31 Days of Horror: 2017   Leave a comment


Scary!

Here’s my list! I watched a bunch of stuff. 20 new films and 6 in the theatre. Huzzah!

  1. Kill Baby, Kill (1966) *+
  2. Black Sabbath (1963) *+
  3. Dracula (1931)
  4. Bride of Frankenstein (1935)
  5. Your Vice Is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key (1972) *+
  6. Don’t Torture a Duckling (1972) *+
  7. Theatre of Blood (1973)
  8. The Legend of Hell House (1973)+
  9. Ban the Sadist Videos (2005)+
  10. 100 Bloody Acres (2012)+
  11. And Soon the Darkness (1970)+
  12. Grabbers (2012)
  13. Hellbound: Hellraiser 2 (1988)
  14. Friday the 13th: Part II (1981)&
  15. Friday the 13th: Part VII (1988)&+
  16. Suspiria (1977)*
  17. Inferno (1980)*+
  18. Psycho-Circus (1966)+
  19. Die Screaming Marianne (1971)+
  20. Surveillance (2008)+
  21. House on Haunted Hill (1959)
  22. Cube²: Hypercube (2002)+
  23. The Asphyx (1972)+
  24. Frightmare (1974)+
  25. Night of the Demon (1957)+
  26. The Wicker Man (1973)
  27. Hell House LLC (2015)+
  28. What Have You Done to Solange? (1972)+
  29. Dracula A.D. 1972 (1972)
  30. Hannibal (2001)
  31. The Old Dark House (1932)+
  32. The Haunting (1963)

    *watched in the theatre
    &watched outside in the woods with a machete-wielding guy running around
    +watched for the first time

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Patrick Magee: Food? All Right?   7 comments

A Clockwork Orange

Perenially vexed and menacing with a gravelly voice that retained just a hint of his Irish roots, Patrick Magee played doctors, policemen, military officers, and the occasional psycho in films and television starting in the late 1950s. Though he worked most often on the British stage, Magee alternated theatrical roles with TV and film appearances, working with directors like Joseph Losey, Roger Corman, Francis Ford Coppola, and Stanley Kubrick.

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Kubrick films Magee and Malcolm McDowell in A Clockwork Orange.

Born in Armagh in Northern Ireland in 1922, Patrick George McGee, who changed his name to Magee, began performing Shakespeare and other classics in Ireland in the early 1950s. After coming to London for a series of Irish plays, he met Samuel Beckett and recorded some of Beckett’s plays for BBC Radio. Beckett and Harold Pinter, who Magee acted with in Ireland, remained close to him throughout his career and the two writers often requested Magee for pivotal roles in their plays and film adaptations. Beckett even wrote Krapp’s Last Tape with him in mind and said, while writing the play, Magee’s “voice was the one which I heard in my head.”

NPG x127341; Patrick Magee as Krapp in 'Krapp's Last Tape' by Ida Kar
These whale songs aren’t as calming as I had hoped.

After a handful of appearances in British television shows including Dial 999 and the BBC Sunday-Night Theatre, Magee started working in small, British crime films like Concrete Jungle (1960), directed by Joseph Losey. Stanley Baker stars in the film about the brutal lives of small-time criminals both in and out of prison. Magee has a small, but memorable part as a sadistic warder.

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Magee sizes up Baker.

Magee married another Armagh native, Belle Sherry about this time and later had twins, Mark and Caroline. Despite Magee’s bouts with alcoholism, the couple stayed married until his death in 1982.

His stoic, aristocratic manner often tinged with cruelty and/or wisdom worked well in his roles in Roger Corman’s The Young Racers and Francis Ford Coppola’s Dementia 13. In the modern gothic horror, Dementia 13, Magee is Dr. Caleb, a creepy physician who seems to live on the estate of the wacky Haloran clan during a series of grisly murders. Until the end of the film, we’re never sure whether Magee is good or evil, but he plays the part like he has a locked room in his house where he keeps his collection of femurs.

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“That’s right, little mouse. Just one more step and you’re in a sandwich.”

