The Phantom Stranger 30, 1974 “The Children’s Crusade!”

The magical and mystical is an area of comic books that should never get boring. With so many ways you can go with the story, characters, and settings, it’s a wealth of creativity. One of the grooviest characters under the DC comics banner is definitely the Phantom Stranger. His history is shrouded in mystery, but his prowess as a magical being is not. Immortality, teleportation (of the highest order), energy blasts, time travel, all sorts of magical spells and even omniscience!

In this particular issue, we see the Phantom Stranger up against a Pied Piper type villain that has a group of youths mesmerized, and worshiping a demonic entity! The kids are completely in his sway and wish only to do his bidding. And although the Phantom Stranger is powerful, he underestimates the power of his enemy, and pays for it dearly. He’s captured and seemingly helpless against these forces of evil! Written by Arnold Drake, art by Gerry Talaoc, and edited by Joe Orlando!

There’s also a back up story featuring the “Spawn of Frankenstein.” This multi-part story ran in the back pages of Phantom Stranger for a few issues (this was the last chapter, it switched over to Black Orchid with the next issue). Honestly, to say it borders on the bizarre is a compliment. I’ve only read a couple of these so I’m not even 100% sure what the end game was for this story line. Writer, Steve Skeates, artist, Bernard Baily.

 

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The House of Mystery 227, 1974 “The Carriage Man!”

After being a Marvel Zombie for many moons, I really cranked up buying DC comics over the last few years. Focusing mostly on horror (and the absurd), the 100page issues are where the bargains live! These books are fantastic and are packed full of comic book goodness. With eight stories, this 100 page book brings it with the heat of a demon, or maybe the hair of the werewolf, or…well, you get it.

This issue has a great list of creators that includes- Michael Fleisher, Nestor Redondo, Joe Orlando, Sergio Aragonés, Don Glut, Joe Maneely, Paul Levitz, Alfredo Alcala, and more! Each story has it’s own unique flavor because of the myriad of creators in this one. It also contains one of the best clown stories ever (definitely not as good as “Night of the Laughing Clown” by Steve Gerber though)! Definitely seek out these 100page books, especially the horror titles!

 

 

 

Time Warp 1, 1979 “Doomsday Tales and Other Things”

In the late 1970s, DC cut back on their titles, and laid off a ton of employees. The comics just weren’t selling, and they needed to regroup. The early 1980s would bring some new hope in the form of All-Star Squadron, and New Teen Titans, but there were also some additions that are very obscure, but noteworthy for the comic book aficionados out there!

A short series of only five issues, this weird book gave us some rather interesting material. Mostly sci-fi (with a little horror), this first issue is chocked full of creators with a long list of credits, and quite frankly, legends in the business. From aliens to spider-men, you’ll be whisked away to fantasy worlds that will take you back to a time when comics were great!

Cover by Mike Kaluta, interiors stories by Denny O’Neil, Michael Fleischer, George Kashdan, Mike Barr, Jack Harris, Bob Rozakis, and Paul Levitz. The art teams are nothing short of spectacular and include the late, great Rich Buckler, Dick Giordano, Steve Ditko, Tom Sutton, Jerry Grandenetti, Don Newton, Dan Adkins, and Jim Aparo!

 

 

Moon Knight Special Edition 3, 1984 “A Long Way to Dawn” and “”The Mind Thieves”

Every once and a while, you get a comic book that reflects society, sometimes the bad parts of society that previously no one else wanted to show. Sometimes writers and artists have a tendency to ram messages about societal problems down a readers throat, and that of course is not a good thing. I won’t give any examples but in the 1980’s, you have plenty of comics that were critical darlings that weren’t very subtle in delivering a point about social issues. There are however titles like this one, that do an excellent job of showing things as they are for some people, and enlighten the people from the other side of the tracks on just how bad things can be.

When Doug Moench (writer) and Bill Sienkiewicz (artist) took over the reigns of the character Moon Knight, they made comics that were thought-provoking, edgy, and they did it without being overt about their intentions. Too many writers nowadays fall into the trap of beating the readers over the head with their own agendas, without ever considering whether they’re even remotely right or who they may alienate. Can you even imagine what these guys would create together in this day and age? The scary part is that there isn’t anybody in mainstream comics with the cajonies these guys had back in 1980! Pimps, drunks, drug addicts, and thieves, you get them all in this book!

