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: 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 Revenge of Frankenstein (1958)

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Title: The Revenge of Frankenstein

Distributor: Columbia Pictures (Hammer Studios)

Writer: Jimmy Sangster

Director: Terence Fisher

Producer: Anthony Hinds

Starring: Peter Cushing, Francis Matthews, Eunice Gayson, Michael Gwynn, Michael Ripper

Released: June 1st, 1958

MPAA: UR

 

In what basically is a direct sequel to The Curse of Frankenstein, this film has a unique twist to the tale of the Frankenstein Monster. With the usual cast of characters, and production stalwarts, some consider The Revenge of Frankenstein to out-do the first film. I wouldn’t go that far, but it is a good film, and we’re going to dive head first into the plot in a moment. The film stars the incredible work of Peter Cushing, along with a solid performance by Francis Matthews. Now, let’s get down to business!

The film begins with good old Baron Frankenstein (Peter Cushing), as he’s being led to the guillotine for his crimes against nature. There’s a few people surrounding him; a priest, a guard, and a man who appears to be crippled. This crippled man and the Baron share a quick nod, and as the camera goes off scene, we here a struggle, then the guillotine does its job. That scene then cuts to a bar, where a woman is howling because she’s having a good time. The view turns to two men, getting drunk, and talking about a job. One of the men tells the other that it’s a simple job of snatching a body from the graveyard. The other man (Michael Ripper), doesn’t seem to trust him on the real ease of the job, but he needs the money for booze (I guess), so he agrees to come along for the job. As the two men dig up the body, they realize the grave is marked Baron Frankenstein. Inside the casket though, is the body of a priest! This scares the one man off, but the other one stays to finish the job. Before he can do anything more though, a shadowy figure creeps out of the bushes, and introduces himself as Baron Frankenstein. This gives the old guy a heart attack, and he dies right there on the spot.

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Three years later, a few gentlemen that belong to a “medical council” in Carlsbruck, are discussing a doctor in town that’s been stealing all of their patients. They agree that they’ll send a delegation to meet him and convince him to join their ranks. One of their number is Dr. Hans Kleve (Francis Matthews image above), and as they visit Dr. Stein (Peter Cushing), he recognizes him, but keeps quiet. After Dr. Stein refuses the medical council’s offer, Hans returns later that evening, and calls out the Baron on his true identity. Dr. Kleve then tells the Baron that he wants to learn under his guidance, and will keep quiet in exchange for knowledge. The Baron then takes him to his laboratory, and shows him his latest achievement. He shows Dr. Kleve a new body, constructed from “spare parts”, and tells him that it will be the new body for the crippled assistant, Karl (The Baron made a deal with Karl, that if he saved him from the guillotine, he’d grant him a new body).

Next, we see a young woman, Margaret, (Eunice Gayson) at the hospital for the poor (where the Baron gets his spare parts from), as she informs Dr. Kleve that she’ll be working at the hospital doing charitable work for the patients. Her father, who’s the minister of this town, would be trouble if “Dr. Stein” refused, so he allows her to stay. That night, the two doctors descend into the laboratory, to give Karl his new body. The surgery seems to be going well, but then suddenly, the body begins to twitch violently, and requires restraining. Karl’s brain now resides in the new body, and they take him to a secluded room at the hospital.

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Once there, the janitor (George Woodbridge- image below)) sees them transporting the body there, and he also eaves drops on them as they discuss Karl (Michael Gwynn) and his new body. Karl screams out in pain, and the janitor shudders in fear. The next day, as Dr. Kleve is watching Karl (who’s still strapped down), he tells him that Dr. Stein wants to show him off to other doctors around the world. Karl gets upset because “people have stared at him his whole life”. Dr. Kleve tells him not to worry, and leaves for the day. The janitor wants to impress Margaret (image below), so he tells her of the “special patient” in the room upstairs. She visits him, and he asks her to loosen his traps, because they’re hurting him. She thinks nothing of it, and loosens them. Karl then uses this chance to escape the hospital. He doesn’t want to be ogled by anyone and wants to live his own life.

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Later that night, the Baron and Dr. Kleve head over to the hospital to check on Karl, and find that he’s gone. Karl heads over to the laboratory, and attempts to dispose of his old body. He makes some noise, and the janitor that’s cleaning up hears him, and investigates. He attacks Karl, hitting him with a chair, then punching him several times. This causes brain damage to Karl’s recently operated on brain, and causes him to begin to revert back into his old self. He violently kills the man, then runs away crying. Dr. Kleve tells Dr. Stein that he told Karl about the big plans for him, and they realize that he couldn’t handle the news, and ran off. They immediately head over to the lab and discover the dead janitor, and also that he burned his old body in the furnace.

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The next day, Margaret is finishing up some horseback riding, and heads into the stables to check on the other horses. She discovers a traumatized Karl (image below), hiding in her stables. Margaret tells him that he can’t stay there, but she’ll find a way to help Karl out without telling Dr. Stein (Karl tells her that he’s afraid of him). She returns to the hospital and tells Dr. Kleve about Karl. Meanwhile, Karl begins to relapse into his crippled state, and runs off into the night. In a nearby park, a young woman and her boyfriend are talking, but she soon dulls of his words, and leaves for home. She barely makes it around the corner, and she’s attacked and killed by Karl. Dr. Stein and Dr. Kleve are on their way to Margaret’s home, when they are stopped by the police. They tell them that there’s been a murder, and they investigate, and realize it may have been Karl. They then go to a party at Margaret’s house and speak to her bout what happened with Karl. In the next moments, Karl bursts through the window, and shouts “Frankenstein, help me!”

