Cinema Sunday: Sword of Sherwood Forest (1960)

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Title: Sword of Sherwood Forest

Distributor: Hammer Studios (Columbia Pictures – U.S.)

Writer: Alan Hackney

Director: Terence Fisher

Producers: Michael Carreras, Sidney Cole, Richard Greene

Starring: Richard Greene, Peter Cushing, Oliver Reed, Sarah Branch

Released: December 1960

MPAA: Approved

 

A-ha! I outfoxed everyone with this week’s pick, didn’t I! OK, I’ll stop tooting my horn and let Robin Hood do it instead! Of course, Errol Flynn is who everyone thinks of when they hear the name Robin Hood, and rightly so, but don’t look past this adaptation. Richard Greene had played the character for quite some time on the television show, and he does a solid job in this flick from the legendary Hammer Studios! Whether you knew it or not, Hammer did produce a few movies that weren’t of the horror genre, and believe me when I say, most were entertaining at the very least.

You should definitely recognize a few faces in this one, as perennial Hammer favorites like Oliver Reed (The Curse of the Werewolf), Richard Pasco (The Gorgon), Jack Gwillim (The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb), and Peter Cushing are all prominent characters in this one. Throw in a seasoned veteran like Nigel Green, and you have a cast worth watching! Alright, let us journey to Sherwood Forest!

 

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As the film begins, we see a waterfall, and hear a man singing a song about the outlaw, Robin Hood. Over a hillside, a few of the sheriff’s men are detaining a man on horseback. One of them reaches into his pocket and pulls out an emblem. The man then grabs it, and takes off as if he’s stolen something. Of course, the sheriff’s men pursue him, and actually shoot him in the back with a crossbow. The man survives long enough to get to the edge of the forest, and then arrows come raining down on them, and they ride away, like the cowards they are. We then see the man ride down near the river, and fall off of his horse, near death. Two of Robin’s men, Little John (Nigel Green), and Roger (James Neylin) inspect the man, and think him dead, so they help themselves to his belongings. Robin (Richard Greene) stops them but then hears a rustling in the bushes nearby. He tells the person to come out or be shot with an arrow, and then a beautiful woman comes out. Her name is Maid Marian (Sarah Branch), and she seem to loathe Robin. She brushes him off, then leaves.

 

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Later that night, Robin and his men are treating the man who was shot, but it doesn’t look like he’ll pull through. They have some food and drink and even a song or two, and then Robin notices the man hasn’t moved since they found him, and he fears the worst. The next day, Maid Marian uses a dagger to post a note to a tree by the edge of the forest. The note states that she’ll be at a nearby Inn, if he should want to meet.He laughs, and tells Little John that he’s going to meet her, but Little John is wary, and thinks it’s a trap (insert Admiral Akbar joke here). That afternoon, Robin disguises himself as a peasant, and heads into the Inn. He tosses the dagger at the table where Marian is sitting, and she jumps out of fright. She seems surprised to see him, and after they exchange pleasantries, she makes her purpose known. She tells Robin that a friend of her’s is here and wants to meet him. Out from the corridor, pops the Sheriff of Nottingham (Peter Cushing)! He offers Robin money, then a pardon is he’ll turn over that man that he rescued yesterday. Robin refuses, of course, then gets chased by the sheriff’s men, but the men of the forest stop them.

 

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Back at the camp, Robin and Little John check in on the wounded man. He comes to his senses but only long enough to say that there is danger and he needs to get to Bawtry (the land of a nobleman that was recently killed). Robin and Little John are trying to solve this riddle, but need more clues. The sheriff doesn’t waste any time, and brings his men to the forest to try to drive out Robin and his men. He captures one of Robin’s men, and after telling him that he’ll give him a pardon, he tells the sheriff where the camp is hidden. In the meantime, Robin moves the camp to another location, thinking the sheriff might have found it anyway. The sheriff then kills him anyway, and then sets out to find the camp. Marian meets up with Robin, as they both find the young man who the sheriff killed in his death-throws. Now Marian knows what kind of jerk the sheriff is, and she then vows to help Robin.

 

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It is then revealed that there is a plot to kill the Archbishop Hubert Walter (Jack Gwillim). The two conspirators are Lord Melton (Oliver Reed – first image below), and Edward, Earl of Newark (Richard Pasco – second image below). Initially, Robin is tricked into being on the side of these two because they seem to oppose the sheriff, but Robin soon finds out about their insidious plot, and aims to take them down! Will he be able to stop them, and the sheriff? What about the lovely Maid Marian? Check out this classic to find out!

 

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Richard Pasco  Sword of Sherwood Forest (1960)

 

OK, here are my thoughts:

I’m not going to tell you that this film is better than the Errol Flynn classic, because it’s not. But let’s also be honest and look at this cast. Cushing, Greene, Reed, Pasco, Green , and the beautiful Sarah Branch! Not bad, and when you consider that this was a Hammer film production, right in the midst of their horror revival, it makes this film even more cool! Cushing is absolutely believable as the sheriff, which is especially fantastic considering he’d been Van Helsing, Dr. Frankenstein, and a host of other mysterious characters over the last few years! Richard Greene makes a fine Robin Hood, and although I’ve never seen the TV show before, I’m definitely going to look it up! Nigel Green gives a wonderful performance as Little John as well.

The sets for this film were outstanding, and knowing Hammer, they were probably reused from earlier films, like Dracula or Frankenstein. The castles, outdoor scenes, etc., were all top-notch. The costumes were great as well, and we have Rachel Austin and John McCorry for that! The music was also another high point, and John Hollingsworth did a masterful job.

As you can see, this one certainly needs to be on your radar, so seek this one out the first chance you get!

 

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Click here for the trailer!

 

 

 

 

Cinema Sunday: The Evil of Frankenstein (1964)

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Title: The Evil of Frankenstein

Distributor: Universal/ Hammer Studios

Writer: Anthony Hinds

Director: Freddie Francis

Producer: Anthony Hinds

Starring: Peter Cushing, Peter Woodthorpe, Duncan Lamont, Kiwi Kingston, Sandor Elès, Katy Wild

Released: May 1964

MPAA: UR

 

I just recently realized that I hadn’t reviewed this film yet, and this must be rectified! Falling third in the sequence of “Frankenstein” films (after The Curse of Frankenstein – 1957, and The Revenge of Frankenstein – 1958, but before Frankenstein Created Woman – 1967), this film picks up and seems to generally follow canon up to this point (other than how the creature was stopped at the end of the first film and the fate of the Baron), so that is encouraging. The masterful Peter Cushing reprises his role as “Baron Frankenstein” and as usual, owns it! Without going into too much, this selection from the franchise is one I find quite comical, some situations that were meant to be, and others not. Alright, let us sojourn into the past!

 

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The film begins with a funeral, and the corpse of a villager lying in wait, ready to be buried. We then see some unscrupulous character snatch the body! A girl witnesses this, and runs off into the woods. Before she knows what’s going on, she runs right into none other than Baron Frankenstein (Peter Cushing)! The home of the recently stolen corpse is visited by the local vicar, and he’s appalled by this act of terror. Meanwhile, the drunken fellow that stole the corpse takes it to a secluded home in the nearby area. He sells it to Baron Frankenstein and his assistant, Hans (Sandor Elès), and heads to the pub to spend his earnings. While there, he’s confronted by the vicar who has an idea where the corpse may have been taken (the little girl identifies the drunk). He shows up at the laboratory and begins to chastise the good Baron and his assistant, then smashes their equipment. The Baron lunges at him, and starts to throttle the vicar. Hans pulls him off, and they hightail it out of town.

