Cinema Sunday: The Abominable Dr. Phibes

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Title: The Abominable Dr Phibes

Distributor: MGM/AIP

Writers: James Whiton, William Goldstein, Robert Feust (uncredited)

Director: Robert Feust

Producers: Ronald S. Dunas, Louis M. Heyward

Starring: Vincent Price, Joseph Cotten, Hugh Griffith, Terry Thomas, Virginia North

Released: April/May, 1971

MPAA: PG-13

 

 

 

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As you’ve probably noticed by now, I’m rolling with one movie review a month, plus scaling back on my comic book reviews as well. Everyday life is not permitting much else I’m afraid, but don’t fret, because the minute it does…alright, no promises, because I’ll probably just vacation more if/when that happens! But, for now we’ll be strolling down a dark lane that leads to a guy in a creepy mask that plays an organ. Yes once more, a Vincent Price film we’ll be featured! This is one of his later films (he’d already been acting in films since 1938!) but one of his best, no doubt about it!

This film is one that all Price fans must see if they already haven’t. It differs quite a bit from most of his other films because of the sets, the character’s demeanor, humor, and overall creepiness. Some of the scenes in this flick are quite disturbing, and the biblical references (the Ten Plagues), add a really crazy touch. Alright, no more hype, let’s get down to business!

 

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The film begins with a robed man playing an organ (roll credits). It’s rising from a lower level to a sort of ballroom. We see what looks like an orchestra as well, but we soon realize they are just automated figures. The robed figure begins to play conductor, and the automatons play music. A side door then opens, and a beautiful woman, Vulnavia (Virginia North) wearing a white gown appears. The two embrace, and strut towards the center of the ballroom, an begin dancing. Eventually, the woman heads up to the second level balcony. The robed man grabs a wrapped object, and they get into a car, and hit the road.

 

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Meanwhile, across town, an older gentleman is bedding down for the evening. He shuts off his lamp, and attempts to slumber. Outside of his home, the car with the robed man and Vulnavia pulls up. As the man sleeps, a skylight over his bed opens, and a cage is lowered into the room. The cage empties, and is then raised back through the skylight and it is shut. After hearing some rustling noises, the man awakens to find his bedroom infested with bats. And they must be starving because they attack and kill the old man (presumed now, but told shortly after).

 

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The car returns home, and the robed man returns to his organ playing. The following day, a butler discovers the old man dead, and the room covered in bats. Back at the robed guy’s house, he puts a necklace on a wax figure of the dead old guy, then melts it with fire. The police finally arrive at the home of the dead man, and they remark about the peculiar nature of the incident. Inspector Harry Trout (Peter Jeffrey) and Sgt. Tom Schenley (Norman Jones) conduct an investigation, and talk of another recent case where another doctor (apparently the dead guy as a surgeon), was killed in his library by a swarm of bees.

 

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Back at the creepy house, we see the robed guy at a table where he has pieces of a face made of rubber or some such material. He picks up a nose, then two ears, then grabs a wig. We then get to finally see Dr. Anton Phibes (Vincent Price), in all his glory (although it was believed he died in a car accident years earlier)! He goes back over to his organ, and begins to belt out a tune. Later, a cocktail party is buzzing with life. This isn’t a regular party though, as all the participants are wearing ornate masks. One man, Dr. Hargreaves (Alex Scott)  enters and is given a frog mask. He remarks at how he’s not a surgical doctor, but a psychiatrist…a “head shrinker,” if you will. We can now realize that the man giving him the mask is Phibes, and he gives a glaring look when the doctor makes the remark. He helps strap on the mask, and locks it. As Phibes watches, the mask begins to tighten,  and eventually crushes the skull of Dr. Hargreaves.Blood begins to pour out of the mask. Once again, Phibes puts a chain around the neck of a wax figure resembling the victim, then melts it with a torch.

 

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But, why is this disfigured man murdering doctors? And what does his dead wife have to do with these murders? All will be revealed when the time comes!

 

OK, here are my thoughts:

This film is nothing short of extraordinary. The sets are remarkable and allow ones mind to float off into a head trip of sorts. Bright colors, followed by darks, then throw in some lighting and wild music, and you’ve got something very unique. Of course, Price adds his immense talent to the film, and portrays this murderous figure as a sympathetic character that you end up feeling sorry for in the end.

Whether it was the sets, makeup, costumes, cast, or anything else, you can’t go wrong with this flick. It’s definitely one of Price’s masterpieces, and AIP (American International Pictures) should be commended as well for the films excellence. A seminal piece for sure, the film is one of the best of Price’s career and of the decade.

 

Click here for the trailer!

 

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Cinema Sunday: Shock (1946)

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Title: Shock

Distributor: 20th Century Fox

Writers: Eugene Ling, Martin Berkeley (screenplay), Albert Demond (story)

Director: Alfred L. Werker

Producer: Aubrey Schenck

Starring: Vincent Price, Lynn Bari, Frank Latimore, Anabel Shaw, Stephen Dunne

Released: January 10th, 1946

MPAA: NR

 

 

Getting back into the swing of things this new year, I thought it appropriate to lift high the name of Vincent Price, as he is one of the masters of horror! Looking through his catalog, you see quite an array of films, but of course, the horror films are the ones we most remember. Why is that? Because he was born for it. He could act well enough for any genre, but is performances in horror films are more than just memorable, they’re magnificent. This film is more of a thriller than horror, but Price is a fantastic villain!

I could go on all day about him and his films, but instead, let us get to this wonderful film. It’s not easy to find a decent copy, but the usual video sites have copies for a viewing (I own a set with it on, and the quality is slightly better than online). Here we go!

 

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The film begins with a woman, Janet Stewart (Anabel Shaw), who is entering a hotel (in San Francisco). She asks the desk clerk if her husband has arrived yet, but he tells her no. Her husband is returning from the military (serving overseas), and supposedly has booked a room at his hotel. The man at the desk tells her that no one has check in under that name. He tells her that they’re completely booked. But after she starts sobbing, the manager finds her accommodations for the night.

 

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Later, Janet is thinking about how great it will be to finally see her husband after him being away for so long. She falls asleep and dreams of him returning. It soon turns into a bit of a nightmare though, but she eventually wakes up. She calls the front desk and asks if her husband arrived, but he hasn’t. She then heads out on to the balcony for some fresh air. She then hears the voices of a man and woman (presumably husband and wife) arguing. The husband, Dr. Richard Cross (Vincent Price), tells his wife that he wants a divorce because he’s in love with his nurse. She laughs at him and threatens to call and rat him out for his infidelity. He gets enraged, and then picks up a candlestick, and bludgeons her with it. Anabel is horrified, and falls to the couch.

 

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The next morning, Lt. Paul Stewart (Frank Latimore) shows up at the hotel, and rushes upstairs to meet his wife. As he walks through the door, you can see Anabel hasn’t moved an inch from the spot where we last saw her. Paul rushes over to her, but within a minute, it’s obvious that she’s in a trance-like state, and nothing seems to be getting her out of it. He immediately calls for a doctor, and luckily there’s one close. He examines her and tells Paul that she’s in a deep state of shock. He recommends a very good neurological doctor that goes by the name of Dr. Richard Cross!

