Archive for the ‘31 Days of Horror’ Tag

And Soon the Darkness (1970)   2 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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Black Sabbath (1963)   Leave a comment

Boris Karloff introduces a trio of horror stories in Mario Bava’s anthology film, Black Sabbath. Borrowing from A.K. Tolstoy, Guy de Maupassant, Anton Chekov, Bram Stoker, and a gang of other suspense writers, Bava directs “The Telephone”, “The Wurdulak”, and “The Drop of Water”. Each is set in a different era and a different part of the world, but they’re all suspenseful and well done.


“I won a cruise?”

In “The Telephone”, Rosy (Michèle Mercier) returns to her stylish flat from a night on the town. As she takes off her evening clothes, the phone rings. Rosy picks it up, but no one answers. Rosy continues to undress and get ready for bed and the phone rings again. Again, no one is on the other end of the phone. After a few calls, a voice begins to taunt Rosy with threats of murder. The caller doesn’t stop and his relentless verbal attacks wear away at Rosy’s nerves. She starts to panic and…haha. I’m not telling. Claustrophobic and tense, “The Telephone” is a nice little heart racer.


“Got your nose!”

The next story, “The Wurdulak”, stars Mark Damon as Count Vladimir D’Urfe, who, seeking shelter in the middle of the night, wanders into a rural family’s cottage. They’re waiting for the family’s patriarch, Gorca (Boris Karloff) to return from his five-day mission to kill the infamous wurdulak, a vampire-like zombie, thirsty for the blood of his loved ones. Gorca promised he’d be back in exactly five days. When he arrives a little after his due date, the family, including the beautiful Sdenka (Susy Andersen) fears Gorca may have gone all wurdulakky. “The Wurdulak” is unpredictable. The story has the potential to go in a few directions which keeps it zipping along.


“I hope I get to strip a corpse tonight.”

“The Drop of Water” focuses on Helen (Jacqueline Pierreux), who gets a call in the middle of a dark and stormy night (Ha!) to go to the home of a dead woman to dress her for her funeral.


“She’s looked better.”

Helen’s a nurse so she’s used to unpleasant duties, but this lady wears a death mask that’d make Jason Voorhees cringe.


“Did I overdo the tanning?”

I imagine they tell nurses not to mess with the dead, but Helen must have forgotten that lesson because she steals a piece of jewelry from the deceased. The rest of the segment looks like what might happen if William Castle and Edgar Allen Poe had a baby. That’s a good thing, in case you were wondering. Of the three stories, this is my favorite.


“I thought I was your favorite!”

Black Sabbath was a nice surprise. It’s a solid horror film from an era full of them and it looks great on the big screen.


“You come on back now, ya hear?”

Kill Baby, Kill (1966)   Leave a comment

You have to love a film that starts with a woman running out of a decrepit mansion, screaming and impaling herself on a pointy fence.

Dashing Dr. Paul Eswai (Giacomo Rossi-Stuart) arrives at a dreary village in the Carpathian Mountains to perform an autopsy.


“I’m dashing.”

Inspector Krueger (Piero Lulli) wants to find the cause of death of Irena (the impaler) and the villagers are stonewalling him. They can’t or won’t talk about the young woman’s death because they fear the curse, plaguing their village for years, will afflict them too. The doctor performs the autopsy with the help of Monika Shuftan (Erika Blanc), a beautiful science student who happens to be in town visiting her parents’ graves. They’re a cheery bunch.


“I’m not sure we should use this picture for the brochure.”

Meanwhile, the burgomeister (Luciano Catenacci) pretends to help Krueger while simultaneously not telling him anything and conspiring with his lover, sexy witch Ruth (the mesmerizing Fabienne Dali) to insert coins into the hearts of all the corpses. Yeah, I don’t know. Oh, all right. Ruth, places the coins in the victims’ hearts to ward off Baroness Graps’ supernatural powers. The baroness (Giovanna Galletti), who lives in a huge derelict castle that looks like it was decorated by Miss Havisham for her Halloween layout, blames the entire village for the death of her daughter twenty years before.


