Cinema Sunday: Die, Monster, Die! (1965)

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Title: Die, Monster, Die!

Distributor: American International Pictures

Writer: Jerry Sohl

Director: Daniel Haller

Producer: Pat Green, James H. Nicholson, Samuel Z. Arkoff

Starring: Boris Karloff, Nick Adams, Suzan Farmer Freda Jackson

Released: October 1965

MPAA: Approved

 

 

My addiction to Boris Karloff continues! I just can’t stop watching his films (horror) now, and I’ll definitely review a couple more between now and Halloween! Whether he’s the main character, or not, does not matter, I just need a fix of his acting! The rest of the cast in this film is a help as well though and they will most certainly be mentioned at the conclusion of my review.

This film a loose adaptation of a story written by H.P. Lovecraft (The Color Out of Space). I haven’t read that story myself, but would love to because I understand it’s incredibly creepy and trippy. I won’t parse hairs over the legitimacy of what a true “adaptation” is, but I will say this…I don’t care in this case because it’s Boris Karloff starring in a horror film. Simple, no? Alright, without further delay, let’s get down to business!

 

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The film begins with a young man, Stephen Reinhart (Nick Adams), as he arrives in a small village in the English countryside. He attempts to get a cab, then rent a bicycle, but every time he attempts to make his way to a certain local castle, he’s rebuffed by the townspeople. No explanation, just basically told to sod off. He must then walk all the way to the home, which takes a few hours. As he arrives at the Witley estate, he notices signs telling people to keep out. Disregarding the signs, the gloomy, dark setting seems to scare him a bit, but he approaches the front door and knocks. No one answers, so he lets himself inside. He’s quickly approached by Nahum Witley (Boris Karloff), and his manservant. Nahum tells him to get out, but Stephen tells him that his daughter (and wife), Susan (Suzan Farmer) invited him to come and stay with them for a while (apparently they were school mates in the US).

 

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Susan takes Stephen upstairs and he meets her mother (sort of). She’s apparently an invalid and her bed is shrouded in drapes to conceal her visage. She tells Stephen that she’ll deal with her cranky husband, but also that she wants to talk to Stephen alone. Once Susan leaves, Mrs. Witley (Freda Jackson), begins to cryptically tell Stephen about some strange goings-on at the house. Meanwhile, Nahum and Merwyn (Terence De Marney) make their way to the basement where it appears very dungeon-like, and that there is some pulsating power source in a shallow well of some kind. Mrs. Witley tells Stephen specifically about her maid, and how she went insane and was never seen again. She then begs him to take Susan away immediately, before something terrible happens.

 

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Later that night at dinner, a scream comes from upstairs, Stephen is shook up by it, but Nahum and Susan act as if they’ve heard it before. Suddenly, Merwyn falls over, as if he’s either unconscious or dead. Stephen and Susan run to him, but Nahum assures them that he can take care of it (being wheelchair bound, I’m not sure how), and tells them to leave. Stephen comes upon a library, and begins reading a book about “old ones” (here’s where you get the Lovecraft tie-in), dark forces,  and horrific things that plague mankind. Susan then looks out the window, and sees a dark figure leering at her. She screams and then Stephen comes to her aid. He tries to get her to leave, but she won’t leave her mother.

 

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As the night gets older, Stephen is reading in his room, then once again hears a violent scream. He and Susan investigate, heading toward the basement. The scream sounded unlike any shriek a human being could make. Before they can get there though, Nahum cuts them off. He tells them that Merwyn is dead, and it was terrible. Stephen pushes Nahum to explain what’s going on, but he gets a door slammed in his face. As he heads back towards his room, he hears a rustling sound, and sees Nahum, pushing his own wheelchair out the front door. He then checks Merwyn’s room to check things out. He finds no corpse, but a burn mark on the floor in the shape of a man.

 

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Outside, Nahum digs a grave for Merwyn, as Stephen watches. From the corner of his eye, he sees a greenhouse, glowing with a green/blue light. Nahum makes his way towards the greenhouse, but sees the light on in Stephen’s room, and decides to head back indoors to see if he’s still awake. Stephen runs back and hops in bed, pretending to sleep. Nahum is unaware that he’s been out, and leaves quietly.

 

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The following morning, Stephen rises early, and heads back towards town. He’s accosted by a robed, mutated humanoid that attempts to stab him. After that altercation, he goes to see the town doctor, Dr. Henderson (Patrick Magee). He questions him about the Witley family and the strange happenings. The doctor is tight-lipped but his assistant/secretary tells him that the doctor was a good man who went off the deep end after caring for Nahum’s father, who went insane, and then died mysteriously. Back at the house, Nahum attempts to get Leticia to come out and go to the doctor in town, but she seems to be too far gone, mentally and physically. Meanwhile, Stephen and Susan gain access to the green house, and they make a startling discovery. The plant life inside has grown to enormous size, which is unnatural. They then hear a shriek from deeper within the structure…

 

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What sinister forces lurk in the basement of this home? And, will Susan and Stephen live to tell about it?! Watch this classic to find out!

 

OK, here are my thoughts:

Alright first things first…I’m not a big Nick Adams guy. He kind of reminds me of another Nic…Cage. Both play “themselves” in every movie role they are cast. Adams is cocky, arrogant, and self-righteous. The guy just can’t act beyond that one persona. Other than him, this film is great. Karloff plays a great curmudgeon, and you really dislike him at first. Once things get a bit clearer though, you feel sympathy for him. Suzan Farmer (image below) is pretty good, as she plays an excellent damsel in distress. I would’ve liked to see more Freda Jackson, but her role didn’t allow for it. She’s such a good actress and always delivers in horror films.

One familiar name in the beginning credits was Don Banks (music). I recognized him from his work at Hammer Studios (and others). He does a solid job with the score and along with very moody sets, you really get a shiver from this one. I understand that the film is very loosely based on a Lovecraft book, and that probably turns off those who revere his works. I’m an admirer of his works but haven’t read much of them. In all honesty though, the film was great and even without being a direct adaptation it serves to give a positive light to his works.

Get a copy of this one and sit down one evening and let it rip. You’ll be glad you did!

 

Click here for the trailer!

 

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Cinema Sunday: The She-Creature (1956)

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Title: The She-Creature

Distributor: American International Pictures

Writer: Lou Rusoff

Director: Edward L. Cahn

Producers: Alex Gordon, Israel M. Berman, Samuel Z. Arkoff

Starring: Chester Morris, Marla English, Tom Conway, Cathy Downs, Lance Fuller

Released: August, 1956

MPAA: Approved

 

After a tumultuous month of June, I’m going to try to tackle two movie reviews this month to make up for that loss! This B movie might not be on the radar of some but definitely give it a chance. The original casting included horror stalwart, Peter Lorre, but he ended up pulling out for whatever reasons. Don’t worry though, AIP has always delivered in the genre, and whether it’s a solid film or so hokey it’s good for a laugh, Samuel Z. Arkoff knows how to get a reaction!

This film was part of a craze that had a scorned/enraged female monster-type character that would get revenge on men or just society. Of course, like everything, it was run into the ground after a while, but there are some good ones out there for sure (check out this one- Night Tide). Alright, let’s get on with the show!

