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No Sleep Tonight, Then: Horror Movies

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It's that time of year again:  the leaves are changing color, the days are shorter, the temperatures cooler, and there's Halloween merchandise for sale in the stores. (There's Christmas stuff, too, but I'm pretending I don't see it.)

 

It's also time for watching horror flicks.  I'm planning on one a day (except Sundays) and posting a brief review; I'm hoping that others will join in.

 

I come supplied with a collection called "Horror Classics".  Having already dipped in to this collection, I've found out that most aren't classics at all, but films that are in the public domain and can be distributed without paying anyone royalties.  No matter;  I enjoy a bad horror movie almost as much as a good one.

 

First off is The Sadist (1963), which I'll write about later today.

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 The Sadist (1963)  

 

Three school teachers en route to a Dodgers game have car trouble and pull in to a junkyard-gas station to get help.  The place seems deserted, until they're confronted with Charley Tibbs (the sadist of the title) and his creepy girlfriend, Judy.  They're a young couple on a murder spree, and need a working vehicle to get them on their way.  

 

Charley and Judy are based on real life spree killers Charles Starkweather and Caril Fugate, who also inspired several other, better known films (e.g., Natural Born Killers ) Arch Hall, Jr, is a bit over the top in his portrayal of the psychotic Charley, but , ultimately, his approach to the character works.  (and he also, spookily, looks a bit like Starkweather).

 

This is a grim, gritty, suspenseful film, well-acted and directed, and well worth seeing.  Like most of the movies in this collection, it's low-budget (according to background info, an amazing $33,000), but this doesn't hurt it in the least.  I definitely recommend this one.

 

Rating: 4/5

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Night Fright (1968)

 

A rocket crashes in the Texas countryside, specifically, in an area called "Satan's Hollow", so you know right off there's going to be trouble.  What ensues is a series of grisly murders, mostly of canoodling college students, the only clue being tracks that look like they were made by a giant alligator.  This flick is not ill-named:  most of the action takes place at night,  and, certainly, a lot of people get frightened -- except for the audience, who are treated to an hour and fifteen minutes of pure tedium.

 

So, who is responsible for all this murder and mayhem?  If you're curious, but don't want to waste time watching a lousy movie, check the spoiler below:

 

Those enterprising folks at NASA were curious about the affects of space radiation on animals, so they sent off a rocket ship full of various critters.  Unfortunately, they lost track of it -- until it came back to earth and crashed in Satan's Hollow.  The poor beasties were all horribly mutated, especially the gorilla, who has developed an insatiable desire for eating flesh.  Also, it now has alligator feet.  

 

The gorilla with the funny feet is immune to bullets, so the sheriff finishes him off with a store mannikin and some dynamite.  You really don't want to know the details.

 

1/5 Don't bother, unless you have insomnia.

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 Sound of Horror (1964) (a Spanish movie, filmed in the environs of Madrid; does not, however, appear to be dubbed)

 

A group of treasure-hunters (they call themselves archeologists),  are exploring some caves believed to hide a cache of priceless antiquities.  This calls for dynamite, of course (I mean, what could go wrong?).  When the blast clears, the treasure-seekers are disappointed to find nothing but petrified eggs.  Unbeknownst to them, one of these hatches into an invisible critter, and, boy, is it pissed off!

 

The rest of the film deals with the group of humans alternately hiding from and trying to battle a non-human monster that they can't see (except its footprints).  They can hear it well enough; it makes a sort of screechy-howly noise that actually is pretty scary.  But it doesn't start screeching until it's right on you, and then, oops!, too late, you're mincemeat.

 

This movie has both good and bad points:

 

The good:  Ingrid Pitt's first movie (Hi, Ingrid!), and it's pretty well acted.  Plus, you might be amused with the scholarship:  upon finding a mummified corpse (intact, in spite of the dynamite) one of the "archeologists" proclaims it to be Neanderthal . . . dating from the siege of Troy.

 

The bad: slow pacing.  Very slow pacing.  You'd think that with a crate full of TNT and an invisible monster with an attitude, we'd see a bit more action, but, no, a tortoise swimming in glue would be faster.

 

Rating: 2/5.  Not recommended, although it's kind of cool to see Ingrid Pitt in her first film

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 The Storm (1949) from Studio One, episode 26 

 

I'm taking a break here from the Mill Creek collection.  This is not a movie, but an hour-long teledrama from Studio One, an anthology series from the early days of television.  All Studio One productions were live broadcasts and usually high quality.  Fortunately, most were copied for west coast viewing, so we can still see them today.

 

A young woman, after a whirlwind courtship, marries a man she barely knows.  He whisks her off to an isolated old house in the countryside, and everything's wonderful except the husband gets the occasional mysterious letter which puts him into a blue funk for days on end.  He never talks about the letters or the reason for his gloom.  Three months go by.  Out of the blue, the husband suggests that his young wife should go visit her invalid mother.  About a week should be sufficient, he tells her.  (Sufficient for what?  we wonder.)  The wife is a little puzzled, but goes anyway.

 

The wife returns home from her visit expecting a loving welcome from her spouse.  Instead, the house is cold and empty, the plants haven't been watered, the clock has stopped, and there's a horrible storm raging.  And what's that she sees in a flash of lightening ? Is that a mysterious man lurking outside?

 

Now, I imagine you're thinking that this is familiar territory, one of those dark-and-stormy-night stories, and you'd be right. But this play has a little extra zing to it, something that's hard to pinpoint.  Maybe it has something to do with it being a live broadcast.  Or maybe the quality of the performances.  In any case, this one is worth watching if you get the chance.

 

Rating: 4/5

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THE MAN WITH TWO LIVES  (1942)

 

We're back with the Mill Creek collection.

 

Philip Bennett is a nice young man who just got engaged to be married; his family and friends are throwing the happy couple a party.  One of the guests is Doctor Clark, who's been experimenting with reviving the dead. (That's mad scientist territory, but Dr. Clark is really just a nice guy who wants to help humanity).  During the festivities, the conversation turns to Clark's experiments which leads to some talk about transmigration of souls.

 

When Philip drives home from the party, he gets into a car accident and dies.  His distraught father begs Dr. Clark to revive his son, which he, somewhat reluctantly, agrees to do.  But just as Philip is being brought back to life, a notorious gangster is executed in a nearby prison.  And with all that talk about transmigrating souls, you can probably figure out what happens.

 

Sure enough, Philip is successfully revived, but he sure is acting strange.  And there's a crime wave in the city.  And his friends and family are really worried.  And there's lots of guns and shootings and stuff.  And a gangster's moll.  Of course there's a gangster's moll.

 

This is a reasonably entertaining, if uninspired flick -- or would be, if the makers hadn't ruined it by tacking on a ridiculous ending.

 

Philip wakes up from a coma and it's all a bad dream.  Yes.  Really.

 

Rating: 2/5  Low grade mostly due to the stupid ending.

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SCARED TO DEATH  (1946)
 
Opening:  A  woman's corpse on a dissecting table.  The coroner muses that he really hates to cut open the body of a beautiful woman. ( Apparently, ugly women don't bother him any.)  He wonders what her last thoughts were.  Then, the corpse speaks.  Not out loud, though -- imagine what that would do to that poor coroner, already upset because she's both beautiful and dead. A talking, beautiful female corpse would really put him over the edge.
 
No, the dead body speaks to us, the audience.  She narrates the story of how she was literally scared to death. ( And being dead has apparently made her omniscient, because she describes scenes she couldn't possibly have been aware of during her life).  As the movie progresses, we keep coming back to shots of her body on the slab, which gets annoying.  But it is a lovely corpse.
 
Anyway,let's move on to the characters of the unfolding drama.  First of all, the household:
 
Dr. Joseph Van Ee  --  He's a psychiatrist, and the dead woman's father-in-law.  His home is also a clinic, but he doesn't seem to have any patients except his daughter-in-law, who he thinks is suffering from severe nervous tension.  He has a mysterious past.

 

Laura Van Ee  -- the beautiful woman who will soon be dead.  She thinks her husband and father-in-law are trying to drive her insane.  She frequently goes to her room and locks the door. She also has a mysterious past.

 

Ward Van Ee  -- son of Joseph and husband of Laura.  Despite a loveless marriage, Laura refuses to give him a divorce.  He can't figure out what to do about it.  I guess he doesn't have the initiative to get a lawyer.  He does, however, have a mysterious photo of some masked dancers stolen from Laura's room by the maid.  He thinks this may be significant!

 

Lilybeth  -- the Van Ee's grumpy maid, who dislikes Laura.  She's the one who snooped around Laura's room and found that strange photograph.

 

Bill Raymond -- a dim-witted security guard, who used to be a policeman.  He was fired for incompetence.  Bill really, really, really wants a murder, so he can capture the culprit  and prove his worth.  Bill hasn't been paid by Dr. Van Ee for a couple of weeks (see above note re: the doctor's lack of patients.  Van Ee probably hasn't paid Lilybeth, either; that may be why she's so grumpy)  Bill, by the way, is in love with Lilybeth.

 

The Visitors:

 

Mrs. Williams  -- a mysterious woman who alludes to a dark secret in Dr. Van Ee's past, and implies she's going to blackmail him.  She leaves, but we just might see her again, later.

 

Professor Leonide  -- played by my fave, Bela Lugosi (Hi, Bela!) He's a stage hypnotist and magician, is Van Ee's cousin, and wants to stay for a few days.  Leonide and Van Ee clearly don't like each other much, but Van Ee lets him stay.  Family, you know.  Besides, Leonide knows about that dark secret from the doctor's past.

 

Indigo -- Leonide's assistant, a dwarf. He kicks Bill Raymond in the shins, and spends the rest of the time skulking around and looking mysterious.

 

Terry Lee -- tough talking investigative reporter.  He's had a tip that something strange was happening in the Van Ee household, and he's not leaving until he finds out what it is

 

Jane Cornell  -- Lee's ditsy girlfriend or maybe would-be girlfriend, (their relationship is not entirely clear).  Her function in the movie is to be silly.

 

In addition to the above characters, there is a mysterious person wearing a blue mask who keeps peeking in the windows.  Everyone calls it a green mask, but it looks blue to me.

 

As the evening progresses, someone get conked in the head, someone gets hypnotized, someone falls asleep when he shouldn't, and someone eavesdrops. There are secret passages and mysterious messages.  The dwarf disappears and no one notices.  And we do find out how -- and why -- Laura Van Ee gets scared to death.

