Cinema Sunday: Top Ten Hammer Films!

Lets cut to the chase, I’m a Hammer studios addict, and that being said, we all know they’re the greatest studio to produce horror films that ever was, is, and will be. With stars like Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, Barbara Shelley, Veronica Carlson, then adding great character actors like Michael Ripper, Oliver Reed, Andrew Keir, Andre Morell, etc., and under the direction of Terence Fisher, John Gilling, Anthony Hinds, and Jimmy Sangster, their films have no competition (overall in the broad sense).

Obviously an argument could be made for Universal, but I tend to look at it as Universal being the foundation and Hammer being the house. Yes, you do need a solid foundation but no one looking to be a home owner is excited about stone and mortar. When is the last time a party-goer entered a house and complimented the owner on the cinder blocks? Important, yes. The best part, I think not.

So, with all that being said, here are my top ten Hammer Studio films! Keep in mind, just straight up horror films here for the most part! Enjoy!

 

10. Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed (1969)

  • This film isn’t perfect by any means, and the rape scene is absolutely ludicrous (Dr. Frankenstein would never commit that act). But when there is action a-plenty, gruesome murders, and one scene of dialogue in particular that sums up the good doctor perfectly. Cushing is on top of his game for sure in this film, as usual. Oh, and the gorgeous (and most beautiful Hammer girl in my humble opinion) Veronica Carlson is in this film.

9. The Abominable Snowman of the Himalayas (1957)

  • A Hammer film about a Yeti? Yes! This black and white gem is nothing short of incredible. It’s not because a Yeti invades an encampment and starts tearing people’s limbs off, then beating them over the head with them (although that would be cool), it’s because the film builds tension and the suspense is great. Think John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982). Yes, in that film there are plenty of gruesome moments, but its the suspense he builds that makes the film outstanding.

8. The Reptile (1966)

  • 1966 was a great year for Hammer studios. Five films and four of them were very solid films. This one in particular is a favorite of mine because of Jacqueline Pearce. She portrays a young woman who is seemingly kept prisoner by her own father. We later find out why he’s so overbearing. Her performance is quite good along with a larger than usual role for Hammer stalwart, Michael Ripper. Anytime he gets more screen time, the film is better for it! Good sets and atmosphere in this flick.

7. Dracula: Prince of Darkness (1966)

  • Not wanting to be typecast, Christopher Lee bowed out of playing Dracula after Hammer’s first film starring the count (more on that one later). The franchise did suffer without him briefly, but he returned to the role that put him on the map a few years later in this film. With no dialogue (Lee has his version why and so does Jimmy Sangster (the writer) about why), Lee manages to be extremely menacing and cements himself as the best Dracula ever.

6. The Plague of the Zombies (1966)

  • In this movie, André Morell shows us just how good he can be in a horror film. Not only is he the “hero,” but also a concerned, loving father, a friend, a smartypants, and a gentleman, all at once. throw in another appearance by the lovely Jacqueline Pearce, along with Diane Clare, John Carson (a great lout in this one!), and once again, Michael Ripper! Great atmospherics, music (James Bernard), and sets in this one.

5. The Gorgon (1964)

  • This one is based on a classic Greek myth of old and stars Cushing, Lee, Shelley, and had Terence Fisher directing, and John Gilling writing. The gang’s all here for this one, and it really does put on quite a show. An insane asylum, a corrupt town hiding a secret, Cushing in more of a heel role with Lee more of the hero along with a fine performance by Richard Pasco. This is a film that can be watched every so often and never get tiresome. Another film with a noteworthy musical score as well as excellent sets.

4. (Horror of) Dracula (1958)

  • The first Dracula film by Hammer, and it’s still probably the best Cushing/Lee team up of all time. Cushing is an excellent Dr. Van Helsing, and Lee was born to wear the fangs and hiss at audiences with blood dripping from his lips. Michael Gough is also on top of his game here with George Woodbridge in a small role as he had in multiple Hammer films. Never miss an opportunity to see this film.

3. The Mummy (1959)

  • Hammer really went away from the original 1932 film (Boris Karloff), borrowing elements from other films and adding in their own ingredients, and mixing it all together. This film is definitely in Peter Cushing’s top five performances of all time. He really commands the scenes and shows why he, along with Lee are the faces of Hammer films. Very good sets, and the action scenes are tremendous.

2. The Hound of the Baskervilles (1959)

  • Another film with the dual threat of Cushing and Lee, we also get André Morell as well! In this adaptation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous novel, we see Cushing (Sherlock Homes) and André Morell (Dr. Watson), play off of each other wonderfully. Throw in a solid performance by Christopher Lee, an incredible score by James Bernard, all under the watchful eye of director Terence Fisher, and you get one of Hammer’s best films no matter what genre you compare it to!

And the number one film is…

 

The Curse of Frankenstein (1957)

  • In this first horror film collaboration between Cushing and Lee, you can see the teamwork and power these two have together. Cushing is perfect for his role as the morally ambiguous doctor, as is Lee in his depiction of the unfortunate creature. Good performances by Robert Urquhart, Hazel Court, and Valerie Gaunt, add to the great gift this film truly is for film addicts. The beginning of the film, the flashback that dovetails around right back to the beginning/end is marvelous in every sense that a film can be. This is the one that started it all (the great horror run for Hammer)!

Honorable mention for films that didn’t quite make the cut (pardon the pun)!

