Cinema Sunday: Rasputin the Mad Monk (1966)

Rasputin

 

Title: Rasputin the Mad Monk

Distributor: Hammer Studios/ 20th Century-Fox

Writer: Anthony Hinds

Director: Don Sharp

Producer: Anthony Nelson Keys

Starring: Christopher Lee, Barbara Shelley, Richard Pasco, Suzan Farmer, Francis Matthews

Released: March 1966

MPAA: PG-13

 

After a quick break (for a soccer tournament), I’m back and have a great flick in store for everybody! With the recent passing of Sir Christopher Lee, I thought I’d get at least one (if not two) movie of his out there that was a bit lesser known compared to his big hits. In 1966, Hammer Studios had a few different films that were not in their typical Dracula/Frankenstein’s monster vein. These films were so very good, because not only did they give us the atmosphere and sets that the previous films did, but also all the great actors as well!

I’m not a big fan of this character in history, and I do know that Hammer took a few liberties with the story, but it doesn’t really matter. The film is about entertainment, not being factual. Alright, now let us get down to the film!

 

rasputin1

The film begins at a local pub in a small village. A doctor is there telling the landlord that his wife is gravely ill, and on her death-bed. As the patrons look on, the family is upstairs, trying to pray for the woman. Suddenly, the door to the pub swings open, and a grisly looking man clad in a monk’s outfit barges in. The monk tells them that there is fever in her, and that he will draw it out. He begins to perform a ritual of sorts, and the family looks concerned. Within seconds though, he succeeds in healing the woman, and everyone is astonished. The landlord then allows the monk to drink freely at his pub and to fraternize with his daughter.

The villagers seem to be skeptical of this man, and get an uneasy feeling about him. After everyone is good and drunk, the monk and the pub owner’s daughter disappear. The next thing we see, the two of them are in the barn making out. The girl’s boyfriend comes in and breaks it up, and he and the monk get into a brawl. Eventually, the monk chops off the guy’s hand with a scythe and he runs screaming from the barn. The monk then attempts to rape the young woman, but the rest of the villagers from the pub stop him. He runs off, back to the monastery where he resides. The next day the villagers confront the monastery about his actions, and he then introduces himself as Grigori Rasputin (Christopher Lee).

 

rasputin4

He then basically gets cast out (or a punishment where’s he ejected from the monastery), and is on a wagon ride to nowhere. The man driving the wagon tells him that he should go to St. Petersburg because that’s where the action is to be found. Rasputin then commandeers the wagon and heads straight for the city. Once there, he goes into a pub and starts drinking. He then engages in a contest with another patron to see who can drink the most. Over on the other side of the city, we see a ball going on at the royal palace. We then see Sonia (Barbara Shelley) (a “lady in waiting” for the czar), as she’s bored to death by these events, and craves some real fun. Her brother, Peter, (Dinsdale Landen), his friend Ivan (Francis Matthews), and another girl, Vanessa (Suzan Farmer) (another “lady in waiting”), then take a trip to a local pub that can get rowdy (the same one that Rasputin is at).

 

rasputin2

The group shows up and see Rasputin and the doctor, Boris Zargo (Richard Pasco), having their drinking contest. The contest is eventually won by Rasputin, and he then begins to dance like a wild man, and Sonia is getting very drunk at this point. She begins to laugh out loud, and as the music stops, it seems as though she’s laughing at Rasputin. He stares t her and demands that she apologizes for laughing at him. Peter attempts to get tough with Rasputin, but he gets slapped away like a child. Sonia is enthralled by Rasputin, and then she apologizes to him. The scene ends, and Rasputin takes the drunken Boris home.

 

rasputin3

The following day, Sonia seeks out Rasputin, as he’s put the whammy on her. She again apologizes, and then he slaps her around a bit, then they have sex. Boris goes out for some food and wine, then returns to see Rasputin hypnotize her and tell her that while the heir to the throne is under her care, the boy will have an accident, and then she will send for a “holy man” that she knows can heal the boy. The following day, she and Vanessa are watching Alexei, when Sonia pushes him off a ledge, and the boy is hurt badly. None of the doctors or priests can do anything, so then Sonia urges the Tsarina to let her bring in Rasputin.

 

rasputin7

After a few days, Rasputin arrives at the palace, and does heal the boy. The Tsarina is impressed and offers to reward him. Initially, he refuses payment, but after a few days, he then accepts a gift from her. He also takes full advantage of the opportunity alone with her to hypnotize her, and put her under his spell!

Will Rasputin gain control of all of Russia? Will anyone be able to stop his madness? Watch to find out!

 

rasputin6

 

OK, here are my thoughts:

If you haven’t seen this film, it’s a must. Lee is very impressive in this film and will convince you of the evilness of Rasputin! Barbara Shelley is also absolutely incredible in this one (and looking as beautiful as ever! image below). Her chemistry with Lee is undeniable, and after working together before (Dracula Prince of Darkness) probably helped. The supporting cast is right there as well, and Richard Pasco, Suzan Farmer, and Francis Matthews are all splendid.

This film was a double-bill with Dracula Prince of Darkness, so you see a lot of the same sets, but in typical Hammer fashion, they redress everything well enough to make it seem like two separate locations. The music score was good too, and Don Banks is one of those guys I consider right up there with the greats of this time/genre.

Get on this one immediately if you haven’t already viewed it and if you have but not in a while, sit down and enjoy this masterpiece by Christopher Lee (RIP)!

 

Barbara-Shelley-in-Rasputin-the-Mad-Monk

 

Click here for the trailer!

