10 Facts About “Night of the Living Dead”

Matthew Jackson and Mental_Floss present 10 Facts About Night of the Living Dead.  Here are three of my favorites…

2. GEORGE ROMERO WAS HEAVILY INSPIRED BY I AM LEGEND.

Armed with Russo’s flesh-eating concept, Romero went to work, pairing it with a story he’d been working on that “basically ripped off” Richard Matheson’s apocalyptic horror novel I Am Legend. Russo later recalled that Romero returned with “about 40 really excellent pages,” including the opening in the cemetery and the arrival at the farmhouse. Russo set to work on the rest, and Night of the Living Dead began to come to life.

8. JONES FOUGHT AGAINST AN ALTERNATE ENDING THAT WOULD HAVE SAVED BEN.

One of the film’s most famous elements is its grim ending, in which Ben, having survived the night, is shot by the sheriff’s zombie-hunting posse and thrown on the fire. At one point, a happier ending for the film was considered, but Jones fought it and won.

“I convinced George that the black community would rather see me dead than saved, after all that had gone on, in a corny and symbolically confusing way,” Jones said. “The heroes never die in American movies. The jolt of that, and the double jolt of the hero being black seemed like a double-barreled whammy.”

9. IT’S IN THE PUBLIC DOMAIN BECAUSE OF A CREDITS ERROR.

Night of the Living Dead might be the most famous public domain movie of all time, but it was never intended to be. The Walter Reade Organization, which distributed the film, wanted to release it under the title Night of the Flesh Eaters, but lawyers representing the makers of 1964’s The Flesh Eaters threatened a lawsuit, so the title was changed to Night of the Living Dead. When the title changed, though, copyright notices were not added to the opening titles or to the end credits. Though the filmmakers have fought it in federal court, the film is still in the public domain.

15 Things You Never Knew About the “Hellboy” Movies

Tom Baker and CBR.com present 15 Things You Never Knew About the Hellboy Movies.  Here are three of my favorites…

10. THE SET DESIGN IS FULL OF EASTER EGGS
Never one to let a good prop to go to waste, del Toro opted to populate the B.P.R.D.’s hall of antiquities with nods to his previous films, including an encore for the creepy jar babies from “The Devil’s Backbone.” Mike Mignola’s art, meanwhile, is so evocative that it was hard not to try and get in some of his designs into the film’s set decoration, including an original illustration for the gag in-universe “Hellboy” comic seen in the first film.

Perhaps most enticing of all for fans of the “Hellboy” comics is a fleeting appearance by Roger the Homunculus, a major member of the B.P.R.D. team in the source material. Complete with large ring around his groin, Roger appears as a hulking gray statue on a plinth in a hallway. This is seen when John Hurt’s Professor Broom is showing new recruit Agent Myers around the B.P.R.D. headquarters in the first film. In the same scene, the “Iron Shoes” from the short comic story of the same name can also be glimpsed in a display case.

8. RON PERLMAN WAS DEL TORO AND MIGNOLA’S FIRST CHOICE

Revolution Studios were thinking big when they first got the ball rolling on a “Hellboy” film. Preceding the coming comic book movie boom, and perhaps working from the template of Sony’s “Spider-Man” success, they wanted big name stars to headline their somewhat more offbeat superhero story. Some of the Hollywood stars being bandied about during early discussions about who should play Hellboy himself included Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson and, of course, Nicolas Cage.

What would have likely been a very different, perhaps more manic version of “Hellboy” was avoided when Guillermo del Toro came aboard the project. A fan of the comics from way back, he worked closely with creator Mike Mignola to make sure his big screen version of Hellboy was authentic and respectful to the source material. As such, he discussed the lead actor with Mignola personally. They agreed to a meeting where both would say their first choice for the part in unison. To their surprise and relief, both of them said Ron Perlman.

