Cinema Sunday: The Flesh and the Fiends (1960)

Title: The Flesh and the Fiends (Mania- U.S. title)

Distributor: Regal Film Distributors

Writers: John Gilling (and Leon Griffiths)

Director: John Gilling

Producers: Robert S. Baker, Monty Berman

Starring: Peter Cushing, June Laverick, Donald Pleasance, George Rose

Released: February 1960 (U.K.)

MPAA: UR

 

 

By the time the year 1960 rolled around, Peter Cushing was blooming into a horror film star. He’d already launched Hammer Studios into the atmosphere (along with others like Christopher Lee), with films such as Frankenstein (1957), Dracula (1958), and The Mummy (1959). As if his incredible presence wasn’t enough, we get a very young Donald Pleasance (Circus of Horrors– 1960, Halloween– 1978, Escape from New York– 1981) as one of the main players as well!

Based off of a true story (Burke and Hare), this film is considered a horror film but is more like a noir film with other elements, like mystery, crime, etc. Let’s get on with the synopsis!

 

 

The film begins with some grave-robbers in a cemetery. They’re digging up a corpse, but for what purpose, we do not know. The scene then switches to a street in Edinburgh, and the Academy of Dr. Knox (the year 1828). We see a beautiful young lady, Martha Knox,  (June Laverick) the niece of Dr. Knox, as she’s exiting a coach. She knocks on the door, and is greeted by Dr. Geoffrey Mitchell (Dermot Walsh). They exchange pleasantries, and he explains that he didn’t recognize her at first because she’s been gone for three years (she’s matured a lot apparently).

 

Inside the classroom, Dr. Knox (Peter Cushing) is teaching a room full of students hoping to become doctors themselves one day. He jokes with them, but also tries to impress upon them the importance of striving to push forward and break down barriers. He gets a standing ovation, then exits the hall. He’s pursued by one student in particular, a young man named Chris Jackson (John Cairney). He wants some input about how he can get better and graduate, something he believes he would’ve done by now. Dr. Knox tells him that he can get some extra tutoring but must pay for it by helping out around the school to earn extra money.

 

Afterward, Dr. Knox comes into the living room (apparently the school is attached to his home), and i surprised by his niece. Before they can get the conversation going, Chris comes in and tells Dr. Knox that some gentlemen are around back with a “stiff.” Knox chides him for using such terms, and then heads back to inspect the corpse. He pays the men for it, then sends them on their way.

Later that evening, the men are at a local pub (The Merry Duke) getting drunk and tell about how Dr. Knox pays well for cadavers. Two other men that are on hard times financially overhear this. Both William Burke (George Rose), and William Hare (Donald Pleasance) realize this is a way to make a quick buck, so they begin digging up fresh corpses for the good doctor to use at his school. Burke and Hare are an unscrupulous lot, and after a short spell, the fresh corpse market dries up. The two then resort to murder, and their reign of terror haunts the back alleys of Edinburgh.

 

Meanwhile, the good doctor to be, Chris, finds himself a girlfriend. The only problem is that Mary Patterson (Billie Whitelaw) is a rather seedy type herself, and eventually breaks his heart. She just cannot turn away from her promiscuity and drinking, no matter how much Chris seems to love and care for her. As this is going on, Burke and Hare manage even to murder a poor, local boy, Daft Jamie (Melvyn Hayes), but as they do, a witness sees the deed going on, and informs the authorities.

 

Will Burke and Hare pay for their crimes? And what fate will befall Dr. Knox for his role in this murderous scheme? You must watch to find out the surprise ending to this film!

 

OK, here are my thoughts:

This story is a good one, and the fact that it’s based on a true story makes it all the better. Another fact is that the film being in black and white is for the best as well. As usual, Cushing delivers a rock-solid performance, and his fans expect nothing less. His ability to lift inferior scripts, casts, etc., to greater heights. Not that he needs to necessarily in this film, but the cast isn’t over the top great. There is one other outstanding performance, and that is the one portrayed by Donald Pleasance. He really turns on the creep factor, and is a very evil person in this film. Billie Whitelaw is also quite good in her role, if not slightly outrageous.