 

Now, this is a bad movie; it's disjointed, silly, and the humor usually doesn't work all that well.  But it's just goofy enough that I thoroughly enjoyed watching it.  The cast, in full ham-it-up mode, seem like they're having fun, and there is some good dialogue.  All-in-all, a decent effort.  As far as recommendations go, watch it if you like bad movies; otherwise, give it a skip.

 

Rating: 3/5

 

Trivia note:  This film is one of the very few occasions that Lugosi was filmed in color.

 

 

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WAR OF THE ROBOTS  (1978, Italian, dubbed.  Also known as REACTOR)

 

Set in the distant future,  War of the Robots is a cheap imitation of Star Wars and Star Trek.  We start off in a futuristic laboratory, where we meet Professor Carr and his lovely assistant, Lois.  Carr has nearly perfected a means to create artificial life;  his current experiment involves running a powerful reactor, that, strangely enough, only he knows how to operate.  Carr has the hots for Lois; Lois doesn't return the feeling.  Seems to me she has a good case for a sexual harassment lawsuit, but she chooses instead to lead him on while secretly carrying on an affair with with hunky spaceship captain, John Boyd.

 

Suddenly,  a bunch of strange men show up.  They're wearing identical silver overalls and golden blond hair.  They sort of look like female impersonators with a fixation on Doris Day during her page boy phase.  Anyway, the "golden boys", as they're eventually called, kill  the laboratory's security guards and kidnap both Carr and Lois.  

 

Captain Boyd and his crew are off in pursuit!  Not only do they want to rescue the professor and Lois, but they need to turn off the reactor, or it will blow up.  No one can do it but Carr.  Countless lives are in the balance!  

 

Now, a bunch of stuff happens, but I'm just going to skip over it and do a bit of exposition.  The golden boys are robots (or, more accurately, androids),which is pretty obvious from the beginning, but Boyd and company don't figure it out until after there's a big fight and a golden boy gets disemboweled.  Hey, wires and gears instead of guts!  

 

Lois and her randy employer have been kidnapped by the robots' makers, the people of Anthor.  The Anthorians have become sterile and are trying to keep their civilization alive by prolonging their own lives indefinitely.  They do this by harvesting organs from the people of other planets.  This makes the Anthorians unpopular with their neighbors and they don't get invited to any parties.

 

Somehow, news of Carr's promising research into creating life traveled the inter-planetary grapevine to Anthor, and thus the  reason for the kidnapping. If Carr can make them immortal without the need for organ-snatching then maybe they won't be social pariahs anymore.  They can concentrate their energies on stealing people for slave-labor.  Come to think of it, that won't improve their likability quotient, so never mind.

 

Boyd and his crew arrive on Anthor and break into the imperial palace and find that, far from being a helpless captive, Professor Carr has willingly joined up with his kidnappers.  I don't think it's Stockholm syndrome;  more likely, the Anthorians offered a better benefit package. For one thing, Carr is now wearing a fancy wizard's robe.  And as for Lois -- she's become Empress of the Anthorians.  How's that for a job perk?

 

Hoo-boy . . . the real problem with this movie is not that it's absurd or badly acted, although it is both.  The real problem is that it is dull, dull, dull.  There is, for instance, a spaceship battle that, I imagine, is supposed to be like those in Star Wars, but is, instead, like a poorly designed video game. It seems to go on forever. Yawnsville.

 

I'm a little puzzled as to why War of the Robots  found its way into a collection of horror films, as it's pretty much straight science-fiction. Or course, there's organ-harvesting aliens and a scientist who plans on creating life, so I guess those are elements of horror. However you want to classify this flick, it's just plain bad.

 

Rating: 1/5. Not recommended, although you might like it for the eye candy.  Those futuristic humans are mostly gorgeous.

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HANDS OF STEEL (1986, Italian, dubbed)

 

Here we have a testosterone-laden, muscle-bound, rock 'em, sock 'em, shoot-'em-up flick, and it's hard to see why it's been placed in a horror movie collection.  Okay, so there's about two minutes worth of material that could be considered horror.  I can only imagine   the conversation as the Mill Creek editors made their decision:  "Hey, I don't think this movie belongs here . . .You say it's got a snake and a severed head? . . .Well, does the head do anything? . . .Oh, it talks? . . .Well, okay, then. "

 

Anyway . . .We're in a dystopian future with massive pollution problems, much of it caused by an evil corporation with a name I've forgotten (and it doesn't matter because evil corporations are all pretty much the same in this sort of movie).  There's a noble, idealistic scientist who's leading a movement to clear up the environment, urge people to live the simple life, and so on.  The evil corporation doesn't like this, so they send an assassin to neutralize the scientist.

 

Now, the assassin's name is Paco, and he's a cyborg, created by the evil corporation to be a killing machine.  Paco was in a serious accident some time ago, and the evil corporation whisked him away to its evil laboratory to put  a lot of wires and gears and computer stuff into his body.  But he still has some human stuff, too, and when he attacks the noble scientist -- who is, by the way, blind and wheelchair-bound -- at the last minute, he holds back.  So the scientist is badly injured, but not dead.  Paco makes his escape, and, realizing he's in big trouble, high tails it to the back roads of Arizona.

 

Paco has a lot of people after him:  the FBI wants to capture the would-be killer and the evil corporation wants to destroy him because they figure he's either gone dysfunctional or has developed a conscience  (either way, he's a big problem for them).  Paco finds a  hide-out in a sleazy roadside motel with a tavern that caters to truck drivers, and here the cyborg finds more enemies among the locals because: A, he's a stranger, and B, he beats them all at arm-wrestling.  (Of course, they don't know he's three-quarters machine and has an unfair advantage).

 

What this all leads to is an arm-wrestling showdown in which the loser has to stick his hand in the face of a rattler. (See, I told you there was a snake.)  I won't give away what happens, but I can tell you it isn't pretty.

 

Paco knows it's only a matter of time before the evil corporation tracks him down, and, sure enough, he's soon knee-deep in assassins.  Literally.  Well, almost literally.  There's a lot of bodies strewn about.  One of those is a lady cyborg who gets her head ripped off.  It rolls away from the body, and before it finally dies, manages to gurgle out a few words, something like "Weed the strudel."  But I may have misheard that.

 

This movie has lots of action, car chases, fighting and shooting, all pretty well choreographed.  The  quality of the acting ranges from mediocre to lousy. The dialogue --  what there is of it -- is uninspired.  The story line is nothing special.  And yet, oddly enough, I liked this movie.  Honestly, I don't know why, but I did.  

 

Rating: 2/5  But I enjoyed it anyway.

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ONE FRIGHTENED NIGHT (1935)

 

Jasper Whyte is an elderly millionaire.  Many years ago, he disinherited his daughter because he disapproved of the man she married.  The daughter and son-in-law are now dead and Jasper can't locate his granddaughter.  Now Jasper has to figure out what to do with all his millions.

 

One dark and stormy night, Jasper hosts a dinner for some  relatives and his physician.  He tells them that, unless his granddaughter can be located before midnight, he is going to divvy up his estate among them -- a million for each, plus a million to his housekeeper.  So that makes for some real happy dinner guests.  The reason for the midnight deadline is that he wants to avoid a new inheritance tax that goes into effect then. (Which, by the way, makes no sense.  Surely the relevant factor would be the date of death, not the date the will was made.  Unless the old fellow plans on dropping dead before midnight, all his scheming will be for naught.  However, it's not important to the story line, so we'll apply some handwaveium and move on.)

 

Just as these lucky folk are celebrating their new found  wealth, who should arrive but Jasper's lawyer and a young lady named Doris Waverly -- she's the long lost granddaughter!   Some unhappy dinner guests just lost a million dollars a piece!  Just as they're getting the new will prepared, who should arrive but . . Doris Waverly, and she also claims to be Jasper Whyte's granddaughter.  And then, someone gets murdered.

 

This is very fun comedy-mystery, with lots of witty dialogue.  True, there's no depth to the characters -- they're all pretty much stock characters that you can easily find in any who-done-it  from this era. Nor is it a particularly well-crafted mystery.  Nevertheless, the script is very funny and the performances are good, so I can cheerfully recommend this film.

 

We do have some horror elements here, but they're mostly window dressing.  There's a blowgun with poison darts, a mysterious robed figure wearing a strange mask, and then there's Jasper Whyte's "trophy" room -- it's full of old human skulls and a sarcophagus.  Nothing is really scary, nor is it meant to be. 

 

Rating: 3/5

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THE WEREWOLF OF WASHINGTON (1973)

 

Jack Whittier is a Washington, D.C. reporter on assignment in Hungary.  One night, while traveling on some back country roads, his car breaks down and he ends up fending off an attack by a wolf, which, when killed, turns into a man.  Whittier tries to report the matter to the authorities, who just don't want to hear about it.  An old gypsy woman, however, solemnly thanks him for releasing her son from a terrible curse, and warns him, since he was bitten by the creature, next full moon he will turn into a werewolf.  Whittier, of course, does not take this seriously, and flies back home to his new job as a White House press secretary.

 

Sounds like a set up for an old-fashioned werewolf flick, but the horror is being used as a vehicle for political satire, of Washington DC in general and the Nixon era in particular.  This is all pretty obvious, what with references to Watergate and a thinly-disguised Richard Nixon and Martha Mitchell.  Some reviewers just don't get it, though -- they grumble that the movie isn't scary enough, the werewolf make-up is sub par and makes Whittier look like a poodle, and so forth. (Well, duh) It's a satire; it's intended to be funny, not scary. (except, or course, for the frightening things those jokers in DC are doing to the country)

 

That's not to say it's good satire; it isn't.  There's a few funny scenes, but most of the gags fall flat, and I don't think that's due to the material being dated.  I suspect this movie wouldn't have seemed very funny when it was released in 1973.  A look at the relevant dates provides a clue:  the Watergate break-in occurred in June 1972, snowballed into a huge scandal during the following months, and eventually led to Nixon's resignation on August 9, 1974.  This movie was released in October of 1973.  This suggests it was a slap-dash, hurry-up affair, and hastily tossed into the theaters in order to take advantage of the current political climate. It's too bad the makers couldn't have taken a bit more time with it, they may have produced something quite clever.  As it it, this film is just plain messy, although with a few good scenes.

 

Rating: 2/5.  Not recommended, although if you lived through the Watergate/Nixon era, you might get a kick out of some of it.

 

Trivia note for Dark Shadows fans:  Thayer David has a small role in the early part of this movie.  He plays a Hungarian police inspector.