 

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The scene shifts to the carriage, where both men are heading for a new locale. The Baron wakes up Hans, who’s been napping. He informs him that they’re heading to Karlstaad, and the Baron’s former residence. Hans is apprehensive about it, thinking that the Baron will be identified, and they’ll be imprisoned. Baron Frankenstein tells Hans that they’ll take some things of value from his castle, then sell them for money to start another lab elsewhere. As they near the town, they realize there’s a festival going on, and that they can work without anyone noticing them. They reach the castle, but find that it has been pillaged by unknown persons. Hans then asks the Baron about the origins of the monster, and the Baron recounts that very night.

 

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The following day, the two head into town for some food. Hans is still scared of being recognized, so the Baron buys two masks for them to wear. Once inside a cafe’, the Baron sees his old nemesis the Burgomaster (David Hutcheson), and the Chief of Police (Duncan Lamont). He gets extremely agitated when he notices a ring that the Burgomaster is wearing that was his own before he was run out of town. The police confront him about the disturbance, but he and Hans flee for their lives through the carnival. They end up in the tent of a hypnotist named Zoltan (Peter Woodthorpe). He’s performing some rather impressive feats of the mind, and then asks for two volunteers for his next act. The Baron and Hans step up on the stage, but then the police arrive, and begin to search the crowd. The Baron and Hans slip out through a back door, but Zoltan interferes and gets arrested.

 

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As the two fugitives are trying to keep a low profile, the Baron can’t help himself from confronting the Burgomaster. The two get into a verbal spat, but then the police show up. The Baron locks himself into the bedroom with the buxom young lady that the Burgomaster was “entertaining” for the evening, then uses the bed sheets to make a rope to get away. He and Hans then make their way to the mountains to escape the police. It is here that they meet up with a deaf/mute woman named Rena (Katy Wild). She shows them to a cave for shelter, and it is here, that they make a great discovery. Apparently, the monster (Kiwi Kingston) was thought to have been killed, but ended up frozen in ice. They thaw him out and take him back to the castle for some “work.”

 

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After what seems to be days or weeks, they can’t revive his mind, only the body. The Baron remembers the fantastic feats that the hypnotist performed, and thinks he can possibly awaken the sleeping giant’s mind. He does just that, but there’s one little wrinkle…the monster will only obey him! This annoys the Baron, and really ticks off Hans, but for now, there’s nothing they can do about it, so they offer asylum to Zoltan, in exchange for his helping along the mental status of the monster. The Baron believes that Zoltan is helping the monster learn, but in reality, he’s just playing along during the day, but using the monster for more insidious reasons at night!

Will this monster be able to overturn the murderous impulses that surge through his body? Or will Zoltan push him too far, and put everyone in danger of the evil of Frankenstein!

 

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OK, here are my thoughts:

If you overlook the slight discrepancies from the first film and the flashback in this one, you can have a blast with this film. The two “Peters” (Cushing and Woodthorpe) in this film are great, and play against each other quite well. It’s not the only film these two gentleman appear in together (also The Skull, 1965), but it’s definitely the film with the most screen time between them.

A couple of the scenes were rather dark, and made it slightly difficult to see what was going on. The sets were great, especially the castle, and the few minutes in the cave where the monster was initially found. Some good moments with the music to add some tension to a few scenes, and Don Banks is the man behind that. Finally, for the third consecutive film, we had a different actor portray the monster. This time, we had Kiwi Kingston, and he fit this part perfectly. A big man who really knew how to be imposing, for sure!

 

Click here for the trailer!

 

 

 

Cinema Sunday: The Snorkel (1958)

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Title: The Snorkel

Distributor: Columbia Pictures/Hammer Studios

Writers: Peter Myers, Jimmy Sangster (Screenplay)

Director: Guy Green

Producer: Anthony Nelson Keys, Michael Carreras

Starring: Peter Van Eyck, Betta St. John, Mandy Miller, Gregoire Aslan, William Franklyn

Released: September 1958 (U.S.)

MPAA: UR

Another Sunday, and another awesome offering from Hammer Studios! This little known film is one that is very deserving of more accolades. It really creeps you out when you think of how sadistic the killer is, and what lengths he’ll go to when putting his efforts into something he wants. Without giving away too much, you’ll definitely get your monies worth from this one!

With a cast of almost no familiar faces (for a Hammer film), this one usually escapes any lists of great films from Hammer, but don’t let that fool you, it really has solid acting, great sets/locations, and is an absolute creep-fest when you really think about it! Well, let’s get on with the movie!

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The film begins with a phonograph (that’s a record player for all you kids out there!) belting out a tune. The record quickly comes to an end, and we then see a man, Paul Decker (Peter Van Eyck) and he’s taping all the windows shut, along with any place in the room that might let in/out air. We see a woman, lying on the couch, unconscious. He hears voices outside of the home, and notices two people (servants) heading inside. He quickly dons a snorkel, and attaches two long tubes that were hidden inside a secret panel in the floor, then creeps inside the hidden panel, and waits. Within minutes, the two servants try to enter the room where the woman is lying unconscious (and Paul is in the hidden compartment), but the door is locked. The female servant sniffs around the door (presumably smelling natural gas), freaks out, and gets the male servant to help break the door down. They enter, and are almost overpowered by the gas, but manage to open the windows. The woman, is already dead though, and the family vacation home in Spain is now a crime scene.

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The next scene brings the police, and also a family friend, Wilson (William Franklyn). The lead inspector (Gregoire Aslan), tells Wilson the facts, but leaves the final verdict to the inquest. The two men attempt to theorize why this woman would commit suicide, and can’t figure it out. As they continue to talk, a voice cries out from the doorway. We then see Candy Brown (Mandy Miller), the daughter of the dead woman. She screams out that Paul must have killed her, because her mommy wouldn’t do such a thing. The inspector tells her that it was necessary to break down the door, so no one did this and then got away. She still wont believe it, and starts to search the room. Meanwhile, her dog, Toto, begins scratching at the rug covering the hidden compartment. While all this commotion is going on, Jean (Betta St. John) bursts into the room, and pulls Candy away. She’s Candy’s babysitter, and the two were in England while this was going on. As Candy and Jean are leaving the room, she shouts to the inspector that Paul also killed her daddy, but they brush it off.

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We next see the Inspector question Jean, but she gives no answers they’re looking for other than the fact that she tells him about how Candy was present when her father died “accidentally” with her mother and Paul. Wilson then takes the girls to a hotel, and we see Paul creep out of his hiding place. He hides his snorkel, and watches the two servants leave the premises. He’s supposedly away working on a novel (he’s a writer), and has made great strides to have an airtight alibi.

Over at the hotel, Jean tries to assuage Candy’s fears that Paul murdered her parents, but she’s not wavering one iota. After Jean leaves, she tells her dog that she’s going to get the proof she needs to put Paul away. Jean goes back to the house, and finds Paul, “grieving.” Of course, he acts like he’s distraught, but the viewer knows different. Back at the hotel, Jean returns and talks to Candy, and they argue over Paul’s credibility. Suddenly, Paul enters the room, and Candy questions him vehemently. She then accuses him of murdering her parents.

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The next day, Candy ventures out on her own, to investigate her mother’s murder, while the others are at the inquest. She goes right to the inspector, and pleads with him to believe her about Paul. The inspector tells her that it was impossible because the room was locked from the inside, and the gas would’ve killed Paul too. He also tells her that if she can find out how a man can be invisible and not die from the gas, he’ll arrest him. Once back at the hotel, Candy sees a poster being put up nearby her window, and it shows a tropical scene with men snorkeling. She gets the idea that that is how a man can breathe and not die from gas.

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Jean comes in and tells Candy that they’re going to go to America for a trip to get away from all of this. Candy also learns that when you leave the country, your passport gets stamped, verifying the trip. She then sets out to find Paul’s passport, because he was allegedly in France when her mother died. Just as she is getting somewhere, her dog pulls something out of Paul’s closet. It’s the mask for a snorkel, but Candy is so set on finding his passport, she doesn’t even realize its importance. She eventually does find the passport, and as she looks it over, she’s suddenly startled from behind by Paul. He explains to her that his passport corroborates his being out of town when her mother died, so she leaves quietly. Her dog however, is another story. It continually goes into his closet and pulls out his snorkel gear. He then gets a sadistic look on his face, and summarily poisons the dog. Candy is beside herself with grief, and of course, blames Paul. She believes that she’s getting to close, and that’s why Paul did this, so she confronts him, and tells him that she knows he did this, and that she’ll see him dead for all of this trouble.