The sets, costumes, and music (Stanley Black), are all splendid. There are a couple of surprises in this one, and they’ll not be spoiled in this review, so no worries. The director, John Gilling, is most known for his work with Hammer Studios, as is Cushing, of course, but this film was actually put out by a smaller production company (Triad Productions). But don’t let that fool you, the film is a winner, and more than worth your time! This company had a few good films including one of my favorite sci-fi/horror films, The Trollenberg Terror!

 

Click here for the trailer!

 

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Cinema Sunday: Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed (1969)

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Title: Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed

Distributor: Hammer Films/Warner Bros.

Writer: Bert Batt

Director: Terence Fisher

Producer: Anthony Nelson Keys

Starring: Peter Cushing, Veronica Carlson, Freddie Jones, Simon Ward

Released: May 1969 (U.K.)

MPAA: PG-13

 

After focusing on a film starring Christopher Lee last week, I couldn’t help but gravitate towards a film starring his Hammer Films counterpart, Peter Cushing! I’ve just about exhausted all Hammer’s Vampire/Frankenstein’s Monster films, but this little gem remains! A controversial film to say the least, this is one that features not only Cushing, but also the gorgeous Veronica Carlson! She’s one of those few starlets that lights up the screen when she appears, and plays a great counterpart to evil Doctor Frankenstein!

Cushing only did one more Frankenstein film after this one (Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell), and I’ll eventually get to it down the road, but for now, let us traverse back in time, to the turn of the century. To a time when a villain like Dr. Frankenstein could get away with his ghastly experiments!

 

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The film begins with a doctor walking down a foggy street, heading for his office. He’s suddenly accosted by a man who’s carrying a basket and some bladed weapon. The man (not seen clearly) slices the doctor’s head clean off! Just then, we see a burglar (Harold Goodwin) trying to break into a home. He hears footsteps, and cannot complete his mission, so he tries the nearest doorknob, and successfully gains access to another house. He wanders around for a few seconds, and then sees a laboratory filled with unusual devices and even a frozen corpse! He gets startled, and crashes into a table. The noise alerts the man whose home he’s broken into (the same man that frightened him into the home in the first place). As the burglar waits, he hears footsteps drawing nearer. He’s then confronted by a horrifically scarred man, and the two then fight. As the two brawl, a basket gets kicked over that the scarred man was carrying. A head comes rolling out, and we now know that it was the head of the doctor who was murdered just minutes before. The burglar eventually gets away, and the other man removes a mask, and it’s revealed that it is Dr. Frankenstein (Peter Cushing) himself!

 

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The doctor realizes that the man will go to the police in all likelihood, so he opens a hatch in the floor, and dumps the body (and kicks the head down like a soccer ball), into a stream below. The burglar runs into a policeman, and then is taken to the station. After confessing, the police arrive and surmise that the man who beheaded the doctor earlier is probably the same man who had this secret laboratory. They then begin their investigation, and it’s headed up by Inspector Frisch (Thorley Walters), who’s an odd fellow to say the least. He doesn’t seem to have any ideas as far as who the killer may be, nor does he take advice from his fellow investigators.

 

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As Dr. Frankenstein leaves the house he was occupying, he then finds a room for rent on the other side of London. He knocks on the door and is greeted by Anna (Veronica Carlson), and with her mother currently elderly and ill, she is running the boarding house. We then switch to a local asylum, where a woman is screaming like a banshee. We are introduced to Dr. Karl Holst (Simon Ward), who is a very prominent young doctor employed there. He looks in on another patient, Dr. Frederick Brandt (George Pravda), who has had a traumatic brain injury, and cannot even speak. The other doctors at the asylum believe he cannot be cured. Back at the boarding house, the other four tenants are discussing Dr. Brandt, and then after Dr. Frankenstein enters the room (under an assumed name), and they involve his name in the conversation. He tells them it’s fools like them that have blocked progress for centuries. They get furious with him, but he leaves (like a boss).