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THE OLD DARK HOUSE (1932)

 

(Taking another break from the Mill Creek collection.)

 

 This minor classic, long thought lost, is directed by James Whale, also known for Frankenstein (1931) and The Invisible Man.  It also has a talented cast which includes Boris Karloff, Charles Laughton, Raymond Massey, and Gloria Stuart.  Add to the mix a literate and witty screenplay, and you've got yourself a winner.  Unfortunately, American audiences of the time didn't see it that way, and the movie tanked at the box office, although it did quite well in the UK.

 

The restored film is available on DVD, and is quite watchable, although the audio is a little fuzzy in spots.  (It's regrettable that, while the disc has two excellent commentaries and a number of other extras, no one thought to provide subtitles to help us with less-than-perfect audio)

 

We open with a car traveling the back roads of Wales during a terrific storm.  The unhappy driver is Philip Waverton, the equally unhappy passengers are his wife, Margaret, and their friend, Penderel.  There's flooding and landslides, and the trio in the car realize that the roads will soon be impassable.  But  . . .over there . . .yes, it's an old dark house.  It doesn't look very inviting, but they'd better stop.  There's really not much choice.

 

The inhabitants of this house are Horace Femm (upper-crust, sarcastic, and cowardly) and his religious fanatic sister, Rebecca, who is less than welcoming to the travelers ("No beds!  They can't have beds!").  Their servant is a man called Morgan, nearly mute and prone to heavy drinking -- and he's casting a lustful eye on Margaret Waverton.  And, then, of course, there's whoever lives upstairs . . . 

 

Soon, other travelers stop to take refuge:  Sir William Porterhouse and his chorus girl companion, Gladys.  Sir William seems, at first glance, like a vulgar lout, and Gladys is probably no better than she should be -- but appearances are deceiving, as we eventually find out.  The Femms provide dinner for their five guests, and this, dear readers, may well be the most memorable meal ever put on film.  I've never heard the simple phrase "Have a potato" said in such a momentous fashion.

 

This film is both very scary and very funny, and, surprisingly, it has some very touching moments, as well.  Definitely recommended.

 

Rating: 5/5

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I have a question for y'all. Jason Voorhees died as a child, correct? I accept that he "came back" to get his revenge, but how the hell did he grow into a 6ft+, 200 lb or so monster?

Barnacles.

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THE ROGUES TAVERN  (1936)

 

(back with the Mill Creek collection)

 

Jimmy Kelly and and Marjorie Burns are two department store detectives who want to get married, so they travel to a picturesque old inn called the Red Rock Tavern.  They've arranged to meet a justice of the  peace in the inn's lobby, but he hasn't shown up yet when they arrive.  Jimmy tries to book two rooms (yup, two rooms, not one, because it's 1936 , the Hays code is being vigorously enforced, and they're not quite married yet)  To his surprise, there's no room in the inn - every single spot is taken, even though it's off-season for traveling.

 

The inn is crowded because of the rather sudden appearance of a number of travelers: several men and a woman named Gloria, who passes the time telling fortunes with a pack of playing cards (a tarot deck would have been so much more atmospheric, but playing cards suffice, especially when the Ace of Spades shows up).  Gloria spends a lot of time making pronouncements of gloom and doom.

 

It turns out that all these people (except Jimmy and Marjorie, of course), have been summoned here by telegram, the sender being something of a mystery.  As the plot develops, we also learn that these folks are a bunch of miscreants , bound together in some unsavory way, even though they all came from different parts of the country. And then, one by one, they start getting murdered --  apparently, by a wild dog.  Then bars appear on all the windows, the doors can't be opened, and a disembodied voice tells them that they're all going to die.

 

The above plot synopsis makes this flick sound better than it really is.  Similar in style to One Frightened Night (see review upthread), it's a mystery-comedy with horror elements, but lacks the wit of Frightened .  It also was sloppily performed -- there's a great many awkward pauses, as though some cast members have forgotten their lines, and the budget didn't allow for another take.

 

Nevertheless, it's far from boring, and it's interesting to see two department store detectives work at solving a series of murders, when they're used to tracking down shoplifters.  So I'm giving it a lukewarm thumbs up.

 

Rating: 2/5.  mediocre film, but may still be worth a look

Edited by miles2go

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TERROR CREATURES FROM THE GRAVE  (1965, Italian, dubbed -- also known as "Five Graves for a Medium")

 

Lawyer Albert Kovac has received a letter from Jeronimus Hauff asking him for help in revising his will.  Albert drives out to the Hauff mansion, which is, of course, off in an isolated place in the countryside, where he meets Corinne, Hauff's daughter, and Cleo, his second wife. (Cleo is played by "queen of horror", Barbara Steele.  Hi, Barbara!)  Jeronimus himself is not available-- he's been dead for nearly a year! The next day, in fact, is the first year anniversary of his passing.

 

Albert thinks the letter must be a nasty practical joke, but both daughter and widow assure him that it is Jeronimus's handwriting and personal seal.  So the lawyer decides to do a little investigating.  

 

The Hauff mansion, he learns, has a macabre history:  it was once a hospital for plague victims; few left this place alive.  Also, nearby are five graves, where men suspected of deliberately spreading the plague were buried in unhallowed ground.  First their hands were chopped off, then they were hanged.  And , inside the Hauff mansion, is a display case filled with the mummified hands of the plague spreaders.  Jeronimus himself was a medium, and had made contact with the ghosts of the plague spreaders.

 

Albert is skeptical, but then he finds out there has recently been a series of mysterious deaths, and all of them were men who had been witnesses to the death of Jeronimus Hauff.  Cleo says that her husband's death was an accident, but is she telling the truth?  And is Jeronimus planning revenge from beyond the grave?

 

This flick has a lot of spooky material, is very atmospheric, and has some decent performances.  It drags a bit, though, and has a rushed and clumsy ending.

 

Rating: 3/5.  Not bad; probably worth seeing.

 

 

 

 

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EVIL BRAIN FROM OUTER SPACE  (1964, Japanese, dubbed)

 

The evil brain is named Balazar, and hails from the planet Zemar.  He was, at one time, a regular sort of person with a body (I say 'regular", but he's from a different planet, so who knows what's normal for them) Anyway, he was super-intelligent, so when he was assassinated by an out-of-control robot, he used his telepathic and telekinetic powers to stay alive.  It's a bit of a bore, though, to be a disembodied brain, just lying around all day with nothing to do, so Balazar has set his sights on universal domination.  To this end, the evil brain of Balazar has traveled to Earth to begin his conquest.

 

The good folk of the Emerald Planet  (who look a bit like demented chess pieces, plus there's some giant starfishes in the background) are aware of Balazar's dastardly plans, and hold a council.  They're not particularly concerned about the fate of Earth, actually, they don't give a rat's ass for that, but they are worried that Balazar will use atomic weapons, and the fallout could pollute space and even affect the Emerald Planet itself.  So they create Starman, their superhero emissary to Earth, to stop the evil brain's evil plans.

 

Starman's original Japanese name translates as "Super Giant", or, more accurately, "Super Giants".  It's not entirely clear why he has a plural name, but some think it has something to do with the Yomari Giants, a popular baseball team.  He was re-named "Starman" for English-speaking audiences (more on that later), so I'll be using that moniker for him. 

 

 Starman is made of the strongest steel, and is made to look human in order to fit in better on Earth.  He's been given a wristwatch-like device which allows him many special powers, which include flying, speaking all languages, and changing his outfit in the blink of an eye.  All he has to do is duck down away from the camera, then hop up again to change from street clothes to his Starman outfit.  That's one better than Superman, who needs to find a phone booth or broom closet to switch costumes.

 

Besides a body made of steel, and all sorts of superpowers, Starman has been given something a little extra, which is never actually mentioned, but is clearly seen.  His superhero body suit is a wee bit too tight in the crotch, with results that don't leave much to the imagination.  Apparently, the good folk of the Emerald Planet expected him to do some procreating in between bouts of fighting with the bad guys.  And with Big Bill and the Twins so prominently on display, this may be the real reason he was named "Super Giants".

 

But back to the evil brain from Zemar  and its insidious activities : The conquest starts with Balazar corrupting Earth's scientists, and instructing them to create mutants who can cause all sorts of mayhem.  One of these gone-over-to-the-dark-side scientists has an assistant who learns of the wicked goings-on, and steals the brain.  So we have a scene of him running through the streets of some unnamed Japanese city with a briefcase.  The cops are chasing him, because they think he's a bank robber.  Inevitably, the assistant gets caught, and in the struggle, the briefcase falls in a river. "NO!" cries the assistant, "There's a brain in there! We must recover the brain or it will destroy us all!" (or words to that effect, I didn't transcribe the dialog, considering it's not exactly undying prose)  So the young man gets dragged off to jail, and the suitcase stays in the river -- which is a little odd, really, considering that the police think it's full of stolen yen.

 

But Balazar's brain is capable of interstellar travel, so escaping an abduction via suitcase doesn't present much of a challenge.  Soon it's back to it's wicked ways, and the corrupted scientists are producing  mutants with amazing powers -- like derailing trains with a nod of the head and killing people with a touch of the finger.  Some of these mutants look just like us, others are pretty weird.  One variety looks like one of those scary Hindu deities, complete with fangs, and if you shoot one of those, it doesn't die, it splits into two identical mutants.  The Earth would surely be doomed, except that Starman with his bulging crotch always shows up in the nick of time.

 

There's quite a few fight scenes in this film, and they're actually pleasing to watch.  Not sure if this is typical of Japanese movies or not, but the fights are choreographed so gracefully, they look like ballet -- certainly very different from American  fisticuffs.  The fight scenes may well be the best thing about this movie, which is repetitive and mostly incoherent.  There's actually a very good reason for its incoherence -- this flick was cobbled together from three short features from a theatrical series meant to be the Japanese answer to "The Adventures of Superman."  A plot was invented that sort of fit the visuals, "Super Giants" was renamed "Starman", and it was all glued together with English dubbing and narration.

 

Apparently, other films from the Japanese series were given the same treatment, so there are sequels to Evil Brain From Outer Space. I don't think I could bring myself to watch them.  

 

Rating: 1/5  Maybe the original series would be worth watching, but this flick certainly isn't.

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THE DEVIL BAT  (1940)

 

We have "devil", we have "bat", so naturally we have . . . Hi, Bela!