 

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The film begins with some underwater shots, then topside we see a man thinking to himself. Doctor Carlo Lombardi (Chester Morris) is wavering about something he’s brought to life, something hideous, and “the world will never be the same!” He’s then approached by a barking dog that snarls as if it wants to attack. Lombardi stares at the beast, and within seconds, it turns tail and runs away, as if scared of him.

 

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Nearby, at a house party, Dr. Ted Erickson (Lance Fuller), and Dorothy Chappel (Cathy Downs) flirt with each other, then go for a walk along the shoreline. Dorothy’s mother worries that she’ll miss the appearance of Dr. Lombardi at the party, but her father shrugs it off, believing he’s just a two-bit, carny hypnotist. Dorothy’s mother says that Lombardi warned that tonight something sinister was afoot, and that an unspeakable horror would arise. As Ted and Dorothy walk along the beach, we see Lombardi enter a beach house. It’s been ransacked pretty bad, and then we see a woman, bound and quite dead. A man inside the home is dead as well, but there doesn’t seem to be any trace of what happened. As Lombardi leaves the home, Ted and Cathy see him leave. They investigate, and find the bodies as well, then call the police.

 

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As the police show up, they remark about how they’ve never seen a murder like this before, because the victims have had their neck’s snapped like a twig. For some reason though, the cops are letting Dr. Ted walk around, contaminating the crime scene. They ask him what he saw, but he can only tell them he was walking on the beach, then saw Lombardi walking out of the house, just before he got there. They also find a strange footprint, but cannot identify it. The one cop remarks about how Lombardi said something was coming from the distant past to kill.

 

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Lombardi returns to the carnival, and is approached by another guy that works there. He tells Lombardi he heard a scream coming from his house a while ago and went to see if everything was OK. Lombardi warns him to stay out of his business, but the man was worried about a certain female carnival follower that Lombardi has taken in. Lombardi then threatens the man and walks away. We see a poster telling people about the girl and how Lombardi, using his hypnotism, can make her remember a former life from hundreds of years ago.

 

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Inside the home, we see a beautiful woman, asleep on a couch. Lombardi walks over and we see he has her hypnotized, and in a deep sleep. The woman, Andrea Talbott (Marla English), looks as if she’s dead., but then he revives her. As she does, Lombardi looks out to the ocean, as if to see someone or something. Andrea finally comes to, and tells Lombardi that she hates this place and him, and that she wants to get away. At that moment, the police show up and arrest Lombardi. Ted seems smitten with Andrea, and as the two walk out together, he asks her to have a cup of coffee. At first, she seems very interested, but then she can see the piercing eyes of Lombardi in her mind. She then tells him that she can’t go with him, and walks off.

 

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The next morning, Dorothy’s father, Timothy Chappel (Tom Conway), is trying to persuade Ted to back him and some friends that want to hire Lombardi and make money off of his “talents.” Ted stoutly refuses,  and walks off in a huff. That evening at the carnival, Tim Chappel visits Lombardi, who knew he was coming and who he is already. The two discuss making a deal to make lots of money, but Lombardi seems a bit reluctant especially when Tim makes fun of his abilities. He warns Tim that tonight the monster will return , and murder again!

Will Lombardi be held responsible for this? Can Andrea get away from his slimy grasp? Which beautiful woman will Ted choose? Watch and find out the answers to these burning questions!

 

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OK, here are my thoughts:

This film is one of the hidden gems of the era. No, it’s not Oscar worthy or anything, but anyone that is into B movies needs to see this one. The hypnotism angle, using a woman as the scapegoat, the occult, etc. are all tropes that were big at this time. The film has a great atmosphere, and utilizes dark, shadowy scenes well. The soundtrack is standard fare but pretty good. Marla English (image below) is absolutely beautiful in this one, too.

As far as the acting goes, you get a couple of solid performances by Chester Morris and Lance Fuller. Both show that they’re above the rest of the cast. The actual monster is pretty cool, and we have legendary designer Paul Blaisdell to thank for it! His work is nothing short of cool, and for his time, he was a visionary.

Get out and watch this one for all the reasons that maker B movies awesome!

 

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Click here for the trailer!

 

 

 

Cinema Sunday: Day The World Ended (1955)

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Title: Day The World Ended

Distributor: American International Pictures

Writer: Lou Rusoff

Director: Roger Corman

Producer: Roger Corman

Starring: Richard Denning, Lori Nelson, Adele Jergens, Mike Connors, Chet Huntley (narrator)

Released: December 1955

MPAA: Approved

 

 

As we roll into October, the threat of Halloween is here! Maybe a hockey-masked killer will visit or even the Boogeyman. Until then, I’d like to spotlight a great sci-fi film from the greatest era of said films (1950s-1960s). I mean, listen, you can never go wrong with an atomic disaster movie. The genre is full of great flicks from this era, and rightly so. It was a hot button topic back then (still is), and in its infancy. There was a lot of paranoia, and rightly so as it was a scary invention.

The most familiar face in this film is action/horror/sci-fi star, Richard Denning (Creature from the Black Lagoon). He was a stalwart of the film industry back in those days, and was your a-typical “macho man” of the films he was in. The rest of the cast is quirky in this one, and so was the entire film to be honest, but hey, isn’t that to be expected from Roger Corman?!? Alright, here we go…

 

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The film begins with a narrator (Chet Huntley) explaining that a nuclear holocaust has decimated the planet, and only a few pockets of people have survived. One of these people is Rick (no, not Grimes…Richard Denning!), and he spots a man who’s injured and suffering from radiation burns. He grabs the guy and throws him over his shoulder, caveman style. He heads for the nearest house he sees, but he’s behind a couple that are bolting for the same door. These two, Tony (Mike Connors) and Ruby (Adele Jergens) are very odd in the fact that they look like gangsters (Bonnie and Clyde?) from the 1920’s. Inside the home is a father, Jim Maddison (Paul Birch), and his daughter, Louise (Lori Nelson). They’re a couple of bumpkins that just want to be left alone. Ruby and Tony come knocking at the door, but Jim wont let them in at first. Tony then begins to shoot at the door, so Jim relents and lets them inside.

 

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Soon after, Rick shows up, and now the house is packed with unwanted guests. Jim tells his daughter that he didn’t want to take on any other survivors because he only has provisions for them. Now those provisions will be split four different ways. OK, make it five different ways after some old man and a jackass show up. The old-timer seems to be interested in nothing except the animal and making moonshine. Tensions are high for obvious reasons , but you also have everyone on edge even more because of Tony and his big mouth. Jim has his own gun and tells all the house guests to change their clothes and wash up because they might be contaminated.

 

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Right away, Rick and Tony butt heads. Rick gives Tony a whooping after they argue, and Tony vows revenge. A few weeks pass, and the guy that Rick brought into the house is exhibiting some strange symptoms from radiation poisoning. His face is starting to mutate, but into what, no one knows. He sneaks out every night to hunt for “meat” as he puts it. Rick is worried, and Jim thinks they should off him. The two women go swimming to relax for a while. Louise gets the creeps when she sees someone and believes she hears the person call her name. Ruby doesn’t see anybody but gets creeped out too, so they quickly leave.