 

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Later, Karl comes to take out his bride-to-be, Anna. He drops a box (of medicinal cocaine) on the doorstep, and then heads inside to see Anna. Dr. Frankenstein finds the box, and uses this leverage to blackmail them into service of his dastardly deeds. They’ve been using the stolen drugs to sell them to support Anna’s elderly mother. The next day, Anna tosses the other four tenants out on the street to make room for Dr. Frankenstein’s experiments. He then tells Karl that he means to repair the damaged brain of Dr. Brandt, a man whom he’d been corresponding with about brain surgery. Frankenstein and Holst rob a medical supply store, and Holst murders the night watchman in fear of being caught. Frankenstein then uses Karl’s place at the asylum to kidnap Dr. Brandt from the asylum, so he can remove his brain and put it in another body, and repair it during the process.

 

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Will Dr. Frankenstein succeed in his devilish plot or will Karl and Anna find a way to not only clear their names but also put an end to the devious deeds of Dr. Frankenstein?!?!

 

OK, here are my thoughts:

One scene aside, this is one of Hammer’s best films in the “Frankenstein’s Monster” franchise. It’s not the typical monster as was the first couple of films (and the Universal Studios film), in that the story revolves more around the doctor himself, and his machinations. Of course, when you have a lead like Peter Cushing this is possible. The supporting cast is great as well, and you get a wild actor like Thorley Walters, a solid job by a young Simon Ward, and the utter beauty and grace of Veronica Carlson (image below) to cap it all off.

At this point, Hammer was relying on film distribution companies in the U.S. to partially back their films, and of course, distribute them in America. So, in a roundabout way, they had some say in the content of the film itself. Hammer executive, James Carreras, demanded that director Terence Fisher (his first film back at Hammer after a few years break) add a rape scene to the film. This did not settle well with Cushing and Carlson (the two involved in the scene), but the did it, albeit begrudgingly. Quite honestly, the scene does seem a bit out-of-place, and for anyone that’s a Hammer aficionado, you’ll know that this isn’t something Dr. Frankenstein would’ve been interested in.

Definitely set aside some time to watch this one. It’s part of a great four film set by TCM Classics, and is one of my treasured compilations of Hammer Studios material!

 

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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: And Now The Screaming Starts! (1973)

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Title: And Now The Screaming Starts

Distributor: Cinerama/ Amicus productions

Writer: Roger Marshall

Director: Roy Ward Baker

Producers: Max Rosenberg, Milton Subotsky

Starring: Peter Cushing, Herbert Lom, Patrick Magee, Stephanie Beacham

Released: April 1973

MPAA: R

 

Another week and another movie from Amicus Productions! Forgive me, but this one is going to be quite shorter in length than most of my reviews for two reasons. First, the original film I was going to review was taken down from a popular website that houses tons of movies, cat videos, etc. The second reason  being it’s getting late, and I’m leaving for vacation tomorrow! I’ll be visiting the resting place of H.P. Lovecraft, and if all goes well, I’ll be commanding the armies of Cthulhu by mid-week, so wish me luck!

This week’s film is one that I’ve never viewed before now, but heard positive things about over the years. Most Amicus films have a solid reputation, but I was slightly skeptical about the premise for this one. The names Peter Cushing and Herbert Lom (Hammer’s version of Phantom of the Opera, 1962) put me at ease though, and they should do that for anyone! Alright, let’s get to the movie!

 

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As the film begins, we see a couple (engaged to be married) on a carriage ride to their new home (1795). It’s the ancestral home of the groom, but his bride is about to find out it holds a dark secret! Charles (Ian Ogilvy), and Catherine (Stephanie Beacham), stroll around until they see a portrait of his grandfather (Herbert Lom). Catherine is all but hypnotized by it, and we get the impression his spirit may still dwell in the house. As she’s looking at the portrait, a hand comes bursting through it at her! As she dives away, screaming, Charles comes to her aid. Of course, the portrait is fine, and Catherine thinks she imagined the whole thing.

 

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After the wedding, the two head for the bedroom. Outside in the hallway though, is a severed hand, crawling about the house! As Charles excuses himself for a minute, Catherine closes the drapes, and is startled by a howling wolf. She dismisses it and jumps into bed, awaiting her new groom’s arrival. As she waits, the door suddenly locks by itself, and the candles go out. Catherine is then attacked by the severed hand, and perhaps someone else! Charles races downstairs and grabs an axe from the mantle, then hurries back upstairs to the locked room. He chops his way into the room, but as before, the hand is gone. A maid comes into the room, closes a window, then leaves. Charles glares at her, but says nothing to her. Later, downstairs, he tells the maid that his wife imagined the scenario.

