Archive for the ‘1970s films’ Tag

And Now the Screaming Starts (1973)   3 comments

Newly married Catherine Fengriffen (Stephanie Beacham) arrives at her husband’s ancestral castle expecting romance and love.  Instead she encounters weird portraits, a peeping ghoul, and a disembodied hand.

pic hand

Catherine keeps seeing nutty stuff no one else sees.  Everyone thinks she’s rattraps so they send for Dr. Whittle, played by the always comforting Patrick Magee and Dr. Pope, the kind and brilliant Peter Cushing.  Catherine’s husband, Charles (Ian Ogilvy), gets a bit frustrated with his neurotic wife and the fact that their honeymoon is less sexy romance and more researching the family curse and calling the doctor.

“Yes, a hand.  I see.  Is it time for bed?”

Anyway, the house continues to gaslight Catherine and no one will tell her the backstory.  She sees hands and spooks and windows open by themselves.

“Let me give you a hand with that.”

It’s a real party until she finally hears the legend.  You see, Henry Fengriffen, Charles’ grandfather, had a wife and child, but ignored them and filled his house with the scum of the earth.  Drunken orgies, full of harlots, debauchery, and bad singing, go on for days.  During one particularly grotesque spree, Fengriffen breaks into the house of humble serf, Silas (Geoffrey Whitehead) and his new bride, Sarah (Sally Harrison).  Fengriffen’s attack on the young couple brings on a curse which haunts poor Catherine today.

“Coochie coochie coo!”

Will Patrick Magee and Peter Cushing rid the house of demons?  Will the curse continue to annoy and vex Catherine?  Will Herbert Lom trim his eyebrows?

“Apply leeches liberally until sense is restored.”

Roy Ward Baker directed AND NOW THE SCREAMING STARTS based on Roger Marshall’s screenplay of David Case’s book.  Phew.  It’s a decent horror film, but it could use a little oomph.  More screen time for Cushing, Magee, and Lom could only improve it.  Look for Rosalie Crutchley as a servant.

In the night. In the dark.


From Beyond the Grave (1974)   1 comment


Four stories, centered around a curiosity shop make up the Amicus anthology film, FROM BEYOND THE GRAVE.  Peter Cushing, the antiques-dealer and owner of Temptations, Ltd. treats his customers with respect and works to find just the right piece for each of them.  Unfortunately, some of them try to take advantage of his generosity.  Things don’t go well for them.

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“We’re closed,”

In the first story, “The Gatecrasher”, David Warner, arrogant playboy, knows he underpaid Cushing for a valuable mirror.  At a party in his home that night, Warner and his friends decide to have a séance which accidentally summons a malicious spirit living in the looking glass.


Rather than tell Warner he’s the fairest of them all, the specter tells Warner he’s hungry.  What do evil mirror guys eat?  Blood, naturally.  Soon Warner does his best Seymour Krelboyne impersonation only instead of feeding a carnivorous plant, Warner feeds a mirror spook.  No one who crosses his path is safe.  After a few days, Warner’s chic apartment looks like a slaughterhouse and he looks like hell.  The apparition, however, looks ready for his close-up and it’s clear that Warner didn’t get such a bargain.

The DMV takes the worst pictures.

Businessman Ian Bannen passes veteran Donald Pleasance every day on his way to work.  Pleasance sells matches, shoelaces, and buttons and Bannen kindly overpays for each purchase.  Bannen also patronizes Peter Cushing’s shop.  In “An Act of Kindness”, the second segment in the anthology, Bannen wants to buy a Distinguished Service Order ribbon from Cushing who agrees if Bannen can show him the proper paperwork to prove he won the honor.  Bannen doesn’t have to show Cushing no stinking paperwork so he steals the medal instead.  It’s a bad idea to rip off this shop owner and Bannen soon finds this out.  When his shrewish wife (Diana Dors) berates him one too many times, Bannen seeks solace with his new friend Donald Pleasance and Pleasance’s real life daughter, Angela, who has a quiet, eerie way about her.  The father/daughter duo are not what they seem though and what happens next is a big surprise.

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“Thank you for getting me out.”

In “The Elemental”, Ian Carmichael picks up a silver snuff box from Peter Cushing’s shop.  He also picks up a mischievous poltergeist whose antics lead him to call medium Margaret Leighton to get rid of him.  Leighton’s wonderful in this over-the-top performance.  She plays a quirky spiritualist and clearly has a good time doing it.  Leighton is the best part of this story.

“You are healed!”

