Archive for the ‘Boris Karloff’ 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?”

Advertisements

The Crimson Cult or Barbara Steele Is Green with Envy (1968)   2 comments

cult poster

British horror films of the 1960s and 1970s have a certain macabre look to them. The lighting is dim and Gothic architecture and misty moors abound. The films also look similar because they often cast a veritable repertory company of actors. Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Michael Gough, Barbara Steele, Ingrid Pitt, Patrick Magee, and American actors like Vincent Price, Burgess Meredith, and Jack Palance often appeared in low-budget films made by Hammer or Amicus Productions.

hammer

In Britain during that era, Hammer Productions was the largest and best known of the horror houses. Hammer Productions kept the legends of Frankenstein, Dracula, and the Mummy going long after Universal Studios had forgotten them. Hammer’s horror films often starred Lee and Cushing and that alone induced people to buy tickets. At the same time Hammer was running Van Helsing ragged, Amicus Productions was also making horror films. Though Amicus made full-length films like THE DEADLY BEES and THE SKULL, portmanteau horror movies like TALES FROM THE CRYPT gained that studio the most attention.

amicus

Competing with Hammer and Amicus and sharing office space at Hammer House in London, Tigon British Film Productions made fewer films, but often used the same actors, sets, and props as the other studios. That means you can see Lee and Cushing in Hammer’s SATANIC RITES OF DRACULA, Amicus’ VAULT OF HORROR, or Tigon’s THE CREEPING FLESH. Often directors like Freddie Francis, Peter Sasdy, Terence Fisher, and Roy Ward Baker shuttled back and forth between studios as well. All three studios showed a little gore and a little skin and all three were popular with audiences.

tigon

Tigon cast its actors for 1968’s THE CRIMSON CULT or CURSE OF THE CRIMSON ALTAR from the Hammer/Amicus horror repertory company. Most of the actors had worked together in earlier films. THE CRIMSON CULT leads Christopher Lee and Michael Gough appeared in films together including HORROR OF DRACULA for Hammer in 1958 and DR. TERROR’S HOUSE OF HORROR for Amicus in 1965. Lee and Boris Karloff starred in CORRIDORS OF BLOOD for MGM in 1958. Familiarity breeds comfort.   The fact that these seasoned actors had already worked together allowed them to converse naturally on camera. The best scenes in the film feature the leads sharing a drink and a few barbs before a fire.

lee brandy
“An then the Prime Minister said, Chris…he calls me Chris.”

After his brother goes missing, Robert Manning (Mark Eden), antiques dealer and bon vivant, travels to Craxted Lodge in fictional Greymarsh to find him. The lodge’s owner, Morley (Christopher Lee) and his niece, Eve (Virginia Wetherell) invite Manning to stay at the lodge while he searches for his brother. There he meets friendly torture-device expert, Professor Marsh (Boris Karloff) and crabby Elder (Michael Gough). Naturally, Manning’s arrival coincides with the annual bacchanal commemorating the burning of an infamous witch in the village. Manning gets on well with Morley and even better with Eve. Wink wink nudge nudge. He has fun while he’s awake, but at night Manning has hallucinogenic nightmares involving ritual sacrifice and document-signing. In his dreams, Lavinia Morley (Barbara Steele), an ancient witch sporting green makeup and horns, and her animal mask wearing cohorts try to force Manning to sign an ancient agreement. In his dreams, he fears signing the contract will mean losing his soul.

sign here
“You sure you don’t want that TrueCoat?”

Later Manning stumbles upon secret passageways and an altar room, both of which figure prominently in Hammer films and his frightening dreams. With all the talk of contract signing, I couldn’t help thinking of other films in which the characters are coerced to ‘just sign here’. Manning’s dreams remind me of a psychedelic version of GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS, but with less coffee and more blood rituals.

moody
“Pentagrams are for closers.”

The interplay between Morley, Marsh, and Manning is my favorite part of the film. The screenplay by Mervyn Haisman and Henry Lincoln has enough witty banter for actors like Lee and Karloff to have fun with.  As usual, Lee plays an erudite aristocrat who tells only enough to make you suspect him of something. The looks and asides between him and Karloff are priceless. What about Marsh? Is he the crazed occultist invading Manning’s dreams? He does have a mysterious air and a weird hobby.

karloff
“Cindy-Lou who?”

Manning and Eve have real chemistry too and their mature love affair is a far cry from most of the American films released in 1968. Vernon Sewell directed THE CRIMSON CULT and it looks as if he had a blast. The party scene, the witch-burning festival, and even the costumes suggest the film-makers were enjoying themselves. Still, a few questions remain. Will Manning find his wayward brother? Will he be able to resist the beautifully verdant, but evil Lavinia Morley? Will Manning stop chugging Professor Marsh’s fifty-year-old cognac like a teenager at a keg party? And finally, who will win the mellifluous voice contest, Karloff or Lee?

 

THE CRIMSON CULT bears only a slight resemblance to H.P. Lovecraft’s story, THE DREAMS IN THE WITCH HOUSE. In that, a college student who studies math and folklore begins to have dreams of witches and child sacrifice while living in an accursed house in Lovecraft’s fictional Arkham, Massachusetts.   The hero also dreams of traveling to other dimensions and meeting intelligent shapes. The filmmakers decided to stick with the more corporeal aspects of the story.

dear
“He’s too old for that hood.”

THE CRIMSON CULT’s distance from Miskatonic University matters less than the presence of Christopher Lee, Boris Karloff in one of his last roles, Barbara Steele with horns, and a weird party featuring guests drinking champagne off a woman’s body years before Salma Hayek did it in that Mexican vampire bar. Despite the absence of Cthulhu or even Yog-Sothoth, THE CRIMSON CULT has enough secret doorways, plot twists, and Christopher Lee to make it fun to watch.

bsteele
Understated.

A slightly different version of this piece appeared earlier in the Brattle Film Notes blog.  Here’s a link.  Brattle Theatre

ASSHOLES WATCHING MOVIES

How many assholes does it take to review a movie?

Fade To Black

Movie & TV Reviews - Because everyone is entitled to my opinion.

Monstrous Industry

Whirr. Clank. Grr.

Musing to Myself

Pretty much what it says on the tin, my musings

Dance Dance Party Party Akron

Maniacs on the dance floor

raulconde001

A topnotch WordPress.com site

The Love Bungalow

a thoughtful lifestyle blog

Monkey Bread And Popcorn

Picking at Pop Culture

Pearls Of Blissdom by AntheasChronicles

It's the little things that make life blissful!

BooksAbound

Random musings from an extreme bibliophile.

immabelike

Its all about me that I know......rest you all can let me know

CURNBLOG

Movies, thoughts, thoughts about movies.