Corman’s The Masque of the Red Death (1964) came next. Magee’s evil in this one. Then, in Bryan Forbes’ phenomenal Séance on a Wet Afternoon (1964), he’s a police detective tasked with finding a kidnapped child. In Zulu (1964) Cy Endfield’s vivid retelling of the massacre at Rorke’s Drift, he plays a military surgeon. Sensing a pattern here?

Patrick Magee Seance on a Wet Afternoon
“I’m not a doctor, but I play one on TV. I’m a detective? Oh. Nevermind.”

The wonderful Amicus film, The Skull, which, by the way, is awesome, has Magee as a police medical examiner and stars a couple nobodies named Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee. It also features a malicious floating skull, so you should probably run out and watch it right now.

theskull-still
The skull in question

In the 1965 film, Die, Monster, Die! Magee and Boris Karloff do Lovecraft and again, he plays a doctor. The film isn’t as good as the title, but it does involve radiation and large plants.

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Not the plant in question

The skull I mentioned earlier belongs or belonged, depending how you look at it, to the Marquis de Sade, who Magee played later in Marat/Sade (1967). The film takes place in an insane asylum in France and has the famous sadist directing a play about good and evil set during the French Revolution. Magee won a Tony for playing the role on Broadway.

marat1
“You’re rushing it. Relax and follow through.”

William Friedkin directed the disturbing Harold Pinter play, The Birthday Party (1968) in which evil torturers, Magee and Sydney Tafler, team up against a vulnerable Robert Shaw. I’m sorry to say I haven’t seen this one yet, but after reading the description, it jumped to the top of my watch list.

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“THAT BOOK WAS DUE ON THE 14th!”

Magee got a chance to do some serious emoting in the 1971 Stanley Kubrick film. A Clockwork Orange. He plays the writer, Mr. Alexander, victimized by Alex (Malcolm McDowell) who exacts revenge using a little Ludwig van, big speakers, and a plate of pasta. Kubrick cast Magee in Barry Lyndon too. In the sprawling epic, he plays sympathetic gambler, the Chevalier du Balibari, who takes young Lyndon under his wing.

Patrick-Magee=Barry-Lyndon-1975
I love Barry Lyndon, but hahahahahahaha.

My favorite Magee performances are in the Amicus films The Skull, Tales From the Crypt, Asylum, and And Now the Screaming Starts!. I’m a big fan of the Amicus portmanteau films and Tales From the Crypt and Asylum, in which he plays a blind man pushed a bit too far, and a doctor in a mental institution, are two of my favorites. All of the films here were directed by Freddie Francis and Roy Ward Baker and they’re terrific.

asylummagee
“I sat on my keys.”

Magee even shows up in a Charles Bronson classic, Telefon as a Russian KGB officer and in The Oscar-winning Chariots of Fire, as Lord Cadogan, head of the British Olympic committee. His last film roles were in Roy Ward Baker’s The Monster Club with Vincent Price and Lucio Fulci’s The Black Cat in 1981. In the Fulci film based on the Edgar Allen Poe story, Magee plays a psychic who converses with the dead and has a cat. When he has a bad day, Magee employs his cat as a hitman hitcat.

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Patrick Magee in disguise

Between the films in this article, Magee also acted in Antigone, King Lear, many television series, and a host of stage plays. He appeared in Krapp’s Last Tape, the play Beckett wrote with him in mind, in the theatre and on TV as a part of the British anthology series, Thirty-Minute Theatre in 1972.

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“I’ll divide my kingdom up and give it away. It’ll be great. Trust me.”

Earlier this year (July 2017), the Ulster History Circle honored the life of Patrick Magee by placing a blue plaque in Edward Street, Armagh, Ireland where he was born. Fellow Irish actor, Stephen Rea unveiled the memorial.

Patrick Magee had a long, successful career in both stage and screen. Though he tended to play authority figures on the edge of sanity, he had the talent to play a wide range of characters. He’s even in two films with exclamation points in the titles, which can’t be bad. Next time you serve your family dinner, remember his patented method to stop unwanted chatter.

