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!

 

 

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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: Dracula Has Risen From The Grave (1968)

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Title: Dracula Has Risen From The Grave

Distributor: Warner Bros./Seven Arts (Hammer Studios)

Writer: Anthony Hinds

Director: Freddie Francis

Producer: Aida Young

Starring: Christopher Lee, Rupert Davies, Veronica Carlson, Barbara Ewing, Barry Andrews, Michael Ripper

Released: November 7th, 1968

MPAA: G (PG, by today’s standards)

 

As I continue with my look at the Dracula/vampire franchise from Hammer Studios, the next movie in order is this under-appreciated flick. It is missing Hammer stalwart, Peter Cushing, but it does feature the best Dracula ever, in Christopher Lee! There are a few minor roles that are good too, and we’ll take a look at them for sure! There were some different names attached to this film that you didn’t see before (or after for that matter), but it still did have that awesome Hammer atmospheric mood to it. Lets get down to business!

 

The film begins with a boy, Johann, as he’s going to clean the church before mass. He quickly notices something dripping from the bell rope, and we see blood, covering the rope. Outside, the priest (Ewan Hooper) hears a scream, then rushes into the church. He sees that a woman has been bitten on the neck (image below), and her blood is dripping down the rope, and into the church. The priest exclaims…”when shall we be free of his evil.” Fast forward to a year later, and that same priest is saying mass, to an empty church (except for Johann). He then seeks asylum at the local tavern for a drink. Within minutes, his superior, Monsignor Ernest Muller (Rupert Davies) is coming for an inspection, but finds only Johann in the church. Johann, who is now a mute (due to shock from the incident a year earlier), takes the Monsignor to the tavern where the priest is boozing.

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The Monsignor  questions the priest about why the church was empty. The patrons tell the Monsignor that they are still afraid of Dracula’s presence even though he’s supposedly dead (he was killed in the last flick). The Monsignor tells the priest that they will head up to the castle in the hills, and perform an exorcism to ease the villagers fears. The next morning the two holy men make the trek up the mountainside. As they approach the castle, the priest begins to waver, and begs to stay behind. The Monsignor tells him it’s OK if he does, and he continues on the journey by himself. As he reaches the castle, night falls, and a storm begins. He reads the service of exorcism, and places a cross on the door.

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Meanwhile, the priest is having a drink of booze, and the Monsignor begins the journey back down the mountain. The priest then slips, falling to the icy river below. This is the spot where Dracula was killed off, and we can see his ice-covered body right under the priest. The ice cracked from the fall, and some of the priest’s blood seeps into the ice, and on to the lips of Dracula. This is enough to revive the fiend, and before the priest can get his bearings, the bedeviled master of all that is evil, is ready to get down to business. He then enslaves the priest to be his daytime minion. The Monsignor theorizes that the priest went down before him, and leaves town for his home.

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Next, we see the Cafe’ where a young man, Paul (Barry Andrews-image below) works. His girlfriend, Maria (Veronica Carlson), who is the niece of the Monsignor, lives with her mother and Uncle. Max (Michael Ripper), the owner of the cafe’, gives Paul some advice before he heads out to meet Maria. In the bar, Zena (Barbara Ewing-image below) is entertaining the drunks with her wit and voluptuous figure. The regulars play a joke on Paul, and he gets soaked with beer, just as maria shows up to meet him. She seems to be quite upset at first, because Paul is meeting her mother this evening, but she quickly forgives him, and they head out to her home. Once there, Maria is shocked to see that her uncle has returned from his trip, and you get the feeling that she didn’t want Paul and him to meet. After dinner, we find out why Maria was uptight about them meeting each other. Paul is an Atheist, and he tells the Monsignor this, and they get into an argument. Paul then leaves, and Maria is very upset.

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As Paul returns to the cafe’, Zena is closing up. Paul orders a large Schnapps, and Zena uses this to try to put the moves on Paul. As Paul retires upstairs, Zena attempts to seduce a drunken Paul. Maria shows up however, and puts a damper on that idea. Paul and Maria then make whoopee, and maria sneaks home along the rooftops of the village. As Zena walks home in disappointment, a carriage runs her down, and chases her into the woods. As she twirls around, Dracula is there, and he bites her. The next morning, Paul finds Zena in the basement of the cafe’. She hides her bite marks, and heads upstairs.

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The following morning a priest comes to the cafe’ (Dracula’s new slave), and obtains a room with Zena’s help. He hides Dracula in the basement, and then Dracula orders Zena to bring Maria to him, so he can exact revenge on the Monsignor for the exorcism and the such. Zena doesn’t acre for this request, but Dracula pimp slaps her, and she changes her mind. Once Maria shows up, Zena quickly lies, and tells her that Paul is in the basement waiting for her. As Maria heads down, Zena jumps her from behind, putting a sack over her head. Zena then tosses her into the other room, and Dracula nearly bites her. Paul broke things up by calling out to Maria, and Dracula then takes out his frustrations on Zena. He bites her, and drains her blood, killing her (image above). Maria heads home after Max and Paul calm her down a bit. Maria sneaks into her bedroom, but her mother is waiting, and scolds her for sneaking out. As she does, Maria faints, and appears to be unconscious. Dracula then commands the priest to dispose of Zena’s corpse, and he does so by tossing her into the furnace!

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The next evening, Maria gets a visit from Dracula (image above), and this time, there is no one there to stop him from biting her. The Monsignor sees the bite marks on her neck, and realizes what’s going on. He waits for Dracula the next evening, and chases him across the rooftops. Just as he starts to catch up, the priest smashes a pot over his head, and leaves him to die. He doesn’t die right away, but crawls back to his home, and tells Maria’s mother to get Paul. He explains the situation to Paul, and how he must stop Dracula, or Maria will become his servant or die. Can Paul stop this bloody reign of terror? Or will Dracula keep Maria for his bride?

 

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OK, here we go:

This is my second favorite Dracula movie of all time. I really enjoy this one because it feels true to things Dracula would probably do if you crossed him. Think about it. If you did something to Dracula’s home, don’t you think he’d want revenge? Of course, you can’t guess about everything he would do, but his arrogance would definitely be something you could count on. Lee is very creepy in this film, and his action scenes are absolutely fantastic! He leaps out of a window like a panther in one scene, but also commands the room even when he’s stationary too.

The supporting roles were solid in this one as well. Rupert Davies was a great protagonist, and then was replaced after his demise by Barry Andrews. Both actors brought different things to the film, but both also delivered. The anguish of the priest was another very good angle in this movie. It added the last part that was needed to bring about some chaos in the movie. And let’s be honest, looking at Veronica Carlson doesn’t hurt the movie either.

Michael Ripper is his usual awesome self in this one too. You can always count on him to stabilize the dialogue, and bring some humor into the mix. He owns these secondary roles, by giving a strong performance, and being the utmost professional as well. He knows exactly how much energy is needed to bring to the table without stepping on the toes of the other actors performances. Another great film from the Hammer vault!