Ghostly Tales 109, 1974 “From the Haunted House”

The name Steve Ditko is known for his co-creations Spider-Man and Doctor Strange, and rightly so, but if you dig deeper, you’ll find an entire separate world of work by this man. One of the biggest contributions he made, is his work for Charlton comics. In the past, I’d been dismissive of this company simply because their books don’t have the shine and attractiveness Marvel and DC had during this time period. Well, after finally giving them a try, I was astounded to find the awesome artwork of Pat Boyette, Tom Sutton, and Steve Ditko, to name a few.

In this issue, there are three stories that all have something to offer. The first, “Hocus Pocus,” shows a stage magician named Zarko, as he obtains an ancient book of spells and incantations that will make him the real deal! He finds out it’s not all it’s cracked up to be though! Written by Steve Morisi, art by Pete Morisi

The Man Who was Twins,” is the second story. This one is centered around a devious man that had a twin brother, but now he lives the lives of himself and the dead brother! He even marries his brother’s fiancee’! This scoundrel knows no limits! Written (possibly) by Joe Gill (unconfirmed), with art by Charles Nicholas and Vince Alascia.

Lastly, we have the gem of the book. “The 3RD Victim” shows one of the most creepy things ever in horror comics or cinema – a ventriloquist dummy! The puppet maker gets killed by a greedy man, and at first, it seems as if the dummy is helping this murderer. But as the story moves along, it is the murderer who will pay for his crimes! Writer (again, unconfirmed) Joe Gill, art by Steve Ditko (cover art as well), and letters by Charlotte Jetter. The fantastic cover is also by Ditko, and is really something else!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Brave and the Bold 108, 1973 “The Night Batman Sold His Soul!”

From the cover, you’d think that DC put out a comic book with Batman and Sgt. Rock versus a vampire. Well, if they ever did, this isn’t the issue. No, this isn’t a bait and switch, but the contents certainly don’t match up (100%) with the cover. Rest assured though, this book is highly entertaining, and will leave you happy you’ve read it!

Somewhere up near the Canadian border, Batman has cornered a kidnapper. The guy has a kid, but Batman insists it’s not who the kidnapper believes it is, so there will be no ransom. The kidnapper is losing his mind, so Batman attempts to jump through a window to try and surprise him, but it doesn’t work. The kidnapper shoots Batman, then for some odd reason dumps him in a well. As batman is coming to, he’s helped out of the well by some cloaked stranger. The man has a hat on as well, so you cannot see his face. Batman thanks him for the assist, then heads back to apprehend Mad Dog Dorn (the kidnapper). After returning to Gotham, and his guise as Bruce Wayne, he then slumps over in an alleyway, still reeling from the wounds from the gunshot. As he’s trying to get up, that same cloaked figure appears, and tells him that he owes him for the help he gave him in the well. Wayne tells him he owes him nothing and the strangers tells him that his soul now belongs to him! As the man shuffles away, Wayne attempts to catch up. He does, or so he thinks, and grabs a man in the foggy street, but that man was also following after the cloaked figure. The man Wayne grabbed turns out to be none other than Sgt. Rock! Rock then reveals the identity of this mysterious figure, and Wayne cannot believe it!

I know of a few encounters between Batman and Sgt. Rock, and this is a good one. Sure, it’s a bit ludicrous, but it’s a ton of fun as well. You can’t deny that Bob “Zany” Haney writes wild, but fun stories. I honestly haven’t read one yet that disappointed me. The artwork is by Jim Aparo (cover and interiors), whom I, and quite a few others feel is the best artist to ever draw Batman. Of course there are plenty of other fantastic artists that drew him over the years (Neal Adams, Irv Novick, Bill Finger, etc.), but Aparo seemed to really get the character and his moody scenery better than anyone. Colors by Tatjana Wood, and letters by Jim Aparo (cover letters by Gaspar Saladino).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Moon Knight 2, 1980 “The Slasher”

It has been almost two years since I spotlighted a Moon Knight comic! This cannot stand! I know my podcasting partner on Into the Weird is a huge fan of this character, and rightly so. For anybody that’s looking for a title to start collecting, if you’re into thrillers, horror, action, etc., this is the title for you.