 

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The following day, Charles tells his lawyer that he wants to leave everything to his wife in the case of his demise. That evening, Charles and Catherine are about to get busy, when she sees the face of a man with no eyes in the window. She stops for a moment, and Charles asks what’s wrong. Afterward, she goes out into the hallway and is scared stiff at the portrait that scared her earlier. The next day, Catherine heads out to the burial area, and sees a man with scars on his face, staring at her. She runs away and asks Charles who he is. He’s very vague in his response, so Catherine asks one of the servants. She’s also not in the talking mood apparently, and Catherine gets angry.

 

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Catherine then sets out to the cabin nearby, where this man lives. She confronts this woodsman (Geoffrey Whitehead), Silas, and asks to see his hands, thinking maybe it’s his hand that is crawling around the home. He shows her both of his hands, then she asks a few more questions about him and his relatives. She finds out that Charles’s family gave land to this man’s father, and that’s why he lives on the grounds of the estate. Catherine then turns to the family lawyer for answers but he’ll not give them to her before speaking to Charles first. In the evening, Charles and Catherine are both giving each other the silent treatment. We also see someone outside with an axe, creeping around. Charles then heads out to find the town people who were to come over for dinner this evening, as they’re long overdue. He finds an abandoned horse, and then one of his friends (the family lawyer) with a huge gash in his forehead. as he topples over, and dies.

 

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Back at the house, a window flies open and as Catherine attempts to close it, that ghastly figure with no eyes surprises her, and smashes the window. She quickly runs into the next room, and is frightened by one of the maids. She screams about the window, but when the maid checks it out, there’s nothing wrong. As Charles returns he grabs her hand, and she sees that his hand is bloody, and she faints. The following morning, the family doctor informs them that they are going to have a baby. They seem less than thrilled, and then Charles and the good doctor have a private conversation. The doctor (Patrick Magee), threatens to tell Catherine about the secret everyone is hiding. After a look from Charles, he then informs Charles that he wont tell. That same day, the authorities are at the woodsman’s cabin, questioning him about the murder. He denies he did it, and then Charles shows up out of the blue. He tells them he wouldn’t do this, because something he deserves is going down soon.

 

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Back at the house, Catherine is being tortured again, and one maid offers to show her what the secret is about the house. As the maid attempts to bring something to her, the pictures begin to rattle, and a spectral image of the severed hand reaches out, and chokes her. She then falls backwards down the stairs. She’s apparently dead. Catherine goes to check on her and confirms this. She also finds a book that she was bringing to her, so she scoops it up before anyone can see. When she’s alone, she begins to read about the family history. Charles confronts Silas, and tells him that if he leaves, he’ll be compensated nicely, but he refuses. Shortly thereafter, another doctor is brought in, by the name of Dr. Pope (Peter Cushing). He seems to be the only one except for Catherine that wants to find answers to this haunting, before it kills anyone else!

 

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OK, here are my thoughts:

The film is a decent one overall but definitely does have some slow spots. Most films do mind you, but these were a bit more noticeable. Cushing doesn’t show up until 2/3 of the way through the film, and there was even less screen time for Lom (he was quite a scoundrel). Both played good parts, but definitely deserved more screen time.

The music score was definitely a low point for this one. The settings were a bright spot, as a few different locations were used. The special effects were just mediocre though, and that was something that should’ve been better for 1973. Yeah, the budget was low, it was Amicus after all, but there definitely should’ve been a better effort in that department.

If you get the chance, sit down one evening and give it a watch. Cushing and Lom’s performances are strong enough to carry you through the other slow spots and mindless nonsense.