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The following day, the medical council meets, and they decide that action must be taken to oust Dr. Stein. The hospital is empty as well, as word has gotten out about “Dr. Stein”, and his true lineage. Dr. Kleve is summoned by the medical council, and urges Dr. Stein to leave the country and they can start anew somewhere else. He refuses to leave and actually joins Dr. Kleve in the meeting with the medical council. Dr. Stein denies his real name, and the council goes to get proof. They dig up the grave, and find the priest’s body in the casket. As they are doing this, Dr. Stein is in the hospital for the poor, making his rounds. The janitor was apparently telling the patients of the rumors, and they savagely attack him.

I’ll stop here for now, and leave the ending a secret, but rest assured, the old Baron has a plan up his sleeve, and also Dr. Kleve to help him survive…or does he?

OK, here are my thoughts:

Although I like this film a lot for its interesting perspectives and plot, it doesn’t surpass the original. It lacks any real scare factor, unlike the first movie. Maybe this is due to Christopher Lee not being the “monster”, or maybe the lack of someone of strong principles opposing Baron Frankenstein. Either way, it’s still a good film, due to the roles played by Cushing and Matthews. Both are very good, and even the janitor, George Woodbridge, does a good job as a a secondary character.

The sets were quite good, as you’d expect from being filmed at Bray Studios. The music is average, but that can probably be attributed to the absence of James Bernard. The colors didn’t seem as vibrant in this second film either. If that’s just to the copy I have, or just fact, I’m not quite sure. Oscar Quitak (Karl, before the operation), was also very creepy in the movie, even though he was only around for the first third of the film. The brief appearance of Hammer faithful Michael Ripper definitely puts me at ease. His mere presence in any Hammer production automatically elevates it no matter what the quality is of the film. Definitely check this one out if you haven’t seen it before. It’s worth a watch and owning if you’re a Hammer fan.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cinema Sunday: The Curse of Frankenstein (1957)

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Title: The Curse of Frankenstein

Distributor: Warner Bros. (Hammer Studios)

Writer: Jimmy Sangster

Director: Terence Fisher

Producer: Anthony Hinds (also Max Rosenberg)

Starring: Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, Hazel Court, Robert Urquhart

Released: May 2nd, 1957

MPAA: X (originally in the U.K., but PG in the U.S.)

 

To say that this film was groundbreaking for its time, is an overwhelming understatement. What Hammer Studios did was take the foundation of horror that was laid by Universal Pictures back in the 1930’s, and build  a mansion of horror on top. It all began with this film, The Curse of Frankenstein, in 1957. The film broke down barriers that had been in place for a long time, and nothing would be the same after its release. Peter Cushing is an absolute superstar in this one, and it vaulted his career into the atmosphere. Let us now turn back the clock to 1957, and witness the birth of true horror.

The movie begins with a priest, as he rides along a windy path to a prison on a hill. Once there, he’s shown to a cell where a man is “raving”, but the priest enters alone anyway. Baron Frankenstein (Peter Cushing) is the man inside the cell, and he’s scheduled to be hanged in one hour. He tells the priest to sit down and listen to his story, so that he can pass it on to others over time. The priest tells him to start at the beginning, so Baron Frankenstein begins his story in his childhood days, when his mother died. He explains to the priest that he inherited the family fortune at the age of fifteen, and brought in a tutor, Paul Krempe (Robert Urquhart- pic below), to finish his schooling. The two grow to be quite close, and after two years, the young Baron has learned all Paul can teach him. The two are fascinated by the possibility of regenerating dead matter, and go ahead with their plans to conduct experiments that will lead to such a result.

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After months of gathering information and equipment, they finally attempt to revive a dead puppy. The laboratory is filled with all sorts of arcane looking devices, and before you know it, they activate the machines, and revive the animal from the other side. At this point they theorize on what to do next. Paul believes they should share their findings with the medical federation that meets in London every year. The Baron disagrees, and tells Paul that now is the time to open Pandora’s Box, and “find what lies beyond it.” Paul seems confused, and the Baron tells him that they must build a man, piece by piece, and animate it, creating life, in the vein of God creating mankind itself. Paul seems skeptical, but agrees to go forward.

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A neighboring town has just hanged a man for being a criminal, and hung his body at the town limits to warn others of the punishment waiting if they should try anything. Paul and the Baron cut the body down, and begin their experiment. First, the Baron tells Paul they must cut off the head, because the eyes and half of the head were eaten away by crows. Paul stands in shock and awe, as the Baron flippantly cuts off the head of the corpse. He then tosses it in a vat of acid, disposing of it once and for all. The Baron then informs Paul that he’s going away for a few days to get something (a new pair of hands for the creature). The next day, Paul is talking with Justine (Valerie Gaunt), the maid. A knock at the door interrupts them, and the door opens to show Elizabeth (Hazel Court- pic below), the baron’s cousin. She announces that she’s coming to live there, and to be married to the Baron as it was arranged by her mother. Paul then tells the Baron (in seclusion) that he’s decided to stop helping him with the experiment. The Baron tells him to leave him alone, and continue on without any help.