Brides of Dracula (1961)

Dracula Has Risen from the Grave (1968)

The Curse of the Werewolf (1961)

Frankenstein Created Woman (1967)

 

 

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Cinema Sunday: The City of The Dead (A.K.A. Horror Hotel – 1960)

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Title: The City of The Dead (U.S. Title- Horror Hotel)

Distributor: British Lion

Writer: George Baxt (screenplay), Milton Subotsky (story)

Director: John Moxey

Producers: Seymour S. Dorner, Milton Subotsky, Max Rosenberg, Donald Taylor

Starring: Christopher Lee, Dennis Lotis, Venetia Stevenson, Betta St. John, Patricia Jessel

Released: Sept. 1960 (U.K.)

MPAA: PG-13

 

It has been a couple of months since I spotlighted a film starring the late, great Christopher Lee. His contributions to the industry are nothing short of legendary, and rightly so. This week I’m going to showcase a lesser-known film that stars Sir Christopher, called “The City of the Dead!” With the two men responsible for the creation of Amicus Studios at the helm (Subotsky and Rosenberg), this film is impressive because of its atmospherics, and some solid acting.

In 1960, the age of Hammer Studios was just starting to blossom (Cushing and Lee were just beginning their conquering stride through the medium), and everyone else was scrambling to catch up. Most other companies (as a whole) never caught up, but some did produce some very good films that live on! Anytime you mix witches, Christopher Lee, and Massachusetts together, you know you’ve got a winner! Alright, and away we go…

 

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The film begins with a witch, Elizabeth Selwyn (Patricia Jessel) being burned at the stake for her unholy actions. One man in the crowd (Puritans?), Jethrow Keane (Valentine Dyall), seems to have a connection to her, and calls out to the devil to help her. It doesn’t seem to help much though, and she’s apparently toast. Fast forward to modern times, and Professor Alan Driscoll (Christopher Lee), is lecturing some students about these very matters. One student in particular, Nan Barlow (Venetia Stevenson), is very receptive to the subject. Her boyfriend, Bill Maitland (Tom Naylor), thinks it’s a bunch of nonsense, and this angers Driscoll.

 

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Nan then asks Driscoll if he knows of any place where she can visit to help with her term paper on the subject. Driscoll suggests she stay in his ancestral town of Whitewood, Massachusetts, where she can get a first hand look and get some real perspective. Her boyfriend, Bill, isn’t too happy about this, but lets her go without much trouble. Just then, Nan’s brother, a professor of science at the same school walks in, and has a go with Driscoll about witchcraft. We see that although Driscoll may look like a wuss, he has a temper, and also a sinister look about him.

 

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The following day, Nan heads out to the town of Whitewood, but seems to get lost in an eerie fog. She happens upon a gentleman and asks him for directions. He tells her the way, but warns her that the town is evil. She continues on, even after he warning. As she gets to a fork in the road, a man is walking nearby. He introduces himself as Jethrow Keane (Valentine Dyall – image below)  and asks for a ride. She invites him in, and he begins to tell her a little about Whitewood. They eventually arrive in town, and their destination, the Ravens Inn. As Nan turns around to get her luggage, but then the man disappears! She heads inside and meets Lottie (Ann Beach), but before she can even try to communicate with her, the owner of the inn appears. We then are introduced to Mrs. Newless (Patricia Jessel – image below), who has a striking resemblance to the witch, Elizabeth Selwyn.

 

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Later that night, Nan heads out to take a walk around town. It’s very dark and dreary, and the townspeople, who are few, don’t seem to care for strangers. She then heads over to the old church. It seems unoccupied, and in an obvious state of closure. As she attempts to enter, her way is blocked by a minister, claiming to be the leader/caretaker of the church. She questions him about the church and town, but he’ll only remark that there is an evil presence here, and that she should go immediately. She returns to the inn, and settles in for the night.

 

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After a short time, she thin ks she hears some noise below her room. She gets the attention of Mrs. Newless, but after they investigate, there is nothing to be found. Later, Mrs. Newless invites Nan to come out to join the others, who are dancing in the hall. She eventually does, but by that time, no one is around anymore. We are then made aware that this date is of significance for those who worship Satan, which unfortunately is bad news for Nan. At the very stroke of midnight, she again hears some disturbance, and as she looks outside of her window, she can see robed figures walking through the cemetery. She then finds a handle that fits into the trap door in the floor of her bedroom, and uses it to open the door.

 

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Next, Nan decides to head down into the dark basement, but is instantly accosted by two men in robes. They drag her, kicking and screaming to an altar, where we see the townspeople, Mrs. Newless, and Jethrow Keane. They begin a count, and when they reach the number thirteen, the knife is plunged! Over at a party, Nan’s brother, Richard, and her boyfriend, Bill, haven’t heard from her in days, and are worried. They attempt to call the inn, but are told that no such place exists.

 

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Will Bill and Richard find out what happened to Nan and stop the cult from killing again? And what does Professor Driscoll have to do with all of this chicanery? You must watch to find out!

 

OK, here are my thoughts:

Any time you get a black and white film full of atmosphere and incredible sets, count me in. Even if Lee wasn’t in this picture, it would still be quite good. He does add his normal power and presence, but his screen time is somewhat sparse. His scenes are very important, but I’m used to seeing him as the big star, and not a lesser part. The rest of the cast does a solid job though, and really plays up the scary! Patricia Jessel is especially creepy, and does a fantastic job as the witch. Not lost in the crowd is Dennis Lotis (Nan’s brother), who really takes charge once his sister disappears.

