Cinema Sunday: The Ghoul (1975)

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Title: The Ghoul (Night of the Ghoul – U.S.)

Distributor: Tyburn Films

Writer: Anthony Hinds

Director: Freddie Francis

Producer: Kevin Francis

Starring: Peter Cushing, Veronica Carlson, John Hurt, Don Henderson, Alexandra Bastedo

Released: May 1975

MPAA: R

 

After two of Hammer Film Studios psychological thrillers, I thought I’d switch gears a bit, and spotlight some of the films that Tyburn Studios added to the crowded horror movie scene of the 1970’s.  The first one I chose is called “The Ghoul“, and it stars Peter Cushing, and Veronica Carlson, two Hammer Studio staples from the previous decade.

This film was an interesting contrast to the earlier film by the same name (starring Boris Karloff and  Cedric Hardwicke, 1933). A bit low-budget, perhaps, but when you get Cushing, and Carlson in the same film, it can’t be all that terrible. Alright, enough nonsense, let’s get to the movie!

 

The film begins with some people having a party at a mansion (sometime in the Roaring ’20s). There’s a scene where a beautiful woman is making her way through a dark house, and being called out to. She enters a room upstairs, and finds a man with a hook through his neck, hanging and in his death throes (image below). The woman doesn’t scream, and then we’re shown that it was a game, and bets were made if the girl would scream or not.  One woman in particular stands out from the crowd. Her name is Daphne (Veronica Carlson), and she seems to have quite an attitude. She acts as if she’s interested in a man named Geoffrey (Ian McCulloch), and the two make a plan to drive to Lands End. Before they can leave, another man, Billy (Stewart Bevan), approaches them and asks where they are going. He also tells Geoffrey that his car is inferior to his, and Daphne knows a way to settle the dispute. She challenges Billy to a race, his car against Geoffrey’s. They race to Lands End, and whoever gets there first is the winner. They go back inside and tell the other guests that they’ll begin with the race as soon as all the champagne is gone.

 

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later, after everyone is good and drunk, Daphne decides she wants to go with Billy instead of Geoffrey, and another woman, Angela (Alexandra Bastedo), jumps into Geoffrey’s car, to go with him (there seems to be a bit of a rivalry between the two women). A man counts down, and the race is on. Daphne has not only orchestrated this entire ordeal, but also jumped in the driver’s seat of Billy’s car, and zooms down the road. Geoffrey is shocked at well she can drive a car, and at first he has trouble just keeping up with her. He eventually overtakes her, but his passenger, Angela, gets ill, and he must pull over. Daphne uses this opportunity to pass them out, and Billy is shocked that she didn’t stop to help them.

After a short while, Daphne runs into a thick fog bank, loses control of the car, and then pulls over, running out of gas. She urges Billy to take the spare container and go find some fuel so they can get going. After some bickering, he does leave with the can to look for some fuel, leaving Daphne alone. Suddenly, we see a hand stroking the fur coat that Daphne is wearing (while she naps), and as she wakes, the hand disappears. A man watches her from the forest, and she writes a note on the windshield for Billy, explaining that she didn’t want to keep waiting for him, so she wanders off on her own. She quickly runs into the man, Tom (John Hurt), who was watching her, but he tells her that there is no fuel anywhere near here, so she leaves. He follows her, and she finds a house with an old iron gate. He tells her that it’s abandoned, but she’s frightened of him, so she runs toward the house anyway. He grabs a rock, and bounces it off of her head, knocking her unconscious.

 

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The next scene we see is that of a small cabin or room, and Daphne is on the floor, just waking up. She’s surprised by Tom, who’s watching her, creepy-style from a shadowy corner. He tells her that he had to do what he did, because he didn’t want her going up to the house. He tells her that something sinister is up there, but not exactly who or what. She doesn’t believe him, and tries to get by him. He pushes her down, and when she attempts it again, he pimp slaps her to the ground. She seems unfazed though, and gets up, knees him in the family jewels, and runs outside. He chases after her, but before either of them can do anything, a man pops out of nowhere. She explains to this man who another man attacked her. Dr. Lawrence (Peter Cushing), is this man, and he tells Daphne that she’d better come with him. She explains to him the circumstances of her situation, and he invites her to stay for a while, and rest. An Indian woman comes into the room, and she’s apparently the servant of Dr. Lawrence. He instructs Aya to get some tea, and to prepare a room for Daphne.

She falls asleep, and when she wakes up, she realizes poor Billy must still be lost on the moors. Dr. Lawrence tells her that he’ll tells his gardener (Tom), to investigate her friend’s whereabouts. Tom finds him back at the car sleeping, and murders him by pushing the car off the ledge with him in it! Tom laughs like an insane person, and steals something from pocket of the dead man. Back at the house, Aya enters the room, and tells Dr. Lawrence that Tom is back, and then Tom tells them that there was no sign of Billy, but there was a note. Dr. Lawrence reads the note and tells her that it says he went home. Daphne is more at ease then, and settles in as a guest. She begins to get quite chummy with Dr. Lawrence.

 

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In the kitchen Aya is making lunch, and we can then hear some Phantom of the Opera style music coming from somewhere in the house. Daphne is drawn to it, and investigates. As she does, Dr. Lawrence is praying by an altar. Daphne walks in on him, and he invites her inside. They then dine together, and then Daphne goes to her room for some rest. As she rests, Aya is doing some sort of ritualistic ceremony, and Dr. Lawrence is playing his violin. Tom is hanging out in the garden, looking creepier than ever. As Daphne begins to awaken, Aya is still up to something, and she unlocks a door near the attic. We only see feet, but it’s implied something horrific came out, and is making its way down to Daphne’s room. We see this shape, enter her room, and stab her to death.

 

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The next scene shows the kitchen, and it seems that Aya is going to cook Daphne for a meal. Tom watches in horror as Aya cuts the corpse to ribbons. Aya leaves the room, and Tom removes something from the body, and takes it back to his cabin. Then Aya takes some “food” to the resident in the attic to eat. The beast reaches out for the meal, and its hand is hideous. Meanwhile, Dr. Lawrence is weeping in his prayer room, but that doesn’t stop Aya from doing her prep work for more “meals”.

The following part shows Angela and Geoffrey, as they’ve been informed that the body of Billy has been found. The police show them the location of the car, but Geoffrey is unconvinced that this was an accident,and that Daphne was lost in the moors (quicksand?). Geoffrey then sets out on foot to try to find some answers. Angela waits in the car, and we see a familiar cycle ready to begin anew.

 

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OK, here are my thoughts:

This is my first viewing of this film, and my initial thoughts are that I enjoyed it. Many feel the acting wasn’t up to snuff, but I disagree. Was it the best performance of Cushing’s career? Certainly not, but it’s far from bad acting. Seeing Veronica Carlson is this type of role was actually quite refreshing. She usually plays the woman in distress, and gets tossed around. She was actually very tough in this film, and could hold her own. Ian McCulloch was good too, and made a good hero. John Hurt played a good psycho, and really dialed up the creep factor.

The “ghoul” was just okay, with nothing extremely frightening about him. The Indian woman was pretty evil as well, and helped move things along nicely. There have been comparisons to Hammer Studios “The Reptile”, and rightly so, because that film and this one have similar plots. They both have a cult-type angle as well (snakes/zombies). Maybe that’s why I liked this film too, because I love The Reptile! Give this film a look and decide for yourself if it’s worthy!

 

 

Cinema Sunday: Nightmare (1964)

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Title: Nightmare

Distributor: Hammer/Universal Studios

Writer: Jimmy Sangster

Director: Freddie Francis

Producer: Jimmy Sangster

Starring: David Knight, Moira Redmond, Jennie Linden, Brenda Bruce

Released: April 19th, 1964

MPAA: UR

 

Here we are with another Cinema Sunday, and of course, another fantastic movie! This week, we’ll take a look at another one of Hammer Studios psychological thrillers in – Nightmare! This film is much more intense than last week’s offering, but in a slightly different way. You still get a good mystery, but in this film, you also get some vicious murder scenes, as well. The cast was very small, but I think after you’ve seen the film for yourself, you’ll realize it isn’t a bad thing. Okay, let’s disperse with the clouds and get right down to this one!