We next see the Baron and Justine, sharing a passionate kiss in a dark hallway. She tells him that she’s jealous of Elizabeth, and that she wants the Baron to marry her, as he promised. He kind of chuckles at her request, and then carries on with the make out session. The following day, the Baron leaves once again for more “materials”, and this time he brings back a new set of eyeballs for the creature. He then is seen examining them, close up. A knock on his laboratory door by Paul interrupts him, and then the two have a conversation about what the Baron is doing. The Baron then reveals the creature to Paul, but he rebuffs him again, and leaves.

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Another day or so passes, and we see that the Baron is hosting one of the most brilliant minds in Europe. This older gentleman is a scientist that is possibly more brilliant than the Baron himself. As they have conversation, Paul enters the room, and the Baron introduces the two. The Professor then tells them that he’s tired, and needs to retire for the evening. The Baron agrees to walk him to his room, and shows him a painting at the top of the balcony. We see the Baron get a strange look on his face, and then tell the Professor that if he backs up against the railing, he’ll get a better view. As he backs up, the Baron pushes him over the railing, shouting as if the Baron is having an accident. We get the impression that the Baron planned this all along. He then offers to let the body of the Professor rest in his families crypt, being that he had no family. After the burial, the Baron sneaks into the crypt, and removes the Professor’s brain. Paul shows up, and the two argue over the fact that the Baron basically murdered the Professor. The argument gets very heated, and then Paul grabs the bag containing the brain. A brief struggle ensues, and the brain gets smashed against the wall. The Baron get furious, and pushes Paul out of the way.

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Paul the warns Elizabeth that Victor is meddling with things he cannot control. She tells him that she wont be leaving, and he leaves her room, very disappointed. Next, we watch as Victor fixes the damage done to the brain by the struggle with Paul (or so he thinks). He then begins the process of reviving the creature. Initially, nothing seems to happen, but as he leaves the room, he then asks Paul to help him, and threatens to involve Elizabeth is he wont help him. Suddenly, he hears a loud crashing noise coming from the lab. He returns to see the creature (Christopher Lee), alive, and extremely volatile. It attacks the Baron, nearly killing him, if not for Paul intervening. The Baron is in ‘full arousal’ over this (even though he’s almost killed), and Paul is mystified at this reaction. Paul then begs Victor to dispose of the creature, but Victor tells Paul it’s his fault because he damaged the brain in the fight they had previously.

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The following day, the creature gets loose, goes into the forest, and kills an old man and his grandson. Victor asks Paul for his help in tracking it down, then, Paul brings a rifle, and shoots the creature, killing it once and for all…or so he thinks. He and Victor bury the monster, but Victor then digs it up and keeps it secretly in his dungeon. Justine then threatens the Baron if he doesn’t marry her as he promised. He tells her that she had better not or face the consequences. He also tells her that she’d better be gone by tomorrow, or else. That night, Justine creeps out of her room to gather proof of what’s going on in the laboratory, so she can either extort Victor or hurt him by telling the police. Victor realizes this, and lays a trap for her. As she creeps into the lab, and then the dungeon, Victor slyly locks the door behind her, and the creature kills her.

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Once again, Paul confronts Victor after learning the creature still lives. Victor and Paul argue and fight in the lab, then out in the street as well. The creature busts out of his chains, and attacks Elizabeth on the rooftop. Victor grabs a pistol, and in trying to shoot the creature, accidentally shoots Elizabeth. The creature then attacks him, but he throws a lantern at it, and it is engulfed in fire. It then stumbles towards the window, and falls into the pit of acid.

We then return to the prison, as Baron Frankenstein finishes his story, and the priest seems unconvinced. The guard then tells the Baron that Paul Krempe has come for a visit, and he shows him in.  Victor begs Paul to corroborate his story, but Paul acts as if he has no clue what the Baron is talking about. The priest walks out, and Victor then attacks Paul, but the guards drag him off. Paul leaves and tells Elizabeth that Victor has gone insane. The last thing we see, is Baron Frankenstein being led to the gallows.

 

My thoughts are as follows:

In the beginning I said this film was groundbreaking, and that’s no exaggeration. It showed copious amounts of red blood, and now for the first time in color, it seemed even more revolting. Hammer is known for its “RED” blood, no doubt about that. The scenes of other grotesqueness include the Baron holding an eyeball right in front of the audience, the reveal of the creatures horrific face, when the Baron cut off the head, and disposed of it in the acid, and so on. This movie pushed the envelope of what it meant to be a “horror” movie like no other of its time.

Peter Cushing was marvelous, of course, and Robert Urquhart added a fantastic element of struggle against the Baron. Both men played off of each other very well, and showed how just two characters can carry an entire film literally by themselves. Yes, you did get Lee as the creature, and Hazel Court was beautiful, and well spoken, but those two men were the shining light of this movie, make no mistake.

In typical Hammer fashion, we had sets that were awe-inspiring, and the locations were numerous but none more famous than Bray Studios. Fisher, Hinds, and Sangster, gave us a masterpiece with this film, and should be lauded for their efforts. Also in keeping with Hammer traditions, the music score by James Bernard will send chills up your spine and have you on the edge of your seat with his thunderous climaxes. If you’ve never seen this film, shame on you, and rectify this blemish on your record immediately. If you have watched this film but do not own it, buy this film in a set like I did (TCM Classic Horror), it includes four Hammer classics that every horror fan needs to own!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cinema Sunday: The Brides of Dracula (1960)

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Title: The Brides of Dracula

Distributor: Universal Pictures (Hammer Studios)

Writers: Peter Bryan, Edward Percy, Jimmy Sangster, Anthony Hinds

Director: Terence Fisher

Producer: Anthony Hinds

Starring: Peter Cushing, Martita Hunt, David Peel, Yvonne Monlaur, Michael Ripper

Released: July 7th, 1960

MPAA: Unrated

In this second installment of the Dracula/vampire franchise, Hammer threw a bit of a curve-ball at its audience. You see, “Dracula”, doesn’t appear in this film at all, and the absence of Christopher Lee was something that would be disconcerting normally, but this film rises above that fear. David Peel makes a fantastic vampire, that’s both creepy and demonstrative. He, along with horror stalwart, Peter Cushing, put on a performance that ranks right up there with any Hammer film, or horror film for that matter. Lets get to the story!

