Saturday, April 26, 2008

Dr. Ruehl's requiem for a screamer

It was announced last week that Hazel Court, an English beauty who co-starred with the likes of Boris Karloff and Vincent Price in popular horror movies in the 1950s and '60s, died at 82. Hazel was a screamer. She was in fact, the “scream queen.” Best known for her work in Roger Corman’s 1963 take on Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven,” she was also a guest on Mysteries from Beyond The Other Dominon, the legendary sci fi, paranormal and B-movie public access show hosted by Tabloid Baby pal, contributor, columnist and TV & movie star Dr. Franklin Ruehl, Ph.D. Today, as he did recently with departed horror hostess Vampira, the mourning doctor sends us this appreciation of Hazel Court, British goddess of horror and “The Greatest Screamer in the Business”:


by Dr.Franklin Ruehl,Ph.D.

Fabulous red hair! Radiant green eyes! A goddesslike face! A model's figure!

These are a few of of the physical features that describe the late horror film star. Hazel Court, who recently passed away at the age of 82. Added to those attributes was a rich cultured voice which made her an absolute joy to listen to whenever she appeared on screen. She became an icon in the horror/sci-fi/mystery genre with memorable appearances in such entries as "The Curse of Frankenstein" (1956), "The Man Who Could Cheat Death" (1959), "The Premature Burial" (1962) and "The Masque of the Red Death" (1964).

If I was pressed to name her most engrossing performance, I would nominate her role as a nurse dramatically debating the morality of revivifying the dead at the cost of another human life with leading man Kieron Moore in 1960's "Doctor Blood's Coffin."

In addition to delivering her lines ever so eloquently, Hazel also used her voice to regularly shriek in terror, becoming known as the "Best Screamer in the Business,” inheriting that mantle from "King Kong" star Fay Wray, who preceded her as the "Queen of Scream." As a guest on my cable TV show, "Mysteries From Beyond Other Dominion" back in 1988, I asked her to deliver a sample scream, but she initially demurred. Then, a few minutes later, without any warning whatsoever, she let out a bloodcurdling shriek which made my day and the show! When I later guested on "Donahue" in 1990, I was able to display part of that cherished interview.

She also appeared frequently on television, in particular, often guesting on "Alfred Hitchcock Presents" (she and Hitch's daughter, Pat, were close friends). Her appearance on "The Twilight Zone" in the episode, "The Fear," as a fashion designer who had suffered a nervous breakdown and encountered a UFO was absolutely mesmerizing and worthy of an Emmy although she never received even a nomination.

Hazel revealed that fans repeatedly mistakenly associated her with the title role of 1954's "Devil Girl From Mars," which actually belonged to actress Patricia Laffan (Hazel was an all-too-human model in the film).

While she did not make any appearances after 1981, her impact was powerful on many of us, and I will always remember and honor her by periodically showing clips from her films on my program!

And may the Power of the Cosmos be with You, Hazel, wherever you may be now!

In loving remembrance,
Dr.Franklin Ruehl,Ph.D.

(Hazel Court Died in Threes, by the way, joined in death this week by Bebe Barron, who with her husband Louis composed the first electronic score for a feature film — the eerie sounds in the 1956 science-fiction classic Forbidden Planet— died Sunday at 82; and Kate Phillips, the actress who cowrote the 1958 horror film The Blob, died last week at 94.)

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