 

The film begins with a girl wandering around a sanitarium. She hears a voice calling out to her, and is frightened. The voice calls for help, and then Janet (Jennie Linden), hears the voice tell her that she knows where to find her. Janet then proceeds down a hallway and enters a padded room. Standing in the corner, is a woman, begging for help. The door swiftly slams behind Janet, and the woman laughs insanely. Janet begins to scream, and then we see this is only a dream, and Janet awakens in bed, at her prep school. One of her teachers, Mary Lewis (Brenda Bruce) comes in and settles her down, and she goes back to sleep.

 

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The next day, Janet is approached by the same teacher from the previous night, and she tells her that the faculty wants Janet to see a doctor. Janet tells her that she’ll refuse any appointment. She also tells her teacher that she wants her guardian, Henry Baxter (David Knight), to come and get her from school. She gets her wish, and John the butler/driver (George A. Cooper), picks her up, along with Mary Lewis, as the school believes Janet could use some guidance on the journey home. Once they reach home, Mrs. Gibbs (Irene Richmond), greets Janet, and she seems elated. They enter the home, and Mary is going to stay the evening, and go back to the school tomorrow. Janet is surprised to see a woman, Grace Maddox (Moira Redmond), in the house. Mrs. Gibbs tells Janet that her guardian, Henry, thought that Janet might like someone to spend time with at the house, instead of being alone.

 

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Janet goes to bed after dinner, and Mary and Grace talk. Mary asks Grace why Henry asked her to stay with Janet, and she tells her that it’s because Henry is worried about her, and she’s a nurse, so he believes she can help out. Grace then heads to bed for the evening, and Mrs. Gibbs and Mary have a talk. Mrs. Gibbs tells Mary that the reason Janet seems mentally imbalanced is because she saw her mother murder her father when she was eleven years old. She had a nervous breakdown after that, and has always worried that she might have inherited some of her mothers wickedness. Mrs. Gibbs tells Mary that even if didn’t inherit any of those traits, that even the persistent thought could drive a person insane. Mary goes to bed, and Mrs. Gibbs is tidying up, when she hears a sound near the library. She’s surprised by Mary, who claims to have come downstairs to get a book.

On her way back to her room, Mary notices that Janet’s bedroom door is open. She investigates, and finds Janet missing. She creeps down the hallway to looks for her, and then she’s surprised by Janet, who silently turns the corner right in front of her. Janet seems like she’s in a daze or perhaps sleep-walking. Mary talks to her, but gets little answers other than the fact that Janet seems to think she either saw someone or dreamed that she saw someone. Mary shows her back to her room, and then goes to sleep, pondering what might be happening. As Janet walks slowly into her room, she notices someone on the bed. It’s her mother (or so she thinks), and there’s a knife sticking out of her chest, and the birthday cake from Janet’s eleventh birthday (the same day her father was killed) on the table. She freaks out, and runs off, but is then stopped by Grace, who slaps her a few times to get her to snap back into reality.

 

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The next morning, Janet has been sedated by the local physician, and he recommends to Henry that she be institutionalized. Henry then checks in on Janet, who, upon seeing him, pulls him in, and kisses him passionately. He pulls back, and then apologizes for not being able to meet her at school. Janet asks if the reason is his wife, and he tells her that she (his wife) doesn’t like being alone. He makes his apologies, and tells Janet he must travel to London, and then leaves. As day turns into night, Janet’s mind begins to unravel. She thinks she sees someone trying to open her bedroom door, so she calls out and asks who’s there. She gets no answer, and then gets up to investigate. She looks down the hallway but sees no one at first, but after a moment, she does witness a shadow down at the end of the hall. She walks down slowly, and keeps following where the shadow leads. Eventually, she comes upon a bedroom, and she hears the voices of herself and Mrs. Gibbs from the day she saw her father killed. She runs off to her bedroom, and sees the corpse of her father, lying in her bed. She goes berserk, and falls down a staircase, and George and Grace find her there unconscious.

 

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Another day, and Grace is feeding Janet her pills, supposedly from the doctor. Grace asks her what happened, and Janet tells her that some woman is plaguing her dreams. Grace tells her to get some sleep, because it’s her birthday tomorrow. A new day comes, and Janet finds herself being confused after the last few night’s activities. She then heads out to see who is around, but only finds a strange woman in a hospital gown creeping around the house. The woman vaguely resembles her mother, but we know that she’s locked up in a sanitarium, right? Janet then returns to her room, looking completely unhinged. She then smashes her mirror, and uses a shard to slit her wrist. Henry, and Grace are speaking with the doctor in the next scene, and wondering what to do about Janet. As Janet comes out from her bedroom to see Henry, she sees the back of a woman, who is introduced to her by Henry, as his wife. As the woman turns around, Janet recognizes her face as the woman who has tortured her. She then snaps mentally, picks up a knife, and brutally stabs Henry’s wife to death!

 

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I’m not going to go any further because I’d have to go into crazy spoiler territory, and because things get slightly convoluted as well! Suffice to say that the killing doesn’t end here, and by the end of the film, there’s more than one person that’s gone off the deep end!

OK here are my thoughts:

This flick is a good one, but definitely inferior to Paranoiac. It is more grisly, and that’s pretty cool, but the twists and suspense aren’t as powerful as the aforementioned film. As I said above, it does also get a bit wacky at the end as well. This being my first viewing might have something to do with that, but I honestly don’t think so. There is another scene towards the end of the film, where Henry and Grace slap each other. It’s quite a shock to see especially for 1964.

The actors/actresses are quite good in the roles that they play. Janet’s character was played by Jennie Linden, and was a late replacement. She did a god job for someone stepping in at the last-minute. David Knight, and Moira Redmond also were very good. Both gave convincing performances. The music score was by Don Banks, and definitely worth noting. He did a good job setting a good tone, and a couple of thunderous interludes when it was right. The set was absolutely gorgeous, and up to the Hammer standard for sure. Check this one out if you haven’t yet, because it’s worth the watch!

 

Watch the trailer here!

Cinema Sunday: Taste of Fear (1961) (A.K.A. Scream of Fear)

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Title: Taste of Fear (Scream of Fear – U.S.)

Distributor: Hammer/ Columbia

Writer: Jimmy Sangster

Director: Seth Holt

Producers: Jimmy Sangster, Michael Carreras

Starring: Susan Strasberg, Ronald Lewis, Ann Todd, Christopher Lee

Released: Jan. 1961

MPAA: PG

 

If you thought Hammer Studios was only about horror flicks, think again! They made films in many genres (even comedies!), and some that are absolutely amazing in the psychological thriller category, like Taste of Fear! This one is a testament to the writing ability of Jimmy Sangster (and Michael Carreras), and definitely let people know that Hammer Studios was here to stay. The performances were great, and this movie being in black and white gives it an old school look to it that is perfect.

In 1961, Hammer was already starting to build up its horror library with hits like Horror of Dracula and Curse of Frankenstein, and more psychological thrillers would follow (Paranoiac, Nightmare, etc.). Some of the content in these films really pushed the envelope, just like Hammer horror did when it got rolling, and that wasn’t just schlock to get people in the seats. Hammer knew they had commodities with Cushing and Lee, so it was only a matter of adding some good character actors (Michael Ripper) most of the time, and they had a winning formula. OK, enough talk, let’s get down to business!

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The film opens up as a boat with two men aboard, search for something in the water. A policeman and another man in plain clothes fish out the body of a girl, as more policemen watch from the shoreline. After the credits roll, we see a beautiful young woman, Penny Appleby (Susan Strasberg) getting off of an airplane, and a chauffeur pick her up. The young lady is in a wheelchair, and apparently a paraplegic.  The chauffeur (Ronald Lewis) drives the girl to her ancestral home, and tells her that her father is away on business. He then arrives at the house where we see her step-mother, Jane Appleby (Ann Todd), and they have a rather interesting first meeting. You see, Penny has lived abroad, and never net her father’s new wife (she’s been away for ten years). She settles in, and then has a look around.