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Later that evening, Jean is having dinner with Paul, and we see that not only is he a cold-blooded killer, but also that he’s subtly influencing Jean, as well as trying to “get his foot in the door” with her romantically. Candy is getting more determined by the minute, and Paul is getting more and more angry that this little girl might just have the will-power to match his evilness.

Will Candy prove Paul’s guilt, or will kill her first? Can Jean keep Paul’s slimy hands off of her, and be persuaded to believe Candy’s story? These questions will be answered if you watch this film!

OK, here are my thoughts:

First off, if you watch any movie on my recommendation, let this one be at the top of the list. The performances by Peter Van Eyck (Paul) and Mandy Miller (Candy) are top notch. Both have an iron will, and won’t be stopped once they’ve decided on a path. This is what drives the movie, from shortly after the beginning, to the end. Speaking of the end (no, I won’t spoil it), I was flabbergasted by the ending, but then it continued on for another thirty seconds, and that part kind of left some of the air out of my sails. Not that it took anything away from the movie, and when you look at it, for that era, it makes sense, but I wanted it to end a minute before it actually did.

A good music score, along with fantastic sets, really give the film that something extra all good cinematic features have throughout them. The filming location was Italy, and the home and surroundings used were more than adequate at doubling as “Spain” for the film. The Inspector didn’t play a huge role, but certainly gave the film a European flavor that was cool. The other main character, Wilson (William Franklyn), was another solid addition to the cast, and played a good cynic.

Get out there and grab this flick as it is part of a collection called “Icons of Suspense” that you can get on the usual places. A few other good ones on that set as well, so don’t hesitate if you can get it at an affordable price. See you next week!

Click here for the trailer!

Cinema Sunday: The Stranglers of Bombay (1959)

StranglersBombay   Title: The Stranglers of Bombay Distributor: Columbia/Hammer Studios Writer: David Z. Goodman Director: Terence Fisher Producer: Anthony Hinds Starring: Guy Rolfe, Allan Cuthbertson, Andrew Cruickshank, George Pastell, Marie Devereaux, Jan Holden Released: December, 1959 MPAA: PG-13     In attempting to let the masses know that Hammer Studios has a much more wide range of movies other than horror, I’m bringing this classic flick into the light. Not trying to take anything away from the awesome Gothic horror films from Hammer, which I consider to be the best of all, but they definitely offer some great films in different genres as well. For instance, this little movie from 1959. It’s somewhat of an oddity that it doesn’t offer any of the usual recurring Hammer players, but don’t let that scare you away, this film is a good one! Based off of a true story, about a cult and the British East India Trading Company, and of course, murder! It wouldn’t be a Hammer film if there wasn’t a shock value to the film, now would it? Filmed the same year as The Mummy, this one is only in black and white, but it does carry a bit of charm because of that fact, in my humble opinion. Well, rather than continuing with more of my feelings, let’s just get down to the story!   stranglers#1 The film begins with a shot of a statue of Kali, and the cult that worships her. There is one man who leads them, the High Priest of Kali (George Pastell – image above), standing tall, and reciting the mission statement for the cult. He basically says that Kali (image of statue below) has told them to wipe out defilers, by strangulation using a silk cloth. The crowd starts getting ruckus, and then pledges to convert the young among them. The High Priest then carves a symbol into a boy’s arm, and then they seal it with a hot iron. This “marking” is how you know who belongs to the cult (cue opening credits).   stranglers#5 Back in the city, we see a meeting between the British occupancy/soldiers, and the local government officials. As the meeting continues, the locals complain about the disappearances of their people and goods. The man in charge, Colonel Henderson (Andrew Cruickshank), tries to assuage the people but they aren’t haven’t it. They say they will stop paying their taxes if this craziness doesn’t stop. Another man walks into the meeting, Captain Harry Lewis (Guy Rolfe – image below), and makes his opinion known that he agrees with the people, and that something needs to be done. The  Colonel tells the Captain that he is in charge of this investigation, and he’s elated. His wife, however, seems to wish he didn’t take the job, but then after talking, sees it his way.   Stranglers#2 The next day, Captain Lewis and a detachment of men are heading out to protect a caravan heading on a long trip. As they approach the caravan, bandits are ransacking it, and attempting to murder the people. Captain Lewis and his men stop and capture them before they can get away. Both of the men have a silk scarf and a certain branding on their arm. Captain Lewis is wondering what this means, but needs more clues. On his way back into town, Captain Lewis runs into another soldier, Captain Christopher Connaught-Smith (Allan Cuthbertson – image below), who is a bit of a jerk. Once they’re both inside headquarters, Colonel Henderson tells Captain Smith that he will now be lead investigator of this operation, and not Captain Lewis. Lewis is devastated, and then Henderson tells Lewis that he went to school with Smith’s father, and now he understands why he was passed over.   stranglers#6 Back at the temple of Kali, the two men that attacked the caravan are now in the custody of Patel Shari (Marne Maitland), a local government official, who has ties to the cult. He tells them that they’ve violated the laws of Kali, and tried to kill for their own greed, so they must be punished. The men then have their eyes gouged out and their tongues cut out as well. Harry is back at home, and talking to his wife about getting passed over at work. One of his servants comes running in, and tells him that he saw a caravan and that he believes his brother (who was abducted years ago) was inside. Change the scene back to the temple, and we see that the High Priest is “training” one of the younger members on how to gain the trust of a stranger, just before killing them! In the brush nearby, a woman (Marie Devereaux) watches, as a man then rushes in, and tells the High Priest that Captain Lewis is asking a lot of questions, and then decrees that he must be punished.   stranglers#3 The next day, Lewis hands over his documents about his investigation of the missing persons. Captain Smith isn’t impressed and gives him the cold shoulder. Lewis is less than impressed with him, so he leaves. Lewis is almost immediately attacked  and the robbers take the piece of silk he had obtained from the men that attacked the caravan earlier in the week. Lewis spends a day tiger hunting with a friend, but he can’t concentrate on anything except the missing persons. He also gets a severed hand delivered to his dinner table, and this is another warning, one that Lewis doesn’t take lightly. He speaks to the Colonel the next day, but gets little satisfaction. The conversation gets ugly, and Lewis threatens to offer his resignation.   After resigning, Lewis begins his own investigation into the matter, and begins asking around the seedy parts of town about the missing people. One man seems to know something but is hesitant to speak. While out tiger hunting, Lewis and his party make a startling discovery. They find a mass grave of bodies, and they are all of native people, that have had their necks snapped. He reports his findings, but gets the run-around from Captain Smith. Lewis visits Patel, and tries to convince him to help with the investigation. He tells him he can do nothing, and Lewis shows signs of giving up. Back at headquarters, a man was caught trying to rob a house, and is going to be questioned. It’s here, that we see that Lieutenant Silver (Paul Stassino), is part of the cult, and obviously aiding them when he can.   stranglers#4 Will Lewis be able to single-handedly be able to thwart this fanatical cult? Or will he succumb to the stranglers silk?!? OK, here are my thoughts: Make no mistake about it, Guy Rolfe and George Pastell, made this film what it is. These two actors really give grade “A” performances that make you believe that the characters are real. The supporting cast isn’t too bad either, as Cruickshank and Cuthbertson also play solid roles. Cuthbertson is especially nasty, and really makes you dislike him from the first scene. His snotty attitude towards Rolfe is undeniably something that will make want to crawl into the movie and slap the taste out of his mouth! Pastell seems to be born for roles like this, and really shines here, as well as in the two Hammer “Mummy” movies he appeared in. The biggest and most awesome thing about this film aside from the two lad roles, has to be the sets. I’ve never personally been to India, but I feel like I have been after watching this movie. From the jungle scenes to the tiger, or even the temple where the cult practices its insane worshiping, the sets are completely believable. This film is something that probably wasn’t really socially significant when this was released, but in this day and age, it seems fearfully symmetrical in certain situations. Lost in all of this is the beautiful Marie Devereux (image below). Her hotness is undeniable, but she really doesn’t get much screen time, and that is a shame! Look for this one at the usual spots (Amazon, etc.), and give it a watch, because it’s definitely worth your time!   stranglers#7   Click here for the trailer!

