Archive for the ‘Patrick Magee’ Tag

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.

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October 2, 2014

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.  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.

skullbook
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.

pool
“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.

wife
“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.

pat
“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.

skull
Hiya!

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

 

 

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.

car

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.

magee2

“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.

toddaxe

“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.

cush

“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.

rampling

“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.

lombot

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

And Now the Screaming Starts (1973)   2 comments

-and-now-the-screaming-starts-198702l
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
“Hiya!”

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
“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.

crawl
“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.

hand
“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?

cushing
“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.

alone
In the night. In the dark.

haunty

Séance on a Wet Afternoon (1964)   2 comments

title

A lone, black candle burns against a black background as we join a séance in progress.  The camera pans over the anxious faces of the circle of believers.  A soft, reassuring voice breaks the silence.  The medium, Myra Savage (Kim Stanley) soothes the unruly spirits.

candle
“I hear dead people.”

After the séance, the faithful step outside, blinking at the daylight and we meet the players.  Myra and her husband, Billy switch on the lights to reveal a room full of overstuffed chairs and bric-a-brac.  Shabby and overdone, it looks as if it’s been stuck in time for fifty years.  As dominant, unbalanced Myra goes on and on about her ‘gift’ we see the weak-willed Billy.  He listens to her quiet ramblings with the resignation of a beaten man.  As the two discuss their history, Myra belittles Billy, not coarsely, but softly and gently with a sweet lilt in her pretty voice.  Amid the ‘yes dears’ and ‘you’re probably rights’, we see that Billy kow-tows to Myra, but she’s dependent on him as well.  Constantly seeking reassurance, Myra makes Billy tell her over and over that he needs her and loves her.

yesdear
“Tell me you love me, Billy!”
“Of course, dear.”

These two quiet, middle-aged people have a plan.  You see, for years Myra has held her weekly spiritual meetings for pitiful pay and even less recognition.  She craves attention and the means to pull herself out of her drab environment.  They plan to commit a crime.  Myra will use her psychic powers to solve it thus cementing her reputation as a medium and gaining them some spending money.  It’s clear that Myra’s plan doesn’t sit well with Billy and he tries weakly to talk her out of it.  Myra can’t be moved and the story begins.

chloroform
“Does this rag smell like chloroform?”

Their detailed scheme is set in motion as Billy goes out and Myra dispenses instructions from home.  Even after the first part of the crime goes off without a hitch, Billy has reservations and the strain of it shows on his face.  As the pair dive deeper into their twisted conspiracy, it’s clear that the plot, their marriage, and her sanity rests on a house of cards doomed to collapse.

kim
“Do you smell toast?”

Bryan Forbes (THE STEPFORD WIVES) directs SEANCE ON A WET AFTERNOON subtly with a slow, but deliberate pace that gives Stanley and Attenborough room to show off their prodigious talents.  The dialogue sounds natural and the two experienced character actors paint us a picture of an immature, possibly mad woman and the compliant, dependent man who indulges her.  The duo work in shades of gray allowing Myra and Billy to experience a range of emotions and pull us into their strangely touching relationship.  Stanley and Attenborough are all restraint and give beautifully nuanced performances.  Both were nominated by the BAFTA (British Academy of Film and Television Arts).  Attenborough won.  The Academy nominated Stanley and she won both the National Board of Review and the New York Film Critics’ Circle best actress awards.  Forbes was also nominated for a BAFTA award for his screenplay based on Mark McShane’s novel.

paper
“Did they spell our names right?”

Gerry Turpin’s cinematography was also BAFTA nominated and deservedly so.  The gorgeously shot black and white film has a look that screams 1960s Britain.  Turpin contrasts the bleak English countryside and the dull interior of the couples’ home with the clean, modern home of the rich victims of their heinous crime.  Forbes and Turpin chose beautiful tableaux to film and spend time there.  There are no jump cuts.  The suspense comes from the framing of the story and the understated performances of the two leads and the veteran actors like Patrick Magee, Mark Eden, Nanette Newman, and Gerald Sim working with them.

houseseance
This house; you have to watch it every minute.  Wait, wrong movie.

The music and sound effects heighten the suspense as well.  Much of the film has no music which accentuates the suffocating stillness of the Savage home.  The sounds of nature coupled with John Barry’s (Yes, THAT John Barry!) spare score add to the quirky eeriness of this dark tale.

I recommend SEANCE ON A WET AFTERNOON.  It’s a chilling character study that makes me want to see every British film of this era.

seance
“Yes, I know I Want to Hold Your Hand is number one.  Yes, I know it’s a séance.  You say that every time.  Stop giggling.”

 

Tales from the Crypt (1972)   2 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.

ralph
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.

joan2
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.

peter
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.

magee
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.

guests
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.

evil
Clean up all this evil.

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