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Later, at dinner, Penny tells Jane that she didn’t come around because her parents got divorced, and her mother and her moved to Italy. Her mother passed away a few years ago, and she came back because her father wrote to her, asking her to come home for a visit. They have some small talk, but then Penny excuses herself, and goes to bed. Later that night, Penny awakens to a slamming noise outside of her bedroom. She gets into her wheelchair to investigate, and sees that it’s just a loose door. She also sees a light on in the window of the summer-house. As she scans the room, she sees her father, sitting in a chair, motionless. He appears to be dead, so she shrieks in horror, then flees the summer-house. On her way out, in a panic, she falls into the pool and begins to drown. She wakes up to realize that she was saved by Bob, the chauffeur, and is being cared for by the family doctor, Dr. Gerrard (Christopher Lee). She demands to be taken back to the summer-house, and Bob carries her there, but nothing is out-of-place, and her father is not there either.

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The next day, Jane leaves for a while, and Bob looks after Penny. They go to the beach for a bit, and they talk about many things, and especially about her disability. She tells Bob it was a horse riding accident. Bob then tells her that some funny things have gone on lately. He tells Penny that her father left in the middle of the night, and took the small car, one that he didn’t care for at all. They head back to the house, but Penny wants to inspect the summer-house again. Before she can search around, Jane interrupts her, and tells her that she has a surprise for he in the house. Her father is on the telephone, and asks her how she’s doing. The look on her face is one of suspicion, and she speaks for only a minute, then Jane takes the phone and talks. Dr. Gerrard tells Penny that she should calm down and not stress herself out, or she might have a nervous breakdown.

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As the creepiness continues, Penny then checks out the garage, and sees that the small car her father supposedly was driving on a business trip, was back in the garage. Jane tells her that it couldn’t be, because her father hasn’t returned yet. She also hears someone playing the piano, but when she investigates, she sees no one in the room. Once again she notices a light in the summer-house, and heads over to check it out. The chair that her father was sitting in is empty this time, but then she goes over to her room, and sees her father sitting by her bedside. He slumps over, and Penny screams. Bob comes running, and then Jane as well. She gets the feeling she’s being set-up, so clams up about what she saw, and tells them she’s OK.

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At dinner, Dr. Gerrard suggests that maybe Penny is mentally stopping herself from walking again. She gets very defensive, and tells them she doesn’t want to talk about it anymore. As everyone heads to bed, Bob agrees to help Penny with her sleuthing, and they theorize that maybe her father was murdered, and she might be next. They think the body might be being stored in a freezer in the kitchen (one of those large industrial type freezers). They investigate, but find nothing. The following morning, Bob and Penny head to the beach to plan more of their investigation. As Bob picks her up to take her back to the car, the two share a kiss, and watching from the cliff above, very creepily, is Jane. Back at the house, Jane attempts to hook Penny up with a few local gentlemen, but she refuses.

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That afternoon, Penny looks out her window and realizes there is one more place they can look for the corpse. The swimming pool would be the perfect hiding place, so Penny asks Bob to check it out. Bob jumps into his speedo (seriously), and jumps into the pool. Within minutes, he comes to the surface and tells Penny that the body is down below at the bottom. Penny and Bob believe that Jane has something to do with this foul play, because she can’t get her hands on the fortune that Penny’s father has amassed. Bob takes Penny in the car to get the police, but they see Jane broken down on the side of the road. Bob pulls over, and gets out to see what’s going on. Before you know it, the car begins to creep forward, and it seems Bob forgot to set the parking brake. Penny tries to reach for the steering wheel, and sees her father’s corpse lying in the front seat! She can’t get to the wheel fast enough, and the car plunges over the cliff towards the icy waters. I’ll stop here because to go further would give too much away!

 

OK, here are my thoughts:

This film has a certain charm to it that very few non-horror Hammer films have. Maybe it’s the mystery, maybe it’s that it’s in black and white, or just the memorable performances by the cast. Either way, the ending is shocking, and the twists and turns are quite phenomenal. You really think you know what’s going on, and then the rug gets pulled out from under you. Christopher Lee is outstanding in the few scenes he has in the film. Don’t let that foo you though, as Lee gives an incredible performance. Susan Strasberg is also fantastic, and really deserves a lot of credit.

The sets are on par with the normal Hammer goodness, and so is the script. The music score isn’t really anything grande but hits the spots it needed to. The production of the entire film is very high for 1961 (Bernard Robinson – production design), and looks like a higher budget film that what it actually was (allegedly $50,000). Hammer has had many beautiful ladies in their films over the decades (Susan Denberg, Ingrid Pitt, Veronica Carlson, etc.), but I have to admit, Susan Strasberg is absolutely gorgeous in this film (Carlson and Denberg are my usual favorites!). It’s rare to have a leading lady that is this stunning and a high-grade actress as well. Typically Hammer just wanted beautiful women to get the male demographic in the seats with their ladies, but in this case you get it all!

 

Watch the trailer here!

Cinema Sunday: The Gorgon (1964)

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Title: The Gorgon

Distributor: Hammer/Columbia

Writer: John Gilling

Director: Terence Fisher

Producer: Anthony Nelson Keys

Starring: Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, Barbara Shelley, Richard Pasco, Michael Goodliffe

Released: August 24th, 1964

MPAA: PG

 

Another Sunday, and another movie review! Huzzah! Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee are the best acting tandem in horror movies ever assembled. Yeah, I just said that. Come at me with whoever else you have, but it won’t change my opinion. The sheer number of movies they did together helps that fact, and I’m not denying that, but seriously look at their body of work as a tandem, and you’ll be impressed!

This is one of Hammer Studios lesser known films (by the mainstream media types), but still has some redeeming qualities about it that cannot be denied. A tale that has some roots in Greek mythology, and add a splash of Hammer Gothic horror, and voila, you get The Gorgon! Let’s get down to the meat and potatoes of this one now!

The story begins with a young artist, Bruno Heitz (Jeremy Longhurst), as he’s drawing a portrait of his (topless) girlfriend. She informs him that she’s pregnant, and he storms off to tell her father that…”he isn’t going to avoid his obligations.'” As he heads into the forest, his girlfriend runs after him, but suddenly runs into some unseen killer that takes her out. The next day, we see that the girl has been found dead, and a search for Bruno is in effect. It doesn’t take long to find him, and when the police do, they’re shocked to see that he’s hanged himself from a tree…or did he?

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At the trial for this affair, it is clear that the local government wants to silence this case before it gets any more widespread. The father of the deceased, Professor Jules Heitz (Michael Goodliffe), is there, and has his say about what he theorizes happened. He tells the court that he will not rest until his son’s name is cleared. The court rules that Bruno murdered his girlfriend, then committed suicide. Professor Heitz and the local medical authority, Dr. Namaroff (Peter Cushing), are old colleagues, so after the hearing, Professor Heitz pays him a visit. Namaroff tells him nothing, and that he cannot help him. Heitz leaves, and is noticeably upset, but also realizes that he’s on to something fishy going on in Vandorf.

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The next day, Professor Heitz and his butler are at the home that his son was occupying at the time of his death, when all of a sudden, a few locals break in and threaten him if he doesn’t leave. A struggle ensues, but then the police show up. Everyone leaves, and Professor Heitz is even more aroused to find answers to this mystery. Later that evening, Professor Heitz hears some singing and heads over to the property nearby. As he creeps around the old castle, he can feel someone is there, watching him. We see a shadowy figure step out and Heitz screams in agony, and flees for his home. He reaches the home, but is badly hurt (image above). He’s turning to stone, but manages to write a few pages to tell his other son, Paul (Richard Pasco), of what has transpired.

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The following scene is Namaroff and Paul Heitz arguing over what killed his father. Namaroff stone-walls him, so he leaves. As he gets to the home, he sees someone in the house. It’s Dr. Namaroff’s assistant, Carla Hoffman (Barbara Shelley). She tells him that he’s in danger, and he should leave, but Paul refuses. Later on, Carla is talking with Namaroff about the gorgon theory that Paul had written back at the house. Speaking of Paul, as he’s sitting down at the home, a terrible wind blows the doors open, and he then hears that same siren song nearby. As he investigates, he sees a hideous face in water, reflecting at him. It drives him temporarily mad, and he passes out. He wakes up days later in the hospital, and sees Carla watching over him. He’s unaware that he’s been unconscious for days, and gets crazy when he finds out that the court hearing for his father is over. Namaroff has a brief discussion with him, but nothing gets resolved.