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The film opens with a narrator exclaiming that Dracula is dead, but that Transylvania is still full of magical and mystical entities. We next see a beautiful woman, Marianne (Yvonne Monlaur), as she’s making her way via coach to the Lange School for girls, to take a position as a teacher. The coach stops st the Running Boar Inn for some food and rest for the horses. The owners greet Marianne, but are wary that she’s traveling alone. The coach then inexplicably leaves without her, and she’s stranded. Suddenly, as the owners are panicking to find a way to get her out-of-town tonight, there’s a knock at the door. An old woman enters, and the owners are very frightened. The old woman (Martita Hunt), invites Marianne to come and dine with her, and after some coaxing, Marianne agrees to be her guest for the night, and head to her new job in the morning.

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Once they arrive at the Baroness Meinster’s castle, Marianne is readying herself for dinner, and she notices a young man in one of the other rooms. She questions the housekeeper, Greta (Freda Jackson), about him, and she blows her off about the subject. During supper, Marianne asks the Baroness about the man, and she tells her that he’s her son, but that he’s insane, and so he’s locked up. After the meal, Marianne once again retreats to the balcony, and she sees that same young man, and it seems as though he might jump off the balcony to kill himself. She shouts to him, and then runs to his room. He greets her, and asks her to come closer, and then she notices the reason he cannot come to her, is because he’s chained to the room. He convinces her that he is the Baron Meinster (David Peel), and the rightful heir to the castle and fortune, but his mother is evil, and keeps him locked up to keep the money to herself. He also convinces her to sneak into his mother’s room, and steal the key to open his bonds. She does it and then the Baroness confronts her, but the Baron Meinster is now loose, and he commands his mother to follow him into another room, while Marianne packs her things.

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As Marianne is getting ready, she hears Greta raving in another room. She asks her why she’s going crazy, and she tells him that the Baron isn’t mad, but that he’s dangerous, and basically a killer. Greta then shows Marianne the corpse of the Baroness, and this freaks her out, and she runs off into the forest. A carriage comes by the young woman, as she lays unconscious in the forest. This is when we see Doctor Van Helsing (Peter Cushing),  and his coachman. They revive her from her sleep, and take her back to the Inn in town. Meanwhile, there’s a funeral going on in the parlor, and Van Helsing goes in to investigate. He notices two bite marks on the girl’s neck, and he realizes that it was the work of a vampire.

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Next, Van Helsing takes Marianne to her new job, across the way in the next village. They enter, and meet Herr Lang (Henry Oscar), and his wife (Mona Washbourne). He’s quite upset by her lateness, but Van Helsing calms him down. The good doctor next meets the man who called him to the area, Father Stepnik. The two discuss a plan to wipe out this plague, and make ready for this  evenings festivities. As the sun sets, the recently killed girl rises from her grave, and we see that Greta is the daytime servant to her and Baron Meinster. As the new vampire is rising from the grave, Father Stepnik and Van Helsing try to stop the two of them. They didn’t count on a giant bat (Baron Meinster) swooping in and attacking them though! Van Helsing scares it off with a cross, and then he heads to the Meinster castle. Once inside, he meets the now undead Baroness, but before he can do anything, he’s accosted by the Baron Meinster himself! A quick tussle, and the Baron gets away, but then Van Helsing puts the Baroness in her final resting place.

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Van Helsing must somehow find where the Baron is hiding, and try to protect the townspeople too! Can he do it? C’mon,  it’s Peter Cushing we’re talking about here! In the end, it will come down to an all out brawl between Van Helsing, Baron Meinster, his two brides, and Greta!

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OK, here are my thoughts:

Listen, even though this flick doesn’t have Lee in it, it is still top-notch. David Peel makes a great vampire, and Cushing is his usual awesome self! Cushing really shows how much of a bad mamma jamma he is in this film. Jumping around like a grasshopper, fighting Peel, and his brides! Another great performance from Cushing and he and Peel definitely play off of each other quite well.

The older couple that own the school are hilarious, and add a lot of energy to the film. The moment when Baron Meinster meets the two of them is classic, and you couldn’t ask for a more comical scene. A quick scene with Michael Ripper adds his coolness to the film, and the other doctor, portrayed by Miles Malleson, another Hammer regular, is the icing on top of the cake!

A fantastic musical score, great cinematography, and the usual incredible production and directing crew, round out this very watchable film that somehow gets lost in the pile for non-Hammer fans. Believe me when I say, that this movie can hold its own against any other of its generation and genre.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cinema Sunday: Night Creatures (A.K.A. Captain Clegg)

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Title: Night Creatures (Captain Clegg)

Distributor: Universal Pictures

Writer: Anthony Hinds

Director: Peter Graham Scott

Producer: John Temple-Smith

Starring: Peter Cushing, Patrick Allen, Yvonne Romain, Michael Ripper, Oliver Reed

Released: June, 1962

MPAA: Unrated

I was going to stray away from Hammer Studios for this week, but then I thought…why? Their library is so extensive, and so awesome, why not keep going with another one! This week brings us, Captain Clegg, or Night Creatures, as it was known in the U.S. when it was released in 1962. This film has really stood the test of time, and I can’t see why it won’t for a very long time. Some of the story is loosely based off of Doctor Syn and the Romney Marsh Phantoms, but that material was owned by Disney back then, so some of the material and names were changed to avoid a lawsuit. Let us now forage to the coastline of rural England, and the 18th Century!