6. HELLBOY VERY NEARLY HAD A LEFT HAND OF DOOM

The Right Hand of Doom is one of the core, unshakable icons of the “Hellboy” mythology. Both a Biblical reference and an excuse to put a cover of that one Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds song on the first film’s soundtrack, that huge stone first Hellboy wields is important in-universe (as an impossible-to-escape sign of his destructive destiny) and metatextually (it provided the title for a short story collection of the same name). And yet, all of that very nearly changed.

When the idea of a “Hellboy” movie first began to pick up steam, one of the major mooted changes from the source material was to swap sides and make it the Left Hand of Doom. After all, it’s somewhat impractical to expect an actor to perform whilst retaining zero use of their dominant hand. All the early costume design and concept art for the “Hellboy” film depict the character with the Red Left hand, until the casting of Ron Perlman proved particularly fortuitous: not only did he have the requisite frame and gravelly voice, he was also a southpaw!

11 Things You Never Knew About Khan, the Greatest Star Trek Villain

MeTV presents 11 Things You Never Knew About Khan, the Greatest Star Trek Villain.  Here are three of my favorites…

HE WAS ORIGINALLY AN ANCIENT GREEK, THEN A VIKING SPACE PIRATE.

So, yeah, the “Khan” character was originally a Greek, and obviously not named “Khan.” When Wilber pitched his old idea for Star Trek, he changed the antagonist to a Nordic named Harold or John Ericssen, who is later revealed to be a vicious Viking space pirate named Ragnar Thorwald. Roddenberry was apprehensive about using such outward criminals. Oddly, Lost in Space would air its episode “Space Vikings” (seen here) a week before “Space Seed.”

AFTER CASTING RICARDO MONTALBÁN, THE CHARACTER WAS NAMED SIBAHL AND GOVIN.

Mexican actor Montalbán was hardly a good fit to play a Scandinavian, so the villain was tweaked. However, this being Hollywood in the 1960s, producers figured he could play a Sikh. (That being said, he must not be observant, as he does not wear a Dastar.) Roddenberry and writer Gene Coon changed the name to Sibahl Khan Noonien… until a fact-checking research company noted that “Singh” is a much more appropriate Sikh surname. They suggested the name “Govin Bahadur Singh.” Coon and Roddenberry met them halfway and settled on the canonical Khan Noonien Singh.

CHEKOV IS NOT IN THIS EPISODE — DESPITE THE FACT THAT KHAN RECOGNIZES HIM IN ‘STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN.’

At the beginning of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Chekov encounters a vengeful Khan, who puts that creepy bug in the Starfleet Commander’s ear. Khan immediately recognizes Chekov from the events of “Space Seed.” There is just one major problem: Chekov was not aboard the Enterprise for that first-season episode. In fact, Walter Koenig did not join the cast until season two. Tie-in novels have since tried to explain this plot hole, while Koenig jokes they met in the restroom. Sulu is also not in “Space Seed.”

7 of the Creepiest Coincidences in Movie History

Hollywood.com presents 7 of the Creepiest Coincidences in Movie History.  Here are three of my favorites…

3. Poltergeist
In the classic horror film, Poltergeist, there’s a poster hanging above Robbie’s bed that reads “1988 Superbowl XXII”:

You’d expect a little kid to a have a football poster up in his room, but what makes this weird is the fact Poltergeist was released in 1982, but Superbowl XXII wouldn’t be played for another six years.
So why did they use a poster from a future game? Well, no one really knows, but on January 31, 1988, the day Superbowl XXII was held, Heather O’Rourke (the actress who played Robbie’s younger sister) became violently ill. She passed away the next day at Rady Children’s Hospital in San Diego, less than five miles away from Jack Murphy Stadium where Super Bowl XXII was played.

 

6. The Girl from Petrovka
In the early 1970s, Anthony Hopkins agreed to star in the film adaptation of George Feifer‘s novel The Girl from Petrovka. After searching several London bookstores, Hopkins wasn’t able to find a copy of the book anywhere and just as he had given up his search, he spotted an abandoned copy on a bench and decided to swiped it.

