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Stephen Manley on gothic horror film “Ghost Hunters” and beyond

Stephen Manley - Photo by Ruco used with permission
Stephen Manley – Photo by Ruco used with permission
Stephen Manley has been in the entertainment business for over 40 years in movies and on television.  His credits include classic shows as “All in the Family“, “Little House on the Prairie” and “The Love Boat” and movies such as playing the young Spock in “Star Trek III: The Search for Spock” when he was 17 years old.  When Mr. Manley started following our writer’s @weird_review twitter account, he checked in with Mr. Manley and requested an interview.
John N Collins (JNC): Thanks for following me on twitter and for agreeing to do an interview Stephen!
Stephen Manley (SM): My Pleasure, thank you for having me.
(JNC):  Over the years you have accumulated a pretty impressive set of credits, being in some of my favorite shows.  What led up to your becoming an actor?
(SM):My Grandfather, Stephen E. Soldi, got his start in the silent era. His first job was as a Roman soldier in D.W. Griffith’s film “Intolerance.” He stayed active as an actor and stunt man until 1966. He lived with my parents and I after his wife passed and since I was an only child I spent most of my time with him. Much like the relationship between the little boy and the projectionist in “Cinema Paradiso.”  He taught me how to read with film scripts, showed me the enchantment of theatrical makeup, I would study all of his still pictures from the sets he worked on. When I obtained my SAG card (with his help) and was fortunate to be taken by a wonderful agent, Dorothy Day Otis, I had a grounding of the life I was headed into along with a wonderful work ethic that he instilled in me. He unfortunately passed in November of 1974 while I was escaping the crash of “The Hindenburg” at Universal Studios on that huge feature film. However i carry his spirit with me on every audition and job that I book.
 (JNC): I watched the trailer to your new movie, “Ghosthunters” – and it looks great.  Mind telling us a bit about it as a sneak preview?
 (SM): “Ghosthunters” is a wonderful true Gothic horror film written and directed by the talented Pearry Teo. I play Dr. Henry Tanner, whom along with his colleagues Neil, played by David O’Donnell, Jessica, played by Liz Fenning and Neil’s girlfriend Amy, played by Francesca Santoro, attempt to truly capture some agonized spirits that inhabit a beautifully shambled tudor/ gingerbread house. Actresses , Anna Harr , Crystal Webb and Phyllis Spielmann are also there to help us. Everyone gave standout performances.
 (JNC): From the trailer it looks like an excellent choice casting you in it.  Other than that, why would you recommend readers drop what they are doing and watch this movie?
 (SM): Thank you. Though it is produced thru The Asylum, “Ghosthunters” looks to be the company’s first true gothic horror film . The movie is played straight, no camp, no farce, no tongue in cheek. The material Pearry gave us read like a wonderful play. Very character driven and all the actors and actresses brought tremendous depth to their roles. I think your readers will find the film a welcome change. Aside from the performances, the house location itself presented a wonderful stage to work from. A Gothic, Tudor gingerbread built circa 1903-5 located in the historic West Adams neighborhood of Los Angeles. The ambience reminded me of a throwback to the British Hammer films of the 1960’s-70’s but with some Steampunk infused elements that are unique to Pearry’s design and style. There are also some genuinely frightening moments, set in the context created, they should chill people.
"Ghosthunters" July 5th on Vimeo and Amazon
“Ghosthunters” July 5th on Vimeo and Amazon
 (JNC): The trailer shows some pretty creepy looking sets and it really looked like the kind of movie that those who were weak of bladder might want to wear Depend® undergarments.  Was it all Hollywood magic or did you have any weird experiences on the set.
 (SM): There were rooms in the house that nobody in the cast and crew wanted to go in. One was a windowless, pitch black Octagonal study in a remote corner on the lower level of the house that was accessed by a small set of stairs that led down to it . It reminded me of a tomb. I chose this room as my “rehearsal/prep” room when I needed to “go to that place” and “get in character” on my own. Our lovely production assistant Shelby was walking past it when she heard “voices and whispers” emanating from that room. She stopped and terror stricken she crouched to peer into the darkness. As I slowly emerged from the darkness I saw her go white with fear, recover with a “…whoa….oh god..” and head to the production office completely bugged out. So much for method acting. However my 9 year old daughter Morgana visited the house after the shoot and told me she saw a small boy in a vintage little league uniform who smiled and waved hi to her…!!
 (JNC): What else do you have coming up?
 (SM): Following Ghosthunters later in the summer or early fall Rogue Warrior, Robot Fighter starring Tracey Birdsall and directed by Neil Johnson is released. I also play a tormented doctor in this film, but this is a science fiction spectacle. Lasers blasting, dystopian future, great fun and Neil and Tracey are wonderful people, looking forward to RWRF. Also in the works is filmmaker Kris Krainock’sThe Idiot” loosely based on it’s namesake.  I play Joel Wolcott who is a devout optimistic “Panglossian” who is thrust into a corupt set of circumstances……hard to play as I am a lot more hardened than poor Joel but a wonderful opportunity to play against character. I also have a part in writer/actor London Boyd’s “Dealer”, directed by Adam Zielinski, which just made it’s debut at the Las Vegas Film Festival.
 (JNC): Do you have any closing comments?
 (SM): Thank you for the opportunity to speak out. I hope your readers will enjoy these films. Ghosthunters , released on Amazon and Vimeo on July 5th, I believe will be sure to please. Shelby is still recovering…! Please keep up to date with me on my sites:
Stephen Manley on IMDB
Stephen Manley’s Personal Website
Stephen Manley on Facebook
(JNC): Thanks again for getting with me Stephen!
(SM): Your welcome John, keep in touch my friend.
(JNC): I will!