 

This cheapie film was obviously designed to exploit Lugosi's Dracula mystique, as well as the popularity of vampire films in general.  However, Lugosi doesn't play a vampire here, but a physician named Paul Carruthers.  The good doctor, in his spare time, dabbles in cosmetic science, his employer being the Heath company, owned by the Heath and Morton families, who just happen to live nearby.  

 

Some years ago, Carruthers developed a greaseless face cream that he sold to the Heath company for a flat fee, although he was offered a share in the business instead.  Big mistake -- the face cream was a huge success, the cosmetics company's profits soared, the Heath and Morton families became rich -- and Carruthers had to be satisfied with his measly fee.  Sure, the company gives him a bonus check every now and then, the most recent being five grand, but that's almost insulting given the millions that the business is worth.

 

So Carruthers frets and stews and becomes bitter and turns his scientific genius to more sinister ends than making face creams.  In his secret lair, he uses electricity to turn ordinary bats into gigantic super-bats and then trains them to attack when they smell a particular scent which the vengeful doctor created from an exotic plant found only in Tibet.  And then he put that scent into an aftershave.  Can you guess his devious and dastardly plan?

 

The first to die is Roy Heath, eldest son of one of the company's owners.  Walking home from a visit with Dr. Carruthers, he was attacked by someone or something which severed his jugular vein.  The death is peculiar enough to bring out a newspaper reporter, Johnny Layton, and his photographer, One-Shot McGuire.  Soon, Roy's brother, Tommy, is also killed, but this time Layton and McGuire are witnesses, and what they see is a ginormous bat ripping out Tommy's throat!  Soon, there are newspaper headlines about a murderous devil bat on the loose.

 

Now, I'll grant you this movie is pretty silly, the "comic relief" is excruciating (it has mostly to do with McGuire's wooing of a French maid, and the making of a fake bat with a "made in Japan" label still on it), and, except for Lugosi, the performances are pretty poor.  Still, it's one of those bad movies I enjoy watching.  Recommended for bad movie lovers only.

 

Rating: 3/5

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CRIMES AT THE DARK HOUSE (1940)

 

I confess to being a little skeptical when the opening credits of this movie indicated that it was an adaptation of the Wilkie Collins novel, The Woman in White.  Generally such B-movie adaptations have as much resemblance to the original as a robin has to a pumpkin.  I was, however, surprised to find that a good deal of the novel's plot did, in fact, make it into the film script; of course, there are also some significant differences.

 

We open with a shot of prospector's tents somewhere in the gold fields of Australia, circa 1850.  A man creeps into a tent, and proceeds to murder its sleeping occupant by hammering a spike into his skull.  There's no gore, but it's still a shocking scene.  The victim is Percival Glyde, about to become Sir Percival and inherit his father's estate.  The murderer (whose name we never learn), is set on stealing Glyde's identity and taking over his patrimony.

 

The imposter arrives at Blackwater Park, and discovers a good news- bad news situation.  The good news: First off, none of the current servants were around when Percival left home twenty years ago, so there's no one in the household to challenge him.  Secondly, the estate lawyer is so lackadaisical that he doesn't bother to check for identity.  Lastly, there's a very pretty maid servant who is quite willing to be seduced by the master of the house.

 

The bad news:  the estate is heavily in debt and mortgaged to the hilt (Ha, Mr. Impostor, didn't think this through, did you?  Why would Percival Glyde endure the hardships of a prospector's life if he had a cushy estate waiting for him?)

 

Good news:  Some years before he died, Percival's father had arranged for Percival to marry Laura Fairlie, an orphaned heiress.

 

Bad news:  Laura is in love with her art teacher, Paul Hartwright, and she doesn't want to marry Percival Glyde.

 

Good news:  Laura's guardian, her hypochondriac uncle Frederick, won't intervene because he's a self-involved jerk who wants to be rid of her.  Moreover, Laura's something of a doormat who won't stick up for herself.

 

Bad news:  The maid servant the  Impostor earlier seduced has become pregnant and naively thinks that he's going to marry her.

 

Good news:  Well, this is just a minor inconvenience, isn't it?  The false Percival lures the poor girl to the creaky, old boathouse, strangles her, and tosses her in the lake, all the while chortling with glee.  This guy likes killing more than he likes sex.

 

Bad news:  Impostor is confronted by a Mrs. Catherick and a shady physician named Isidor Fosco (the film's version of the novel's Count Fosco).  It seems that Percival had secretly married Mrs. Catherick before he skedaddled off to Australia.  The marriage produced a daughter named Ann, who is mentally unbalanced and really hates her father for deserting her mother.  She's capable of violence, warns the physician, but, luckily, she's safely locked up in his private sanitarium. But there's even more bad news:  Mrs. Catherick knows perfectly well that the new master of Blackwater Park is not the real Percival Glyde.

 

Good news:  Both Catherick and Fosco are willing to keep their mouths shut for a financial consideration.

 

Bad news:  Imposter doesn't have any money yet.

 

Good news:  Did I mention that the false Percival really enjoys killing people?  Good news for him, bad news for everyone else.

 

Well, I won't give away any more of the plot.  Some of it follows The Woman in White, some of it doesn't.  All the cast give good performances;  Tod Slaughter, as the Imposter, is a hammy delight -- and if he occasionally chews up the scenery, he does it with flair.

 

Rating:  4/5  Recommended, but if you want a faithful adaptation of the Collins' novel, you'll have to look elsewhere.

Edited by miles2go
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THE GHOST WALKS  (1934)

 

A playwright (Prescott Ames), accompanied by a Broadway producer (Herman Wood) and his secretary (Homer Erskine), are driving through the countryside in the midst of a rain storm.  Of course, they get stuck in the mud, and have to seek shelter at a nearby spooky-looking house; by incredible coincidence, Prescott knows the people in the house --  one of them is his fiancé, Gloria!  The three travelers are invited to stay the night, but as they prepare for dinner, all sorts of strange things happen:  a mysterious scream, furniture moving by itself, a blood stain suddenly appearing on the table cloth, and, Beatrice, a psychic, goes into a trance.  Her husband, John, is coming back, she says, one year to the day from when he was murdered.  Then the lights go out, and when they come on again, Beatrice has vanished!

 

Herman and Homer flee the dining room in terror, and everyone else starts laughing -- because this isn't real, Prescott and a group of actors are acting out the first scenes of his new play.  Everything from  getting stuck in the mud to Beatrice's disappearance is an act designed to impress the Broadway producer.  But Beatrice can come out now -- where is she?  Well, she's in a closet, and she appears to be dead.  Oops.  That wasn't in the script. And, then, to make matters worse, her body disappears.

 

Meanwhile, producer Herman and secretary Homer have fled upstairs and accidentally stumbled into the wrong room.  It happens to be Prescott's, and he's left a manuscript on the table; it's his new play, "The Ghost Walks," and when Herman and Homer read through the first pages, they realize they've been had.

 

As the evening wears on, more people disappear, and, to complicate matters, a guard from an insane asylum stops by looking for an escaped inmate.  He's a dangerous maniac and he's probably hiding in this house somewhere!  Of course, the producer and his secretary think the play is still going on and won't take anything seriously.

 

This movie is more of a farce than a  horror tale, which would be fine if it hadn't spoiled its jocular tone by including an unpleasant near-rape scene.  On the whole,though, it's a passable film and may be worth a look.

 

Rating: 3/5

Edited by miles2go

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If I were independently wealthy, I would open my own neighborhood movie theatre (like we used to have when we were kids), show old movies and let everyone in for free because you could pretty much guarantee that most people who came would be there for the love of it.   I would also start my own radio station, but that's another story.

 

Showing this week at my free movie theatre:

 

Let's Scare Jessica to Death

Race With the Devil

Crowhaven Farm

Black Sabbath (with Boris Karloff, but mostly because of the first chapter called "The Drop of Water")

Vampire's Kiss (just fucking brilliant, with Nicolas Cage)

Burnt Offerings

Trilogy of Terror

Phantasm

The Sentinel

Selected episodes of "Twilight Zone," "Rod Serling's Night Gallery," "One Step Beyond," and "Ghost Story/Circle of Fear"

The Head That Wouldn't Die

Thirteen Ghosts (the original)

The Haunting (the original)

Hell House (with Roddy McDowall)

The Innocents

Don't Look Now

The Birds

Day of the Triffids

The Last Man on Earth (Vincent Price)

Fire Walk With Me

The Sixth Sense

The Resurrected (best adaptation to date of Lovecraft's "Case of Charles Dexter Ward")

Session 9

The Night Stalker (pilot for Kolchak: The Night Stalker)

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CURSE OF THE HEADLESS HORSEMAN  (1974)

 

I really had high hopes for this flick: young man inherits a ranch that has a resident ghost -- a headless horseman.  I was thinking, "Hey!  the Washington Irving story set in the wild west.  That sounds like goofy fun."

 

So, I settle down to watch with pleasurable anticipation:

 

First of all, the setting is contemporary,( which I found to be a bit of a letdown).  There's a whole bunch of characters, most of whom I couldn't keep straight.  Mark is a young medical student; Brenda is his fiancé.  They're both pretty much straight arrow, but they hang out with a bunch of hippie types.  So, they're partying and eating pizza, and someone says "These people don't eat pizza, they inhale it."  Which is about as witty as this film gets.

 

Mark tells his buddies that his uncle just died, and left him his ranch, with the stipulation that he must make a profit from it in six months, or the whole shebang will go to the ranch's caretaker, Solomon.  He invites them to come along and help him, and they all enthusiastically agree, as apparently none of them have jobs or responsibilities.  So now I'm thinking -- all these hippies are going to this ranch and they're going to learn how to saddle horses and rope cattle and when the headless horseman comes by, they're going to hand him some flowers and say "Peace, man."  Okay, that might work.

 

But now I encounter another big letdown.  The ranch isn't a ranch, it's a wild west theme park, and a very dilapidated one at that.  Mark and his pals wander around the place,  watch a re-enactment of a gun fight, do some more wandering, discover a stage and have an amateur night performance, engage in aimless conversations, and, finally, Solomon, the grim-faced caretaker, tells them about the headless horseman who appears during "a special moon" (Solomon never explains what the "special" moon is, which I think would be helpful, because you could always just stay indoors then.)

 

Nothing much happens until a lady shows up wanting to buy the place, but Solomon looks through the window and she starts screaming (which is uncalled for, Solomon's not that ugly), and she leaves.  That's some mighty fine screaming she does, and it is really the high point of the movie.