That’s weird enough by itself, but two years later, Hopkins met with Feifer who admitted that he’d lost his own copy of his book (complete with his personal notes) after he lent it to a friend who left it somewhere in London. It turns out the copy of the book that Hopkins found belonged to Feifer.

 

7. Code of the Secret Service
In the late 1930s, after a series of successful gangster films, Warner Brothers was pressured by FDR’s Attorney General Homer Cummings to make a series of films that glorified law enforcement agents rather than criminals. So Warners Bros decided to make a series of Secret Service films starring then actor Ronald Reagan.

Code of the Secret Service, Rosella Towne, Ronald Reagan, Warner Brothers
Warner Brothers via Everett
Reagan once called one of the movies, Code of the Secret Service, “the worst picture I ever made,” but the movie actually saved his life. Over 40 years later, President Reagan was the target of an assassination attempt, but his life was spared thanks to quick thinking by Secret Service Agent Jerry Parr. The weird part? Parr was inspired to join the Secret Service after watching Ronald Reagan in Code of the Secret Service.

“Reservoir Dogs” Trivia from Quentin Tarantino

Matt Hoffman and Film School Rejects present What We Learned While Revisiting Reservoir Dogs with Quentin Tarantino.  Here are two of my favorite things…

Tarantino learned a lot about his characters when a producer gave him the advice to search for the subtext.
“Just writing down the obvious opened up different avenues, different thoughts, and so you think you’re writing one line and you write three, or four, and all of a sudden I started realizing, ‘Oh wow, this is kind of a father-son story.’ “Isn’t it interesting that throughout the whole piece Mr. White keeps telling Mr. Orange ‘Wait for Joe, wait for Joe and when Joe gets here he’s going to take care of everything.” Well when Joe gets there he’s come to kill Mr. Orange. And the whole interesting thing at the end, which I hadn’t thought about frankly, which is that Mr. White is kind of almost a de facto son character for Joe, and Mr. Orange has become a de facto son character for Mr. White. At the end, Mr. White has to choose between his father and his son and he chooses his son but he’s wrong, but he’s wrong for all the right reasons. All that kind of started coming to me. So I finished it and I go, ‘Oh wow, that was a really interesting exercise…I never want to do this ever again.’

Working with Lawrence Tierney (Joe) was a nightmare.
“The worst moment on set was the last ten minutes of the last day of the first week we were shooting. Me and Larry got into a fist fight. It was more of a shoving match frankly. Harvey Keitel and Lawrence [Bender] broke it up. I fired Larry in front of everybody, the crew applauded because they’d hated him. Harvey told us to settle down and then he ran out and then Larry ran out. I took a walk around the trucks. I’d done nothing but shoot Lawrence Tierney all week long, so if I wanted to get fired, I’m going to get fired because they’re going to keep Larry. We have a week’s worth of footage. But I wasn’t going to put up with his ****. So I’m literally walking around the trailers thinking, “Well okay, you wanted to know how it’s going to end well it’s going to end this way. I guess it was nice while it lasted but I guess you’re not going to put up with ****, you’re going to go back to the video store but you’re not going to put up with ****. Aren’t you the smart guy?”

Neil deGrasse Tyson: 25 Things You Don’t Know About Me

Tess Kornfeld and US Magazine.com present Neil deGrasse Tyson: 25 Things You Don’t Know About Me.  Here are three of my favorites…

2. I have an asteroid named after me called 13123 Tyson. It orbits between Mars and Jupiter.

6. I was captain of my high school wrestling team, and undefeated.

23. When I tweet my observations on science in films, my goal is to enhance enjoyment. Given how many people react negatively, I’m clearly failing in this goal.

13 Things You Didn’t Know About “The Dick Van Dyke Show”

Eddie Deezen and Neatorama present 13 Things You Didn’t Know About The Dick Van Dyke Show.  Here are three of my favorites…

4. The show was not successful in its first season and was actually cancelled by CBS. Producer Danny Thomas had to personally go to the network execs and convince (beg) them to leave the show on the air. The show picked up steam during summer reruns that year, remained on the air and became the “classic” series we all know. Ironically, after star Van Dyke decided to end the series after it’s five-year run in 1966, it was the CBS executives who begged him to stay on.