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After leaving the hospital, Paul decides to exhume the body of his father, and he then sees that he was turned to stone. He’s surprised from behind by Carla, and the two talk about what’s going on in Vandorf. Paul then realizes he’s in over his head, so he summons his former teacher, Professor Karl Meister (Christopher Lee), to help with the investigation. Once he arrives, the stuff really hits the fan, because of his no-nonsense approach to everything! The two discuss the problems in Vandorf, but Paul has fallen in love with Carla, and is letting it cloud his judgement.

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Meanwhile, Namaroff sends his goon, Ratoff (Jack Watson), to assassinate Paul, but old Professor Meister has a trick or two up his sleeve, and saves Paul. He then confronts the police, Namaroff, and anyone else that he thinks needs to answer some questions. He gets shown the door just like Paul and everyone else before him. Meister and Heitz then try to form a plan, but first visit the police for some information. They figure out that there were only a handful of women that have recently moved to Vandorf, thus giving them the lead that they need to solve this mystery!

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OK, here are my thoughts:

While this isn’t the best of Hammer’s offerings, it still pretty cool. Cushing and Lee both give very solid performances, as does Richard Pasco. Even Jack Watson (the doctor’s goon, Ratoff), is quite convincing with his menacing attitude. Barbara Shelley isn’t anything to write home about in this film (even though she’s had a few other great roles). The film is a little inconsistent with pacing until Christopher Lee’s character show up, and gets the ball rolling.

The sets, and atmosphere are typical for Hammer, meaning that they really drive the mood home. Although the “monster” isn’t very scary, the build-up, acting (for the most part), sets, atmosphere, and music score, make this film certainly worth a watch now and again. I won it on a four disc set that has three other classics on it that I’ll definitely be reviewing in the future (one of which I’ve already reviewed). Listen, give this one a look, if for no other reason than Cushing and Lee giving solid performances!

 

Check out the trailer here!

 

 

Cinema Sunday: The Last Man on Earth (1964)

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Title: The Last Man on Earth

Distributor: AIP (American International Pictures)/ MGM

Writers: Richard Matheson (book and assisted with the screenplay), William F. Leicester, Ubaldo Ragona, Furio M. Monetti

Directors: Ubaldo Ragona, Sidney Salkow

Producers: Samuel Z. Arkoff, Robert L. Lippert, Harold E. Knox

Starring: Vincent Price, Franca Bettoia, Emma Danieli, Giacomo Rossi-Stuart

Released: March 8, 1964

MPAA: NR

 

As many people know, Vincent Price was an outstanding actor. Of course he’s most known for his horror roles, and that was his best genre, without a doubt. I’ve covered his perennial classic “House of Wax“, on my blog before, and that will always be my personal favorite, but this film, is a close second! Post-apocalyptic movies are always intriguing to me, some obviously fall very short of being good, let alone great, but this one does not. A strong nod to the work of Richard Matheson, as he wrote the book and assisted on the screenplay for this one. If you don’t know his work, get cracking, because he’s one of the good ones! Alright, let’s get down to the movie!

LAST MAN ON EARTH, THE (1963)

As the movie begins, we see that a worldwide devastation has left the planet in a barely livable state. We see some corpses lying around, buildings smashed to bits, and absolutely nothing happening. That is until we see a house in the suburbs, and an alarm clock that awakens a man, Dr. Robert Morgan (Vincent Price). His internal monologue pretty much sums up what we’ve already seen with our own eyes. We see him go about a mostly routine, but then we see a wall in his kitchen, and he has used a pen to create a monthly calendar, and he remarks to himself that he “inherited the world” in 1965. According to his home-made calendar, it’s 1967.

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He enters the garage, and readies his car for a trip. Outside, there are two dead bodies, and he kicks one of them aside, as if he tires of this routine. On the front door to his house, we see a ring of garlic, and a cross, and you can begin to formulate what’s happening. He next attempts to use a short wave radio to contact someone, but he gets no answer. He checks his supply closet, and realizes he needs more garlic. He drinks a cup of tea, and checks out a map of the city that he’s been searching, block by block. He also is fashioning some wooden stakes, as well. He remarks (internally) that “they want my blood”, and “how many more will I have to kill.”

As he loads the two dead bodies into his car (from outside his home), he remarks that he needs to stop for gas for the car. He does that, and then we watch, as he drives to a ravine where a fire is burning. He tosses the two bodies into it (after putting on a gas mask), and then throws a torch into the pit, and an explosion follows. Next, he enters a grocery store, and grabs what he needs, including the garlic. He drives to another area, searching for life, and also, more supplies. We watch, as this routine of gathering supplies, killing these “infected” with a stake and hammer, dumping bodies in that pit, and so forth, continues for the rest of the day.

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As night comes, he attempts to get some sleep, but a few of the infected gather around his house, and begin to try to smash their way in. They’re unsuccessful though, because he’s fortified it very well. A scream awakens him, and he plays a few records to try to keep his mind from going off the deep end. The next day, Morgan heads off to the church, and loses himself in his thoughts. Before you know it, he realizes it dark outside, and runs out in a panic towards his car. Two of them attack him, but are tossed aside fairly easy. He reaches his car, fighting off a few more of them, but as he returns home, his house is surrounded. He uses his car to knock some of them over, and as he leaps out of the car, he brandishes a mirror, to keep them off long enough to get into the house.

Then, he watches some home movies, to try to relax. The infected ruin that quickly though, and push him over the edge, and he begins to weep. He flashes back to a time before the plague came upon the Earth. We see Dr. Morgan talking with a relative about a plague that’s sweeping through Europe. Dr. Morgan doesn’t believe its’ as bad as people are saying, but he soon finds out differently. His daughter is the first to get ill, but his wife soon follows. Morgan talks with his wife about the hope of a vaccine, and he believes everything will be fine. As he gets to the lab, he and the other doctors mention the word vampire, but Morgan wont have any of that talk.

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Morgan is still holding out hope for his daughter, but his wife thinks they need to send for a doctor. As Morgan leaves for the lab, a neighbor is screaming, because the military is taking her child (or husband) away to be burned in the before mentioned pit. Morgan drives to his co-workers home to pick him up for work, but he wont leave the house. Morgan shows up at the lab, but everyone is gone, save for one doctor. He returns home later that day (in the evening), and a truck has just pulled away. He sees that his daughter is gone, and his wife tells him that she called a doctor, and then the truck came to take her away. Morgan quickly jumps into his car, and tries to follow the truck to the burn pit. After he arrives, he asks the driver if that truck was just in his neighborhood, and the man doesn’t know. We assume she was in the truck and is now dead.

He returns home, and his wife cries out that she cannot see. He finds her, lying on the bed, unconscious. He keeps her under his constant supervision, but she dies rather quickly. He removes her from the house (wrapped in a sheet), then drives to a remote location, and buries her. He returns home, but soon hears a voice whispering. Someone is at the front door, attempting to get in. He opens the door, and it’s his wife, not looking so good.

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We now flashback into the present, and the infected are trashing his car and house. They call to him the entire time, but get careless, and stay out until sunrise. Morgan awakens the next morning and heads outside to assess the damage. Morgan does some car “shopping” , and picks up a new station wagon. He returns home, and locks it in his garage. Seemingly out of nowhere, a dog appears, and seems to be fine. He scares it though, and it runs off. He chases it, but can’t seem to find it. He does stumble upon some dead bodies that were taken out with metal spears. He now knows someone else must still be alive. He heads back home and once again uses his radio to try to make contact with someone.

As he does, he hears the dog whimpering outside the house. The dog is injured, but how, is unknown. The usual band of infected return and start beating on his house once again. Morgan sees the dog is frightened, and he assures it that things will be fine. It hits him just then, that maybe the dog was infected, so he checks out its blood under a microscope. It was indeed, so then he’s shown burying the dog (that has a stake through it). He looks up, and sees a woman walking through the field. He calls out to her, but she’s afraid. After running her down, he convinces her that she should come with him, and they can fight together.

I’m going to leave off  now, and let the rest to your imagination, but rest assured, this is one you must see!

OK, here are my thoughts:

You’d think that a movie dominated by one actor wouldn’t be something excellent, but Price delivers such a great performance, it’s proof that it can happen. His inner monologue is the driving force for this movie. He really has you convinced there is no hope and that the world is doomed. How then can he carry on everyday? That’s the question everyone would have to answer if they were in this situation. Most people would go insane, no doubt, but a select few would soldier on, no matter what the circumstances.