 

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A few weeks later, and tensions are at an all time high, especially between Rick and Tony. Jim is on edge as well, because he knows it’s only a matter of time before they run out of food. Tony begins to hit on Louise, but Rick takes the exception to that because he and Louise have become an “item.” Rick and Tony get into another brawl, and Ruby tries to console Tony. He brushes her off, and we begin to see that he really doesn’t even care for her. He’s all about himself, and this will be a recurring theme throughout the film. Rick and Jim try to keep tabs on the irradiated man, but most nights they can’t keep up with him because he travels into an area that’s still full of radioactive activity. We (the viewers) do see him though, and one  night he gets surprised by a monstrosity near a wooded area, and he flees in fear for his life.

 

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Will the monster get to the survivors? Will Tony and Rick kill each other first? Will Louise be able to repopulate the Earth? Watch and get some of the answers!

 

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OK, here are my thoughts:

This is one wacky film. I love the post-nuke world movies because not only do they represent something that at any time could be reality, but also they give you so many options. Zombies, freaks, giant monsters, etc. This film really tries to utilize the build up of tension. Some of the acting is hammy and even borders on the ridiculous, BUT, don’t sleep on this one. Richard Denning is still cool as a cucumber here and there are a couple of deaths were a little crazy as well.

One slight disappointment was the fact that the monster doesn’t really show up until very late in the film. The fact that it’s very cheesy doesn’t bother me one bit though. The sets were bland, as were most in this era. They just weren’t a big focus the majority of the time, as films relied on gimmicks, or atmosphere, or star power. You certainly had that with Denning, especially after his performance in Creature from the Black Lagoon. This picture obviously doesn’t have Richard Carlson or Julie Adams, but Denning, Nelson, and Jergens (image below) provided depth and sex appeal for sure!

 

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Click here for the trailer!

 

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Cinema Sunday: Black Sunday (1960)

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Title: Black Sunday (A.K.A. The Mask of Satan)

Distributor: American International Pictures

Writer: Mario Bava (screenplay)

Director: Mario Bava

Producer: Massimo de Rita, Samuel Z. Arkoff

Starring: Barbara Steele, John Richardson, Andrea Checchi, Ivo Garrani

Released: August 1960

MPAA: UR

 

I always try my best to keep my promises, so here we go with another film by the great, Mario Bava! After reviewing Planet of the Vampires a few weeks ago, I slowly began searching through his catalog for more films that I knew would be gems. It didn’t take long for me to settle on this one. This being Bava’s first credited film as director (he had apparently done a couple of others uncredited), and the film that put Barbara Steele on the map (she’d done a couple of films, but small roles before this)!

The film caused quite a stir when it was released in 1960, as it was a bit over-the-top for the times. Bava took chances, and really amped up the shock value in this film. The opening scene is one of legend, and really sets the tone for the entire film. Now, let us traverse back in time to the year 1630…

 

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The film opens with a duo, Asa Vajda (Barbara Steele) and Javuto (Arturo Dominici), being put to death for witchcraft. The man leading the charge is Asa’s own brother! He puts his feelings aside and condemns the two to die for their crimes. The first thing he does is brand them with an “S” so that they are marked as Satan’s worshipers.  One of his minions places a mask with metal spikes on the inside over Asa’s face, while another man (wearing an executioners hood) uses a large hammer to pound in into her face! Just before this though, Asa puts a curse o her brother, and all that will follow in his bloodline. She is then burned at the stake, as a violent storm rages on. However, the storm puts out the flames before their bodies are burned.

 

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Fast-forward two centuries, and we see a carriage heading through the same woods where the  two were executed back in 1630. The two men inside, Dr. Thomas Kruvajan (Andrea Checchi), and Dr. Andre Gorobec (John Richardson), are on their way to a medical conference. The carriage breaks down, and the two doctors explore the area because they hear a strange sound emanating from an old cathedral. They find a tomb, and Kruvajan tells Gorobec that it is the tomb of the witch. Suddenly, the coachman asks for help repairing the carriage, so Gorobec leaves to help while Kruvajan continues searching the cathedral (a family crypt, actually). Kruvajan is attacked by a huge bat, but manages to kill the beast with his pistol.

 

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As the men are leaving, they are approached by a strange young woman who asks what they are doing there. Princess Katia (Barbara Steele), and Gorobec have an enchanted moment, then the good doctors leave, as the carriage is fixed. While Kruvajan was fighting the bat though, he was cut on some glass, and his blood seeped into the tomb of the witch. We see it seems to have an effect on her that might resuscitate her. Over at the castle of the Prince Vajda (Ivo Garrani), he and his two children, Katia, and her brother, Constantine (Enrico Olivieri), are on edge on this very eerie night. The Prince is staring at a painting of Asa (their ancestor), and then believes it moves! The servant, Ivan (Tino Bianchi), is then told about the curse of Asa. Ivan tells him to cling to the cross, as it will protect him against evil.

 

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As the evening wears on, we see the body of Asa, as it begins to transform from the blood of Kruvajan. She then telepathically summons her former accomplice, Javuto, and sends him on a mission to attack Prince Vajda. Javuto rises from the grave, and does indeed come upon the Prince in the castle, but Vajda has enough wherewithal to grab his crucifix, and it frightens off the ghoul. The conflict leaves him mentally unstable though, and very vulnerable. They send a servant to get Dr. Kruvajan, but he’s intercepted by Javuto. Javuto then tricks Kruvajan into thinking he’s the servant, and takes him instead to the crypt, where he’s bitten by Asa!

 

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Now that Asa has a servant to carry out her devious deeds, things get very interesting. She also has plans for Princess Katia, as well. She believes that her blood will revitalize her completely, and then she’ll make everyone pay!

Can Gorbec and a few others stop Asa and Javuto before they can turn all the villagers into their slaves? Tune in to find out!

 

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OK, here are my thoughts:

I’ve been aware of this film for quite some time now, but put off viewing it for some unknown reason. Now that I’ve seen it a few times, I really love it, and anyone that’s a fan of horror films from this era will as well. The only thing that was off was the voices that were dubbed. It bothered me for the first few minutes, but wore off after that time. The film (for its day) has a couple of violent scenes that moviegoers must have shrieked at. Bava really sets a creepy tone from the on-set of this film, both visually and mentally. For his first directorial credited film, it’s no wonder why studios were willing to give him some money to make films.

The musical score was very good too, and although the name Roberto Nicolosi is unfamiliar to me, he did a great job. Bava is also credited as the cinematographer, which makes perfect sense knowing his reputation for wanting to be in total control over that aspect of his films. And let’s be honest, it was probably for the best because he quite good at it. Barbara Steele is nothing short of gorgeous in this film, and you will want to see more of her films after you’ve seen this one, I guarantee it!

 

Click here for the trailer!

 

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Cinema Sunday: Night of The Eagle (1962)

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Title: Night of the Eagle (A.K.A. Burn, Witch, Burn!)

Distributor: AIP (U.S.)

Writers: Richard Matheson, Charles Beaumont, George Baxt (screenplay)- Fritz Lieber (novel- Conjure Wife)

Director: Sidney Hayers

Producers: Julian Wintle, Leslie Parkyn

Starring: Peter Wyngarde, Janet Blair, Margaret Johnston, Anthony Nicholls, Colin Gordon

Released: May 1962

MPAA: Pg-13 (est.)

