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: Torture Garden (1967)

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Title: Torture Garden

Distributor: Columbia Pictures, Amicus Studios Production

Writer: Robert Bloch

Director: Freddie Francis

Producers: Max Rosenberg, Milton Subotsky

Starring: Burgess Meredith, Peter Cushing, Jack Palance, Michael Ripper, Barbara Ewing, Beverly Adams

Released: November 1967

MPAA: Approved

 

As my regular readers know, I’m a humongous fan of the legendary British film company, Hammer Studios. They ruled the genre for quite some time, but definitely had rivals. The biggest, was probably Amicus Productions. This upstart company was a little different in one aspect though, as their movies weren’t period pieces, but rather in contemporary settings. This was about the only thing  that set them apart though, as they used the same actors, producers, and a lot of the same tropes in their films.

The cast is key in this one, and by the ending of the film, you’ll be surprised, no doubt about it! And let’s be honest, is there a creepier setting than a carnival? The bearded lady alone is enough to scare the pants off me! Alright, now, to the movie…

 

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The film begins with a side-show carnival barker trying to entice people to see his “torture garden.” A sign shows that the host, Dr. Diablo (Burgess Meredith), will have you screaming at these disturbing images. A small crowd shuffles in, and Diablo shows them an electric chair with what appears to be a man strapped in it. He throws the switch, and the “man” is fried. It obviously looks like a  dummy though, and some in the crowd aren’t impressed. Diablo then encourages the crowd to join him in his secluded area, where the real thrills are to take place. He tells them it costs £5, and most are skeptical. Diablo then uses basic high school peer pressure to get a few to pay up and go inside.

 

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Five people (Michael Ripper, Jack Palance, Michael Bryant, Barbara Ewing, and Beverly Adams) go inside, and Diablo does something very strange after they leave the first room. Diablo takes the money that the people gave him, and he throws it into the fire pit in the middle of the room! Awfully sure of himself, isn’t he?  One man, Colin Williams (Michael Bryant), pulls a curtain away, and sees a wax figure that resembles a fortune-teller. They all seem let down, but then Diablo appears and tells that this is no ordinary fortune-teller, but one that will reveal something ghastly about your future if you peer into her eyes. As Diablo lulls him into a sense of safety, the adventure begins.

 

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We see a scene where Colin drives his motor car to see his uncle, who’s very rich, but also, very ill. The door opens, and a woman walks out, and looks like the fortune-teller. He shakes his head in disbelief, and when he looks again, it’s just a regular woman. She’s apparently been taking care of the old man. Colin goes inside and tries to pry some money from his uncle, but he’s very dodgy about where he gets his money. Colin tells his uncle that he’s been asking around town how his uncle pays for things since he hasn’t worked in thirty years.  He wont tell, but then begins to have a heart attack, and needs his medication. Colin wont get it for him, and the old guy keels over right there on the spot.

 

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The coroner comes to pick up the body, and this leaves Colin to loot the house. Eventually, he finds a door in the floor of his uncle’s bedroom. He heads down into the secret compartment (basement?), and gets more than he bargained for. He uses a shovel to dig around but initially finds nothing. After some time, he finds a casket of sorts, and opens it using the shovel. Inside, he finds a skeleton, and a cat! The cat scurries away, and he continues to dig around.

 

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We then see him awaking on the couch upstairs, and the cat  growls at him. He then seems to go into a bit of a trance, and we get the impression that the cat is somehow communicating with him (possessed?). It tells him that he needs to do some favors for it, and he’ll be rewarded. The door then opens and the cat runs away, with Colin following. It leads him to a hobo sleeping in the barn. The cat begins to assert control over Colin, and forces him to pick up a pitchfork and murder the man. Again, Colin wakes up on the couch and believes it all to have been a dream. He sees the basement opened up and heads down to see what was real and what might be fantasy. As he gets down in the room, the cat is waiting for him, and once again claims to be ready to reward him for helping with whatever it needs. He picks up a shovel and digs up a chest full of gold coins.