The ending is quite good, and holds some very dramatic scenes. This story has been remade a few other times- The Omega Man (Charlton Heston, 1971 and I Am Legend (Will Smith, 2007), but don’t hold the power that this film does. Let’s be honest, most remakes don’t touch the original material they’re based off of, and this one is no different. Definitely see this one in black and white, because even though it was redone in color, its way more creepy the way it was intended. Vincent Price isn’t known for being one of the greatest for no reason!

Click here for the trailer!

 

Cinema Sunday: Silver Bullet (1985)

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Title: Silver Bullet

Distributor: Paramount Pictures

Writer: Stephen King

Director: Daniel Attias

Producer: Dino De Laurentiis

Starring: Gary Busey, Corey Haim, Megan Follows, Everett McGill

Released: October 11th, 1985

MPAA: R

 

An alcoholic Gary Busey, a pretentious Corey Haim, and a bloodthirsty werewolf…need I say more? Of course not, but I will anyway, when I present this classic film from the 1980’s, Silver Bullet! Back in the day, this film was scary, and had two big names to get people out to see it. It might not hold up as well now, but it’s still worth checking out and in my humble opinion, owning as well. Let’s get down to the plot!

The film opens with a drunken railroad worker, trying to finish a job one night. As he makes his way to the tracks that need clearing, a noise startles him, and before you know it, he’s beheaded by a beast. A howl is heard throughout the town, and everyone gets an icy chill up their spine.

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As we turn to the main character, Marty (Corey Haim- who’s playing a paraplegic), we see him and his friend, Brady (Joe Wright), as they concoct a plan to scare Marty’s sister, Jane (Megan Follows). They not only scare her, but the fright causes her to fall into a huge puddle, and ruins her new dress and pantyhose. Later on that night, Marty apologizes, and gives her the money for a new pair of stockings, that were also ruined. It’s here, that we see the typical relationship of siblings at this age, and it really cements the bond they share. That night, a local woman, who’s contemplating suicide, gets a visit from the same beast that killed the railroad worker. The beast violently kills the woman, and the sheriff, Joe Haller (Terry O’Quinn) has another death on his hands.

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Later, school is over for the summer, and Marty’s Uncle Red (Gary Busey), has come for a visit. Marty’s mom isn’t too happy with him, as he’s a bit of a drinker, and getting his third divorce. He and Marty share a bond though, and Uncle Red then has an argument with Marty’s mom about his drinking around Marty. That night, a neighbor ( a few miles away) is getting drunk, but hears some noise out in his greenhouse. The man thinks it’s kids busting up his property, so he goes out there to teach them a lesson. The lesson is taught to him though, and he gets ripped apart. With another murder, the townspeople begin to panic, and things are getting tense.

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Marty and his friend Brady decide to go to the park and fly kites. The day grows old, and Jane is sent out by her parents to find Marty. He and Jane then make a quick exit for home, and asks Brady if he’s coming too. Brady tells him he’s staying for a while, and Marty can sense something is wrong. He leaves his best friend there, and it will be the last time we see him alive. At the local bar, Andy Fairton (Bill Smitrovich), a local business owner and exuberant gun owner, tells the crowd that the local sheriff isn’t getting the job done, and that they should take matters into their own hands. Just as he and the Deputy are about to get into a fist fight, Brady’s father walks in, and asks if anyone has seen his son.

At Brady’s funeral, Marty is having a tough time dealing with all of this craziness. Reverend Lowe (Everett McGill), tries his best to calm down the townspeople, but it’s having little effect. Back at the bar, Fairton is riling up the crowd again, and this time, they intend on going after the “guy”, who’s doing all the killing. Reverend Lowe attempts to stop them, but they drive right past him.

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The vigilantes split into groups, and start combing the area. In a thick patch of forest, it’s very foggy. So much so, that you can barely see in front of your own face. As they creep through the wooded area, they begin to hear some animal-like noises. The mood turns to pure fear, and the beast grabs its first victim, ripping half of his face off! Two more men meet their maker this night, and that about wraps up the vigilante idea. We then see Reverend Lowe, once again telling the people  all will be OK, but something different happens. Suddenly, the congregation begins to turn into werewolves, and then Lowe wakes up from a nightmare.

As the Fourth of July approaches, Marty is mad that the local fireworks have been cancelled, and the carnival as well. Uncle Red won’t let Marty down though, so buys some illegal fireworks, and gives them to Marty on his way out-of-town. Later that evening, Marty climbs down the lattice, and into his motorized wheelchair. He heads over to a pond nearby, and begins setting off the fireworks from Uncle Red. Some motion in the wooded area nearby spooks Marty for a second, and the next thing you know, the beast jumps out from the woods, and makes a mad dash for Marty! Marty quickly grabs a bottle rocket, lights it, and aims it at the beasts head. It fires off, and hits the creature in the right eye, stunning it long enough for Marty to get out of there, and back home.

Marty immediately calls Uncle Red, but he’s still half drunk, and sleeping, so he blows him off. Marty tells Jane the next day, because he realizes that no adults will believe his story. Jane then combs the town looking for a person missing their right eye. She’s collecting recyclable items for a charitable organization, and hits up everyone she can, all the while searching for this person missing an eye. She ends up seeing nothing out of the ordinary, and then takes her cart of bottles and cans to Reverend Lowe’s parsonage.

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I’m going to stop here for those who haven’t seen this film yet, but rest assured that the secret will be over at this point about who the killer is. The part that keeps you in suspense for the rest of the movie is the fact that you know at some point, the killer is coming for Marty!

 

OK, here are my thoughts:

As I said above, this film is still pretty cool after all these years, and only the werewolf scenes (up close) seem cheesy now. Gary Busey gets a lot of flack, but he was right on the  money in this film. Corey Haim did a good job as well, and really was convincing playing a paraplegic. I can’t imagine how tough that would be literally and from an acting standpoint either.

The music score was quite good too, as well as the cinematography. There were a couple of darker scenes that could’ve used more lighting,  but that’s more of a nit-pick than anything. These more old school horror flicks do something newer films don’t understand. When it comes to death scenes, the phrase “less is more’ is absolutely true. Most viewers imaginations can cook up something just as visceral if not more than what’s usually shown, and even if it cannot, sometimes people get turned off by some of the explicit scenes too.

Overall, I still give this film pretty high marks even almost thirty years later. The performances and the scenes with the creepy build-up to the werewolf appearances are still solid. It helps when the film has Stephen King attached to it as well. You see, he wrote the novella “Cycle of the werewolf”, and King also wrote the screenplay. The dude knows how to make a scary movie! Definitely add this one to your collection, or at bare minimum rent or stream it some night and enjoy!

Click here for the trailer!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cinema Sunday: The Plague of the Zombies (1966)

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Title: The Plague of the Zombies

Distributor: 20th Century Fox

Writer: Peter Bryan

Director: John Gilling

Producer: Anthony Nelson Keys

Starring: Andre Morell, Diane Clare, John Carson, Jacqueline Pearce, Brook Williams, Michael Ripper

Released: January 12th, 1966

MPAA: PG

 

After last week’s review of a zombie flick, I thought I’d go to that well once again, with one of my favorite Hammer films, The Plague of the Zombies! This little gem predates George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead, but features Haitian zombies, rather than flesh eaters. Either way, both films are great, but this one doesn’t get a fraction of the attention that NOTLD does, so I’m going to cast some light upon this one for all to see how truly awesome it is! The film was shot back to back with ‘The Reptile“, and you can tell for sure, but it didn’t take away from the movie in the least. So, now let’s get own with the show!

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As the film opens, we see some creepy dude dressed in a robe and mask. There’s also some crazy looking voodoo type guys pounding on drums, adding to the wild scene. The robed man begins to chant something in another language, and then the scene switches to a woman, Alice Tompson (Jacqueline Pearce), as she’s in bed with her husband, Peter (Brook Williams). She’s getting restless and the more the guy in the robe chants, the more unsettled she seems to get. Eventually, she bursts out with a blood-curling scream, and the credits then roll.