 

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: Madhouse (1974)

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Title: Madhouse

Distributor: AIP (American International Pictures) & Amicus Productions

Writers: Greg Morrison, Ken Levison

Director: Jim Clark

Producers: Max Rosenberg, Milton Subotsky, Samuel Z. Arkoff

Starring: Vincent Price, Peter Cushing, Robert Quarry, Adrienne Corri, Natasha Pyne, Linda Hayden

Released: March 1974

MPAA: PG

 

After a couple of wild black and white films, I thought it was high-time that two of my favorite horror film stalwarts were plunged back in the spotlight! As you well know, one of the most masterful horror film actors of all-time passed away recently, and next week, I’ll be showcasing a film starring Sir Christopher Lee, but for now, Vincent Price and Peter Cushing will share the stage. Both men had already built a huge catalog of films by this time, and really were still at the peak of their powers! So now, without further interruption, I give you, Madhouse…

 

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The film starts out with a room full of people watching a new movie that’s ready to hit the theaters (a flashback). It’s a cheesy horror flick starring a character named “Dr. Death (Vincent Price),” that shows the good doctor unleashing a monster in a well to kill a damsel in distress, while the townspeople wielding their torches and pitchforks attempt to stop him. A man then stops the film, and tells the guests about how Dr. Death killed many of his beautiful co-stars in different ways, but now, he’s marrying his latest co-star, Ellen Mason (Julie Crosthwait). He (Paul Toombes) introduces the writer, Herbert Flay (Peter Cushing), and gives him full credit for his contributions. As he introduces his bride to be, one of his old flames (and old co-stars), Faye Carstairs (Adrienne Corri) approaches him, visibly upset, and gives them her two cents. Shortly thereafter, a man, Oliver Quayle (Robert Quarry), introduces himself to Toombes, and remarks about how his new bride used to make adult films before he knew her. Toombes is quite upset with him, and his fiancé, and she runs off, embarrassed by the situation. She runs upstairs as Herbert tries to comfort Toombes. After crying for a minute or so, Ellen is brutally murdered.

 

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Paul awakens after having fallen asleep apparently, and heads upstairs to apologize to Ellen. As he enters her room, her head falls off, as she’s been decapitated! Paul scrams, then the story fades to a hospital room, where he’s been injected with some kind of drugs, and being questioned about the murder. He keeps insisting that he can’t remember what happened. We next see a shot of London (present day), as Paul has completed a rehab program (after a nervous breakdown), and his old nemesis, Oliver Quayle, is now a big-time editor of a newspaper, and he’s telling his underlings the story of Toombes’ history, and how he’s planning an exposé on his life.

 

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Next, we see Toombes being awakened by a gorgeous woman, Elizabeth Peters (Linda Hayden). She’s a young actress that wants a break, but Toombes tells her to hit the road. Toombes is on a ship coming to London (he was previously in Hollywood, apparently), and is greeted by Julia Wilson, one of Quayle’s stooges. She takes him to the home of his life-long friend, Herbert Flay, and the two then reminisce about old times, and how the two will now be working on a television show together. Herbert tells Paul that he’s now become a successful actor, but that he wants to work with Paul again. Paul is terrified to revive the character again, as he thinks it’s bad luck. They then watch one of the Dr. Death films together, but as it drones on, Herbert creeps out of the room, and Paul seems to be going into a trance.

 

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Outside the house, the girl from the ship, Elizabeth, is prowling around, and eventually makes her way into the house. She calls out to Paul, but gets no answer. She heads back outside, and sees a figure walking through the garden. She calls out but gets no response. As she follows the figure further and further away, she begins to realize she might be being led away intentionally. Just as she’s ready to give up, the shadowy figure pops out of nowhere and shoves a pitchfork into her neck! Back inside, Paul awakens, after seemingly falling asleep on the couch. He lights a candle, and heads out to find Herbert. He can hear someone talking, and investigates. He finds a phonograph in the basement, along with a glass enclosure full of Tarantulas. Before he can even move, he’s accosted by a woman (image below). At first he doesn’t recognize her, as she’s terribly disfigured, and seems to have had a mental breakdown. Eventually though, he recognizes that it’s Faye (from the opening scene).