Ruth

Paul does some sleuthing himself, asking the locals about the curse and trying to convince them that a cold compress is better for a young girl’s fever than wrapping a weird barbed plant around her chest.

More villagers die violently and Paul runs around town getting locked into places and yelling “Monika!” a lot. Monika keeps seeing a little dead girl everywhere and wakes up after a nightmare to find a bald doll on her bed. She tries to hold it together, but the ghost kid keeps appearing and by now the corpses are really piling up.


“I wanted granite.”

I won’t delve too deeply into the plot because I recommend you see Kill Baby, Kill and I don’t want to spoil it for you. It’s a cool, suspenseful film with a few nice scares and solid performances. Paul and Monika make a pretty pair. They’re both likable, intelligent, and not swept away by the hysteria of the townsfolk. Even when Monika is completely terrified, she listens to reason, and I love the way Paul scoffs at the barbaric medical practices of the locals. He’s too logical for this crap, but even he gets a little freaked out when doors start closing on their own.


Nice arm sconces

Kill Baby, Kill has a cool medieval look to it. The dilapidated stone castles give the film a worn-out gothic look that fits in with the idea of a remote town that’s given up. Director, Mario Bava, must have blown the budget on dry ice and cobwebs and he was right to do it. The whole atmosphere lends itself to spooky goings-on. Bava and his cinematographer, Antonio Rinaldi, who also shot Danger: Diabolik and Planet of the Vampires, used the set, including a gorgeous spiral staircase, beautifully.


See?

The scenes with the little ghost girl gazing through windows and bouncing a white ball are wonderful.


Wrong kid.

Kill Baby, Kill is a fun watch. The characters are worth caring about and the story, by Bava, Romano Migliorini, and Roberto Natale, has enough going on to keep you interested. It’s a fun Halloween-y film.

 

 

Dementia 13 (1963) Revisited on Blu-ray   3 comments

I wrote a review of Dementia 13 a while back, but that was based on seeing a fairly grainy version on YouTube. Last fall, the lovely people at Film Detective sent me a Blu-ray of the fun horror gem. I had some dumb technical issues so I’m just watching it now. Sorry, Film Detective. I didn’t forget you.


“People get so dramatic when they’re not invited to the wedding.”

Dementia 13 was made in 1963, in black and white, for $40,000. Francis Ford Coppola filmed it, with Roger Corman’s blessing, around the set of The Young Racers, also starring William Campbell and Luana Anders. It’s just 75 minutes long and it’s a terrific little thriller. It’s not a perfect film, but it moves along and the acting is good, especially from Patrick Magee, who plays—surprise—a sinister doctor.


“Oh hi.”

Since I first watched and wrote about this film, I’ve seen it a few times, but it’s never looked this good. The Blu-ray version is crisp and clear and I managed to see more details of Dementia 13 in this viewing than I ever have. It’s a real treat to see a film you like in the best possible way. Director of photography, Charles Hanawalt, uses a lot of natural and dim lighting. That makes sense considering the modern Gothic setting. It also means that in the past, I’ve had to strain to catch details. Not this time.

I enjoyed actually seeing Dementia 13 after all this time. If you’re a fan, the Blu-ray is a must.