As stated above, the atmosphere in this one is incredible. Even though the film is a little too dark at times, it does add a level of fright that is welcomed. The one and only thing I can say that was pretty bad, was the music score. During a couple of the scenes (mainly driving scenes), the music was a ridiculous upbeat tune that seems more appropriate for a Doris Day/Rock Hudson film. Take that away, and this is an excellent film that should be viewed by any serious fan of the time/genre. Oh, and Venetia Stevenson (image below) is stunning in this film!

 

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Click here for the trailer!

 

Cinema Sunday: Night of the Big Heat (1967)

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Title: Night of the Big Heat

Distributor: Planet Film Productions

Writers: Jane Baker, Pip Baker, Ronald Liles

Director: Terence Fisher

Producers: Tom Blakeley, Ronald Liles

Starring: Christopher Lee, Patrick Allen, Peter Cushing, Sarah Lawson, Jane Merrow

Released: May 1967 (U.K.)

MPAA: PG

 

I had an itch to do a sci-fi film, so I picked a good one! Patrick Allen is one of those actors that is often overlooked. He did work with Peter Cushing on the great Hammer film, Captain Clegg, and did a marvelous job. The fact that you get those two actors plus Christopher Lee, is a pretty good indicator on how awesome this flick is for anyone of the genre. Toss in another Hammer stalwart in director, Terence Fisher, and we all know the success rate is even higher!

Planet Film Productions had a very short life span, but definitely left a mark on the industry with just a couple of their films. Alright, let us now take a journey into the realm of science fiction!

 

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The film begins with a shot of a beautiful woman in a motorcar. Then we suddenly switch to a man, Dr. Godfrey Hanson (Christopher Lee), as he seems to be setting up camera equipment in a nearby wooded area. We then see a hobo (Sydney Bromley) snooping around the area after he leaves. Back on the roadway, the woman’s car breaks down, and a local stops to lend a hand. She stays with the car, and hears a weird noise. At about the same time, the hobo hears the noise, but is much closer to the source. He’s then stalked by the thing making the noise, and apparently killed.

 

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At a local pub, a man at the bar, Dr. Vernon Stone (Peter Cushing), is having a drink to keep cool. You see, it’s unseasonably hot at the moment on the island of Fara, and no one seems to know why. The woman serving him is Frankie Callum (Sarah Lawson), and both her and her husband own the inn. The young woman, Angela Roberts (Jane Merrow) from the motorcar finally arrives, and enters the establishment. She asks for Mr. Jeff Callum (Patrick Allen), who’s a writer that needs his own personal secretary apparently. Frankie tells her that he’s out now, and that they’ve been expecting her. Dr. Stone offers to buy her a drink, and she sits for a minute, then heads to her room with Frankie’s guidance.

 

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Dr. Hanson appears in the doorway, and grumbles at Frankie about a parcel that should’ve arrived. She tells him that her husband isn’t back yet, and he quickly barks that he wants it brought to his room immediately upon his arrival. Frankie and Dr. Stone have a quick conversation about his antics. She tells Stone that he goes out once a day with his camera equipment, then stays locked into his room the rest of the time. Jeff is driving down the road in his pickup truck, and almost runs over one of the pub’s patrons. He’s furious initially, but then the man tells him about hearing a strange noise, and they both wonder what it could be.

 

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Back at the pub, Jeff arrives and takes the parcel up to Dr. Hanson’s room. He brusquely snatches it out of Jeff’s hands and slams the door. Frankie then tells Jeff about his new secretary, and that she’s gone for a swim at the cove. One of the patrons gives him a ride, and when they arrive, both are stunned by her beauty. We find out right away that this meeting is no accident. The two apparently had an affair a while back on the mainland, and Jeff took his wife to the island to get away from the trouble. Angela asks Jeff what he’ll tell his wife, and he acts very odd. She then knows that he never told his wife about the affair, but before she can go any further, that same strange noise interrupts them, and they both get a bit apprehensive. They start to make-out, but then Jeff pushes her away.

 

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The scene turns back to the pub, and an old man that’s being helped inside. Jeff asks what’s going on, and the old man tells him that someone’s killed all of his sheep (a farmer, apparently). Dr. Hanson appears out of nowhere and attempts to question the old man. Dr. Stone tells Hanson that the old man is in no shape to answer questions, and they let him lie down in the back. Hanson storms back to his room, and we see that he must be a scientist but why he’s in this specific area, no one knows. One of the pub regulars, Bob Hayward (Thomas Heathcote), is at home and his television begins to act up. It eventually explodes, and the commotion is accompanied by that sinister noise once again. He heads over to see Jeff about this weirdness, but before he can get there, he hears that noise again, and it begins to drive him mad. He swerves the car, and ends up going over a cliff, and the car explodes.

 

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Later that night, we see Hanson setting up more equipment nearby. Angela then makes another play for Jeff, but it’s interrupted by the strange noise. Frankie then runs in and tells Jeff she saw something land in a nearby field. As the three head out to investigate, they see Hanson creeping around. They attempt to check things out, but the girls are too frightened. They head back, and Jeff confronts Hanson about his creepy actions. The two argue, but eventually Jeff comes to understand that something is going on, and Hanson is a scientist trying to solve the puzzle. He tells him that aliens are using this tiny island as a launching point for an invasion. At first, Jeff dismisses his theories, but eventually comes to believe him. The two then set out to find the origin of the noise and come upon the car that crashed with Bob Hayward in it. There’s nothing left but ashes.