 

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The following day, two boys are fishing, and discover the corpse of Elizabeth. The police are baffled but see a pattern with these two killings. Both were done in the same fashion as portrayed in two of the Dr. Death films. Of course, they immediately wonder where Paul Toombes is, but he isn’t a suspect yet. Over at the house, Paul asks Herbert why he never told him that he ended up marrying Faye. As they meet up with Oliver Quayle, and then later they begin to film the first scene. Toombes isn’t thrilled but is doing Herbert a favor, so he endures the hardship. He’s also not excited about finding out that he’ll have a pretty assistant, something he never had in any of his films. Toombes yells at her for not following his lead, and they call it a day.

later that evening, Quayle is throwing a costume party for the launch of the filming, and again, Toombes is less than excited. Herbert attempts to change his mood, but Toombes is anything but happy. He then has a run in with is co-star, but tells her off. Quayle then shows some old film clips of Toombes work (actually films that Price had made, and not “Dr. Death” films), and everyone sits down for the show. Everyone except his new co-star, that is, as she’s gone upstairs to check out some of the props that Quayle has collected over the years. In mere moments, she’s murdered, and a few minutes later, Quayle’s assistant, Julia, finds the girl hanging by her neck, dead. Toombes heads back to Herbert’s home, packs his bags, and attempts to leave. He’s stopped by the police, and they bring him in for questioning.

 

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Is Paul Toombes consciously or unconsciously acting out murders from his movies? Or is someone else trying to drive him insane? Check out this classic to find the answers!

 

OK, here are my thoughts:

I wouldn’t consider this film in my personal top few films in the career of Vincent Price or Peter Cushing, but don’t be fooled, it’s definitely worth a watch. Price gives a solid performance, as to be expected from a consummate pro like him, and so does Cushing. The rest of the cast isn’t on their level, but then again, not many are. Robert Quarry plays a good, sleazy producer, and Linda Hayden (only a small part, image below), is very easy on the eyes.

 

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The sets were good, and the soundtrack was good enough to help move things along here and there. There were a couple of parts that bogged down the film slightly, but nothing to terrible. The cops being portrayed as a couple of boobs is a bit of a tired trope, and really didn’t help. One cool angle was the scene where they were showing some of Paul’s work, and it actually showed some of the films Price did during that era, with fellow horror legends Boris Karloff and Basil Rathbone.

Check this one out if for nothing than to see these two legends, as their careers were certainly winding down (compared to before this time), but not over yet!

 

Click here for the trailer!

 

Cinema Sunday: The Abominable Snowman (of the Himalayas) (1957)

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Title: The Abominable Snowman (of the Himalayas – U.S.)

Distributor: Hammer/ Warner Bros.

Writer: Nigel Kneale

Director: Val Guest

Producer: Aubrey Baring

Starring: Forrest Tucker, Peter Cushing, Maureen Connell, Richard Wattis, Robert Brown

Released: August 1957

MPAA: Approved

 

Welcome friends, to another week of Hammer Studios greatness! This week’s film is one that I honestly thought I’d already reviewed! After a quick search, I realized I hadn’t. So, I must present this little gem that was lost in the archives mainly because of the success of Curse of Frankenstein, that was released the same year. With some familiar faces, solid acting, and a setting that is very creepy, this one definitely needs to be revisited, so let’s get down to business!

 

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As the film begins, we see Dr. John Rollason (Peter Cushing), talking to the Lama (Arnold Marlé). The Lama questions why Rollason has agreed to meet with an adventurer type guy that is coming to explore the area that the monastery is located. Rollason tries to calm the Lama’s fears, but he cannot. A few moments later, the Lama tells Rollason that his wife, Helen (Maureen Connell) is approaching, and seconds later, she walks in the room along with his assistant, Peter Fox (Richard Wattis). Both enter and are upset with Rollason because he’s agreed to go on the expedition with this other man, rather than continuing his research.

 

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In the next scene, we meet the explorer, and the burly Dr. Tom Friend (Forrest Tucker), is leading his men through the town to meet Rollason. Friend has also brought along a trapper named Ed Shelley (Robert Brown), a photographer, Andrew McNee (Michael Brill), and a local guide named Kusang (Wolf Morris). They all meet and make arrangements to have dinner together later, and meet the Lama. At the dinner party, the Lama again questions the motives of the expedition, and eventually, the truth comes out. Friend and his group are there to find the mysterious Yeti of that region, and we also find out (eventually) that he wants to capture one alive!