 

This week’s film will be a quick dip back in the pool of American International Pictures (AIP) library (by way of the U.K.’s Anglo Amalgamated)! I don’t recall how I found out about this film, but I’m glad I did! The pluses outweigh the minuses by a long shot in this one, and for a budget of $200k, they did an admirable job! The cast was relatively new to me and that can sometimes but slightly off-putting to me, but not this time around. I’ll grant you that the name of the film doesn’t sound very scary, and this might be a case of the Americanized name being better, but who knows. Alright, now that the intro is over, let’s hit the pavement, or eagles nest, I guess…

 

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At the ritzy medical college of Hempnell, we see an instructor, Norman Taylor (Peter Wyngarde), telling his students that superstitions are nothing but a bunch of poppycock. One student in particular, Margaret Abbott (Judith Stott), seems to be quite smitten with him, and asks about personal superstitions, like walking under a ladder, and the like.  He dismisses them as well, and tells the students not to believe any of it. Class ends, and then that same female student stays after class for a moment. Another student, Fred Jennings (Bill Mitchell), doesn’t hand in his paper, and Taylor threatens to have him thrown out of the class. Later, out in the hallway, Jennings threatens Margaret, because of jealousy.

 

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Norman arrives home and his wife, Tansy (Janet Blair), greets him after she’s just returned home from spending some time at their cottage. She complains about having to spend the evening with the others. but Norman convinces her it will be fine. Later that night, as the game of bridge is underway, as a couple of others have joined. One person in particular seems to be very interested in the new couple (Norman and Tansy are new to the school), and why everything seems to go their way. Norman remarks that Tansy is his good luck charm, and again, Flora Carr (Margaret Johnston) gets a peculiar look on her face.

 

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The evening ends, everyone leaves, but Tansy seems troubled. She begins to rummage through the home as if she’s lost something. When Norman asks her about it, she claims she’s looking for the grocery list, but it’s obviously a lie. Norman heads upstairs for bed and Tansy promises to be up soon. She stays to keep looking for something though. As Norman opens a drawer he discovers something in the corner. A small box he doesn’t recognize is in it, and when he opens it, a dead spider falls out. Tansy bursts in the room, and Norman wants an explanation. She tells him that last year when they were on holiday in Jamaica, a local gave it to her for a souvenir. He accepts her story, then they go to sleep. Tansy awakens though, and you can tell that something is bothering her. She finds a type of voodoo doll tied to a lampshade, and immediately takes it down, pulls it apart, then burns it, in some type of ceremonial act.

 

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The following day, Norman is typing away, and the dry cleaner comes a knocking. He lets him in and grabs a few articles of clothing. He pricks his hand on something inside a shirt, and after searching, he finds a small envelope of some substance. He immediately heads upstairs to search the rest of the bedroom. The entire house is then searched and he finds dozens of relics, charms and all sorts of the things he teaches against in his classroom. It finally hits him, his wife is a mystic.

 

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Tansy then returns home, and sees that one of her charms by the front door is missing. Upon entering the home, she sees that all of her things have been laid out on the table. The couple argues, as they’re both on opposite sides of the fence on the subject. She explains that she did it for him, and it was for protection. He can’t believe it, and tries to force her to destroy the items. She warns him that the reason she got into all of this was because when they were on holiday in Jamaica, he almost died from an accident, but a local shaman showed her how to revive him. Norman refuses to believe such rubbish, and then tells her she must give it up. She watches in disbelief, as Norman throws all of her charms, protections, etc. into the fireplace. He asks her one last time if that’s everything, and she then pulls out a locket, that has his picture, along with a charm of some sort. He even tosses that in, including his own picture! Tansy freaks out, and then after she calms down, a bit, she goes upstairs to bed. Norman then receives a phone call, and initially the caller says nothing, but then he hears someone breathing and then the female voice begins to talk dirty to him. He demands to know who it is, but the woman just keeps on going. He slams the phone down, and then heads up to bed.

 

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Almost immediately, things begin to go awry for Norman (like almost getting run over by a truck, being accused of raping a student). Was Tansy and her magic protecting them from sinister forces that lurk around everyone? Or is someone behind the events that are just beginning to plague the happy couple? Watch to find out!

 

OK, here are my thoughts:

This one flew under my radar, as I’m sure it has for most, but let me tell you something. Get it on your radar now! The two leads (and the villain), are absolutely fantastic! Not a lot of bells and whistles with this film, and the “special effects” are just moderate at best (there are only a couple). The sets are average as well, but again, that’s not the driving force behind this one. The cinematography (Reginald Wyer), did an outstanding job, and should be praised. The music score (William Alwyn) was also very good, bringing the viewer up and down like a roller-coaster.

The screenplay has three credits, but when you see the name Richard Matheson (Last Man on Earth, The Night Stalker),  you should know it is one of legend. His written work along with his TV and film work is also full of solid stuff. The usual gang from AIP was involved as well, and those guys, even with their cheesy reputation, always manage to get it done. Definitely look this one up around the web, because you’ll enjoy it!

 

Click here for the trailer!

 

Cinema Sunday: Planet of The Vampires (1965)

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Title: Planet of the Vampires

Distributor: American International Pictures

Writers: Mario Bava, Alberto Bevilacqua, Antonio Roman, Callisto Cosulich, Rafael J. Salvia,

Director: Mario Bava

Producer: Fulvio Lucisano

Starring: Barry Sullivan, Norma Bengell, Àngel Aranda, Evi Marandi

Released: September 1965

MPAA: UR

 

 

It just recently hit me that I’ve never reviewed a film by legendary Italian horror master, Mario Bava! This man created the horror scene in Italy overnight. His contributions to the genre are undeniable, and he has the catalog to back it up. A quick Google search will net you dozens of films he made, and quite a few you should not only recognize, but have seen. One of these films is Planet of the Vampires.

Definitely look up some of his films (a few are on Netflix as of right now, I believe), they don’t have high production values typically, but the atmosphere is pretty cool. Well, that’s enough for now, let’s get to the film…

 

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The movie begins with two spaceships heading to a planet that’s emitting a distress signal. As they communicate with each other, suddenly the view screen goes dark, and communications are lost. The crew has no idea what’s going on, and before they know it, the ship is pulled down to the planet by force. The Captain, Mark Markary (Barry Sullivan), is very concerned because his brother is on the other ship. As the occupants begin to wake up from the crash, they go crazy, and attack each other. The only one that seems to be able to keep his wits about him is the captain. He eventually gets the crew under control, and they’re visibly shaken, especially Sanya (Norma Bengell).

 

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The first thing they do is set out to find the other ship and see if they’re alive. The planet seems to be a barren wasteland and nothing but a mysterious fog rolling around seems to be even remotely recognizable. After a quick distress call from the other ship, but the batteries that run the ship are dead, so they have to hot-foot it to the other ship. As they make their way across the rugged terrain, they realize that although it looks rocky, there is also lava in certain spots. Once the reach the other ship, they find two dead crew members outside. A victim of a fight from the same madness, no doubt.

 

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As they enter the ship, they find a few more crew members dead from the same affliction or something worse. They do notice that there are three crew members unaccounted for, and that definitely raises an eyebrow. They bury the dead, and then attempt to get into the bridge of the ship. They can’t gain access, and realize they need a cutting torch from their ship. They leave one crew member behind to stand guard (yeah, he’s basically a “red shirt”). When the others return from the ship, he’s gone. They then go inside the ship to search for the missing crew member, and now, the bridge is open. Not only that, there were four bodies they couldn’t bury that they left in there, and they’re gone.