 

Cinema Sunday: The Mummy’s Shroud (1967)

mummyshroud#1

Title: The Mummy’s Shroud

Distributor: 20th Century Fox (Hammer Studios)

Writers: John Gilling & Anthony Hinds

Director: John Gilling

Producer: Michael Carreras

Starring: André Morell, John Phillips, David Buck, Elizabeth Sellars, Michael Ripper, Eddie Powell (as the Mummy)

Released: March 1967

MPAA: Approved

To finish off Hammer Studio’s trilogy of Mummy movies (yes, the last one doesn’t count because there wasn’t an actual “mummy” in the movie! The Mummy- 1959, Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb- 1964, I’m taking a look at the 1967 film, The Mummy’s Shroud! The film does recycle some of the ideas from previous films of the genre, but it also has a good cast, and a fine job turned in by basically a stunt man! Sit back, relax, and get ready to watch some bandages fly as the Mummy is out for revenge! Let’s get to the flick!

mummyshroud1

The film begins with some narration informing the viewers that there was a child born to a king of Egypt in ancient times. This boy would soon be ushered away from his father as a coup took place, and the then king, was murdered. The boy was taken to the desert, but he and his caretakers died there from lack of food and water. End interlude…

mummyshroud#2

In the time around 1920, we see an expedition led by Basil Walden (Andre Morell), and his assistants, Paul Preston (David Buck) and Claire de Sangre (Maggie Kimberley). The expedition is financed by a greedy businessman named Stanley Preston (John Phillips). He and his wife, Barbara (Elizabeth Sellars), have arrived in Cairo, and are troubled about the expedition having lost contact with all outside persons. There’s also a man there to help Stanley Preston, by the name of Longbarrow (Michael Ripper). He seems to be more like a slave to Preston, but an honest man nonetheless.

mummyshroud#3

After a press conference, Stanley joins one of the search parties that are heading out to find Sir Basil and young Paul. Meanwhile, the expedition finds the tomb, and digs their way into the actual burial section of the boy-king. The team is accosted by an Egyptian man who shouts at them in a foreign tongue, and tells them that he guarding the tomb. After thinking about his warning for about ten seconds, they proceed inside. They head inside, but Claire is troubled by an ominous warning about disturbing the tomb. Sir Basil seems to pause, but then they all join in (except Claire) and excavate the bones and shroud of the boy-king. As if that wasn’t bad enough, Sir Basil gets bitten by a poisonous snake, and barely makes it out alive.

mummyshroud#3.5

Next, Stanley and his search party catch up to the expedition, and he sees an opportunity to seize all the glory for himself, even though he had nothing to do with the actual find. They remove everything from the tomb, and head back to Cairo to inventory the loot. Stanley wants to take everything back to England, but the others are worried about Sir Basil, as he’s taken a turn for the worse. Stanley has Sir Basil committed to an asylum because of his erratic behavior. Soon after though, he escapes. Stanley just wants to get out of town, but the police wont let anyone leave until Sir Basil is found.

mummyshroud#4

Speaking of Sir Basil, as he’s wandering around the city, evading the police, an old woman (a fortune-teller) approaches him, and tells him that she can help. Her and her accomplice (the man who warned the expedition in the tomb), tell him that he’ll soon die, and then we see Hasmid (the accomplice), steal the burial shroud from the mummy, and perform a ritual. This brings the mummy to life, and then it sets out to seek revenge against the defilers that sought to profit from his body and wealth! As the fortune-teller continues to taunt Sir Basil, he gets weaker by the minute, and then from behind the mummy approaches. It grabs his head, and crushes it like a grape (image above)!

He is only the first in line, and the clock is ticking for all those who entered the tomb!

mummyshroud#5

OK, here are my thoughts:

This film is a bit underrated for sure. No, it isn’t the finest movie Hammer ever produced, but it’s also not the worst by far. André Morell is his usual self, and delivers a good performance, but too brief as well. After his other performances in Hammer films, you know what he brings to the table. The supporting cast is a good one too, and John Phillips is a great scoundrel in this film. His love of money and cowardice later in the film, are the textbook definition of the word miscreant!

The music score was a good one, and better than most latter-day Hammer films. Don Banks is probably the second person I think of (behind James Bernard) pertaining to Hammer music scores, and deservedly so. The sets are quite good as you also come to expect from Hammer, and really have you believing that you are in Cairo. The ever faithful, Michael Ripper gives a good performance as well, and just seeing his face makes a Hammer film feel more comfortable.

Take some time out to visit or revisit the Hammer “Mummy” films. When looked at as a trilogy, they might not make sense as they don’t continue on with the same story, but taken as separate films with the same antagonist, you’ll be delighted by the results.

mummyshroud#6

Click here for the trailer!

Cinema Sunday: The Damned (1963)

damned

Title: The Damned

Distributor: Columbia Pictures (Hammer Studios)

Writer: Evan Jones (screenplay)

Director: Joseph Losey

Producer: Anthony Hinds, Anthony Nelson Keys, Michael Carreras

Starring: MacDonald Carey, Shirley Anne Field, Oliver Reed, Viveca Lindfors, Alexander Knox

Released: May 19, 1963 (U.K.)

MPAA: Approved (est.)

To keep rolling with the sci-fi and Hammer Studios theme, I thought I’d pull out one of the not-so-famous films from their library! This wacky movie starts off like a biker film that looks more like something James Dean would’ve starred in back in the day. It is a cool little film, and another reason to love Oliver Reed! They guy is nothing short of phenomenal, and this is just another film that proves it! A beautiful, and vivacious leading lady, and a leading man who did a TON of television work, but held his own nicely in this film. OK, let’s get to the movie!

These AreThe Damned 01

The film begins with a rowdy bunch of fellows (a “Teddy Boy Gang“) hanging out by the statue in the middle of town. An older man notices a vibrant young woman walking down the street. He follows her, but she blows him off at first. She then looks in the direction of the leader of the gang. He nods, and she then allows the gentleman to escort her across the street. The gang then heads around a wall to a secluded area, and the girl lures the man to that location, and he gets beaten by the gang, and robbed. One of the gang members asks Joan (Shirley Anne Field), if she’s enjoying her work, and she doesn’t respond verbally, but you can tell she’s sorrowful about the incident.

damned#1

Across town, at a restaurant, a man, Bernard (Alexander Knox) is surprised by his lady friend, Freya (Viveca Lindfors). She’s an artist of sorts, and apparently a mistress of his. A couple of Bernard’s men bring Simon Wells (MacDonald Carey) into the restaurant, and ask him about the attack. Freya then questions Bernard about his military friends, and his secret project that he’s been conducting. He’s very mysterious about it and tells her very little. We see a little interaction between Joan and her brother, King (Oliver Reed), and you get the feeling that there’s something not quite right about their relationship.

damned#2

The following day, the gang is spending the stolen money on nonsense, but as they go for a motorbike ride, Joan runs into Simon. He’s on a boat, and Joan talks with him as if nothing happened. They get a little testy with each other, but then have a nice moment together. Just as things are looking up, King and his gang show up, and threaten Simon. Joan gets out of the boat, then King threatens her too. The gang taunts Simon, and he sets off. He sees the desperation in Joan’s eyes, so he tells her to jump aboard, and she does. This infuriates King, and he vows to kill Simon.