 

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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: Shock (1946)

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Title: Shock

Distributor: 20th Century Fox

Writers: Eugene Ling, Martin Berkeley (screenplay), Albert Demond (story)

Director: Alfred L. Werker

Producer: Aubrey Schenck

Starring: Vincent Price, Lynn Bari, Frank Latimore, Anabel Shaw, Stephen Dunne

Released: January 10th, 1946

MPAA: NR

 

 

Getting back into the swing of things this new year, I thought it appropriate to lift high the name of Vincent Price, as he is one of the masters of horror! Looking through his catalog, you see quite an array of films, but of course, the horror films are the ones we most remember. Why is that? Because he was born for it. He could act well enough for any genre, but is performances in horror films are more than just memorable, they’re magnificent. This film is more of a thriller than horror, but Price is a fantastic villain!

I could go on all day about him and his films, but instead, let us get to this wonderful film. It’s not easy to find a decent copy, but the usual video sites have copies for a viewing (I own a set with it on, and the quality is slightly better than online). Here we go!

 

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The film begins with a woman, Janet Stewart (Anabel Shaw), who is entering a hotel (in San Francisco). She asks the desk clerk if her husband has arrived yet, but he tells her no. Her husband is returning from the military (serving overseas), and supposedly has booked a room at his hotel. The man at the desk tells her that no one has check in under that name. He tells her that they’re completely booked. But after she starts sobbing, the manager finds her accommodations for the night.

 

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Later, Janet is thinking about how great it will be to finally see her husband after him being away for so long. She falls asleep and dreams of him returning. It soon turns into a bit of a nightmare though, but she eventually wakes up. She calls the front desk and asks if her husband arrived, but he hasn’t. She then heads out on to the balcony for some fresh air. She then hears the voices of a man and woman (presumably husband and wife) arguing. The husband, Dr. Richard Cross (Vincent Price), tells his wife that he wants a divorce because he’s in love with his nurse. She laughs at him and threatens to call and rat him out for his infidelity. He gets enraged, and then picks up a candlestick, and bludgeons her with it. Anabel is horrified, and falls to the couch.

 

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The next morning, Lt. Paul Stewart (Frank Latimore) shows up at the hotel, and rushes upstairs to meet his wife. As he walks through the door, you can see Anabel hasn’t moved an inch from the spot where we last saw her. Paul rushes over to her, but within a minute, it’s obvious that she’s in a trance-like state, and nothing seems to be getting her out of it. He immediately calls for a doctor, and luckily there’s one close. He examines her and tells Paul that she’s in a deep state of shock. He recommends a very good neurological doctor that goes by the name of Dr. Richard Cross!

 

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The doctor shows up and examines Janet. He tells Paul that she’s had a nervous breakdown from something traumatizing. Dr. Cross then heads out to the balcony for a cigarette, and notices that her balcony can see directly into the room where he murdered his wife. He realizes that there’s more than a good chance she witnessed the murder, so he suggests that Janet be transferred to his sanitarium in the country (so he can keep a close eye on her). Dr. Cross’s naughty nurse/lover takes Janet to the hospital, and tells her to give her an injection to keep her calm.

 

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After a while, Janet begins to respond slightly to Dr. Cross’s voice. It’s almost like she’s under hypnosis. He questions her about what she saw the night before, and she admits that she saw him kill his wife. Janet’s eyes open , and as she recounts the event, Cross realizes she must be kept from telling this secret. Later that night, Nurse Elaine (Lynne Bari) comes over to the Doc’s house for some hanky-panky, and the two plot to keep Janet under their sway so she doesn’t spill the beans.

 

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The following day, Dr. Cross brings Paul to see his wife. She’s very groggy and almost seems worse. Cross informs him that his time missing in action in the war has disturbed his wife’s mind, and that she may never recover. He informs the good doctor that he went to the local military base and got a second opinion. Later, Dr. Cross and Nurse Elaine are mentally torturing Janet to drive her further into insanity.

 

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Will the new doctor be able to help Janet awaken from her nervous breakdown? Can Janet ever live a normal life again? Will Dr. Cross and his sinister nurse get caught and pay for their crimes? All will be answered…maybe.

 

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OK, here are my thoughts:

If you think about it, this is one whacked out film. Imagine a doctor this sinister. Killing his wife, then using drugs, and any other means possible to drive someone insane. I’m sure a plot like this was quite shocking (no pun intended) back in 1946 for the audience. Obviously in today’s reality, this kind of thing is old news, sadly. The supporting cast isn’t all that stellar, but Price is on point once again. At certain moments, he’s truly evil, but once in a while, he’s conflicted. This sets in motion the thought: Is Price’s character insane or just tormented? Sure, he bludgeoned his wife, but that was in a fit of rage, the textbook definition of insanity. And when it comes down to actually killing another, he’s torn about it because he loves the nurse, but realizes killing is wrong.