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The next scene shows a man, Sir James Forbes (Andre Morell), and he’s checking out his fishing equipment, while on holiday. His daughter, Sylvia (Diane Clare), comes into the room, and brings her father a letter from a friend in Cornwall. A former pupil of his (Sir James teaches medicine, and Peter was his brightest student), Peter Tompson, is having some trouble with the villagers getting ill, and a few deaths were involved. They decide to travel to Cornwall to help him out. On the trip to Cornwall, Sir James and Sylvia see five men hunting a fox. Sylvia tells them that she’s seen the fox, but points them in the opposite direction. Once they reach town, a funeral is taking place. Before they can even have a thought, the five hunters ride through town, and knock the coffin over an embankment. Sir James gets out of the coach, and yells at them, but they just holler back at Sylvia for her trick.

Once they arrive at Peter and Alice’s home, they’re greeted by Alice, and she looks terrible. She doesn’t even recognize her old school mate, Sylvia, at first. She begins to act slightly irrational, but makes them welcome. Sir James asks about a wound on her arm, but she’s very apprehensive about it, and gets a bit angry when he asks to look at the wound. Sylvia and Alice go to the kitchen to make tea, and Sir James sneaks off into town to have a look. At that time, Peter is at the pub, and getting harassed by the brother of the dead man who was knocked out of the coffin. Sir James tells everyone in the pub how lucky they are to have Peter as their physician, and then the two men leave. Peter then tells Sir James about the twelve deaths in the last year that are unexplainable. They all sit down and have dinner, then go their separate ways.

Later, at the house, Sylvia sees Alice leave after dark, and calls out to her, but Alice doesn’t hear her. Sylvia follows her, but gets lost along the way. Suddenly, out of the forest rides the hunters from the earlier scene, and they surround her. After she realizes there’s no escape, they grab her and take her to a large home at the edge of town. They play a card game to decide her fate, but the cards tell them to let her go. As they taunt her more, a voice rings out to let her go. Squire Hamilton (John Carson) appears, and pimp slaps one of the men. He tells them to get out, and apologizes to Sylvia. Her friend, Alice, told her about the Squire, so she gives him some slack, and doesn’t report the incident to the police. While this is going on, Peter and Sir James have taken it upon themselves to exhume one of the victims, and do an autopsy. As the two men are digging up a body, they are surprised by the police (Michael Ripper – image below), but rip open a coffin anyway. They’re all surprised when they see that the body is missing, and Sir James asks the police to help him to figure out this mystery.

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As Sir James is walking home, while Peter covers the grave back over, he sees Sylvia stumbling down the street. He runs to her as she collapses, and then he takes her to the house. The next morning, Sir James gives Peter the bad news, (as Sylvia has told her father that she found Alice dead out on the moors the previous night), and Peter goes off the deep end. They go to the police and then make the trip out to the moors. They find Alice, and also find the drunken man from the pub that was berating Peter (who’s also the brother of the most recent victim). They awaken him and he tries to run off, but the police catch him. Peter and Sir James take Alice’s body back to the house to do an autopsy, and find that the blood around her face is not hers, and not even human. The police question the drunken man, and find out that something else was afoot, something more sinister than just murder.

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Sylvia then explains to her father that the body of her friend wasn’t in the same spot where she’d seen it the previous night. As Peter and Sir James go out to do some detective work, Sylvia gets a visit, from Squire Hamilton. He “accidentally” cuts her finger on a broken piece of glass, and when she leaves the room to attend to it, he gets out a vial to put her blood in, and then excuses himself from the home. He races back to his mansion, and pulls out a small coffin from a drawer, and we see that it contains a voodoo doll of sorts. He then reveals that he has the vial of blood, and also that he’s gathered his cronies again, and the drums begin to beat!

Alice is now being buried, and Sylvia is overcome by the voodoo that’s now being used on her. She leaves the funeral with Peter, and Sir James asks the vicar if he can use his library to research witchcraft. He does, and finds out that someone in the village is practicing witchcraft, and using it to raise the dead. The clues are adding up, but can Sir James and Peter save Sylvia and the rest of the town before everyone is turned into a zombie?!?

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OK, here are my thoughts:

Anyone that doesn’t know of Andre Morell, is in for a big surprise, because he proves without a shadow of a doubt, that he can be the lead in a movie! He did do a great job as Watson, in Hammer’s “Hound of the Baskervilles”, but that was a very strong performance by Peter Cushing, that kind of overshadowed Morell. The supporting cast is also pretty good, especially Jacqueline Pearce (Alice), and John Carson (Squire Hamilton). Both were very convincing, and Carson was an excellent devilish fiend!

The “zombies” didn’t have a ton of screen time, and that is a bit of a downer, but when they were on-screen, they were pretty creepy. Not a lot of makeup on them, but just the way that they were portrayed and used in those scenes, made them rise above mediocrity. The graveyard scene was especially good, as was the last act in the bowels of the tin mine. Michael Ripper added his usual flavor to the film as the constable. He always finds a way to steal the scenes he’s in, and he certainly was a welcomed addition to this cast.

Grab this flick if you can, because any horror enthusiast would be happy to have this one. If it hasn’t been re-released lately, wait for that if you can’t find it at a decent price. Sometimes these online sites can really rip you off, but I know Hammer is putting out Blu-ray copies of films on a pretty consistent basis now and for the foreseeable future.

Watch the trailer here!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cinema Sunday: Shock Waves (1977)

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Title: Shock Waves

Distributor: Blue Underground

Writers: Ken Wiederhorn & John Kent Harrison

Director: Ken Wiederhorn

Producer: Reuben Trane

Starring: Peter Cushing, John Carradine, Brooke Adams, Fred Buch, Luke Halpin

Released: July 15th, 1977

MPAA: PG

 

At last, Cinema Sunday has returned! After being on vacation and spending time at the beaches of Delaware, and then some time in New York City, I’ve returned to offer a look at a strange film from 1977, starring the one and only, Peter Cushing! This Nazi-zombie movie is quite intriguing, and offers some different perspectives on the genre (or sub-genre) that are interesting indeed. Well, instead of prattling on, I’ll just get right down to  the plot…

The film opens showing a picture of a Nazi platoon, and a voice telling us that during WWII, the Nazis experimented on their soldiers, while alive, but in this case, and more importantly, even after they died. The voice then tells us that Allied soldiers ran into a Nazi platoon that fought bare handed and killed mercilessly. As the war raged on, most of the Nazi soldiers were either killed or captured. None of the members of this platoon however, were ever seen again.

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As the action begins, we see a ship, and it comes upon a small boat, drifting along the ocean. As they look inside, they find a woman, Rose (Brooke Adams), who’s obviously been through a traumatic experience. The men beg her to tell them what has happened, and then she mentally recounts the previous few days. We see that she was a passenger on some sort of charter/dive boat, and that the boat had broken down near a small island. The captain (John Carradine) barks at his first mate, Keith (Luke Halpin), and tells him what direction to head out. As the boat is making its way through the waves, suddenly, it passes over a sunken ship at the bottom of the ocean. The waves get higher, and the sun turns blood-red. The captain and Keith are spooked, and so is Rose (who’s been tanning on the deck).

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The scene switches to nightfall, and we see a couple, Norman and Beverly (Jack Davidson & D.J. Sidney), arguing about this “cruise” they’re on. Another passenger, Chuck (Fred Buch), joins the argument, and the ship’s cook, Dobbs (Don Stout) throws in his two cents. As they all sit down for dinner, the captain notices that the passengers aren’t exactly having a good time. Norman voices his displeasure with the condition of the vessel, and about the comments that Dobbs has made. The captain tells them that Dobbs is full of it, and that there’s nothing that happens that cannot be logically explained. Norman also thinks the ship should turn back, but the captain refuses. Later that night, Rose hits on Keith, and then there seems to be something else afoot, something sinister. All of a sudden, a ship appears, and slams into the side of the vessel. The passengers and crew come to the top deck, and the captain scolds them, and tells them to go back to their cabins. The captain doesn’t believe Keith, but then fires a flare out in the direction of the ship, and sees it for himself!

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The next morning, Keith and Dobbs are looking for the captain, but cannot find him anywhere on the ship. Keith dives into the water, thinking he may have gone for a dive to check out the bottom of the ship, but he doesn’t find anything. The decision is then made to head over to the island, and look for him there. Keith also informs the passengers that the hull has been breached, so they must go to the island in fear of sinking. Dobbs searches for the captain, but cannot find him anywhere. The small boat that they are using can only transport two at a time (plus Keith, who’s oaring), so they have to make multiple trips. When Keith is taking Norman and Beverly over, Beverly notices something when she looks at the bottom of the boat (it’s a glass bottom boat). It’s the captain, and he’s as dead as Julius Caesar, floating under the surface of the water. They drag him to shore, and then explore the island.