 

Finally, the headless horseman shows up, carrying his head on his saddle; his m.o. is to shake his head at his victim and splatter them with blood.  Victim number one can't get the blood stains out of his shirt, and that's really a bummer.  Second victim is a young woman whose name I can't remember, and she gets hysterical and runs in front of a truck.  Third victim Is on an acid trip; after hugging some old wagon wheels, she wanders off to the countryside and the horseman shows up and she's all oooo, groovy, man, and then, for no discernible reason, she falls down, rolls around a bit, and passes out.  The narration tells us that she couldn't be saved, so I guess no one bothered to go looking for her and she died of exposure.

 

Hooboy - -this flick is beyond bad. The script is lousy, the performances, except for the screaming  lady, are awful.  And apparently the budget didn't allow for decent audio equipment, because the sound is crappy, and it doesn't help that the cast all seem to be graduates of the Mumble and Stammer School of Acting.

 

Ladies and gentlemen, you're about to witness a first.  I've never before given anything a zero grade, but it's going to happen now.

 

Rating: 0/5

Edited by miles2go
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THE SHE-BEAST  (1966)

 

We start off with a sort of prologue:  It's modern-day Transylvania.  An elderly man, a little unsteady on his feet, like he's had one drink too many, enters his home which appears to be a cave.  But it's a well-appointed cave, full of comfortable furniture and shelves full of books.  The old man picks up one of these books -- it's the memoirs of a Count van Helsing -- and begins reading.  Dissolve to . . . 

 

Transylvania two hundred years ago.  A priest is conducting a funeral.  He's just intoning the part about "sleep in the arms of the angels", when a little boy bursts in.  "She's got my brother!" he says.  Everyone seems to know who "she" is.  And they all run out of the church, priest included, and grab some torches.  One church functionary -- he seems to be in charge of ringing the bells -- begs them to wait and consult with the Count, but no one pays him the slightest attention.

Hmm, this doesn't look good for "she".

 

So the bell-ringer starts off for the castle on the hill, and everyone else forms a mob and heads for a hovel against a cliff, and shouts for the witch to come out.  And so she does, making bestial noises, and trying to attack her tormentors -- she's not going down without a fight, good for her -- but of course it's hopeless.

 

Now, I'm going to pause a moment to describe the she-beast/witch and contemplate her condition.  She's got some kind of disfiguring skin disease and very bad teeth and she's dressed in rags and she can't speak properly.  If she's a witch, in league with Satan, I'm wondering what she's getting out of it.  Not health, wealth, or beauty, obviously. And what, exactly, is she being accused of?  Where's this boy she's supposed to have stolen?  Was she supposed to have eaten him?  Sacrificed him to the infernal powers?  Played a few rounds of "Crazy 8's"?  Well, what?

 

Now, if these villagers had any proper evidence against her, they should really trot it out and have us take a look, but, of course, mobs don't think that way, and the  she-beast is dragged to the lake and put in a dunking chair.  She manages to croak out a curse, that she will always be here and will wreak her revenge against the descendants of her tormentors.  Then they impale her on a spike, but not in a way that will kill her, because she's going to have a slow death.  Then they dunk her in the water, again and again and again.  And watching it all from a cliff over the lake, is the before-mentioned bell-ringer and another man, presumably the Count.  Dissolve to . . .

 

Modern day Transylvania.  Meet Philip and Veronica, newlyweds, of British nationality. (Veronica is played by Barbara Steele -- Hi, Barbara!) They're driving through the countryside, and have gotten lost, and need a place for the night.  So they stop at this same village that, many years ago, tortured the she-beast to death.  There they meet the old man we first saw in the prologue, who tells them he is Count van Helsing.  The Communists threw him out of his ancestral castle and now he lives in a cave, but he still carries on the family tradition of fighting vampires and monsters and things that go bump in the night.  The newlyweds are polite to him, but think he's an old crank.

 

(As a side note, Van Helsing, a vampire hunter, appears in the classic horror novel, Dracula. He's Dutch, not Transylvanian, and says nothing of being related to an aristocratic family.  I guess he was just being modest.)

 

Anyway, Philip and Veronica, after an uncomfortable night, leave the next morning, but as they are driving past the lake, Philip loses control of the car and it plunges into the water.  A passing truck driver rescues Philip, and finds another body, but it isn't Veronica -- it's a woman with a hideous face, and she appears to be in a deep coma.

 

When Van Helsing has a look, he tells Philip that the she-beast has possessed his wife's body.  Certain magical rituals must be performed if he ever wants to see Veronica again.  But then, Van Helsing loses control and the witch escapes . . . 

 

Not a bad flick, although it's marred by a silly keystone cops style chase sequence.  And we really have to wonder why anyone would choose to honeymoon in Transylvania. 

 

Rating: 3/5  Probably worth a look.

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THE CRIMES OF STEPHEN HAWKE  (1936)

 

This is an oddball movie; actually, more of a WTF movie.  

 

We start off with a rather strange prologue, a radio show.  We're treated to a singing comedy act, then a comic butcher who specializes in creating meals for cats, then Tod Slaughter, playing himself, steps up to the microphone for an interview.  He has been making a name for himself playing homicidal villains, both on stage and screen, and is here to plug his new movie, described as a "new old melodrama".  Dissolve to . . .

 

Victorian England.  Slaughter is playing Stephen Hawke, a moneylender, who presents a genial face to the world.  He has his office in a respectable location, owns a grand home and dresses like a gentleman.  He is devoted to his daughter, Julia, and has a close friend in Joshua Trimble, a shipping agent with an office across the hall.  Hawke is usually regarded as kind and generous.  Ah, but there is another, hidden layer to the man, more in keeping with the traditional depiction of a moneylender. Grasping and cruel, he callously turns widows and children out into the street, and blackmails those who owe him large sums to do his bidding.

 

And if that's not bad enough, there's a third layer to Stephen Hawke, that of serial killer.  He is, in fact, the "Spine Breaker", a maniac who's been terrorizing the area for some months now.  We first encounter him murdering a little boy, for no apparent reason except he feels like it.  He makes his get-away with the help of his crippled coachman and clerk, the only one who knows his secret.

 

Hawke's next crime is the murder of an inoffensive nobleman in order to steal a precious emerald.  Then, when his friend ,Joshua Trimble, begins to have suspicions, he breaks into Trimble's house and murders him, too.  This is to be Hawke's undoing; Joshua has confided in his son, Matthew, so when Papa Trimble is found with spine broken, Matthew knows full well the name of the murderer.

 

Hawke and his coachman-assistant are forced to go on the run, and here's when this movie takes a strange turn, for now Hawke is being seen as a sympathetic, heroic character.  It has much to do with his beloved Julia being blackmailed into marrying a man she loathes, and Hawke must find a way to save her.  So we're supposed to forget that this loving father is a monstrous serial killer?

 

We met Tod Slaughter upthread in Crimes at the Dark House , in which he played the equally crazed false Percival.  He gives another fine performance here, and, although portraying another maniac, he plays the role very differently.  Production values in this film are also quite good, far better than one finds in the typical B movie.  The big problem I'm having here is the change in tone -- how can we, the audience, feel sympathy for a monster who broke a child's spine just for the hell of it?

 

Rating: 3/5.  Worth seeing, but expect to have some WTF moments.

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DEVIL'S PARTNER (filmed 1958, released 1961)

 

A beautiful nude blonde, carrying a torch, sits astride a lustful-looking centaur.  A devil-face looks down upon them.  That's  the poster for this flick, and it's a bit of false advertising.  Just so we're clear:

 

There are no naked ladies in this movie.  True, there are a couple of attractive female characters, and they happen to be blonde, but they keep their clothes on for the entirety of the film.  Nor do either of them carry torches.  

 

No centaurs appear in this movie.  There is a horse, though.  Also  a cow, a snake,a couple of dogs, and several goats.  It is, in fact, with a goat that we begin.

 

A shabby- looking old man carries a bleating goat into a broken-down cottage.  He's bent over, can barely walk, and is clearly not in the best of health.  Then he slits the unfortunate goat's neck.  There's a painted hexagon on the floor, and the old man daubs it with goat's blood.  A devil appears, but we don't see his face (the movie poster lies about that, too), just his arm, as he countersigns a contract written in blood.  The old man has just sold his soul to Satan! 

 

Next we're at a lunch counter, when an attractive young man enters and requests some coffee.  His name is Nick Richards, and he's looking for his uncle, Pete Jensen.  This causes a bit of a stir, because old Pete is dead.  It turns out he wasn't much liked by his neighbors, being a cantankerous old creep.  He lived by himself in an old cottage on the edge of town, kept a bunch of goats, and sold the milk to earn a few bucks.  It turns out that Nick is Pete's only relation, so the sheriff gives him a box that contains some of the deceased's belongings.  This includes a goat skin that contains flaming letters that only Nick can see -- it's the contract with the devil -- I notice that Pete sold his soul for a measly two years.  Geez, he should have held out for at least ten.

 

Well, clearly there's something a bit strange about nephew Nick; the town doctor notices that he doesn't sweat, no matter how hot it is.  But Nick is so charming, that no one cares about a little oddness.  Soon Nick takes up residence in his uncle's cottage and even cleans it up.  And when the doctor's daughter, Nell, comes  over to buy some goat milk, he's happy to help her out.  Pretty young Nell (she's blonde, like the lady in the poster, but is very decorously dressed) doesn't drink the goat milk herself, she's buying it for one of her father's tuberculosis patients.  "The milk does so much good, why don't you come along and see for yourself," she tells him. (No, I don't know what good goat's milk would be for TB, either)  Nick is pleased to oblige, and when they deliver the milk, he has this expectant look on his face, like he's waiting for something momentous to happen, and, sure enough, after Nick and Nell leave, the TB patient has a glass of milk and keels over dead.

 

No, the milk wasn't poisoned.  The doctor decides it was a heart attack, which doesn't make sense to him, because dead guy had a strong heart.  It's a mystery.

 

Nephew Nick carries on his uncle's practices, not only selling the goat's milk, but slitting their throats and playing finger paints with their blood.  Wait!  This isn't Pete's nephew at all -- it's Pete himself!  He sold his soul for youth and looks and charm and magical power.  The murder of the TB patient was just a test run.  Who else will he attack?  And what is his ultimate goal?  Does he want pretty Nell?

 

This is kind of a silly movie, but it's also kind of fun, even if it doesn't live up to the lurid promise of its poster.  Recommended, but only for bad movie lovers.

