GIANT BUG CINEMA – A MONSTER KID’S GUIDE
SPIDER WOMAN, BATWOMAN, UNCLE FESTER
AND ED WOOD
A “Fly on the Wall” Perspective of the New Book
GIANT BUG CINEMA – A MONSTER KID’S GUIDE (Mark Bailey/ BearManor Media)
“And I will restore to you the years the locust hath eaten.” (Joel 2:25)
“It all began with a request from an artist who had done artwork for the Tower of London.” So says actor/writer/independent film producer Alan Doshna who has one of the lead essays in Giant Bug Cinema: A Monster Kid’s Handbook (BearManor Media), assembled by Mark Bailey.
Doshna continues: “I was approached by noted British expressionist artist Stephen B. Whatley to do a magazine interview with a friend of his, Derline Smithson (aka Tandra Quinn) who had a brief Hollywood career back in the 1950’s. Among his notable pieces, Stephen’s artwork graces the walkway leading to the Tower of London, and he was once presented to the late Queen. I have said that, with all of his artistic accomplishments, Stephen should be made “Sir Stephen B. Whatley” by King Charles!”
Oddly enough, Whatley is a huge fan of low budget American movies and movie stars and has gifted many with his artistic “tributes” leading to his friendship with many of them. One such is the late Derline Smithson, mentioned above, who is best known for her role as “Tarantella, the Spider Woman” in the “cult” film Mesa of Lost Women. Her dance in a cantina in the film would win her a Golden Turkey Award many years later for “Most Primitive Male Chauvinist Fantasy” in the satirical book Son of Golden Turkey Awards. in spite of the award, or maybe because of, she had won a good number of admirers. See here: Tandra Quinn. 2016 by Stephen B. Whatley
Whatley had previously contacted Doshna to express his appreciation for the film The Haunted World of Edward D. Wood, Jr. (1995), on which he was Associate Producer. Both Whatley and Doshna shared an admiration for the pioneering, yet often maligned, late filmmaker Edward D. Wood, Jr. who also was “blessed” by several of the Golden Turkey awards, including as “Worst Director” of the “Worst Movie of All Time” Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959). (For more information about the Ed Wood “phenomenon” and Doshna’s connection to it, click here).
Having been friends for a number of years following that, Whatley contacted Producer Alan Doshna to see if he might do an interview with Derline, who had fallen on some hard times, for Filmfax Magazine, which Doshna is a freelance writer for. He did the interview, which received praise for its quality, including from the current rights owner of the Mesa film, who said “You made her a star with that article!” The article is now available on its own in a Kindle Edition on Amazon.
In more recent times, Doshna was approached by producer Mark Bailey to contribute a piece for his upcoming book, a tribute to giant insect movies titled, appropriately enough, Giant Insect Cinema – A Monster Kid’s Guide. He was given a list of films to choose from to write about, ranging from the relatively high budgeted (THEM! (1954), Tarantula (1955) – one of Clint Eastwood’s first movies) to the lower budgeted (Earth Vs. the Spider (1958)) to Japanese Kaiju films (Godzilla Vs. the Thing (1964)). However, once his eye fell on the title Mesa of Lost Women (1953), he quickly knew what his choice would be. Check out Mark’s New York City Giant Monster Attack Map
Says Doshna: “The film had a considerable fascination for me, as well as for other fans. It had a number of friends and associates of Ed Wood involved with it, both in front of and behind the camera, including its producer. The narrator, 1930’s-star Lyle Talbot, appeared in four of Wood’s projects and his former girlfriend and leading lady Dolores Fuller had appeared in three of them. Mona McKinnon had also appeared in Wood films. Even so, according to Derline, she had no knowledge of Wood being directly involved with Mesa, which has been speculated. Another plus was the presence of Katherine Victor, the screen’s first “Batwoman” in The Wild World of Batwoman aka She was a Hippy Vampire (1966). I had known Derline, Dolores and Katherine, so in that way the film was special to me.”
Mesa was kind of a remake/reworking of Island of Lost Souls (1932), this time as related to spiders, as well as Five Came Back (1939) which was remade as Back From Eternity (1956).
Doshna continues: “The “Dr. Moreau”- type character in Mesa was played by a pre-“Uncle Fester” Jackie Coogan. One might imagine a kind of a strange backstory for Fester with this – a once-brilliant doctor, gone enfeebled and rendered harmless by the failure of his mad ambitions here, becomes an eccentric family “pet,” under the protection and watchful care of the Addams’… But I digress.
“In any case, I jumped at the opportunity to write an essay for Mark’s book, and I am proud of its order of appearance. I see it as a tribute to both Derline and Stephen. I will always remember a comforting phone conversation I had with Derline the morning after an overnight stay at the ER, after my brother Don suffered a stroke and needed to be taken there. We had also become good friends. In spite of her character’s appearance, she was a dedicated Christian lady whom I miss very much.”
Any closing thoughts?
“Mark and I are hoping that the book will be nominated for – and win! – a Rondo Hatton Classic Horror Award. I had previously been nominated once before, for my Filmfax interview with Green Lantern/Terminator 2 visual effects editor Miller Drake – but of course it would be Mark’s win.
“And lastly – in recounting these events and factors – I am reminded of a proverb that one of my middle school teachers had posted on her wall: “When spider webs unite, they can tie up a lion.” That’s especially true if you’re talking about The Sensational Spider Woman!”
Amazon.com: Giant Bug Cinema – A Monster Kid’s Guide
Alan Doshna is the co-author of the upcoming books:
- I Was a Cop In Ed Wood’s Plan 9 – with Conrad Brooks and Constance Brooks Archer/BearManor Media
- King Kong and My Memories of the Golden Years of Hollywood – with Pauline Wagner and Steve Vilarino//BearManor Media
As Associate Producer on the film:
- Lucy and the Lake Monster (2023) Director: Richard Rossi/Eternal Grace Church Film (lucyandthelakemonster.com)