 

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Back outside the ship, the one crew member standing guard sees something that makes her cry out, and then weep. The others rush outside, but she’s basically having a nervous breakdown. As they run back to their ship, the dead that were buried rise up from their graves and look like they’ve been to hell and back. The crew decides that tomorrow they’ll begin to try to fix the ship to try to escape this planet. As they sleep, there are two guards posted. They hear noises, but only see illuminated globes floating around. As the Captain heads outside to check on the guards, one of them shrieks, and when the captain and the other guard investigates, they find the guy torn up real bad, and as he’s in his death throes, he insists that the captain of the other ship did this to him.

 

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As night goes on, more and more crew members get slaughtered, and eventually, we find out that not only are the dead rising, but that they are possessed by an alien life form that wants nothing more than to get off of this planet. And they do it by any means necessary! The engineer, Wes, believes that he can reignite the batteries, and get the ship going. He’d better, because if he can’t, they might not make it through another night!

 

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OK, here are my thoughts:

Along with another film I recently reviewed (It! The Terror from Beyond Space), this one is frequently credited with partially inspiring Ridley Scott’s 1979 classic, Alien. Both of these films definitely gave him some ideas, no doubt. I think the budget was $50 for his movie. I’m not kidding, and if you doubt me, read up on the production of this one, you’ll be blown away by the way this movie looks compared to the budget. Very moody, and atmospheric, and the fog machines coupled with the multicolored lights really make the set look cool. The pulsing sound also reminds me of another classic horror flick. “John Carpenter’s The Thing,” has that ominous pulsating music to it as well, that sounds like the heartbeat of the devil himself!

The actors did a decent job, but nothing Oscar worthy. Sullivan and Bengell are pretty good, and carry most of the scenes. The space ships are a little disappointing, but again, when you look at the budget, you can understand why. The dark corridors of the ship were frightening, but the technology was very sub-par.  Bava certainly knows how to make something out of nothing, sort of like Carpenter did with his first few films (and Hammer, Amicus, AIP, etc.).

 

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Grab some popcorn, turn down the lights, and sit down and watch this classic sci-fi/horror flick. Then look up more of Bava’s films from his heyday, you wont be sorry!

 

Click here for the trailer!

 

Cinema Sunday: It Conquered the World (1956)

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Title: It Conquered The World

Distributor: American International Pictures

Writers: Lou Rusoff, Charles B. Griffith

Director: Roger Corman

Producer: Roger Corman

Starring: Peter Graves, Beverly Garland, Lee Van Cleef, Dick Miller

Released: July, 1956

MPAA: Approved

 

If you put aside Hammer and Universal Studios, I think I’d have to give AIP the nod as far as movie studios go in the impact category. Their horror and sci-fi films were great. Sure, they didn’t have the biggest budgets, so the special effects weren’t the best, but the stories were cool, and they always found good actors for the roles. Whether it was “The Amazing Colossal Man” or Blacula,” AIP always gave it their all when producing a picture!

Speaking of pictures, you’ll love this one as any watcher of this film will tell you, it’s a sci-fi classic that must be viewed! The film isn’t very long, but does have a few actors you’ll definitely recognize. Well, without any more interruption, here’s the plot…

 

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The film begins with four scientists, as they’re keeping an eye on a space probe that’s circling the Earth. Dr. Paul Nelson (Peter Graves), remarks at how much the satellite cost, and that everything better go as planned or this project will get dumped. In a nearby office, a general, Secretary Platt, and another man, Dr. Tom Anderson (Lee Van Cleef), is explaining to them that this satellite business must stop because the aliens will put a stop to it if they don’t. He vehemently pushes back, but they don’t care. Later that day, Tom and Paul, who are good friends, are having dinner together (both wives are present too). Tom takes the time to tell Paul that he’s made contact with an alien via his radio transmitter. Tom’s wife, Claire (Beverly Garland), is reluctant for Tom to tell him what’s going on, but Tom doesn’t care. He shows Paul his radio but just then the telephone rings, and Paul is called away to the lab.

Back at Tom’s house, he and Claire argue over the revelation about the alien. She’s very wary about this, but Tom is convinced the alien is going to help humanity. Over at the installation, the satellite lost contact with Earth, and they can’t figure out why. Tom then makes contact with the alien, and informs Tom that he hitched a ride on the satellite to Earth. Claire begs Tom to come to bed, but he refuses, and tells her he’s going to sleep by the radio. She doesn’t seem to broken up about it.

 

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The next day, the satellite crashes, and the alien arrives. He hides out in a cave near some hot springs, as to closer simulate the climate from its home planet of Venus. Suddenly, every mechanical device n town stops working. Apparently, the alien wants to create chaos, and knows this will get everybody crazy in a short period of time. We next see Tom talking to him again, and giving him a list of names of the most influential people in town (I guess the alien has the Yellow Pages?). The alien responds, telling Tom that he has a control device he can use to subjugate the populace with. Just then, we see the alien, as it release these bat-like creatures that have stingers that implant a radio controlled device when they sting the back of the neck.

 

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The first victim is the sheriff (Taggart Casey), and he gets hit immediately. Next is the general that runs the facility where Paul works. He attempts to hot-foot it to somewhere, but gets attacked by one of the bat creatures. He attempts to pistol whip the creature, and not shoot it…yeah. So, anyway, moments later, two of the biggest wheels in the area are under the control of the alien, and there are more to follow. Paul and his wife were on their way to town, but when their car died, they went to Tom’s house. He then tells them the whole story, and both of them are appalled. Paul tells him he’ll never submit to this alien, and Tom is not happy. Tom then takes them home, and the alien tells him that he must be assimilated.

 

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Back in town, the sheriff tells everyone to get out-of-town, and they listen. One man wont leave, and the sheriff shoots him in cold blood! Paul questions him about it but he only says that the master wants everyone out-of-town. The sheriff attacks Paul, but the alien tells him to let Paul go. Back at Tom’s house, he and his wife argue about the moral ramifications of this situation. Tom doesn’t care, and his wife storms off. Paul then heads to the installation, but is stopped by the general. Paul can tell something is up, so he whacks the general over the head, knocking him unconscious. He takes the general’s Jeep to Tom’s house and questions him further about the alien. Tom spills the beans about everything, and Paul swears he’ll fight this until his last breath, and storms off.

Can Paul stop this invasion by himself? Can he somehow rally the townspeople and stop this menace? The answers are here for the taking!

 

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OK, here are my thoughts:

Just seeing Van Cleef and Graves at this early stage in both of their careers is great. You can see the potential in both, and that they had big things ahead. Beverly Garland was also pretty good, even though her scene near the end where she tried to act all tough in wasn’t so good. The rest of the cast was very milquetoast, and didn’t really add much to the film.

The sets were very plain, and basically what you’d expect from a low-budget offering like this one. The music score was just mediocre as well, except for a few short moments. The special effects were decent for 1956, and you’ll really get a kick out of the bat creatures that the alien has at its disposal. Lets be honest though, when you see Roger Corman’s name attached to something, you know you’re in for a wild ride!

Definitely give this one a watch, because you need to be able to say that you’ve seen an alien from Venus, right (and the beautiful Beverly Garland – image below)?