Cinema Sunday: The Pirates of Blood River (1962)

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Title: The Pirates of Blood River

Distributor: Columbia Pictures/Hammer Studios

Writer: Jimmy Sangster

Director: John Gilling

Producer: Michael Carreras

Starring: Christopher Lee, Kerwin Mathews, Glenn Corbett, Oliver Reed, Michael Ripper, Andrew Keir, Marla Landi

Released: August 1962

MPAA: PG

 

Everyone knows about the horror films that Hammer Studios produced over the decades, but if you look even deeper into their catalog, you’ll find some other gems, such as this one. The range of the Hammer Studio was quite wide, but of course, they’re known for their Gothic horror films. But personally, I think they’re action/adventure films are a very close second.

This film in particular, gives you a (very small) bit of horror, but mostly just some great action with pirates fighting against a Huguenot colony. Action, intrigue, love, and war. Don’t take your eyes off of the screen for a minute, because you will miss something. An all-star cast, featuring some Hammer stalwarts, but also actors like Kerwin Mathews (7th Voyage of Sinbad)! Let’s get down to the plot!

 

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The film begins with a pirate ship sailing towards an island. On this island, there is a settlement of Huguenots. They live their lives, governed by the laws of the Bible, and are quite strict. Next, we see a young man, Jonathan Standing (Kerwin Mathews), and his lover, Maggie Mason (Marie Devereux), as they playfully run through the forest, to find a spot for some “courting.” They do, but before they can get busy, a whip strikes the back of Jonathan, and they both realize they’re in trouble. You see, Maggie is married to one of the town elders, and as stated earlier, they follow the teachings of God very strictly. Maggie runs away, but gets cornered near the river. She dives in, but as everyone else closes in on her, they back off, because the river is full of man-eating piranha. Maggie is toast.

 

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Back in the settlement, Jonathan is tried and convicted in record time. He’s convicted by his own father, Jason (Andrew Keir), and the rest of the council to spend fifteen years at the penal colony on the other side of the island. The chances of getting out of there alive are slim, because of the brutality of the guards, so when Jonathan gets his chance, he and another man work in tandem, and make a break for it. He ends up evading the guards long enough to be discovered by a pirate, Mack (Michael Ripper), that tells him his captain can help him get back to his settlement.

 

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As Jonathan is introduced to Captain LaRoche (Christopher Lee), he gets the feeling he’s hiding something, but also knows he needs his help in evading the guards, and getting back to his settlement, so he agrees to lead him to the other side of the island. The journey itself introduces other characters that are under LaRoche’s command. We meet Hench (Peter Arne), a man who clearly has his own intentions. We also see another, Brocaire (Oliver Reed), who despises Hench.

 

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Once the trip is nearing its end, a couple of Jonathan’s friends, and his sister, have moved outside of the settlement, in protest of Jonathan’s sentence. It is here, when LaRoche makes his true intentions clear, and states that the pirates will plunder the village of any and all supplies. He does state that as long as Jonathan helps him, no one will have to die. A small boy sees the pirates and that they have taken hostages, so he runs off to the settlement to warn them. As the pirates approach, a huge fight scene occurs, and it looks as if it will be a stalemate. Some of the pirates manage to get inside the settlement walls, and grab the women, and use them to make the men surrender.

 

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LaRoche then gathers everyone inside the great hall, and makes a proclamation. He states that if they don’t lead him to a treasure that supposedly resides here, that he will begin to execute a hostage regularly until his demands are met. Meanwhile, Jonathan, his sister, Bess (Maria Landi), and her husband, Henry (Glenn Corbett), concoct a plan to stop LaRoche. Inside the hall, Hench and Brocaire have had enough of each other, so they settle their difference by having a blindfolded sword duel. Hench ends up winning, and of course, in true pirate fashion, the other man dies. As people begin to be executed, Jonathan begs his father to tell LaRoche where the hidden treasure is, but he refuses. He seems to have a convoluted idea that he cannot give up some gold for the lives of his fellow-man.

I wont spoil the end, but rest assured, you will see another huge battle scene where many lives will be lost, the gold will be found, a mutiny will happen, and the piranha will get to feast once more!

 

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OK, here are my thoughts:

Hammer does an outstanding job with this movie in a way that some of their others films just can’t measure. You get an epic pirate movie, with so many characters, you can barely keep up. It does straddle that line slightly, but most movie aficionados will be fine. When you sit back at think that Christopher Lee, Oliver Reed, Michael Ripper, Andrew Keir, and Kerwin Mathews are all in this film, it makes your head spin! All of those actors can really bring it in their perspective roles,  and believe me when I say, that they truly do in this film.

The music score (Gary Hughes) offers some timely interludes, and the sets (Bernard Robinson) were magnificent. Not to be outdone, is Hammer makeup man, Roy Ashton. These actors and actresses looked like pirates and Huguenots. His work in this film should be applauded. The two “horror” scenes in the film seem slightly out of place, but don’t hinder the overall experience of the film. Heck, I would’ve loved more piranha action personally. And as always, you get some very lovely ladies (especially Marie Devereux! – image above) that give the film that Hammer feel! Check out the movie either at the usual spots (Amazon, etc.) or search for it online. You won’t be disappointed with this one!

 

Click here for the trailer!

Cinema Sunday: The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb (1964)

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Title: The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb

Distributor: Hammer Studios/Columbia Pictures

Writer: Michael Carreras

Director: Michael Carreras

Producer: Michael Carreras

Starring: Terence Morgan, Ronald Howard, Fred Clark, Jeanne Roland, Michael Ripper

Released: October 1964

MPAA: UR

 

 

After reviewing the first installment of the “Mummy” series from Hammer Studios, I thought it would be prudent to check out the next in the series as well! This film is pretty good, but not quite up to the standards of the first. It does however feature someone getting their arm ripped off, and a curb-stomp, so it will always have a place in my heart.

You don’t get the typical cast of Hammer regulars, but, you do get Michael Ripper! This dude is amazing, and even though he plays a small roll in this film, just seeing him on-screen is reassuring. You’ll notice in the credits, that Michael Carreras is running the show from top to bottom, so if you don’t like the film, blame him, I guess. A beautiful woman, artifacts from Egypt, and a really ticked off Mummy! Without further delay, here’s the plot!

 

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The film opens in the year 1900, and we see that some bandits have a man captured (Professor Eugene Dubois, played by Bernard Rebel), and they first stab him in the gut, then cut off his left hand! A few miles away, at a base camp for some Egyptology/explorer types, John Bray (Ronald Howard), is trying to ease the worries of Annette Dubois (Jeanne Roland), the daughter of the man we just saw executed. Her father is overdue, and they soon find out why. The two share a moment of horny-ness, but then Sir Giles Dalrymple (Jack Gwillim) bursts in and informs them that her father is dead. A couple of the slave workers get out of line, and Bray pimp slaps one of them for his actions. After he does, one of them (George Pastell), informs him that for desecrating the tombs of the dead, they’ll pay with their lives!

