Archive for Bert I. Gordon

Serpent Island (1954)

Posted in Adventure, Bad Films I Love with tags , , on April 9, 2013 by MONSTERMINIONS

Serpent Island

Sonny Tufts (b. Boston 1911, d. Santa Monica 1970) was 43 years of age when he made Serpent Island.  It’s fairly obvious from this film that years of hard-drinking, smoking and stress took a toll on the guy’s body and face.  By today’s health conscious standards the man in Serpent Island looks like he was at least 60. I always equate the actor with the notoriously awful Cat-Women of the Moon (1953)(don’t go there), but he’s made some decent films including The Seven Year Itch (1955), Here Comes the Waves (1944) opposite Bing Crosby and Betty Hutton, and The Virginian (1946), with Joel McCrea.

Serpent Island (1954) features none of those desirable actors.  Nor is it a good film —even for bad film connoisseurs.   The movie is really bad and ranks up there with plenty of stinkers.  I’d lump it somewhere between The Incredible Petrified World (1957) (YAWN ALERT) and Bert I. Gordon’s King Dinosaur (1955), which for some insane reason I like.  I’m a glutton for punishment: BAD FILMS I LOVE.

Sonny Tufts-Smoking Pipe

Serpent Island was edited and photographed by Bert I. Gordon, who shot the movie on 16mm Kodachrome film stock with an Eastman Kodak Cine-Special 16mm camera (Gordon, 2009). Screenshots of the film here indicate a 1.37:1 aspect ratio consistent with standard 16mm film. Several shots were hand-held (or on unstable ground) as evidenced by shaky frames and jittery pans.  I don’t think directed lighting was used anywhere. Several scenes are under-exposed (I can barely see the serpent of Serpent Island).

I do like the color of the film.  Reds really pop. Generally, the print is vibrant and looks decent enough.  Kodachrome is an incredibly recalcitrant film stock and this is a good example of vintage film used by low-budget film makers.

Gordon has noted that the budget for Serpent Island was $18,000 (about $160,000 adjusted for today’s inflation) and funded by Consolidated Film Lab.  In his autobiography he notes that he produced, developed the story and shot the film, while Tom Gries directed and wrote the screenplay.  You wouldn’t know it based on Serpent Island, but Emmy winning Tom Gries went on to write and direct several noteworthy films including Will Penny (1968), considered a classic by many; 100 Rifles (1969), The Greatest (1977), Helter Skelter (1976), Breakout (1975), and various Batman episodes (1966-1968).  Based on his resume he was adept at working with pain in the ass actors.

Here Sonny Tufts shows off his physique.

The Amazing Sonny Tufts

Here we have Sonny Tufts smoking a pipe.

Sonny Tufts Smoking Pipe Another Time

The story of Serpent Island is captured by Bert I. Gordon:

An office secretary from Scranton, Pennsylvania, Ricki Andre (Mary Munday) sets out to find her great-grandfather’s hidden treasure. She enlists the aid of a former marine engineer-turned-harbor-bum Pete Mason (Sonny Tufts), and the greedy captain of the boat [Tom Monroe] they commission to take them on their mission. They find the gold hidden on an island near Haiti, but it’s guarded by a voodoo cult and a deadly boa constrictor.

Mary Munday (yes, that is her name) also went on to better things including quite a bit of TV: Quincy, The Rockford Files, McCloud, Police Story, and others.  She appeared in Norma Ray (1979) and as a bar maid in Pressure Point (1962).  She’s likeable enough and seems to be remembering her lines in Serpent Island, but I wouldn’t have bet she would go on to playing Anthony Hopkin’s mom in Magic (1978).

Mary Munday Takes it OFF

Here one of the Voodoo guys (named “Big Boy”) is checking her out.  Films have changed in the last 60 years!

Native Checks out Mary

Serpent Island sounds like it should be a lot of fun, with treasure hunters, stock footage of sharks, fist-fighting, a voodoo ceremony and a large snake guarding a golden statue,  but it just doesn’t gel. However, in the right frame of mind you might enjoy it or fall asleep.  A fun drinking game might be to do a shot of West Indies rum everytime you see Sonny Tufts chew on a pipe!  I lost count very early on.

Sonny Tufts and the Pipe

The best scenes are on the island.  The stock footage of the voodoo ceremony is fairly interesting, with preparation of potions and dancing in the Oúfo with hougan preciding. I can’t help but wonder where the resourceful Mr. BIG acquired the footage.  It seems to be something more than just footage of folks dancing.

Voodoo_Serpent Island

And then there’s the climatic ending with Mary vs. the Boa constrictor

Mary Munday vs. The Boa

The Boa constrictor was handled by Ralph Helfer who worked with the armadillos in King Dinosaur (1955) and the big cats in Black Zoo (1963).  Boas are new world species and do occur on various islands in the West Indies.  This wasn’t a bad action scene.

