Saturday, October 19, 2019

Fright Interesting: A Spooky QI Compilation

LETTERKENNY: THE HAUNTING OF MODEAN'S II

CAN'T SCARE ME!  YOU CAN TRY THOUGH!  'CAUSE THAT'S THE FUN OF IT!  My brand new yearly Halloween tradition:  watching the Halloween episode of the greatest TV show ever!  

5000 people in Letterkenny and you wanna know what their problem is?  Wayne.  Big league'n 'em.  Giving out full size chocolate bars for Halloween.  

Guess what.  Chicken butt!  Modean's II is haunted.  No it isn't.  Yes it is!  No it isn't!  Yes it is!  Uncle Eddie is haunting Modean's II.

Oh!  Bonnie McMurray! 


Mmm, tastes like a tragedy occurred while making breakfast.

Swipey Snipeys!  Accidental tunnel buddies.

Youse think this is an Indian haunting?  Youse watch too many shitty movies.  Youse do have a rich history of tomfuckery in this town and that can't be denied.  

It's a Beyoncé Seancé.

Sorry, that was the ghost of yesterday's dinner.


Y'wannaknowhat?  My friend Sean Amsing has a Halloween party in the city every year before Halloween and he calls it Premature Ejaculantern.

Friday, October 18, 2019

TENDER DRACULA {1974}

HERE'S YOUR ONE AND ONLY CHANCE TO SEE PETER CUSHING PLAY A VAMPIRE!  Sort of.  LA GRANDE TROUILLE aka TENDER DRACULA aka CONFESSIONS OF A BLOOD DRINKER is a 1974 French horror-comedy (!) directed by Pierre Grunstein (known for . . . . well, he never directed another movie).  Peter Cushing plays MacGregor, last of the big time horror stars, who is tired of playing in horror movies and wants to do only romantic films instead.  Macgregor retreats to his remote castle in a huff.  Or perhaps a minute and a huff.  Hey, that was funnier than anything that happens in this horror-comedy (!). 
The head of the studio/director/producer tasks two screenwriters (think French comedy duo like the Italian one that torpedoed DR. GOLDFOOT & THE GIRL BOMBS) with going to MacGregor's castle to convince him to make more horror movies.  The director also provides the screenwriters with two young good time girls (think the two leads of Jean Rollin's REQUIEM FOR A VAMPIRE) to go along for . . . . well, who knows why.  Logic is not a requirement for anything that happens in TENDER DRACULA.  When this goofy quartet arrives at MacGregor's castle they also meet his wife Heloise (played by Alida Valli !) and their brutish mute servant who is constantly (and clumsily) hacking bits of himself off with an axe!  MacGregor first appears in Lugosi-like Dracula garb with cape and fangs . . . and it readily becomes apparent that he may in fact be a REAL vampire.  

The movie has an early-70's bizarreness and trippy incoherence that, depending on your mood, you might be into.  Or not.  Character motivations change at the drop of a clove of garlic and the movie has a nightmare logic which should end with it "all having been a dream".  But it doesn't.  The comedy in this horror-comedy is abyssmal but thankfully it fades away about a third of the way through the film.  In fact, the last half hour or so is pretty serious with, at one point, Heloise carving her name into one of the screenwriter's legs with a knife! 
God knows what great Italian actress Alida Valli is doing here!  The star of SENSO as well as THE THIRD MAN, EYES WITHOUT A FACE, THE PARADINE CASE and SUSPIRIA does her best and provides a typically wonderful performance.  And Peter Cushing's presence is probably explained simply by the fact that he was, at this point, burying himself in work so as to ease the pain of his wife Helen's death.  Despite that fact, the only truly funny moments in the film are provided by Peter Cushing himself whose charm and witty line delivery elevates his scenes.  No way can I recommend this bizarre little misfire except for those who like acid trips in the guise of movies or for Cushing completists only.

ADDENDUM:  You will no doubt notice a comment from the nameless proprietor of the Peter Cushing Appreciation Society website accusing me of "blanking out" the watermark on the still above showing where I supposedly took the photo from.  In the interest of clarity, I'm providing a screencap showing not only that I didn't get it from the aforementioned website but also that the google searched photo is clearly already featuring the "blanked out" black bar. 