 

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The doctor shows up and examines Janet. He tells Paul that she’s had a nervous breakdown from something traumatizing. Dr. Cross then heads out to the balcony for a cigarette, and notices that her balcony can see directly into the room where he murdered his wife. He realizes that there’s more than a good chance she witnessed the murder, so he suggests that Janet be transferred to his sanitarium in the country (so he can keep a close eye on her). Dr. Cross’s naughty nurse/lover takes Janet to the hospital, and tells her to give her an injection to keep her calm.

 

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After a while, Janet begins to respond slightly to Dr. Cross’s voice. It’s almost like she’s under hypnosis. He questions her about what she saw the night before, and she admits that she saw him kill his wife. Janet’s eyes open , and as she recounts the event, Cross realizes she must be kept from telling this secret. Later that night, Nurse Elaine (Lynne Bari) comes over to the Doc’s house for some hanky-panky, and the two plot to keep Janet under their sway so she doesn’t spill the beans.

 

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The following day, Dr. Cross brings Paul to see his wife. She’s very groggy and almost seems worse. Cross informs him that his time missing in action in the war has disturbed his wife’s mind, and that she may never recover. He informs the good doctor that he went to the local military base and got a second opinion. Later, Dr. Cross and Nurse Elaine are mentally torturing Janet to drive her further into insanity.

 

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Will the new doctor be able to help Janet awaken from her nervous breakdown? Can Janet ever live a normal life again? Will Dr. Cross and his sinister nurse get caught and pay for their crimes? All will be answered…maybe.

 

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OK, here are my thoughts:

If you think about it, this is one whacked out film. Imagine a doctor this sinister. Killing his wife, then using drugs, and any other means possible to drive someone insane. I’m sure a plot like this was quite shocking (no pun intended) back in 1946 for the audience. Obviously in today’s reality, this kind of thing is old news, sadly. The supporting cast isn’t all that stellar, but Price is on point once again. At certain moments, he’s truly evil, but once in a while, he’s conflicted. This sets in motion the thought: Is Price’s character insane or just tormented? Sure, he bludgeoned his wife, but that was in a fit of rage, the textbook definition of insanity. And when it comes down to actually killing another, he’s torn about it because he loves the nurse, but realizes killing is wrong.

We do see a solid performance by Anabel Shaw (Janet). She does a pretty good job at portraying someone fight for their sanity. The sets were pretty much standard fare, as was the soundtrack (it did have its moments, but overall it was average). Another classic that any fan of Vincent Price must see. It almost has a vibe to it like “The Fly,” as far as the conflicting emotions go. Hit up any video site, as I believe this one has fallen into public domain.

 

Click here for a clip!

Cinema Sunday: Tower of London (1962)

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Title: Tower of London

Distributor: Universal Pictures

Writers: Leo Gordon, Edward Small, F. Amos Powell

Director: Roger Corman

Producers: Gene Corman, Edward Small

Starring: Vincent Price, Michael Pate, Joan Freeman, Robert Brown, Charles MacCaulay

Released: October 1962

MPAA: Approved

 

After a brief hiatus (one weekend for a quick vacation!), Cinema Sunday has returned! And of course, with a film starring one of the all time greats (if not the greatest), Vincent Price! This film is one I’ve been dying to see, and now that I’ve watched it two or three times, I’ll be spotlighting it today! In typical Price fashion, we get some very disturbing scenes in this film, and his fabulous portrayal of this sinister character. Listen, not everyone can take a historical setting, elements from the works of Shakespeare, and murder, and turn them into gold. But yes, Vincent Price can do the impossible.

The rest of the cast is good as well, and you should definitely recognize a few faces in this one. Murder, ghosts, and insanity, are all present in this gem! Alright, without further interruption, here we go!

 

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The film begins with a narrator telling the viewer that the Tower of London, and the insanity that went on within the structure. The year is 1483, and Edward IV King of England is on his death-bed. He’s surrounded by his family, which includes his brother, Richard, The Duke of Gloucester (Vincent Price). We see Edward’s two sons as well, and they will take over once they become of age. In the meantime, Edward’s other brother, George (Charles Macaulay), Duke of Clarence, is named as protector of the young boys that will one day rule. The three son’s mother is also there, and she seems suspicious that Edward being weak, puts the throne and England in jeopardy.

 

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Later that night, Richard and George (although Richard and Edward call him Clarence) are having a drink together, as they have not seen each other in many years. The two men compliment each other but Richard seems a bit illusory with his words. George then asks Richard for his help in protecting the boys, and puts out his hands for an embrace. As Richard hugs his brother, he pulls out a knife, and stabs him in the back! He then dumps the body into a barrel of water (to make sure the job is done?).

 

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Richard then retreats to his room, where his wife, Anne (Joan Camden) knows about these plans, and urges Richard to wash the blood off of his hands. The others present then find George murdered, and call for Richard. Once he arrives and acts surprised, everyone notices that the blade bears a certain family crest on it, and it is the family of King Edward’s wife’s family, the Woodville’s. Edward’s wife (Sarah Selby) is present, and can’t believe what her family is being accused of this day. They all go to Edward’s chambers to give him the bad news, and in his grief, he thinks that his wife’s family may have done it, in a power play for the throne. Edward then names Richard as the new protector of the children.

 

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Later that night, Richard is quoting Shakespeare to himself, but all of a sudden he hears a voice nearby. He then sees his dead brother (a ghost), and he tells Richard that there will be a reckoning. Richard tries to explain his actions but George tells him that he’ll die a violent death, and at the hands of a dead man. At this very moment, there’s an explosion (lighting, cannon misfires?), and it sends some rubble from the top of the Tower crashing down, almost killing Richard. George tells him again, that death will come for him soon. Richard scurries to him bedroom, and Anne attempts to calm him down, and he reveals to her that a ghost tried to kill him.

 

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Richard goes to visit Edward one last time, and their mother is by his bedside. She speaks very sharply at Richard, and seems to know him for the malefactor that he has become. She urges him to see his dying brother, and as he bids him goodbye, he kisses him on the forehead. As he backs away, he sees blood where his lips touched his brother. He screams in fear, and his mother tells him she doesn’t see anything, and she accuses him of treachery. He shoots back at her, and blames her for his deformities (apparently he has something along the lines of curvature of the spine, and other physical handicaps).

 

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The Queen then launches a secret investigation into the death of George. At this point, we have two factions in the castle. One loyal to Richard, and the others loyal to the Queen and her family. The aid of Sir Richard Ratcliffe (Michael Pate), helps Richard keep everyone off-balance for a while, but when he tries to coerce the Lady-in-waiting, Mistress Shore (Sandra Knight – image below), and later murders her, things really begin to get out of hand.

Will Richard’s plan to usurp the throne of England come to fruition? Or will the Woodville’s and their accomplices be able to stop him before he kills everyone in his way? Watch to learn the answers!

 

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OK, here are my thoughts:

As far as films starring Vincent Price go, this is definitely a must see. It’s right up there with House of Wax, Last Man on Earth, The Fly, etc. His performance alone is worth the price of admission, but you do get solid jobs from Michael Pate (he plays a great weasel in this film), and even Charles MacCauly (Blacula) in just a couple of scenes that he has in this one.