 

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Click here for the trailer!

 

Cinema Sunday: Madhouse (1974)

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Title: Madhouse

Distributor: AIP (American International Pictures) & Amicus Productions

Writers: Greg Morrison, Ken Levison

Director: Jim Clark

Producers: Max Rosenberg, Milton Subotsky, Samuel Z. Arkoff

Starring: Vincent Price, Peter Cushing, Robert Quarry, Adrienne Corri, Natasha Pyne, Linda Hayden

Released: March 1974

MPAA: PG

 

After a couple of wild black and white films, I thought it was high-time that two of my favorite horror film stalwarts were plunged back in the spotlight! As you well know, one of the most masterful horror film actors of all-time passed away recently, and next week, I’ll be showcasing a film starring Sir Christopher Lee, but for now, Vincent Price and Peter Cushing will share the stage. Both men had already built a huge catalog of films by this time, and really were still at the peak of their powers! So now, without further interruption, I give you, Madhouse…

 

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The film starts out with a room full of people watching a new movie that’s ready to hit the theaters (a flashback). It’s a cheesy horror flick starring a character named “Dr. Death (Vincent Price),” that shows the good doctor unleashing a monster in a well to kill a damsel in distress, while the townspeople wielding their torches and pitchforks attempt to stop him. A man then stops the film, and tells the guests about how Dr. Death killed many of his beautiful co-stars in different ways, but now, he’s marrying his latest co-star, Ellen Mason (Julie Crosthwait). He (Paul Toombes) introduces the writer, Herbert Flay (Peter Cushing), and gives him full credit for his contributions. As he introduces his bride to be, one of his old flames (and old co-stars), Faye Carstairs (Adrienne Corri) approaches him, visibly upset, and gives them her two cents. Shortly thereafter, a man, Oliver Quayle (Robert Quarry), introduces himself to Toombes, and remarks about how his new bride used to make adult films before he knew her. Toombes is quite upset with him, and his fiancé, and she runs off, embarrassed by the situation. She runs upstairs as Herbert tries to comfort Toombes. After crying for a minute or so, Ellen is brutally murdered.

 

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Paul awakens after having fallen asleep apparently, and heads upstairs to apologize to Ellen. As he enters her room, her head falls off, as she’s been decapitated! Paul scrams, then the story fades to a hospital room, where he’s been injected with some kind of drugs, and being questioned about the murder. He keeps insisting that he can’t remember what happened. We next see a shot of London (present day), as Paul has completed a rehab program (after a nervous breakdown), and his old nemesis, Oliver Quayle, is now a big-time editor of a newspaper, and he’s telling his underlings the story of Toombes’ history, and how he’s planning an exposé on his life.

 

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Next, we see Toombes being awakened by a gorgeous woman, Elizabeth Peters (Linda Hayden). She’s a young actress that wants a break, but Toombes tells her to hit the road. Toombes is on a ship coming to London (he was previously in Hollywood, apparently), and is greeted by Julia Wilson, one of Quayle’s stooges. She takes him to the home of his life-long friend, Herbert Flay, and the two then reminisce about old times, and how the two will now be working on a television show together. Herbert tells Paul that he’s now become a successful actor, but that he wants to work with Paul again. Paul is terrified to revive the character again, as he thinks it’s bad luck. They then watch one of the Dr. Death films together, but as it drones on, Herbert creeps out of the room, and Paul seems to be going into a trance.

 

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Outside the house, the girl from the ship, Elizabeth, is prowling around, and eventually makes her way into the house. She calls out to Paul, but gets no answer. She heads back outside, and sees a figure walking through the garden. She calls out but gets no response. As she follows the figure further and further away, she begins to realize she might be being led away intentionally. Just as she’s ready to give up, the shadowy figure pops out of nowhere and shoves a pitchfork into her neck! Back inside, Paul awakens, after seemingly falling asleep on the couch. He lights a candle, and heads out to find Herbert. He can hear someone talking, and investigates. He finds a phonograph in the basement, along with a glass enclosure full of Tarantulas. Before he can even move, he’s accosted by a woman (image below). At first he doesn’t recognize her, as she’s terribly disfigured, and seems to have had a mental breakdown. Eventually though, he recognizes that it’s Faye (from the opening scene).

 

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The following day, two boys are fishing, and discover the corpse of Elizabeth. The police are baffled but see a pattern with these two killings. Both were done in the same fashion as portrayed in two of the Dr. Death films. Of course, they immediately wonder where Paul Toombes is, but he isn’t a suspect yet. Over at the house, Paul asks Herbert why he never told him that he ended up marrying Faye. As they meet up with Oliver Quayle, and then later they begin to film the first scene. Toombes isn’t thrilled but is doing Herbert a favor, so he endures the hardship. He’s also not excited about finding out that he’ll have a pretty assistant, something he never had in any of his films. Toombes yells at her for not following his lead, and they call it a day.

later that evening, Quayle is throwing a costume party for the launch of the filming, and again, Toombes is less than excited. Herbert attempts to change his mood, but Toombes is anything but happy. He then has a run in with is co-star, but tells her off. Quayle then shows some old film clips of Toombes work (actually films that Price had made, and not “Dr. Death” films), and everyone sits down for the show. Everyone except his new co-star, that is, as she’s gone upstairs to check out some of the props that Quayle has collected over the years. In mere moments, she’s murdered, and a few minutes later, Quayle’s assistant, Julia, finds the girl hanging by her neck, dead. Toombes heads back to Herbert’s home, packs his bags, and attempts to leave. He’s stopped by the police, and they bring him in for questioning.

 

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Is Paul Toombes consciously or unconsciously acting out murders from his movies? Or is someone else trying to drive him insane? Check out this classic to find the answers!

 

OK, here are my thoughts:

I wouldn’t consider this film in my personal top few films in the career of Vincent Price or Peter Cushing, but don’t be fooled, it’s definitely worth a watch. Price gives a solid performance, as to be expected from a consummate pro like him, and so does Cushing. The rest of the cast isn’t on their level, but then again, not many are. Robert Quarry plays a good, sleazy producer, and Linda Hayden (only a small part, image below), is very easy on the eyes.

 

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The sets were good, and the soundtrack was good enough to help move things along here and there. There were a couple of parts that bogged down the film slightly, but nothing to terrible. The cops being portrayed as a couple of boobs is a bit of a tired trope, and really didn’t help. One cool angle was the scene where they were showing some of Paul’s work, and it actually showed some of the films Price did during that era, with fellow horror legends Boris Karloff and Basil Rathbone.

Check this one out if for nothing than to see these two legends, as their careers were certainly winding down (compared to before this time), but not over yet!

 

Click here for the trailer!

 

Cinema Sunday: Night Tide (1961)

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Title: Night Tide

Distributor: American International Pictures

Writer: Curtis Harrington

Director: Curtis Harrington

Producer: Aram Katarian

Starring: Dennis Hopper, Linda Lawson, Marjorie Cameron, Luana Anders, Gavin Muir

Released: June 1963 (U.S.)