 

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No one seems to heed the ominous warning, and the relics are then packed up for transportation back to the U.K., for exhibition. Before that can happen though, the man, Alexander King (Fred Clark) responsible for all the financial backing arrives, and informs them that he’s taking the relics on a whirlwind tour, showing it off to the world. Sir Giles vehemently disagrees with this, and quits the job because he believes it is sacrilege. King then tells Bray and Annette and both of them are shocked to hear this news, but agree to join King on his “tour.” They have dinner with King, but it’s interrupted by a servant that tells them that Sir Giles requests their presence immediately. They arrive at the storage area, and find that the area has been ransacked, but nothing stolen other than the list of contents. They do find one of the servants dead (Michael Ripper – image above), and everyone looks at the mummy case nearby.

As the scene switches to another day, all are aboard a ship, setting sail for Europe. Sir Giles is still upset about the way things ended, but Annette and Bray seem to be OK with everything as they make out near a bannister. As Sir Giles heads into his cabin, he cries out, and Bray runs in to see what’s going on. Sir Giles was attacked, and the man responsible is till there, and he knocks him out as well. As the criminal tries to escape, he runs right into another man, Adam Beauchamp (Terence Morgan). Beauchamp beats the crap out of him, then tosses him overboard. He then quickly begins to slyly get on the good side of Annette (who was knocked over in the fracas). Bray is suspicious of him, but doesn’t object to his forwardness because Annette seems to like him. He convinces them to stay at his house when they get to England, and we can slowly see his intentions are not genuine.

 

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As the show is getting ready to open, Annette and the rest of the crew check out some of the relics. One shows a picture of ancient times, and Annette translates it for everyone. We then get a flashback (just like the one in the first film), and it shows a terrible betrayal centuries ago, and how the Egyptian priest named Ra, was killed by his brother’s minions. Beauchamp gets snappy with Annette about a relic that wasn’t found, but then the mummy is unveiled, and everyone gets a chill down their spine. Back at Beauchamp’s house, he continues to wine and dine Annette. She seems to be more and more receptive to it as time passes, and Beauchamp looks more and more like a snake. Bray walks in and gets the feeling the other two wished he wouldn’t have. He gets the drift, and after Beauchamp shows him an old relic, he agrees to have Sir Giles look at it for further examination and clarification (basically, Beauchamp wanted to keep Bray away from Annette).

Over at Sir Giles house, Bray insults Giles (who’s visibly drunk), and Giles then goes to bed for the evening. Bray stays up and uses Giles extensive library and materials to check out the relic. Someone creeps into the room silently, and steals the relic (after hitting him on the head). The next evening, King is ready to unveil his show t some guests and the press. Beauchamp is there with Annette, and even Sir Giles, but Bray is not there, because he’s recovering from the attack. As King narrates the story of their expedition, he finally gets to the end, and the coffin is opened. There’s only one problem…the mummy is missing. King is livid, and of course, thinks that someone has stolen it. He calls the police, but they offer little in finding the mummy.

 

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As King is walking home, he gives a hooker a couple of bucks, then he sees another trick, or so he thinks. Amongst the fog, he sees a shape, and that is the shape of the mummy. He believes it to be a joke, but before he can even react, the mummy grabs him by the throat, picks him up off of the ground, chokes him, then tosses him down three flights of stairs, killing him. Over at Sir Giles home, one of the servants is begging him to eat some supper, but he refuses. As she leaves, Giles hears a rustling at the doors leading to the back yard. As he looks, the doors are smashed open by the mummy, who enters, with death in his eyes. Giles shoots the creature, but it has no effect. The mummy throttles him, and then bashes his head in with a marble statue.

 

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Across town, Beauchamp has finally convinced Annette that he’s the man for her, so she writes a “Dear John” letter for Bray, and then she heads to her room. She hears a noise, and comes to the hallway. She sees the mummy choking Beauchamp, and screams. Her scream startles the mummy, and he turns to check her out. She faints, and then Beauchamp recites some Egyptian phrase, and the mummy comes to him, as if commanded. He still slaps him down, and then leaves. Bray and the police show up, because apparently he’s figured out that the mummy is the one doing the killing. They set a trap for him, and wait. When he arrives at Bray’s abode, and tries to kill him, the police throw a net on him, and almost capture him. The Egyptian guy that has hung around begs them to stop, and bows down before the mummy. He speaks to him, but the mummy isn’t impressed. It breaks free, and curb stomps the guy for his troubles.

I’m going to stop there, because I don’t want to give away anymore of the film. Let me just say that the ending is pretty cool (a bit of a twist), and involves someone losing a limb, and a bloody scene underground, where a mummy feels right at home!

 

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OK, here are my thoughts:

Listen this flick doesn’t have a really strong lead like Cushing, but the sum of all the parts still make an interesting film that can carry your attention. Beauchamp is very sleazy, and you really can’t wait to see him get what’s coming to him. Howard, Clark, and Gwillim all do a solid job, but nothing Earth shattering. Jeanne Roland is pretty underwhelming, but easy on the eyes.

The sets are very good, and the mummy make-up looks pretty awesome. The film is certainly inferior to the 1959 flick, but this one definitely deserves a watch. I also thought that the music score was great as well. It did a nice job of sending an ominous message when needed, and thundering in when the moment was at the ‘crescendo’ (see what I did there). George Pastell was another nice touch, as he is a Hammer staple for films like this one. He always delivers a solid performance in these type of roles. Seek out a cheap copy in a bog box store or online, and settle in for a night at the mummy…I mean movies!

 

Click here for the trailer!

 

 

 

Cinema Sunday: The Mummy (1959)

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Title: The Mummy

Distributor: Hammer Studios/Universal

Writer:  Jimmy Sangster

Director: Terence Fisher

Producer: Anthony Nelson Keys, Michael Carreras

Starring:  Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, Yvonne Furneaux, Eddie Byrne, George Pastell, Michael Ripper

Released:  September 25, 1959

MPAA: UR

 

It recently occurred to me. that I’ve never reviewed a “mummy” movie! This must be rectified immediately, and it’ll be in grande fashion in the Hammer Studios style! The acting credits include two giants, Cushing & Lee, the people behind the scenes are no slouches either (Sangster, Fisher, Keys, Carreras), so for those that haven’t seen this flick yet, what are you waiting for exactly? I’ll keep the intro short because I’m on a deadline for a few surprises for this spooky week! Get ready, because we need to set the WABAC Machine a long time for this one!

 

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The year is 1895, and we zoom in on an archaeological dig in the deserts of Egypt. Three men, Stephen Banning (Felix Aylmer), his son, John Banning (Peter Cushing), and Joseph Whemple (Raymond Huntley), have just discovered the tomb of Ananka (the high priestess of the god, Karnak). As they’re just about to enter the tomb, a man (George Pastell) approaches, and begs them not to enter. He tells them that they will be cursed for doing this, but they dismiss him quickly. John has a broken leg, so he cannot go in, but his father, and uncle both enter. Once they see the remains of Ananka, Joseph runs out to tell John that they’ve found what they’ve been looking for after twenty years of research. Back inside the tomb, we see Stephen, as he’s searching for more relics. He removes the “scroll of life” from a cubbyhole, and it activates a nearby doorway. It opens, but before we see anything, the scene switches back to the tent, and the conversation between John and Joseph. Suddenly, they hear a blood-curling scream from the tomb. Joseph rushes in, and finds John, acting like he’s had a mental breakdown.

 

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A couple of years later, we see John and Joseph, as they’re wrapping up crating all the relics from the tomb. One of the servants then lights a fuse, and they seal the tomb, forever. They return to England, and John visits his father in the mental ward. Back in Egypt, the local man who warned them against this act, prays to his gods, to take revenge against these infidels. Back at the asylum, John’s father begins raving about a mummy that attacked him while he was inside the tomb, but John doesn’t believe him. His father again warns him about the scroll, and the mummy, but John just thinks he’s gone insane. We next see two men in a pub, discussing how they were contracted to transport some goods to a local home. The cargo is ancient Egyptian relics, and we get a feeling things aren’t quite right. Back at the asylum, John’s father goes completely off his rocker, and smashes the windows in his room. The delivery guys hear the racket, and drive the cart faster, it then is almost upset, and a large crate falls off.