7. Buddy Sorrel, the wise-cracking joke writer played by Morey Amsterdam, was actually based on Mel Brooks, who was originally a comedy writer and worked with the show’s producer Carl Reiner on Sid Caesar’s Your Show of Shows in the 1950s.

9. The show was usually filmed before a studio audience, but was not on at least three occasions. One was on the day of JFK’s assassination- November 22, 1963. On that day, in the middle of rehearsals, the cast heard about the president’s assassination and decided to go ahead and film the episode “Happy Birthday and Too Many More” anyway. However, it was decided that they would do the episode with no studio audience, figuring no one would be in the mood to laugh at such a time.

25 Fascinating Facts About “Breaking Bad”

Jennifer Wood and Mental_Floss present 25 Fascinating Facts About Breaking Bad.  Here are three of my favorites…

2. THE NETWORK REALLY WANTED MATTHEW BRODERICK TO STAR.

It’s impossible to imagine Breaking Bad with anyone other than Bryan Cranston in the lead role, but he wasn’t as well known when the series kicked off, and AMC wanted a star. They were particularly interested in casting either Matthew Broderick or John Cusack in the lead.

“We all still had the image of Bryan shaving his body in Malcolm in the Middle,” a former AMC executive told The Hollywood Reporter about their initial reluctance to cast Cranston. “We were like, ‘Really? Isn’t there anybody else?’” But Gilligan had worked with Cranston before, on an episode of The X-Files, and knew he had the chops to navigate the quirks of the part. The network brass watched the episode, and agreed.

“We needed somebody who could be dramatic and scary yet have an underlying humanity so when he dies, you felt sorry for him,” Gilligan said. “Bryan nailed it.”

10. GILLIGAN GOT SOME HELP FROM THE WALKING DEAD CREW FOR FRING’S FINAL EPISODE.

Fring’s final sendoff is one of the most memorable visual images from the entire series—and they were able to enlist the help of some true gore experts. “Indeed we did have great help from the prosthetic effects folks at The Walking Dead,” Gilligan told The New York Times. “And I want to give a shout-out to Greg Nicotero and Howard Berger, and KNB EFX, those two gentlemen and their company, because their shop did that effect. And then that was augmented by the visual effects work of a guy named Bill Powloski and his crew, who digitally married a three-dimensional sculpture that KNB EFX created with the reality of the film scene. So you can actually see into and through Gus’s head in that final reveal. It’s a combination of great makeup and great visual effects. And it took months to do.”

15. HEISENBERG’S SIGNATURE HAT WAS A MATTER A PRACTICALITY.

Heisenberg’s porkpie hat came to identify Walter White’s dark side, but it originated from a very practical place. “Bryan kept asking me, after he shaved his head, ‘Can I have a hat?’ because his head was cold,” Kathleen Detoro, the show’s costume designer, explained. “So I would ask Vince and he kept saying no; Jesse wore the hats. Finally, Vince said, ‘I think there’s a place …’ It was Bryan asking for a hat, me asking Vince, and then Vince figuring out where in the story it makes sense: It’s when he really becomes Heisenberg.” (If you want to buy your own Heisenberg hat, it was made by Goorin.)

9 Hardened Facts About Charles Bronson

Jake Rosen and Mental_Floss present 9 Hardened Facts About Charles Bronson.  Here are three of my favorites…

2. HE EARNED HIS FIRST ACTING ROLE BY BURPING.

Bronson had always been interested in the arts. After serving in the Army during World War II, he found himself in Atlantic City doing odd jobs. One acting troupe invited him to paint scenery for them; Bronson found he enjoyed performing more. His first film role, in 1951’s You’re in the Navy Now, was landed, he said, because he was the only actor who could burp on demand.