The special effects are good, and Price really does an excellent job in the scenes with the ghosts. One scene in particular, which I didn’t mention above, is when one of the ghosts inhabits the body of Price’s wife in the film, and this causes him to go off the deep end even further, and he strangles his own wife, believing she’s the ghost. The sets were convincing for sure, but the music wasn’t anything you’ll remember.

Search this one out, and believe me when I say that it’s definitely worth owning. Even if you’re not a huge Price fan like I am, you’ll be impressed with this one after just one viewing!

 

Click here for a couple of clips!

 

Cinema Sunday: The Tingler (1959)

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Title: The Tingler

Distributor: Columbia Pictures

Writer: Robb White

Director: William Castle

Producer: William Castle

Starring: Vincent Price, Judith Evelyn, Darryl Hickman, Patricia Cutts, Philip Coolidge

Released: July 1959

MPAA: Approved

 

After a double-dip of Amicus films, I thought it had been too long since I’d visited a film starring one of my all time favorite actors, Vincent Price! I still have quite a few films of his that I want to spotlight, and this one is right at the top of the list, so I figured, why not? By this time in his career, Price had been working diligently and built up a good reputation. He had also begun to do almost nothing aside from horror films, which was a big deal for him, and would’ve been for any actor of that time (the genre was very well-respected back then).

I’d like to think that the relationship between William Castle and Price was one that helped vault both of their careers into the stratosphere, and it definitely helped the genre tremendously, and the industry. Castle was known for his cheaply made films that used a gimmick to get the audience to squeal, and more often than not, he accomplished that feat and more. OK, without further interruption, here we go…

 

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The film begins with it’ Producer/Director, William Castle warning the viewers that he’s obligated to warn us that we (the viewers) will also be experiencing some of the sensations physically that the actors in the film did. He urges you to scream at the top of your lunges to help alleviate this sensation. The screen is then bombarded by floating heads that scream loudly, and the film begins.

We see a man in a jail cell, and he looks as though he’s about to go mad. He’s led from his cell to a room (execution), and then the scene switches to a room marked “autopsy” and we see Dr. Warren Chapin (Vincent Price), as he’s readying the room for another customer. A few minutes alter, and a body is rolled out of the room, and towards the autopsy room. Once the body arrives, Chapin begins his work. He notices that the dead man’s back is broken in two different places, and he theorizes that something other than electrocution did this. The other man in the room, Oliver Higgins (Philip Coolidge), tells Chapin that this man is a serial killer that also happens to be his wife’s brother. Chapin discusses his fascination with fear, and experimenting on people to figure out the effects from it.

 

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After the autopsy is over, Chapin gives Higgins a ride into town. They walk by a movie theater that Higgins and his wife own. Higgins uses sign language to tell his wife that he’s going to have a cup of coffee with Chapin at their apartment across the street. Eventually, Mrs. Higgins (Judith Evelyn), comes in and Oliver explains that she cannot speak or hear, so she must read lips or use sign language. As they talk, Chapin gets cut, and the mere sight of blood causes Martha to faint. later, Chapin tells Oliver that the reason she faints when she sees blood, is because she cannot scream and release the fear inside of her. Chapin, after Oliver asks him about the tingling sensation, dubs this condition “the Tingler.” Chapin leaves and heads for home.

 

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Over at his house, Chapin enters and is greeted by Lucy (Pamela Lincoln), and then his partner, David (Darryl Hickman). He tells David about his interesting experience today with the deaf-mute woman, and the two theorize about the effects of fear. Lucy gets mad and wants to leave, so David eventually complies. Later that night, Isabel (Patricia Cutts), Lucy’s older sister (and guardian), and apparently Chapin’s rich, estranged/ex-wife. Chapin and Isabel exchange quips, and then after Isabel gets cranky, Chapin pulls out a gun, and threatens her with a pistol. He leads her down to the lab, and threatens her. He demands that she leaves Lucy and David alone, and that gives half of her father’s fortune to Lucy. She tells him she wont do it, and lunges for the phone to call the police. Chapin shoots her, and while the body is still warm, he begins to experiment on her.

 

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He quickly takes x-rays of her spine to see what causes it to break suddenly when someone is struck by a terrible fear. A moment later, she leaps up from the table and shrieks. He tells her it was only blanks in the gun, and that she passed out from the situation. Meanwhile, a cat that David procured for the experiment hops in the window and scares Isabel. He tells her that the cat was originally intended for the experiment but he thought she’d make a better volunteer. He also asks her is she’s seen this cat before in any of the local alleyways. She threatens him and gives him an ominous forecast for his future.

 

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The following day David comes over to the lab, and shows him the x-rays of Isabel just as she was scared stiff. David is astounded by this find as they both see that there is indeed something in the spine just as someone is frightened. Chapin wants to push forward, but David is worried. Chapin convinces him to follow along, and the two try concoct a plan to extract a “tingler.” Chapin gives David the night off, and he and Lucy get the impression something is amiss.  They’re right, and they peek in on Chapin as he injects himself with some drugs (LSD?) to induce a fear in himself.

 

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Chapin starts to go on a trip, and is trying to record all of this, but is having trouble keeping up with things the longer he’s under the influence. He starts to hallucinate that the walls are closing in on him, and he begins to panic. He feels like he can’t breathe, and sees the skeleton in his lab come after him. He tries to stop himself, but cannot, so he screams out. After he wakes, he tells David and Lucy that there isn’t anyway possible for someone to stop themselves from screaming from fear. He then gets a sinister idea, and leaves. David is worried he might experiment on Oliver’s wife, since she cannot scream.

Will Dr. Chapin resort to experimenting on Martha? Will he prove his theory about the Tingler? Check out this classic to find out!

 

OK, here are my thoughts:

This film is another good one from Castle and Price. House on Haunted Hill is better, mostly because of the cast, but also in plot. You can’t dismiss this one though, and I’m sure the gimmicks helped this one be even better when it was in the theaters. The special effects were pretty cool, especially the scene with the blood. Of course the “Tingler” by today’s standards would be judged as cheesy, but in all honesty, it looks as good comparatively speaking to the face-hugger in Aliens (1986).

The film is a must see for any Price fan, but also for anyone that loves old school cinema, especially of the thriller/horror variety. You do get a cool twist late in the film, and if you love House on haunted Hill, this one has some of the same elements to it that made that one great. Lets be honest for a minute, Price could carry any film, and his reputation was built on performances like this one!

 

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 Haunted Palace (1963)

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Title: The Haunted Palace

Distributor: American International Pictures

Writer: Charles Beaumont (screenplay), based on a story by H.P. Lovecraft

Director: Roger Corman

Producers: Samuel Z. Arkoff, Roger Corman, James H. Nicholson

Starring: Vincent Price, Lon Chaney Jr., Debra Paget, Frank Maxwell

Released: August 1963

MPAA: Approved

 

Once again, I’m strolling down the halls of the horror hall of fame! Not only does this film have Vincent Price, Lon Chaney Jr., but it also has Roger Corman directing! This is the first American film to introduce the works of H.P. Lovecraft to moviegoers. The film is based on a story called “The Case of Charles Dexter Ward” and not off of an Edgar Allan Poe story (a common misconception because of the way the movie was promoted as being part of the set of movies Corman had previously done). For fans of the film that don’t know about the story behind it, definitely read up on Lovecraft, he was an interesting writer.