Psst…below is my review of Dementia 13, with a few additions.

borg

Fishy fishy in the brook
Daddy’s caught you on a hook
-Nursery rhyme

As John Haloran rows across the lake on his family’s Irish estate, he teases his wife Louise (Luana Anders). If he drops dead, Louise will inherit none of the Haloran wealth. Pro tip: Never annoy your wife in a rowboat…if you have a bad heart. The always resourceful Louise dumps John overboard, packs his suitcase, and tells the family he went to New York on business. She’ll stay at the Haloran castle and get to know them while John’s away. Psst…it’ll be a while. It doesn’t take long for Louise to see just how nutty the Halorans are. Richard (William Campbell) solders bad art and scowls. Billy (Bart Patton) walks around in a fog telling people about his dreams. Lady Haloran, fixated on death and grief, holds funerals to commemorate a funeral. Creepy Doctor Caleb (Patrick Magee) tells everyone they’re doing it wrong in a ‘Get into my van. I have candy.’ kind of way.

creepy
“…and then I crushed its head.”

They’re a fun bunch.

funeral
Weeeeee!

Louise, ever the multitasker, figures she’ll push the already dotty Lady Haloran over the edge using a few props from the nursery while insinuating herself into the family and the will. Her simple plan runs into a snag, however and then the fun really starts.

monkey
If you see this you have gone too far.

Francis Ford Coppola (yes that one), wrote and directed Dementia 13 with some tweaks by Jack Hill (The Bees, Coffy). Coppola gives the film a creepy quality by using odd camera angles and off-kilter close-ups and filming so much of it at night. The look reminded me of George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead (1968). Even the dim day shots look dismal and give the black and white film an eerie atmosphere.

spy
Eavesdropping on the funeral.

What’s missing is dialogue and character development. What dialogue there is works, but the characters need more to say to help us get to know them. More realistic conversations might also decrease the tendency toward exposition. Also, for a film set in Ireland, I found the lack of Irish accents from almost all the lead characters somewhat baffling. According to articles on the making of Dementia 13, producer Roger Corman assigned Coppola to make a gory version of Psycho on the cheap so he dashed off a script and went into production. In spite of this and the fact that this marked Coppola’s non-porn directorial debut, it’s a good gothic horror film with a creative plot and some genuinely scary moments. The nifty chamber music by Ronald Stein enhanced the mood as well. I understand why this has become such a cult favorite and I’m glad I finally saw it.

Thanks again to the folks at Film Detective.

Fun fact: Early on in the film, Louise discusses Richard’s girlfriend saying, “You can tell she’s an American girl, raised on promises.” Sound familiar? It’s pretty close to the first lines of the Tom Petty tune, “American Girl”, released in 1976. I can’t find definitive information to link the song lyrics to the film, but it’s a neat tidbit.

quality
A sure sign of quality

shame

Check out cinemashame.wordpress.com for more horrific reviews and @cinemashame on twitter.

I’m @echidnabot on twitter.

October 2, 2014

31 Days of Horror: The Final Chapter: Electric Boogaloo: The Nightmare Continues (2015)   1 comment

aaaatype

Phew!  I made it.  For a month, this has been my life.  “After work, I will stop for groceries, pick up my small/not small person, walk the dog, make dinner, watch a movie, write a review, and possibly, sleep.  Oh man.  I’d better do a load of laundry or we’ll be wearing bathing suits under our clothes tomorrow.”

aaableary

I challenged myself to write 31 pieces for my blog this month.  One for every day of my favorite month.  I tried it last year, but I’m not sure how far I got.  I think I wrote 14 or 15.  That’s not bad, but this time I did it.  I must say, I’m proud of myself.  I didn’t cure a disease or discover a new planet or anything, but I set a goal and accomplished it.  I discovered a few things too.

aaayay

  1. Writing every day makes my mind more nimble.  If someone at work asked, “What’s another word for x?”  I’d come up with three in an instant.  I’m usually pretty good at that, but I did notice a difference.
  2. I had to make time to write.
  3. I like anthology horror films.
  4. Writing so many reviews made me branch out.  I watched films I might not have if not for deadlines looming every day.
  5. I’m a bit bleary-eyed right now.
  6. My online friends were wonderfully supportive.  Thanks!!

aaaaaja

So here’s my final list.