We do see a solid performance by Anabel Shaw (Janet). She does a pretty good job at portraying someone fight for their sanity. The sets were pretty much standard fare, as was the soundtrack (it did have its moments, but overall it was average). Another classic that any fan of Vincent Price must see. It almost has a vibe to it like “The Fly,” as far as the conflicting emotions go. Hit up any video site, as I believe this one has fallen into public domain.

 

Click here for a clip!

The Phantom Stranger 33, 1974 “Deadman’s Bluff!”

Supernatural characters are a huge draw for me. Whether it’s movies, television, comics, etc., they always seem to deliver a little something extra you don’t always get from superheroes. Now, take two of these characters, put them in the same book, and you’ve got something special! On one side, you have Deadman- a temperamental ghost that inhabits the bodies of the living to get things done.  On the other end of the spectrum, you have The Phantom Stranger. A guy who has been portrayed in a few different ways over the years with a couple of back stories. Both are intriguing, engaging, and unpredictable.

I’m starting to believe there might not be a better way to start off a comic from this genre than with a cover from Jim Aparo. To say that they’re eye-catching isn’t giving them their due justice, especially when dealing with the supernatural. The story is by Arnold Drake (RIP), a man who began his career in the 1950s, and worked on everything from The X-Men to Batman. Mike Grell (art) is a name most will know from his work on titles like Green Arrow, and a host of others. He’s one of those guys that don’t get mentioned very much but made some fantastic contributions to the industry and should get more credit. The legendary Joe Orlando was the editor of this great issue and rounds out the creative team.

 

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Strange Adventures 232, 1971 “Hollywood in Space!”

Every once and a while, you just grab a book on a whim, and soon realize you struck gold! This book is one of those times. If this cover doesn’t grab you with its stunning display of sci-fi action, or the proclamation of “Startling Stories of Super Science-Fiction,” then you’d better check your pulse! Seeing the twenty-five cent cover also was a dead giveaway that this book is from my favorite era, the Bronze Age. It sounds as if this book is a sure winner, but being a DC noob, and no creator credits on the cover (that I saw at first glance), it was a shot in the dark, personally. Little did I know that the five stories inside would be to my liking, and quite honestly, anyone that’s a fan of the genre.

This gorgeous cover was brought to you by the man, the myth, and the legend, Joe Kubert. This guy could draw a jungle scene one minute, a fantastical world from outer space the next, and then finish off with a gritty war comic, all before lunch. And oh yeah, it would blow your mind. I’ve just scratched the surface with his work, but I already know he’s one of the greatest men to ever pick up a pencil. The interior has work from some incredible creators from days gone by, like Mort Drucker, Sid Greene, Gardner Fox, Carmine Infantino, Murphy Anderson, and more! If you love sci-fi and action, this one will impress you, I guarantee it!

 

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Journey into Mystery 7, 1973 “The Scorpion Strikes!”

When I was a kid, I watched an episode of Jonny Quest, and it was super cool! There was a mad scientist that grew ordinary animals into behemoths! A crab, a spider, and a lizard, all grew to enormous size, and went crazy, killing on site. The lead story in this awesome book definitely has some similarities which makes me think the writers of that show were fans of comic books! A giant, mutated scorpion, a man who gets shrunken down to the size of a mouse (and subsequently terrorized by his own cat!), and an alien with a special chair! These three tales are perfect reading for the holiday or anytime!

The first two stories are just further proof that Jack “King” Kirby is a master of all genres. There’s nothing the man couldn’t do with a pencil. He did the penciling on the first two stories, with inks by Paul Reinman, and Dick Ayers, respectively (Ayers inked the cover over Kirby pencils as well). Both of those latter names were abundant during the Golden and Atom Ages (Silver Age as well), and rightly so, as they contributed heavily. The final story is by “Sturdy” Steve Ditko. His style fits perfectly for the story, and proves his mastery of weird, fantasy tales (plot/scripts credits to Stan Lee and possibly Larry Lieber as well)!

 

 

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Cinema Sunday: Tower of London (1962)

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Title: Tower of London

Distributor: Universal Pictures

Writers: Leo Gordon, Edward Small, F. Amos Powell

Director: Roger Corman

Producers: Gene Corman, Edward Small

Starring: Vincent Price, Michael Pate, Joan Freeman, Robert Brown, Charles MacCaulay

Released: October 1962

MPAA: Approved

 

After a brief hiatus (one weekend for a quick vacation!), Cinema Sunday has returned! And of course, with a film starring one of the all time greats (if not the greatest), Vincent Price! This film is one I’ve been dying to see, and now that I’ve watched it two or three times, I’ll be spotlighting it today! In typical Price fashion, we get some very disturbing scenes in this film, and his fabulous portrayal of this sinister character. Listen, not everyone can take a historical setting, elements from the works of Shakespeare, and murder, and turn them into gold. But yes, Vincent Price can do the impossible.