In this specific issue, we see a serial killer loose in the city, and he’s murdering homeless people. But this is no ordinary case, and Moon Knight quickly gets on the killer’s trail. After using his disguise as a cab driver (Lockley) to get some info, he then proceeds to go home and make a gameplan. Meanwhile, a friend of his (a transient) named Crawley gets attacked but not killed. These killings aren’t random, and Moon Knight and Crawley are about to find out why!

Even in this early stage of the title, you can see the beginnings of brilliance from Doug Moench (writer), and Bill Sienkiewicz (interior pencils and cover). Their collaboration on the title lasted quite a long time, and only gets better as you go! With inks by Frank Springer, Carl Gafford colors, Annette Kawecki on letters, and edited by Denny O’Neil!

 

 

 

 

 

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!

 

 

 

DC comics: The Witching Hour!

Back so soon? And for more fright I see…well, lets see if some DC comics can do the trick! Their horror titles in the 1970’s were awesome, and anthologies like The Witching Hour! were right at the topOut of all the DC horror titles I own, this is the one that I own the most issues of, and that is a good thing. Top to bottom the series had the standard fair of the times, but always slanted towards the side of death. Whether it was supernatural (as it was most of the time), or just your garden variety psychopath, the book delivered. Oh, and skulls are a major cover theme!

One of the things that made this title a winner was the huge names that graced the credits early on, but let us not pass over the great group of artists from foreign countries that made a huge breakthrough in this decade. The most prominent cover artist of this title in the books you’ll see here, is Luis Dominguez.  You do get a couple from the always awesome Nick Cardy as well, and even one by Ernie Chan. The interiors were a mixed bag for the most part but were always solid. You get names like Ruben Yandoc, Rico Rival, E. R. Cruz, Ricardo Villamonte, Nestor and Frank Redondo, Dick Ayers, Chic Stone, Gerry Talaoc, Alfredo Alcala, Curt Swan, and more!

 

img499

img500

img501

img502

img503

img504

img505

img506

img507

img508

img510

img511

img512

img513

img514

 

DC comics: The Unexpected!

As we creep closer to Halloween, I’d like to take time to spotlight some of the DC comics titles I’ve recently bought. One of my favorites is The Unexpected! An anthology book that never lacked cool stories, good artwork, and variety! Under the watchful eyes of editor Murry Boltinoff, the title gave us stories about madmen, murderers, ghosts, goblins, and grave robbers. An eclectic band of material, The Unexpected was one-third of DC comics’ line of anthology horror titles, and I’ll certainly be showcasing the others as well.

My earliest issue is #115, and the glorious Neal Adams cover shows you exactly what kind of quality you got with this series. Quite a few of the covers were done by perennial DC artist Nick Cardy (one of my all time DC faves), and a couple by the Argentinian artist Luis Dominguez! The interiors had no shortage of superstars, as names like Curt Swan, Werner Roth, George Tuska, Ross Andru, Mike Esposito, Jerry Grandenetti, Rico Rival, Don Perlin, Rich Buckler, and more! Do yourself (and your local comic shop) a favor, and grab something unexpected this Halloween!

 

img486

img487

img488

img489

img490

img491

img492

img493

img494

img495

img496

img497

img498

 

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

diemonsterdie

Title: Die, Monster, Die!

Distributor: American International Pictures

Writer: Jerry Sohl

Director: Daniel Haller

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

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

Released: October 1965

MPAA: Approved

 

 

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

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

 

diemonsterdie1

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

 

die-monster-die-1

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

 

die-monster-die-1965-movie-pic1

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

 

die_monster_die-2

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

 

diemonsterdie-green

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

 

diemonster5

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

 

diemonsterdie-650-2

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

 

OK, here are my thoughts:

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

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

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

 

Click here for the trailer!

