Archive for the ‘anthology horror’ Tag

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?”

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The Skull (1965)   Leave a comment

skull poster

Do you collect things? Stamps? Godzilla figurines? Commemorative spoons? In The Skull, Christopher Maitland (Peter Cushing) and Sir Matthew Phillips (Christopher Lee) collect all things Satan. They scour auction houses in search of devilish statues and books about torture for their macabre collections. They even buy hot tchotchkes from shady evil-stuff-seller, Marco (Patrick Wymark). Marco stocks an unusual variety of bizarre items, including a book he sells to Maitland. It’s a rare book. Well, one hopes it’s rare since it’s the memoirs of the Marquis de Sade covered in human skin. Nummy. Anyway, Maitland jumps at the chance to drop major ducats on the tome, which gives you some idea about his level of dedication to his hobby.

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I’ll wait for the paperback.

The next night, Maitland lounges in his well-appointed study reading his skin book when Marco arrives with a new demonic accessory to clutter his bookshelves. Marco brings Maitland a skull. This is no ordinary, dime-store skull, mind you. This skull has provenance. Well, Marco says it has anyway. This skull is the bony part of the head of the Marquis de Sade! Why Marco didn’t sell the skin diary/skull as a set will forever remain a mystery. The two men haggle over skull prices, as one does, but Maitland won’t bite. Maitland mentions the exchange to his friend, Sir Matthew, who warns him not to buy it by saying, “All I can say is keep away from the skull of the Marquis de Sade.” Words to live by, Matthew. Words to live by.

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“That skull’s evil, right devil statue?”

Unfortunately, Maitland doesn’t listen to his friend and drops by Marco’s place to buy the skull. Marco is indisposed, being dead and all, so Maitland grabs his souvenir and hits the road. Back home in his library, Maitland relaxes after a hard day’s looting. He spends a lovely evening surrounded by statues of Beelzebub reading about sadism from a book made of skin.

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Cozy.

Almost immediately, weird stuff happens. The normally peaceful Maitland begins to feel a strange, homicidal urge.
Is it coincidence? Is it the skull? Is he not getting enough fruit? Only the skull knows for sure.

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“Honey? You up?”

The Skull is an absolute blast. The stellar cast of Amicus/Hammer regulars, including Patrick Magee, Michael Gough, and Jill Bennett, add to the general atmosphere of British horror wonderfulness. We even get a little George Coulouris for good measure.

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“You didn’t see my lips move, didja?”

Robert Bloch (Psycho) wrote the story, aptly named “The Skull of the Marquis de Sade”.  Milton Subotsky, half of the Amicus production team of Rosenberg/Subotsky wrote the screenplay and the script moves right along. Director, Freddie Francis, a veteran of Amicus films, knows how to pack a lot into 83 minutes. They also pack some cool special effects into The Skull. Ted Samuels, who created the special effects for a number of Amicus features including Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors and The Psychopath outdid himself here. The skull, you see, flies. When provoked, it floats gracefully toward the camera. It’s not a choppy, Tingleresque motion, rather a majestic glide. The skull also lights up. It even manages to look evil. I stopped the DVD three times to watch a lit skull soar across a gentleman’s study. Seriously, you need to see this. If I haven’t convinced you yet, think about this. One scene in The Skull shows Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing playing pool…in tuxes.  ‘Nuff said.

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Hiya!

Note to self: Check into the possibility of manufacturing skull nightlights. You know, for kids.

 

 

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.

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“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.

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“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.

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“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.

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“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.

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“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.

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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.

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“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

 

 

 

Asylum (1972)   Leave a comment

asylum poster

I love anthology films.  It doesn’t matter if they’re anthology drama, comedy, or horror films, but I hold a special place in my heart for anthology horror.

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ASYLUM begins with Modest Mussorgsky’s A Night on Bald Mountain.  As the music swells, we see Dr. Martin (Robert Powell) arrive at a remote sanitarium.  Martin meets with Dr. Rutherford (Patrick Magee) who offers him a proposition.  Rutherford will hire Martin if, after interviewing four patients, he can identify which of the inmates is B. Starr, the former head of the institution.  Starr had a complete breakdown and is now an inmate.  Attendant Max Reynolds (Geoffrey Bayldon) takes Dr. Martin from room to room to hear each patient’s story.

