Ladies of Horror May-hem: Barbara

TallmanNight

Just like Madonna and Cher need go by only one name among music fans, today’s Lady of Horror May-hem is a one-name wonder in her own right. She is Barbara, the reluctant heroine of that fateful Night of the Living Dead.

I’m not going to say a whole lot about Barbara, as portrayed in the 1990 Tom Savini remake by actress/stuntwoman Patricia Tallman. If you’ve been a regular visitor here at the lair, then you already know my deep love for both this remake and for Tallman. In fact, I’ve previously written of this movie reinvention of this character:

…it dramatically improves upon the character of Barbara, giving her far more modern sensibilities and turning her into a right and proper bad-ass. I’m not saying the remake makes her a better character, but it makes her a character I’d follow into the zombie apocalypse.

Indeed, in ways similar to how The Blob remake altered the original movie, in part, by switching up the hero to feisty young heroine Meg Penny, Savini’s NOTLD remake completely alters the flow of the original movie by reversing course for the originally weak, hysterical Barbara. Just as she sheds the mousy plainness of her physical attire for the practical fighting gear of boots and denim and weapons, so does Barbara shed her weeping and binding fear for a primal, detached drive for survival at all cost. This Barbara will not lie down and be dinner tartare for the zombie jamboree, and the more she witnesses of the undead’s atrocities, the more steadied her resolve becomes.

Yes, they’re still coming to get Barbara…but this time, they’re going to get way more than they bargained for…

BookBin2011: Pleasure Thresholds

It’s quite befitting and not the least bit serendipitous that Patricia Tallman’s book, Pleasure Thresholds, begins with an introduction by J. Michael Straczynski, in which he explains how he first fell in love with Tallman through her performance in the 1990 remake of the Romero classic Night of the Living Dead. Why, you might ask? Because that’s precisely when I fell in love with Tallman, too.

I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating here: I love stuntwomen. Love them. They are fearless. They are tough as nails. They get out there and do stunts that are just as difficult if not more so than the ones the guys are doing…and they do them oftentimes in the bare minimum amount of clothing, which means bare minimum amount of padding and protection.

Tough. As. Nails.

And who started this obsession of mine? Patricia Tallman. Long before I knew the name Zoë Bell or Jeannie Epper, I knew Tallman. Not only was she this amazingly bad ass and ultimately unsettling character from a horror movie that I loved, she was also popping up on the biggest geek love of my adolescence: Star Trek.

Seriously, it was like my own strange version of “Where’s Waldo?” as I tried to spot Tallman’s random appearances, first on TNG and then on DS9. Every time I spotted her, I adored her that much more. When I later learned that she was the stunt double for three of my favorite characters from TNG and DS9, her awesomeness was pretty much set for life in my eyes. No surprise, then, that I jumped at the chance to buy her book as soon as I learned about it.

First things first: Yes, Pleasure Thresholds is a bit pricey. However, I believe there are acceptable reasons for this. In addition to getting this amazing 350+ page book (autographed by both Tallman and Straczynski) that’s packed with never-before-published photos from Tallman’s personal collection, you also get a CD-ROM of videos and MP3s made especially for this “multimedia memoir.” The MP3s feature Tallman and Straczynski dishing on Babylon 5 in unedited, uncensored ways. The videos are short but very enjoyable and may or may not feature props, lingerie, and chickens. But that’s all that I’m saying. Finally, this is being printed/produced through Café Press, which means it’s being printed in small batches as orders come in. Specialized print runs like this notoriously cost more (I’ve experienced this particular phenomenon many times in my Mirror Universe work life).

So there you go. Yes, Pleasure Thresholds is a bit costly. Is it worth its higher price? I give you an undeniable, unequivocal hells yes.

This book is the printed equivalent of getting a personal audience with Tallman as she shares her photos and stories with you, while at the same time revealing parts of herself in honest, hilarious, sometimes heart-breaking ways. She is both an engaging (and delightfully bawdy) storyteller and a passionate shutterbug. There are so many amazing photographs throughout this book—page after page of images spanning the impressive length of her career as both stuntwoman and actress. I have several favorites, including one of an airborne Tallman dressed in period costume and wielding a rapier. The expression on her face is one of such pure, unfettered joy that I can’t help but fall that much more in love with her every time I look at this photo.