damned#3

At a military base near the cliffs, Bernard and his crew are discussing the project. They then set up a television monitor, and when it turns on, we see a classroom of nine children. The kids ask several questions, and Bernard answers them. The kids then want to know what it is they’re going to do in the coming years, but Bernard evades their questions, and then signs off for the day. Outside the base, there’s a cottage by the cliffs, and Joan and Simon go there (break in) to avoid King. Little do they know that one of the gang spotted them coming to shore, and he quickly tells King. As Simon and Joan are getting cozy, Freya is on her way into the cottage, so Simon and Joan sneak out through a window. As they’re making their way out, Simon and his gang show up and chase them to the cliffs.

damned#5

We next see Simon and Joan, as they’ve fallen off of the cliffs and then swim into a nearby cave. The cave has a passageway, and it leads into the domicile that the children are being raised in. They have no clue what is going on of course, but King is hot on their trail. He follows them to the cave, and one of his posse gets caught by the military police that are patrolling the grounds. They question him, but get very little in the form of answers. Back at the cave, King has made his way into the domicile, and one of the kids has befriended him. Simon and Joan have noticed something very disturbing about these children. Their skin is as ice-cold as a corpse, and they have no understanding about why.

damned#4

What are these children and why are they kept in this underground enclosure, cut off from mankind? Will King make good on his promise to kill Simon? You must watch to find out!

damned#7

OK, here are my thoughts:

I’ll be perfectly honest and tel you that the entire film isn’t as sinister as the movie posters would lead you to believe. That said, the film has many good qualities about it that I’ll share. First off, the acting is top-notch, as McDonald Carey and Shirley Anne Field really carry this film, especially during the scenes that they share, which is most of the movie. Not to be outdone, is Hammer favorite, Oliver Reed! This guy is the perfect actor to play crazy roles like this one, and he really takes it to another level. We’ve all heard the stories about Reed’s partying lifestyle, and you really get the feeling that he was a tortured soul, so maybe that’s why he could pull off these amazing performances.

The music score was by another Hammer stalwart, James Bernard. Although I wouldn’t consider this his best effort, it certainly is lively. The sets are a bright spot as well, and the scenes shot in town (Dorset, England). The landscape is absolutely beautiful, and definitely is a grand addition to the film. The underground domicile is a bit like something from Star Trek the Original Series, but hey, it was 1963, and the budget wasn’t anything to get aroused about either.

Give this one a look-see, there’s a good chance you’ll enjoy it. It does sort of march to a different beat, especially when you consider it’s a Hammer film. Don’t let that scare you though, it is a winner!

Click here for the trailer!

Cinema Sunday: Kiss of the Vampire (1963)

kissofthevampire1963

Title: Kiss of the Vampire (Kiss of Evil)

Distributor: Hammer Studios/Universal Pictures

Writer: John Elder (Anthony Hinds)

Director: Don Sharp

Producer: Anthony Hinds

Starring: Clifford Evans, Noel Willman, Edward De Souza, Jennifer Daniel

Released: September 1963

MPAA: UR

It’s that time again! Time for me to spotlight another flick, and for you to enjoy! This film has a different vibe than most Hammer horror films, and that may be due to the fact that the big “stars” are not present at all. We do see three familiar faces, but not ones that were in more than a couple of Hammer films. It’s definitely worth the occasional viewing though, and that’s why I’m going to review it today! There were some unused ideas taken from other movies and added to this one, and once you hear about them, it helps make more sense of things at the end. Alright, let us get to the film!

Kiss Vampire title

The movie starts out with a funeral at a small village somewhere in Europe. The villagers are shocked when a certain man shows up. The creepy looking guy, Professor Zimmer (Clifford Evans) walks over the grave, shovel in hand, and plunges it into the casket! We hear a shriek come from it, and then see blood spurting out of the cracks. At first, the villagers don’t seem shocked, that is until the blood comes out. The camera then slowly goes into the casket, and we see the recognizable teeth of a vampire. Cue opening credits…

kiss101

We next see a man looking through a telescope, as a motorcar chugs down the road. It runs out of petrol, and they are stranded. The man, Gerald (Edward De Souza), and his new wife, Marianne (Jennifer Daniel), realize they’re in some trouble, but Gerald has no alternative but to hike to the nearest town in hopes of finding some fuel (back then very few towns had it). As Marianne waits, she notices the castle in the hills. The man with the telescope notices her beauty, and we get a bad feeling about her chances for survival. The wind blows a tree over, and she runs away. She eventually comes face to face with Professor Zimmer, who scares the bejesus out of her. He tells her to go back to her car, but she instead runs to find Gerald.

kissvamp2

The two eventually wind up in town, and at a hotel. The caretakers are very odd, but are accommodating nonetheless. As they settle in, and the nigh falls, a carriage arrives at the hotel to deliver a letter. Gerald and Marianne are shocked to find out that the letter is for them, and from a local man who lives in the castle. He invites them to dinner, and the hotel owner encourages them to go, because the food will be excellent, and the “Herr doctor” is a very interesting man. The carriage arrives, and they go to the castle, and are greeted by Dr. Ravna (Noel Willman). He then introdeuces his two children to Gerald and Marianne. Both are slightly odd, but Carl (Barry Warren), is the most strange of the two. His daughter, Sabena (Jacquie Wallis), watches them, and you can see the devil in her eyes.

kissvamp3

There’s a girl at the residence as well, but she stays hidden. She eventually makes her way to the closest graveyard, and urges one of the inhabitants to come out. She’s interrupted by Professor Zimmer, but before he can do anything to stop her permanently, she bites him on the wrist, and both flee. After dinner, Carl plays the piano for the guests, and Marianne seems to be getting hypnotized by the music. Carl stares at her, sort of like a predator, and Gerald notices this phenomenon. Back at Professor Zimmer’s room (he has a room somewhere in the bowels of the hotel), he lights his wrist on fire to cleanse the wound, and stop the disease before it can overtake him. Back at the castle, Marianne is about to fall into a trance, but Gerald steps in and snaps her out of it. They leave, and Dr. Ravna and his children plot to take them, by force if necessary.