 

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The next day, the expedition sets off and begins their long journey up the mountain. They keep the group small, because Friend believes that marching an army up there would scare off the Yeti. Friend has already been to great heights on this mountain, and hid equipment in caves along the way. After a day’s journey, they stop at one of the resting points. They make camp, and have a fire going, but one of the men seems uneasy. As they’re settling in for the night, one of the team believes he heard something nearby. Everyone heads out to investigate, but no evidence can be found.

 

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The following day brings an avalanche, and then one of the men, McNee, gets his leg caught in a trap and gets injured. They take him to the tent and he relaxes there for a while. Rollason stays with him as the other push ahead. When they catch up, Ed tells them that he’s captured a Yeti. They rush to see it, and are astonished at the creatures size. That night, more of the Yeti come to take back the body and to terrorize the camp. Ed shoots and kills one of them, and the group realizes that now the Yeti might get hostile towards them. McNee is almost crazy from the pain of his injury, but he also seems to be sensitive to the presence of these creatures. Friend thinks he can use this to his advantage though, and begins to scheme about another trap.

 

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Kusang sees one of the yeti reaching into the tent, and the fright of the ordeal is too much for him, so he flees. Friend and Rollason stop him and ask what he saw, but he only responds with…”I see, what man should not see!” McNee ends up wandering off the next day, and falls off of a cliff. He’s completely delusional at this point, and the fall kills him instantly. That leaves Friend, Rollason, and Ed. Speaking of Ed, he seems to be in the beginning stages of schizophrenia, and is a liability at this point. Rollason buries McNee, but Friend and Ed will have nothing of it, and continue to lay their trap. Meanwhile, Helen and Fox are leading another expedition to find the others, but they’re way behind.

 

Robert Brown and Forrest Tucker in The Abominable Snowman

Will Helen and Fox reach the others in time? Will the Lama’s prophecy come true that no man will see the creature and live? Watch to find out!

 

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OK, here are my thoughts:

Alright, well, as I said initially, this film is fantastic, but was definitely overshadowed by Curse of Frankenstein, that followed soon after this film. It’s really a shame though, because this film has a lot to offer. The script, locations, music, and acting were all very good. The only thing I think that could’ve been better were the creatures themselves. We never get to see any Yeti action (attacking/killing)! That for me is the only glaring missed opportunity in this entire film. No one is to blame, especially not the special effects people, who coincidentally did a fine job. I understand the notion of not showing the Yeti’s and letting your imagination run wild with different scenarios, but even just one or two scenes would’ve sufficed.

As far as the cast goes, Cushing and Tucker really made this one great. The Lama was pretty good too, and really gave a creepy performance. The others were at least average, and none of the players weighed down the film. I will say that Kusang was played brilliantly as well, and he and the Lama were very convincing. Do yourself a favor, and get a copy of this film either online streaming or grab a copy somewhere. You wont regret it!

 

Click here for the trailer!

 

Cinema Sunday: Sword of Sherwood Forest (1960)

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Title: Sword of Sherwood Forest

Distributor: Hammer Studios (Columbia Pictures – U.S.)

Writer: Alan Hackney

Director: Terence Fisher

Producers: Michael Carreras, Sidney Cole, Richard Greene

Starring: Richard Greene, Peter Cushing, Oliver Reed, Sarah Branch

Released: December 1960

MPAA: Approved

 

A-ha! I outfoxed everyone with this week’s pick, didn’t I! OK, I’ll stop tooting my horn and let Robin Hood do it instead! Of course, Errol Flynn is who everyone thinks of when they hear the name Robin Hood, and rightly so, but don’t look past this adaptation. Richard Greene had played the character for quite some time on the television show, and he does a solid job in this flick from the legendary Hammer Studios! Whether you knew it or not, Hammer did produce a few movies that weren’t of the horror genre, and believe me when I say, most were entertaining at the very least.

You should definitely recognize a few faces in this one, as perennial Hammer favorites like Oliver Reed (The Curse of the Werewolf), Richard Pasco (The Gorgon), Jack Gwillim (The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb), and Peter Cushing are all prominent characters in this one. Throw in a seasoned veteran like Nigel Green, and you have a cast worth watching! Alright, let us journey to Sherwood Forest!