Can they find a way to stop the invasion, or is the Earth doomed by these sinister forces? If not, it’s only the end of the world!

 

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OK, here are my thoughts:

Without spoiling some of the good stuff, I’ll just say that you’ll be a bit shocked at who does and does not make it to the end of this flick. Not that it hurts the film in any way, it actually helps it climb a bit higher due to the unexpected nature. Christopher Lee is awesome, and does a great job playing the scientist, a role that you don’t typically see him in, I might add. Cushing’s scenes are few and far between, but as always, he adds a flavor to the film that would be missed if it was not present.

The sets were good, but the music score was average at best. As far as special effects go, this film was more about the unseen and not the seen. So, special effects weren’t really anything to talk about really. The tension building up throughout the movie between Frankie, Angela(Merrow was a tramp in this film, but gorgeous nonetheless – image below), and Jeff was an interesting angle. The movie would’ve easily moved forward without it, but it was a different angle for this type of film. I definitely rank this one up there pretty high on my all-time favorite sci-fi films, as the performances by the cast are excellent.

 

Click here for the trailer!

 

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Cinema Sunday: Dr Terror’s House of Horrors (1965)

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Title: Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors

Distributor: Amicus Productions/Regal Film Distributors

Writer: Milton Subotsky

Director: Freddie Francis

Producers: Milton Subotsky, Max Rosenberg

Starring: Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, Donald Sutherland, Michael Gough, Ann Bell

Released: February 1965

MPAA: UR

 

As I promised recently, I wanted to take a look at another Amicus film, to give them their due! In this anthology film, we get a cast that rivals just about anything else in the genre at this period in time. And not just well established guys either, you get a few fresh faces that ascend to rather steep heights.

Although Amicus didn’t have the sheer volume of films as say, Hammer Studios, but their impact certainly made them the main rival to Hammer, especially for the simple fact that they were able to steal most of their actors and actresses (not really steal; the actors weren’t under exclusive contracts and didn’t make a ton of money and simply had to make a living). Seeing the faces of the perennial favorites will easily get you in the mood as soon as they appear on-screen. Well, let’s get down to business!

 

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As the scene unfolds, we see a busy train yard in England. One man is already aboard, and looking at a doll that he’s purchased for his daughter. Just then, another man enters the car, followed by four more. The last man, who introduces himself as Dr. Schreck (Peter Cushing), is a bit odd but friendly nonetheless. One of the men to enter the car, is renowned musical critic, Franklyn Marsh (Christopher Lee). He seems very uptight, and quite like a curmudgeon. Dr. Schreck falls asleep, and his carry-on bag falls over. The contents fall all over the floor, and the men help him gather his things. One man notices his a deck of cards, and Marsh identifies them as Tarot cards. He tells the other men that the cards can tell the future, and that he’s willing to use his talents to show them theirs!

 

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The first one to volunteer, Jim Dawson  (Neil McCallum), is shown how he’ll  be trying to buy back an ancestral home that has fallen out of the family. There are a couple of mysterious figures about the house (a couple of familiar faces in Katy Wild – The Evil of Frankenstein, and Peter Madden- Frankenstein Created Woman, Kiss of the Vampire), and they act very suspiciously. Jim eventually wants to see the basement and after procuring the key from the old man of the house, he heads downstairs. He bangs on the walls with a crowbar (yeah, that is weird), and accidentally bashes in some plaster. He finds a coffin and the old man tells him that it’s the coffin of Count Cosmo Valdemar, a nobleman that owned the house previous to Jim’s family, and swore vengeance against them if he was ever revived!

 

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The second tale is about Bill Rogers (Alan Freeman), and his family. He and his family are living the mundane life until one day, while doing yard work, they attempt to cut down a mysterious vine that’s begun growing along the house. The vine seems to “fight back,” and Bill is flabbergasted. He takes his story to a couple of scientist friends of his who initially seem skeptical. Eventually though, one of them comes to the house after not only a dog, but a friend is seemingly murdered by the vines.

The third story involves Biff Bailey (Roy Castle), who’s a musician that gets a gig in the West Indies. He’s doing his thing one night, and a local who sings at the same club tells him of the voodoo ceremonies that go on at night. Biff is intrigued, and sets out to watch. He does just that and attempts to write the music to use for his own personal gain. The voodoo priest stops him, but Biff remembers the tune. When he goes back to London, strange things that cannot be explained begin to plague his life.

 

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The fourth installment features Franklyn Marsh (Christopher Lee) who has shown great disdain for the good Doctor and the notion that any of this is plausible. We watch as Mr. Marsh, who’s pretty much a self-centered jackass, rips apart an artist, Eric Landor (Michael Gough). Landor gives it right back to Marsh and gets some slight revenge by showing Marsh for the conceited jerk he really is and making a monkey out of him. Marsh gets so angry, that when he sees Landor in the streets, he runs him over with his motorcar! Landor’s one hand gets severed, but lets just say that it isn’t the last we or Marsh see of it!