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Our story begins on a ship at sea, with a man (pic below) being punished for assaulting the Captain’s wife. They slit his ears, and cut out his tongue, and tie him to a post on a deserted island for his crimes. We next see an old man, as he’s quickly trying to make his way through the marshes. Suddenly though, he’s accosted by several spectral beings riding horses that glow in the night. He’s so upset by these demons, that he throws a heart attack, and dies on the spot!

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The following day, Reverend Bliss (Peter Cushing) is holding a church service, but it’s soon interrupted by Captain Collier (Patrick Allen- pic below, far right), and the kings soldiers. They’re on the hunt for smugglers that have been reportedly been illegally transporting wine and other alcohol out of the country. Captain Collier waits outside for Reverend Bliss, and the Squire (Derek Francis), while his men search the ale house. Initially they find nothing, but then they bring in the man who was tied to the post back on that deserted island. He’s their snoop and can sniff out booze, but when they think they’ve found something, it turns out the casks are only full of white varnish. The Captain then demands to see Mr. Ketch (his informer), and Mr. Mipps (Michael Ripper-pic below, middle) takes him to his workshop. He shows him the dead body, and the Captain is furious. He’s told the man died of fright, but doesn’t believe in the marsh phantoms he’s told about by Mipps.

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Captain Collier looks for accommodations, but Bliss tells him there is nowhere for him and his men, but that doesn’t stop him from trying. We then see that Bliss, Mipps, and several others are in on a smuggling ring. The owner of the Inn, Mr. Rash, is the “guardian” of a waitress, Imogene (Yvonne Romain-pic below with Oliver Reed), and is also a part of the ring. He also often harasses Imogene as well. Captain Collier is then invited to dinner with Bliss, the Squire, and his son. As they are having their meal, the Squire tells Captain Collier that his men can stay in his barn, and Bliss gets annoyed and spills his drink. Bliss then goes out to the bar to get a towel, and the man whom he left for dead on the island sees him. Now, the man had his tongue cut out, so he cannot speak, but he does attack Bliss, and the Captain’s men pull him off before he strangles him.

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After dinner, a man runs into town screaming, absolutely raving about the marsh phantoms. Captain Collier then demands that the man show him where he saw them, and he gathers his troops and the head out into the marshes. After walking for miles, we see that it was all a distraction so the smugglers can get their “product” out of the town without the soldiers finding out about the operation. Eventually, Captain Collier realizes he’s been tricked, so he threatens the man and gets him to divulge where the smugglers are hiding. As they make their way to the secret hiding spot, a scarecrow appears in a nearby field, and one of the soldiers remarks that he saw it move. Collier then draws his pistol, and fires at the scarecrow, hitting it in the arm. Once they get to the spot though, only rags remain, but there is blood on the sleeve!

The secrets of the town and of the Romney Marsh Phantoms will be revealed in the exciting conclusion to this epic movie! Rest assured that you will be on the edge of you seat for this one! Will Imogene and Harry (Oliver Reed) get to be together or will they die at the hands of Captain Collier!

OK, here are my thoughts:

Alright, this is one fantastic movie! Peter Cushing as basically a swashbuckling pirate is nothing short of incredible. He delivers a great performance, and the rest of the crew does as well. Michael Ripper is rock solid as usual, and he gets a more active role than most of his other films, for sure. You really get the sense that he cares about Bliss like a brother. There is another secret that gets revealed about Imogene, and most wont see this one coming.

The musical score is quite good too. Thunderous when it needed to be, but also ominous at times of desperation. The sets are exactly what you come to expect from a Hammer film, which is to say they are superb. The locations they used for filming were very cool, and added a feeling of the times when the film was to have taken place. Kudos for that and Peter Cushing, as he delivers another genuine performance that lights up the screen!

Cinema Sunday: The Beast Must Die (1974)

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Title: The Beast Must Die

Distributor: Amicus Productions (British Lion Films)

Writers: James Blish (short story), Michael Winder (screenplay)

Director: Paul Annett

Producers: Max Rosenberg, John Dark, Robert Greenberg, Milton Subotsky

Starring: Peter Cushing, Calvin Lockhart, Marlene Clark, Charles Gray

Released: April 1974

MPAA: PG

OK, I know this isn’t a film most will recognize, but it was one (maybe THE one) that got me interested in werewolves! I remember seeing it on T.V. when I was a little kid, and it scared the crap out of me! Yeah, the “werewolf” doesn’t hold up really well as an adult viewing it, but it still has a good cast, including the horror icon, Peter Cushing, and a couple of unique things about it that no other werewolf movie has that I’ve personally ever seen! So, without further interruption, let’s get to it!