The rest of the cast is good as well, and you should definitely recognize a few faces in this one. Murder, ghosts, and insanity, are all present in this gem! Alright, without further interruption, here we go!

 

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The film begins with a narrator telling the viewer that the Tower of London, and the insanity that went on within the structure. The year is 1483, and Edward IV King of England is on his death-bed. He’s surrounded by his family, which includes his brother, Richard, The Duke of Gloucester (Vincent Price). We see Edward’s two sons as well, and they will take over once they become of age. In the meantime, Edward’s other brother, George (Charles Macaulay), Duke of Clarence, is named as protector of the young boys that will one day rule. The three son’s mother is also there, and she seems suspicious that Edward being weak, puts the throne and England in jeopardy.

 

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Later that night, Richard and George (although Richard and Edward call him Clarence) are having a drink together, as they have not seen each other in many years. The two men compliment each other but Richard seems a bit illusory with his words. George then asks Richard for his help in protecting the boys, and puts out his hands for an embrace. As Richard hugs his brother, he pulls out a knife, and stabs him in the back! He then dumps the body into a barrel of water (to make sure the job is done?).

 

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Richard then retreats to his room, where his wife, Anne (Joan Camden) knows about these plans, and urges Richard to wash the blood off of his hands. The others present then find George murdered, and call for Richard. Once he arrives and acts surprised, everyone notices that the blade bears a certain family crest on it, and it is the family of King Edward’s wife’s family, the Woodville’s. Edward’s wife (Sarah Selby) is present, and can’t believe what her family is being accused of this day. They all go to Edward’s chambers to give him the bad news, and in his grief, he thinks that his wife’s family may have done it, in a power play for the throne. Edward then names Richard as the new protector of the children.

 

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Later that night, Richard is quoting Shakespeare to himself, but all of a sudden he hears a voice nearby. He then sees his dead brother (a ghost), and he tells Richard that there will be a reckoning. Richard tries to explain his actions but George tells him that he’ll die a violent death, and at the hands of a dead man. At this very moment, there’s an explosion (lighting, cannon misfires?), and it sends some rubble from the top of the Tower crashing down, almost killing Richard. George tells him again, that death will come for him soon. Richard scurries to him bedroom, and Anne attempts to calm him down, and he reveals to her that a ghost tried to kill him.

 

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Richard goes to visit Edward one last time, and their mother is by his bedside. She speaks very sharply at Richard, and seems to know him for the malefactor that he has become. She urges him to see his dying brother, and as he bids him goodbye, he kisses him on the forehead. As he backs away, he sees blood where his lips touched his brother. He screams in fear, and his mother tells him she doesn’t see anything, and she accuses him of treachery. He shoots back at her, and blames her for his deformities (apparently he has something along the lines of curvature of the spine, and other physical handicaps).

 

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The Queen then launches a secret investigation into the death of George. At this point, we have two factions in the castle. One loyal to Richard, and the others loyal to the Queen and her family. The aid of Sir Richard Ratcliffe (Michael Pate), helps Richard keep everyone off-balance for a while, but when he tries to coerce the Lady-in-waiting, Mistress Shore (Sandra Knight – image below), and later murders her, things really begin to get out of hand.

Will Richard’s plan to usurp the throne of England come to fruition? Or will the Woodville’s and their accomplices be able to stop him before he kills everyone in his way? Watch to learn the answers!

 

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OK, here are my thoughts:

As far as films starring Vincent Price go, this is definitely a must see. It’s right up there with House of Wax, Last Man on Earth, The Fly, etc. His performance alone is worth the price of admission, but you do get solid jobs from Michael Pate (he plays a great weasel in this film), and even Charles MacCauly (Blacula) in just a couple of scenes that he has in this one.

The special effects are good, and Price really does an excellent job in the scenes with the ghosts. One scene in particular, which I didn’t mention above, is when one of the ghosts inhabits the body of Price’s wife in the film, and this causes him to go off the deep end even further, and he strangles his own wife, believing she’s the ghost. The sets were convincing for sure, but the music wasn’t anything you’ll remember.

Search this one out, and believe me when I say that it’s definitely worth owning. Even if you’re not a huge Price fan like I am, you’ll be impressed with this one after just one viewing!

 

Click here for a couple of clips!