 

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The penultimate act (but the last “story” in the film) is about Dr. Bob Carroll (Donald Sutherland) and his new bride, Nicolle (Jenifer Jayne – The Trollenberg Terror). The area that they live is being terrorized by a vampire, and it’s up to Dr. Carroll and his friend, Dr. Blake (Max Adrian), to find the culprit and put an end to its reign of terror! That might prove to be quite a problem though when Dr. Carroll finds out who the vampire is!

The last scene in the film is a very good twist, so I’ll stop here, but needless to say, it involves Dr. Schreck and the men in the train car.

 

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OK, here are my thoughts:

Listen, I’ve stated many times that anthologies really aren’t my cup of tea. That said, this is one that is so good, I’d recommend it to anyone. The beginning and ending sequences in the train car is very solid with dialogue and mood. As for the stories, I’ve already gone into enough detail about them individually, so I’ll just say that the voodoo story and the disembodied hand are the better of the lot. Not to dismiss the others (Donald Sutherland is also very good), but those are tops.

Cushing doesn’t have a ton of screen time, but his ability to creep people out is on full display in this flick. The make-up is kind of cheesy, and unnecessary in my humble opinion, but whatever. The music score is moderate, the sets are very mediocre, but the film is about atmosphere, mood, and pacing, which are all top-notch as far as they can be on a limited budget as was the case with Amicus Productions.

Any horror fan needs to cross this one (sorry, can’t help it with the puns now and again) off their list. Even if you’re like me and don’t love anthologies, the film certainly deserves a viewing or two.

 

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Click here for the trailer!

Cinema Sunday: Rasputin the Mad Monk (1966)

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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!

 

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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).

 

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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).

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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!

 

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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)!

 

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Click here for the trailer!

 

Cinema Sunday: The Creeping Flesh (1973)

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Title: The Creeping Flesh

Distributor: Columbia Pictures (World Film Services – U.K.)

Writers: Jonathan Rumbold, Peter Spenceley

Director: Freddie Francis

Producer: Michael Redbourn

Starring: Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, Norma Heilbron, Marguerite Hildern, Michael Ripper

Released: February 1973

MPAA: PG

As it’s my blessing and curse, I can’t stay away from Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee for very long! In this film, both men are on-screen a lot, and really get to play off of each other quite a bit. As it was nearing the mid-1970’s, Cushing was slowly starting to wind down the torrid pace of movie making he’d been at for the last couple of decades. Lee, however, was still going strong and still is to this day! This film was produced by a small company (World Film Services, started by John Heyman), but had bankable stars with Cushing and Lee. This one isn’t as well-known as most that these two gentlemen have been in, but we’re going to take a look at it right now!

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The film begins with a man painting  picture of a horrific looking creature (Lovecraft inspired?), and some other very odd things. A knock at the door startles the elderly gentleman that is painting, and a young man walks in, and the old man tells him that he needs him to listen to what he has to say, because no one else will. Professor Emmanuel Hildern (Peter Cushing) begins to tell the young doctor a story about a time, three years ago, when he had just returned from New Guinea (flashback to three years earlier)…

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At a sprawling estate, Professor Hildern returns to his home, and with the skeleton of a Neanderthal-type man. He’s greeted at the front door by his daughter, Penelope (Lorna Heilbron), and a colleague, Professor Waterlow (George Benson). Two men, one of them named Carter (Michael Ripper), then bring in a large box, and in it, is the skeleton. The two men pry it open, and Waterlow is stunned by the behemoth. Penelope was hoping to have breakfast with her father, but the excitement of the skeleton has him only thinking of its possibilities. She’s quite disappointed by this development. He eventually relents from his work, and joins her. She tells her father that she had to dismiss the help because they can’t afford them anymore. He assures her that things are going to change very soon because of this new discovery.

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Penelope believes that her mother died a while back, but in reality, she was committed to an insane asylum, run by her uncle, and Professor Hildern’s brother, Dr. James Hildern (Christopher Lee). Professor Hildern receives a letter that his wife died in the asylum, so he departs to see what happened. James tells his brother that she died while he was away, and that he’ll apparently be stopping the financial help he was giving him to help his research. It’s quite an awkward moment, and Emmanuel leaves feeling unsettled, and almost betrayed.

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Back at the house, Emmanuel reprimands Penelope for going into her mother’s room. He’s apparently forbade her from even mentioning her name, as well. He then retreats to his laboratory, and inspects the skeleton further. He gets some water and begins to clean the skeleton, but within seconds finds out that the skeleton reacts to water in such a way that’s astounding. Wherever water touches the skeleton, flesh begins to appear. One finger completely regenerates, and Professor Hildern quickly cuts it off. Over at the asylum, Dr. Hildern and his associates are conducting Frankenstein-like experiments on the patients, and we see what true horror is. One of the patients jumps him, and grabs the keys, but the good doctor pulls out a pistol and shoots him dead. One of the patients actually manages to escape, and now the police are helping with the search.

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Professor Hildern begins to read up on the folklore of the native people of New Guinea, and then understands that this skeleton is the personification of evil, and the water will restore it to life. Waterlow is befuddled by all of this, and Hildern begins to talk of playing God, and wiping evil off the face of the Earth. He then looks at the blood from the finger he cut off of the skeleton under a microscope, and then compares it to his own. Next, he mixes the two together and discovers that he could stop “evil” from spreading by an inoculation. Meanwhile, Penelope has stolen her fathers keys, and heads into her mother’s bedroom (a place she’s been strictly forbidden to enter). She rummages through her mother’s things for a while, but then discovers a newspaper article that tells of her mother’s mental illness.