 

die60

Cinema Sunday: The Devil Commands (1941)

oxt6drxp

Title: The Devil Commands

Distributor: Columbia Pictures

Writers: Robert Hardy Andrews, Milton Gunzburg, William Sloane (novel)

Director: Edward Dmytryk

Producer: Wallace MacDonald

Starring: Boris Karloff, Richard Fiske, Amanda Duff, Ralph Penney, Anne Revere

Released: February 1941

MPAA: Approved

 

Devil Commands 002

I’d like to say that there’s a rhyme and reason to my movie selections, but alas, there is not. I will say that for now, I’m severely addicted to movies starring Boris Karloff. His filmography is fascinating to look at. Diversity, longevity, and power, make it nothing short of spectacular. The man is one of the true legends of the genre. And quite honestly, I’d say all that even if you removed “Frankenstein” from his list of credits!

After leaving Universal Studios when his contract expired, Karloff worked for Columbia Pictures, RKO Pictures, and AIP (with Roger Corman directing most of those). He hosted some television shows (Thriller, Out of this World, and The Veil), used his awesome voice on radio shows (Lights Out), and made cameo or guest appearances on a few different television series. The man, by all accounts, was a great guy that kept most of his personal life to himself, and even helped build the Screen Actors Guild from its infancy!

OK, now, I give you…The Devil Commands!

 

Devil Commands 014

The film opens with a the voice of a woman telling the audience her name is Anne Blair, and her father’s name was Dr. Julian Blair (we see a creepy old house, during a thunderstorm). She tells of how the townspeople were afraid of her father, and the strange goings-on at his abode. She tells of better times when her father was a professor at a local university, but that one night, an experiment changed all that…

We then see a scientist, Dr. Julian Blair (Boris Karloff), as he’s attempting to show five other scientists that his invention (a wild looking helmet, some wires, and a machine that looks like a polygraph), and research, have yielding fantastic results. He shows them how his machine, while hooked up to a human being’s head (one of the scientists at this time), can show brain activity, and possibly even thoughts! The scientists are skeptical, and Blair seems a bit put off. As the experiment winds down, his assistant, Karl (Ralph Penney) bursts into the room, along with Blair’s wife, Helen (Shirley Warde). He then straps her into the machine to show them that the brainwaves of a woman, are far superior to that of a man (the two of them make a a lot of jokes, but loving remarks as well). Again the crowd is skeptical that this means anything significant, but Blair and his wife must rush out the door to pick up their daughter.

 

Devil Commands 016

The two drive off, and speed toward their destination. Helen then remarks that they must stop to pick up a birthday cake for their daughter. There’s nowhere to park, so Helen (who’s driving) tells Julian to get out of the car and get the cake, and she’ll drive around the block and pick him up upon returning. He barely gets back outside after getting the cake, when a car slams into their car, killing his wife. After the funeral, you can see a marked decline in Dr. Blair’s demeanor. Not in the way any grieving husband would be, but completely lost in his soul.

 

devilcommands1

Later, he heads over to his laboratory, and for some unknown reason, he turns on his machines. The last person he used it on was his wife, so her brain patterns are still on the graph. Suddenly, the graph beings to move again, and the waves are in the same pattern as his wife’s were! He deduces that this means his wife’s spirit is trying to contact him. Just then, his daughter walks in, and his mistakes her for his wife for a moment. As Anne (Amanda Duff) walks in, he tells her that her mother’s spirit is alive and well, and made the waves on the graphs.

 

devilcommands3

He then brings his colleagues back to tell them, and they think he’s had a mental breakdown. He becomes angry, and even resentful of the fact that they don’t believe he’s discovered something astonishing. He flips out, and orders everyone t leave, including Anne, and her boyfriend (and former assistant to Dr. Blair, Dr. Sayles – Richard Fiske) to get out. Karl stays behind though, and tells Dr. Blair that he talks to his dead mother all the time, with the assistance of a medium named Mrs. Walters (Anne Revere – image above). At first, Dr. Blair doesn’t think she’s for real, but then he agrees to go see her. As the séance begins, we do see an apparition, that supposedly talks to Karl. After it’s over, Dr. Blair confronts the medium about some of her shenanigans, but does come to realize she has some latent psychic powers that he can use to talk to his dead wife.