The fourth tale, “The Door”, stars Ian Ogilvy and Lesley-Anne Down as a couple who buy an intricately-carved door from Temptations, Ltd. and find that it changes the mood in their flat just a bit.

“This will look fabulous in the baby’s room.”

The stories in FROM BEYOND THE GRAVE, written by Robin Clarke and Raymond Christodoulou are not as entertaining as the ones in ASYLUM or TALES FROM THE CRYPT, but the acting is solid and there are some nifty twists for the O. Henry enthusiasts among you.  In terms of Amicus anthology films, I’m a completist so I’m glad I saw it.



The House That Dripped Blood (1971)   1 comment


An English country house provides the setting for four Robert Bloch tales in the Amicus anthology film, THE HOUSE THAT DRIPPED BLOOD.  A.J. Stoker (John Bryans) explains to Detective Inspector Holloway (John Bennett) that the murders the detective wants to solve stem from an evil which dwells in the walls of the cottage.  To prove his theory to the incredulous police officer, he tells four stories.

“It’s move-in ready.”

“Method for Murder” stars Denholm Elliott as Charles Hillyer, an author of murder mysteries who needs the peace and quiet of a country house to write.  He and his wife, Alice (Joanna Dunham) move into the house so Charles can finish his book.  Charles loves the house from the beginning.  With bookshelves swollen with Edgar Allen Poe books and gothic bric-a-brac, he thinks the house will be the perfect cure for his writer’s block.  He’s right.  Soon, Charles’ creative juices flow and he creates a crazed killer to perform his literary evil deeds.  When Charles thinks he sees this madman around his house, things go off the rails a bit.  Elliott and Dunham play well together and the direction by Peter Duffell moves it along smartly.

“It slices AND dices?”

You know when you go into a rural wax museum and see a figure who looks like your ex?  Me neither.  Philip Grayson (Peter Cushing) has worked hard all his life and amassed enough to live out the rest of it comfortably.  He sees the house as a quiet spot where he can read and think.  While strolling through the nearby village, Grayson sees a sign for Jacquelin’s Museum of Horror.  Charmed by the thought of such a place out in the country, Grayson enters the shop.  Unfortunately, all is not as it seems in the quaint museum.  “Waxworks” also stars Joss Ackland as Neville, Grayson’s old friend, who also wanders into the shop.  The two men become fixated on what they find there.  They probably should have gone into the tea shop instead.

“I could’ve had a V-8.”

Christopher Lee looks sufficiently tweedy in “Sweets to the Sweet”.  He plays John Reid, a successful businessman who moves out to the country house with his daughter, Jane (Chloe Franks).  He doesn’t want to send the shy, troubled girl to school so he hires a private tutor, Ann Norton (Nyree Dawn Porter) to teach her at home.  The teacher and child develop a bond almost immediately and Ann begins to wonder why Reid wants to keep Jane so isolated.  The closer teacher and student get, the farther apart Reid and his daughter become.  What’s the secret causing such tension?  I’ll never tell.

“You disgust me.”

In “The Cloak”, Jon Pertwee plays Paul Henderson, a conceited movie star on the decline.  Forced to appear in a low-budget vampire film, Henderson complains about everything from the script to the wardrobe.  To introduce some authenticity into his role, Henderson heads to a costume shop and buys an old cloak.  As soon as he puts it on, Henderson discovers the cloak is more than just a costume.  Ingrid Pitt also stars in this fun take on the horror film business.  There’s also a cool in-joke.  In an obvious reference to Christopher Lee, Henderson says he wants to play a vampire “…like Bela Lugosi, not this new fella.”  I smiled all through The Cloak.  The whole cast, including Geoffrey Bayldon and an uncredited Joanna Lumley, worked well together.

“I’m telling you that director’s a Dalek.”

The writing, cast, and atmosphere in THE HOUSE THAT DRIPPED BLOOD keep you entertained and thinking.  Fun flick.




Crucible of Horror (1970)   Leave a comment


Professional asshat, Walter Eastwood (Michael Gough), abuses and controls his wife and daughter. His brutality makes a compliant zombie of his wife Edith (Yvonne Mitchell) and a juvenile delinquent of his daughter, Jane (Sharon Gurney).   Conversely, Eastwood treats his snotty, arrogant son Rupert (Gough’s real-life son, Simon Gough) like gold. Eastwood’s compulsively neat patriarch demands perfection and returns only cruelty.


“What a great day to be evil.”