As they explore this creepy island, they come upon a huge residence, that seems to be empty. Out at sea, there’s activity at the “ghost ship”, and we then see some ghastly creatures walking along the bottom of the ocean. They begin to make their way toward the island. As they look around it, suddenly music begins to play, and they make there way to the room where it is coming from. Just then, a voice rings out, asking them why they are here. They explain that they hit a wrecked ship out at sea, and need help. The person reveals himself to them (Peter Cushing), and explains that he’s been alone their for a long time. He asks them about the ship out at sea, and they tell him it’s old and rusted. The man then disappears, and we see him on the beach, checking out the ship for himself. We also see one of the zombies going back into the ocean.

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The passengers have made themselves at home in the old hotel, and bed down for the night. We then see dozens of the zombies arise from the sea, and they begin to make their way to the island. The next morning, Dobbs is cranky, but agrees to go to the ship for some food. He only makes it about halfway, before he’s assaulted by some of the zombies. They drag him under the water and kill him. Back at the hotel, the passengers finally run into the old man who spoke to them earlier. They ask for his help in getting out, but he tells them about a small boat that they can use, but they must leave tonight, because there is trouble. We then get the obligatory scene of Rose swimming around in her bikini (not that I’m complaining), and swims right into the corpse of Dobbs.

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She’s shaken up, and the others find a Nazi symbol in Dobbs’ hand, and then they see two of the zombies from far away, and get out of there immediately. They return to the hotel to question the old man about Dobbs. The old man explains to them that he is inadvertently responsible for the deaths of the captain and Dobbs. He explains to them about the Nazi soldier program to create these zombie soldiers or “Death Corps”, and they are a bloodthirsty bunch that has come to kill everyone in their path. He then also reveals that he sunk the ship intentionally, hoping to kill them. They don’t believe him at first, and then he tells them that they must leave.

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Meanwhile, outside the jungle, the zombies are making their way to the interior of the island for some more killing. Keith and the two women go and find the boat that the old Nazi told them about. Speaking of the old man, he sees his “soldiers”, and calls out to them, attempting to stop them from killing the others. At the same time, Norman and Chuck are getting as much supplies as they can bring. One of the zombies has targeted the old man, and he kills him brutally, leaving the passengers without anymore help. One by one, the zombies target the passengers, and most if not all wont survive!

OK, here we go:

Listen, this is a solid film, and really good for the budget (app. $200,000), but didn’t do very well at the box office for some reason. The film was reportedly shot over a period of thirty-five days, and you can kind of tell when you watch it. Again, a low-budget usually means tight scheduling, but to reiterate, it’s a very solid film. You get some decent acting from John Carradine, and also from Luke Halpin. Cushing does a great job too, but he really has very few scenes in the film. I’d guess that he only has about 20 minutes of screen time (the movie is around 90 minutes).

The shots out at sea are pretty cool, but undoubtedly the best parts are those of the zombies. They aren’t too heavy with the make-up or special effects (again, low-budget), but they are still super creepy, and really give you the willies when they attack or even just rise out of the water. I’m glad I checked this one out, and anybody out there that’s a fan of Cushing, or the zombie genre, needs to see this one pronto! Heck, anybody looking for an hour and a half to kill that likes horror flicks should check it out for kicks!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cinema Sunday: Horror Express (1972)

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Title: Horror Express

Distributor: Severin

Writers: Arnaud d’Usseau, Julian Zimet

Director: Eugenio Martin

Producers: Bernard Gordon, Gregorio Sacristan

Starring: Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, Telly Savalas, Alberto de Mendoza

Released: October 1972

MPAA: R

 

Although the memory of the first time I watched this film is alluding me, one thing is for sure, it’s one of my favorite films starring Cushing and Lee. It definitely has a Hammer, or Amicus vibe to it, but isn’t a production of either studio. There’s so much to say about this Spanish horror flick, I’m just going to get right down to it!

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The film opens with Sir Alexander Saxton (Christopher Lee), as he and a search party are looking for fossils in Manchuria (image above). The trip is a complete success because they find something that looks half man/half ape, frozen in a block of ice. The scene quickly switches to the train station where the Trans-Siberian Express is about to head out from Shanghai. As Saxton is arguing with the man in charge at the train station, another man, Doctor Wells (Peter Cushing), and his assistant walk into the room. Wells then bribes the station manager to get two compartments, and storage space for his specimens. This infuriates Saxton, who then knocks everything off of the manager’s desk. Just as he’s about to get thrown out, a military man and a squad of soldiers show up, and offer their services to help, as they were commanded by their superior officer. Outside the office, a thief attempts to steal the ape creature from the crate, but winds up dead a few moments later.

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As Saxton returns to the crate outside, he sees a priest, Father Pujardov, as he’s trying to open the crate. A policeman, Inspector Mirov (Julio Peña),  investigates the attempted robbery, and asks Saxton what is in the crate. He tells him it’s only fossils, and the policeman seems skeptical. Meanwhile, the priest is trying to convince everyone involved that something evil is afoot, and the crate is inhabited by an evil presence.

Everyone boards the train, and in the baggage car, Saxton and Wells hear a moaning sound from inside the crate. Saxton denies hearing anything, and then a countess (Silvia Tortosa) enters the car. She checks  a bag that has something valuable, but then her dog is startled by the crate. Saxton assures her nothing is amiss, and they retreat to their cabins. Saxton ends up bunking up with Wells, and a strange woman has also made her way into the cabin, asking for Dr. Wells to help her get out of Shanghai. After a quick moment of awkwardness, we are also introduced to a scientist that’s aboard the train as well. In the private compartment of the Count (José Jaspe) and Countess, as they are joking about their mortal lives. Their religious companion, Pujardov (Alberto de Mendoza) gets angry at how flippant they are, but he gets put in his place by the Count.

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As the train speeds along, the baggage man is snooping around the crate that Saxton brought aboard. As he peeks inside, he’s hypnotized, then killed by the inhabitants of the crate. Soon after, Inspector Mirov discovers that the baggage man is missing, and orders Saxton to open the crate. He refuses even after he’s threatened with being pistol whipped. Inspector Mirov and his men use an axe to open the crate, and then find the dead baggage man inside the crate, but no frozen Yeti. Saxton is confined to his compartment, and then Inspector Mirov orders his men to search car by car until they find the Yeti. As two of the soldiers move in on the Yeti, it kills them both, and appears to exit the train.

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Next, Dr. Wells is having dinner with the strange woman who asked for his help earlier. The scientist that made an appearance earlier sits down and recognizes the girl, but she tells the man that he must be mistaken. Suddenly, Inspector Mirov interrupts the dinner, and asks Wells to help out with another killing. He and his assistant, Miss Jones (Alice Reinheart), saw open the head of the baggage man, and notice that the brain is completely smooth, and devoid of any knowledge. Wells explains to Mirov that something has erased the memories of this man. We then see that the Yeti has not left the train, but made its way to the baggage car. As Wells and his “partner”  are settling in for the night, she excuses herself, and heads for the baggage car. Little does she know, that the Yeti is there, waiting for its next victim!

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The yeti kills the female thief, but doesn’t make it out the door as Inspector Mirov seems to shoot and kill the beast. As the creature is dying, it hypnotized Mirov, and he passes out. As the train speeds on, we now notice that Inspector Mirov is hiding something. The engineer has radioed ahead, and notified the next station that there has been a murder. They alert the Cossacks (image above) that are stationed there, and now we get to see the bizarre Captain Kazan (Telly Savalas). He begins to search the train, and question the passengers. Tensions are running high, and the train begins to once again move towards its destination of doom!

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OK, here are my thoughts:

Listen, this film is incredible, especially when you consider it was made for $300,000. You did have a strong cast with Cushing, Lee, and Savalas, so that brought the picture up, no doubt about it. Cushing almost didn’t do the film, because he was still grief-stricken over the loss of his wife. Lee convinced him to stay, and it was a good thing that he did, because the two played off of each other wonderfully. As if those two icons weren’t enough, we get to see Kojak himself, Telly Savalas, too! He plays the wild Cossack Captain that really brings a turbulent mood to the movie.