Alright, well, you can see from the movie poster, that this film is a wild one that involves all sorts of creepy elements. Murder, black magic, and beautiful ladies are what classic horror movies are made of…or so I’m told. AIP (American International Pictures) and Roger Corman made a lot of films together with this formula (8-9 I believe), and it worked out brilliantly. Price, along with people like Karloff, Lorre, and so on, had so much talent and an eeriness about them that vault these films from flimsy to fantastic! Now, without any further delay, here’s the film!

 

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The movie opens with a few men hanging out at a local pub (around 1765, somewhere in New England). One of them, Ezra Weeden (Leo Gordon – image above), sits by the window, as if he’s on watch. Another man, Micah Smith (Elisha Cook Jr. – image above) urges him to chill out and have some fun, but he refuses, citing that there’s foul play about, and he knows who’s behind it. Suddenly, amidst the fog, we see a young woman walking alone. Through the town, and up to the old house at the end of the town. The door opens, and she’s met by two people. Joseph Curwen (Vincent Price), and Hester Tillinghast (Cathie Merchant), welcome her in, and then proceed to take her to the bowels of the old palace. Once there, they chain her up over a pit, and after reciting some kind of incantation, a hellish creature begins to rise from the fiery pit.

 

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Meanwhile, the villagers have grabbed their pitchforks and torches, and are heading to the house. They hear her scream and begin to pound on the door. Curwen answers, and tells them to get lost. They question the girl, and she seems to be in a trance, so they agree that he’s a warlock, and drag him off to be burned at the stake. They initially grab the woman as well, but Curwen tells them to leave her alone because she’s been “hexed.” After they drag Curwen away, he tells Hester that once he’s dead, they’ll be able to be together again. They all march towards town, and then condemn him, and he warns them that he’ll return to seek revenge against the town leaders. They light the straw, and burn him anyway.

 

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Sherman set the WABAC machine 110 years into the future in New England. We see a man, Charles Dexter Ward (Vincent Price), and his wife, Anne (Debra Paget), arrive at the docks, and head into the town of Arkham. They are very excited to see a house that Charles has inherited, but cannot find it initially. They stop at a local pub, and ask the inhabitants of the home’s whereabouts. The townspeople are very frigid toward them, and even refuse to tell the location of the house. Ward and his wife are about to give up, when one of the men, Dr. Willet (Frank Maxwell), tells them how to get to the house. As they leave the pub, they run into some people with terrible deformities, and they wonder why so many in the town have this affliction. Back at the pub, the descendants of the original townspeople argue over the curse that Curwen laid on them, and the fact that Ward is a dead-ringer for him.

 

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As Charles and Anne near the home, they get an uneasy feeling, but enter once they arrive.  Ward then sees a painting of the previous owner, his great-grandfather, Curwen, and is struck into a momentary trance. Anne asks what’s wrong, and he tells her nothing. Anne attempts to open a cabinet, but then a poisonous snake pops out. Ward grabs a hatchet and chops its head off. Anne then moves towards another room, but Charles tells her that it doesn’t lead anywhere. She asks how he knows this, and he replies that “it’s just a guess.” As they search through the dark house, they’re surprised by a man, Simon Orne (Lon Chaney Jr.). He tells them that he’s the caretaker of the old palace, and that he has been so for a long time. Anne is frightened out her skin, but Charles seems to be OK with the creepy old guy. She wants to leave, but Charles insists that they stay the night.

 

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Over on the other side of town, we see one of the villagers, Edgar Weeden, and his wife. Edgar feeds a beast/person, that’s locked up behind a huge door. The thing grabs Weeden, and almost tears his arm off, but he uses the flame of the candle he’s carrying to burn it. Weeden then tells his wife that the beast knows who’s come back to Arkham, and that is why the beast is upset. Back at the palace, Charles has a cigar, and stares at the painting of Curwen. It seems to be driving him mad, but then he suddenly turns around, and has a sinister look on his face. The next day, Anne is ready to leave and asks Charles if he’s ready to leave. He tells her he’s decided to stay, so he can fix up the place and sell it. His demeanor is completely different, and he suggests that if she doesn’t want to stay, she can go home without him. She’s shocked by his abrupt attitude, but he then apologizes.

 

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That night, they head into town, but everyone seems to be gone, and the pub is closed. As they turn around, they’re surrounded by the deformed people in the town. As the church bells ring, they walk simply away. The two have Dr. Willet over, and have dinner with him. He explains to them why the other townspeople don’t like them, and all about the warlock, Joseph Curwen. He tells them that Curwen’s wife, died in labor, so Curwen selected Weeden’s betrothed for his new “woman.” He tells them that young woman began to disappear and Curwen was suspected. They then learned the rest of the gory details, including the curse. He also mentions that Curwen was rumored to have gained possession of a book called the Necronomicon (there’s your Lovecraft reference), and that it supposedly could give a man ultimate power, by being able to summon the Old Ones (Cthulhu, Yog-Sothoth, etc.).

 

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Later that night, Anne wakes up, and finds Charles out on the balcony, in the middle of a storm. He hears wailing from the town below, and it seems to intrigue him. As he walks downstairs, some unseen force leads him outside, and he begins to hear the events of the night his ancestor was burned. He’s surprised by Simon, and he tells Charles to ask Curwen about the voices he heard. Simon then  follows him inside the house, and Curwen then possess the body of Charles Dexter Ward. Simon then brings him the Necronomicon, and another servant pops up as well. Curwen then tells them that Ward is fighting him, and that he wont be able to gain full control for a while yet. Anne finds him downstairs but he cannot explain how he got there or why he cannot leave.

 

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The next evening, the villagers are discussing what they might have to do, but Dr. Willet tells them to stop being foolish. Ward/Curwen then has his two henchmen dig up a corpse, and bring it back to the palace. Anne asks what’s going on, and he tells her to mind her own business. Ward then tries to fight Curwen’s influence, and he catches Anne spying on him. He shouts at her and tells her that tomorrow she must leave for Boston. Upstairs in the bedroom, Anne hears some wailing, so she gets up to investigate the noise. A door creaks open, and she heads inside. Down to the lower depths of the old palace she descends, rats pop up, and then she finds an old wooden door, and opens it. As she’s creeping around, she’s surprised by Simon, and faints. We then see that Curwen exhumed his dead wife, and uses a spell to resurrect her, but it seems that she might be dead for too long and the spell wont work. Simon rushes him upstairs, as Charles is trying to take control. Anne explains to a bewildered Charles that he hasn’t been himself, and he agrees to leave the next day.

The next day arrives, and they attempt to leave, but Simon holds them for a moment, and Curwen takes control. As Anne is waiting with the coach, Dr. Willet arrives and tells Anne about the grave robbing incident, and that the villagers blame her husband. Ward/Curwen appears and tells Willet and his wife that he wont be leaving, and that the villagers might as well give up, because he’ll never leave…

 

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Will Charles Dexter Ward be able to re-assume control of his body, or will the soul of his evil relative keep control and get his revenge against the villagers?!? Watch this one to find the answers!

