To celebrate this exploration into the surreal and frightening, here are some fast  facts and trivia about […]
March 30, 2012 | 12:15 p.m.

‘Tarzan’ memories: Ron Ely says it was a jungle out there

Ron Ely was battered during the making of "Tarzan" and was often clawed while filming scenes with animals. (NBC)
This post has been corrected, as detailed below. Ron Ely followed in the loincloth of famed Tarzan actors as Johnny Weissmuller, Elmo Lincoln, Lex Barker, Gordon Scott and Mike Henry when he took on the role of Edgar Rice Burrough’s jungle hero in the 1966-68 NBC series “Tarzan.” The first season of the series has recently been released on DVD by Warner Archive. At 6’4,” with chiseled features and muscles to spare, Ely’s Tarzan was much closer to Burrough’s original creation, “Tarzan of the Apes,” which first appeared 100 years ago in All-Story magazine before being published as a novel in 1914. Ely’s Tarzan had been raised by the giant apes in the African jungle only to return to the Dark Continent after receiving his education. Though Tarzan still wore a loincloth, there was no Jane in the series. Comic […]
March 11, 2012 | 3:19 p.m.

Ralph Bakshi recalls ‘Wizards’ and a controversial career

ralph-bakshi4
Groundbreaking animator Ralph Bakshi, who caused a sensation with the first X-rated cartoon feature — 1972’s “Fritz the Cat,” based on Robert Crumb’s comic strip — is 73 now. For the last decade, he has lived in a home on top of a mountain in New Mexico. He has a website created by his daughter, teaches animation and makes a good living selling his paintings. “I am very happy,” Bakshi said recently in a phone interview. But that wasn’t the case for a long time. “I was working seven days a week keeping an entire movie in my head,” Bakshi said. “It was just so hard. I thought I had failed. Let me be perfectly clear: When I left the business I was burned out. I was exhausted from the fights. So many of my films were cut up, chopped […]
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