Next, he quickly runs out to the barn, and sees that indeed he did murder the hobo, as the cat willed him to do. He dashes back into the house and down the steps into the basement, horrified at what he’s done. He begins to bury the gold, but the cat once again forces him to stop, and then tells him to murder the hospice worker that’s about to enter the house. As she enters through the back entrance, Colin picks up a shovel, and murders the old woman. Later that night, Colin is putting his trunk of gold into his car, when a policeman happens by, to warn him about a man who the police are looking for in the area (the hobo?). He tells him he’s seen no one, and the officer offers to help with the trunk, only to realize there’s blood on the handle.

 

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In the next scene, Colin is being locked up in jail, and tries to explain what’s been going on to a lawyer. He tells of the demonic cat, and how it forced him to do these terrible things. The lawyer looks at him as if he’s loony, and then asks him what happened to the heads of the victims. Colin tells him that the cat feeds on them, and if he doesn’t get to feed, he’ll come for his head. The lawyer leaves, and of course, everyone thinks he’s insane. A few minutes later, the cat appears on the ledge by the window. Colin begins screaming and the guard comes in to see what’s going on. By then, the cat has disappeared, but Colin is still hysterical. The guard tells him to calm down, and leaves the room. As he does, the cat returns, and takes Colin’s head as recompense!

One by one, the others are led to the fortune-teller, and see atrocities that they may be a part of in the future or maybe have already! Watch to find out the gruesome fate of these seemingly ordinary people, and the secrets they bear!

 

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OK, here are my thoughts:

The film is one that houses an idea that’s been put on the screen and in books before, there’s no denying that, but when these actors and actresses put their personal spin on the characters, that’s when the magic happens. I honestly think this is the best performance I’ve ever seen by Burgess Meredith. Now, before anybody goes ballistic on me, I haven’t seen many of his films outside of Clash of the Titans, and the Rocky franchise. All good performances, no doubt, but by the end of this film, you’ll believe he’s the devil himself! Now, to the others. Jack Palance and Peter Cushing share the final “future sequence” together, and it’s one for the ages. Not only do they do the film justice, but the scene also is about Edgar Allen Poe and his fantastic works!

Each of the dream sequences are different but the same. Not in a monotonous way really, but nothing really sets them apart so that you can single one out over the others in terms of better or worse. All of them have a charm to them in one way or another, but obviously I’m partial to the Cushing scene! The ladies in this film are absolutely gorgeous (Beverly Adams- image below, Barbara Ewing- even though she has a terrible hairdo or wig, and Nicole Shelby in her skivvies), and this era of woman is not only beautiful, but very commanding as well.

The music score was by two veterans of the industry, in James Bernard and Don Banks. These two gentlemen were stalwarts in the biz back then and really know how to get the music to match the scene. The writer, Robert Bloch, is another man who really shouldn’t need any introduction, but if you’re not familiar with his work, definitely Google him (you should at least know him as the man who wrote the story Hitchcock used for Psycho in 1960).

Definitely give this one a viewing, you’ll not be disappointed, I guarantee it! It’s one of those hidden gems of the era that you never hear about outside of circles that are hardcore fans of the genre.

 

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Click here for the trailer!

 

Cinema Sunday: The Evil of Frankenstein (1964)

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Title: The Evil of Frankenstein

Distributor: Universal/ Hammer Studios

Writer: Anthony Hinds

Director: Freddie Francis

Producer: Anthony Hinds

Starring: Peter Cushing, Peter Woodthorpe, Duncan Lamont, Kiwi Kingston, Sandor Elès, Katy Wild

Released: May 1964

MPAA: UR

 

I just recently realized that I hadn’t reviewed this film yet, and this must be rectified! Falling third in the sequence of “Frankenstein” films (after The Curse of Frankenstein – 1957, and The Revenge of Frankenstein – 1958, but before Frankenstein Created Woman – 1967), this film picks up and seems to generally follow canon up to this point (other than how the creature was stopped at the end of the first film and the fate of the Baron), so that is encouraging. The masterful Peter Cushing reprises his role as “Baron Frankenstein” and as usual, owns it! Without going into too much, this selection from the franchise is one I find quite comical, some situations that were meant to be, and others not. Alright, let us sojourn into the past!