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“Tonight on Spot the Loony…”

In the first segment, “Frozen Fear”, Bonnie (Barbara Parkins) tells the story of her lover, Walter (Richard Todd) and his wife, Ruth (Sylvia Syms) and their, um…breakup.  Walter, sweet guy that he is, takes his wife down to their basement to show her a gift he just bought for her.  She’s always wanted a chest freezer and is delighted until Walter surprises her further with a blow to the head.  Fortunately, the freezer is Ruth-sized so Walter has plenty of room to store the bits of Ruth he chopped up and wrapped neatly in brown paper and twine.  Now Walter can abscond to Rome or Nice or Trenton with Bonnie and live happily ever after, right?  Not so fast, bub.

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“Oh, honey?”

Barry Morse plays the titular role in “The Weird Tailor”.  With no money coming in and the threat of eviction looming, Morse gets an odd request from new customer, Peter Cushing.  Cushing commissions Morse to make him a suit made of special fabric he brings himself.  Morse must construct the clothing in a particular order to exact specifications and during the times mandated by the instructions.  Since Cushing wants the outfit immediately and promises to pay handsomely, Morse agrees to his terms.  Things move along swimmingly until delivery day when Morse makes an odd discovery.

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“I’m odd.”

Dr. Martin sees patient Barbara (Charlotte Rampling) next.  Barbara tells of her release from another sanitarium.  Her brother, George (James Villiers) drives her back to the family home and introduces her to her new nurse, Miss Higgins (Megs Jenkins).  Barbara, annoyed at the prospect of a nurse telling her what to do, goes to her room to find her friend, Lucy (Britt Ekland) there.  Barbara is overjoyed to see her old friend who immediately suggests that they go over the wall and go on a spree.  Their outing doesn’t go as planned.

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“Summerisle?  No, I’ve never been there.”

“Mannikins of Horror” stars Herbert Lom as Dr. Byron, a man who believes he can transfer the essence of himself into a small robot who will carry out his will.  All I can say is I want a Herbert Lom robot.

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The Lombot in action.

ASYLUM has a scary, dramatic score by Douglas Gamley and Mussorgsky, a great horror film setting, and a super cast of veteran British actors.  Robert Bloch of PSYCHO fame wrote the stories, and Roy Ward Baker directed.  Baker also directed A NIGHT TO REMEMBER and quite a few films for Amicus and Hammer Productions including the portmanteau horror, VAULT OF HORROR.  Amicus made a number of anthology horror film in the 1960s and 1970s and this is one of the best.

poster asylum

haunty

V/H/S: Viral (2014)   Leave a comment

vhs poster

It takes a village to ruin a movie.

Four found footage stories helmed by six different directors make up the third in the V/H/S series of anthology horror films.

“Vicious Circles” centers around a twenty-something guy who can’t stop filming everything.  He has a beautiful girlfriend who really digs him for some reason, but he’d rather tape than touch her.  Later he gets obsessed by a high speed chase that goes right by his house.  Why do you care?  You don’t.  Let’s move on.

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What does she see in him?

In “Dante the Great”, a loser who wants to be a magician finds a cape that has demonic powers or some such nonsense.  He uses the cape to propel his career to the heights of Vegas.  Wow.  Everyone loves him and he can attract any woman he wants despite the fact that he’s scruffy and about 5’5″.  Dante is so skeevy it’s hard to believe anyone finds him all that charismatic.  Also, he keeps killing people.  At one point, this film becomes a poor man’s CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN MAGICIAN’S ASSISTANT with Dante and his co-star literally climbing the walls.  Meh.

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Dante looking flash.

Oh, this one.  “Parallel Monsters” has two guys named Alfonso inventing portals into other dimensions at the exact same time.  When they decide to visit each other’s worlds, things go predictably wrong.  Weird body horror is the only surprise here.

parallel
Harpo did it better.

They save the best one for last.  “Bonestorm” tells the story of skate punks who like to film themselves doing stupid things on wheels.  After they’ve annoyed everyone in California, they decide to hit Tijuana to get beers and fireworks and Chiclets.  They get lost and end up in a dry, paved sewer bed where they skate and film and say dude a lot.  The boys disturb a pentagram and soon a satanic cult attacks them.  The next six hours of the eighty-one minute film are the dudes trying to escape the hooded skeleton guys.  Yawn.

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He needs a berserk pack.

The “Vicious Circles” story weaves through the whole film so we are treated to Camera Guy riding a tiny bike really fast chasing a serial killer in an ice cream truck.  It sounds much better than it is.  Honestly, you’re better off watching one and a half episodes of House Hunters.

arm
“I really wanted granite.”

From Beyond the Grave (1974)   1 comment

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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.

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“Hiya!”

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.

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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.

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“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.

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“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.

haunty

 

The House That Dripped Blood (1971)   1 comment

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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.

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“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.

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“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.

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“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.

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“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.

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“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.

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haunty

 

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