Cinema sirens Joi Lansing and Janet Munro from the 1950s may have been plagued by a deadly curse, each dying at a relatively young age!
Conceivably, negative forces may have been infuriated by their appearances in movies which touched upon the sacred subject matter of their shadowy domain! Here are the details:
- Joi Lansing (1929-1972): This sizzling blonde (born Joyce Wassmansdorff) had brief stints as galpals in 1958's Queen of Outer Space, which starred Zsa Zsa Gabor as a Venusian, and 1959's The Atomic Submarine, where Arthur Franz led a crew of humans in a battle against an extraterrestrial craft situated beneath the arctic circle.
She was the leading lady, Boots Malone, in Hillbillys in a Haunted House (1967), a comic-horror entry that featured Basil Rathbone (beloved of horror buffs as Wolf von Frankenstein in 1939's The Son of Frankenstein), Lon Chaney Jr. (immortalized as filmdom's Lawrence "The Wolfman" Talbot) and John Carradine (Dracula in 1944's House of Frankenstein, 1945's House of Dracula and 1966's Billy the Kid vs. Dracula) as a contingent of foreign agents who created spooky effects to drive strangers away as they schemed to secure a secret rocket propellant formula from a nearby missile base. It represented Rathbone's final screen appearance.
However, sci-fi/horror buffs probably remember Joi best for her role as Mrs. Superman in the 1958 episode of The Adventures of Superman, where the man of steel (George Reeves) married policewoman Sergeant Helen O'Hara in an attempt to snare a master criminal. Of course, the union was only temporary.
Her most successful role overall was undoubtedly on TV, where she enjoyed a three-year run (1956-59) as Shirley Swanson on The Bob Cummings Show (aka Love That Bob). She also had a recurring role as Gladys Flatt on The Beverly Hillbillies (1965-68). And, when her film career began to wane, Joi tried her hand at country singing.
Joi's final film, 1970's Bigfoot, saw her trying to track down the elusive Sasquatch. Tragically, she reportedly never lived to see it as she fell to breast cancer at just age 43 on Monday, August 7, 1972.
- "Hillbillys" is spelled incorrectly in both Hillbillys In a Haunted House and its 1966 predecessor, Las Vegas Hillybillys (which featured Jayne Mansfield and Mamie Van Doren).
- While Joi is credited in some filmographies with an appearance in 1973's Superman, this was merely an edited version with various scenes from the earlier TV series spliced together, including her role as "Mrs. Superman."
- She was married thrice, most notably, to actor Lance Fuller (who portrayed Brack, an alien, in the 1955 sci-fi classic, This Island Earth) from 1951 to 1953.
- Janet Munro (1934-1972): In one of her earliest roles, this attractive English brunette (who was born Janet Horsburgh) portrayed Anne Pilgrim, one of several wayfarers trapped by unseen ETs in a Swiss research laboratory on Mt.Trollenberg in the 1958 sci-fi thriller, The Crawling Eye (aka The Trollenberg Terror, Creature From Another World, The Flying Eye, and The Creeping Eye).
She was quite convincing as a woman able to psychically sense the alien presence. One grisly scene depicted a mountain climber whose head had been bitten off, suggesting the depth of danger they were mired in. Finally, after being concealed by a lingering cloud cover for the first part of the film, the cosmic invaders, enormous living tentacled eyes, were dramatically revealed as they scaled up the mountainside toward the lab. Scientific investigator Alan Brooks (Forrest Tucker, who also starred in 1957's The Cosmic Monster) led the effort to vanquish the entities. But, after trying in vain to terminate them with Molotov cocktails, he recommended letting the air force destroy them with fire bombs from the sky.
In 1961, Janet starred in The Day the Earth Caught Fire (aka The Day the Sky Caught Fire) as Jeannie Craig, an assistant at the meteorological center, who leaked secret information to alcoholic newspaper columnist Peter Stenning (Edward Judd, who was Dr. David West in 1966's Island of Terror) about unseasonable excruciating heatwaves and devastating blizzards plaguing the globe.
They were the result of two secret atomic tests, one by Russia at the North Pole, the other by America at the South Pole, that sent the earth spiralling toward the sun. In perhaps the film's highlight, the Thames was shown sizzling away as steam! Geophysicists recommended the detonation of two new nuclear charges in order to renormalize our planet's orbit.
Leo McKern (Inspector McGill in 1956's X: The Unknown, and later, of course, on TV's Rumpole of the Bailey (1978-80), had an excellent turn as science correspondent Bill Maguire. In a memorable ending, as the time for the reverse explosions was nearing, Stenning ordered two alternate headlines prepared, "World Saved" and "World Doomed." Of course, you now which one was correct since you are reading this today!
Janet continued to act through the 1960s, but steadily sank into a dependence on alcohol (and reportedly drugs) as she suffered two miscarriages and had two failed marriages, first to actor Tony Wright (in the 1962 mystery Journey to Nowhere), then to actor Ian Hendry (in Vincent Price's 1973 tour du force, Theatre of Blood). Ironically, one of her last portrayals was that of an alcoholic singer (Carol Fancy) in Sebastian (1968).
Shockingly, she reportedly choked to death while drinking tea, dying prematurely at just age 38 on Wednesday, December 6,1972. However, the official cause of death was listed as acute myocarditis (sudden and severe inflammation of the heart muscle), a possible consequence of chronic ischemic heart disease.
- Her birthdate of September 28, 1934 is shared with French bombshell Brigitte Bardot!
- She was not related in any way to the English horror actress Caroline Munro (seen as Vincent Price's dead wife in 1971's The Abominable Dr.Phibes)
- Michael Caine had a bit role as a policeman directing traffic in The Day the Earth Caught Fire.
Curse of the Ice Princess:
Curse of the Paris Opera:
Follow Dr. Franklin Ruehl, Ph.D. on Twitter: www.twitter.com/drruehl