 

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The film begins with a funeral, and the corpse of a villager lying in wait, ready to be buried. We then see some unscrupulous character snatch the body! A girl witnesses this, and runs off into the woods. Before she knows what’s going on, she runs right into none other than Baron Frankenstein (Peter Cushing)! The home of the recently stolen corpse is visited by the local vicar, and he’s appalled by this act of terror. Meanwhile, the drunken fellow that stole the corpse takes it to a secluded home in the nearby area. He sells it to Baron Frankenstein and his assistant, Hans (Sandor Elès), and heads to the pub to spend his earnings. While there, he’s confronted by the vicar who has an idea where the corpse may have been taken (the little girl identifies the drunk). He shows up at the laboratory and begins to chastise the good Baron and his assistant, then smashes their equipment. The Baron lunges at him, and starts to throttle the vicar. Hans pulls him off, and they hightail it out of town.

 

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The scene shifts to the carriage, where both men are heading for a new locale. The Baron wakes up Hans, who’s been napping. He informs him that they’re heading to Karlstaad, and the Baron’s former residence. Hans is apprehensive about it, thinking that the Baron will be identified, and they’ll be imprisoned. Baron Frankenstein tells Hans that they’ll take some things of value from his castle, then sell them for money to start another lab elsewhere. As they near the town, they realize there’s a festival going on, and that they can work without anyone noticing them. They reach the castle, but find that it has been pillaged by unknown persons. Hans then asks the Baron about the origins of the monster, and the Baron recounts that very night.

 

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The following day, the two head into town for some food. Hans is still scared of being recognized, so the Baron buys two masks for them to wear. Once inside a cafe’, the Baron sees his old nemesis the Burgomaster (David Hutcheson), and the Chief of Police (Duncan Lamont). He gets extremely agitated when he notices a ring that the Burgomaster is wearing that was his own before he was run out of town. The police confront him about the disturbance, but he and Hans flee for their lives through the carnival. They end up in the tent of a hypnotist named Zoltan (Peter Woodthorpe). He’s performing some rather impressive feats of the mind, and then asks for two volunteers for his next act. The Baron and Hans step up on the stage, but then the police arrive, and begin to search the crowd. The Baron and Hans slip out through a back door, but Zoltan interferes and gets arrested.

 

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As the two fugitives are trying to keep a low profile, the Baron can’t help himself from confronting the Burgomaster. The two get into a verbal spat, but then the police show up. The Baron locks himself into the bedroom with the buxom young lady that the Burgomaster was “entertaining” for the evening, then uses the bed sheets to make a rope to get away. He and Hans then make their way to the mountains to escape the police. It is here that they meet up with a deaf/mute woman named Rena (Katy Wild). She shows them to a cave for shelter, and it is here, that they make a great discovery. Apparently, the monster (Kiwi Kingston) was thought to have been killed, but ended up frozen in ice. They thaw him out and take him back to the castle for some “work.”

 

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After what seems to be days or weeks, they can’t revive his mind, only the body. The Baron remembers the fantastic feats that the hypnotist performed, and thinks he can possibly awaken the sleeping giant’s mind. He does just that, but there’s one little wrinkle…the monster will only obey him! This annoys the Baron, and really ticks off Hans, but for now, there’s nothing they can do about it, so they offer asylum to Zoltan, in exchange for his helping along the mental status of the monster. The Baron believes that Zoltan is helping the monster learn, but in reality, he’s just playing along during the day, but using the monster for more insidious reasons at night!