Eastwood dictates all aspects of the women’s lives, telling them where to go, who to see, and reading and confiscating their mail.   The two women are virtual prisoners in their own home. At one point Eastwood discovers Jane stole money from their country club. He brutally whips his sixteen-year-old daughter and chuckles when the badly bruised girl comes down to breakfast the next morning. We know from flashbacks this isn’t the first time. Edith and Jane decide they’ve had enough.


“We’ve had enough.”

When Eastwood goes to his remote hunting lodge for the weekend, the women see their chance. Their plan to rid themselves of their tormentor runs into a few snags and there are some suspenseful scenes involving a nosy neighbor, ill-timed phone calls, and a body dump. Edith and Jane return home and find problems they never counted on.


“Now that’s three fingers of deadly nightshade…”

Viktors Ritelis directed CRUCIBLE OF HORROR aka THE CORPSE as a thriller along the lines of DIABOLIQUE or CAUSE FOR ALARM. He keeps the pace slow in the beginning which stresses the oppressive atmosphere of the Eastwood’s home. Later, he speeds it up as we watch Edith and Jane scramble.

I enjoyed CRUCIBLE OF HORROR. It has a late 60s British look which differentiates it from American films of the same era. Michael Gough, a veteran of nearly two-hundred films, worked with Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, and the whole Hammer/Amicus repertory company and he’s terrific as the nasty Walter Eastwood. He may be a sweet guy in real life, but he’s a rat in this film which makes him fun to watch. I’d recommend CRUCIBLE OF HORROR for the atmosphere, suspense, and Michael Gough’s scary performance.

Odd film fact: Sharon Gurney, who plays Rupert Eastwood’s (Simon Gough) sister Jane was married to him in real life. Kinky, eh?


“I hate him soooooo much.”


Damnation Alley (1977)   2 comments


Jan-Michael Vincent jumps his motorcycle over giant desert lobsters. Need I say more?

A nuclear holocaust wipes out all but a platoon of Air Force officers and men stationed at a remote desert missile silo. The men go on with their lives and search for other survivors by monitoring radio signals.

“Gee Major, what do you want to do tonight?”
“The same thing we do every night, Pinky, uh Tanner…”

Two years go by and then a mundane (compared to a nuclear blast) fire kills all but four of the men. The small band of survivors heads east in twin Oscar Mayer Weinermobiles looking for the promised land in, wait for it…Albany.

“I love it when a plan comes together.”

Well, that’s where I’d go. George Peppard, Paul Winfield, and Kip Niven join Jan-Michael Vincent in this cross-country adventure.

“99 bottles of beer on the wall…”

Along the way, the foursome encounter cataclysmic storms brought on by the earth’s tilting on its axis. The bad weather culls the herd a bit and we’re left with fewer people and only one RV. While stopped in Las Vegas to look for supplies, the trio meet Dominique Sanda, an aspiring singer who happened to be in Vegas when the bombs hit. She’s been completely alone for almost the whole two years and she’s thrilled to see the men. After she tells her story, the men ask her to join them as they do their opposite Horace Greeley thing. At another town in search of fuel and food, they find one of the two things that can survive a nuclear blast. Hint: it’s not a giant Twinkie. Soon, they come upon Jackie Earle Haley, a teenager who’s lost both his parents. Haley lives a nomadic life. He forages for food and squats in cabins and caves. Wary of the travelers at first, Haley soon warms to them and begins to trust them. Then, Haley joins them too.

“What have you done with Buttermaker?”

The crew meet up with less friendly people in another town, but they prevail and can continue their trek. Once again storms strike, but this one seems to right the earth and for the first time, we see a beautiful blue sky and happy, puffy clouds. Things are looking up! Hey! Did you hear the call sign for Albany?

Produced by 20th Century Fox in the same year as a little film called Star Wars, Damnation Alley was the studio’s big-budget science fiction film for 1977. Fox had no faith in Lucas’ film and thought Damnation Alley would be their big hit that year. So much for tea leaves. Director, Jack Smight also directed Harper and Airport 75 and a bunch of television, including Columbo and Banacek. Jerry Goldsmith composed the score to Damnation Alley. Alan Sharpe and Lukas Heller wrote the screenplay based on the novel by Roger Zelazny, who hated the film, by the way.  I didn’t. It’s an interesting story directed capably and acted well. The cast doesn’t overdo it. OK, the giant desert lobsters I mentioned earlier were less than realistic and actually desert scorpions, but when I Iook at giant desert arthropods, I’m less concerned with realism and more with screen time. Also, I think they were hybrids.

“Quick! Get some drawn butter!”