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I wrote this piece as a part of the What a Character blogathon run by Paula of Paula’s Cinema Club, Kellee of Outspoken and Freckled, and Aurora of Once Upon a Screen. Thank you, ladies, for organizing this for the sixth time!

wac2017

 

Coup de Torchon (1981): Once Upon a Time in West Africa   Leave a comment

Lucien Cordier doesn’t have much of a home life. He sleepwalks through his days and sleeps alone at night, while his wife bunks with her “brother” in the next room. His work life is no better. Cordier serves as police chief in the nondescript town of Bourkassa, Senegal. He heads up the force, but we get the idea it’s not because he’s such a crackerjack cop, but because his superiors figured he’d be in nobody’s way out there. Oh, by the way, Bourkassa’s finest is also its only.


Cordier, fighting crime

Bullied by a couple of local pimps, cuckolded by his wife, and ridiculed by the white townspeople, Cordier begins to get headaches and nightmares so he seeks help from his superior stationed nearby, in a larger city. When a fellow policeman abuses him too, all bets are off.


“You’re under arrest.”

Philippe Noiret, who would later play the fatherly projectionist in Cinema Paradiso, does a great job in a part full of subtle changes. Without making any big dramatic noises, Noiret shows despair, longing, innocence, slyness, and more depth than we expect. He’s surrounded by a cast of solid character actors too. Stéphan Audan plays Cordier’s unfaithful wife, Huguette and Isabelle Huppert, his mistress, Rose. Eddy Mitchell is the weakest link, but even he’s appropriately sleazy as Huguette’s wimpy layabout lover, Nono. My favorites are Guy Marchand as Marcel, Cordier’s boss, and Irène Skobline as the teacher, Anne, who may be the only person in Cordier’s life who isn’t morally bankrupt. The fictional town of Bourkassa, Senegal is a character, too. With its streets of yellow dirt and indolent citizens, the village screams dead end. Director, Bertrand Tavernier and cinematographer, Pierre-William Glenn highlight the bleakness and searing heat of Bourkassa by letting the camera linger on the sweat-stained locals and the barren landscape.


“This’ll look great in the brochure.”

Coup de Torchon means something akin to clean slate, and refers to Cordier’s decision to eliminate any impediments to his own happiness and start fresh. Based on Jim Thompson’s 1964 novel, Pop. 1280, the film shifts the story’s location from the American South to West Africa. In the film, Cordier starts out like the Anthony Quinn character at the beginning of The Secret of Santa Vittoria—lazy and beaten down by life, and, like Quinn, becomes a kind of con man, giving his enemies just enough rope to hang themselves. He goes a bit farther than Quinn though and becomes less of a savior and more of an avenging angel by the end of the film. With aspects of the 1970 film, Le Boucher, which also stars Audan, thrown in as well, Coup de Torchon reminded me of quite a few films made before and after. I was picturing Michael Douglas in Falling Down the whole time because of Cordier’s disenchantment with life, along with his ‘taking out the trash’ mentality.


“If I kill everyone, who will make my lunch?”

I enjoyed Coup de Torchon. It’s not easy to find, but if you have access to the out-of-print Criterion version, watch it. Fun flick.

I recently had the chance to talk about Coup de Torchon and films in general with the folks from the Gentlemen’s Guide to Midnite Cinema podcast. They have a neat system, so I’ve included the following ratings. Pssst, here’s the link to the GGtMC podcast.

Make or break: The scene at the police station when Cordier recites his litany of complaints and we see Fête Nat, the poor black servant, mouth the words Cordier speaks as if to say, “I listen to this crap every day.”

MVT: The bleak village had ‘no future’ written all over it.

Score: 7.5/10

Inferno (1980)   1 comment

Location, location, location.


“I wonder where Steven Marcato lives.”

A beautiful woman, Rose (Irene Miracle) buys a book from an antiques dealer. She’s irresistibly drawn to the basement, as one is, and she searches for something (?) in the the surrealistic cellar, only to lose her keys in a flooded sub floor full of dead bodies.