3. COMMUNISM (AND STEVE MCQUEEN) FORCED A NAME CHANGE.

When Bronson (né Buchinsky) was starting out, Senator Joseph McCarthy was preoccupied with rooting out Communists in Hollywood. Fearing his Lithuanian name would provide ammunition for accusations, he took on the name Bronson after driving with friend Steve McQueen, who pointed to a “Bronson” street sign and shouted to him that it would be perfect.

8. HE WAS HUGE IN ITALY.

While Bronson was a bona fide movie star in the States for a portion of his career, he was a megastar in other countries. Italian moviegoers called him “Il Brutto” (The Ugly One) and in France he was one of cinema’s “monstres sacrés” His movies would often earn more in other territories than they would in North America. In Japan, a publicist once said, his name appeared on a sign over a block long.

11 Solid Gold Facts About Bonanza

MeTV presents 11 Solid Gold Facts About Bonanza.  Here are three of my favorites…

BLOCKER FOUNDED THE BONANZA RESTAURANTS.

Not only is the popular buffet chain named after the show, it was founded by one of its cast members. Blocker started the chain in 1963, which eventually boasted 600 locations by 1989. Ponderosa restaurants started in Canada in the early 1970s and expanded to the United States in the 1980s. Today, both chains are owned by the same company.

THEY WEAR THE SAME OUTFITS FOR A REASON.

Have you ever noticed how the characters’ clothes don’t change from episode to episode? From the fourth season onwards, the Cartwrights wear the same outfits like cartoon characters. The standardization was made to make it easier to reuse stock footage for action sequences and to make it easier to duplicate the wardrobe for the stunt doubles.

MOST OF THE CAST MEMBERS WORE HAIRPIECES.

During the last few years of the series, Greene, Roberts and Blocker all had to wear hairpieces because their natural hair was thinning. Greene and Roberts started the series wearing hairpieces, while Blocker started wearing a toupee in 1968

 

30 Facts You Never Knew About “Aliens”

Hollywood.com presents 30 Facts You Never Knew About Aliens.  Here are three of my favorites…

2. Aliens was never shown to test audiences because it was not completed until the week before its theatrical release.

11. The Alien nest set was left intact after filming and was later used in Tim Burton’s Batman.

12. One of the Alien eggs from the movie is now on display in the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C.

14 Campy Facts About “Ed Wood”

Mark Mancini and the Mental_Floss present 14 Campy Facts About Ed Wood.  Here are three of my favorites…

1. IT’S THE BRAINCHILD OF FORMER COLLEGE ROOMMATES.

In 1981, Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski—both freshmen at the USC School of Cinema-Television—met each other in a cafeteria line, hit it off immediately, and arranged to become roommates. During their senior year, the duo began joining forces on an assortment of screenwriting projects, kicking off a partnership that continues to this day. Together, they have co-written Problem Child (1990), The People vs. Larry Flynt (1996), Man on the Moon (1999), and Big Eyes (2014). On the small screen, they also developed the hit FX series American Crime Story, which recently completed its first season with The People v. O. J. Simpson.

Before graduating from USC in 1985, Alexander and Karaszewski briefly considered making a documentary on history’s most enigmatic director, Edward D. Wood, Jr. Although this project went unrealized, they eventually returned to the subject. In 1992, author Rudolph Grey published Ed Wood: Nightmare of Ecstasy (The Life and Art of Edward D. Wood, Jr.), a thoroughly researched oral biography of Wood and his work. The book inspired Alexander and Karaszewski to pen a 10-page story treatment for a new biopic about the eccentric, cross-dressing auteur.

3. COLUMBIA PICTURES DROPPED THE FILM AFTER BURTON INSISTED ON SHOOTING IT IN BLACK AND WHITE.

One month before production began, Ed Wood hit a snag. Burton was fortunate enough to hire his first choice for the role of Bela Lugosi, actor Martin Landau, and makeup artist Rick Baker made Landau look uncannily similar to the Hungarian movie star. Nevertheless, after watching the first color tests, something felt a bit off. That’s when everyone realized that they’d only ever seen black-and-white photographs of Lugosi. Immediately, Burton decided that Ed Wood couldn’t be filmed in color.