Back in the lab, the two doctors are experimenting on monkey with the blood of the skeleton. It’s getting late, so the two men pack it in for the night. The blood under the microscope however is yielding results contradictory to what Professor Hildern originally saw when he tested it. He then heads upstairs and sees that someone is in his wife’s room. He freaks out about it, and then he and Penelope get into an argument. He begins to have a flashback of when his wife was still alive and was a “dancer” that went insane (drugs, alcohol?).

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The next morning, Professor Hildern decides to use his new serum on his daughter, suspecting that her mother’s mental disorder may be hereditary. We then check in on the escaped patient from the insane asylum, as he’s wandered into a local pub. He thrashes most of the male customers, and then makes his way out. The next day, Waterlow calls to Hildern and both men see that the serum has driven the monkey mad. Hildern runs upstairs to see Penelope, but she’s already gone. We see her, as she travels through the seedy parts of London, but so is the escaped patient. Hildern is making his way there as well, but it’s like trying to find a needle in a haystack. A young man sees Penelope at the bar and starts buying her drinks. Eventually, they go upstairs, but Penelope wont put out. The guy tries to force himself on her, but finds out how sharp her claws are after she rips part of his face off!

She then heads downstairs, and begins to dance around for the crowd. One sailor gets so aroused that he grabs her and tries some shenanigans. She grabs a bottle, breaks off the top, and slashes the guy’s throat!  They chase her out of the pub, and through the streets. She goes into a warehouse and bars the door. As the police and crowd are trying to break the door down, Penelope runs into the escaped patient, Lenny. As the police search the place, Lenny tries to help her escape. They go to the top of the building, but there’s no escape. Lenny looks over the edge and the people below see him. Penelope goes completely off her rocker, and grabs a two by four, and cracks Lenny over the head, and it sends him plummeting to the ground, and his death. A few seconds later, the police surround and capture Penelope.

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Of course, she’s labeled insane, and taken to her uncle’s asylum. He sees a sample of her blood, and sees the foreign agent that as introduced by her father. Uncle James realizes he has his brother cornered, and once he sees the skeleton, he strong-arms his brother into an alliance. Emmanuel doesn’t want to do it, but he may have no choice.

Can Emmanuel somehow redeem himself in the eyes of his maker? Or will James be able to force him into the world of evil? Oh yes, and what about the monster?

OK, here are my thoughts:

For a horror film, this one is more suspense than anything, well, until the end that is. Cushing and Lee are their normal selves, in that you get what you expect. Cushing is torn between morality and his love of science. Lee is a straight up villain in this one, and it was cool to see him in that role and not wearing makeup or a costume that hid his menacing faces. The supporting cast didn’t offer much, but Lorna Heilbron did give some good moments before and after her insanity took hold. A quick appearance of Hammer Studios stalwart, Michael Ripper, was comforting, and even another familiar face from that company, Duncan Lamont (Evil of Frankenstein- 1964 and Frankenstein Created Woman– 1967).

One thing of note that I must mention, was that of the musical score. Paul Ferris did an outstanding job with the music for this film, and he had to be mentioned! The makeup was headed up by none other than Mr. Roy Ashton, and anyone that knows their Hammer films, knows that name! The sets were also very good, and it should be noted that this film wasn’t financed by one of the big studios of the day, but by one that was very tiny.

Give this one a watch, if for no other reason than it was one of the last films that Cushing and Lee did together, and it holds up quite well in my estimation!

Click here for the trailer!

Cinema Sunday: I, Monster (1971)

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Title: I, Monster

Distributor: Amicus Productions/British Lion Films/Canon Group

Writer: Milton Subotsky (screenplay)

Director: Steven Weeks

Producers: John Dark, Max Rosenberg, Milton Subotsky

Starring: Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Mike Raven, Richard Hurndall

Released: November 1971

MPAA: PG

 

 

To cap off the two Amicus films I promised to review, I give you the adaptation of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, from 1971. Now, this film was supposed to be filmed in a newer, more experimental 3-D way, but the money ran out half way before completion, and it was abandoned. Honestly though, the performances still shine through, and with this cast, you kind of knew it had a chance.

When you say Cushing and Lee together, the names carry a weight that cannot be denied. Both men (even back then) had extensive careers, and proven credentials, especially in the horror/sci-fi genres. They carry this film, no doubt about it. Lets get right down to the movie!

 

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The film opens with a man, Dr. Charles Marlowe (Christopher Lee), working in his lab. He has all sorts of animals for his experiments, and a brilliant mind. We next see a club, and a few socialites, one of them being a friend of Marlowe’s, Frederick Utterson (Peter Cushing). The men are discussing the inner-workings of the mind, and how human behavior is either influenced or as it is from birth. Marlowe believes that people’s minds house both good and evil persona’s, and aren’t really influenced. Utterson and the other chaps believe that influence makes men evil. Marlowe is working on a serum that can separate the good and evil persona’s, but is keeping his results to himself, for now.