“No way this place passes inspection.”

Cut to Rose’s brother, Mark (Leigh McCloskey), a music student living in Rome, who sees a sexy spirit petting a cat in class.


This is the most normal thing that happens in the film.

All through the film, people keep looking for, finding, and stealing The Three Mothers, a book dealing with witches living in cursed houses in Freiburg, Rome, and New York. I have no idea why. Apparently, having the book gives the reader some kind of power—like a Necronomicon Ex-Mortis or something. I can’t be sure. All I know is the search for the books led characters into some sketchy digs. First, there’s Rose in the cellar lagoon. Then, there’s Mark’s girlfriend who lives in the Rome house, who climbs down into the basement of a library and walks, voluntarily, into a dank room full of cauldrons boiling over high flames lorded over by a wizard-y guy. She manages to make it out of there without getting a face burn, but things don’t end well for her.


“Is this where you return the overdue books?”

Mark ends up traveling to New York to help his sister, who lives in the Big Apple branch of the coven’s real estate holdings. It’s a large building with about four gigantic apartments in it. Alida Valli runs the place and it’s clear she hired the same decorator who did the school in Suspiria. In the building, Mark meets the countess and separately, they search the bowels of the building because walking around in a scary place alone, unarmed, and wearing your best outfit is always a good plan. Also, it’s totally normal for a New York City apartment building to have a completely empty wing.


“It’s probably rent-controlled.”

Bad things happen to pretty much everyone in this film, but no one gets a worse deal than the antiques dealer, who sets out to drown some cats in a bag. He has a bad leg and walks with crutches so carrying the burlap sack full of cats is tough for him. *sad violin* Anyway, he trips on an animal he was attempting to kill and…I won’t spoil it, but it’s ghastly. I watched this in the theatre and oddly, the crowd was not on his side.


Anti-cat shop.

A scary witchlike individual who could use some moisturizer and a manicure, cruises around grabbing people and closing windows on their necks.


“You couldn’t have used a little Jergens?”

I’m all for that, but it was hard to discern a meaning from any of these goings-on. It might have helped if I spoke Italian or if the subtitles, apparently written by a drunk person unfamiliar with horror films, English, or words in general, made any sense at all. In fact, they became so convoluted, the theatre chose to skip the whole thing and just play the film without them. They told us about it beforehand, so we knew what we were in for. The film continues, people run away from the evil being, things catch fire, and before you know it, the film is over. Huzzah!


“Some paint and a light dusting and it’ll be fine.”

Dario Argento meant Inferno as a sequel to Suspiria, but he forgot he needed a story and just ran with it anyway.  Despite the shambolic plot, Inferno entertains. It’s nowhere near as good as Suspiria, but there are some original kills and the sets are gorgeous. Maurizio Garrone was part of the set decoration team on both films. I liked the crazy Dali-esque basements with precariously-balanced chairs and stuffed lizards strewn about. I half-expected to see a melting clock.


Nice gator.

Though not a fantastic film, Inferno is a good time. See it on the big screen if you can.


The Three Mothers: Mater Suspiriorum (Mother of Sorrows), Mater Lachrymarum (Mother of Tears), and Mater Tenebrarum (Mother of Darkness).

Thus endeth the lesson.

Cube²: Hypercube (2002)   1 comment

A handful of strangers awaken in a cube. They have no idea how they got there. The cube is attached to other cubes and they climb from one to the other in a vain attempt to figure out who put them there and how to get out.


“We’ll call the cubes Tom, Dick, and Harry. No, wait.”

Ok. I’ll admit it. I saw Cube and thought it was an interesting concept. It was more interesting when Pirandello, Sartre, and Serling thought of it, but no matter. The film had some bright spots, but it didn’t quite gel. I thought maybe they’d nail it down in Cube²: Hypercube. My hopes were dashed about four minutes into the film.


“What’s my motivation?”