 

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Later that night, the creepy Egyptian dude uses the writings on the scroll to call forth the mummy from the swamp where the crate fell into earlier. The mummy (Christopher Lee), emerges from the swamp, looking like he’s going to open up a can on somebody. The Egyptian dude then commands him to go and kill those who desecrated the tomb. The first victim is John’s father, over at the asylum. He’s now in a  padded cell after his outburst. He looks over at the window, and sees an enormous shadow approaching. He begins to shout and pound on the door, but they can’t hear him. The mummy rips the steel bars off of the window, smashes the glass, and kicks the fence in. He then descends on the old man, and throttles him to death. The police say it was a “lunatic,” and move on.

 

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John and his uncle Joseph talk about who could have done this heinous act. Joseph tells John about the Egyptian guy that warned him back during the dig, but he doesn’t seem to be worried. The two discuss the dig, and the origin of Ananka. We see a priest (Christopher Lee), as he performs a funeral for Ananka, and things end up going terribly wrong. As they attempted to bury Ananka, the priest violates the sacred tomb (he attempted to resurrect her from the dead) , and then must pay the price. The Egyptians cut out his tongue, and mummify him. They place a curse on him, and put him in the tomb, so that he may guard her for eternity.

 

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One by one, those who dared to desecrate the tomb are getting killed off. Will John be able to figure out the key to stopping this undead fiend or will the Mummy have his revenge!?!

 

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OK, here are my thoughts:

I know most are high on the Universal Studios version of “The Mummy” and rightly so, but honestly, if you watch this one, you’ll have to admit that its right up there too. Cushing delivers a grande performance, as is his calling card. He really sunk his teeth into this one, and you get a bit of his “Dr. Frankenstein” vibe to spice things up. The rest of the cast is solid, but nothing crazy awesome. Lee does his thing as the monster, but let’s be honest, you can’t even tell it’s him. Now, when he was in the flashback scenes as the priest, that was pretty cool.

The music score for this one is top-notch (Franz Reizenstein), and really has some fantastic spots where it lends so much atmosphere to the movie. The direction is also great, and when you have someone like Terence Fisher calling the shots, you know you’re in good hands. A few quick scenes with Hammer stalwarts Michael Ripper, and George Woodbridge, are the icing on the cake. Listen, you need to see this film, it’s definitely a must see for any old school horror fan!

 

Click here for the trailer!

 

 

Cinema Sunday: Horror of Dracula (1958)

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Title: Horror of Dracula

Distributor: Hammer Studios/ Universal Pictures

Writer: Jimmy Sangster (Screenplay)

Director: Terence Fisher

Producer: Anthony Hinds

Starring: Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, Michael Gough, Melissa Stribling, Carol Marsh

Released: May 8th, 1958

MPAA: PG

It just occurred to me that this film wasn’t among the many Hammer films that I’ve reviewed. This cannot be so any longer, as I intend to showcase the first vampire film that Hammer Studios released, and the one that vaulted the career of Christopher Lee into orbit! Peter Cushing was already a commodity, and Michael Gough, Lee, and others had plenty of experience, but Cushing is the driving force behind the movie, make no mistake. Rather than me slobbering on forever about it, I’ll just get to the plot, which isn’t exactly like the Bram Stoker novel, due to legal issues with Universal and the estate of the Stoker family, but rest assured, it still is a classic!

The film opens with Jonathan Harker (John Van Eyssen), a young man who’s making his way through the Carpathian mountains, to reach a castle. Once there, his internal monologue tells us that he has a “job” to do, but what that is, we’re not sure. He sees food on the table, and decides to sit down and dine. After starting a fire, he begins to go through his personal items. He accidentally knocks over a plate, and as he’s picking it up, a beautiful woman (Valerie Gaunt) approaches. He introduces himself as the new librarian of the estate, but the woman only wishes to be rescued from being held a prisoner by the owner of the castle. Just then, the woman quickly races away, and Harker has a feeling there’s a good reason. He slowly turns around, and at the top of the staircase, is a dark figure, looking down ominously. The man quickly descends, and greets Harker, introducing himself, as Dracula (Christopher Lee).

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After they exchange pleasantries, Count Dracula shows Harker to his room. He informs him that he’ll be away until tomorrow evening, so he can make himself at home. Dracula then notices a picture on the desk, and asks who the woman is, and Harker tells him that it is his fiancé, Lucy Homewood. Harker then writes in his journal, that he has gained access to the house, and that he is ready to do what must be done, about Dracula. As Dracula leaves, Harker is startled by the fact that he locks him in his room for the night. Later though, he hears the lock get unlocked, and he investigates to see who it was that was responsible. He heads downstairs, and runs into the same woman who approached him before. She pleads with him to rescue her from Dracula, but she isn’t clear about why she needs rescuing in the first place. As she hugs on to Harker, she also moves closer to his neck. He fangs pop out, and she readies herself to feed on the unsuspecting man.

Just as she attempts to bite him, Harker feels it, and shrugs her off. In the next seconds, you hear a godawful hiss, and we see Count Dracula at the top of the stairs, blood dripping from his mouth, and looking insane. He pounces on the woman, and scares Harker. But Harker tries to stop him from manhandling the woman. Dracula chokes him nearly unconscious, then grabs the woman, picking her up like a child, and carries her off to some other place in the castle. Harker then passes out in the living room.

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The next morning, Harker awakens in his room, and is horrified to see that the woman actually broke through his skin, and bit him on the neck. He breaks down emotionally, and we see that he has some knowledge of this affliction. He writes again in his journal, and leaves a message for someone who he hopes will read this, and be able to help.

The next day, Harker embarks on a mission through the castle, to find the resting place of Dracula. He finds the woman, slumbering in a coffin. He wastes no time in driving a stake through her heart, but then notices the sun has gone down. As he looks towards the door, Dracula creeps in, and you know that Harker is no more.

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Soon after, a pub is the new scene, and we watch as a man, Dr. Van Helsing (Peter Cushing), enters and begins to ask questions about his friend who recently passed by, named Harker. The pub owner (George Woodbridge) acts as if he doesn’t know anything, but the waitress tells Van Helsing that she remembers him. The pub owner scolds her, and sends her into the kitchen. Van Helsing questions the pub owner some more, but he refuses to get involved. When the meal is ready, the waitress brings it out, and hands a journal to Van Helsing. It is the journal of Harker, and it details the happening at the castle. Apparently, both men are sort of vampire hunting team.

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Van Helsing goes to the castle, and searches for Harker (having not yet read the journal). He finds that Harker’s room has been ransacked, and that he seems to be missing. As he descends into the lower levels, Van Helsing finds Harker, dead in a coffin, with bite marks on his neck. He then reaches into his bag, and pulls out a stake and a hammer, then proceeds to do the deed. The next scene shows Van Helsing at the residence of the Homewood family. Van Helsing informs them that Jonathan is dead, and that he was cremated. Arthur Homewood (Michael Gough), is the brother of Lucy (Jonathan’s fiancé), and he is quite upset with Van Helsing, and his being very mysterious about Jonathan’s death.

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later that evening, Lucy is in bed, and she gets out, with a very creepy look on her face. She makes sure that her door is locked, then she unlocks the patio doors, that lead to her bedroom. She also removes her crucifix, and readies herself for a visitor. We then see that she has bite marks on her neck. Across town, Van Helsing is listening to a recording about ways of fighting these undead creatures, such as Dracula. The following morning, Lucy is very ill, and almost on the brink of death. Mina Homewood (Melissa Stribling) goes to see Van Helsing, and to ask for his help with Lucy. Van Helsing then examines Lucy, and sees the bite marks on her neck. He then instructs Mina to keep her doors and windows locked at night-time, and to keep garlic flowers in her room.