  1. Picture Mommy Dead (1966)
  2. Homicidal (1961)
  3. Beyond the Black Rainbow (2010)
  4. The House That Dripped Blood (1971)
  5. The Houses October Built (2014)
  6. From Beyond the Grave (1974)
  7. The 7th Victim (1943)
  8. Archivo 253 (2015)
  9. And Now the Screaming Starts (1973)
  10. V/H/S: Viral (2014)
  11. I Walked With a Zombie (1943)
  12. Stonehearst Asylum (2014)
  13. Don’t Blink (2014)
  14. Scream of Fear (1961)
  15. The Gorgon (1964)
  16. Monster-a Go Go (1965)
  17. Ravenous (1999)
  18. Pontypool (2008)
  19. Helter Skelter (1976)
  20. Asylum (1972)
  21. Saw (2004)
  22. The Deliberate Stranger (1986)
  23. Housebound (2014)
  24. Dead of Night (1945)
  25. Ghost Adventures: Clown Motel and Goldfield High School (2015)
  26. Attack of the Beast Creatures (1985)
  27. The Village (2004)
  28. The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
  29. Eyes of Laura Mars (1978)
  30. House on Haunted Hill (1959)
  31. Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors (1965)

aaalarry

Thanks for coming!  Please enjoy a hot towel.

 

 

Posted November 2, 2015 by Kerry Fristoe in 31 Days of Horror

Tagged with ,

Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors (1965)   5 comments

aaadoc

Ahhh Amicus.  I love your sordid little anthology films.  Just seeing the names Milton Subotsky, Max Rosenberg, and Freddie Francis makes me smile.  The funny little touches, the simple linking story, and the superb casts combine to entertain me more than any other horror films of the period.  Maybe it’s my short attention span, but I love these stories.

aaaaaaaa

“Read ’em and weep, gentlemen!”

In DR. TERROR’S HOUSE OF HORRORS, six men meet in a train car.  One of them, Dr. W.R. Schreck (Peter Cushing) has a set of tarot cards and claims he can tell the future of anyone who taps his deck three times.  Schreck, which in German means terror, reads three cards for each man to tell his fortune, a fourth to determine his fate, then a fifth, which will divine whether or not the man can alter his future.

aaalee

“Tarot this, Dr. T!”

In the first story, Werewolf, architect, Jim Dawson (Neil McCallum) travels to a remote island in Scotland to renovate his old house.  While exploring the basement, Dawson finds a coffin full of Count Cosmo Valdemar.  One of Dawson’s ancestors killed Valdemar hundreds of years ago and the Count holds grudges…even after he’s dead.  Apparently, Valdemar is coming back to life as a werewolf.  Dawson knows his stuff so he melts down a silver cross to make anti-werewolf bullets.  Things don’t go as planned.

aaacoff

“I’ll make a mint with this on Antiques Roadshow.”

Creeping Vine tells the story of a robot that eats children.  Actually, it tells the story of a creeping vine.  I can’t put anything past you.  This is no ordinary ivy plant.  This vine is a killer.  Even the marvelous Bernard Lee can’t stop it.  All I can say is the British are too polite.  A little well-place poison or a flamethrower would do wonders.  This part has a cool ending.

aaamir

“Enough with the Miracle Grow already!”

Voodoo involves a trumpet player in a jazz quintet, Biff Bailey (Roy Castle) who hears a cool tune while visiting the West Indies.  He decides to steal the song and call it his own.  The people who actually wrote the song don’t like it.

aaahit

“A little auto-tune and this’ll be huge!”