 

Rating: 3/5

Edited by miles2go

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SHOCK (1946)

 

Janet Stewart has been on an emotional roller coaster ride for the past couple of years.  Her husband, Lieutenant Paul Stewart, was reported as killed in action; then, a few weeks ago, she received word that he was alive, having been in a prisoner-of-war camp.  Now, he's coming home.  They're to meet in a hotel in San Francisco.

 

But Paul is late; it's going on 1 a.m. and there's still no word.  As Janet waits for him in the hotel room, she falls asleep and has a horrific nightmare:  She hears Paul at the door, begging to be let in, but as she rushes towards the door it gets farther and farther away, and when she finally reaches it, she's shrunk and can't manage to turn the knob, and, then, suddenly, she's in the hallway, but there's no Paul, just his voice, calling from a long ways away . . .

 

Awakening, the distraught Janet can't get back to sleep.  She goes out to the balcony to get a breath of fresh air, and encounters another, real life, nightmare.  In the room next door, two people, husband and wife, are arguing.  The man wants a divorce so he can marry his mistress; the woman is furious, and threatens to expose him as a sleazy adulterer.  The argument escalates; the man picks up a heavy candlestick and, bang, bang, bang --  the woman is battered to death.  Janet can see all this through the window, and staggers back into her room in a state of shock.

 

Some time later, Paul finally arrives, his flight having been delayed by weather.  He finds his wife sitting on the sofa, unresponsive, eyes glazed, oblivious to his presence. A doctor is summoned, who suggests she has become catatonic because of some horrible shock.  This is beyond his skill, Janet needs a shrink.  As it happens, there's an excellent psychiatrist who makes this hotel his home.  And he happens to live right next door.

 

So this psychiatrist, Richard Cross, takes on Janet's case, and of course he's the same fellow who just made a some serious dents in his wife's skull; he's no idiot, and he soon figures out what Janet must have seen to put her in this state. It would be a good idea, he suggests to the husband, for Janet to be placed in the mental hospital he runs.  He'll take good care of her. This is all very ominous, especially as the shrink is played by Vincent Price. (Hi, Vincent!)

 

This film is usually regarded as film noir, but it has a fair amount of psychological horror in it.  As Janet lies on her bed, heavily drugged, she's pretty much at the mercy of Dr. Cross and his femme fatale mistress, who is a nurse at the hospital.  In his efforts to mess with Janet's mind, he rhythmically pounds his fist on the bedside table  . . .Bang . . .Bang . . .Bang . . .and suggests that the candlestick is battering Janet's own skull.  Then he tells her she is delusional, going insane, and her loving husband really doesn't want to see her like this.  But Janet is made of strong stuff; she knows she witnessed a murder, and he looks like the one who did it.

 

Richard has rigged things up to make his wife's death look like an accident, and with the only witness in the loony bin, he figures he and Miss Femme Fatale are pretty safe.  But then the District Attorney stops by to let him know they're exhuming the wife's body -- they think she may have been murdered, although they don't suspect her husband  - - yet.  But how long before the police start suggesting that it's Dr. Cross in the hotel room with the candlestick?  Janet Stewart, the only witness, must be permanently eliminated.  But can he bring himself to murder again, this time in cold blood?

 

This is a decent film.  Price does an excellent job playing the conflicted murderer, although the rest of the cast are only adequate.  The nightmare in the early part of the movie is particularly well-done, as are the scenes of psychological manipulation.  The rest of the film is a bit uneven in quality.  On the whole, though, I recommend it.

 

Rating: 3/5

 

 

 

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MANOS: THE HANDS OF FATE  (1966)

 

Margaret, her husband Michael, their very young daughter, Debbie, and a poodle named Peppy or Poppy are on vacation, headed for Valley Lodge, which is somewhere close to the Mexican border, but it doesn't matter because they're never going to get there.  This is a horror film, after all.  There's a long, long, excruciatingly long, driving scene, with the camera either focused on the back of someone's head, or on some uninspired scenery.  Nothing much happens but driving, except the family sings "Row, row, row your boat" for a while.  Mike refuses to acknowledge they're lost, until the road dead-ends in some sage brush.  

 

So they turn around, and after more driving they finally see an old shack and decide to ask for directions.  They're met by a strange, constantly-twitching man who introduces himself as "Torgo"; he takes care of this place for "the Master".  Torgo doesn't know where Valley Lodge is, he's never even heard of it.  Then Mike decides it's too late to drive any more and wants to stay the night.  Torgo doesn't think the Master would approve, but Mike is persistent.  It takes gall, not to mention stupidity, to invite yourself into another person's home for the night, someone you don't even know, at that.  But Mike doesn't have a problem with it; moreover, he has no problem ordering Torgo to carry the family's luggage into the house.  And when Torgo proves to be somewhat lame -- he seems to have oversize knees -- Mike just stands there and doesn't lift a finger to help.

 

So the family start settling in, and Torgo hauls the luggage into the bedroom, and husband and wife make unpleasant comments about a portrait over the fireplace, which is of a scary- looking dude with a scarier dog.  So it's a creepy picture, but it's still rude to make unflattering remarks about it.  Mike and Maggie need some lessons in etiquette.  Then the poodle somehow gets loose and runs outside and gets killed by something unseen.   So now the couple figure they should leave, and Mike shouts at Torgo to go get their luggage and put it in the car.  "Now, damn it!"  That Mike, he's a real charmer.

 

But now the car won't start, and Torgo has to go get the luggage and bring it back inside again.  And once, again, no one lifts a finger to help him.  If they're going to treat him like a bellhop, they should at least give him a tip.  

 

Well, now it's about time to meet the Master, and he's lying in state on bier of sorts.Of course,he's the same scary guy that was in the portrait.  He's surrounded by women standing against pillars and wearing pink, filmy gowns.  Everyone is in a sort of trance until the Master wakes up, and , after he prays to his god, named Manos, everybody gets to arguing about the fate of the visitors, and whether or not the child should be sacrificed.  This eventually leads to a big brawl with the women -- all of them wives of the Master -- rolling around in the sand wrestling with each other.

 

Meanwhile, Mike and Maggie are getting increasingly freaked out, and decide to escape and take their chances with the desert.  So they take Debbie and a gun and a flashlight and Maggie keeps falling down and nobly urging them to go on without her.  And then there's a rattlesnake coiled up on a pink carpet in the middle of the desert, and . . . Oh, hell, I give up.

 

The previous paragraphs don't make too much sense, and neither does this movie.  It's often nominated for the honor of "worst film ever made".  Still, Torgo is kind of an interesting character, so I think "Manos" is still better than Curse of the Headless Horseman.

 

Rating: 1/5  Not recommended, it really is pretty bad.

 

 

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I have a question for y'all. Jason Voorhees died as a child, correct? I accept that he "came back" to get his revenge, but how the hell did he grow into a 6ft+, 200 lb or so monster?

 

 

Barnacles.

 

I have no idea what that means, but it's making me snort uncontrollably.

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THE MANSTER  (1959, released 1962.  Filmed in Japan, English language)

 

Rejoice, monster movie fans.  This one's a doozy.

 

This flick doesn't waste time.  We start right off with a mass murder.  The perp looks like Sasquatch; his victims are several Japanese ladies who are minding their own business bathing in some thermal pools.  Sasquatch then flees to a remote mountain laboratory.

Enter a middle-aged Japanese gentleman.  This is Dr. Robert Suzuki, and he will be our mad scientist for this evening.  We also meet his lovely mistress and assistant, Tara, and she will be our reluctant femme fatale.

 

Tara tells Robert that "He has returned".  Robert is not surprised, and heads downstairs to have a chat with Sasquatch.  It turns out that Bigfoot's name is really Genji, and he's our mad scientist's brother.  Robert kills Genji, and he's a little sad about it, but not real broken up, because, after all, Genji took the serum voluntarily.  Too bad he turned into a monster, but these things happen.

 

Now let's meet our hero for this evening, Larry Stanford.  He's a foreign correspondent from the U.S.A.  who thinks the mysterious Dr. Suzuki might make a good story.  The doctor, in turn, thinks Larry would make a good test subject; and so, after slipping a knock out drug into the reporter's drink, Robert injects him in the shoulder with a mysterious serum.

 

Larry returns to Tokyo and the mad scientist follows him down there, offering to bring Larry out on a night on the town.  This involves a geisha party, and turns into a drunken spree, with Larry, who up until then had been faithful to his wife in the U.S.A., succumbing to the charms of one of the women. (It's my understanding that geisha do not have sex with their clients, so maybe these are prostitutes masquerading as geisha).  

 

The hard-working, button-down Larry Stanford soon turns into a dissolute, womanizing lush.  Things really go downhill when the doctor slyly introduces him to Tara, thus pimping out his own mistress to keep Larry under his control.  Stanford was due to return to  the States, but he's forgotten about all that, until his wife shows up in his apartment, wanting to know what's wrong.  Unfortunately, Larry is in the company of Tara, and the missus gives him an ultimatum:  her or me.

 

Now, during all this drinking and carousing, Larry has been feeling great, except that he has a pain in his shoulder where the doctor gave him the injection, and there's a nasty rash forming there.  Also, one of his hands has grown a lot of hair.  Geez, Larry, maybe you should, you know, go to a clinic or something?  Especially with all that promiscuity you've been indulging in lately?  But, no, Larry carries on, because, finally, after all these years, he's actually having fun.  Except now, after that confrontation with his wife, he's not really having fun any more and he's having these violent urges as well.

 

Larry goes for a walk and happens to walk into a temple in which he hears a solitary priest chanting.  He tries to talk about his troubles, but the priest doesn't speak English, so, in a fit of anger, Larry kills the priest, and, to add insult to injury, steals his prayer beads.  Larry continues to keep the prayer beads with him, even after he starts on a career of rapist-murderer, lying in wait for solitary women walking along dark streets.  Meanwhile, the pain in his shoulder keeps getting worse, and when he finally takes a look at it  . . .ewww! . . .there's an eye!  An extra eye growing out of his shoulder!

 

Larry is grossed out enough to look for help, but it's too late.  Because the eye soon turns into a whole head.  Larry Stanford is now a manster -- part man, part monster -- a man with two heads.

 

Of course, Dr. Suzuki is keeping a clinical eye on all of this.  Meanwhile, Tara wants out of the whole business, Mrs. Stanford is still hanging around, because she can't quite give up on her husband, and the police want to catch this brutal serial killer.

