Gold Key comics – Boris Karloff Tales of Mystery and Dark Shadows

Everybody knows about the “big two” in comics, plus hardcore horror comics like EC comics titles, but there were others and one of them was Gold Key Comics. Western Publishing company produced children’s books for a long time then threw their hat into the ring of comics in 1962. They had some original series but were more famous for their licensed properties, such as Buck Rogers, Disney characters like Donald Duck, Bugs Bunny, Popeye, etc. Two more of those titles being Dark Shadows and Boris Karloff Tales of Mystery.

Both series had some very bizarre issues (especially Boris Karloff), but they always had great covers, usually the painted variety. The interiors sported artwork from some of the creators from the Golden Age right on up to the young blood of the Bronze Age. This mix of creative juices always had interesting results, and definitely gave older fans and younger ones something to look forward to.

Credits include (for Boris Karloff 39 & 41)- Len Wein, Joe Certa, John Celardo, Win Mortimer, Jack Sparling, Giorgio Cambiotti, Oscar Novelle, Luis Dominguez, and a few more that are uncredited. Dark Shadows (9) – painted cover by George Wilson, interior art by Joe Certa, written by D. J. Arneson, and letters by John Duffy.

 

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Cinema Sunday: The Ape (1940)

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Title: The Ape

Distributor: Monogram Pictures

Writers: Richard Carroll, Kurt Siodmak

Director: William Nigh

Producer: William Nigh, William Lackey

Starring: Boris Karloff, Maris Wrixon, Gertrude W. Hoffmann

Released: Septmeber 1940

MPAA: Approved

 

The list of films I’d like to watch and review is about ten miles long. That’s OK though, as I’m only half way shot. Speaking of getting shot, Boris Karloff has been shot, stabbed, electrocuted, etc., more times than I can count. He’s really been in every situation you can imagine in his films, and he always looks brilliant doing it. Who else could star in a film called “The Ape” and sell tickets? No, this isn’t the most cerebral film you’re ever going to see, but Karloff can take any film and make it rise above an inferior script, cast, whatever. He was that great. OK, on with the film…

 

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The circus is in town! Of course everyone is excited, and the kids are jacked up to see the ferocious beasts. They sneak over to the “crazy doctor’s” house for some mischief. Over inside the town drug store, the townspeople are discussing this same doctor. They feel as if this doctor is using people and not healing them. Nobody seems to have the courage to do anything about it though. Just then, the doctor comes in, and everyone clams up. He then sees the druggist for some meds he needs. The two men retreat to another room for privacy, and the druggist tells him the townspeople are getting inquisitive about his motives.

 

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Later, Dr. Bernard Adrian (Boris Karloff) visits a patient of his named Miss Frances Clifford (Maris Wrixon). She’s wheelchair bound, and reminds him very much of his daughter, who passed away years ago. He buys her gifts to show his affection for her, but he also experiments on animals to try to find a cure for her affliction. He promises her she’ll walk again, and she tells him she’s scared when he talks so crazy. Her boyfriend Danny (Gene O’Donnell) shows up, and the doctor tells him that they’ll take Frances to the circus tonight.

 

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Later that night, the town is bustling as opening night is here. Dr. Adrian bows out from the trip though, and Danny and Frances go alone. Meanwhile, that same group of kids are sneaking to the front of the crowd. They remark at how big the gorilla is and that he’s the size “of six men.” Danny and Frances are having a good time, but back at the Doctor’s lab, we see him experimenting on a dog. The circus ends, and Danny and Frances head out. After everyone leaves, one of the employees is checking to make sure everything is as it should be. Over at the gorilla cage, an employee taunts the beast, and it begins to get wild. The owner comes by and reprimands him, but after he leaves the gorilla grabs the man and almost kills him. A cigar dropped by the man starts a fire, and they release the animals so they don’t get killed. The gorilla escapes in the confusion.

 

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Over at the doctor’s office, the circus men bring the man in that was almost killed by the ape. The doctor agrees to help the man, who’s clearly delusional. At this moment, the doc gets a sinister look in his eyes. We then get the impression that he’s going to use him as a guinea pig for his experiments on how to cure Frances. Meanwhile, the circus and townspeople are searching for the beast. Dr. Adrian visits Frances to encourage her that he’s found a way to cure her paralysis. He tells her it will be painful, but it will be a miracle. The following day, Frances actually has feeling in her legs after never having that sensation before.