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The opening scene shows a man, Tom Newcliffe (Calvin Lockhart), as he’s running through a wooded area, and being tracked by not only a helicopter, but also soldiers. They are all being directed by another man, Pavel, who is using advanced equipment to track Tom. Twice they catch him, but are directed to let him go. As Tom finally makes his way to an open area near a mansion, we see a few people sitting at a table outside, having a meal. As Tom gets closer to the people, the soldiers emerge from the woods, and shoot him in the back! A scream from one of the guests rings out, and they all come running to see if Tom can be saved. We quickly realize that the bullets were blanks, and Tom laughs at the situation. His wife, Caroline (Marlene Clark) is not amused.

Later that day, Tom is introducing everyone to each other, and we see his intentions on throwing this dinner party. He tells Arthur Bennington (Charles Gray), Jan and Davina Gilmore (Michael Gambon & Ciaran Madden), Paul Foote (Tom Chadbon), and Professor Lundgren (Peter Cushing), that death seems to follow all the guests, and that he believes one of them is a werewolf. He also states that the estate has been electronically bugged, so he can track and kill the animal for sport. Most of the guests don’t believe they even exist, but Professor Lundgren does, and has some expertise on the subject.

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Tom then meets with Pavel, who, coincidentally doesn’t believe him either, and tells him that he needs him to watch the estate, while he sleeps. Not long into the night, the sensors fire off that there is activity on the estate. Pavel wakes Tom, and then directs him to the nearby wooded area to track it. Tom eventually gets a quick look at it, but it evades him, then heads back to the house. Tom urges Pavel to get something silver to fight off the creature, but Pavel grabs a pistol instead. Before you know what’s happening, a large wolf is on the rooftop by a skylight, and Pavel attempts to shoot the animal. It either evades the shots or they have no effect, and then it dives through the glass, and Tom hears Pavel scream. By the time Tom returns to the mansion, he finds Pavel dead in his chair (nice shot of that scene below).

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The next day, Tom tells his chopper pilot that they’ll be on the hunt tonight, so be ready. He told the rest of the staff to go home for a few days, so that no one else will be in jeopardy. Tom then removes the rotary arm from each vehicle on the estate, so he wont have to worry about anyone leaving. As Tom is walking around the estate, he’s nearly shot with an arrow by Paul Foote. Foote tells him that he’s been “hunting the hunter”, and plays it off as a drunken joke. Tome berates him, and then shows him what he’s done to the cars. At dinner, Tom announces what he’s done, and that it’s twelve miles to the nearest neighbor. Bennington gets furious about this, but Tom doesn’t care. Foote also gets grumpy, and the rest of the crowd is growing aggravated as well. Caroline then grabs a candlestick and smashes a mirror with it, cutting herself.

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In the evening, Tom and his chopper pilot find the werewolf running around the property. After trying to shoot it from the chopper doesn’t work, Tom decides he’s going to get up close and personal with the beast. He follows it into a dark barn, but unbeknownst to him, Davina, Caroline, and Professor Lundgren have also followed out to the barn. Caroline’s dog rushes in and begins to fight with the werewolf. It loses that battle, and the werewolf bolts out the door before Tom can do anything to stop the beast. It then mauls the chopper pilot, and heads back towards the mansion. Meanwhile, Caroline is distraught about her dog. Tom steps in, and tells Professor Lundgren to take the two ladies back to the mansion. Tom then euthanized the dog. Tom then comes back to the house, and all are accounted for except Bennington. As Tom enters the room, he sees blood everywhere, and Bennington on the floor, dead from various wounds.

As the next day begins, the body count will rise even higher, and the question arises, can anyone stop the beast from killing again?

OK, here are my thoughts:

Are the “special effects” cheesy? Yes. Do some of the actors over act? Yes. BUT, listen to me when I tell you this the movie is still pretty good! If you can get past the wolf-dog, you can get through this movie, and enjoy it in the meantime too! Calvin Lockhart is a great protagonist, and when you throw in Peter Cushing (certainly a smaller role than we’re used to seeing him in), you get two solid actors that know how to play their parts. One of the things I alluded to earlier, is that this film has a couple of cool things that are a surprise. First off, with 3/4 of the movie in the can, you get the voice of the narrator telling you “it’s time for the werewolf break”. You get exactly thirty seconds to try to use the clues that were given to guess who you think is the culprit (pic above). Now, granted there are only five people left at this stage of the game, but it’s still a cool concept. Secondly, the story also has a unique twist ending, for Tom, and Caroline. I wont spoil it, but believe me, you wont see this one coming.

Overall, I’d give this movie a solid rating, because of Lockhart and Cushing, plus the twists I spoke of above. Again, the werewolf looks like a coked up dog running around, but it was 1974, and I’m sure half of the budget was blown on Peter Cushing and a few explosions. I’ll freely admit to giving this movie a higher score than most out of pure nostalgia as well. See you next Sunday for more movie madness!

Cinema Sunday: The Hound of The Baskervilles (1959)

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Title: The Hound of The Baskervilles

Distributor: United Artists

Writer: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (story)

Director: Terence Fisher

Producer: Michael Carreras

Starring: Peter Cushing, André Morell, Christopher Lee

Released: May 4th, 1959

MPAA: NR

In this big screen version of the classic tale from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, we see the vile Sir Hugo Baskerville, as he and his drunken cohorts torture a man because he questioned Sir Hugo’s motives with his daughter. After nearly killing him (or maybe killing him), he turns his attention to the daughter upstairs. Unbeknownst to him though, she’s escaped through the window, and is running loose, towards the moors. He lets loose the hunting dogs to chase her down, and cries out…”let the hounds of Hell take me if I can’t hunt her down”! He eventually does hunt her down, and murder her, but as he does, a sinister howl rings,out from the darkness. Sir Hugo is then attacked by some monstrosity, and is killed.