 

Yup, a good, old-fashioned, silly monster flick.  It's loads of fun, and while most of the special effects aren't that great, the eye in the shoulder is really nicely done, one of the creepiest things I've ever seen.  Highly recommended if you like bad movies.

 

Rating: 3/5

Edited by miles2go

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TEENAGE ZOMBIES  (filmed 1957, released 1959)

 

SEE TEENAGE GIRLS THRUST INTO THE WEIRD PULSATING CAGE OF HORRORS

 

That's one of the advertising blurbs for this flick, printed on posters that feature a gorilla carrying off a scantily clad young female, or a giant eye, or both.

There are no giant eyes in this movie, so maybe it's a symbolic eye.  The gorilla exists, although he doesn't actually carry off any screaming women.  I suppose I could tell you what he does, but that would be a spoiler.I'll give you a hint, though:

 he's not only the hero of the movie, but the best actor as well.

 

We start off in that bastion of wholesome Americana, the ice cream parlor.  A group of wholesome teenagers are drinking wholesome milkshakes and discussing plans for waterskiing, except one guy who is going horseback riding with his girlfriend.  Another guy suggests they pack a lunch and eat on a remote island that they've never been to before.  Remote, unknown island?  Uh, oh.

 

Next we see the four water-skiers finishing up their lunch on a pleasant little beach and deciding to do a little exploring inland.  So here they are, getting some wholesome exercise, when what should they see but a building and out of the building come a bunch of men walking along in an unwholesome, automaton-like fashion.  This scares the kids, and they run back to their boat -- except it's gone.  Where is the boat?  Who took it?  They search fruitlessly, and it all ends up with the two guys hiking up to the building to make some inquiries, while the girls stay on the beach and rest.

 

The building is inhabited by Dr. Myra, a woman wearing an evening gown, jewelry, make-up and looking like she's ready for a big night out.  Is there a nightclub somewhere on this remote island?  Or a fine restaurant  or a theater?  Or maybe she just likes dressing up?  Anyway, she tells the lads that she knows nothing about a boat and she's the only one here. But before you can say "Myra's a big liar", there's a huge commotion -- the girls have been captured by Ivan, a big, hulking zombie, and thrown into a cage, and soon the guys are in the same predicament.

 

I should mention these are ordinary cages.  They aren't weird or pulsating or anything strange.  Just cages.  The situation, of course, is pretty weird, and gets weirder by the second.  Dr. Myra starts telling the truth -- she's got their boat, she's got them, and she's going to be doing a few experiments.  She's a mad scientist.

 

Now, you're probably wondering about what's happening back at the mainland.  The kid who was going horseback riding is wondering what happened to his friends.  So he tells the sheriff all about it, who doesn't really take him too seriously, but conducts a search anyway, but has no luck. So horseback rider and his girlfriend take a boat out and look for themselves.  And, by golly, they manage to find the remote island and talk to Dr. Myra (who's wearing a whole new outfit), but she gives them no info, although she does offer them a sandwich.  The young couple are smart enough to decline and head back to their boat, and as they're leaving, another boat, with a couple of suspicious-looking men, arrives.  So that's why Dr. Myra is wearing a new ensemble -- she's expecting company.

 

The two men are representatives of a foreign power and they want to know how she's progressing. You see, Dr. Myra is working on a chemical that will turn everyone who drinks it into a zombie. (These, by the way, are not modern we-want-brains type of zombie -- what good would those be to an invading foreign power? -- no, these are mind-controlled zombies, who will docilely do whatever they are told)  Dr. Myra is doing this so the foreign power won't drop hydrogen bombs.  So, you see, she's only trying to help. She's misunderstood, is Myra.

 

But has she been successful?  Yes, very.  Just a bit more testing should do it.  And she's got some perfect subjects locked up in the basement.

 

Will the four captives escape? Will the horseback rider and girlfriend get help in time?  As all the adults in this film are either wicked, untrustworthy, or ineffectual, it's up to the teenagers to save the U.S.A. from zombification.

 

Now, I'll bet you've got some questions:

 

Q.  Are there any teenage zombies in the movie?

A. Yes. Briefly.

 

Q. Where's the gorilla?

A. Don't worry, he'll show up.

 

Q. What's the eye in the poster supposed to mean?

A. Beats me

 

Q.  Is this flick worth seeing?

A. Not really.  

 

Rating: 2/5

 

 

 

 

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THE DEVIL'S MESSENGER (1961, filmed in Sweden, English language)

 

Satanya has just committed suicide.  Now she finds herself in a dreary waiting room, standing in line, along with many other damned souls.  They're waiting for an interview with a man -- if that's the right word to use -- at a desk.  This fellow is played by Lon Chaney, Jr, (Hi, Lon!), and he looks like a mid-level bureaucrat, maybe assistant vice-demon in charge of admissions, or something of the sort.  But the credits say he's the head honcho himself.  

 

So Satan is portrayed as an administrator wearing a suit and tie, sitting at a desk with a rolodex.  Behind him is the entrance to Hell.  Satan takes an interest in the very pretty Satanya, and offers her a job:  devil's messenger.  She's to deliver certain cursed objects to Earth, objects that will influence the recipients to evil actions.  Satanya is reluctant, but the alternative is to go straight to the furnace room.

 

The first object is a camera.  The photographer who receives it is a workaholic and a compulsive womanizer.  At the urging of a friend, who thinks he's headed for a nervous breakdown, the photographer takes a trip to the countryside, sans female company.  Everything's going fine, with the photographer taking pictures of charming back road scenes, but then it all goes sour when he encounters a beautiful woman who ignores him.  He kills her in a fit of pique.

 

The second object is a miner's pick, which leads to finding a body frozen in ice.  This is no Otzi, though, but a beautiful woman kept perfectly preserved.  An anthropologist becomes obsessed with her, and begins to think that he was her lover in a previous life.

 

The third object is a crystal ball.  A man, suffering from a repeating nightmare, enters the same old building he dreamt about, and there finds a fortune teller.  What she sees in the crystal ball is his death at midnight -- and she's the one who will kill him.

 

We never actually see Santanya deliver the cursed objects, and for good reason.  The movie is actually cobbled together from three episodes of a TV program called 13 Demon Street.  This was a horror anthology series, with Lon Chaney, Jr. acting as a host, similar to Rod Serling on the Twilight Zone. It was aimed at an English-speaking audience, but was only broadcast in Sweden, where it was filmed. So, a year  later, Chaney and Karen Kadler (Santanya), were brought in to film a framing story,three episodes were selected (presumably the better ones) , and the whole thing was sent out to movie theaters.

 

Quality-wise, it's not bad, although none of the stories are exactly brilliant.  Chaney makes a good Satan, smiling and threatening at the same time; the other performances range from adequate to good. It's an okay movie; probably worth a look.

 

Rating: 3/5

Edited by miles2go

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I have a question for y'all. Jason Voorhees died as a child, correct? I accept that he "came back" to get his revenge, but how the hell did he grow into a 6ft+, 200 lb or so monster?

Then pop up out of the water at the end, child-sized again.

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I just watched the original Halloween, okay its a great movie, but the MM big sister couldn't fend off a little kid? Yeah, he had a big knife, but after the first pass, I would have brained him with a lamp or something.

And no APB out on the mental institution's station wagon MM was driving out in the open daylight in the suburbs?  How did he know how to drive at all?

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The original Halloween is on AMC's Fear Fest right now, and all I can focus on is how awful Jamie Lee Curtis' hair looks. I know this was made in 1978, but seriously, her hair looks like a combination of a bouffant and some other thing that I can't even think of the name for. I don't know how I didn't see this before.

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And why are these kids stuck in the house watching TV with the baby sitters while all the other kids are out trick or treating? Back in the 70's were were out for hours all over the place.

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I remember watching The Manster as a kid on Channel 56 (WLVI), a UHF channel out of Boston.   It was shown on the Saturday night "Creature Feature," hosted by The Ghoul (yes, I witnessed with my own eyes the golden days of The Ghoul).   The eye on the shoulder was the money shot of that movie.   Made it all worthwhile.

Edited by millennium
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THE BAT (1926); THE BAT WHISPERS (1930); THE BAT (1959)

 

Ah, a quintessential Old Dark House story -- creaky old mansion, mysterious goings-on, rumors of ghosts, a hidden room that may contain a stolen treasure, and, above all, a master burglar called The Bat.  Now, The Bat is not your type of gentlemanly cat burglar, the kind that is suave and sophisticated, looks like Cary Grant, and eschews violence.  No, this fellow is a cold-blooded killer; his primary motive is burglary, but he has no qualms about murdering anyone who gets in his way. Because he is swift and silent and works at night, the press has dubbed him "The Bat".  This evidently pleases the burglar, because he has made that his theme -- he taunts the police with notes written on bat-shaped stationery and even dresses like a bat.

 

Miss Cornelia Van Gorder, a wealthy, middle-aged spinster, has rented a country house for the summer.  Staying with her is Dale Ogden, her niece, and two servants: Billy, a Japanese butler, and Lizzie, Cornelia's  loyal maid.  There were, to begin with, many more servants, but they've all quit because of the spooky things happening:  break-ins with nothing stolen, ghost sitings, threatening letters, and rumors that the dreaded Bat is active in the neighborhood.  Thrown into the mix is a gardener who isn't a gardener and is altogether too cozy with Dale; a police officer who stops by looking for the Bat, a physician who seems decidedly shady, and a strange man who wanders into the house, apparently suffering from amnesia.  And then things really get bad when there's a murder.

 

I found the story engrossing enough, but the event that made me sit up and take notice occurred about three-quarters of the way into the film.  The frightened characters are gathered together in the dark when . . . holy source material, Batman ! . . . the Bat Signal flashes upon one of the windows.  Of course, it's not really the Bat Signal -- Batman hadn't been created yet -- but it's the familiar beacon with the bat-shaped shadow at its center.

 

I got to wondering --was this movie the inspiration for the comic book hero?  And was this the first use of the bat beacon?  The answers are "maybe" to the first question and "no" to the second.

 

The Bat started out as a novel titled The Circular Staircase by Mary Roberts Rinehart.  Hers is no longer a household name, but in the first half of the last century she was quite famous as a novelist and playwright. Published in 1908,   Staircase was her first best-seller; it had all the elements of The Bat , except the Bat himself.  Some years later, Rinehart teamed up with Avery Hopwood to write a play adapted from her novel.  The plot was streamlined, some characters dropped, and some added, including the  master thief for whom the play was named.  It's in this play that the bat beacon first appears.