From this point on, Dr. Blair does anything and everything it takes to achieve his goal. But is that goal so terrible?

 

OK, here are my thoughts:

This film definitely has one not so good thing going for it…the title. I don’t know who decided on the title, but it’s absurd. Not once is “the devil” mentioned that i can recall, or do they ever imply that Satan is in any way shape or form involved. It’s quite ludicrous. Other than that, this film is a real gem for Karloff. He plays a great mad scientist, but also it’s how he plays someone grief-stricken from losing a loved one. Bravo, Mr. Karloff.

The performance lifts this film to unbelievable heights, as the sets, music, and costumes are nothing above average. The atmosphere is quite good, especially after Karloff’s character begins his association with the medium. Speaking of that character, Anne Revere does a splendid job with her performance as well, and should be lauded for it. She’s a real creepy lady in this one! Oh, and Amanda Duff is absolutely gorgeous in this film (image below)!

I know this one is available online and in a DVD set you can grab cheap too if you’d rather go that route. No excuses, get this one ion your collection!

 

Click here for a clip!

 

devilcommands4

Cinema Sunday: The Lodger (1944)

lodger1944

Title: The Lodger

Distributor: 20th Century Fox

Writer: Barré Lyndon

Director: John Brahm

Producer: Robert Bassler

Starring: Merle Oberon, Laird Cregar, George Sanders, Sir Cedric Hardwicke

Released: January 1944

MPAA: Approved

 

 

I’ll come right out and say that I love the lore surrounding Jack the Ripper. No, I’m not a fan of murder, but the fact that the killer evaded detection, while performing his hideous deeds is quite remarkable. It’s always been a fascination of mine, even to the point of watching and liking films that are loosely based (if that in some cases) on the murders in Whitechapel, London.

Another to be clear about is that none of these names ring a bell with me. Perhaps I’ve seen a film or two with one of the actors before, but the names definitely don’t seem familiar to me. One thing is for sure though, after watching this one, I’m a big fan of Laird Cregar! Alright, now for the movie!

 

lodger3

The film begins after a couple of murders have already taken place. London (especially the Whitechapel area) is full of panic. Outside a pub, two locals read a paper posted about the murders and a reward for help leading to the capture of the murderer known only as “Jack the Ripper!” A couple of Bobbies (cops), begin to patrol the area. We then see a few more of them on horseback. Close by, a few inebriated patrons spill out of a pub, singing and dancing in the street. One woman in particular walks by, and tells them that she lives just around the corner, so they let her go alone. A few others call out to “Katy’ to tell her goodnight. She sings playfully on her way home. As she turns around a corner (where we cannot see her, but only hear her), where she’s apparently run into by someone unknown to her. A few seconds later she cries out in horror, and she is presumably dead. A crowd gathers around the police as they arrive to find her dead body. A few people talk of how it must’ve been the Ripper again, as she’s apparently been cut up quite badly.

 

lodger2

The following day, a newspaper boy is selling copies of the latest edition, warning of another Ripper murder in Whitechapel. A woman supposedly got a look at him, but due to the darkness, couldn’t be of much help with a description. The people in that area are quick to buy copies to read about the horror. Out of the shadows, we see a man, “Slade,” walking towards a home. A man, Robert Bonting (Sir Cedric Hardwicke – image below) comes out of that home to buy a copy of the paper. Just as he returns inside, a knock on the door occurs. His wife, Ellen Bonting (Sara Allgood – image below), answers, and lets Mr. Slade (Laird Cregar – image above) into the house after he inquires about a room for rent. She tells him they do have one, and then she takes him upstairs to show him. He asks if there is any other rooms, and she says nothing except the attic. He gets visibly aroused when he sees how inconspicuous the room is and that there’s a back door to which he can use since he works late at night…