Then there are the photos and stories from her time as the telepath Lyta Alexander on Babylon 5. This is the heart of the book, which makes sense. The title is from a B5 quote, and the subtitle is “Patricia Tallman’s Babylon 5 Memoir.”

[Loba Tangent: Okay, here’s the point where I reveal a dark secret regarding my standing as a geek: I’ve never watched Babylon 5. I know, I know! I was all set to watch after learning that Tallman was finally getting a shot at her own role on a sci-fi show, and then something happened and the first season started and…no Tallman. WTF? In protest, I never tuned in. And then, when she did finally reappear, I was off doing the college thing and not really even spending all that much time with my beloved Trek shows, so B5 never got the chance to resurface on my radar. After reading this book, I now understand what happened and why Tallman wasn’t there for the first season. I am properly appeased and B5 is now loaded up toward the top of my Netflix queue. See? Another reason why this book is awesome: It may yet convert me to a B5 fan.]

Aside from the pictures and anecdotes, Tallman provides a first-person peek behind the scenes of what it’s like to play the Hollywood game. There are certain assumptions that we all make regarding the life of an actor, and most of the time those assumptions are based on the lives led by the likes of the Clooneys, the Pitts, the Jolies. This is not the life led by all in the acting profession. Tallman shares aspects of her own personal journey, which I found both intriguing and enlightening (not to mention frustrating; it definitely takes a spirit of a particularly resilient fortitude to enter the acting arena).

So, there you go: My admittedly not completely objective but honest review of Pleasure Thresholds. If you are a fan of the genres from which Tallman has rightfully earned both ubiquity and respect, then this collection will undoubtedly have something to offer you. If anything, the story of “Lyta’s Lingerie” is worth the price of admission all on its own. But, again, that’s all I’m saying about that.

One final thing: Even if you don’t decide to buy your own copy of Pleasure Thresholds, why not swing over to Penny Lane, a California-based organization that provides an array of support services for abused children, and make a donation. Tallman has supported the efforts of this organization for years. It wouldn’t hurt to do the same; the karma points alone will make it worth it.

Final Verdict: When I’m finally finished thumbing through this many more times, Pleasure Thresholds shall find its new home among the myriad books of geek awesome that I already own.

Doctober 30: Night of the Living Crushers

“They’re coming to get you, Beverly…”

That would have been an interesting take on the whole Night of the Living Dead story, eh? Or what if both Crushers turned into brain-slurping zombies? We’ve already witnessed Dr. Crusher consuming Commander Riker’s brain through a straw, so obviously she’s got a bit of those dirty, dirty zombie cravings going on inside. And Wesley is her son…it’s just a matter of time before genetics caught up with him…

Of course, there already is an unofficial “Trek” take on this movie, thanks to Tom Savini’s 1990 remake of Romero’s original zombie tale. The remake stars Tony Todd, most famous to Trek fans as Worf’s brother Kurn (as well as famous to horror movie fans as the Candyman himself), and Patricia Tallman who…wait for it, denizens…was Gates McFadden’s stunt double. Remember the scene in Generations when Data pushes Dr. Crusher off the side of the sailing ship on the holodeck? That was Patricia Tallman going over the side. She was also McFadden’s double during the series run. She also doubled Nana Visitor, Michelle Forbes, Gwynyth Walsh, Louise Fletcher…let’s just say she doubled a lot of the Trek actresses. She also appeared as various characters throughout the run of TNG, DS9, and Voyager.

I very rarely say nice things about remakes, but I do have a soft spot in my heart for Savini’s NOTLD remake, mostly for the Trek influence but also because it’s a gooey, fun take on Romero’s original. Is it better in color than in black and white? That’s up for debate, I suppose. Is it better with Candyman and the Trek Stunt Actress Supreme? Uh. Yeah.

Oh, and because I know you want to see this, here’s what the official Night of the Living Crushers T-shirt design would look like. You know, this is the second Doctober posting that I wouldn’t mind seeing on a T-shirt…