 

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That evening, the doctor gets a surprise visit…from the ape! He bursts through the Doc’s window, and attacks him. The doctor quickly grabs a flask and tosses the liquid into the ape’s eyes. It blinds him and then the doctor kills the beast with a knife!

 

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I’m going to stop here because the thing that puts the film in a completely different direction begins here (plus the movie is public domain, so you can watch it for free anytime!).

 

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Here are my thoughts:

As I stated in the beginning, this film won’t win any awards for its script but the acting of Karloff brings the film to a good level. His interactions with Maris Wrixon (image above) are very good, and you really believe he’s a doctor trying to do everything he can to help her walk again. Of course his methods are unethical, but his heart is in the right place. Miss Wrixon is absolutely stunning and plays the part of the invalid very well.

The supporting cast isn’t too exciting, but they manage to keep the film rolling along. The sets are standard fare and don’t add or subtract from the film. The film is all about the oral dilemma Karloff’s character is in, and the sad turn it takes eventually. As i said, the film is public domain so get out there to Youtube or wherever and give it a screening. Any fan of Karloff or quirky B movies will enjoy it.

 

Click here for the trailer!

 

 

Cinema Sunday: The Black Cat (1934)

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Title: The Black Cat

Distributor: Universal Pictures

Writers: Edgar G. Ulmer, Peter Ruric

Director: Edgar G. Ulmer

Producer: E. M. Asher

Starring: Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, David Manners, Julie Bishop (Jacqueline Wells), Lucille Lund

Released: May, 1934

MPAA: Approved

 

Welcome, fiends! Here we are on the cusp of Halloween, and I’ve selected another film starring the great Boris Karloff! Not only that, but we also get none other than Bela Lugosi as well! Without giving too much away, this film has both men as former friends, but those days are over (at least for one of them). Universal paired these two giants together for a few films over the years, and this one is right there at the top for me! Alright, let’s travel back in time to 1934!

 

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The film begins at a busy train station, where Peter and Joan Allison (David Manners and Julie Bishop) are getting cozy after getting aboard their train and into its compartment. These two honeymooners are settled in when a baggage man tells them that there’s been a mistake, and the compartment was double booked. After some deep sighs, they agree to let the man share with them for the ride. Enter Dr. Vitus Werdegast (Bela Lugosi). He tells the couple that he’s going to Hungary as well, to visit this old friend. He also tells them that he spent fifteen years in a Siberian prison after being captured during the war.

 

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After arriving at the train station, they all get on a bus to reach their destination. The bus driver tells the occupants about the atrocities that went on in this area during the war, and of someone who built a house nearby…suddenly, the bus veers off the road, and plummets down an embankment. The driver is dead, and Joan is unconscious, with a bad wound. They walk on foot to a nearby home, and the doorman answers and lets them in, with slight reluctance. After the doorman calls on a radio, we see a figure rise out of bed (with a beautiful blonde woman next to him sleeping). Dr. Werdegast then administers first aid to Joan, and as he’s finishing up, the door swings open, and  Hjalmar Poelzig (Boris Karloff) walks into the room.

 

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Later, Werdegast accuses Poelzig of betraying the Hungarians to the Russians. Poelzig sits silently and listens to Werdegast talk about his theories on what went down years ago. Eventually he brings up his wife, and how he knows that Poelzig told her that he was dead, in order to steal her away. As the two seem to be ready to come to blows, Peter walks in and they calm down. As they’re all having a drink together, a black cat walks into the room and frightens Werdegast. He picks up a letter opener, and hurls it like a dagger, killing the cat. At that moment, Joan walks into the room in a zombie-like state. She talks briefly, but then Peter takes her back to her room.