kissvamp4

As they return to the hotel for the evening, we see Professor Zimmer at the bar, drowning his sorrows in booze. As Gerald and Marianne head to their room, they hear someone crying, and investigate. They see the hotel owners wife, as she’s in one of the rooms, sobbing while looking at some memorabilia. They don’t quite understand, and retreat to their room for the night. The next morning they’re invited to breakfast with the hotel owners. After some chatter and food, they go back to the room where they saw the woman crying, They find a picture of a beautiful girl, the daughter, (assuming) of the owners. Gerald hears someone downstairs, and he confronts Professor Zimmer. He’s told to get out of the town before there’s trouble, but Gerald doesn’t understand. Carl and Sabena show up, and invite them to a party at their home. Professor Zimmer tells Carl and Sabena that they’d better be off because the thick clouds are moving away and the sun is coming out. They flee as if their lives depended on it, and again, Gerald and Marianne don’t know what to think.

kissvamp5

The night of the party arrives, and a house full of guests puts Gerald and Marianne at ease. Of course, they’re greeted by Carl and Sabena, and see that all the guests are wearing masks. Some beautiful, some ugly, but everyone’s identity is concealed for the time being. Gerald and Marianne get separated, and Carl, under the guise of Gerald, lures her upstairs, and locks her in a room. She quickly notices someone is resting in a bed. She sees that it’s Dr. Ravna, and he has blood seeping out from the corners of his mouth. Meanwhile, Sabena is getting Gerald drunk, and he eventually passes out. When he wakes, he’s tossed out of the house, and treated as if they didn’t even know him or ever heard of his wife!

Will Gerald ever see Marianne again? Can the mysterious Professor Zimmer help him in his fight against the hordes of vampires infesting this little village? Check out this flick to find out!

hammerhorrseries15

OK, here are my thoughts:

This film was supposedly going to be the third installment of the Dracula franchise, after “Brides” that continued in the same vein. It became a thing of its own, and in 1966, when Christopher Lee returned to the role of Dracula, did the franchise keep any continuity. Although this film didn’t keep in-line with the others, it did offer some solid performances by Edward De Souza, and Noel Willman. Not to be outdone, is Clifford Evans, and although he doesn’t have many speaking parts, he does add an air of creepiness to the film. He doesn’t even come close to Cushing as Van Helsing, but he does add to the quirky nature of the film. There’s a scene where Zimmer educates Gerald on evil, and vampires specifically, that is quite good.

The rest of the film is standard Hammer fair, in that you get incredible costumes, makeup, and sets. You might well recognize the home of Dr. Ravna, as the same as the one Noel Willman uses as his residence in “The Reptile,” another great off-beat Hammer film. The music score isn’t terribly great, but in the end, it doesn’t detract either. The final scene of this film is very wild, and was allegedly supposed to be the ending of “Brides of Dracula” but peter Cushing talked the crew out of using it, citing that it doesn’t go along with the beliefs of Van Helsing. I suppose he was right, and things worked out for the best, even though looking back, the ending of “Brides” is a little absurd as well.

If you find yourself able to get a view of this one, don’t hesitate. Not only for the reasons I already mentioned, but also for the beautiful ladies (like Isobel Black! – image below) that adorn the film!

kissvamp6

Click here for the trailer!

Cinema Sunday: The Evil of Frankenstein (1964)

evil_of_frankenstein_poster_05

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!

 

evilfrank1

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.

 

evilfrank2

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.

 

evilfrank3

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.

 

evilfrank4

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.”

 

evilfrank5

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!

 

eof001

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: Horror of Dracula (1958)

dracula_1958_poster 8

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).

dracula#1

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.

dracula#3

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.

dracula#2

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.

dracula#4

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.

dracula#5

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.

dracula#6

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.

dracula#7

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: Legend of the Werewolf (1975)

Legendofthewerewolf

 

Title: Legend of the Werewolf

Distributor: Tyburn Films

Writer: Anthony Hinds

Director: Freddie Francis

Producer: Kevin Francis

Starring: Peter Cushing, Ron Moody, Hugh Griffith, Roy Castle, David Rintoul, Michael Ripper

Released: April 1975 (France)

MPAA: R

 

He we are with another werewolf film, but hey, that’s never a bad thing! This little film is from a small studio that was kind of like a little brother of Hammer Studios. It never really got far off the ground, but they did produce a couple of films (last week’s “The Ghoul“) that I thought were worth mentioning. The company missed the boat so to speak with the horror genre slowing down considerably  by the mid-1970’s, but make no mistake, this one is worth watching! Let’s get on with the show!

 

As the opening credits roll a voice (Peter Cushing), tells a story of how some European families were forced out of their homes. As they journeyed through the woodlands, sometimes they were subject to attacks by wolves. A woman among the crowd bears a child, but shortly after she does, a pack of wolves attacks her and the baby’s father, killing them. Instead of eating the baby though, the wolves raise it as their own.

Fast forward a few years, and a traveling circus is rolling through the forest. They stop at a road sign, but then see a corpse hanging from a tree. It scares the helper ( a guy to do the heavy lifting), but the owner of the circus tells him to ignore the warning, and go look for some food. The man (Norman Mitchell) takes his rifle, and heads out into the forest. He sees a rabbit, and attempts to eye up his target. Just as he does, a small boy, running like an animal, grabs the rabbit, breaks its neck, and begins to eat the animal. The hunter gets mad that his super has been eaten, so he yells at the boy. The boy runs away, but before he gets too far, the hunter shoots him. He then carries the boy back to camp.

 

legendofthewerewolf1

Once they’re back at camp, the helper tosses the boy into a cell, and the owner (Hugh Griffith) decides to use him as the main attraction of the circus. This “wild boy”, is his only hope of making some money. The next day arrives, and the “show” must go on. The first act is a dog…that walks on its hind legs. The second act is a woman whose entire body is covered in tattoos. She looks to be about 75 years old…yeah. As the crowd gets restless, the circus owner creeps back behind the cage, and pokes the boy with a knife. This causes him to go wild, and try to tear the cage apart. He becomes the star attraction, but eventually grows up and becomes a normal young man. Thus his usefulness is gone.

One evening, some wolves are howling nearby the camp, and the head honcho orders the muscle to go out and shoot them before they make trouble. As he does this, Etoile (David Rintoul), who’s now grown up, begins to show signs of a condition. As the wolves howl louder, he gets hairier. We then see something prowling around, and we see through its glowing red eyes, it locates the goon with the gun. It savagely attacks him, killing him on  the spot. Etoile is horrified by the events, and quite confused, so he runs off.