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In the present day, we see that Dr. Mortimer (Francis de Wolff), is telling this tale to Sherlock Holmes (Peter Cushing) and his partner, Dr. Watson (André Morell). They seem unimpressed, which ticks off Mortimer. Holmes then uses his keen intellect to ask the right questions about a more recent murder in the Baskerville family, and then we realize that Holmes already knows of his motives for being at his home. Mortimer then explains that the next heir in line, Sir Henry Baskerville (Christopher Lee), is due to arrive today. Holmes tells Mortimer that he’ll meet with Sir Henry, and investigate the matter.

The next day, we see Sir Henry, at a hotel room, as he’s getting ready for the visit. Homes and Watson arrive, and tell him that they’ll take up the case. Before they leave, Sir Henry is the victim of an attack by a tarantula. Holmes has Watson accompany Sir Henry to the home, and he attends to other business. At the ancestral home, Sir Henry and Watson are taken care of by the housekeepers. Sir Henry does a toast but the female housekeeper drops her drink when he mentions the family curse. That night, Watson can hear a howling in the distance. The next morning, Sir Henry meets the local bishop (Miles Malleson), and they discuss the family history. After a short trip to the village, Watson is walking through the moors, when he’s approached by a man, warning him of straying off the trail. Watson continues on his trek, and runs into a beautiful girl. He asks her if he’s still on the right path to Baskerville Hall, and she runs away upon hearing that name. Watson pursues her through the moor, but then falls into quicksand. He’s rescued by the man he met earlier (Stapleton), and his daughter. They return Watson to the castle, and Sir Henry meets the girl (the daughter of Stapleton, who’s a local farmer), and the two get off to a rocky start.

Later that evening, Watson and Sir Henry see a light flashing out on the moors. They investigate, and find a man running loose on the property. As they are in pursuit, they hear a howling noise. Sir Henry appears to have some kind of panic attack. Back at the castle, Dr. Mortimer tells him that he has a heart condition that he’s inherited from the family. Watson goes back out to the moors to look for clues. As Watson sifts through the old ruins, he’s surprised by Holmes. who’s been watching things from a distance for days. As the two are talking, they hear a scream. They find a dead body, and assume it’s Sir Henry. They make their way back to the castle, and discover that it wasn’t Sir Henry, but an escaped convict that was roaming the area.

Another day passes, and they return to the spot where the body was left. It’s now missing, and they find tracks leading to the old ruins. They discover that someone or something not only killed the convict, but also mutilated his body. They find a dagger with the family crest on it, the very one that was used to kill decades earlier by the evil Sir Hugo. Holmes finds out that the housekeeper was related to the convict, and that she’d been taking him food and clothing. He was wearing one of Sir Henry’s suits when he was killed. Holmes visits the bishop, to decide what he knows about the recent disappearance of a tarantula. He tells Holmes that Dr. Mortimer had paid him a visit days before.

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Sir Henry pays a visit to the Stapleton’s house, and puts the moves on the daughter. She has a strange look in her eyes, but then she invites him to dinner for that evening. Watson and Holmes discuss who might be behind these acts, and they are still unclear about who is responsible. Holmes deduces that there is something more to the moors than meets the eye. Dr. Mortimer and Holmes are at odds over Sir Henry. Holmes tells Dr. Mortimer about a local mine that needs investigating, and he agrees to come with him. Holmes then pulls out the dagger he found earlier, but Dr. Mortimer doesn’t seem surprised to see it. Next, Holmes, Stapleton, and Mortimer descend into the mine. After a few moments, Holmes makes a discovery, but then there’s a howl of an animal, and a cave i seals Holmes in, for good apparently. In the next scene, Watson is attempting to dig his way down to Holmes, but Mortimer and Stapleton tell him that there’s no way he survived. As they walk back to the cart, they’re shocked to see Holmes sitting in the cart.

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Back at the castle, Holmes and Watson are putting the pieces of the puzzle together. Holmes had locked the dagger he found in a drawer in his dresser. It was forced open, and the dagger stolen. Sir Henry comes to see how Holmes is doing (he hurt his leg in the mine), and tells them that they’ve been invited to dinner by Stapleton. Holmes then realizes that this is the night Sir Henry is to die, so he intentionally annoys Sir Henry, so that he;ll go to dinner without them. Sir Henry leaves, and the two detectives make their plan! I wont spoil the ending, but rest assured, that Watson and Holmes see the action they’re looking for, and Sir Henry must face the hound from Hell!

OK, my thoughts are as follows:

The picture is without a doubt, one of the best films Hammer Studios has ever made. Cushing is astounding with his portrayal of Sherlock Holmes! He really “gets” the character, and what Doyle was trying to convey in his novel. André Morell has another magnificent performance, and really does his best at giving us a Watson we can believe. The bishop, Miles Malleson, is another Hammer regular, and has a knack with his depiction of the bumbling gentleman.

I definitely need to mention the man who wrote the screenplay, Peter Bryan. This adaptation was quite good compared to others. Not that you need to compare it, because it can stand alone against any other movie. The music score was fantastic too, and nothing less can be expected from James Bernard. It really set a thunderous mood during the high points of the film.

Long story short is that if you haven’t seen this movie, you need to right away. It is the definitive Sherlock Holmes movie! If you love mysteries, thrillers, or any type of classic film, get out and grab this film now!