I would suggest that not only is every photo of Peter Cushing NOT the sole property of the Peter Cushing Appreciation Society website but also that it would probably be a good idea to get your facts straight before leaving pissy comments on blogs that are in fact genuinely trying to spread a love and appreciation of Peter Cushing, Halloween and horror films to a wider audience.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

SATAN'S SLAVE {1976}

Norman J. Warren's first foray into horror features, SATAN'S SLAVE is a slow-burn entry into that 1970's favourite horror subgenre "satanic panic" films. 
Candace Glendenning (TOWER OF EVIL, THE FLESH AND BLOOD SHOW) makes her final film appearance (she only made these 3 films) as Catherine Yorke who takes leave of her boyfriend (DOCTOR WHO'S Michael Craze) to go with her parents to visit her mysterious never-seen and never-spoken-of Uncle Alexander (Michael Gough).  As their car approaches Alexander's country estate, Dad clutches his head in pain and crashes the car into a tree.  Mom appears to have bashed her head on the dashboard and deaded herself while Dad tells Catherine to go call for help.  As she runs to the mansion, the car suddenly bursts into flames!  This is the first of many bizarrely inexplicable events.  Alexander, a retired doctor, puts Catherine to bed with some sedatives and promises that she can stay as long as she likes in order to recover.  

We also meet Alexander's odd son Stephen (a perfectly-cast Martin Potter from Fellini's SATYRICON and DOCTOR WHO:  TERMINUS) and Alexander's . . . .um . . . . I don't know WHAT she's supposed to be really . . . . assistant (?) Frances (Barbara Kellerman of THE OBLONG BOX and THE MONSTER CLUB).  Earlier in the film, we saw Stephen brutally . . . and I mean BRUTALLY . . . attack a kill a woman; so he's someone to keep an eye on!  Catherine's staying in a house full of oh-so-nice people, it seems.  But you know a film with a title like SATAN'S SLAVE won't keep things pleasant for long.


SATAN'S SLAVE is semi-successful in establishing some sort of mood and does have a few quite successful kills including a tumble off a high rise building and some eye trauma. 
However, the pace is leisurely to say the least and even though many cuts were made of scenes heavy with dialogue, there's still tons of scenes heavy with dialogue left in the movie.  Warren, at this point in his career making his first horror feature, doesn't quite manage to create much in the way of suspense but the cast is mostly good (Glendenning was never much of an actress, sadly) and the real country mansion location is beautiful inside and out with rooms full of antique furnishings and grounds of expansive autumnal woods.  The film looks much older than it's 1976 release date; it looks and feels  like a film from 1971 or 1972!  The opening scene featuring a satanic blood sacrifice even features the producer's wife getting her kit off because the original actress ended up in prison on the day of her first scene!  SATAN'S SLAVE is nothing much but does have a certain charm which makes it a worthwhile watch if you're not expecting too much.  

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

GUNDELLA - THE HOUR OF THE WITCH

"YES, I AM A WITCH!"  These are the first words spoken on this early 70's record by Gundella aka The Green Witch otherwise known as Marion Kuclo:  a schoolteacher from the Detroit area who is descended from a long line of green witches dating back to 15th century Scotland.  Modern Harmonic has made this ultra-rare regional LP available to everyone with a new pressing in recent years (on cd or else on beautiful green vinyl).  THE HOUR OF THE WITCH is one of those albums which were particularly popular during the occult revival of the late 60's-early 70's which offers a brief history/explanation of witchcraft (Vincent Price's WITCHCRAFT & MAGIC comes to mind) and provides a kind of do-it-yourself guide to casting your own spells (i.e. Louise Huebner's similar album).  However, where Huebner upped the spooky drama with her whispery hoarse voice, Gundella sounds like what she was:  a Great Lakes region elementary school teacher with an accent that sounds like she's more likely to bring you hot dish than a potion.  

However, that was Gundella's aim; to show that magick practitioners don't have any extra power that we ordinary people don't also possess and which could be cultivated with training in accessing the universal source.  The term "magic" just refers to things which we can't yet explain.  A wonderful explanation by Gundella (which shows what a good teacher she must have been) refers to the Beauty and the Beast fairy tale in which doors opened by themselves, a room lit up as if containing 1000 candles and voices came out of the air.  Then it was magic.  Now it can be experienced in a modern supermarket with automatic doors, fluorescent lights and a PA system.  Such a simple yet elegant explanation.