The characters worked too. I believe Peppard as an Air Force officer and I find his character along with the rest of the main characters easy to watch and easy to like. Dominique Sanda, as the lone female in a group of strong men, does not make the typical adventure film moves. She doesn’t lose her head or fall in love with the first guy she sees. She also doesn’t fight with Peppard, the leader. She thinks logically and does what makes sense. It’s great to see such an empathetic and logical female character. Paul Winfield wins my ‘favorite character of the film’ award.

Run, Keegan!

As an Air Force officer with a flair for art and a dry wit, Winfield defies you not to love him.

Damnation Alley has some memorable scenes as well. The one I like the best takes place in a Las Vegas casino where Winfield, Vincent, and Peppard play with the slot machines.

This game’s rigged.

As the men play and start to win money they can’t possibly use, we hear the sounds change. At first we hear the sounds of the one-armed bandits and the men and then we hear the sounds of a normal casino; clinking glasses, conversation, and laughter. The change is subtle at first, but as the scene continues, it becomes louder. We’re inside the heads of these guys who’ve been alone so long that they imagine they’re in a room crowded with people. It’s a compelling scene. Even the effects, which border on cheesy, don’t make me cringe. They used lasers to create cool sky colors that almost look like the northern lights. They also used a lot of matte painting. Sometimes that doesn’t work, but this does for some reason. My favorite effect, the giant desert lobpions or scorpsters, looks pretty darn fake. The locusts in Beginning of the End work better and that was made in 1957.

“You like me! You really like me!”

It doesn’t matter. Jointed, hot dog-related off-road vehicles that use a Texas Instruments calculator as a guidance system, cost $300K, and jump ravines make me happy. Hissing cockroaches and nasty predators with grasping pedipalps help.

My bologna has a first name…

Look for Murray ‘Mayor of Shark City’ Hamilton as a deranged general who has zero lines in the theatrically released film. He gets to talk in the 1983 TV version. I need to find that.

“Amity, as you know, means…what?  My scene was cut?”

I did a podcast recently with Todd Liebenow of Forgotten Films on Damnation Alley. Here’s the link.

Thanks, Todd! I had a lot of fun!

Gone With the Pope (1976)   6 comments

Criterion 14mm BD case wrap

A quartet of slow-witted ex-cons plot to kidnap the Pope and demand a dollar from every Catholic as ransom.

creepy pope
Creepy Uncle Pope.

That sounds spectacular. It isn’t. Letterboxd and imdb list Gone With the Pope as a 2010 film because Grindhouse Releasing restored and released it theatrically in that year after someone found a work print of it in a garage. Perhaps they should have left it there. It was made in 1976, no doubt to celebrate the bicentennial. I’ve heard the un-pc quality of this film compared to Rudy Ray Moore’s Dolemite or The Human Tornado. In that they are both films made in the 1970s, I’ll buy it. Of course using that rationale I Spit on Your Grave is comparable to Pete’s Dragon.


I digress. The Human Torpedo has something Gone with the Pope doesn’t, a script, heart, characters you give a crap about, and some semblance of onscreen talent. Rudy Ray Moore is funny. His stand-up style resembles that of Don Rickles. He abuses the audience and they eat it up. He has great comedic timing and a charismatic presence. The other actors playing with Moore are pretty good too. They at least can have a conversation on camera. In Pope, I wondered if any of the, um actors had even seen a movie. Just godawful.

sitting around
Do we act now?

Also, I think there was something wrong with the cameraman. The framing of the shots was obscenely bad. Often, in close-ups, the frame consisted of one and a half of a person’s eyes. I mean, the guy left out half an eye. It reminded me of those skits on “The Benny Hill Show” in which they show a film with the continuity all messed up. The camera shows an actor, then moves off him and when it shows him again, he has a mustache or a different shirt. I like when I see Benny Hill do it. Here, not so much.

benny hill

Then there’s the music. In Moore’s films, the action moves to a funky soul and R&B soundtrack. Soul Train’s Don Cornelius chose the music for Dolemite. In Pope, writer/director/star Duke Mitchell sings lame, off-key lounge lizard songs as he shoots people.

I wish.

Between scenes of murder and degradation, Mitchell shows romantic montages of he and his girlfriend riding merry-go-rounds and lighting each others’ cigarettes. Sigh.

“I’m sure cotton candy’s good for them, honey.”

There are also scenes in clubs in Las Vegas and Lake Arrowhead, California. Terry Gilliam could easily have used footage of these acts in nightmare drug sequences in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.

bad band
Show business!