Franklyn Marsh (Christopher Lee), who isn’t buying any of Dr. Terror’s tarot tales, stars in The Disembodied Hand.  In this segment, Lee plays a nasty art critic who insults the artwork of Eric Landor (Michael Gough).  Landor makes a fool of Marsh and then taunts him relentlessly.  Marsh has no sense of humor so he runs Landor over with his car.  Hands go missing and soon Marsh is getting an unexpected back rub while driving.  This almost never ends well.

aaafhand

Digits roasting on an open fire…

The last story, Vampire, stars Donald Sutherland as Dr. Bob Carroll.  Dr. Carroll moves back to his New England hometown with his new wife, Nicole (Jennifer Jayne) to start a practice there.  A series of mysterious illnesses and deaths convince Carroll to look for a vampire.  After consulting with the other town doctor, Dr. Blake (Max Adrian), the men decide to take action.  I love the twisty ending to this tale.

aasta

“I don’t think we covered this in medical school.”

As in most of the Amicus portmanteau films, we switch back to the linking story between segments and at the end.  The template, laid out in DEAD OF NIGHT (1945) works here.  This was the first of the Amicus anthologies and it’s fun.  The pace drags in parts, but the last two segments and the linking parts make up for it.  Also, Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing!

aaaayes

Yes, it’s us.

haunty

 

 

 

House on Haunted Hill (1959)   7 comments

aaahohh

Vincent Price invites you to a party. Are there balloons and noisemakers and a clown? Gee, I hope not. No, but Price does invite a bunch of total strangers, a creepy housemaid, and a scaaaaary skeleton. Ahhhhh!!

aaacrone
Avon lady!

Millionaire, Frederick Loren (Vincent Price) holds a birthday party for his wife, Annabelle (Carol Ohmart) in a spooky mansion. For those of you playing at home, that mansion is Ennis House designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. If his guests can stomach a night in the spooky house, Loren will pay each of them $10,000. That’s about $81K in 2015 dollars. A nice payday. It sounds simple enough until we learn that several people, including Watson Pritchard’s (Elisha Cook, Jr.) brother were murdered in the house. Funny thing though, they never found his head.

aaennis
A building from Wright’s pueblo pyramid period.

Just when we think we’re watching a straight haunted house film, Loren and his wife go at it. The couple do their version of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf and it’s clear this party will end badly. Loren, you see, has had three wives before Annabelle and each has expired under mysterious circumstances. Hmmm. Annabelle confides in guest, Lance Schroeder (Richard Long) that she fears for her life. Her husband, she says, wants to kill her and he’ll stop at nothing. When the servants leave prematurely, locking the party-goers in for the night, they’ll have to contend with ghosts and spirits and a possible murderer among them.

aaaparty
Vincent has the coolest party favors.

Robb White, frequent William Castle collaborator, wrote the screenplays for House on Haunted Hill, Macabre, The Tingler, and others for the great showman.  Castle directed this movie and filled it with piercing screams, an active skeleton, and a rolling old lady. Supposedly, Alfred Hitchcock saw Castle’s big box office returns and decided to make Psycho. Then, Castle saw Psycho and decided to make Homicidal. I hope that’s true. Anyway, we win. All three films are horror classics.

aaaeat
“There’s no food at this party.”

Oozing charm and menace, Vincent Price does his best Vincent Price. The rest of the cast hold their own, but are nothing to write home about with the exception of Elisha Cook, Jr. His crazed, drunken ramblings about ghosts and unseen forces are appropriately over the top. Alan Marshal, Carolyn Craig, who might win an Una for screaming artistry, and Robert Mitchum’s big sister, Julie round out the players. Julie Mitchum’s claim to fame in this film is that when offered a drink, she always asks for a scotch and… A scotch and what? Motor oil? Drain cleaner? Mare sweat? It’s an odd thing, but it always strikes me as funny.

aaaacook
“Aaahoooo Werewolves of London!”

Ever the marketing genius, William Castle used this tagline for House on Haunted Hill. ‘First film with the amazing new wonder EMERGO: The thrills fly right into the audience!’ I wish I had been around to see a Castle film in the theatre. Flying skeletons, fright insurance, cowards’ corner…such fun. By the way, does anyone know a good acid vat installer?

aaemergo
“I’m not touching you!”

haunty

 

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