Friday, January 13, 2017


It has been in the planning for a little while, but I can now officially announce that I am currently in the midst of writing a book on the films of Marjoe Gortner, which aims to be completed by the end of this year and published by Bear Manor Media. A former child preacher and charismatic evangelist, Marjoe has long been one of my favourite actors, and a personality I have been intrigued by ever since I was mesmerised by his potent performance in 1979's When You Comin' Back, Red Ryder (though I had seen and enjoyed him in exploitation films like Food of the Gods and Bobbie Jo and the Outlaw for some years prior).

Wildcat! The Films of Marjoe Gortner will not be a biography of Marjoe Gortner per se (though sections of the book will obviously touch on his childhood and upbringing), but rather an examination and celebration of his varied film and television career, which began in 1972 with the Oscar-winning documentary Marjoe and culminated in 1995 with a role as - appropriately enough - a preacher in Walter Hill's Wild Bill.

Below is the first publicity blurb for Wildcat! The Films of Marjoe Gortner, as well as a promotional draft cover design.



Born in sunny Long Beach, California, Marjoe Gortner found early fame as a child evangelist, ordained at the age of four and travelling the revival circuit across America, where his Pentecostal preachings helped bring him to national recognition as something of an infant freakshow. After a period of inactivity throughout his teenage years, Gortner returned to the pulpit in his mid-twenties, using his name and past fame to expose the fraudulent side of preaching, via the Oscar-winning 1972 documentary MARJOE.

Gortner used the publicity and notoriety generated by MARJOE as his springboard to Hollywood, launching a new career as an actor, which saw his charismatic good looks put to work in a string of cult exploitation, disaster, sci-fi, horror and drive-in action films, including EARTHQUAKE(1974), BOBBIE JO AND THE OUTLAW (1976), FOOD OF THE GODS (1976) and the galvanising psychological thriller WHEN YOU COMIN' BACK, RED RYDER (1976), where he excelled in the role of Teddy, an angry Vietnam vet out to show the inhabitants of a small New Mexico diner that not all perceived hippies chose to live by a credo of peace and love.

Filed with rare photos, stunning movie poster art and interviews with those who worked alongside him, WILDCAT! THE FILMS OF MARJOE GORTNER takes the reader on a celluloid journey through the career of a man whose childhood was often as strange and outrageous as the films he appeared in.


My Friday the 13th viewing of choice turned out to be Jackson Stewart’s recent horror film Beyond the Gates (2016), which received a screening at Monster Fest in Melbourne late last year and has now been released on DVD in Australia by Umbrella Entertainment. I’m not sure why Umbrella have chosen to release the movie only on DVD and not Blu-ray, but considering the movie itself, VHS would have been the most suitable home viewing format for it.

Beyond the Gates is a fun throwback to home video horror of the 1980s and early-90s, as well as a homage to those VCR interactive horror board games like Nightmare, which were popular for a while with a generation of kids and horror hounds. The film has two estranged brothers (and one of the girlfriends) reuniting at the old mom & pop video store that belonged to their father, who has been mysteriously missing without a trace for the past seven months. As the brothers dig through the store, packing up tapes and reminiscing uncomfortably about old times, they come across an old interactive board game called Beyond the Gates, which looks to have been the last thing their father was watching in the office before he vanished. The game, purchased from a bizarre curio shop, turns out to be a portal to another dimension, one filled with all manner of scary scenarios, and the trio, guessing the game has something to do with the father’s disappearance, have to follow the steps through to the very end if they want to save his soul, as well as their own very lives.

What I really enjoyed about Beyond the Gates is that, apart from its obvious echoing of 80s horror films like The Gate and Hellraiser (as well as a touch of the Robin Williams adventure fantasy Jumanji), there is a genuine sense of relationship and development between the two brothers (played by Matt Mercer and Graham Skipper) that is well-written by screenwriters Stephen Scarlata and Jackson Stewart. There are also a number of moments of gory frisson in the horror department, and a nice genuine tie to the films it pays homage to is established by the casting of the wonderful Barbara Crampton, star of such beloved cult classics like Re-Animator (1985), From Beyond (1986) and Chopping Mall(1986), who is cast here as Evelyn, the beautiful and bewitching hostess of the Beyond the Gates video board game. Crampton always brings a dose of style and class to anything she appears in, and her appearance in Beyond the Gates should only help endear the movie to fans of 80s horror, while the film has enough going for it that is should also appeal to a more general horror audience.