OK, here are my thoughts:

As a mild fan of the Lovecraft mythos, I can’t claim to know much about the film’s influence from the story (I’ve never read it). I will say this though, that even if the influence isn’t exceptionally strong,it still will intrigue you (and it has me) to seek out Lovecraft’s work. Corman did his usual magic with virtually no money, and it’s his forte. He’s literally the only director I can think of that time and time again made solid films with very little money. Sure, some of them weren’t so great, but the majority of them have very solid scripts and/or acting.

Speaking of acting, Vincent Price delivers a performance for the ages in this one. I liken it to House of Wax or The Last Man on Earth. It’s that good. Debra Paget is great as the frightened wife, and really puts on a great performance. Her hatred for Curwen but love for Ward is incredible. Chaney isn’t in very many scenes, but adds his usual luster and presence to the film. The sets are small but effective, and of course, the budget had a lot to do with that. There wasn’t anything overly exceptional about the music score, but it was sufficient to get you riled up a time or two.

Solid acting, sets, and a story that is eerie, creepy, and all around evil! Get this one on the watch list sooner than later, because you’ll enjoy it if you’re a Price fan, Lovecraft fan, or just a classic horror fan in general!

Click here for the trailer!

Cinema Sunday: Diary of a Madman (1963)

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Title: Diary of a Madman

Distributor: United Artists

Writer: Robert E. Kent

Director: Reginald Le Borg

Producers: Robert E. Kent, Edward Small

Starring: Vincent Price, Nancy Kovack, Lewis Martin, Chris Warfield, Ian Wolfe

Released: March 1963

MPAA: Approved

 

It’s no secret I think Vincent Price is one of the bet film stars of all time. Not just in the horror genre, but all of them. You can debate if you’d like, but I promise you that the people who will debate most wholeheartedly are the ones that haven’t seen many (if any) of his films. He’s definitely one the top horror icons, and along with Cushing, Lee, Lugosi, Karloff, & Chaney, his place is forever cemented in the industry.

This film has Price, but no other really bankable stars (Ian Wolfe was established, but not a household name), so when you watch this one, you really get a sense that he brought everyone else up to his lofty standards for acting. The film is another gem from Price, and everyone that’s a fan needs to see it. Alright, let us journey into the past…

 

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The film begins with a funeral for a man named Simon Cordier (Vincent Price). His family and friends stand by and watch the priest finish the service, and one woman remarks that she’s glad he’s dead. The same small group of people meet at an art gallery, and read the last wishes of Simon Cordier. The diary tells them that Cordier believed he was possessed by an evil spirit, called “horla,” and it forced him and others to commit unspeakable acts. We then flashback to when Cordier first encountered the horla…

 

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We learn that Cordier was a magistrate, and that his first saw evidence of this abomination, it was while visiting a prisoner (image above) that was only days away from execution. The prisoner pleads with Cordier, telling him that he didn’t really want to murder people, but that an evil spirit forced him to do it. At first, Cordier doesn’t believe him, but then the man’s eyes begin to glow with a green hue, and the man savagely attacks Cordier. They struggle for a moment, but then Cordier manages to push him away. The guards come running in, and discover that the prisoner died when he hit his head against the stone wall. Cordier is in shock over what he’s seen and done.

 

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The following day, Cordier is upstairs in his home, and he sees a picture of a woman and a boy (apparently his wife and son that are deceased). He freaks out, and calls his butler, Pierre (Ian Wolfe), about the picture. Pierre explains that he doesn’t know how the picture came to be there (it had previously been stored away). Pierre then calls to Louise (Mary Adams), the cook, and questions her about the matter. In the next moment, Cordier sees some writing on a dusty shelf in the same room that reads…”hatred is evil.” These are the same words that the prisoner spoke before he attempted to kill Cordier. Cordier thinks he sleep walked, and did these things.

 

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The following day, Cordier goes to his office, and finds the case file for the recently deceased prisoner. He doesn’t remember leaving it there, and can’t figure out why it’s there. He then hears a voice call out to him, warning him that because he killed the prisoner, he will now be the host for this specter. After excusing himself from the court that day, he begins to write in his diary about the strange goings-on. Once again, the voice calls out to him, and then possesses him. It tells him that he must kill his pet bird, and he does. The spirit then leaves, and Cordier sees what he’s done.

 

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In the next scene, Cordier is visiting a psychiatrist about his troubles. The doctor believes that the strain of work, and the death’s of his family have driven him to this problem. He tells Cordier to return to his hobby of sculpting, take a vacation, and to immerse himself in art. He does just that, and walks around a neighborhood, looking at art. He’s approached by a beautiful woman, Odette Mallotte DuClasse (Nancy Kovack – image above), who asks him to buy the portrait of her. They strike up some conversation and he tells her that he’s a sculptor. One thing leads to another, and she agrees to pose for him later that night. Odette heads inside to see her husband, Paul DuClasse (Chris Warfield), the artist. She tells him that she’s going to pose for another artist, and her husband gets jealous. She tells him that her lifestyle needs more income, so she’s taking the job, to the dismay of her husband.

 

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That night, Odette travels to the home of Cordier to pose for him, and after a quick conversation, the two head upstairs to the studio. Pierre and Louise are overjoyed that Cordier is happy again. In the studio, Odette asks if she needs to “disrobe” but Cordier tells her it’s not a nude. She seems slightly disappointed for a split second, and then tells him that nothing should distract from the face, and he agrees. Cordier compliments her on her beauty, and she smiles.

We then get some more from the diary, as Cordier writes down how happy he is, with his work, sculpting, and that his nightmares are gone. Days pass, and things seem fine, and he finishes the sculpture. There’s some mild flirtation between the two, and then she leaves. Cordier is left alone, but then suddenly, he hears the voice of the specter once again. The two have a conversation about good and evil. The spirit implies that Cordier drove his wife to commit suicide, and that he basically is a murderer. The spirit tells him that he wants his soul, and he knows that Odette is truly evil. Cordier wont believe it, and as he cries out, the spirit leaves the room. Cordier contemplates the reason for this spirit’s existence, but as he does, the spirit shows up, and tortures him some more. The spirit tells him that Odette is evil, and that he’ll force him to punish her if he’ll keep denying the fact.

 

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After a day or so, we see that indeed Cordier is courting Odette, and that has plans for her, or the spirit does. Cordier gives her a brooch and tells her that it belonged to his wife. We then cut to a scene where Odette’s husband, Paul, is telling his woes to another woman, Jean D’Arville (Elaine Devry). He tells the woman that Odette has moved out and into her own apartment. They both surmise that she is stepping out with Cordier because he has money, and power. Paul decides he’s going to go to Cordier’s home, and confront him about the matter. As the two meet, Paul is enraged that Cordier wont stop pursuing his wife, but Cordier doesn’t care. Paul then threatens to make the affair public, and storms out. The spirit tells Cordier that Paul must be killed, but he refuses.