 

legendofthewerewolf2

After a few days of running, Etoile finally comes upon a city. He walks into the local zoo, and befriends some of the animals, but especially the wolves. The man who runs the zoo (Ron Moody) sees the man has a way with animals, so he agrees to hire him to help out (room & board, but little pay). Etoile agrees to take the job, and starts right away. He shows some “ladies” around as they eat lunch. He eats with them and discusses his new job with them. He takes a liking to one of them named Christine (Lynn Dalby), and they laugh because Etoile isn’t aware that the zoo is right next to a brothel, where the girls “work’.

 

legendofthewerewolf4

Later, a few kids wander in to the zoo, and begin to throw rocks at the wolves. Etoile sees this, and savagely attacks them, but he’s able to control himself enough, that he doesn’t do any real harm. The zookeeper returns from his martini lunch, and tells Etoile that he did a good job. Switch scenes to the local coroners office and a man, Professor Paul (Peter Cushing), is examining a murder victim. He talks with a policeman, Max Gerard (Stefan Gryff), about this case. Later that very evening, Etoile, heads over to Christine’s place of employment, and asks to see her. The Madame (Majorie Yates), tells him to get lost, and he doesn’t understand. He does however hear Christine laughing above in her room. He climbs up to see what’s going on, and sees her entertaining a “client”, and gets so furious, that he begins to change into the wolf. He smashes through the window, and begins to throttle the older gent. The Madame bursts into the room, and hits him over the head, knocking him for a loop. It is now, that Etoile finds out that Christine is a hooker, and it breaks his heart.

 

legendofthewerewolf3

After a quick shouting match between the two of them, Etoile seems to be very upset with her, and almost enough to hurt her. He instead turns his anger on the locals, and begins a siege of murder that has everyone perplexed. Everyone except Professor Paul, and he believes a wolf is responsible for the murders, but even he begins to wonder if something more sinister is afoot!

I’ll stop here to not give away any spoilers, but rest assured that the body count rises, and Etoile eventually meets up with another movie legend…Michael Ripper (image above)!

 

legendofthewerewolf5

OK, here are my thoughts:

This film isn’t on par with Hammer Studios “Curse of the Werewolf“, but only because Oliver Reed was so strong in that one. Otherwise, this is a pretty good knock-off of that film. Cushing takes command when he appears, as he does in most films he’s in, and that’s something that puts the viewer at ease. You don’t feel as sorry for the wolf/man in this film like you do in “Curse” either, but that’s due to the murders being so bloody and of very high frequency. Of course, there are other inconsistencies and loop-holes with the story, but overall, it’s entertaining enough.

The special effects were above average, and gory (for that time). When the werewolf attacks his victims, you see close-ups of him biting the people, and tearing at their throats. Bloody mouths shots, and throats shots full of blood and torn flesh, are plentiful and add some good shock to the film. The sets are good, and definitely resemble a Hammer flick. The soundtrack needs some help, but does have a few good moments. The camera work is also decent, and is actually above average at some spots.

If you see this one floating around the interwebs or on T.V., give it a look. Let’s be honest, see it if for nothing else other than Peter Cushing and a gruesome werewolf. Those two things are always worth the time!

 

Watch the trailer here!

 

 

Cinema Sunday: The Ghoul (1975)

ghoul1

Title: The Ghoul (Night of the Ghoul – U.S.)

Distributor: Tyburn Films

Writer: Anthony Hinds

Director: Freddie Francis

Producer: Kevin Francis

Starring: Peter Cushing, Veronica Carlson, John Hurt, Don Henderson, Alexandra Bastedo

Released: May 1975

MPAA: R

 

After two of Hammer Film Studios psychological thrillers, I thought I’d switch gears a bit, and spotlight some of the films that Tyburn Studios added to the crowded horror movie scene of the 1970’s.  The first one I chose is called “The Ghoul“, and it stars Peter Cushing, and Veronica Carlson, two Hammer Studio staples from the previous decade.

This film was an interesting contrast to the earlier film by the same name (starring Boris Karloff and  Cedric Hardwicke, 1933). A bit low-budget, perhaps, but when you get Cushing, and Carlson in the same film, it can’t be all that terrible. Alright, enough nonsense, let’s get to the movie!

 

The film begins with some people having a party at a mansion (sometime in the Roaring ’20s). There’s a scene where a beautiful woman is making her way through a dark house, and being called out to. She enters a room upstairs, and finds a man with a hook through his neck, hanging and in his death throes (image below). The woman doesn’t scream, and then we’re shown that it was a game, and bets were made if the girl would scream or not.  One woman in particular stands out from the crowd. Her name is Daphne (Veronica Carlson), and she seems to have quite an attitude. She acts as if she’s interested in a man named Geoffrey (Ian McCulloch), and the two make a plan to drive to Lands End. Before they can leave, another man, Billy (Stewart Bevan), approaches them and asks where they are going. He also tells Geoffrey that his car is inferior to his, and Daphne knows a way to settle the dispute. She challenges Billy to a race, his car against Geoffrey’s. They race to Lands End, and whoever gets there first is the winner. They go back inside and tell the other guests that they’ll begin with the race as soon as all the champagne is gone.

 

ghoul2

Later, after everyone is good and drunk, Daphne decides she wants to go with Billy instead of Geoffrey, and another woman, Angela (Alexandra Bastedo), jumps into Geoffrey’s car, to go with him (there seems to be a bit of a rivalry between the two women). A man counts down, and the race is on. Daphne has not only orchestrated this entire ordeal, but also jumped in the driver’s seat of Billy’s car, and zooms down the road. Geoffrey is shocked at well she can drive a car, and at first he has trouble just keeping up with her. He eventually overtakes her, but his passenger, Angela, gets ill, and he must pull over. Daphne uses this opportunity to pass them out, and Billy is shocked that she didn’t stop to help them.

After a short while, Daphne runs into a thick fog bank, loses control of the car, and then pulls over, running out of gas. She urges Billy to take the spare container and go find some fuel so they can get going. After some bickering, he does leave with the can to look for some fuel, leaving Daphne alone. Suddenly, we see a hand stroking the fur coat that Daphne is wearing (while she naps), and as she wakes, the hand disappears. A man watches her from the forest, and she writes a note on the windshield for Billy, explaining that she didn’t want to keep waiting for him, so she wanders off on her own. She quickly runs into the man, Tom (John Hurt), who was watching her, but he tells her that there is no fuel anywhere near here, so she leaves. He follows her, and she finds a house with an old iron gate. He tells her that it’s abandoned, but she’s frightened of him, so she runs toward the house anyway. He grabs a rock, and bounces it off of her head, knocking her unconscious.