 

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In the middle of the night, we see Poelzig, as he’s creeping around the house. He then stops at a glass case, and its contents are not china or crystal, but the corpse of a woman, then proceeds to look at a few more he has standing around. We also see that he has another black cat to keep him company. He then enters the room where Werdegast is sleeping, but quickly finds out that he’s switched rooms with Peter so he could be in the adjoining room with his wife. The two then go to the other room and Poelzig agrees to show Werdegast his wife. He takes him to the basement where he shows him his wife, as she’s been preserved. Werdegast blames him for her death (he also tells him that their daughter is dead too), and pulls a gun out and tells Poelzig he’s going to kill him now. Suddenly, the black cat creeps in, and scares the crap out of Werdegast. He drops the gun, and falls into a glass case. Poelzig tells him that they’ll have time to settle things after the other guests have left.

 

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As Poelzig returns to his room, we see a beautiful blond woman again, and he calls her Karen (the daughter of Werdegast, Lucille Lund). He tells her to stay in her room all day tomorrow, so as not to arouse Werdegast. We also see him reading a book on satanic cults and such. The following morning, Werdegast is getting ready to check on Joan, and Poelzig comes in, and stares at her eerily. Werdegast knows that his look has something sinister behind it, and wants to stop him, whatever the cost.

 

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I’ll stop here, because going any further would ruin the film’s ending and grandiose show!

 

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OK, here are my thoughts:

This film is the culmination of the non-monster horror/thrillers of this decade. You cannot find a film with more atmosphere, or better performances from these two giants. Karloff is simply evil in this film, but Lugosi is as well, although he’s driven by revenge, not from a devilish perspective. There is also a ton of great music in this film, and not just at parts but from beginning to end.

The content of this film is more than edgy for its time. How many movies in 1934 were showing (in shadow) someone being skinned alive? There were other elements too, like the satanic cult angle, the dead woman being kept “fresh.” Other elements as well, but I’ll leave it at that.

This film is a “must see” for any horror fan, or the team of Lugosi and Karloff. Both men shaped this genre and forever left a stamp on the industry with very few other actors in their company. Get this film on DVD or BluRay immediately.

 

Click here for the trailer!

 

 

 

Cinema Sunday: Black Sabbath (1963)

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Title: Black Sabbath (The Three Faces of Fear)

Distributor: Warner Bros./AIP

Writers: Mario Bava, Alberto Bevilacqua, Marcello Fondato

Director: Mario Bava

Producer: Salvatore Billitteri, Paolo Mercuri

Starring: Boris Karloff, Mark Damon, Michele Mercier, Susy Andersen, Lidia Alfonsi

Released: August/November 1963 (Italy/France)

MPAA: UR

 

 

As October arrives, so does another movie review! To say that I’m obsessed with Boris Karloff films at the moment would be an enormous understatement. Upon watching this film for the first time a few weeks back, I was in awe because this anthology film is introduced and concluded with Karloff himself revving up the audience for the horror they are about to encounter (and possibly see outside of the theater!), plus he stars in one segment as well! I must confess that I’m not a big fan of anthology (or portmanteau, if you prefer) films. But there are a select few that I do enjoy (Amicus Productions, of course), and this film is probably at the top of that short list.

Let us now journey into the mind of Mario Bava

 

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The first tale (“The Drop of Water”) begins with a woman (Jacqueline Pierreux) answering a phone. There’s a wicked storm rolling through, setting an incredibly eerie mood. The woman on the other end of the phone is calling to ask for help with a dead body that needs to be dressed. The woman is apparently a nurse (or an assistant), and is quite put off by the request at such a late hour. She does agree to come over though.

 

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The door is answered by a pale looking servant, who seems frantic. She explains to the woman who the dead woman was a medium, and very mysterious. And also that if anyone should try to desecrate the home or her corpse, they’ll be cursed! The woman enters the bedroom where the dead woman is lying. She immediately sees the hideous face of the medium, but then her eyes shift to a huge ring on the corpse’s finger that looks valuable. She’s immediately bothered by a fly, and it seems no matter what she does, it won’t stop harassing her. She then returns home, but begins to see things that cannot be explained. As the night goes on, her chances of living through the curse diminish.