In the first film, I cared somewhat about a couple of the characters and was drawn into their struggle to find the key to their Rubik’s Cube prison. In the second film, I just wanted it to end. The characters, all connected in different ways to the company, Izon, which is obviously evil because they produce armaments and their employees know math, are so completely underdeveloped, it’s tough to care about them. Then, there’s the dialogue. Cribbed from any number of ‘scenes for actors’ type books and probably workshopped in an improv studio somewhere in Toronto, the conversations reeked of cheesy experimental community theatre and the acting, from much of the cast, carried the same stench. Kari Matchett and Geraint Wyn Davies, both familiar faces, were the exceptions. They’re both solid character actors who must have felt hoodwinked after reading the script.


“I found the stage directions. The characters climb into another cube and talk some more.”
“Terrific.”

Anyway, the cube denizens move from cube to cube trying to avoid the evil, and sharp tesseracts that appear and expand and oh I don’t care. Mean computer-generated shapes attack people we don’t care about and then the same characters reappear because parallel universes! Yep. The gang bandy about terms like quantum and gravity shift and draw pictures of cubes and all I thought about was how smart it was for the filmmakers to choose a big cube for the set because they’d only have to make one.


“I knew I hated geometry for a reason.”

There was a twist at the end which didn’t make sense and served no purpose and I didn’t care about anyway. Something something evil corporation experimental cube? I have no idea. I get when a film purposely withholds closure to make a point. I feel like in this case, the lack of a satisfying ending was less by design and more by “Hey, I know! We’ll make the whole thing a conspiracy and junk.”
“Great idea, Tad.”


“Mrs. Paley, you’re smudging the prism.”

No one connected to the film is called Tad, but it fit. The trouble with a conspiracy film without a well-defined conspiracy is you at least need Elliott Gould or Mel Gibson to liven things up and they need something lucid to say. Cube 2: Electric Boogaloo fails on both counts.


“She’s right, you know.”

Cube²: Hypercube lasts an hour and thirty-four minutes. You’re better off spending an extra twenty-one minutes and watching Con Air.


“Turn the channel or the bunny gets it.”

 

Don’t Torture a Duckling (Non si sevizia un paperino) (1972)   3 comments

Don’t Torture a Duckling ticks a lot of boxes for me.


It’s an Italian giallo!


It’s a police procedural!


It’s an ‘evil lurks beneath a façade of goodness’ melodrama!


It’s a witch hunt!

Don’t fight, guys. It’s all that and a cautionary tale about kids hanging out with naked women and watching murders and junk. It’s also a cool mystery that has more red herrings than King Oscar.

Don’t Torture a Duckling is Lucio Fulci’s country giallo and it’s glorious. The film is set in the backward, yet picturesque mountain town of Accendura, Italy, accessible only by an impressive raised highway bridge used mostly by visiting prostitutes and tourists heading somewhere else.


Isn’t that cool?

In this quiet town where everyone knows everyone’s business and the people don’t worry about crime, a series of brutal child killings alters the chemistry of the town and force the residents’ baser instincts to bubble to the surface.


Bubbling

The film starts out a bit Leopold and Loeb-ish. After the first boy goes missing, his parents get a ransom demand. It turns out the boy is already dead and the plot takes a different turn.


“Whatchu talkin’ ’bout, Fulci?”

A psychopath continues to kill little boys until one by one, pretty much every person in town is either killed or implicated in the murder. That includes the sexy sorceress, Florinda Bolkan and spoiled rich girl, Barbara Bouchet, who ends up helping a visiting journalist look for clues. This is the procedural part and it’s well done. The police aren’t backwoods brutes. They’re smart and they really want to catch the killer. We don’t see them worrying about appearances or trying to make an easy bust. They’re genuinely concerned for the safety of the townspeople. That’s a smart choice on Fulci’s part. It keeps the focus on the real murderer.


“Maybe I should send for more guys.”

I loved this film. The characters were real people with flaws and hang-ups and the kids weren’t obnoxious. They were even childlike. They weren’t acting like short adults. The entire situation was genuine right down to the pitchfork-y vigilantism of the locals when they think they know the killer.