 

ghoul3

The next scene we see is that of a small cabin or room, and Daphne is on the floor, just waking up. She’s surprised by Tom, who’s watching her, creepy-style from a shadowy corner. He tells her that he had to do what he did, because he didn’t want her going up to the house. He tells her that something sinister is up there, but not exactly who or what. She doesn’t believe him, and tries to get by him. He pushes her down, and when she attempts it again, he pimp slaps her to the ground. She seems unfazed though, and gets up, knees him in the family jewels, and runs outside. He chases after her, but before either of them can do anything, a man pops out of nowhere. She explains to this man who another man attacked her. Dr. Lawrence (Peter Cushing), is this man, and he tells Daphne that she’d better come with him. She explains to him the circumstances of her situation, and he invites her to stay for a while, and rest. An Indian woman comes into the room, and she’s apparently the servant of Dr. Lawrence. He instructs Aya to get some tea, and to prepare a room for Daphne.

She falls asleep, and when she wakes up, she realizes poor Billy must still be lost on the moors. Dr. Lawrence tells her that he’ll tells his gardener (Tom), to investigate her friend’s whereabouts. Tom finds him back at the car sleeping, and murders him by pushing the car off the ledge with him in it! Tom laughs like an insane person, and steals something from pocket of the dead man. Back at the house, Aya enters the room, and tells Dr. Lawrence that Tom is back, and then Tom tells them that there was no sign of Billy, but there was a note. Dr. Lawrence reads the note and tells her that it says he went home. Daphne is more at ease then, and settles in as a guest. She begins to get quite chummy with Dr. Lawrence.

 

ghoul5

In the kitchen Aya is making lunch, and we can then hear some Phantom of the Opera style music coming from somewhere in the house. Daphne is drawn to it, and investigates. As she does, Dr. Lawrence is praying by an altar. Daphne walks in on him, and he invites her inside. They then dine together, and then Daphne goes to her room for some rest. As she rests, Aya is doing some sort of ritualistic ceremony, and Dr. Lawrence is playing his violin. Tom is hanging out in the garden, looking creepier than ever. As Daphne begins to awaken, Aya is still up to something, and she unlocks a door near the attic. We only see feet, but it’s implied something horrific came out, and is making its way down to Daphne’s room. We see this shape, enter her room, and stab her to death.

 

ghoul4

The next scene shows the kitchen, and it seems that Aya is going to cook Daphne for a meal. Tom watches in horror as Aya cuts the corpse to ribbons. Aya leaves the room, and Tom removes something from the body, and takes it back to his cabin. Then Aya takes some “food” to the resident in the attic to eat. The beast reaches out for the meal, and its hand is hideous. Meanwhile, Dr. Lawrence is weeping in his prayer room, but that doesn’t stop Aya from doing her prep work for more “meals”.

The following part shows Angela and Geoffrey, as they’ve been informed that the body of Billy has been found. The police show them the location of the car, but Geoffrey is unconvinced that this was an accident,and that Daphne was lost in the moors (quicksand?). Geoffrey then sets out on foot to try to find some answers. Angela waits in the car, and we see a familiar cycle ready to begin anew.

 

ghoul6

 

OK, here are my thoughts:

This is my first viewing of this film, and my initial thoughts are that I enjoyed it. Many feel the acting wasn’t up to snuff, but I disagree. Was it the best performance of Cushing’s career? Certainly not, but it’s far from bad acting. Seeing Veronica Carlson is this type of role was actually quite refreshing. She usually plays the woman in distress, and gets tossed around. She was actually very tough in this film, and could hold her own. Ian McCulloch was good too, and made a good hero. John Hurt played a good psycho, and really dialed up the creep factor.

The “ghoul” was just okay, with nothing extremely frightening about him. The Indian woman was pretty evil and scary though, and helped move things along nicely. There have been comparisons to Hammer Studios “The Reptile”, and rightly so, because that film and this one have similar plots. They both have a cult-type angle as well (snakes/zombies). Maybe that’s why I liked this film too, because I love The Reptile! Give this film a look and decide for yourself if it’s worthy!

 

 

Cinema Sunday: The Curse of the Werewolf (1961)

The-Curse-of-the-Werewolf-movie-poster

Title: The Curse of the Werewolf

Distributor: Hammer/ Universal

Writer: Anthony Hinds

Director: Terence Fisher

Producers: Michael Carreras, Anthony Hinds

Starring: Clifford Evans, Oliver Reed, Yvonne Romain, Michael Ripper

Release: June 7th, 1961

MPAA: UR

 

As I continue to cut a path of movie madness through the Hammer Studios catalog, there are still a few that stand out to me. One of them is definitely The Curse of the Werewolf. It’s the only Hammer werewolf movie to my knowledge, and why that is can’t be explained rationally to me considering how good this film portrays the monster. He’s a tortured soul (maybe even more so than Chaney), and really gets you to feel sorry for him by the end of the flick. So, without anymore interruptions, let us forge ahead with this classic!

The movie begins with a beggar (Richard Wordsworth- image below) making his way through a village. He notices that there is no one in the streets, and that the church bells are ringing. He knows that it’s not Sunday, so this is very puzzling to him. He asks the one passerby that he sees about this situation, and the man directs him to a poster hanging on the side of a building. Since the beggar cannot read, he keeps moving until he finds a pub. Once inside, the “gentlemen” that are drinking tell him that the local marques (nobleman) is getting married, and the reception is taking place at his castle. They instruct him to go there in search of food and money.

cursewerewolf1

The beggar makes his way to the castle, and inside we see the marques and his new bride. The marques (Anthony Dawson) is an evil and vicious man, and treats his servants like dirt. As the beggar knocks, a servant answers, and tells him to go away, but before he can leave, the marques tells him to come inside. He tells the beggar that he’ll give him food and wine if he’ll sing and dance for it. The beggar complies, and then after more of the shameless behavior from the marques, he intends to “retire” for the evening with his new bride (who appears to be half his age). On their way out, the beggar makes a snide remark, and the marques has him thrown into the dungeon. The only people he ever sees, are the jailer, and his mute daughter. Years pass, and the jailer dies off, but his daughter (Yvonne Romain), continues with the work load. One day, the girl is serving some food to the marques, and he attempts to assault her in his chambers. She bites his hand, and she is then thrown into the dungeon for her acts, with the beggar. The beggar then rapes her, but later, when she makes some commotion, and the guards take her back to the marques for a lesson. As he turns his back on her, she stabs him, and runs away.