Will this monster be able to overturn the murderous impulses that surge through his body? Or will Zoltan push him too far, and put everyone in danger of the evil of Frankenstein!

 

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OK, here are my thoughts:

If you overlook the slight discrepancies from the first film and the flashback in this one, you can have a blast with this film. The two “Peters” (Cushing and Woodthorpe) in this film are great, and play against each other quite well. It’s not the only film these two gentleman appear in together (also The Skull, 1965), but it’s definitely the film with the most screen time between them.

A couple of the scenes were rather dark, and made it slightly difficult to see what was going on. The sets were great, especially the castle, and the few minutes in the cave where the monster was initially found. Some good moments with the music to add some tension to a few scenes, and Don Banks is the man behind that. Finally, for the third consecutive film, we had a different actor portray the monster. This time, we had Kiwi Kingston, and he fit this part perfectly. A big man who really knew how to be imposing, for sure!

 

Click here for the trailer!

 

 

 

Cinema Sunday: 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: 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: Legend of the Werewolf (1975)

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Title: Legend of the Werewolf

Distributor: Tyburn Films

Writer: Anthony Hinds

Director: Freddie Francis

Producer: Kevin Francis

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

Released: April 1975 (France)

MPAA: R

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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OK, here are my thoughts:

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

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

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

 

Watch the trailer here!

 

 

Cinema Sunday: The Ghoul (1975)

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

Distributor: Tyburn Films

Writer: Anthony Hinds

Director: Freddie Francis

Producer: Kevin Francis

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

Released: May 1975

MPAA: R

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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OK, here are my thoughts:

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

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

 

 

Cinema Sunday: Nightmare (1964)

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Title: Nightmare

Distributor: Hammer/Universal Studios

Writer: Jimmy Sangster

Director: Freddie Francis

Producer: Jimmy Sangster

Starring: David Knight, Moira Redmond, Jennie Linden, Brenda Bruce

Released: April 19th, 1964

MPAA: UR

 

Here we are with another Cinema Sunday, and of course, another fantastic movie! This week, we’ll take a look at another one of Hammer Studios psychological thrillers in – Nightmare! This film is much more intense than last week’s offering, but in a slightly different way. You still get a good mystery, but in this film, you also get some vicious murder scenes, as well. The cast was very small, but I think after you’ve seen the film for yourself, you’ll realize it isn’t a bad thing. Okay, let’s disperse with the clouds and get right down to this one!

 

The film begins with a girl wandering around a sanitarium. She hears a voice calling out to her, and is frightened. The voice calls for help, and then Janet (Jennie Linden), hears the voice tell her that she knows where to find her. Janet then proceeds down a hallway and enters a padded room. Standing in the corner, is a woman, begging for help. The door swiftly slams behind Janet, and the woman laughs insanely. Janet begins to scream, and then we see this is only a dream, and Janet awakens in bed, at her prep school. One of her teachers, Mary Lewis (Brenda Bruce) comes in and settles her down, and she goes back to sleep.

 

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The next day, Janet is approached by the same teacher from the previous night, and she tells her that the faculty wants Janet to see a doctor. Janet tells her that she’ll refuse any appointment. She also tells her teacher that she wants her guardian, Henry Baxter (David Knight), to come and get her from school. She gets her wish, and John the butler/driver (George A. Cooper), picks her up, along with Mary Lewis, as the school believes Janet could use some guidance on the journey home. Once they reach home, Mrs. Gibbs (Irene Richmond), greets Janet, and she seems elated. They enter the home, and Mary is going to stay the evening, and go back to the school tomorrow. Janet is surprised to see a woman, Grace Maddox (Moira Redmond), in the house. Mrs. Gibbs tells Janet that her guardian, Henry, thought that Janet might like someone to spend time with at the house, instead of being alone.