“Do you know whodunnit?”

The setting, full of stucco houses carved into a mountain, contributes to the sense of isolation.

The remoteness of the village means all the action takes place without much outside influence. Even the big city reporter, Tomas Milian, doesn’t come off like a pushy urbanite who complains because he’s in the boondocks and there are only two channels. He thinks logically and treats the townspeople with respect. The more cosmopolitan policeman and the commissioner, played by Ugo D’Alessio and Virgilio Gazzolo, don’t abuse the local constable and he doesn’t roll his eyes at them because they’re not dumb. They’re intelligent, experienced, and motivated to solve the crime.


“This is a no smoking village.”

Don’t Torture a Duckling is sensational, and violent, but it’s also thoughtful and well made. Written by Fulci, Roberto Gianviti, and Gianfranco Clerici and shot by Sergio D’Offizi, the film grabs you right from the start and maintains that suspense throughout. It also keeps you in the dark and I like that sense of mystery. This is a thinking person’s giallo. Gore fiends, take heart. There’s a pack of mayhem and blood too. Worth seeing. I might have to buy this one.

 

And Soon the Darkness (1970)   4 comments

When two friends on a biking tour of France are separated, one of them suspects the other is in trouble. Can she find her friend? How will she know who the good guys are when nobody wears a hat?


“Hey, is that Cary Grant up ahead?”

Two young British women, bicycling through the French countryside, have a row. Jane (Pamela Franklin) wants to stick to their schedule (pronounced shehjule), and Cathy (Michele Dotrice), fancies a bit of a lie down in the sun. Cathy falls asleep on the grass, but when she wakes up, she’s not alone. Meanwhile, Jane has cycled on to the next village to wait. When hours pass with no sign of her friend, Jane heads back to where Cathy was resting and finds no sign of her. She hitches back to town with the handsome, yet creepy, Paul (Sandor Elès), who claims to be an off-duty Sûreté officer.


“Have you ever seen a crawlspace?”

Paul vacations in this part of the country every year because he’s obsessed with an unsolved murder committed there a few years prior. Sure, buddy. Jane is understandably freaked out by Paul and his weird hobby, so she runs away from him to the home of the local gendarme, (John Nettleton) and his war-addled father, where she stays while the policeman searches for Cathy and Paul. Will the gendarme find Cathy safe? Will Paul get his motorbike started? Will Jane ever go to the bathroom? I mean, she’s been riding a bike all day and she’s had two orangeades without stopping. She’s like a camel.


“Just loading up for the desert crossing.”

Robert Fuest directed And Soon the Darkness as well as The Abominable Dr. Phibes, Dr. Phibes Rises Again, The Devil’s Rain, and some of The Avengers series, so we know he’s a cool guy. The story, written by Brian Clemens and Terry Nation, is simple and Fuest keeps it taut and fast-moving. The tension comes from within the characters and it’s genuinely scary at times.


Quentin?

The music, by Laurie Johnson, who wrote the fab theme for The Avengers and a ton of other films and shows, contributes to the film’s urgent mood. The film looks great too. Cinematographer, Ian Wilson makes pretty pastoral shots and then moves in for a heart-pounding close-up. The final shot is chilling and beautiful.


“A little wax and she’ll be good as new.”

The oddball characters add to the atmosphere of confusion and fear, but Pamela Franklin carries the film. Her facial expressions convey what she’s feeling without exposition or a lot of dialogue. That works since one of the problems Franklin’s character, Jane faces is that she’s a British woman in a small rural town in France. She speaks very little French and the locals speak almost no English. It’s a subtle performance that could easily have descended to pantomime and shrillness, but doesn’t because Franklin keeps the character grounded. Sandor Elès as Paul is equal parts menacing and comforting in keeping with the whole ‘I’m not sure who to trust.’ theme.


“Get off my pelouse.”

And Soon the Darkness is a terrific little gem of a film. These smaller thrillers from the 1960s and 70s are my favorite things in the world and the British ones are the best. This was a great find.

 

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