Archive for December 2014

Tales from the Crypt (1972)   2 comments

crypt poster

Five strangers, lost underground during a guided tour of some catacombs, find their way into a stone crypt. The door closes behind them locking them in with Sir Ralph Richardson clad in a monkshood.

ralph
Who wants to play charades?

The crypt keeper (Richardson) commands them to sit and proceeds to tell them why he’s summoned them. This anthology horror film brought to you by the good folks at Amicus Productions consists of five stories originally found in the comic books of William Gaines. Written by Gaines, Al Feldstein, and Johnny Craig and adapted for the screen by Milton Subotsky, Tales from the Crypt was the fourth portmanteau horror film made by Amicus. Patterned after the Ealing Studios’ 1945 film Dead of Night, the popular films told each character’s separate horror tale to its captive audience.

joan2
Did anyone see an ant?

The first story, “And All Through the House” stars Joan Collins, domestic bliss, and Santa. In “Reflection of Death”, Ian Hendry kisses his wife and kids and goes for a ride. “Poetic Justice” stars Peter Cushing as a sweet old man grieving the death of his wife. He loves children and dogs and has nothing but good on his mind. His evil neighbors find his quaint ways too messy for their fashionable neighborhood.

peter
Why are they so mean?

“Wish You Were Here” is a modern take on W.W. Jacobs’ story “The Monkey’s Paw”. The final tale, “Blind Alleys” stars Patrick Magee and Nigel Patrick in a memorable segment which reminds you about that thing they always say about karma.

magee
Even my kids think I’m creepy.

Full of hyperbole and graphic violence, the stories’ comic background give the film a theatrical flair. They pull you in and the performances ground the film. Full of seasoned actors, Tales from the Crypt is believable in spite of its over the top storylines.
Freddie Francis, who won two Oscars for cinematography (Sons and Lovers, Glory) and many British and European awards and nominations for films like The Elephant Man and Cape Fear directs this film as a straight horror/thriller and can ratchet up the suspense when he has to. He trusts his cast of veteran character actors to come through and they do. Joan Collins goes a bit over the top in her segment, but that’s why we love her.

guests
I brought dip.

I’ve long been a fan of anthologies and Amicus knows how to make them. Hammer gets all the glory, but I prefer these lower budget stories. We’ve seen the actors before and the sets are recycled, but the stories are a lot of fun.

In reading about this film I found out that Peter Cushing wanted the part of Arthur Grimsdyke.  Originally cast in “Wish You Were Here”, Cushing requested that he play the part of the kindly widower instead.  He had just lost his wife in real life and was instructed to play himself.  It’s a sweet role.

If you like anthology horror as much as I do, please check out my review of Vault of Horror also on this blog.

Oh I almost forgot.  My favorite part of Tales from the Crypt was when the crypt keeper, Sir Ralph Richardson first appeared and my teenaged daughter said, “Hey, is this Time Bandits?”  Smile-inducing.

evil
Clean up all this evil.

The Swarm (1978)   3 comments

french swarm

Mile by mile, city by city it moves leaving in its wake a path of destruction.

The Pentagon calls Major General Slater (Richard Widmark) and Major Baker (Bradford Dillman) to investigate the invasion of a secret ICBM site in Texas. They arrive at the base to find the entire crew dead except for Dr. Brad Crane (Michael Caine). Crane explains that the men died, not from enemy fire or poison gas dropped by the Soviets, but from bee stings. Crane sends for Dr. Walter Krim (Henry Fonda), beeologist, who claims the war they’ve been expecting has arrived and sets to work doing autopsies and testing venom.

ants
And you thought ants could spoil your picnic.

In this man vs. nature film, the military refuse to believe the scientists or do very much until some picnickers die violently at the hands of bees. Do bees even have hands? Then bees overrun a Mayberry-like town filled with old Hollywood stars which puts a damper on Olivia de Havilland’s annual flower festival. She and her suitors Fred MacMurray and Ben Johnson along with the rest of the town board a train to look for a town without bees. Cue Gene Pitney.
Meanwhile, back in the lab, Dr. Krim experiments with his bee venom antidote and we meet Richard Chamberlain and José Ferrer for some reason.

provision
Yeah, probably not.

Scientists and airmen make plans, bees foil those plans, and things blow up…a lot. No one knows what to do until Dr. Crane stops ogling Katharine Ross for a second. Oh, she’s in this film too. Crane has a weird and brilliant idea ‘that just might work’. More stuff happens. The end.
Irwin Allen, directed The Swarm and directed and/or produced many of the best disaster films of the 1970s. He produced The Poseidon Adventure, The Towering Inferno, The Night the Bridge Fell (?), and The Swarm with big budgets and big, star-studded casts.

errol
From Errol Flynn to this?

Along with the actors I mentioned, The Swarm also stars Lee Grant, Slim Pickens, Patty Duke, Cameron Mitchell, and Alejandro Rey. I enjoy seeing so many A-listers all in one place, but I have to wonder if the Screen Actors’ Guild had a 2-for-1 sale or something. Jerry Goldsmith wrote the music and Stirling Silliphant and Arthur Herzog wrote the screen play based on Herzog’s novel.

I like The Swarm. It has a 70s dream cast, decent bee effects, and fun dialogue. At one point a helicopter pilot screams “Bees, bees, millions of bees!” right before crashing into a mountain. Dr. Crane remarks after a failed attempt to destroy the bees that “They seem to sense it’s something that will kill them.” Really, Brad? Later Richard Chamberlain says, “They’re brighter than we thought.” Henry Fonda replies, “They always are.” Wise words, Hank. The film also boasts Bradford Dillman as an Air Force major trying desperately to decide what sort of accent he should use. He tries several so it becomes sort of a game to predict how he’ll sound next. A bunch of guys get covered in bees then catch fire and fall off buildings which is always fun. People who are stung also see other people as giant bees. Maybe the bees ate the brown acid.

four bee
Second word. Sounds like me?

Anyway, if you like 1970s stars, flame throwers, or bees, you’re in luck. The Swarm has all those and Michael Caine emoting all over the place and saying “Four minutes to flaming.” It’s a lot of fun.

I watched a making of segment on the DVD and apparently Irwin Allen took care of the actors and stunt people. He spends a lot of production time making sure they have the proper equipment and checking their condition after each shot. Fire and live bees, after all.

Oh I almost forgot the disclaimer.

bee-disclaimer
I had to take a screenshot of this.

Some of my best friends are bees.

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