 

lodger7

Ellen also remarks that their niece lives in the house as well, and that she’s an “actress” singing and dancing in a cabaret. Afterwards, Ellen returns downstairs and informs her husband that Mr. Slade will be renting the room and attic, beginning tonight. He’s more interested in the Ripper murders, and theorizing about them. He’s had a nervous breakdown after losing his job, but knows they need money. A while later, Ellen brings some food to Mr. Slade, and she finds him very irritable, and turning over all the pictures in the room (they’re all of gorgeous actresses). He tells her that he doesn’t like actresses, but she hopes he’ll change his mind because her niece, Kitty (Merle Oberon – image below), is one. As the week winds on, one night Mr. Slade is on his way out to “work,” and runs into Kitty, Ellen, and Robert, as they’re exiting to go see one of Kitty’s performances. They ask him where he goes at night, but he’s quite mysterious about it. He seems to be smitten with Kitty, but most men probably would be (I know I am!).

 

lodger1

At the theater, Kitty is getting ready, when a former actress, Annie Rowley (Helena Pickard), comes to see her. She just wants to see her old dressing room again, as she apparently does every time a new girl gets to perform at this theater. Kitty appeases her, and invites her to stay, but Annie tells her she has other plans. Kitty throws her a few bucks, and Annie tries to refuse, but Kitty insists. The show goes on, and Kitty gets a thunderous applause. The show is a success, but during the performance, Annie Rowley is brutally murdered by the Ripper, in a nearby alley. One man, Inspector John Warwick (George Sanders), seems to be a bit ahead of the curve, and might just have a chance to figure out the riddle of Jack the Ripper!

The fear and panic are almost at a height where people are hysterical. There are hundreds of police combing the streets every night, but it seems they are at a loss to stop this fiend. Can Inspector Warwick and Scotland Yard catch the murder, or will he keep slaying unsuspecting women in London?

 

lodger5

OK, here are my thoughts:

So, anyone with half a brain will obviously know that “Slade” is the killer 20 minutes into the film. Of course, they do a great job of keeping the illusion alive in the movie itself, so that makes it watchable. There are several good performances in the film, but none better than that of Laird Cregar. His portrayal of Jack the Ripper is exquisite. His cool demeanor when he’s trying to hide who he really is when the lights go down is excellent. The opposite is very menacing too, as he’s an extremely scary dude, due to his facial expressions and size. It sort of reminded me of Spencer Tracy in the 1941 classic “Dr. Jekyll and Mister Hyde.” Yeah, it’s that good.

 

lodger4

Merle Oberon is also very good. She excels at being a strong female character (for the time), and is also extremely vivacious (see image below). Hardwicke and Allgood also do a fine job at their parts. Even the maid, Queenie Leonard, is fantastic at playing a quirky secondary character. A standard soundtrack does lend a hand in some parts, but isn’t necessary to be honest. The atmospherics and acting lift this film above any other film about this subject that I’ve ever seen. Quite easily, to be perfectly honest.

 

merleoberon

Hit up your local big box store or online at Amazon or some such sites. The film is definitely worth asking price!

 

Click here for the trailer!

 

 

Cinema Sunday: The Door with Seven Locks (A.K.A. Chamber of Horrors- 1940)

7locks

 

Title: The Door with Seven Locks

Distributor: Pathe Pictures (Warner Bros.)

Writers: John Argyle, Gilbert Gunn, Norman Lee (Edgar Wallace – novel)

Director: Norman Lee

Producer: John Argyle

Starring: Leslie Banks, Lilli Palmer, Romilly Lunge, Gina Malo

Released: October, 1940 (U.K.)

MPAA: PG-13 (est.)

 

7locks1

 

 

Hey folks! It’s nearly the last of the month, and I’m back with another movie review! When I set out to do movie reviews, I wanted to cover every good classic horror and sci-fi film I’d ever seen. I discovered that’s going to take a long time, but also I’ve discovered a few new ones along the way, like this one! Not many people outside of the United Kingdom will probably think of films of this genre produced there in the 1940s, as the Universal Studio films were dominating throughout the previous decade (and into the next).. But those who do that, will miss some absolute classic films that deserve your attention.