Batman V Superman is the Perfect 21st Century Global Superhero Masterpiece


By John R. White

“Non sum qualis eram.”   I am not what I once was.
– Horace

In 1978 I was 14 years old, an avid comic reader, and my comic books stacked across the room.  When I first saw Superman the motion picture, I sat amazed as I did “believe a man can fly.” Chris Reeve was Superman.

I mean 1978 was perfect, and I would be sure to get the soundtrack for my 8 track player, and listen to it while I wrote my D&D character program on my brand new Radio Shack TRS-800. The future would be great, and there would be no terrorism because Jimmy Carter just signed the Camp David Peace Accords. Man, the future was going to be Awesome.

  • Henry Cavill would not be born for five years.


In 1989 I was 25 years old, and when my ex-wife and I finished up our management shifts at the Trumbull mall in Trumbull, Connecticut we went to see the midnight showing of the new Batman movie. We were of course still debating whether or not Michael Keaton could pull it off.

The movie was great but dark, and afterwards I would read all of the debates pro and con in Starlog, and watch them on Entertainment Tonight, which was the YouTube of our generation. Somewhere a seventeen year old Benjamin Geza Affleck-Bold was also sitting waiting for the same movie to start, not realizing that one day he would be wearing the cowl.

That was, of course, 27 years ago when Russia was withdrawing from Afghanistan and Nelson Mandela was still in jail and apartheid still existed.

Welcome to the 21st Century.

Instead of continuing Nolan’s films about the Dark Knight of Gotham, and living under the shadow of Christopher Reeve, Zack Snyder has chosen to approach Legends facing global issues, and it’s about time.

Yes, you can make an argument about how Marvel’s Steve Rogers and Tony Stark are both concerned about how SHIELD is engaging in government oversight, and how the world is concerned about superheroes, but the films have a uniquely American viewpoint. I mean it is Captain America.  You may also listen to the critics say it wasn’t any fun! It was humorless. You’re right, this was neither the Avengers nor Deadpool, nor was it supposed to be.

Thank God.