Cinema Sunday: Frankenstein Created Woman (1967)

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Title: Frankenstein Created Woman

Distributor: British International Pictures/20th Century Fox

Writer: John Elder (Anthony Hinds)

Director: Terence Fisher

Producer: Anthony Nelson Keys

Starring: Peter Cushing, Susan Denberg, Thorley Walters

Released: March 15th, 1967 (USA)

MPAA: UR

OK, listen, don’t let this title or some reviews fool you. This film is pretty good! It isn’t your typical Frankenstein franchise film, but it does have three things going for it. Susan Denberg, Susan Denberg, and Susan Denberg. Alright, that was my attempt at humor. The lovely, blond bombshell is one of the reasons, but the horror icon himself, Peter Cushing, is certainly one of the others! The last reason is simple. Any time you have multiple decapitations in a movie, you’re on the right track! This was one of the last films produced at the famous Bray Studios, a legendary site for Hammer Studios.

The film begins with a rough-looking fellow, as he’s being led to the guillotine. Just about the time when he’s to be killed, a boy, his son actually, is spotted in the nearby forest. It’s the son of the gentleman that’s about to be executed. The priest chases Hans away for the moment, and the convict tells the men to do the deed. Just as the blade is about to fall, the boy appears out of the trees, and watches his father die.

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Fast forward to a few years later, and Doctor Hertz (Thorley Walters) is being assisted by a now grown up Hans. They quickly retrieve a body from a freezer, and we now see that the body is that of Baron Frankenstein! He’s been on ice for one hour, and the two men use the arcane machinery to revive the Baron. After a scuffle at a local cafe’, Hans is arrested for his part in the melee. He’s released, and goes back to the cafe’ owners home, where the owners daughter, Christina is readying for bed. She’s disfigured, and has a bad limp, but Hans loves her, and she loves him, too. They make love, and then Hans goes home for the night. Back at the cafe’, the gentlemen that were involved in the brawl with Hans earlier, have returned to the establishment after closing, to pillage the liquor. The owner returns to the cafe’ after realizing he forgot his keys there, and is summarily assaulted by the youths.

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The next day, Hans is walking by the cafe’, and is arrested by the police under suspicion of murder. A trial is quickly thrown together, and Hans is sentenced to the guillotine at dawn. Baron Frankenstein knows this is his opportunity for a fresh corpse, so he makes the arrangements with Dr. Hertz to “obtain” the body. The Baron then tells Dr. Hertz that they’ll use the machinery to capture the soul of Hans, then put it into another body. Preferably one with a head. The next morning, Hans is beheaded, and this time, Christina is passing by, and witnesses it! The event drives her mad, and she runs into the forest, and throws herself into a nearby river. Dr. Hertz and the Baron get both bodies, and pull the switcheroo. Now, Hans’ soul resides inside Christina’s body, and her deformities have now been fixed by the two good doctors.

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At first, Christina seems fine, but when the Baron shows her the guillotine where Hans was killed, it ignites memories from him, of that fateful day when his father was killed, years before. She begins to have nightmares as well, and after waking up from one, she decides it’s time for a little revenge against the hooligans that wronged Hans from the wrongful murder charges. The first to feel her wrath, is Anton. She dresses up quite nicely, and hangs out on the corner by the cafe’ where Anton and his cronies hang out. As he leaves the establishment, she picks him up, and then they go to the abandoned house where Christina used to live. She goes into the backroom to change, and then calls out to Anton, but with the voice of Hans. The next thing we see, is the guillotine coming down, signifying Anton’s demise.

The next night, Karl and Johann are drinking away their troubles at the cafe’, and discussing Anton’s death. Johann then leaves, and Christina comes into the cafe’. She charms Karl into having a little “action”, but then Karl spills wine on her dress. She excuses herself into the washroom to clean it, and moments later, Karl hears the voice of Hans calling to him. Christina emerges with a meat cleaver, and we next see a shot of her chopping wood the following morning (obviously, Karl is dead). Some villagers then accost the home of the Baron and Dr. Hertz, and demand to see them about the recent murders. The Baron tells them to dig up the body of Hans, and they do just that next. The grave is opened, and the body is still there, but the head is missing!

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The next scene is Christina, in her bedroom, having a conversation with the head of Hans (she’s planted it on her mirror). We hear the voice of Hans, instructing her to kill Johann. As Johann is trying to make a speedy escape out-of-town, and as he just reaches the coach heading out of the village. He notices a pretty girl in the corner, and she offers him a drink. The coach breaks down, and the two decide to have a picnic in the forest. As Johann is laying in her lap, she pulls a knife out of the basket, and stabs him violently. We notice the head of Hans is in her hat box!

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I wont spoil the end of the film, as it’s not my style, but rest assured, you get your monies worth from this movie. It was a change of pace for the Frankenstein series, as this one dealt more with the spirit, than the body. Also, the aspect of a woman committing the murders, and not a man was a switch from the normal routine. Cushing is his normal, brilliant self in the film, and that is to be expected. Susan Denberg did do a fine job on top of being fantastic eye candy. Her performance, especially once she was resurrected, was very good in my humble opinion. Thorley Walters  character (Dr. Hertz) did a fine job of complimenting Cushing, and his child-like affection for Christina was definitely a great addition to the script.

Definitely look this one up (currently free on YouTube) if you’re a fan of Hammer or old school horror movies in general. It’s one of those movies that doesn’t get a lot of play, or great reviews, but trust me, you’ll enjoy it! See you next week!