 

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Cordier tells Odette that they’re going to run away, and marry overseas. He thinks he can avoid the spirit’s influence, but the spirit tells him otherwise. Cordier pulls out a gun, and tries to kill the spirit, but to no avail. The spirit then possesses Cordier, and orders him to murder Odette. Paul shows up at the apartment, and gets rough with Odette but she convinces him to leave. Moments later, Cordier shows up and brutally murders Odette. He returns home, and wakes up from the trance, aware of nothing. Paul gets the blame, and the spirit is just getting started!

Will Cordier be able to stop the spirit, or will he also be a victim of its insanity!

 

OK, here are my thoughts:

This film is a must-see for any fans of Price, horror, or just classic cinema. Price was excellent in this film, and really commanded every scene. Nancy Kovack was brilliantly evil in this one, and really matched up well with him. Their on-screen chemistry was something special. The other cast members were solid as well, especially the butler, played by Ian Wolfe.

The most remarkable thing about this film (other than Price), was the outstanding sets. Whether it was the home of Cordier (Price), where most of the film seemed to take place, his office, the street, or even the other houses/apartments in the film, the sets were great (Victor A. Gangelin). The costumes, music, and makeup were all spot on, and really delivered.

Definitely look this one up, you wont be disappointed. After all, it is Vincent Price!

 

Click here for the trailer!

 

Cinema Sunday: The Fly (1958)

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Title: The Fly

Distributor: 20th Century Fox

Writer: James Clavell (Screenplay), original story by George Langelaan

Director: Kurt Neumann

Producer: Kurt Neumann

Starring: Al Hedison, Patricia Owens, Vincent Price, Herbert Marshall

Release: August 1958

MPAA: Approved

OK, so, I know this film isn’t exactly in the same sub-genre as the three previous films I reviewed this month, BUT it does have a monster that kind of fits the bill. Oh, and it has Vincent Price, so it’s automatically worth watching. Even though Price isn’t the main character in this film, his presence is enough to vault this movie into the awesome category!

Without giving too much away, this film features a gruesome beginning, and then the rest is in flashback. A couple of twists at the ens definitely make this film one I’ll never forget. Well, at least the famous line from one particular scene! Alright, let us journey back in time to 1958…

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The movie begins with a night watchman, as he’s making his rounds at an electronics factory. He hears a piece of equipment being operated, and heads in the general direction to investigate. As he opens a door, a young woman (Patricia Owens) looks at him, then dashes off through the back door. The man discovers that she was apparently operating an industrial press, and there’s a man squished underneath it! The next scene shows the same woman, making a phone call to the owner of the factory, Francois Delambre (Vincent Price), claiming that she’s killed her husband, who happens to be Francois’s brother. At first he thinks it’s a joke, but then she reiterates what she’s done, and he quickly calls an inspector friend of his, Inspector Charas (Herbert Marshall) to help him out of this situation.

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The inspector shows up with the coroner and few other policemen. They see that Mrs. Delambre wasn’t just telling some crazy story, as we see a body, half squished under the press. Francois is shocked, and tells them that his brother had a big scar on his left leg, so they can identify the body (the head and left arm are underneath the press). The scar is found and Francois is grief-stricken. They then travel to the home of Mrs. Delambre, to question her about the nights events. She tells them that she activated the press, and exactly how she did it, showing that it very well could’ve been her. The Inspector asks her why she did it, and she tells him that she can’t answer that question. He asks another question, and again, she refuses to answer. He then tells Francois and the doctor to give them a moment alone. He questions her further on the events at the factory, but she’s still very mysterious about her motive. She does get rattled when a fly enters the room, and the inspector notices this immediately.

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The inspector decides on the advice of the doctor, to let her rest, and see if her mind improves (they think her insane). He and Francois then check out his lab, and see that it has been wrecked for some reason. Francois can’t believe it, because his brother was always so careful with the equipment. The inspector then asks Francois if his brother ever used animals in his experiments, and Francois tells him no. He then asks about insects, and Francois pauses for a moment, then tells the inspector that his brother wouldn’t even hurt a fly.

A few days later, the police have sent in a “nurse” to keep an eye on Helene. Everything seems to be fine, until a fly enters the room. Helene is very agitated, and the nurse tells her to not worry, because she’ll kill it. Just as she swats it with a newspaper, Helene screams out in agony, and smashes her breakfast tray. She crumples to the floor, sobbing. The nurse puts her back in bed, and calls the doctor. They can’t understand the situation, and Francois wants to speak with her. The doctor asks Francois if he’s in love with Helene, and he says yes. he admits to loving her, but not interfering with his brother. The doctor tells Francois that he’ll recommend to the police that Helene is guilty, by reason of insanity. At dinner, Francois talks with Phillipe (Helene’s son), and the boy tells Francois that his mother was looking for a specific fly, one with a white head. The boy says that she asked him to look for it the day his father disappeared. Francois stiffens, and realizes that something rather heinous is afoot.

Francois then goes to Helene’s house to speak with her and after some prodding, she relents and tells him the story of what really happened to her husband…

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The two men sit and listen to her story. She tells them that a few months ago, her husband, Andre (Al Hedison), was working on a secret project, but invited his wife into the lab to see the results of his latest experiment. He’s invented a molecular/matter displacement device, but not yet perfected it. He demonstrates it by using a plate with writing on the bottom of it. He turns on the machine, and it transfers the plate from one cabinet, across the room to another. Helene is fascinated but thinks it’s a trick. He assures her it isn’t, and they both are very excited. She looks at the bottom of the plate though, and the writing is backwards. He realizes this is a stumbling block, and immediately works on perfecting the process.

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A few weeks later, he thinks he’s done just that, but wants to test something else, something living. He uses the family cat, but with varying results. The cat is placed in the cabinet, but doesn’t make it to the other one. He hears the cat crying out, but we never see where it ended up. Days later, Andre bursts out of his lab, claiming success. He takes Helene to the ballet to celebrate, then home to see his latest accomplishment. He puts some champagne in the machine, and transfers it to the other cabinet without any problems. Next, he uses the little boy’s pet guinea pig, and at first, Helene is upset, and doesn’t want him to do it. He convinces her it will be fine, and then he shows her it is, and transfers the animal. He does tell her about the cat, and she makes him promise to not use animals anymore.

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A few weeks later, Francois is coming over for lunch, and Andre is ready to unveil his new invention. Helene and Francois head downstairs to the lab, but there’s a note on the door, saying that he wont be up for lunch. At that moment, Phillipe runs in and calls to his mother. He tells her that he’s caught a fly, and not just any fly, but one with a white head, and a white leg. She tells him to run along, not thinking anything of the boy’s exuberance. The boy then releases the fly, and walks away sad about the situation. Later, the maid tells Helene that Andre didn’t eat his supper, and Helene wonders why not. She goes downstairs to investigate, and calls to Andre. he doesn’t answer, and she’s perplexed. She sees a note that was slipped under the door, and reads that he’s had a terrible accident. He asks for some milk, and she gets it, and the note also says to leave the milk on his desk, but not to bother him. It says that he’s looking for a fly, but not just any fly, but one with a white head!