 

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The second installment “The Telephone,” shows a beautiful young woman (Michèle Mercier) (in the Italian version, she’s a prostitute, but the American version doesn’t mention it at all), returning to her apartment for the evening. She receives two phone calls where the caller simply hangs up on her. The third time though a voice calls her by name, and tells her how beautiful she is, and that he’s watching her. He claims that she knows him but acts as if she doesn’t. The calls continue and get more explicit with each one. Rosy eventually finds out that the voice on the phone is Frank (Milo Quesada)(in the foreign version, Frank is her former pimp that she testified against and he went to prison-in the American version it’s ambiguous, and you get the impression Frank is a former lover perhaps, and he’s supposed to be dead).

 

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Rosy then calls her friend, Mary (Lydia Alfonsi), and asks her to come over because she’s frightened. Mary does come over, and believes that Rosy has gone off the deep end. After they talk, Mary provides Rosy with a knife for protection. After they have tea, Mary tells her that she slipped her a sedative to help her sleep. Later that night, an intruder breaks into the apartment and attempts to murder both women.

 

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Finally, we “The Wurdalak (a Russian term for vampire).” In 19th century Russia, we see Count D’Urfe (Mark Damon), riding through the countryside. He comes upon a horse with a man slumped over it, and a knife in his back. Upon chasing down the horse, he sees that the man also has been decapitated. He pulls the knife from the dead man’s back, and finds the nearest residence. He enters and is greeted harshly by Giorgio (Glauco Onorato), who claims that the blade belongs to his father. The Count takes Giorgio outside to explain things, and then another man, Pietro (his younger brother), appears and plunges a sword into the corpse. They tell the Count that they’ve been waiting for the return of their father as he’s been gone for a few days, trying to fight the wurdalak. They offer him shelter for the night, and he accepts.

 

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The Count was given a warning though, and he didn’t understand it. He then asks Sdenka (Susy Andersen), what the warning was all about. She explains the terror of the wurdalak, and how her father told them that if he didn’t return by 10pm on the fifth day of his leaving, they were not to let him in the house and should drive a lance through his heart. Around midnight, Gorca (Boris Karloff) returns. The family is wary but he does look normal…at first. He refuses food, talks about being very cold, etc. Before the night is over, Gorca will reveal his true colors.

 

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OK, here are my thoughts:

 

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As I stated earlier, I’m not a huge fan of anthology films. This one is pretty awesome though, and Karloff has a lot to do with that fact. Just his segments before and after each tale are cool, but his presence in one of the tales is the icing on the cake. Quite honestly though, that tale was the one I felt went on a bit too long compared to the others. All three are solid though, and have good acting, sets, and musical score (Roberto Nicolosi).

Mario Bava is one of the most influential directors/writers of the century without question. Even in films with too many hands in the pot (like this one), his vision rises above the other noise, and generates something unique. I’ve only seen a few of his films, but the man had a knack for using low budgets to bring forth astounding horror films.

Look this one up if you haven’t seen it yet. The dubbed version is a little rough but definitely watchable, but if you can find the original version, definitely go that route. Oh, and did I mention Michèle Mercier (above and below) is in this film…

 

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Click here for the trailer!

 

 

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

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Title: Die, Monster, Die!

Distributor: American International Pictures

Writer: Jerry Sohl

Director: Daniel Haller

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

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

Released: October 1965

MPAA: Approved

 

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

OK, here are my thoughts:

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

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

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

 

Click here for the trailer!

 

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Cinema Sunday: The Devil Commands (1941)

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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

 

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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!

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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!

 

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Cinema Sunday: The Terror (1963)

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Title: The Terror

Distributor: AIP

Writer: Leo Gordon and Jack Hill

Director: Roger Corman

Producer: Roger Corman

Starring: Boris Karloff, Jack Nicholson, Sandra Knight, Dick Miller

Released: June 17th, 1963

MPAA: PG

 

With the scary day approaching later this month, I thought it best to showcase a movie starring one of the industries all-time greats. Boris Karloff is certainly recognized for his roles as the Frankenstein Monster, and the Mummy. But honestly, that’s just the tip of the iceberg for Mr. Karloff (William Henry Pratt). Karloff starred in many other horror films, and certainly the films with director Roger Corman must be mentioned!