Serpent Island is available with Roger Corman’s first monster film Monster from the Ocean Floor (1954)(for fans only) on a Creepy Creature Double Feature Vol 1 DVD.  The disc also has a Corman interview by Tom Weaver, cut scenes, trailers and triva by Tom.  What the hell, for $10 pick it up!

And here’s the treasure!

Serpent Island Treasure

B.I. Gordon, 2009. The Amazing Colossal Worlds of Mr. B.I.G., An Autobiographical Journey by Bert I. Gordon.

Mr. Big

Posted in Old School, Sci-Fi with tags , on October 10, 2012 by MONSTERMINIONS

I talked briefly with Bert I. Gordon (The Beginning of the End) at Cinema Wasteland. He seemed a nice enough guy. Monster maker Paul Blaisdell (Invasion of the Saucer Men) didn’t share a fan’s sentiments:

Bert was very demanding as a director. He also listed himself as the producer, the script writer, the special effects man, the optical effects man… There was THIS by Bert I. Gordon and THAT by Bert I. Gordon, on and on ad nauseum. And he was, as I said, rather impatient on the set.

M.T. McGee, 1984. Fast and Furious: The Story of American International Pictures. McFarland Publ.


ps. I am not the interviewer in the image. -BJH

Fall Wasteland 2012 Recap!

Posted in CONS with tags , , , , on October 8, 2012 by MONSTERMINIONS

Traditionally the Cinema Wasteland show in Strongsville, Ohio is my final horror con of the year. It’s hard to beat with a gritty feel, terrific guests, two movie rooms, great vendors, lot’s of drunk patrons (this is good?), and a hotel staff that does a great job keeping guests fed and watered. I pulled into Strongsville on Friday, checked in and grabbed a 3-day pass. Long-timers Si, Mike and Dan met me at the bar. $7 for a pumpkin ale is a bit steep, so I got my hands wet in a cooler stocked with Hex, Blood Beer (a nasty concoction made of horse radish and tomatoes), Freaktoberfest (a tasty red lager), and several other seasonals. It’s important to mix things up.

I dropped by Ron’s Creepy Classics booth and picked up a few discs: Things To Come (crappy colorized version -watch the b/w), Godzilla vs. Megalon, The Boogens, and Island of Doomed Men (Peter Lorre at his nastiest). I also made the rounds and picked up The Films of Tod Browning (edit. Bernd Herzogenrath) and Bert I. Gordon’s autobiography The Amazing Colossal Worlds of Mr. B.I.G. Bert I autographed it for me. I exchanged pleasantries that a half-sheet of Beginning on the End lies over my bed. I still like that film. How can you go wrong with giant grasshoppers crawling on the Wrigley building?

Late that night I laughed hard with Si watching Sexsquatch -you guessed it a film about an overly-hormonal bigfoot (with a British accent). Don’t watch this with grandma or the kids.

I also met with Jay and discussed script and talent for a low budget alien flick. What could it be?

I had forgotten how fun Bert I. Gordon’s Food of the Gods (1976) is. Even big Joe got in on the act and sat down and heckled at and jumped from the giant wasps, worms, chickens and rats. Afterwards we sat in on an interesting QA with Gordon and actor Belinda Balaski. I picked up a few more films –Die Monster Die (Nick Adams and Karloff), The Boogeyman, and Jess Franco’s The Sadistic Baron Von Klaus (1962). I’m set for Halloween.

Oh, and along the way we drank a lot of beer and danced with the devil.



Posted in Miscellania with tags , , on August 10, 2011 by MONSTERMINIONS

This low-budget melodrama from Bert I. Gordon stars Richard Carlson as Tom Stewart, a jazz pianist who lets his voluptuous old flame Vi Mason (Juli Reding) fall to her death from a lighthouse railing.  The next day Tom searches for Vi’s body and recovers it from the sea, only to watch her body dissolve into kelpie seaweed.  Tom moves on and is set to marry Meg Hubbard (Lugene Sanders). Susan Gordon plays Meg’s adolescent sister Sandy.  Strange things start to happen to Tom and Meg —Meg smells perfume, Tom hears footsteps and has weird dreams.  Or are the dreams?

Two assets —well three, help Tormented. Assets 1 and 2, actress/smut mag model Juli Reding (sometimes spelled as Julie Reding) measurements were 40-23-35, and Asset 3, she is provocatively photographed by Hungarian-born cinematographer Ernest Laszlo (Judgement at Nuremberg, Stalag 17, Fantastic Voyage).  

The movie is pretty bad, but Bert I. Gordon (Mr. BIG) at least stocked the film with a gorgeous femme fatale.

I also like Richard Carlson (check out his lone directional effort Riders to the Sky, 1954), who’s in a ton of b-movies, and Susan Gordon as Sandy. She’s a likable kid and not a bad actor. Tormented has some moody scenes and decent camerawork.  It reminds me a bit of a William Castle film (some of the score was re-used by Allied Artists from Castle’s House on Haunted Hill).  Really, all that is lacking is a gimmick or other ruse for the audience.  The film’s worth a look.  There’s even a dismembered head scene!  Where did Juli’s body go?