MPAA: PG

 

This week brings another great flick from back in the day! Some don’t care for black and white, but as long as the acting and story are good, it doesn’t bother me at all. Of course, most of the best sci-fi films came from a time when color was in its infancy, but the monsters were still scary, the tech was really cool (for its time), and the ladies looked gorgeous! Speaking of gorgeous ladies, this week’s film has one for sure, in Linda Lawson! The film also has one of the most diverse actors, in Dennis Hopper! This guy has had many roles throughout his career, but always gives a solid performance.

Well, without spoiling too much, I’ll try to do my best with the synopsis of this one. A lesser-known, black and white treat from the early 1960’s, here’s Night Tide…

 

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The film begins with a sailor, Johnny Drake (Dennis Hopper), making his way across the boardwalk in Santa Monica. He eventually wanders in to a Jazz Club, and sits down to enjoy the music and have a smoke. Within a minute or two, he notices a beautiful, black-haired girl, sitting by herself on the other side of the club. He makes his way over and asks if he can sit down by her. The girl’s name is Mora (Linda Lawson), and she seems to be a little apprehensive about talking to Johnny. As Johnny is trying to get his foot in the door, a strange woman walks behind him and mumbles something to Mora. It really upsets her, so she drops some cash on the table, asks Johnny to pay her bill, and runs out of the club. Johnny runs after her, an catches up with her outside. He offers to walk her home and listen to her to make her feel better after the incident. They reach her apartment, and Johnny makes a weak attempt to get her to let him come inside, but she’s not having any of that. He asks if he can see her again, and she concedes, and invites him to breakfast the next morning.

 

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The following day shows Johnny walking to Mora’s apartment. As he gets to the building, he helps an older guy lift up one of the windows to the carousel (Mora’s apartment is above the carousel ride on the boardwalk). The man (Tom Dillon), thanks Johnny and then asks him a few questions about his relationship with Mora (nothing personal, just vague questions). Johnny seems a little nervous talking about her, so then he heads upstairs. Mora greets him, and the two have a nice meal together. She remarks about how she loves the sea and everything about it. You get the feeling that both have taken quite a liking to each other, but there’s definitely an ominous tone over the relationship.

 

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Mora then takes Johnny to see her place of work. She works at a side-show attraction where she portrays a mermaid in a tank of water. They find the side-show owner, Captain Sam Murdock (Gavin Muir – image below), asleep behind the counter. He seems like a nice enough guy, and then he tells Mora it’s time to get ready for the show. Sam then tells Johnny that if wants to know more about Mora, he should stop by his home, and he’ll tell him what he knows. Apparently he’s been her guardian since he found her on an island, years before when she was a youth.

Another day brings another date, as the two young love birds spend the day at the beach. They talk a lot about themselves, and are beginning to get closer to each other. As night falls, there’s a beach party, and one of the musicians asks Mora to dance. She begins to a native-type dance (which is kind of ludicrous). As Mora dances, she spots that same woman from the Jazz Club earlier in the week, and she suddenly faints. It appears as if she’s going to be OK, and Johnny seems concerned.

 

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The next day, Johnny is having some coffee with the people who run the carousel, and talk about everyday subjects. A policeman enters, and asks the man and his daughter, Ellen (Luana Sanders), if they’ve seen anything new. They tell him they haven’t seen anything, and he leaves a minute later. Johnny asks what’s going on, and they tell him that both of Mora’s last two boyfriends died under mysterious circumstances. Johnny seems shocked and can’t believe that Mora had anything to do with it. A local fortune-teller is also there, and she tells him that Mora was never implicated with either death. She also tells him to come and see hm for a reading.

 

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Suddenly, Johnny looks out the window, and sees the mysterious woman in black that’s been plaguing Mora. He follows her but loses track of her in a certain neighborhood. He then recognizes the address on the one house, and knocks. Captain Murdoch answers, and invites Johnny in for a chat. He tells Johnny that as long as he sees Mora, he’s in grave danger. Johnny doesn’t understand what’s going on, and then Murdoch tells him about the legend of the Sirens. After a short talk, Murdoch passes out from the booze he’d been drinking. Johnny takes the liberty of searching through Mora’s old room, but doesn’t find much of anything. He then confronts Mora about it, and she doesn’t deny it, and tells Johnny that the woman in black is one of them, and that she’s there to remind Mora that one day they will come for her!

 

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Will Johnny be able to stop the Sirens from taking Mora away, or will he end up like the last two men that fell under the Sirens spell!

 

OK, here are my thoughts:

I had heard of this movie on a podcast, but not as the subject of their review, but just some idle chatter. I looked it up and thought the description sounded pretty cool. After watching it twice, I definitely knew I wanted to present it here for the masses. Hopper delivers a fine performance, even at this young age, and plays the part of the unaware lover. Linda Lawson is great as the mysterious girlfriend, as well. Another fine job was turned in by Luana Sanders (image below), as Ellen. She does a fine job as the third part of the love triangle (sort of), and is very convincing with her feelings toward Hopper’s character.

The music score for the film was up and down, so it’s probably a wash on the scorecard. The sets however, were very good, and the setting of Santa Monica was a superb backdrop for the film. The cinematography was on point, and especially in two specific scenes (a dream sequence, and in another scene under the pier). of course, the film itself was very dark, and sketchy at times, so there is a desperate need for a restoration on this one.

Definitely catch this one when you get time (check out the big video sites), and give it a watch. You’ll be impressed by Hopper and Lawson, and the quirky plot!

 

Click here for the trailer!

 

Luana Anders (Night Tide)

 

 

Cinema Sunday: The Haunted Palace (1963)

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Title: The Haunted Palace

Distributor: American International Pictures

Writer: Charles Beaumont (screenplay), based on a story by H.P. Lovecraft

Director: Roger Corman

Producers: Samuel Z. Arkoff, Roger Corman, James H. Nicholson

Starring: Vincent Price, Lon Chaney Jr., Debra Paget, Frank Maxwell

Released: August 1963

MPAA: Approved

 

Once again, I’m strolling down the halls of the horror hall of fame! Not only does this film have Vincent Price, Lon Chaney Jr., but it also has Roger Corman directing! This is the first American film to introduce the works of H.P. Lovecraft to moviegoers. The film is based on a story called “The Case of Charles Dexter Ward” and not off of an Edgar Allan Poe story (a common misconception because of the way the movie was promoted as being part of the set of movies Corman had previously done). For fans of the film that don’t know about the story behind it, definitely read up on Lovecraft, he was an interesting writer.

Alright, well, you can see from the movie poster, that this film is a wild one that involves all sorts of creepy elements. Murder, black magic, and beautiful ladies are what classic horror movies are made of…or so I’m told. AIP (American International Pictures) and Roger Corman made a lot of films together with this formula (8-9 I believe), and it worked out brilliantly. Price, along with people like Karloff, Lorre, and so on, had so much talent and an eeriness about them that vault these films from flimsy to fantastic! Now, without any further delay, here’s the film!

 

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The movie opens with a few men hanging out at a local pub (around 1765, somewhere in New England). One of them, Ezra Weeden (Leo Gordon – image above), sits by the window, as if he’s on watch. Another man, Micah Smith (Elisha Cook Jr. – image above) urges him to chill out and have some fun, but he refuses, citing that there’s foul play about, and he knows who’s behind it. Suddenly, amidst the fog, we see a young woman walking alone. Through the town, and up to the old house at the end of the town. The door opens, and she’s met by two people. Joseph Curwen (Vincent Price), and Hester Tillinghast (Cathie Merchant), welcome her in, and then proceed to take her to the bowels of the old palace. Once there, they chain her up over a pit, and after reciting some kind of incantation, a hellish creature begins to rise from the fiery pit.