 

In 1926 the successful play was filmed as a silent movie. Artistically, this flick is something of a mixed bag; certainly it's an engrossing film, but it is also confusing and the comic relief provided by Lizzie the maid is more annoying than funny.  What stands out is its visual quality; particularly noteworthy is the Bat's disguise, which is downright terrifying.  True, he really doesn't resemble a bat -- with his mask's long ears, he looks more like a jackal, but that makes the killer thief all the more scary.

 

1930 saw a talkie remake of the film, called The Bat Whispers.  It's this movie, and not the 1926 silent version, that Bob Kane claimed as an inspiration for Batman.  This is rather strange, however, as the remake toned down much of the bat imagery from the original movie.  The bat beacon does not appear, and the Bat's costume is more a conventional thief's outfit, resembling neither bat nor jackal.  The bat beacon of the 1926 film is nearly identical to what we find in the comic book  series -- surely it's not coincidence?

 

The Bat has been filmed a few more times since 1930; at least two TV versions were made (which no longer seem to exist), and, then, in 1959,came a modernized remake starring Agnes Moorehead and Vincent Price.  It's a pretty decent film, but is more of a mystery story with a few horror elements thrown in.  The most welcome change is a thorough make-over of Lizzie, who is no longer a ridiculous and annoying character.

 

So, a few summarizing remarks:

 

1908 -- The Circular Staircase, mystery/horror novel by Mary Roberts Rinehart -- quite readable, but filled with racism and class snobbery -- probably acceptable attitudes for the era, but grating to modern folk

 

1920 -- The Bat, play by Rinehart and Avery Hopwood. 

 

1926 -- The Bat, silent movie based on the play. Rating: 3/5

 

1930 -- The Bat Whispers, talkie remake of the 1926 film. Rating: 2/5 (lacks the atmosphere of the original)

 

1939 -- Batman first appears in comics, said to be partially inspired by the thief of the play and movies

 

1959 -- The Bat , a modernized version. Rating: 3/5

 

I would recommend the silent film over all the others.

Edited by miles2go

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IMHO, Halloween and Friday the 13th ruined the horror genre forevermore.   There is still no end in sight to the damage caused by those two films.

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THE MUMMY (1932)

 

I wanted to end this horror film marathon with a bona fide classic, so I've abandoned Mill Creek for an"on-demand" selection.  As a bonus, this is one I've never seen.  

 

It's 1921, Egypt -- Three archeologists discuss their latest finds, a mummy from the 18th dynasty and a box inscribed with warnings and curses.  Sir Joseph Whemple and Dr. Muller believe that this is no ordinary mummy;  the evidence suggests he was entombed alive.  Moreover, the written spells that would permit the deceased to enter the afterlife have been chiseled off the sarcophagus.  As for the box that was found with the mummy, Sir Joseph thinks it may hold the fabled Scroll of Thoth, which contains the words that bring the dead back to life.  Sir Joseph's young assistant is all for opening the box right away; Dr. Muller, an expert in occult matters, urges caution.  The two older men step outside to discuss the matter, apparently feeling embarrassed to argue in front of the youth.  This is a big mistake -- the young man just can't resist the impulse to peek inside the cursed box, and finds a scroll.  It is, indeed, the Scroll of Thoth, which he proceeds to translate, murmuring the words out loud as he does so.

 

Behind him, the mummy begins to stir, and slowly comes to life.  The young assistant, engrossed in his work, sees nothing until a desiccated hand snatches away the forbidden scroll. Sir Joseph and Dr. Muller, still arguing outside, hear a heart-stopping scream; what they find indoors is  the young assistant, laughing hysterically and exclaiming "He's gone for a little walk!"  The mummy and the scroll are gone.

 

Fast forward to 1932.  Sir Joseph's son, Frank Whemple, is just finishing up an unsuccessful archeological dig.  In an expository chat with a fellow archeologist, we learn that the young assistant was driven permanently mad by what he had seen.  The official verdict is that the mummy and scroll were stolen, but no one knows why the youth should have gone insane.  Frank and his partner are approached by Ardath Bey, a very old, and very odd, Egyptian, who leads them to the site of Princess Ankhesenamun's tomb.  This leads to a spectacular find -- not only do they uncover the Princess's tomb, but it is completely intact.

 

Ankhesenamun's mummy and tomb paraphernalia are put into the Cairo museum, with Ardeth Bey always hanging around the exhibit. This is understandable; he was instrumental in finding the tomb, after all.  But, then, he sneaks in after hours and, lighting an old oil lamp, chants words from a familiar-looking scroll.  Some miles away, in a wealthy neighborhood in Cairo, a stylish young woman named Helen Grosvenor, goes into a trance and , leaving the party she's attending, instructs her driver to bring her to the Cairo museum . . .

 

 Ardath Bey is, in reality, the re-animated mummy.  In life, he was Imhotep, high priest of Amun-Ra, and he engaged in the folly of loving Princess Ankhesenamun, a priestess of Isis.  As the story unfolds, we learn what led to his awful death, and how he is now seeking to reunite with his lost love.  Boris Karloff plays the role with great restraint ( it could easily have been a melodramatic catastrophe), his face impassive, but with highly expressive eyes -- although his heavy make-up could have had something to do with it.  In any case, Korloff makes Ardath Bey/ Imhotep a memorable character.

 

The movie, as a whole, failed to overwhelm me.  Certainly, it's worth seeing, but it's a bit too derivative of the 1931  Dracula to be really impressive. Like Lugosi's vampire count, Imhotep is an undead creature, has supernatural powers, has hypnotic affect on the heroine, etc.  Unlike Dracula, though, he is more obsessed with lost love than actually evil.

 

Rating: 3/5  

 

And this is my last review for this horror movie marathon.  Happy Halloween, everyone.

 

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MANOS: THE HANDS OF FATE  (1966)

Regarded by some as the worst movie ever made!  There is an entertaining MST3K treatment of it.

 

Happy (day after) Halloween, miles2go, and thank you for your thoughtful reviews.  You've given me some new movies to look up.  Came in too late to add any Halloween reviews but maybe next year.

Edited by raven
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I looked back and couldn't find a general thread for horror movies, so, hey, here we are!

 

Lately I've caught a couple of off-beat ones that I've enjoyed - Pontypool from 2008, a Canadian zombie movie with a different and rather creepy spin, and The Babadook, an Australian film from this year which, uh, kinda freaked me out. Essie Davies is fantastic.

 

When you google horror movies and you read those 'best/scariest horror movies' lists it's usually the same ones - The Exorcist, Poltergeist, The Shining, etc... Anyone have any recs for less well-known recent ones?

 

Edit - or, mods, should we perhaps use the Halloween marathon thread for general discussion, too?

Edited by Schweedie
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Edit - or, mods, should we perhaps use the Halloween marathon thread for general discussion, too?

 

Completely up to you guys. I can merge these topics easily. I'll probably keep your title as it is more a general one.

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I'd say merge!

 

I have an under seen recommendation but it's not recent, it's also not readily available anywhere but used DVD's on Amazon: Mute Witness from 1994, it's a Hitchcockian thriller and has some great meta before Scream made meta cool details. It is set on a horror movie film set, the lead is hearing but mute woman, Billy, who does effects and make up. Her sister is the producer, and her sisters boyfriend is the director. The film is being made on the cheap in post Communist Russia, and Billy inadvertantly witnesses a crime, and spends the rest of the movie running for her life. It has the most extended set of sustained nerve wracking sequences I've ever seen filmed. The movie also has an awesome kick ass heroine who uses her smarts and wits in the face of some utterly terrifying situations, and passes the Bechdel test in spades. My favorite thing about it is it's got a brilliantly campy spirit, but is still effectively scary like Evil Dead 2 and the first Scream.

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Completely up to you guys. I can merge these topics easily. I'll probably keep your title as it is more a general one.

 

I like the idea of a merge.

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The original Halloween is on AMC's Fear Fest right now, and all I can focus on is how awful Jamie Lee Curtis' hair looks. I know this was made in 1978, but seriously, her hair looks like a combination of a bouffant and some other thing that I can't even think of the name for. I don't know how I didn't see this before.

 

I watched this for the first time last year while carving a pumpkin and was underwhelmed. I figured I'd give it another go this year and gave it my undivided attention. Still underwhelmed. My whole life, I've heard people rave about how this is one of the best horror films of all time, etc. The acting was bad even by horror standards (Jamie Lee's friends were stinking up the joint), and the pace was so slow. I don't know, maybe watching all those Nightmare on Elm Street films as a kid entertained me a little too much. I need my serial killer to have a little charisma.

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I looked back and couldn't find a general thread for horror movies, so, hey, here we are!

 

Lately I've caught a couple of off-beat ones that I've enjoyed - Pontypool from 2008, a Canadian zombie movie with a different and rather creepy spin, and The Babadook, an Australian film from this year which, uh, kinda freaked me out. Essie Davies is fantastic.

 

When you google horror movies and you read those 'best/scariest horror movies' lists it's usually the same ones - The Exorcist, Poltergeist, The Shining, etc... Anyone have any recs for less well-known recent ones?

 

Edit - or, mods, should we perhaps use the Halloween marathon thread for general discussion, too?

I don't know how "scary" it is necessarily, but a recent one I really enjoyed was You're Next.  It's darkly comedic at times, but moves quickly (it's barely an hour and a half), and has some good scares in it.  It's also got quite a few people who make more of the indie/mumblegore films - Joe Swanberg, Ti West, AJ Bowen.  

 

And a lot of those same people were in another one I liked well enough called The Sacrament.  I actually think it starts a little slow, but really kicks into gear in the back half of the film.  And it's one of the few "found footage" movies that I liked, since it wasn't all herky jerky - they frame it as Vice going down to do a story, so it explains why the camera work is so good.

 

I'd love to see some other recommendations too - I really haven't seen a whole lot of good horror movies recently.  Has anyone seen Anabelle?  I've been on the fence about seeing it, but she was the scariest part of The Conjuring to me, so I'm hoping it's good.  

 

 

 

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Edited by Princess Sparkle

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I'd love to see some other recommendations too - I really haven't seen a whole lot of good horror movies recently.  Has anyone seen Anabelle?  I've been on the fence about seeing it, but she was the scariest part of The Conjuring to me, so I'm hoping it's good.  

 

I wasn't even remotely interested in Anabelle because The Conjuring was so laughably horrible. But you're right about Anabelle being the creepiest part of that movie.

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