Months later, after living in the forest, a man, Don Alfredo Corledo (Clifford Evans), sees the girl, and she’s on death’s door. He brings her back to his home, and his wife takes care of her, but they also find out that she’s a few months pregnant (from the rape). She eventually gives birth to a son, but dies shortly after delivery. Corledo and his wife then take the child as their own. As the baby is being baptized, the church rattles from a thunderstorm that’s raging outside. Corledo’s wife is very upset, and thinks this is a bad omen. Time passes, and in a nearby village, dead animals are being found with their throats torn out, and a wolf is blamed. The farmers have a hunter in their employ though, and he vows to kill the predator. He waits up one night, and hears a wolf howl. He sees something in the brush close by, and shoots.

cursewerewolf2

The next morning, Corledo and his wife are stunned to see that their little boy has been shot. The two of them are at a loss on how the boy got out of the house without them knowing about it, and, why he was shot. Corledo questions his son, and he learns that his son has had bad dreams lately. He notices that his arms and hands are hairy, and he gets a worried look on his face. Corledo talks to his local priest about his son’s issues, but gets little help. The priest does explain however that sometimes demons can gain entrance to a soul, if the person is weak (or young).

cursewerewolf3

At the local pub, a man (Michael Ripper), is going off about the full moon, and evil things being abroad during the night of a full moon. Corledo is next seen putting bars on the windows of his son’s room. The hunter is trying to figure out what to do, and then sees his wife’s crucifix on the wall. He then melts it down, and makes a bullet out of the slag. He now believes that it’s a werewolf doing these killings and that there is only one way to stop it from continuing. Again, he waits up for the beast, and is ready to shoot. He hears something close, and fires. As the gun goes off, we switch scenes to the Corledo home, and young Leon is struggling to pry open the bars and get out into the night (image below). Back outside, the hunter sees that he shot a dog, and believes it was responsible for the killings.

More years pass, and Leon (Oliver Reed) is now an adult, and leaving home for some work in another village. He seems to be cured, but there is an uneasy feeling from his surrogate parents. As he enters the town, a carriage splashes mud on him, but he seems to get over it quickly. A man then approaches him about work, and he gladly accepts. He’s shown a wine cellar, and then meets his workmate, Jose. The two bond quickly, and then one day, they hear a carriage approaching. They see a beautiful young woman (Catherine Feller), who’s the daughter of their boss. Within days, Cristina is running to the arms of Leon (after her boyfriend drops her off from their date), and the two kiss passionately.

cursewerewolf4

After a long work week, both young men decide to go out to a seedy pub at the edge of town. A couple of prostitutes are showing them both a good time at the bar, and then Leon begins to feel queasy. One of the hookers takes him upstairs to “lie down”, and we now see that it is a full moon outside. As the young lady begins to do her tricks, she quickly finds out that Leon is more than meets the eye. In the next scene, the woman is lying on the floor, eviscerated. Jose comes to find his friend, and gets throttled for his trouble. Before the night is over, there is one more killing, as a drunk leaves the pub, and gets jumped by the werewolf.

cursewerewolf5

The next morning, Leon awakens in his bed back at home. He’s covered in sweat and there is blood on his hands. His father sees the bars on the window have been broken. His parents and a priest attempt to tell him about his affliction, but he’s in denial. He runs off, and when he reaches the village, the police are waiting there for him, to question him about the murder of his workmate. He doesn’t give them anything to work off of, and they let him go. Later, Cristina visits his room, but Leon shouts at her to get away. She stays with him, and for some reason, his change doesn’t occur. He realizes this, but then her father intervenes, and keeps her away from him just as they are about to run away together. Leon is then imprisoned and under suspicion of murder.

cursewerewolf6

As the moon rises, Leon gets that funky feeling, and transforms into the hairy beast once again. He kills the guard, and goes on a rampage throughout the village. Leon’s father feels as if it’s his responsibility to stop his son, so he grabs his rifle, and heads over to the village. The two then have a showdown in a bell-tower, Quasimodo style! Two enter, only one leaves!

 

OK, here are my thoughts:

This is one of the best werewolf movies of all time. It ranks right up there with the Wolfman (1941), no joke. Oliver Reed is a superstar in this film, and really steals the show. He’s strong as Leon, and even more dramatic when he’s the werewolf. The supporting cast really doesn’t add too much though, and other than Yvonne Romain (who dies 1/3 of the way through the film), most aren’t that memorable. A love story that has tragedy in it is very Shakespearean, and a lot like the 1941 Universal film, but this version was more vicious, and more exciting.

Of course, the sets were incredible too, and are a staple with Hammer films. The music score was quite good too, and lent some atmosphere to the film. The running time of the movie is standard for its time, but it just felt too short. More screen time for the monster, and more mystery about who the real monster was would have been better. Overall, those few things are more a nitpick than anything, and should never discourage anyone from seeing this Hammer classic! After viewing this film again, it seems to me that if the female lead roles would’ve been reversed (Yvonne is the love interest, and Feller the mother), things mat have been quite different. Not trying to downplay Feller’s contributions, but Yvonne Romain was definitely a better actress.

Get out there and look for this movie. I’m sure it’s available online or grab the Hammer Horror Series DVD set, and be ready for a Hammer marathon! See you next week!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cinema Sunday: The Revenge of Frankenstein (1958)

revenge_of_frankenstein

Title: The Revenge of Frankenstein

Distributor: Columbia Pictures (Hammer Studios)

Writer: Jimmy Sangster

Director: Terence Fisher

Producer: Anthony Hinds

Starring: Peter Cushing, Francis Matthews, Eunice Gayson, Michael Gwynn, Michael Ripper

Released: June 1st, 1958

MPAA: UR

 

In what basically is a direct sequel to The Curse of Frankenstein, this film has a unique twist to the tale of the Frankenstein Monster. With the usual cast of characters, and production stalwarts, some consider The Revenge of Frankenstein to out-do the first film. I wouldn’t go that far, but it is a good film, and we’re going to dive head first into the plot in a moment. The film stars the incredible work of Peter Cushing, along with a solid performance by Francis Matthews. Now, let’s get down to business!