 

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Meanwhile, the villagers have grabbed their pitchforks and torches, and are heading to the house. They hear her scream and begin to pound on the door. Curwen answers, and tells them to get lost. They question the girl, and she seems to be in a trance, so they agree that he’s a warlock, and drag him off to be burned at the stake. They initially grab the woman as well, but Curwen tells them to leave her alone because she’s been “hexed.” After they drag Curwen away, he tells Hester that once he’s dead, they’ll be able to be together again. They all march towards town, and then condemn him, and he warns them that he’ll return to seek revenge against the town leaders. They light the straw, and burn him anyway.

 

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Sherman set the WABAC machine 110 years into the future in New England. We see a man, Charles Dexter Ward (Vincent Price), and his wife, Anne (Debra Paget), arrive at the docks, and head into the town of Arkham. They are very excited to see a house that Charles has inherited, but cannot find it initially. They stop at a local pub, and ask the inhabitants of the home’s whereabouts. The townspeople are very frigid toward them, and even refuse to tell the location of the house. Ward and his wife are about to give up, when one of the men, Dr. Willet (Frank Maxwell), tells them how to get to the house. As they leave the pub, they run into some people with terrible deformities, and they wonder why so many in the town have this affliction. Back at the pub, the descendants of the original townspeople argue over the curse that Curwen laid on them, and the fact that Ward is a dead-ringer for him.

 

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As Charles and Anne near the home, they get an uneasy feeling, but enter once they arrive.  Ward then sees a painting of the previous owner, his great-grandfather, Curwen, and is struck into a momentary trance. Anne asks what’s wrong, and he tells her nothing. Anne attempts to open a cabinet, but then a poisonous snake pops out. Ward grabs a hatchet and chops its head off. Anne then moves towards another room, but Charles tells her that it doesn’t lead anywhere. She asks how he knows this, and he replies that “it’s just a guess.” As they search through the dark house, they’re surprised by a man, Simon Orne (Lon Chaney Jr.). He tells them that he’s the caretaker of the old palace, and that he has been so for a long time. Anne is frightened out her skin, but Charles seems to be OK with the creepy old guy. She wants to leave, but Charles insists that they stay the night.

 

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Over on the other side of town, we see one of the villagers, Edgar Weeden, and his wife. Edgar feeds a beast/person, that’s locked up behind a huge door. The thing grabs Weeden, and almost tears his arm off, but he uses the flame of the candle he’s carrying to burn it. Weeden then tells his wife that the beast knows who’s come back to Arkham, and that is why the beast is upset. Back at the palace, Charles has a cigar, and stares at the painting of Curwen. It seems to be driving him mad, but then he suddenly turns around, and has a sinister look on his face. The next day, Anne is ready to leave and asks Charles if he’s ready to leave. He tells her he’s decided to stay, so he can fix up the place and sell it. His demeanor is completely different, and he suggests that if she doesn’t want to stay, she can go home without him. She’s shocked by his abrupt attitude, but he then apologizes.

 

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That night, they head into town, but everyone seems to be gone, and the pub is closed. As they turn around, they’re surrounded by the deformed people in the town. As the church bells ring, they walk simply away. The two have Dr. Willet over, and have dinner with him. He explains to them why the other townspeople don’t like them, and all about the warlock, Joseph Curwen. He tells them that Curwen’s wife, died in labor, so Curwen selected Weeden’s betrothed for his new “woman.” He tells them that young woman began to disappear and Curwen was suspected. They then learned the rest of the gory details, including the curse. He also mentions that Curwen was rumored to have gained possession of a book called the Necronomicon (there’s your Lovecraft reference), and that it supposedly could give a man ultimate power, by being able to summon the Old Ones (Cthulhu, Yog-Sothoth, etc.).

 

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Later that night, Anne wakes up, and finds Charles out on the balcony, in the middle of a storm. He hears wailing from the town below, and it seems to intrigue him. As he walks downstairs, some unseen force leads him outside, and he begins to hear the events of the night his ancestor was burned. He’s surprised by Simon, and he tells Charles to ask Curwen about the voices he heard. Simon then  follows him inside the house, and Curwen then possess the body of Charles Dexter Ward. Simon then brings him the Necronomicon, and another servant pops up as well. Curwen then tells them that Ward is fighting him, and that he wont be able to gain full control for a while yet. Anne finds him downstairs but he cannot explain how he got there or why he cannot leave.

 

Haunted Palace monster

The next evening, the villagers are discussing what they might have to do, but Dr. Willet tells them to stop being foolish. Ward/Curwen then has his two henchmen dig up a corpse, and bring it back to the palace. Anne asks what’s going on, and he tells her to mind her own business. Ward then tries to fight Curwen’s influence, and he catches Anne spying on him. He shouts at her and tells her that tomorrow she must leave for Boston. Upstairs in the bedroom, Anne hears some wailing, so she gets up to investigate the noise. A door creaks open, and she heads inside. Down to the lower depths of the old palace she descends, rats pop up, and then she finds an old wooden door, and opens it. As she’s creeping around, she’s surprised by Simon, and faints. We then see that Curwen exhumed his dead wife, and uses a spell to resurrect her, but it seems that she might be dead for too long and the spell wont work. Simon rushes him upstairs, as Charles is trying to take control. Anne explains to a bewildered Charles that he hasn’t been himself, and he agrees to leave the next day.

The next day arrives, and they attempt to leave, but Simon holds them for a moment, and Curwen takes control. As Anne is waiting with the coach, Dr. Willet arrives and tells Anne about the grave robbing incident, and that the villagers blame her husband. Ward/Curwen appears and tells Willet and his wife that he wont be leaving, and that the villagers might as well give up, because he’ll never leave…

 

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Will Charles Dexter Ward be able to re-assume control of his body, or will the soul of his evil relative keep control and get his revenge against the villagers?!? Watch this one to find the answers!

OK, here are my thoughts:

As a mild fan of the Lovecraft mythos, I can’t claim to know much about the film’s influence from the story (I’ve never read it). I will say this though, that even if the influence isn’t exceptionally strong,it still will intrigue you (and it has me) to seek out Lovecraft’s work. Corman did his usual magic with virtually no money, and it’s his forte. He’s literally the only director I can think of that time and time again made solid films with very little money. Sure, some of them weren’t so great, but the majority of them have very solid scripts and/or acting.

Speaking of acting, Vincent Price delivers a performance for the ages in this one. I liken it to House of Wax or The Last Man on Earth. It’s that good. Debra Paget is great as the frightened wife, and really puts on a great performance. Her hatred for Curwen but love for Ward is incredible. Chaney isn’t in very many scenes, but adds his usual luster and presence to the film. The sets are small but effective, and of course, the budget had a lot to do with that. There wasn’t anything overly exceptional about the music score, but it was sufficient to get you riled up a time or two.

Solid acting, sets, and a story that is eerie, creepy, and all around evil! Get this one on the watch list sooner than later, because you’ll enjoy it if you’re a Price fan, Lovecraft fan, or just a classic horror fan in general!

Click here for the trailer!