The sets were rather cheap, but with that budget, they did an admirable job. Its been reported that they only used one train car for every scene, readjusting it to accommodate each different need. That’s quite a feat, if you ponder it for a while. The music score was quite good as well, and we have John Cacavas to thank for that addition. There were some gruesome scenes that really were cool, especially for 1972. Cushing sawed a guy’s head open, the effect the creature had on its victims was pretty cool too (bleeding from the eyes, nose, and mouth).

The film has a few twists and turns, so don’t just write it off as something that it is not. Cossacks, a Yeti, zombies, you name it, this film has it all! Do yourself a favor, get out and grab this flick, because it certainly is one that should be in your collection. Severin is distributing it now, and it can be found on their site, Amazon, Ebay, and all the normal DVD haunts.

 

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Cinema Sunday: The Phantom of The Opera (1962)

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Title: The Phantom of the Opera

Distributor: Hammer/Universal

Writer: John Elder (novel by Gaston Leroux)

Director: Terence Fisher

Producer: Anthony Hinds

Starring: Herbert Lom, Heather Sears, Edward de Souza, Thorley Walters, Michael Gough

Released: June 25, 1962

MPAA: UR

 

I own this version and the Universal film as well, but as with other previous reviews, you’ll find out why I think the Hammer Studios version is superior. Heck, just watch them both, and you’ll probably agree. Lon Chaney did a fantastic job as the Phantom, but Herbert Lom brings it to another level. This film did have the advantage of being shot many years after the Universal version, but it wasn’t some big budget film full of incredible special effects. No, it was the acting of Lom, De Souza, and Gough, that makes this film a winner. Now let’s get down to the story!

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The film begins with some organ music playing in the bowels of an empty opera house. We then see the Phantom (Herbert Lom) and his minion (roll opening credits). We next see the opera house, as it’s filling up for the first night of a new show, allegedly written by Ambrose D’Arcy (Michael Gough). Ambrose and the theater manager, Mr. Lattimer (Thorley Walters), are quite excited about the good showing of people. In a dressing room backstage, a woman is readying her voice for the show. She’s the lead in this version of ‘Joan of Arc’, and seems a bit nervous because of some shenanigans that have plagued the theater as of late. As she continues warming up, the light in her room is put out by a creepy looking hand. Another man then enters the backstage area of the theater, the producer, Harry Hunter (Edward de Souza). He speaks with the stage manager, and the conductor about more mischief around the theater, but then he’s summoned to the dressing room of Maria, the star of the show. She’s terrified and explains to him that a man, dressed all in black, and with only one eye, entered her room and scared the life out of her. She claims she can’t go on, but Harry convinces her otherwise.

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The play begins, and we see Lattimer and Hunter discussing the riddle of how a man like Ambrose wrote such good music. Ambrose then walks in, and sarcastically thanks Harry for his “compliment’, and Harry gives him a snarky comment right back. Harry then leaves the box, and Lattimer and Ambrose talk briefly. Ambrose notices an empty box, and questions Lattimer about it. Lattimer tells him that people do not like to sit there, because they believe it’s haunted. Ambrose gets angry, and tells Lattimer that he’ll speak to his superiors in the morning about this matter. Things are going fine, but then suddenly, we see something ripping through a piece of the set, and it reveals a man, hanging by his neck. People scream in terror, and the theater empties out. Ambrose instructs Lattimer to let no bad press attach itself to the opera, and the two part ways for the day.

Meanwhile, Harry is holding auditions for the lead role of St. Joan. One girl in particular, Christine Charles (Heather Sears), is singing her heart out, and impresses Harry. Ambrose and Lattimer walk in, and get angry at first, but when they hear the voice, they settle down. Ambrose is especially taken with Miss Charles (basically, he’s a horny dude that uses his money and power to get girls). He tells Lattimer to give her a note to meet him later for dinner. As the evening gets older, we watch, as Ambrose and Miss Charles have dinner, and at first, it seems very cordial. But, as Ambrose gets more and more drunk, he begins to show his true colors. He tells her that essentially, she has to sleep with him if she wants the lead role in his opera. She’s completely embarrassed, but gives in to his request in the end. Just as the two are leaving, Harry comes into the restaurant, and Miss Charles asks him to help her out of this jam. He gladly accepts, because he can’t stand Ambrose. When he realizes the scam is up, Ambrose leaves in a huff.

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In the next scene, the two (Harry and Christine), are taking a carriage ride through the park (driven by Michael Ripper). She tells Harry that she recently had an experience just like the previous lead role, and that the same man spoke to her in the dressing room, telling her to get away from this place, and Ambrose D’Arcy. Harry then instructs the driver to take them to the opera house, to look for clues (Scooby-Doo style). The cleaning ladies are still there and don’t believe him when he tells them that he’s the producer of the show. He then asks if ay of them have found a diamond broach, and they scatter to search for it (a ruse to get them out-of-the-way). As the two get to the dressing room, the lights go out, and that sinister voice orders them to get away from this place or else! Just as they’re trying to figure out who this is, the cleaning ladies shriek, and run off. Christine and Harry are then greeted by the rat catcher (Patrick Troughton- image below), and he offers a few of this evenings catches for a nice “pie”. They tell him that they’re vegetarians, and then give him a few pounds to get lost. As he leaves the room, he gets stabbed in the eyeball by the Phantoms diminutive sidekick. The rats then scurry away, and Harry and Christine wonder what’s happened to the rat catcher. As Harry investigates, Christine is approached by the Phantom, she screams in fear, then faints. This draws Harry back to the room, but by that time, the Phantom is gone.

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The next day, Ambrose is holding auditions for the lead role. When Harry finds out, he’s furious, and confronts him about it. Ambrose tells Harry that it’s his opera, and he’ll make the decisions. Harry accuses him of mistreating Christine, and basically firing her for not sleeping with him. Ambrose then fires Harry. Harry goes to see Christine, and tells her that he’s been fired as well, so they’ll go celebrate because they both ‘got the sack’ today. Harry notices some sheet music in the room, and asks the landlord where she got it from. She tells him that a musical genius named Professor Petrie used to live there, and wrote some incredible music while living at the apartment. Harry asks what became of him, and she tells him that he was killed in a fire at a printing shop years earlier. They (Harry and Christine)  then spend a beautiful day together, and are falling in love with each other.

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They later investigate the printing shop, and the man tells them that the man who broke in didn’t die, but ran off after being burned by a fire and some acid that he thought was water, trying to douse the flames. They go to the river (Thames), and then decide it’s time to call it a night. The two take another carriage ride (this time driven by Miles Malleson), and kiss in the carriage. Harry then takes her home, but not long after getting in the door, Christine is assaulted by the Phantom’s sidekick, and taken to his lair. Christine awakens to find herself as a captive of the two men, and then is told by the Phantom, that when she sings, it will only be for him. He will instruct her on how to become a great singer, or suffer the consequences!

Will Harry be able to save Christine, and figure out the secret identity of the Phantom? Will someone put Ambrose out of his misery?

OK, here we go with my thoughts:

As i said earlier, if you’ve seen both films, you’ll probably agree that this one is better than the Universal film overall. Herbert Lom is a great Phantom, but he really sells his role as Professor Petrie. Those scenes are extremely emotional, and he really shows his acting chops in them. As the phantom, he’s creepy, but the film has a different angle than the Universal film, and you’ll either love it or hate it, in the end. I won’t give it away, but the person who you really want to see get theirs at the end of the flick might not be the Phantom.

The supporting cast is very strong too, and Edward de Souza deserves the lion-share of the credit. He really has you believing he’s a big time music producer, and an all around butt kicking dude! He has a fight scene with the sidekick/minion guy, and tells off Ambrose every ten minutes. He’s a ‘man of action’ type in this film, and really reminds me of a James Bond sort of character. Michael Gough is also sensational, in his portrayal of the dastardly Ambrose D’Arcy. You really want to see this guy get throttled about ten minutes into the film. Thorley Walters adds his usual oddity to this one, and you get the quick cameos by Michael Ripper and Miles Malleson, too!

Listen, before you start throwing rocks at me for saying this one is better than the Universal flick, get out there and grab this movie, and give it a try. It’s extremely underrated, but has a great cast, solid plot, a top-notch music score, and incredible sets as you’ve come to expect from Hammer Studios!