Archive for the ‘cults’ Tag

The Seventh Victim (1943)   Leave a comment

poster

Kim Hunter, in her film debut, stars as Mary Gibson, a teenage schoolgirl who leaves her sheltered world to travel to New York City’s Greenwich Village to look for her missing older sister. After reporting the disappearance of her sister, Jacqueline to the Missing Person’s Bureau, Mary searches the city for her as well.

jewellpall
“It’s our logo. We put it on our new bath soap, Beelzebubbles.”

Her worries increase when Mary finds that Jacqueline gave away her successful business to a former employee, Natalie Cortez (Evelyn Brent) and that she has a noose set up in her apartment. Spooky.

noose
I don’t know art, but I know what I like.

Into this mystery arrive a helpful poet, Jason (Erford Gage), a solicitous attorney, Gregory Ward (Hugh Beaumont), and Dr. Louis Judd, played by the often slimy/always good, Tom Conway. Since it is a mystery, I won’t divulge too many crucial details.

ssshhh

Director Mark Robson (Bedlam, Earthquake) keeps us guessing throughout the story. Where is Jacqueline Gibson? Why don’t Jacqueline’s pals in the cult want Mary to find her? Why does Tom Conway sound evil even when he’s saying good things?

evil
Good or evil, I still look dashing.

Kim Hunter and her cast mates, including Isabel Jewell and Jean Brooks, are convincing and the taut seventy-one-minute story by Charles O’Neal and DeWitt Bodeen pulls you in. Produced by Val Lewton at RKO a year after the Jacques Tourneur classic, Cat People, The Seventh Victim has that same gorgeous look. Full of shadows and dark alleys, the cinematography by Nicholas Musuraca is as much a part of the film as the script.

shadowcorner
See? It’s a beautiful film.

Musuraca also served as director of photography on Cat People, The Spiral Staircase, and Out of the Past. Roy Webb, who composed the soundtracks for The Leopard Man and I Walked with a Zombie did the music for this film and it creates a wonderful atmosphere of doom punctuated with splashes of suspense.

The Seventh Victim, along with eight other Lewton-produced films and Shadows in the Dark, a documentary on the gifted producer, are together in a fabulous box set. It’s worth a look.

title

Advertisements

Beyond the Black Rainbow (2010)   6 comments

blackrainbow

A young woman, Elena (Eva Bourne) drugged and held against her will,  endures abuse and torture at the hands of her doctor, the weird and creepy Barry Nyle (Michael Rogers) in a bizarre institution guarded by mutants.

671329_128
I’m firing my agent tomorrow.

Mind-altering drugs and a cult looking for deep enlightenment through murder and dullness star in this slow moving acid trip of a movie.  Set in the 1980s so director Panos Cosmatos could take advantage of the fashion sense and stellar décor of that era, BEYOND THE BLACK RAINBOW tells the story of…something.  I’m not sure what exactly, but Cosmatos got a writing credit so I assume someone planned this.  Anyway, Elena wants, wisely, to bolt from the sterile nuthatch she’s in so she uses her psychic ability (oh yeah, she’s psychic) to get away from Arboria Institute and all of its charms.  That’s hard to do strung out on soma.  Since we never hear the message of cult leader Dr. Mercurio Arboria (Scott Hylands), it’s hard to know why Elena or anyone is there.  We do want Elena to escape the uber skeevy Dr. Nyle so that’s something.

beyond_the_black_rainbow_2_2011
I collect spleens.

To sum up, Dr. Nyle has scary fire opal eyes that even his wife finds intimidating, sentionauts are tall, and Panos Cosmatos watched way too many David Lynch films on acid.  That’s all I got.

6676_1
Super.  Keep in touch.

haunty

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

The Devil’s Hand (1961)   2 comments

devil's hand

Rick Turner (Robert Alda) has a problem.  Despite being engaged to the sweet and lovely Donna Trent (Ariadna Welter), working a job with a future, and wearing a series of hideous sweaters, he has disturbing dreams about a beautiful woman which keep him up every night.  During one of his insomnia induced walks through the city, he comes upon a doll shop and spies a doll which reminds him of his dream woman.  The next day, Rick and Donna visit the shop and meet the proprietor, creepy to the extreme Francis Lamont (Neil Hamilton-Yes! Commissioner Gordon!) who tells Rick he ordered the dream woman doll and must bring it to Bianca Milan (Linda Christian).  Rick has no memory of this but brings the doll to Bianca anyway.  He falls in lust at first sight and blows Donna off completely.  If that weren’t bad enough, poor Donna suffers in a hospital bed with a sudden heart ailment brought on by Francis’ sticking a pin in a doll with her likeness.  Moments after they meet, Bianca tells Rick he must renounce all goodness and virtue and join her cult which worships Gamba, the devil god of evil.  Since he has nothing else planned, he agrees and goes with Bianca to a meeting of the cult in the back of the doll shop.  I have to say that an evil cult meeting in the back of a doll shop does not surprise me.  The Kerry Scale of Creepy rates clowns as the most creepy.  After clowns come dolls that look like you, regular dolls, and ventriloquist dummies.  Please consult the following chart.

Kerry’s Scale of Creepiness

Totally Effing Creepy Very Creepy Creepy Less Creepy Awkward Benign
Clowns Dolls that look like you Dolls in general Ventriloquist dummies Taxidermied horses Puppies

 

I hope that clears things up.

Rick flourishes using Gamba’s evil and soon he has money, a cool car, and a far more fashionable wardrobe.  Donna’s still in the hospital with a pin in her doll’s chest.  Rick lusts after Bianca and they share a few sexy kisses.  The movie hints at sex, but Rick still goes home and sleeps in his little twin bed.  Anyway, we get to see a few Gamba Book Club cult meetings where people dance to bongo music and cult members sit on pillows and watch each other tested for loyalty under a knife-filled light fixture.  Commissioner Gordon officiates over these meetings speaking with the same voice you use when you’re a kid having a fake séance and wears a natty smoking jacket/bathrobe over his shirt and tie.  It’s a lot of fun really.   Obviously the halcyon days of Gamba can’t last forever and since this stuff happens in a movie, it all has to come to a conclusion they’ll love in Peoria.   I liked The Devil’s Hand.  It boasts cool Misirlou-like tunes, weird cult scenes, Isadora Duncan dream sequences, and Commissioner Gordon as a weirdo with a doll shop.  Jo Heims, who would go on to write Play Misty for Me and Dirty Harry wrote the screenplay and William J. Hole, Jr. (Highway Patrol, 77 Sunset Strip TV episodes) directed this fairly odd story well.  All hail Gamba!

devils

30 Years On: 1984 a Great Year for Movies

A Review of one of the Great Years in American Cinema

Atomic Flash Deluxe

Scout's 20th Century Flash

Paula's Cinema Club

"Tiny little pieces of time they'll never forget"

Realweegiemidget Reviews Films TV Books and more

You can take the girl out of Glasgow. Entertainment Reviews from a Wee Scottish Wife and Stepmum living in Finland.

CrazyDiscoStu - A nerd blog

Reviews, film/tv, gaming, tech, music, opinions, observations, nerd culture, musings and general fan-boy geekery.

ASSHOLES WATCHING MOVIES

Our opinions don't stink!

Fade To Black

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