Archive for the ‘Robert Bloch’ Tag

Asylum (1972)   1 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

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Strait-Jacket (1964)   6 comments

jacket poster

Lee Majors picks up a woman in a bar and brings her back to his house. The two lovers sleep soundly after their tryst until Majors’ wife Lucy (Joan Crawford) arrives and spoils everything. Things go poorly for the couple after that. Caught ranting at the scene of the double murder, Joan is shipped off to an asylum wearing…you guessed it.

strait
This is not an original!

Twenty years later, Joan, cured of being insane, heads home to her family’s farm where her grown daughter Carol (Diane Baker), Joan’s brother Bill (Leif Erickson), and his wife Emily (Rochelle Hudson) have promised to care for Joan. If it sounds ideal, think again. Even the tour Carol gives Lucy when she first arrives at the farm has a sinister vibe. Lucy is thrust into her former life twenty years after she left it. She dresses as if she’s a 28 year old floozy and even tries to suck face with her daughter’s beau Michael (John Anthony Hayes). It doesn’t go well. All of Lucy’s personal crises come to a head as people start losing theirs. Will heads continue to roll? Will Michael’s snotty parents approve of their future daughter-in-law’s nutjob mother? Will Pepsi work more product placement into the film? Will Joan continue to wear those annoying charm bracelets? Strait-Jacket’s worth watching to see the story’s unpredictable conclusion.

axy
You only serve Coke?!

Full of director/producer William Castle’s neat little touches, and writer Robert Bloch’s flair for psychopaths, Strait-Jacket has it all. Decapitations, insanity, and more sharp knives and slaughterhouse references than an Upton Sinclair novel. Joan even gets to slap someone. We also see one of George Kennedy’s early film roles as creepy farmhand Leo Krause.

george paint
I’ll use a different brush for the tires.

I recommend Strait-Jacket. It’s a well-made thriller with solid performances that keeps you guessing. If you’ve read any of my reviews you know I’m a big fan of B horror films and this one’s a gem.
Goofy trivia: Mitchell Cox, vice-president of PepsiCo played the part of Lucy’s doctor. Joan Crawford was on the board of directors of the soft drink company at the time.

headless
Teehee.

The Deadly Bees (1966)   1 comment

deadly bees

Vickie Robbins (Suzanna Leigh), a British pop star with a grueling schedule has a breakdown during a taping of a Shindig-like show.

shindig
I’m stressed.

Her doctor orders her to recuperate on a friend’s farm on remote Seagull Island. A few weeks on a quiet farm in the country sounds ideal, doesn’t it? Well, it would be if it weren’t for all those deadly bees. You see farmer and all around jerk Ralph Hargrove (Guy Doleman) keeps bees and spends most of his time experimenting with them to create a race of superbees or bees that can juggle or do your taxes or something. The film never quite tells you. That leaves Ralph’s wife, Mary (Catherine Finn) to run the farm. Their marriage leaves something to be desired as well. Ralph appears to be overly friendly toward the publican’s daughter and Mary is more devoted to her dog than any pesky humans. When Mary’s dog is attacked and killed by bees, the idyllic farm takes on a more sinister mood.

doggie
Why do they always pick on the dog?

Mary blames Ralph for the death of her beloved pet and an already strained relationship careens over an embankment. Vickie starts noticing odd things about her host and she soon suspects he’s using his bees to dispatch people he finds superfluous. She meets H.W. Manfred (Frank Finlay), beekeeper and gentleman farmer who fuels Vickie’s suspicions. After Mary meets the same fate as her pup, Vickie and Manfred pool their knowledge to try and thwart Hargrove.

face bees
Why can’t we keep our honey in a jar like other people?

Amicus Productions, a studio considered a lesser Hammer Studios, produced some terrific low budget horrors in the 1960s and 70s. They often used Hammer actors like Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing as well as big name actors and some who once had big film careers. Amicus specialized in portmanteau horror films like THE HOUSE THAT DRIPPED BLOOD, TORTURE GARDEN, and VAULT OF HORROR and made some full-length horrors as well. Despite their reputation for low budgets, Amicus had good production values and hired talented actors and writers. Robert Bloch (PSYCHO, STRAIT-JACKET) wrote the screenplay for THE DEADLY BEES along with Anthony Marriott and Gerald Heard from his novel A Taste for Honey. The story originally appeared as STING OF DEATH as part of the ELGIN HOUR television series and starred Boris Karloff. Director, Freddie Francis (THE DAY OF THE TRIFFIDS, TROG) helmed a few Amicus films including several anthology films.
I liked THE DEADLY BEES. Despite the bee effects (superimposing film of swarming bees over the actual film), there was some real suspense and the film had more surprises than I expected. The acting was really good. A lot of the cast straddled high and low budget films throughout their careers. The weird bee science was fun. I love the idea of attack bees that respond to scent and music. I recommend THE DEADLY BEES. I think it’s the first killer bee film so it started a genre I love. It also has an odd cameo. In the opening scene set during the taping of a pop music show, we see a band called The Birds perform. No, they’re not the Turn, Turn, Turn Byrds, but they are the band Ron Wood played in before he joined the Rolling Stones. Their tune isn’t bad either.

Buzzzzzzzzzzz.

ron
I could buy and sell all of you.

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