Dawn of Justice is a thinking person’s film, and if Deadpool can have adult humor, language and nudity then Batman versus Superman can have depth, emotional turmoil and require thought. This is like comparing Kelly’s Heroes to Full Metal Jacket. Yes, they are both about the military, but really that’s about it.

Superman, if he existed, would be a global matter. Where he once fought for truth, justice and the American way, in the 21st century he would have to consider the planetary obligations of his powers. Now imagine that’s your cross to bear. How would you deal with that mentally?

Think about it for a moment. You’re a kid growing up in Kansas, and you suddenly have amazing abilities show up. You go to talk to your mom and dad, who drop the following: ‘You’re really a space alien. We’re not sure what to do with that, so just hide it and hide yourself from the world.’  So you do, until you stumble on the truth, and then space bullies show up, and fight you – and oops, the fight kills 10,000 people.

Paging Dr. Phil.

Superman has two real links to humanity: his parents, and Lois.  That’s the only thing that gives him any humanity to begin from.

No, this is not the optimistic Clark Kent of the 40’s that Siegel and Schuster created; this is his Grandson who has long outlived them. This is a being of mass power that Bruce Wayne has every right to fear, and Lex Luthor would want so desperately to control.

Let’s talk about Bruce Wayne, shall we? Bruce has never been exactly stable, has he?

People need dramatic examples to shake them out of apathy and I can’t do that as Bruce Wayne. As a man, I’m flesh and blood, I can be ignored, I can be destroyed; but as a symbol… as a symbol I can be incorruptible, I can be everlasting.”

Easy there, Bruce.

Again Snyder deftly handles the Batman legend, and shows us something new on film: the Miller-esqe aging Dark Knight Detective. The manor is in ruins, Robin is dead at the hands of the Joker, and yet Wayne Enterprises are doing very well, and through of this the Batman is still fighting, and still unrevealed.

Where Kal-el’s touchstones to humanity are Lois and Martha Kent, Batman’s family is now his employees and obviously Alfred, and thus when the Kryptonian battle kills thousands of his family members Bruce very correctly sees Superman as a potential Zod himself, as evinced by some of his nightmares.

He has the power to wipe out the entire human race and if we believe there is even a one percent chance that he is our enemy, we have to take it as an absolute certainty.”

Bruce Wayne has now seen that Gotham is no longer his patrol ground; all of the earth is, as long as men like Superman and women like Wonder Woman exist, and in making such a realization he has become all the more frightened. Batman has never denied having fear, far from it.

“Bats frighten me. It’s time my enemies shared my dread.”

Batman is all about maintaining control, and does so with fear. That is why Batman wants to break Superman, to make him afraid, or if he can’t make him afraid, then perhaps to destroy him. Batman’s psychosis is such that he believes he can destroy or control the evil in Gotham, and beyond.

Think about some things that were said between Alfred and Bruce.

Twenty years in Gotham. How many good guys are left? How many stay that way?” 

Bruce’s war has been going on since 1996. If we take events of Miller’s Batman: Year 1 as his probable starting point, he was still getting his feet wet in those early years when 9/11 occurred.

Alfred: “That’s how it starts. The fever, the rage, the feeling of powerlessness that turns good men… cruel.”

Much has been said about Batman killing people in this film, and everyone who is griping is failing to realize that Batman killed in the pages of Bob Kane and Bill Finger’s original works, where Batman was pretty much the Punisher with a cape and money. Even Tim Burton’s Batman and Batman Returns showed Batman killing villains. (Bomb in clown pants much?)  To believe that Batman would have the slightest issue with killing terrorists is a tad naïve to a man who started his career flying a biplane with a fifty cal.

 

 

Now, let us not overlook either Lex or Diana Prince.

Lex Luthor has had many iterations, from the fully coiffed mad scientist living in a flying city re-animating dinosaurs (Action Comics #23; April 1940) to his recreation as an industrialist in the 1986 Man of Steel Series by artist writer John Byrne. So a new, younger millennial non-Smallville Lex Luthor is fine with me. The fact that Lex is possibly possessing of Asperger’s or Tourette’s syndrome to me is fantastic because it’s giving the character depth, and humanity. The fact that Luthor is Bat-crap insane is, of course, a given.

