Science Fiction Stars And Horror Heroes by Tom Weaver (book review).

November 29, 2016 | By | Reply More

Looking at the book list in the indicia, I thought I’ve reviewed nearly all of Tom Weaver’s excellent interview books until I checked the back cover and found six I haven’t. As he points out in the introduction to this one, ‘Science Fiction Stars And Horror Heroes’, which originally came out as a library edition in 1991 before 2006, when McFarland released it. Weaver points out in the introduction that interviewing everyone he wanted before they died has become problematic. Even so, the number of books Weaver has written attests to an incredible effort on his part and we certainly wouldn’t have this historical archive to remember all these folk in.


Saying that, with the 28 interviews here, he came up with a fabulous selection of actors and a sprinkling of production people and it immediately swayed me to be read as you will see from the examples I’m citing. When I did a page flick and spotted an interview with Kim Hunter about her time in her three ‘Planet Of The Apes’ films, you immediately know you want to read everything properly.

That’s a little further in. This book truly is a gem. An interview with Phyllis Coates, the first Lois Lane in ‘Superman And The Mole Men’ (1951) and who became the template for those who followed. Later in the book, there is an interview with actor Robert Shayne, who played Inspector Henderson. Actress Hazel Court on how she fell into horror films and moved out to sculpture. One of the bigger surprises was the actor Richard Devon interview, as he did many films for Roger Corman and even he knew what he reached his limit with him.

Composer Albert Glasser even has the distinction of being recognised for his ‘B’ movie films’ music to ‘have balls’, being able to write fast and being acknowledged in the press, must to the distain of some of his fellow ‘A’ movie composers. In case you don’t recognise the name, look up ‘Rocketship X-M’ (1950). He composed over 100 film music scores.

It should hardly be surprising that there isn’t some overlap with films and seeing them from different perspectives. This happens with director Gordon Hessler and the next piece with executive and scriptwriter Louis M. Heywood. In case you didn’t know, Hessler also directed ‘The Golden Voyage Of Sinbad’(1974) amongst his credits and gives a lot of insights. Heywood practically ran many of the films made in the UK for Hollywood studios, including several Vincent Price films amongst them the ‘Dr. Phibes’ films. The number of Price connections throughout the various interviews and you would think Weaver had interviewed him as well.

The interview with Kim Hunter is an extensive as I expected, covering her career and especially the three ‘Planet Of The Apes’ she acted in which gave a lot of insight. It looks like not only was there groupings of the various apes types at meal times, although she doesn’t mention that, but the human cast also tended to do the same thing on ‘Escape’ and not eat with their ape cast. That should make you think about the human psyche.

Some interviews are surprises. Actresses Anna Lee (not oriental) and Janet Leigh have had varied careers and can pick out various things from their films. It often puts things in perspective and well worth keeping an eye on what’s available on the box. I found I was checking from time to time, looking up films on DVD for availability and it often looks like TV is the better option for them to come around.

Another strong and long interview comes from writer Richard Matheson covering all of his career. Considering how his Edgar Allan Poe based films are still liked, he never actually liked the horror writer’s work. I did have a ponder on this and I suspect that probably ensured he caught the flavour and the style and hit the triggers Poe readers would recognise but then just did his best. Matheson is a legend and if you have any liking for his storytelling, then this interview is a must-read.

There is so much I could enthuse here and a wonderful gag about ‘row boats’ but you really need to read this book for yourself. If you’re into the 1940s-1960s films, you’re going to absolutely love this book.

GF Willmetts

November 2016

(pub: McFarland, 2006. 448 page illustrated indexed small enlarged paperback. Price: £34.50 (UK), $32.00 (US). ISBN: 978-0-7864-2857-0)

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Category: Books, Horror, Scifi

About the Author ()

Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 21 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’ If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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