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After she does what Van Helsing instructs, night falls, and Lucy cries out to the maid to take away the flowers, and to open the windows. She does as Lucy asks, and the next morning, Lucy is dead. Van Helsing visits, and Arthur is very crass towards him. Van Helsing then tells him to read Jonathan’s journal, and then, he will understand. In the evening, a policeman visits and brings Tania (Lucy’s niece) back to the house. Tania claims to have been visited by Lucy. Arthur then goes to the crypt, and finds that Lucy is missing. He then witnesses Lucy, as she’s about to snack on Tania. He calls out to her, and she attempts to attack him, but Van Helsing is there as well, and brandishes a cross. He burns her forehead with it, and Lucy runs away screeching. Van Helsing and Arthur then go to the crypt, and pound a stake through Lucy’s heart, ending her nightmare, and releasing her soul.

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Dracula then focuses his attention on Mina, and it’s up to Van Helsing and Arthur to try to stop this evil entity!

OK, here are my thoughts:

If there’s anyone out there that hasn’t seen this film yet, get to it. Even if you aren’t the biggest horror movie fan or a fan of old movies, you need to see this one. This is the beginning of the Cushing-Lee horror combo, that Hammer Studios would use to build an empire. The acting is superb, as the two main characters, along with Michael Gough, put on performances that make this classic what it has been and always will be as a landmark in cinema. This film was made only one year after Hammer struck gold with Frankenstein, and the hits would keep coming for more than a decade.

Along with the great acting, the people behind the scenes were just as responsible for this gem. Starting with James Bernard, and his wonderful music score. You get some thunderous music, and other times a frightening interlude. He really nailed this one, and was simply perfect. The script by Jimmy Sangster was quite good considering he couldn’t use the story from the book or the screenplay from the Universal film either. Terence Fisher gives us his usual brilliance with direction, and the team of Hinds and Keys rounds out the production of the film. Everything from the costume designs, the sets, lighting, you name it, this film was top-notch. Hit up your local store or just get to Amazon and grab a copy, you wont be disappointed. I own a set a four Hammer Films that TCM put out a few years ago. It has this film, plus three other classics that you’ll love.

 

Click here for the trailer!

Cinema Sunday: Nightmare (1964)

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Title: Nightmare

Distributor: Hammer/Universal Studios

Writer: Jimmy Sangster

Director: Freddie Francis

Producer: Jimmy Sangster

Starring: David Knight, Moira Redmond, Jennie Linden, Brenda Bruce

Released: April 19th, 1964

MPAA: UR

 

Here we are with another Cinema Sunday, and of course, another fantastic movie! This week, we’ll take a look at another one of Hammer Studios psychological thrillers in – Nightmare! This film is much more intense than last week’s offering, but in a slightly different way. You still get a good mystery, but in this film, you also get some vicious murder scenes, as well. The cast was very small, but I think after you’ve seen the film for yourself, you’ll realize it isn’t a bad thing. Okay, let’s disperse with the clouds and get right down to this one!

 

The film begins with a girl wandering around a sanitarium. She hears a voice calling out to her, and is frightened. The voice calls for help, and then Janet (Jennie Linden), hears the voice tell her that she knows where to find her. Janet then proceeds down a hallway and enters a padded room. Standing in the corner, is a woman, begging for help. The door swiftly slams behind Janet, and the woman laughs insanely. Janet begins to scream, and then we see this is only a dream, and Janet awakens in bed, at her prep school. One of her teachers, Mary Lewis (Brenda Bruce) comes in and settles her down, and she goes back to sleep.

 

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The next day, Janet is approached by the same teacher from the previous night, and she tells her that the faculty wants Janet to see a doctor. Janet tells her that she’ll refuse any appointment. She also tells her teacher that she wants her guardian, Henry Baxter (David Knight), to come and get her from school. She gets her wish, and John the butler/driver (George A. Cooper), picks her up, along with Mary Lewis, as the school believes Janet could use some guidance on the journey home. Once they reach home, Mrs. Gibbs (Irene Richmond), greets Janet, and she seems elated. They enter the home, and Mary is going to stay the evening, and go back to the school tomorrow. Janet is surprised to see a woman, Grace Maddox (Moira Redmond), in the house. Mrs. Gibbs tells Janet that her guardian, Henry, thought that Janet might like someone to spend time with at the house, instead of being alone.

 

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Janet goes to bed after dinner, and Mary and Grace talk. Mary asks Grace why Henry asked her to stay with Janet, and she tells her that it’s because Henry is worried about her, and she’s a nurse, so he believes she can help out. Grace then heads to bed for the evening, and Mrs. Gibbs and Mary have a talk. Mrs. Gibbs tells Mary that the reason Janet seems mentally imbalanced is because she saw her mother murder her father when she was eleven years old. She had a nervous breakdown after that, and has always worried that she might have inherited some of her mothers wickedness. Mrs. Gibbs tells Mary that even if didn’t inherit any of those traits, that even the persistent thought could drive a person insane. Mary goes to bed, and Mrs. Gibbs is tidying up, when she hears a sound near the library. She’s surprised by Mary, who claims to have come downstairs to get a book.

On her way back to her room, Mary notices that Janet’s bedroom door is open. She investigates, and finds Janet missing. She creeps down the hallway to looks for her, and then she’s surprised by Janet, who silently turns the corner right in front of her. Janet seems like she’s in a daze or perhaps sleep-walking. Mary talks to her, but gets little answers other than the fact that Janet seems to think she either saw someone or dreamed that she saw someone. Mary shows her back to her room, and then goes to sleep, pondering what might be happening. As Janet walks slowly into her room, she notices someone on the bed. It’s her mother (or so she thinks), and there’s a knife sticking out of her chest, and the birthday cake from Janet’s eleventh birthday (the same day her father was killed) on the table. She freaks out, and runs off, but is then stopped by Grace, who slaps her a few times to get her to snap back into reality.

 

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The next morning, Janet has been sedated by the local physician, and he recommends to Henry that she be institutionalized. Henry then checks in on Janet, who, upon seeing him, pulls him in, and kisses him passionately. He pulls back, and then apologizes for not being able to meet her at school. Janet asks if the reason is his wife, and he tells her that she (his wife) doesn’t like being alone. He makes his apologies, and tells Janet he must travel to London, and then leaves. As day turns into night, Janet’s mind begins to unravel. She thinks she sees someone trying to open her bedroom door, so she calls out and asks who’s there. She gets no answer, and then gets up to investigate. She looks down the hallway but sees no one at first, but after a moment, she does witness a shadow down at the end of the hall. She walks down slowly, and keeps following where the shadow leads. Eventually, she comes upon a bedroom, and she hears the voices of herself and Mrs. Gibbs from the day she saw her father killed. She runs off to her bedroom, and sees the corpse of her father, lying in her bed. She goes berserk, and falls down a staircase, and George and Grace find her there unconscious.

 

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Another day, and Grace is feeding Janet her pills, supposedly from the doctor. Grace asks her what happened, and Janet tells her that some woman is plaguing her dreams. Grace tells her to get some sleep, because it’s her birthday tomorrow. A new day comes, and Janet finds herself being confused after the last few night’s activities. She then heads out to see who is around, but only finds a strange woman in a hospital gown creeping around the house. The woman vaguely resembles her mother, but we know that she’s locked up in a sanitarium, right? Janet then returns to her room, looking completely unhinged. She then smashes her mirror, and uses a shard to slit her wrist. Henry, and Grace are speaking with the doctor in the next scene, and wondering what to do about Janet. As Janet comes out from her bedroom to see Henry, she sees the back of a woman, who is introduced to her by Henry, as his wife. As the woman turns around, Janet recognizes her face as the woman who has tortured her. She then snaps mentally, picks up a knife, and brutally stabs Henry’s wife to death!

 

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I’m not going to go any further because I’d have to go into crazy spoiler territory, and because things get slightly convoluted as well! Suffice to say that the killing doesn’t end here, and by the end of the film, there’s more than one person that’s gone off the deep end!