Wonder Woman’s introduction was amazing, and powerful. Here was a woman shown on stage, where the only reference to her beauty was an aside by Bruce as a cover to get away from being held up. She was at no point seen as sexual being, but a mystery and then as a powerful force of her own, and both an asset and a potential ally. That Wonder Woman is from the Middle East, and is actually played by an Israeli is both a windfall and to be cheered. Kudos, Mr. Snyder.

To conclude, Dawn of Justice is about us, the whole of humanity, as we face the age of terrorism and fear. H.P. Lovecraft once stated, “The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.” Humanity fears what it does not know and what it cannot understand. The bright and promising 21st century that we all dreamed of, a Roddenberry-ish utopia, was a lie.  We never received it because the Taliban found that fear was the most powerful weapon. We all surrendered our heroes such as Christ, Gandhi, Mandela, and the Dalai Lama for demagogues and State Supervision. We looked to the powerful and entrusted them with our fears.

We hoped for Superman, and got the Bat.

Check it out on the big screen at a theater near you!

More about John R. White

Mathew Bailey reviews The League of S.T.E.A.M.

The League of Supernatural and Troublesome Ectoplasmic Apparition Management better known as The League of S.T.E.A.M is a steampunk paranormal pest control service or better know as the “Steampunk Ghostbusters” based in sunny, Southern California. They are a performance art troupe who regularly attend conventions throughout the U.S. promoting their successful, YouTube web series.

The League of Steam - ©2015 Curious Josh Photography
The League of Steam – ©2015 Curious Josh Photography

The League’s original concept grew from Robin Blackburn’s desire for a one of a kind, glowing, ghost costume for the 2008 Labyrinth of Jareth Masquerade Ball in Hollywood, California.  Robin’s husband Nicholas, a costume and prop maker, was more interested in steampunk and he decided to play off her idea.  He made a “steampunk Ghostbuster” to match her. With the help and collaboration of friends like Scott & Gail Folsom, James Lavrakas and Aimee Chaouch their outfits were a great success.

So what do you get when you take a group of prop makers, clothing designers, and people with way too much imagination and an affinity for steampunk? That would be the League of S.T.E.A.M. Their wacky misadventures on their web series chronicle their shenanigans with ghostly monkeys, dastardly curses, mighty leviathans, beautiful valkeries, and even a captivating musical for their final episode in the third season which will be airing in December 2015.

The group is fantastic and amazing to meet and watch. There videos are very well done and are amazing quality. They even won the Best Costume Design and Best Makeup/Special Effects categories In 2013 for IAWTV. But to give a glimpse of how top -notch they are all you have to do is look at a collaboration they did with the band known as Panic! at the Disco and their music video ” The Ballad of Mona Lisa”

The League had a large part in the music video from the full ensemble being there as well as a good number of the props used in the videos including the working Net Gun. They have also had a plethora of stars and guest appearances on other youtube channels. The second season includes guest stars like Mythbusters’ Grant Imahara and the great Doug Jones!

While they produce a great, professional quality show, there is one caveat. The breaks between episodes are too sporadic, leaving fans hanging and waiting for the next spurt of shows. It really is that good that my only criticism is that I just can’t get it fast enough.

Watch the The League of S.T.E.A.M. and next time you are at a convention where they are featured, make sure to stop by their booth!  They usually will have a good chunk of their working props that you can hold for a photo while getting backstories on the items. To get up to date information on the League make sure to check out their Facebook page and the League of S.T.E.A.M. website.

New Star Trek TV show! Kids given drugs on Halloween! NY Post disses the Mets! And more!

New Star Trek series coming! * Kids receive Ritalin for Halloween! * NY Post hates on the Mets! * Russia heading to the moon! * And more in today’s Daily Dose of Weird News!

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