This little film doesn’t have any familiar faces/big names (to me), but that doesn’t hold it back one bit. A thriller with all sorts of intrigue, murder, torture, etc., will have you on the edge of your seat! Alright, let’s get down to the story…

 

doorwithsevenlock02

The film opens at a mansion, with an old man in bed, apparently near death. Dr. Manetta (Leslie Banks“The Most Dangerous Game”), tries to tell Lord Charles Francis Selford (Aubrey Mallalieu) that he’ll make it, but Selford knows his time has come. He announces to those present, that the majority of his fortune will go to his young son, John (Ross Landon). The other people in the room seem put off by that statement, but Selford doesn’t seem to care. He then reveals a box, which contains seven keys, and tells those in attendance that he’s appointed Edward Havelock (David Horne), as trustee of his estate. He says that in the event of John’s death, everything goes to June Lansdowne (Lilli Palmer – above right), his cousin. The keys are to be separated and are needed to open the seven locks on his tomb, which coincidentally is full of jewels!

Soon after, Lord Selford dies, and is buried. The keys are removed from the door with seven locks. Ten years pass, and we see Luis Silva (one of the men present during Lord Selford’s death scene- J.H. Roberts) writing a letter, but he’s interrupted by someone unseen. We next see him in an institution, and after others leave the room, he leaps up, and writes a letter to June, and throws it out of the window. A couple of delivery boys pick it up and take it to her home. One of the keys for the door with seven locks is inside the letter,  and he tells her to come to the hospital. Her roommate, Glenda Baker (Gina Malo) listens as June tells her about the key and letter. Glenda thinks Silva is just some old pervert that’s trying to hook up with June, so she tells her she wants to go with her to keep an eye on things.

 

doorwithsevenlock01

June arrives and is taken to Silva’s room by an orderly. Once inside the room, the orderly and a cop plot to try to get some info from the conversation the two in the room are about to have. As the two talk, we see that someone is peeking through the eyes of a painting on the wall. Just as Silva is about to tell her where the other keys are, a secret panel in the wall moves slightly aside, and a pistol fires a shot (silenced) at the old man. June calls for help, and when she reaches the hallway, a woman asks her what she’s doing. She explains, but the woman tells her no one has been in that room lately. As the two go back in, the body is gone. The two women argue over the validity of the situation, and then June runs to the police.

 

doorwithsevenlock03

At the police station, we see Inspector Sneed (Richard Bird), and Dick Martin (Romilly Lunge), talking as Martin has resigned and is leaving the police force. Just then June and Glenda run in to tell the story of their wild afternoon. Sneed and martin are skeptical, but seem to think there might be something to this story, so they agree to check out her story. Martin agrees to stay on a bit as an advisor (at this point it seems only because of an attraction to June). Glenda, June, and Martin return to the girl’s apartment, and find a burglar inside. Martin attacks him and the two fight. The “cop” from the nursing home scene then sneaks up behind Martin and knocks him unconscious. The girls hear the fighting stop, and see Martin on the floor. Eventually he comes to and they make an appointment to see the executor of the estate. The man thinks he has six of the keys but when he looks into the box where they are kept, he finds them missing!

 

7locks3

Now we understand why person or persons unknown are trying to kill June and get the last key! Will they succeed and get the jewels or will Inspector Sneed and Martin be able to stop them?!?!

 

7locks2

 

OK, here are my thoughts:

This neat little film might not have any of the industry giants from the horror/thriller genre, but it does have a certain charm about it that makes it a winner. The sets are incredible, the mood and atmosphere are great, and the acting very good. The only scene that seemed a bit lame was the fight scene between Martin and the burglar.

There are a few humorous moments that break up the darker ones, and they are well placed and hilarious, even by today’s standards. Slightly sexist, and stereotypical, but funny nonetheless especially when you consider it was 1940. The musical score was just slightly above average I’d say, but doesn’t bring the film down in the slightest. And not to be forgotten, Lilli Palmer is stunning in this film (image below)!

Get out there and grab this flick because it is more than deserving of a viewing!

 

Palmer

 

Click here for trailer!