 

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Will Andre be able to reverse the horror that he’s created? I hope you’re not in the mood for a happy ending…

OK, here are my thoughts:

If there’s anyone out there that hasn’t seen this flick yet, please, do yourself a favor and check this out. The three main players in this film are fantastic, and never waver in their performances. Of course, Price really commands the scenes he’s a part of, but he’s more of a secondary character in this one. You can’t honestly find anything wrong with this film. The acting, sets, music, everything, is top-notch here. The make-up is nothing short of brilliant for the 1950’s, and we have Ben Nye (RIP) to thank for that. Just incredible work by that man.

Even fans of newer films of this genre will appreciate this one.It would be impossible to not like this film, because of its simplicity, but over abundance of great moments that will never leave your mind after watching it. Do yourself a favor, check out Netflix or grab this one in a DVD bin at a Big Box store. it’s well worth whatever they’re asking, trust me! The fact that the film has a beautiful leading lady doesn’t hurt either!

 

Click here for the trailer!

 

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Cinema Sunday: The Mad Magician (1954)

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Title: The Mad Magician

Distributor: Columbia Pictures

Writer: Crane Wilbur

Director: John Brahm

Producer: Bryan Foy

Starring: Vincent Price, Mary Murphy, Eva Gabor, John Emery

Released: May 1954

MPAA: UR

 

This past Halloween has me completely focused on one actor – Vincent Price! I can’t get enough of his films, and that will continue today with a look at another one of his classics. This film has quickly ascended to near the top on my favorite films of Price, and won’t likely be pushed backwards any time soon. The film’s director has a pedigree in the entertainment industry, and we’ll touch on that a bit later.

For Price, this film was one that followed his huge hit, House of Wax, so you know that his name was slowly becoming a household name, and could begin to draw in moviegoers by the droves. Price almost went explicitly horror after this film, with a few minor exceptions. That genre would cement him as one of the biggest  horror icons of all time. Now, let’s get to the plot!

 

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The film opens with a typical street scene of that era (turn of the century). People muddling around, without a care in the world. A poster for a show running adorns the side of a building, and announces that Gallico the Great will perform many illusions, and the most dangerous of them all is the “Lady and the Buzz-saw” trick! Inside, the crew is bustling around, attempting to ready for the show. On stage, a man, Don Gallico (Vincent Price), is giving instructions to the musicians on how he expects them to follow his lead. Meanwhile, at the front door, a man, Detective Alan Bruce (Patrick O’ Neal)  is seeking entrance but the doorman tells him that no one is allowed in during rehearsal. He mentions that he’s there to see a friend, Karen Lee (Mary Murphy), and the doorman lets him in to see her.

Back on stage, Gallico talks to Karen and Alan about this being his first performance, so he’s very nervous. Karen explains to Alan that Gallico has been in the industry for a long time, but behind the scenes, building the marvelous contraptions that other magicians use to mystify the crowds. He felt it was high-time he stepped out from behind the curtain, and was the star  of the show!

 

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That night, the show opens, and back in the dressing room, Gallico prepares for his big night. He’s wearing a disguise, one that mimics one of his competitors. The magician he impersonates is the Great Rinaldi. He does a few simple illusions, one involving his assistant, Karen. He leaves the stage to prepare for his next big illusion (the buzz-saw trick), and everyone readies themselves. As he removes his makeup, he returns tot he stage, and demonstrates his saw. It tears right through a wooden post, that slightly resembles the shape of a human body/head. Just as the trick is about to begin, a curtain falls, and Gallico is furious. The building manager tells him that two men have arrived with an injunction, stopping him from doing this trick. Ross Ormond (Donald Randolph), owns the company that Gallico works for, and he tells him that the machine belongs to him. He demands that Gallico takes it to his warehouse in New York City, or he’ll never work in the industry again (he insinuates that Gallico will be blacklisted). Gallico snaps, and tries to grab Ormond, but Karen’s boyfriend Alan, stops him. You can literally see the hate in Gallico’s eyes, and we know this will not end well.

 

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The next day, Gallico and Alan are looking over the contract, and see that there is no way out. Alan feels bad for Gallico, and tells him that he’ll help any way he can. Ormond and the Great Rinaldi (John Emery) show up, and tell Gallico that they will be using the buzz-saw trick at his next show at the same theater Gallico had booked for his big show. Rinaldi leaves, and Ormond then informs Gallico that he knew about the machine well before the night before, but wanted to teach him a lesson in humility, so he waited until he was on stage, then humiliated him at the worst moment. To make matters worse, Gallico had a beautiful wife, but Ormond stole her away from him (with his money). As the two men recount the past, the face of Gallico reveals his incendiary feelings towards Ormond. In a fit of rage, Gallico chokes Ormond, then places him on the buzz-saw machine, holds him down, and activates the saw…

A while later, Gallico is cleaning up the studio, and Karen knocks at the door, he finishes cleaning up, and lets her in, but is obviously rattled. He thanks her for her help with the show, and writes a check to her for her work. She leaves to go and meet Alan for dinner, but grabs Gallico’s bag by mistake (they look very similar), and heads out. After a minute or so, Gallico realizes that she took his bag instead of her own, which shouldn’t be a big deal, accept that Ormond’s head is in his bag! He rushes to the restaurant and finds Karen and Alan. He asks her for the bag, but she left it in a cab. Frantically, Gallico tracks down the cab that took her to the restaurant, but he tells her that he saw it was left in the cab, so he gave it to a cop. He tracks him down, and retrieves the bag before anything goes awry.

 

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Next, we see that Gallico saved the head for a specific reason. He uses it to make a model and then a mask, replicating Ormond exactly! He then tosses the body on a bonfire (the town is celebrating a football game victory) to get rid of the evidence. We then see him with his “Ormond” mask on, and he then assumes that identity. He rents a room at a nearby building, and begins to build something. out of the blue one day, his ex-wife shows up, and immediately begins to hit on him. She questions him about the whereabouts of Ormond. Gallico tells her that he doesn’t know where he is, and when she goads him, he slaps her, then warns her to get out. She then goes to the police, asking for their help in finding her missing husband.

 

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Soon after, Mrs. Ormond gets call from the landlords where Gallico (disguised as Ormond, but using an assumed name) is now living. The landlords out him, and then allow her to wait in his room, and surprise him. She surprises him alright, but then the surprise is on her when she realizes that it’s Gallico. He listens to her talk about how she only wanted Ormond for his money, and now she’ll hook back up with him, because she’s also deduced that Ormond is dead. Gallico snaps, and throttles her to death. The landlords bust in, but Gallico jumps out the window, and escapes. The next day, the police have Gallico, the landlords, The Great Rinaldi, and Kate, in a room for questioning. The group basically feels as if Ormond killed his wife, and the police say that they have fingerprints that corroborate this theory.

 

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Gallico then finishes his latest trick, and shows it off to a few people. It’s a device called “the Crematorium,” and it looks spectacular. Lurking behind a curtain is the Great Rinaldi, and you just know he plans on stealing this new trick. As the trick is finished, Rinaldi pops out, and declares that he’ll be using the new device at his show. This is the last straw for Rinaldi, and Gallico has had enough of his pompous blustering. We don’t see the heinous act, but soon after, we see the Great Rinaldi, performing on stage, is actually Gallico in disguise.