The movie was being developed by Columbia Pictures, whose higher-ups disagreed with Burton’s decision to shoot in black and white. “They were saying, ‘Look, we can’t get our cable money, we can’t get our foreign video money, we won’t be able to exploit the movie in a lot of markets if it’s in black-and-white,” Alexander recalled. Still, Burton held firm. Realizing he wouldn’t budge, Columbia abandoned the picture. Fortunately, Disney was there to pick it up—and allowed Burton to follow his creative instincts.

9. PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE’S LEADING MAN IS IN IT.

Although he appeared in more than 30 movies and worked with visionaries like Steven Spielberg and John Ford, Gregory Walcott is chiefly remembered for playing the main character in Plan 9 From Outer Space. “It’s enough to drive a puritan to drink!” Walcott vented in 1998. Regardless, when Tim Burton’s Ed Wood came around, he made a quick cameo as a prospective investor in one scene. The film marked Walcott’s final film appearance; the actor passed away in 2015.

11 Tiny Errors You Never Noticed in “The Andy Griffith Show”

Me-TV presents 11 Tiny Errors You Never Noticed in The Andy Griffith Show.  Here are three of my favorites…

ANDY REFLECTS – “The Bookie Barber”

Outside the barber shop, Andy tells Barney that one of his ears is longer than the other. After the quip, he walks off camera, presumably down the street. However, as soon as he exits the frame, watch the glass of the shop window. In the reflection, you can see Griffith immediately stop and hunch over, presumably under the camera. He awkwardly stands there for the rest of the shot.

TUBA – “The Mayberry Band”

You can see the reflection of the film crew and equipment in Andy’s tuba. Though warped around the curve of the horn, it’s an interesting glimpse at the set, as you can see ladders and rigging.

BARNEY IS PLUGGED IN, TOO – “Opie the Bird Man”

A handful of episodes later, another microphone cable can be spotted, running up Don Knotts’ pant leg. Look for it in an overhead shot, when Andy and Barney talk to Opie, who has climbed up a tree.

16 Epic Facts About “Spartacus”

Roger Cormier and the Mental_Floss present 16 Epic Facts About Spartacus.  Here are three of my favorites…

1. YUL BRYNNER TRIED TO MAKE HIS OWN SPARTACUS MOVIE FIRST.

A Spartacus film starring Brynner and Anthony Quinn was on the slate for United Artists, with the titles Spartacus and The Gladiators already trademarked. UA even paid for a full-page ad to be published in Variety in February 1958 for The Gladiators. However, Douglas and his film company owned the movie rights to Howard Fast’s novel, Spartacus, and when Universal Pictures backed Douglas—along with Ustinov, Olivier, and Laughton all preferring Trumbo’s script over the script for Brynner’s project—Douglas had won. Brynner’s film was never made.

3. STANLEY KUBRICK WAS NOT THE FIRST DIRECTOR.

David Lean (1957’s The Bridge on the River Kwai) turned down an offer to direct, and Laurence Olivier was asked but declined because he thought both acting and directing would be too much. Douglas believed that the original director, Anthony Mann, was scared of the large scope of the movie, and he also didn’t like how close he was to the British actors, so he fired him after two weeks of filming. Douglas turned to Kubrick, his director on Paths of Glory (1957), who agreed for a salary of $150,000.

8. KUBRICK TOLD THE HIRED CINEMATOGRAPHER TO TAKE A SEAT.

Because Kubrick was a cinematographer himself and very exacting in what he wanted, he eventually told Russell Metty, the man hired by Anthony Mann, to do nothing and let Kubrick do all the work for him. Metty would win his first and only Oscar for Best Cinematography for “his” work on Spartacus.

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