 

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Janet goes to bed after dinner, and Mary and Grace talk. Mary asks Grace why Henry asked her to stay with Janet, and she tells her that it’s because Henry is worried about her, and she’s a nurse, so he believes she can help out. Grace then heads to bed for the evening, and Mrs. Gibbs and Mary have a talk. Mrs. Gibbs tells Mary that the reason Janet seems mentally imbalanced is because she saw her mother murder her father when she was eleven years old. She had a nervous breakdown after that, and has always worried that she might have inherited some of her mothers wickedness. Mrs. Gibbs tells Mary that even if didn’t inherit any of those traits, that even the persistent thought could drive a person insane. Mary goes to bed, and Mrs. Gibbs is tidying up, when she hears a sound near the library. She’s surprised by Mary, who claims to have come downstairs to get a book.

On her way back to her room, Mary notices that Janet’s bedroom door is open. She investigates, and finds Janet missing. She creeps down the hallway to looks for her, and then she’s surprised by Janet, who silently turns the corner right in front of her. Janet seems like she’s in a daze or perhaps sleep-walking. Mary talks to her, but gets little answers other than the fact that Janet seems to think she either saw someone or dreamed that she saw someone. Mary shows her back to her room, and then goes to sleep, pondering what might be happening. As Janet walks slowly into her room, she notices someone on the bed. It’s her mother (or so she thinks), and there’s a knife sticking out of her chest, and the birthday cake from Janet’s eleventh birthday (the same day her father was killed) on the table. She freaks out, and runs off, but is then stopped by Grace, who slaps her a few times to get her to snap back into reality.

 

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The next morning, Janet has been sedated by the local physician, and he recommends to Henry that she be institutionalized. Henry then checks in on Janet, who, upon seeing him, pulls him in, and kisses him passionately. He pulls back, and then apologizes for not being able to meet her at school. Janet asks if the reason is his wife, and he tells her that she (his wife) doesn’t like being alone. He makes his apologies, and tells Janet he must travel to London, and then leaves. As day turns into night, Janet’s mind begins to unravel. She thinks she sees someone trying to open her bedroom door, so she calls out and asks who’s there. She gets no answer, and then gets up to investigate. She looks down the hallway but sees no one at first, but after a moment, she does witness a shadow down at the end of the hall. She walks down slowly, and keeps following where the shadow leads. Eventually, she comes upon a bedroom, and she hears the voices of herself and Mrs. Gibbs from the day she saw her father killed. She runs off to her bedroom, and sees the corpse of her father, lying in her bed. She goes berserk, and falls down a staircase, and George and Grace find her there unconscious.

 

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Another day, and Grace is feeding Janet her pills, supposedly from the doctor. Grace asks her what happened, and Janet tells her that some woman is plaguing her dreams. Grace tells her to get some sleep, because it’s her birthday tomorrow. A new day comes, and Janet finds herself being confused after the last few night’s activities. She then heads out to see who is around, but only finds a strange woman in a hospital gown creeping around the house. The woman vaguely resembles her mother, but we know that she’s locked up in a sanitarium, right? Janet then returns to her room, looking completely unhinged. She then smashes her mirror, and uses a shard to slit her wrist. Henry, and Grace are speaking with the doctor in the next scene, and wondering what to do about Janet. As Janet comes out from her bedroom to see Henry, she sees the back of a woman, who is introduced to her by Henry, as his wife. As the woman turns around, Janet recognizes her face as the woman who has tortured her. She then snaps mentally, picks up a knife, and brutally stabs Henry’s wife to death!

 

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I’m not going to go any further because I’d have to go into crazy spoiler territory, and because things get slightly convoluted as well! Suffice to say that the killing doesn’t end here, and by the end of the film, there’s more than one person that’s gone off the deep end!