OK here are my thoughts:

This flick is a good one, but definitely inferior to Paranoiac. It is more grisly, and that’s pretty cool, but the twists and suspense aren’t as powerful as the aforementioned film. As I said above, it does also get a bit wacky at the end as well. This being my first viewing might have something to do with that, but I honestly don’t think so. There is another scene towards the end of the film, where Henry and Grace slap each other. It’s quite a shock to see especially for 1964.

The actors/actresses are quite good in the roles that they play. Janet’s character was played by Jennie Linden, and was a late replacement. She did a god job for someone stepping in at the last-minute. David Knight, and Moira Redmond also were very good. Both gave convincing performances. The music score was by Don Banks, and definitely worth noting. He did a good job setting a good tone, and a couple of thunderous interludes when it was right. The set was absolutely gorgeous, and up to the Hammer standard for sure. Check this one out if you haven’t yet, because it’s worth the watch!

 

Watch the trailer here!

Cinema Sunday: Taste of Fear (1961) (A.K.A. Scream of Fear)

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Title: Taste of Fear (Scream of Fear – U.S.)

Distributor: Hammer/ Columbia

Writer: Jimmy Sangster

Director: Seth Holt

Producers: Jimmy Sangster, Michael Carreras

Starring: Susan Strasberg, Ronald Lewis, Ann Todd, Christopher Lee

Released: Jan. 1961

MPAA: PG

 

If you thought Hammer Studios was only about horror flicks, think again! They made films in many genres (even comedies!), and some that are absolutely amazing in the psychological thriller category, like Taste of Fear! This one is a testament to the writing ability of Jimmy Sangster (and Michael Carreras), and definitely let people know that Hammer Studios was here to stay. The performances were great, and this movie being in black and white gives it an old school look to it that is perfect.

In 1961, Hammer was already starting to build up its horror library with hits like Horror of Dracula and Curse of Frankenstein, and more psychological thrillers would follow (Paranoiac, Nightmare, etc.). Some of the content in these films really pushed the envelope, just like Hammer horror did when it got rolling, and that wasn’t just schlock to get people in the seats. Hammer knew they had commodities with Cushing and Lee, so it was only a matter of adding some good character actors (Michael Ripper) most of the time, and they had a winning formula. OK, enough talk, let’s get down to business!

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The film opens up as a boat with two men aboard, search for something in the water. A policeman and another man in plain clothes fish out the body of a girl, as more policemen watch from the shoreline. After the credits roll, we see a beautiful young woman, Penny Appleby (Susan Strasberg) getting off of an airplane, and a chauffeur pick her up. The young lady is in a wheelchair, and apparently a paraplegic.  The chauffeur (Ronald Lewis) drives the girl to her ancestral home, and tells her that her father is away on business. He then arrives at the house where we see her step-mother, Jane Appleby (Ann Todd), and they have a rather interesting first meeting. You see, Penny has lived abroad, and never net her father’s new wife (she’s been away for ten years). She settles in, and then has a look around.

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Later, at dinner, Penny tells Jane that she didn’t come around because her parents got divorced, and her mother and her moved to Italy. Her mother passed away a few years ago, and she came back because her father wrote to her, asking her to come home for a visit. They have some small talk, but then Penny excuses herself, and goes to bed. Later that night, Penny awakens to a slamming noise outside of her bedroom. She gets into her wheelchair to investigate, and sees that it’s just a loose door. She also sees a light on in the window of the summer-house. As she scans the room, she sees her father, sitting in a chair, motionless. He appears to be dead, so she shrieks in horror, then flees the summer-house. On her way out, in a panic, she falls into the pool and begins to drown. She wakes up to realize that she was saved by Bob, the chauffeur, and is being cared for by the family doctor, Dr. Gerrard (Christopher Lee). She demands to be taken back to the summer-house, and Bob carries her there, but nothing is out-of-place, and her father is not there either.

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The next day, Jane leaves for a while, and Bob looks after Penny. They go to the beach for a bit, and they talk about many things, and especially about her disability. She tells Bob it was a horse riding accident. Bob then tells her that some funny things have gone on lately. He tells Penny that her father left in the middle of the night, and took the small car, one that he didn’t care for at all. They head back to the house, but Penny wants to inspect the summer-house again. Before she can search around, Jane interrupts her, and tells her that she has a surprise for he in the house. Her father is on the telephone, and asks her how she’s doing. The look on her face is one of suspicion, and she speaks for only a minute, then Jane takes the phone and talks. Dr. Gerrard tells Penny that she should calm down and not stress herself out, or she might have a nervous breakdown.

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As the creepiness continues, Penny then checks out the garage, and sees that the small car her father supposedly was driving on a business trip, was back in the garage. Jane tells her that it couldn’t be, because her father hasn’t returned yet. She also hears someone playing the piano, but when she investigates, she sees no one in the room. Once again she notices a light in the summer-house, and heads over to check it out. The chair that her father was sitting in is empty this time, but then she goes over to her room, and sees her father sitting by her bedside. He slumps over, and Penny screams. Bob comes running, and then Jane as well. She gets the feeling she’s being set-up, so clams up about what she saw, and tells them she’s OK.

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At dinner, Dr. Gerrard suggests that maybe Penny is mentally stopping herself from walking again. She gets very defensive, and tells them she doesn’t want to talk about it anymore. As everyone heads to bed, Bob agrees to help Penny with her sleuthing, and they theorize that maybe her father was murdered, and she might be next. They think the body might be being stored in a freezer in the kitchen (one of those large industrial type freezers). They investigate, but find nothing. The following morning, Bob and Penny head to the beach to plan more of their investigation. As Bob picks her up to take her back to the car, the two share a kiss, and watching from the cliff above, very creepily, is Jane. Back at the house, Jane attempts to hook Penny up with a few local gentlemen, but she refuses.

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That afternoon, Penny looks out her window and realizes there is one more place they can look for the corpse. The swimming pool would be the perfect hiding place, so Penny asks Bob to check it out. Bob jumps into his speedo (seriously), and jumps into the pool. Within minutes, he comes to the surface and tells Penny that the body is down below at the bottom. Penny and Bob believe that Jane has something to do with this foul play, because she can’t get her hands on the fortune that Penny’s father has amassed. Bob takes Penny in the car to get the police, but they see Jane broken down on the side of the road. Bob pulls over, and gets out to see what’s going on. Before you know it, the car begins to creep forward, and it seems Bob forgot to set the parking brake. Penny tries to reach for the steering wheel, and sees her father’s corpse lying in the front seat! She can’t get to the wheel fast enough, and the car plunges over the cliff towards the icy waters. I’ll stop here because to go further would give too much away!

 

OK, here are my thoughts:

This film has a certain charm to it that very few non-horror Hammer films have. Maybe it’s the mystery, maybe it’s that it’s in black and white, or just the memorable performances by the cast. Either way, the ending is shocking, and the twists and turns are quite phenomenal. You really think you know what’s going on, and then the rug gets pulled out from under you. Christopher Lee is outstanding in the few scenes he has in the film. Don’t let that foo you though, as Lee gives an incredible performance. Susan Strasberg is also fantastic, and really deserves a lot of credit.

The sets are on par with the normal Hammer goodness, and so is the script. The music score isn’t really anything grande but hits the spots it needed to. The production of the entire film is very high for 1961 (Bernard Robinson – production design), and looks like a higher budget film that what it actually was (allegedly $50,000). Hammer has had many beautiful ladies in their films over the decades (Susan Denberg, Ingrid Pitt, Veronica Carlson, etc.), but I have to admit, Susan Strasberg is absolutely gorgeous in this film (Carlson and Denberg are my usual favorites!). It’s rare to have a leading lady that is this stunning and a high-grade actress as well. Typically Hammer just wanted beautiful women to get the male demographic in the seats with their ladies, but in this case you get it all!

 

Watch the trailer here!