Finally, there’s the incredibly tasteless and offensive narrative in Gone with the Pope. No group escapes Mitchell’s abuse. He denigrates pretty much everyone he comes across. I don’t think you can watch exploitation films, which I like, and expect them to conform to modern sensibilities. That said, wow.

Did he really say that?

I’ve seen racial or sexual humor in this type of film and, if it’s funny, I laugh. Gone with the Pope isn’t funny. The racial and sexual humor doesn’t work. It’s mean-spirited, lazy, and poorly done. I’m not sure who the intended audience was for this film because it’s hard to imagine anyone finding anything to like about it. I’m glad I saw it and I think it’s important to show films like these just because they are bad and do offend people. After all, it’s hard to rate films if everything you see gets five stars. I won’t say it’s a time capsule because I don’t believe the views expressed speak to the times as much as they do to the tastes of a small group of odd people. I just like seeing what different people do with a vanity film.

duke gun

Grey Gardens (1975)   2 comments


Dig those wacky Beales! Funny, twisted, and often heartbreaking, Grey Gardens allows us to intrude into the lives of former Bouvier family socialites, Edith Bouvier Beale and her daughter, Little Edie Bouvier Beale. Living in tony East Hampton, New York in the family’s once grand seaside mansion, the two recluses live in filthy squalor with a gang of cats, raccoons, possums, and goodness knows what else.

Little Edie 1972

Documentarians Albert and David Maysles (Salesman, Gimme Shelter) gained the trust of the two women which allowed them unprecedented access.


They tell stories, laugh, sing, dance, and berate each other on camera. Depending on your mood, the film can be a depressingly hard watch or an uplifting look at the unkillable spirit of Little Edie.


Bound by familial duty, the time she lived in, and her own fears, Edie never made it out of her mother’s sight. She never married or had a career and later Edie rarely left the confines of her shabby house.

Big edie

As a slice of life documentary, Grey Gardens works because we really see how the Beales live. As a peek into the insular Bouvier/Kennedy clan, it’s a weird, guilty pleasure. It makes me wonder if I should be watching. Do you remember those old Sally Struthers ads begging you to save the starving children in Africa? How many takes do you think they did before they gave the kids a sandwich and shooed flies off them? Grey Gardens makes you want to shoo away the flies…and buy the stars a couple dozen litter boxes. Good stuff.


Tales from the Crypt (1972)   4 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Clean up all this evil.

The Swarm (1978)   5 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.

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.

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.

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.

I had to take a screenshot of this.

Some of my best friends are bees.

Suspiria (1977)   1 comment


American Suzy Bannion (Jessica Harper) travels to Germany to enroll in Joan Bennett’s snooty ballet school. Run by Alida Valli, who looks like she might be hiding there to avoid prosecution for war crimes, the school seems to favor gossip and whispering over dance.

“Quit being blind!”

Right away, things at the school go awry. Students die in ghastly ways, maggots appear, and Suzy passes out after a nasty dizzy spell…with blood. As she recuperates, Suzy starts to suspect the ballet academy serves as a front for a more nefarious institution.

So much for orientation.

Dario Argento directed Suspiria and wrote the screenplay along with Daria Nicolodi and based it on Thomas De Quincey’s book. The spare dialogue and simple plot strewn with narrative distractions is just the canvas Argento uses to paint his story. If not for the appropriately jarring music by Goblin, you could easily turn off the sound and just watch this bizarre and colorful film. Don’t turn off the sound though. The soundtrack is amazing.


Argento, cinematographer Luciano Tovoli, and production designer Guiseppe Bassan use richly hued sets and brightly-colored lights and lenses to paint each scene a different color. In one scene, Udo Kier wears a grass green blazer the identical shade as the building behind him. Douglas Sirk would be proud.

Did you two plan this?

I enjoyed Suspiria. While the acting is fine, but not special, the visuals paired with the Tubular Bells-ish music, and gruesome, creative deaths make it a blast to watch. The spooky Rosemary’s Baby atmosphere contributed to the mood of trippy paranoia. I’ve wanted to see this cult favorite for a long time and I’m glad I finally did.

Sleepover in the redrum, I mean red room!

I wrote this piece a few years ago, but saw the film at the Coolidge Corner Theatre just last night (October 17, 2017). If you get the chance, see this on the big screen with the Goblin tunes blaring.

I originally wrote this for the 31 Days of Horror Challenge on
@cinemashame and @thirtyhertzrumble on twitter are also playing. Check out the other horror reviews on their sites. I’m @echidnabot on twitter.


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