OK here are my thoughts:

This flick is a good one, but definitely inferior to Paranoiac. It is more grisly, and that’s pretty cool, but the twists and suspense aren’t as powerful as the aforementioned film. As I said above, it does also get a bit wacky at the end as well. This being my first viewing might have something to do with that, but I honestly don’t think so. There is another scene towards the end of the film, where Henry and Grace slap each other. It’s quite a shock to see especially for 1964.

The actors/actresses are quite good in the roles that they play. Janet’s character was played by Jennie Linden, and was a late replacement. She did a god job for someone stepping in at the last-minute. David Knight, and Moira Redmond also were very good. Both gave convincing performances. The music score was by Don Banks, and definitely worth noting. He did a good job setting a good tone, and a couple of thunderous interludes when it was right. The set was absolutely gorgeous, and up to the Hammer standard for sure. Check this one out if you haven’t yet, because it’s worth the watch!

 

Watch the trailer here!

Cinema Sunday: Dracula Has Risen From The Grave (1968)

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Title: Dracula Has Risen From The Grave

Distributor: Warner Bros./Seven Arts (Hammer Studios)

Writer: Anthony Hinds

Director: Freddie Francis

Producer: Aida Young

Starring: Christopher Lee, Rupert Davies, Veronica Carlson, Barbara Ewing, Barry Andrews, Michael Ripper

Released: November 7th, 1968

MPAA: G (PG, by today’s standards)

 

As I continue with my look at the Dracula/vampire franchise from Hammer Studios, the next movie in order is this under-appreciated flick. It is missing Hammer stalwart, Peter Cushing, but it does feature the best Dracula ever, in Christopher Lee! There are a few minor roles that are good too, and we’ll take a look at them for sure! There were some different names attached to this film that you didn’t see before (or after for that matter), but it still did have that awesome Hammer atmospheric mood to it. Lets get down to business!

 

The film begins with a boy, Johann, as he’s going to clean the church before mass. He quickly notices something dripping from the bell rope, and we see blood, covering the rope. Outside, the priest (Ewan Hooper) hears a scream, then rushes into the church. He sees that a woman has been bitten on the neck (image below), and her blood is dripping down the rope, and into the church. The priest exclaims…”when shall we be free of his evil.” Fast forward to a year later, and that same priest is saying mass, to an empty church (except for Johann). He then seeks asylum at the local tavern for a drink. Within minutes, his superior, Monsignor Ernest Muller (Rupert Davies) is coming for an inspection, but finds only Johann in the church. Johann, who is now a mute (due to shock from the incident a year earlier), takes the Monsignor to the tavern where the priest is boozing.

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The Monsignor  questions the priest about why the church was empty. The patrons tell the Monsignor that they are still afraid of Dracula’s presence even though he’s supposedly dead (he was killed in the last flick). The Monsignor tells the priest that they will head up to the castle in the hills, and perform an exorcism to ease the villagers fears. The next morning the two holy men make the trek up the mountainside. As they approach the castle, the priest begins to waver, and begs to stay behind. The Monsignor tells him it’s OK if he does, and he continues on the journey by himself. As he reaches the castle, night falls, and a storm begins. He reads the service of exorcism, and places a cross on the door.

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Meanwhile, the priest is having a drink of booze, and the Monsignor begins the journey back down the mountain. The priest then slips, falling to the icy river below. This is the spot where Dracula was killed off, and we can see his ice-covered body right under the priest. The ice cracked from the fall, and some of the priest’s blood seeps into the ice, and on to the lips of Dracula. This is enough to revive the fiend, and before the priest can get his bearings, the bedeviled master of all that is evil, is ready to get down to business. He then enslaves the priest to be his daytime minion. The Monsignor theorizes that the priest went down before him, and leaves town for his home.