Speaking of Corman films, today’s post is about the 1963 film “The Terror,” and it comes as no surprise that not only did Corman get a legend like Karloff for this film, but also a young man named Jack Nicholson! Another horror film staple, Dick Miller is in this one, and he collaborated with Corman before as well. Alright, let’s get down to this one!

 

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As the film opens, we see an old castle, being besieged by a thunder-storm. Inside, an old man, Baron von Leppe (Boris Karloff), is trudging through the halls. He suddenly sees blood drops leaving a trail. He follows the trail, and winds up finding a cadaver hiding behind a curtain. Cue the opening credits, then we watch as a soldier on a horse, Andre Duvalier  (Jack Nicholson) is very weary, and falls off of the horse, to the ground. He struggles to get o his feet, but then sees a beautiful woman nearby. A man is watching him from the top of the hill, but we cannot see who it is yet. As Andre nears the woman, she runs off, but then points him in the direction of some water. He tells her that he was lost from the regiment he was in, and that he doesn’t know where he’s located. The woman listens to his story, and tells him that her name is Helene (Sandra Knight). The two walk through the woods, and then the girl suddenly walks into the ocean and disappears. Andre goes after her, but almost drowns after being attacked by a hawk.

 

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Andre then wakes up in the home of some old hag (Dorothy Neumann). He asks the hag where Helene is, but the hag doesn’t know what he’s talking about. Andre wakes in the night, and heads outside. He notices someone down by the river, and once again, sees Helene. She strokes his face, then hugs him. The next thing you know she’s making out with him, but then abruptly walks away. He chases after her (who wouldn’t?), but gets stopped by the old hag’s servant, Gustaf. He tells Andre that there is danger near, and shows him that there is quicksand all around. Gustaf tells Andre that the woman is possessed, and that he can go to the nearby castle to help her.

The old woman begs him not to seek out the castle, and if he must, to at least not tell the Baron she is living nearby. He rides his horse for a while, but eventually reaches the castle. He spies the young woman, but she rebuffs his attempts. he then pounds on the door, demanding to be let inside. The Baron answers, and is hesitant to let him in, but does agree to his demand. The two engage in some small talk, and then the Baron calls his man-servant, Stefan (Dick Miller), and tells him to get them some Cognac. Andre asks where the girl is, and the Baron tells him that no girl lives at the castle. He shows him a portrait of the woman, and tells him that she was his wife, and, that she’s been dead for twenty years.

 

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Later that night, something is trying to break into the barn, and the horses are going wild. Andre is looks out to see what’s going on, and once again sees the young woman. He yells to her, but she ignores him, and walks away. He then hears some kind of wailing outside of his room, and grabs a gun for protection. The door is locked, and he demands that it be opened or he’ll shoot through it at whoever is outside. It unlocks, but when he opens the door, no one is there in the hallway. He quickly searches the castle, thinking someone must be near, but finds no one. He then heads to another area of the castle, and sees the memorial for the Baron’s dead wife. As he heads back towards his room, he hears a noise that startles him. He opens the door, and jumps back, because he thinks he sees the young woman. Inside his room, he finds a picture of the woman, and wonders what is going on in this castle.

The next morning, the Baron tells Stefan that they must get Andre to leave, but without any shenanigans. Andre confronts Stefan, but when he gets no answers, he then goes to the Baron. After some verbal jousting, the Baron consents and tells Andre that his wife was a peasant girl from the village below. He left one day for a war, and then later returned home, unannounced. He found his wife with another man, so he killed her. He then tells him that Stefan killed her lover. He also admits that there is a spirit torturing him, and he thinks it’s the spirit of his dead wife. Andre is skeptical, but then the Baron asks if Andre thinks he’s mad. Andre replies that he doesn’t know what to think yet. The Baron tells him that since he has seen the woman also, maybe they’re both mad. And he says it with a smile.

 

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The following day, we see Gustaf, and he’s watching Ilsa standing by the sea. Gustaf tells the woman to go back to the sea, but she refuses, and tells Gustaf that the old woman commands her, and she’ll not relent until she tells her to. Ilsa also give Gustaf a warning to not interfere, or else the old woman won’t keep looking the other way. Speaking of the old woman, she’s back at her house, preparing a potion, and using  black magic on Ilsa. A man watches from the window, take sit all in. The man is Stefan, ans he comes inside, and threatens to kill her if she doesn’t leave by tomorrow night. Stefan returns to the castle, and tells the Baron that they should kill Andre. The Baron forbids it, and Stefan gets angry.