 

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Later that evening, Marlowe returns home, and decides to use the serum on his pet cat (after contemplating trying it on himself). The animal goes berserk, and even attacks him! He uses the poker from the fireplace to kill the cat, and does show a huge amount of remorse. Just as this is concluding, a woman shows up at the door. It’s one of his patients, a Miss Diane Thomas (Susan Jameson – image below), looking for some guidance. Marlowe tries to talk to her, but she cannot bring herself to tell him what’s on her mind. She begs him to try something new, and he persuades her to let him use the serum on her (not being 100% honest about what it might do to her).

 

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After Marlowe administers the drug, Miss Thomas loses all her inhibitions, and attempts to sexually seduce Marlowe. He goes to his lab to retrieve some sort of antidote, and when he returns, she’s completely naked. He apparently controls his urge, and administers the antidote. She’s shocked to find out how she acted, but Marlowe tells her that it’s part of her mind, and just normal to have these thoughts. Later on, back at the club, two other colleagues talk about the behavioral acts of people once again. One man, Enfield (Mike Raven – middle of image below), asks if Marlowe has had any success with his experiments. Marlowe admits to trying the drug on his lab animals, and one of his patients. His lawyer, Utterson, advises him to use legal precaution.

 

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The following day, another patient shows up, and demands to get some sort of results out of his sessions with Marlowe. At this point, Marlowe convinces him to let him use the serum on him, and he does. We see that this man was beaten as a youth, and that his anger now stems from those incidents. It’s at this point, that Marlowe decides to use it on himself. We see an immediate change in his attitude. Instead of being stuffy, he acts more wildly and carefree. He decides to cut the head from one of the lab rats, but the chimes of the wall clock throw him off. He then takes the antidote, and calms down. He visits one of his friends from the club, and gets some advice from him.

 

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The next evening, Marlowe uses the drug once again, and it drives him even more mad. He heads out for a walk, and intentionally bumps into a young man. As the man confronts him, he pulls out a scalpel, and threatens the man. He then walks by a window of a shop, and sees a cane he wants to have. Instead of buying it the following day, he smashes the window and steals it. He visits a boarding house, and rents a room. He then bumps into the same man that he threatened earlier, but this time, the other man has a razor. The two fight, and Marlowe almost kills the man, but doesn’t, because for now, the thrill of almost killing a man is enough to satiate his curiosity.

 

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Eventually, Utterson, Enfield, and the others begin to figure out that there’s a connection between a mysterious, new fiend named Edward Blake, and their friend, Marlowe. Will they find out the real secret their friend is hiding, before he goes completely over the edge?

 

OK, here are my thoughts:

This film is one I saw for the first time about a decade ago. For some reason, I didn’t make the Jekyll/Hyde connection right away, but eventually found out through other sources. The quality of the film overall is less than desirable, but Cushing and Lee pull the film to a better than average standing. The supporting cast wasn’t anything to write home about, but Cushing and Lee definitely helped out a ton.

The sets were sub-par, and certainly were something the budget wasn’t aimed to help out with at all. Again, it isn’t a deal breaker or anything, but you can notice the low quality with that aspect of the movie. The music (Carl Davis), actually elevated a few scenes. The filming is kind of odd at a few parts where the 3-D was supposed to be, and that does stick out a bit.

If you get the chance to view this one, don’t hesitate. Cushing and Lee do more than enough to entertain for an hour and a half. You know they will always put forth their best effort!

Click here for the trailer!

 

Cinema Sunday: The Skull (1965)

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Title: The Skull

Distributor: Amicus Productions (Paramount Pictures – U.S.)

Writer: Milton Subotsky (screenplay), Robert Bloch (short story)

Director: Freddie Francis

Producers: Max Rosenberg, Milton Subotsky

Starring: Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, Patrick Wymark, Jill Bennett, Peter Woodthorpe

Released: August 1965

MPAA: NR

 

 

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The Amicus Films Production company gets very little press outside of the horror community, and that should not be! The company was only around (making films) for about fifteen years, but it made an impact nonetheless. With perennial stars of the horror genre, Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee in a few of the films, they knew that had bankable “stars” to get some people into the theaters. Throw in  stalwarts like Michael Gough, and Peter Woodthorpe, and you have a solid cast that delivers.

This film was one that dove into the “cult” fascination of the time, but not too heavily. Certain things were shown/talked about, and others mildly insinuated. Either way, you’ll be excited to see the cast, and the crazy scenes with Cushing. He really is over-the-top in this one, and any fan of the genre or the cast must watch it! let’s get on with the show!

 

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The film begins with a couple of guys robbing a grave. A young man then returns to his apartment with something wrapped in a cloth. He enters his bathroom only to find a beautiful woman bathing. She’s apparently a love interest, but he tells her to get out. She can’t understand why, but he doesn’t care, and tells her to hit the road. She gets out of the tub, and asks why, but he tells her that he must be alone tonight. We then see him boil something, and when he pulls it out of the pot, we see a skull. Suddenly, a fog envelops the room, and when the woman returns to see if he’s changed his mind, she screams in horror. We then cut to the credits.

The next thing we see, is an auctioneer (Michael Gough – image above), pounding his gavel. Two men then get into a bidding war over four stone statues of evil. The first, Christopher Maitland (Peter Cushing), and the other, Matthew Phillips (Christopher Lee), go back and forth until Phillips doubles Maitland’s bid, and it ends. Afterward, they discuss the bidding war, and Matthews cannot recall why he bid so high. He seems to have been hypnotized by the statues, and couldn’t control himself.