 

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As the film begins, we see a waterfall, and hear a man singing a song about the outlaw, Robin Hood. Over a hillside, a few of the sheriff’s men are detaining a man on horseback. One of them reaches into his pocket and pulls out an emblem. The man then grabs it, and takes off as if he’s stolen something. Of course, the sheriff’s men pursue him, and actually shoot him in the back with a crossbow. The man survives long enough to get to the edge of the forest, and then arrows come raining down on them, and they ride away, like the cowards they are. We then see the man ride down near the river, and fall off of his horse, near death. Two of Robin’s men, Little John (Nigel Green), and Roger (James Neylin) inspect the man, and think him dead, so they help themselves to his belongings. Robin (Richard Greene) stops them but then hears a rustling in the bushes nearby. He tells the person to come out or be shot with an arrow, and then a beautiful woman comes out. Her name is Maid Marian (Sarah Branch), and she seem to loathe Robin. She brushes him off, then leaves.

 

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Later that night, Robin and his men are treating the man who was shot, but it doesn’t look like he’ll pull through. They have some food and drink and even a song or two, and then Robin notices the man hasn’t moved since they found him, and he fears the worst. The next day, Maid Marian uses a dagger to post a note to a tree by the edge of the forest. The note states that she’ll be at a nearby Inn, if he should want to meet.He laughs, and tells Little John that he’s going to meet her, but Little John is wary, and thinks it’s a trap (insert Admiral Akbar joke here). That afternoon, Robin disguises himself as a peasant, and heads into the Inn. He tosses the dagger at the table where Marian is sitting, and she jumps out of fright. She seems surprised to see him, and after they exchange pleasantries, she makes her purpose known. She tells Robin that a friend of her’s is here and wants to meet him. Out from the corridor, pops the Sheriff of Nottingham (Peter Cushing)! He offers Robin money, then a pardon is he’ll turn over that man that he rescued yesterday. Robin refuses, of course, then gets chased by the sheriff’s men, but the men of the forest stop them.

 

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Back at the camp, Robin and Little John check in on the wounded man. He comes to his senses but only long enough to say that there is danger and he needs to get to Bawtry (the land of a nobleman that was recently killed). Robin and Little John are trying to solve this riddle, but need more clues. The sheriff doesn’t waste any time, and brings his men to the forest to try to drive out Robin and his men. He captures one of Robin’s men, and after telling him that he’ll give him a pardon, he tells the sheriff where the camp is hidden. In the meantime, Robin moves the camp to another location, thinking the sheriff might have found it anyway. The sheriff then kills him anyway, and then sets out to find the camp. Marian meets up with Robin, as they both find the young man who the sheriff killed in his death-throws. Now Marian knows what kind of jerk the sheriff is, and she then vows to help Robin.

 

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It is then revealed that there is a plot to kill the Archbishop Hubert Walter (Jack Gwillim). The two conspirators are Lord Melton (Oliver Reed – first image below), and Edward, Earl of Newark (Richard Pasco – second image below). Initially, Robin is tricked into being on the side of these two because they seem to oppose the sheriff, but Robin soon finds out about their insidious plot, and aims to take them down! Will he be able to stop them, and the sheriff? What about the lovely Maid Marian? Check out this classic to find out!

 

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Richard Pasco  Sword of Sherwood Forest (1960)

 

OK, here are my thoughts:

I’m not going to tell you that this film is better than the Errol Flynn classic, because it’s not. But let’s also be honest and look at this cast. Cushing, Greene, Reed, Pasco, Green , and the beautiful Sarah Branch! Not bad, and when you consider that this was a Hammer film production, right in the midst of their horror revival, it makes this film even more cool! Cushing is absolutely believable as the sheriff, which is especially fantastic considering he’d been Van Helsing, Dr. Frankenstein, and a host of other mysterious characters over the last few years! Richard Greene makes a fine Robin Hood, and although I’ve never seen the TV show before, I’m definitely going to look it up! Nigel Green gives a wonderful performance as Little John as well.

The sets for this film were outstanding, and knowing Hammer, they were probably reused from earlier films, like Dracula or Frankenstein. The castles, outdoor scenes, etc., were all top-notch. The costumes were great as well, and we have Rachel Austin and John McCorry for that! The music was also another high point, and John Hollingsworth did a masterful job.

As you can see, this one certainly needs to be on your radar, so seek this one out the first chance you get!

 

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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!