The film begins with good old Baron Frankenstein (Peter Cushing), as he’s being led to the guillotine for his crimes against nature. There’s a few people surrounding him; a priest, a guard, and a man who appears to be crippled. This crippled man and the Baron share a quick nod, and as the camera goes off scene, we here a struggle, then the guillotine does its job. That scene then cuts to a bar, where a woman is howling because she’s having a good time. The view turns to two men, getting drunk, and talking about a job. One of the men tells the other that it’s a simple job of snatching a body from the graveyard. The other man (Michael Ripper), doesn’t seem to trust him on the real ease of the job, but he needs the money for booze (I guess), so he agrees to come along for the job. As the two men dig up the body, they realize the grave is marked Baron Frankenstein. Inside the casket though, is the body of a priest! This scares the one man off, but the other one stays to finish the job. Before he can do anything more though, a shadowy figure creeps out of the bushes, and introduces himself as Baron Frankenstein. This gives the old guy a heart attack, and he dies right there on the spot.

Reveng_of_frankenstein#1

Three years later, a few gentlemen that belong to a “medical council” in Carlsbruck, are discussing a doctor in town that’s been stealing all of their patients. They agree that they’ll send a delegation to meet him and convince him to join their ranks. One of their number is Dr. Hans Kleve (Francis Matthews image above), and as they visit Dr. Stein (Peter Cushing), he recognizes him, but keeps quiet. After Dr. Stein refuses the medical council’s offer, Hans returns later that evening, and calls out the Baron on his true identity. Dr. Kleve then tells the Baron that he wants to learn under his guidance, and will keep quiet in exchange for knowledge. The Baron then takes him to his laboratory, and shows him his latest achievement. He shows Dr. Kleve a new body, constructed from “spare parts”, and tells him that it will be the new body for the crippled assistant, Karl (The Baron made a deal with Karl, that if he saved him from the guillotine, he’d grant him a new body).

Next, we see a young woman, Margaret, (Eunice Gayson) at the hospital for the poor (where the Baron gets his spare parts from), as she informs Dr. Kleve that she’ll be working at the hospital doing charitable work for the patients. Her father, who’s the minister of this town, would be trouble if “Dr. Stein” refused, so he allows her to stay. That night, the two doctors descend into the laboratory, to give Karl his new body. The surgery seems to be going well, but then suddenly, the body begins to twitch violently, and requires restraining. Karl’s brain now resides in the new body, and they take him to a secluded room at the hospital.

Revenge_of_frankenstein#2

Once there, the janitor (George Woodbridge- image below)) sees them transporting the body there, and he also eaves drops on them as they discuss Karl (Michael Gwynn) and his new body. Karl screams out in pain, and the janitor shudders in fear. The next day, as Dr. Kleve is watching Karl (who’s still strapped down), he tells him that Dr. Stein wants to show him off to other doctors around the world. Karl gets upset because “people have stared at him his whole life”. Dr. Kleve tells him not to worry, and leaves for the day. The janitor wants to impress Margaret (image below), so he tells her of the “special patient” in the room upstairs. She visits him, and he asks her to loosen his traps, because they’re hurting him. She thinks nothing of it, and loosens them. Karl then uses this chance to escape the hospital. He doesn’t want to be ogled by anyone and wants to live his own life.

Revenge_of_frankenstein#5

Later that night, the Baron and Dr. Kleve head over to the hospital to check on Karl, and find that he’s gone. Karl heads over to the laboratory, and attempts to dispose of his old body. He makes some noise, and the janitor that’s cleaning up hears him, and investigates. He attacks Karl, hitting him with a chair, then punching him several times. This causes brain damage to Karl’s recently operated on brain, and causes him to begin to revert back into his old self. He violently kills the man, then runs away crying. Dr. Kleve tells Dr. Stein that he told Karl about the big plans for him, and they realize that he couldn’t handle the news, and ran off. They immediately head over to the lab and discover the dead janitor, and also that he burned his old body in the furnace.

Revenge_of_frankenstein#3

The next day, Margaret is finishing up some horseback riding, and heads into the stables to check on the other horses. She discovers a traumatized Karl (image below), hiding in her stables. Margaret tells him that he can’t stay there, but she’ll find a way to help Karl out without telling Dr. Stein (Karl tells her that he’s afraid of him). She returns to the hospital and tells Dr. Kleve about Karl. Meanwhile, Karl begins to relapse into his crippled state, and runs off into the night. In a nearby park, a young woman and her boyfriend are talking, but she soon dulls of his words, and leaves for home. She barely makes it around the corner, and she’s attacked and killed by Karl. Dr. Stein and Dr. Kleve are on their way to Margaret’s home, when they are stopped by the police. They tell them that there’s been a murder, and they investigate, and realize it may have been Karl. They then go to a party at Margaret’s house and speak to her bout what happened with Karl. In the next moments, Karl bursts through the window, and shouts “Frankenstein, help me!”

Revenge_of_frankenstein#4

The following day, the medical council meets, and they decide that action must be taken to oust Dr. Stein. The hospital is empty as well, as word has gotten out about “Dr. Stein”, and his true lineage. Dr. Kleve is summoned by the medical council, and urges Dr. Stein to leave the country and they can start anew somewhere else. He refuses to leave and actually joins Dr. Kleve in the meeting with the medical council. Dr. Stein denies his real name, and the council goes to get proof. They dig up the grave, and find the priest’s body in the casket. As they are doing this, Dr. Stein is in the hospital for the poor, making his rounds. The janitor was apparently telling the patients of the rumors, and they savagely attack him.

I’ll stop here for now, and leave the ending a secret, but rest assured, the old Baron has a plan up his sleeve, and also Dr. Kleve to help him survive…or does he?

OK, here are my thoughts:

Although I like this film a lot for its interesting perspectives and plot, it doesn’t surpass the original. It lacks any real scare factor, unlike the first movie. Maybe this is due to Christopher Lee not being the “monster”, or maybe the lack of someone of strong principles opposing Baron Frankenstein. Either way, it’s still a good film, due to the roles played by Cushing and Matthews. Both are very good, and even the janitor, George Woodbridge, does a good job as a a secondary character.

The sets were quite good, as you’d expect from being filmed at Bray Studios. The music is average, but that can probably be attributed to the absence of James Bernard. The colors didn’t seem as vibrant in this second film either. If that’s just to the copy I have, or just fact, I’m not quite sure. Oscar Quitak (Karl, before the operation), was also very creepy in the movie, even though he was only around for the first third of the film. The brief appearance of Hammer faithful Michael Ripper definitely puts me at ease. His mere presence in any Hammer production automatically elevates it no matter what the quality is of the film. Definitely check this one out if you haven’t seen it before. It’s worth a watch and owning if you’re a Hammer fan.