As the police start closing in on the real killer, Gallico seems to be coming more and more unhinged. Will they catch him before he commits another murder? Watch the movie and find out!

 

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OK, here are my thoughts:

This has to be considered one of Price’s best films. If you watch this one, it gives you chills when Price goes off the deep end. Why you ask? Because put yourself in that situation, and think about it for a moment. Everything you ever loved, worked for, or cherished gets taken away from you in a very humiliating manner. Yeah, exactly. Price has always played a good crazy person, and this one doesn’t disappoint. The ancillary characters don’t really give stellar performances, but Price gives such a grand one, that it doesn’t even matter. That’s not to say that they bring it down, but most of them are just bland.

The direction, production, and overall crew did a fantastic job at selling this film. The budget wasn’t very high, so you had to have a great show put on by Price, and of course, being the consummate pro, he did just that for audiences around the country. This film is one I’d love to see on the big screen and in 3-D (as it was originally released). I believe the film is in public domain, give the link below a click, and have at it! You will be more than satisfied after the seventy-two minutes are up! As I spoke of briefly earlier, the director, John Brahm, has a family history in the entertainment industry, including the work of his father, Ludwig Brahm, an actor himself, and also his uncle, Otto Brahm, who was a theater man, director, and critic as well!

 

Click here for full movie!

 

 

Cinema Sunday – Special Edition! House on Haunted Hill (1959)

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Title: House on Haunted Hill

Distributor: Allied Artists

Writer: Robb White

Director: William Castle

Producers: William Castle, Robb White

Starring: Vincent Price, Carol Ohmart, Richard Long, Elisha Cook Jr., Carolyn Craig

Released: February 1959

MPAA: UR

 

Anyone that knows me (or follows my blog, etc.), will undoubtedly understand why I’m reviewing this film. Vincent Price is one of my film heroes, and that will never change. His voice, the way he commanded a scene, and his overall creepiness, make him a movie icon. It cannot be disputed or denied. This man’s body of work is incredible, and worthy of high praise. When this film debuted in 1959, Price had already established himself as a B-movie stalwart, starring in hits like House of Wax , The Mad Magician, and The Fly. He also worked on a few more films before those, but they weren’t horror or suspense really. No, it was the horror genre that Price would become infamous for, and I don’t believe he wanted it any other way.

A fine actor Price was indeed, but who is the man behind this film? A gentleman named William Castle, that’s who! Let’s just say that this man could churn out a movie on time, within its budget, and oh yeah, it would be great, too! He was the king of gimmicks, but the story was still always there in his movies. OK, now, let us get to the movie!

 

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The film opens with a woman’s shriek, followed by ghoulish moans, and more shrieks. Next, we see the floating head of Watson Pritchard (Elisha Cook Jr.), and he explains that the house you are about to see is haunted. He also tells us that he almost died in this house. Another floating head, that of Frederick Loren (Vincent Price), explains that he has rented this haunted house, and is having a party for his fourth wife, Annabelle (Carol Ohmart). He also is going to offer ten thousand dollars to anyone one of the party-goers who can stay the entire night in the house. You definitely get the impression that he doesn’t particularly care for his wife.  As the guests arrive, he introduces them to us, one by one. A test pilot, Lance Schroeder (Richard Long), a newspaper columnist, Ruth Bridges (Julie Mitchum), a psychiatrist, Dr. David Trent (Alan Marshal), Nora Manning (Carolyn Craig), who works for one of Loren’s companies (he’s a multimillionaire), and finally, the home owner, Pritchard, who says he needs the money.

 

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As they all make their way inside, introductions are made, but the questions remains. Where is the host of this party? Suddenly, a door slams shut, and the chandelier begins to shake. Loren watches with glee. he makes his way to the bedroom, calling his wife. He announces that the guests are all here, and unfortunately still alive. He asks her if she’s “put her face on” and she emerges from the bathroom, firing right back with insults of her own. The two go back and forth for a few minutes, and then Loren asks his wife if she’ll take a million dollars and just go away. She tells him that she won’t, because she wants all of his money. He then recalls a time when she poisoned him, but she denies it, and tells him that it was something he ate…he replies with “yes, arsenic on the rocks.”

 

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Loren then heads downstairs and makes some drinks for his guests. He then takes them on a tour of the house, and Pritchard tells them about some of the murders that took place in th house at one time or another. Some blood drips on Ruth, and Pritchard tells her that she’s been “marked” but they laugh it off. In the basement, they see the pit of acid that one man supposedly used to kill off his wife. Nora almost falls in, and everyone gasps. Lance then gets Nora alone, and begins to hit on her. Nora explains that she needs the money because she’s the only one in her family that’s working. Lance opens a door, and walks in, and the door immediately shuts behind him. Nora tries to open it, but can’t even budge it. The lights go out, and a weird noise starts up, and scares Nora. She looks across the room, and a ghastly figure appears. She nearly dies of fright, and after the apparition disappears, she runs into the other room where everyone else is congregating. They all rush to find Lance, and he’s lying in the room, with a huge gash on his head, bleeding.

 

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Lance then has Nora help him try to figure out what happened when he was hit on the head. He and Nora split up just for a moment, and once again, Nora sees the horrible woman/ghost, as it menacingly leans over her, she huddles down near the floor. It floats away, and Lance hurries in. She tells him what happened, but he doesn’t believe her because he didn’t see anything. She leaves in a huff, and goes upstairs. She runs into Annabelle, and the two have a talk. You get the feeling that Annabelle thinks that her husband is fooling around with Nora, but she denies it vehemently. After that, Annabelle runs into Lance, and they have a talk about the house, and about Loren. Annabelle seems to be scared that Loren is going to try to kill her, and Lance seems puzzled. Annabelle rushes back to her bedroom, and Loren comes in and threatens her, that she’d better come downstairs, or else!

 

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As the night grows older, more and more hi-jinx ensue, with some of the shenanigans getting even more deadly by the minute! Is ten thousand dollars worth being scared to death or worse? Watch and find out!

OK, here are my thoughts:

When you look at this film’s budget, and the fact that it made a ton of money (for its time), this film is a gem that cannot be undervalued. Price is his usual brilliant self, but the rest of the cast also gives quite a good performance. Some of the scenes are hilarious, and really add to a movie that already is gold. At one point, Price and Ohmart are jabbing back and forth at each other, and Price tells her not to “stay up all night thinking of ways to kill him, because it will give her wrinkles.” Another great touch is when Price is attempting to assuage the fears of the guests, so he hands out pistols to each of them. The guns are being kept in little miniaturized coffins! Carolyn Craig (Nora) gives a good performance as well, and should be applauded for it.

The cinematographer (Carl E. Guthrie) must be mentioned, as his efforts were monumental considering what he had to work with budget-wise. William Castle was the ultimate showman, and he was the king of gimmicks. He had most of the theaters rigged with flying skeletons, to try to scare the audience. This was something he used many times, but most notably in this film, The Tingler (1959), and 13 Ghosts (1960). His biggest commercial credit is being the producer of Rosemary’s Baby (1968). This film lapsed into public domain, so give it a shot, you have nothing to lose!

 

Click here for the full movie!