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Next, we see the Cafe’ where a young man, Paul (Barry Andrews-image below) works. His girlfriend, Maria (Veronica Carlson), who is the niece of the Monsignor, lives with her mother and Uncle. Max (Michael Ripper), the owner of the cafe’, gives Paul some advice before he heads out to meet Maria. In the bar, Zena (Barbara Ewing-image below) is entertaining the drunks with her wit and voluptuous figure. The regulars play a joke on Paul, and he gets soaked with beer, just as maria shows up to meet him. She seems to be quite upset at first, because Paul is meeting her mother this evening, but she quickly forgives him, and they head out to her home. Once there, Maria is shocked to see that her uncle has returned from his trip, and you get the feeling that she didn’t want Paul and him to meet. After dinner, we find out why Maria was uptight about them meeting each other. Paul is an Atheist, and he tells the Monsignor this, and they get into an argument. Paul then leaves, and Maria is very upset.

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As Paul returns to the cafe’, Zena is closing up. Paul orders a large Schnapps, and Zena uses this to try to put the moves on Paul. As Paul retires upstairs, Zena attempts to seduce a drunken Paul. Maria shows up however, and puts a damper on that idea. Paul and Maria then make whoopee, and maria sneaks home along the rooftops of the village. As Zena walks home in disappointment, a carriage runs her down, and chases her into the woods. As she twirls around, Dracula is there, and he bites her. The next morning, Paul finds Zena in the basement of the cafe’. She hides her bite marks, and heads upstairs.

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The following morning a priest comes to the cafe’ (Dracula’s new slave), and obtains a room with Zena’s help. He hides Dracula in the basement, and then Dracula orders Zena to bring Maria to him, so he can exact revenge on the Monsignor for the exorcism and the such. Zena doesn’t acre for this request, but Dracula pimp slaps her, and she changes her mind. Once Maria shows up, Zena quickly lies, and tells her that Paul is in the basement waiting for her. As Maria heads down, Zena jumps her from behind, putting a sack over her head. Zena then tosses her into the other room, and Dracula nearly bites her. Paul broke things up by calling out to Maria, and Dracula then takes out his frustrations on Zena. He bites her, and drains her blood, killing her (image above). Maria heads home after Max and Paul calm her down a bit. Maria sneaks into her bedroom, but her mother is waiting, and scolds her for sneaking out. As she does, Maria faints, and appears to be unconscious. Dracula then commands the priest to dispose of Zena’s corpse, and he does so by tossing her into the furnace!

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The next evening, Maria gets a visit from Dracula (image above), and this time, there is no one there to stop him from biting her. The Monsignor sees the bite marks on her neck, and realizes what’s going on. He waits for Dracula the next evening, and chases him across the rooftops. Just as he starts to catch up, the priest smashes a pot over his head, and leaves him to die. He doesn’t die right away, but crawls back to his home, and tells Maria’s mother to get Paul. He explains the situation to Paul, and how he must stop Dracula, or Maria will become his servant or die. Can Paul stop this bloody reign of terror? Or will Dracula keep Maria for his bride?

 

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OK, here we go:

This is my second favorite Dracula movie of all time. I really enjoy this one because it feels true to things Dracula would probably do if you crossed him. Think about it. If you did something to Dracula’s home, don’t you think he’d want revenge? Of course, you can’t guess about everything he would do, but his arrogance would definitely be something you could count on. Lee is very creepy in this film, and his action scenes are absolutely fantastic! He leaps out of a window like a panther in one scene, but also commands the room even when he’s stationary too.

The supporting roles were solid in this one as well. Rupert Davies was a great protagonist, and then was replaced after his demise by Barry Andrews. Both actors brought different things to the film, but both also delivered. The anguish of the priest was another very good angle in this movie. It added the last part that was needed to bring about some chaos in the movie. And let’s be honest, looking at Veronica Carlson doesn’t hurt the movie either.

Michael Ripper is his usual awesome self in this one too. You can always count on him to stabilize the dialogue, and bring some humor into the mix. He owns these secondary roles, by giving a strong performance, and being the utmost professional as well. He knows exactly how much energy is needed to bring to the table without stepping on the toes of the other actors performances. Another great film from the Hammer vault!