 

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Andre then begins to explore more of the castle, searching for Ilsa/Helene. He finds a room (possibly Stefan’s?), and begins to look for clues. He finds a pistol, and checks it out, but then turns his attention to the rest of the room. He then hears a door lock, and attempts to open it with no success. A voice then calls out to him, and he tries the door again, and it opens. As he looks for the woman, we see the Baron is nearby, and something is amiss. He hears a conversation, and bursts into the Baron’s room. No one is there beside the Baron. Stefan returns from the village with a horse for Andre, and he then asks him “who Eric is.” Stefan explains that he was Ilsa’s lover that he killed years ago. Meanwhile, out by the coastline, Gustaf is trying to help Andre, but that crazy hawk returns, and pecks his eyes out (image above)! he then tumbles down the cliff to his death. Andre tries to help, but Gustaf only has one gasp left in him, and he tells Andre to go back to the castle to help the woman.

 

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He does return, and find the girl, and we get another make-out scene ( no woman can resist 1960’s Jack!). Her plunging neckline nightie is enough to keep his attention, and she tells him that she cannot leave the castle until the crypt is destroyed. He begs her to come away with him, but she refuses out of fear. Cue another make-out scene, and they both declare their love for the other. As Andre tells her to wait there for him to return, he walks away, but when he looks back, she’s gone again. He enters the castle, and the Baron, unaware that he’s back, opens the same gate from the beginning of the movie. He then opens a secret passageway to another room, and Andre follows him. The Baron heads down into the basement, creeping further and further into the bowels, until he reaches the crypt. he talks to the coffin, and tells Ilsa that they’ll soon be together, because Stefan is going to flood the crypt and kill him. A voice cries out to him, and tells him that he must do something. Just then, Andre bursts into the room, and calls out to the woman. The Baron struggles to stop him, and faints from the excitement.

 

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Andre and Stefan head to the chapel, and then try to open the vault. It’s rusted shut, and they cannot open it. On their way to get a crowbar, they notice a light in the window of the former baroness’s window. They investigate, but have to break down the door to get in. Stefan warns Andre that the Baron won’t be happy about this, and just as they enter, the Baron shouts at them from behind. He’s got his pistol, and he orders Stefan to escort Andre out of the castle, and if he resists, to shoot him. His former wife shows up, and tells him to commit suicide. She tells him that they can be together again if he will. On the way out of the castle, Andre jumps Stefan, and knocks him unconscious.

I’ll stop here because to go further would be insanity!

OK, here are my thoughts:

Listen, for all those detractors out there, I get the criticisms about this movie. I cannot deny that the movie is sluggish, and doesn’t have the best acting, or sets, or special effects, or…OK, listen, Boris Karloff does a great job playing an old loony guy in a castle. There is a neat little twist at the end, and it will surprise anyone that watches this flick. It’s a total reversal of what is initially shown. The only problem I have is that there isn’t a true “villain” in the movie, or lost causes. Well, I guess the old hag is pretty much a villain, but she has motives beyond simple avarice or blood-lust.

The sets weren’t the best, but the old castle was pretty cool. It looked like something from a Tyburn or Amicus flick. You know, not quite Hammer but decent, nonetheless. The music score was actually pretty good, and we have Ronald Stein and Les Baxter to thank for that. Dick Miller plays a good henchman, and really adds just a bit of flavor to the film. Anybody that knows Corman, will be able to take into consideration that the guy made films for basically no budget, and reused everything including the kitchen sink. When you factor that in, you have to at least appreciate the film on those grounds. Nicholson was OK, but watching this movie now, after seeing many of his other films, I just can’t get into his character. He just isn’t very convincing.

Definitely give a click on the link below, because the film is public domain. Decide for yourself if it’s any good, but remember, Corman probably made this film for $50, and a few favors, so give the guy a break, huh?

 

Click here to watch the movie!