 

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The next evening, another man, Anthony Marco (Patrick Wymark), heads over to the home of Maitland, to sell him something. He has a book from the infamous Marquis de Sade, and it’s actually bound in human skin! Mr. Maitland is so intrigued, that he buys the book for £200. Marco tells him that he’ll be back tomorrow with something even more wild. Upon his return the following evening, he brings a skull, and tells him that it is the skull of the Marquis De Sade himself! Maitland doesn’t believe him at first, but then he tells him a story (one that connects to the pre-credits scene, and shows the murder of the girl), and then after dropping the price a bit, Maitland agrees to think about purchasing it. Marco gives him his address, and tells him to come over the following evening.

 

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Maitland then goes to his friend’s house, and Matthews Phillips and he have a pool game, while discussing the skull. Matthews tells Maitland that the skull is genuine, and that it was stolen from him, days earlier. Maitland encourages Matthews to come with him later when he goes to see Marco, but Matthews refuses, and tells him that he’s glad it’s gone. He states that the skull is evil, and that occultists use its powers to some sadistic means. He begs Maitland to not buy it, but you can see he’s still very interested in it.

 

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Over at Marco’s place, he rushes in to get ready for Maitland’s visit, but finds that the skull isn’t where he left it. He searches the closet vigorously, but to no avail. Suddenly, he turns around, and comes face to face with the skull! Holding it, is the building manager, Bert Travers (Peter Woodthorpe – image above), and he questions Marco about his “artifacts” that are strewn about the room. Marco tells him that nothing is of any value, and Travers leaves the room. Meanwhile, Maitland is reading his skin-bound book, that he purchased only days ago. He then gets a knock at the door, and when he answers it, two men, dressed as police officers tell him he’s under arrest, and must come down to the station.

 

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On the way to the police station, Maitland notices that they aren’t stopping there, but some other undisclosed location. He’s lead into a room, with a judge sitting at a bench, with a gavel and everything else. The two men that brought him in have a revolver, and load a bullet into it. They also load their own pistols, and point them at his head. The judge motions for him to play some Russian roulette (image above). three successful attempts, Maitland is allowed to leave the room under escort. He’s placed in a hallway that closes on both sides, and a gas begins to fill the room. Maitland passes out after seeing the skull moving towards him through the gas, and ends up in the apartment building of Marco, the shady antiquities dealer (not knowing where he is though). He goes home, and finds the address of Marco, and sees that it was where he was after the crazy roulette/gas chamber scenario. He tells his wife (Jill Bennett) what happened, and he thinks it was a nightmare.

 

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Later that night, Maitland sneaks out, and heads over to Marco’s place. The door is open, so he proceeds inside, looking for the skull. He finds it in the closet, but as he attempts to leave, he’s knocked over by the dead body of Marco. He hides the skull in the hallway closet, then calls the police.  Bert is then brought in by the police, but doesn’t have a clue about what’s going on. They ask if there are any pets in the building, such as a large dog, but Travers tells them that they aren’t allowed. The next night, Maitland is over at Matthews house again, playing pool. He once again begs Maitland to disavow anything to do with the skull, and then gives him a crucifix to protect him against evils. Maitland then returns to get the skull from the closet, but is confronted by Travers. Maitland tries to push by him, but he wont let him pass, and threatens to call the police. Maitland then shoves Travers, and the railing breaks, and Travers plummets to his death.

 

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I’ll stop here, but rest assured, this doesn’t end happily for Maitland, and those that surround him!

 

OK, here are my thoughts:

Of all the Amicus films I’ve seen, this one holds the most water. The story is good, you have four really strong players in this film (six if you count the few moments Michael Gough is on-screen in the beginning), and some good special effects. The sets are very good too, well, except for the Russian roulette scene where everything looks vanilla. Now, that may have been the choice to not give Cushing’s character anything to go off of if he went to the police, but that’s kind of doubtful. Although Lee isn’t in more than a few scenes, he does add his normal macabre atmosphere even though he’s the voice of reason in this film. You get what you expect from a pro like Cushing. His character delivers a believable performance, and mixes well with Lee, Woodthorpe, Wymark, and his on-screen wife, Bennett (who died tragically from suicide in 1990).

The musical score is good, but not anything super exciting. It does add some intensity to the last chapter, and for that, we have Elisabeth Lutyens to thank. The film does give you that Hammer film feel, but it is set in modern times, not the previous century (or earlier) that Hammer typically used. The film holds up well for one that was released fifty years ago (wow, 50 years!), and I can’t see it losing any of its charm in another fifty years. Get out and see this one, you wont be disappointed!

Click here for the trailer!

 

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Cinema Sunday: The Pirates of Blood River (1962)

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Title: The Pirates of Blood River

Distributor: Columbia Pictures/Hammer Studios

Writer: Jimmy Sangster

Director: John Gilling

Producer: Michael Carreras

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

Released: August 1962

MPAA: PG

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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OK, here are my thoughts:

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

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

 

Click here for the trailer!

Cinema Sunday: The Mummy (1959)

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Title: The Mummy

Distributor: Hammer Studios/Universal

Writer:  Jimmy Sangster

Director: Terence Fisher

Producer: Anthony Nelson Keys, Michael Carreras

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

Released:  September 25, 1959

MPAA: UR

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Mummy#4

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

 

Mummy#5

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

 

Mummy#6

OK, here are my thoughts:

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

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

 

Click here for the trailer!