Of course, for Halloween listening, the record does include thunder and spooky organ music by her son James.  The beautiful new vinyl pressing also includes a gatefold cover filled with extensive liner notes by Gundella's daughter Madilynne.  Gundella (in the video footage I've seen of her as well as on this record) seems like such a sweet person and it's understandable how she seems to have been embraced by her local community to the point where she made public appearances and had her own advice column in the local newspaper.  Year 'round.  Not just as a Halloween fluff piece.  I wonder if our uptight society today would be as accommodating. 
Sadly, Gundella died in 1993.  The new vinyl pressing also includes a booklet featuring some of her "Witch Watch" newspaper columns as well.  Listening to THE HOUR OF THE WITCH feels just like a 40 minute visit with your neighbourhood witch around her kitchen table as she serves tea and cakes. 
For Halloween, among the ghost stories and horror movies, is also a Wiccan holiday called Samhain, lest we forget.  And it's always nice to give our modern day witches equal time!  

Monday, October 14, 2019

BAD MOON {1996)

THAT WEREWOLF HAS A MONOCLE!!!  Sorry, that's what that poster always looks like to me.  Eric Red (writer of NEAR DARK and THE HITCHER) writes AND directs this time with BAD MOON.  The wonder that is Michael Pare comes back from an expedition somewhere (did I miss where they tell us where???) after a werewolf has torn apart his girlfriend and apparently has also bitten him.  He comes to stay with big sis Mariel Hemingway and her young son Mason Gamble (the 90's DENNIS THE MENACE) and their protective German Shepherd Thor.  Pare chains himself to a tree each night but Thor isn't having any of it and he engages in a pissing contest (literally!) with Pare as he squares off against the werewolf to protect his family.  

BAD MOON is based on a novel called THOR in which the entire story is told
from the dog's point of view; therefore the movie's hero is really Thor.  And this dog is probably the best actor in the film!  Thor's face gets many, many close-ups as the dog seems to be actually acting his furry little butt off.  Hemingway is slightly wooden while young Gamble is actually quite good (and I'm NOT a fan of child actors as a rule).  Pare, who usually gets a lot of stick for not being able to act, is actually quite good as well towards the end of the film's climactic transformation scene where his eyes well up and then, mid-transformation his face is genuinely unsettling.  Steve Johnson's werewolf FX are also pretty good.  An OK werewolf movie.
  

Sunday, October 13, 2019

THE HALLOWEEN ORACLE

LIFTING THE VEIL BETWEEN THE WORLDS EVERY NIGHT.  For my birthday (in August), my parents got me this wonderful and beautiful set of oracle cards.  THE HALLOWEEN ORACLE comes with a guidebook by Stacey DeMarco and 36 oracle cards with magnificent illustrations by Jimmy Manton.  These are not tarot cards, kiddies, they're oracle cards.  

And the artwork on them is so nice and evocative of the Halloween season that I thought I'd share a few of them for your hungry eyeballs.









Saturday, October 12, 2019

FINGERS OF FEAR {1937}

MY LATEST HALLOWEEN READ IS A MAELSTROM OF HORRORS!  The one and only novel of J.U. Nicolson, FINGERS OF FEAR piles on macabre horror after macabre horror throwing everything into the plot but a haunted kitchen sink!   Here's what the fine edition from Valancourt Books synopsizes on the back cover blurb:  "Utterly ruined by the stock market crash of 1929, Selden Seaforth has lost his money, his job, and his wife. When an old school friend, Ormond Ormes, offers Seaforth a job cataloguing the library at the mansion of Ormesby in the Berkshires, it seems as though things may finally be turning around. But almost as soon as he arrives at Ormesby, it is clear that something is terribly wrong. Ghosts stalk the corridors, and Seaforth awakens to find a mark made by a human mouth on his neck. Is there a vampire, a werewolf, or something even worse, at Ormesby? Seaforth must try to piece together the secrets of the strange Ormes family, but things take a still more sinister turn when the first brutally murdered corpse is found . . .

The only novel by J. U. Nicolson (1885-1944), Fingers of Fear (1937) was hailed by Karl Edward Wagner as one of the finest supernatural horror novels ever written, and it is perhaps unrivaled in its ability to evoke a weird and uncanny atmosphere of eerie dread." A little more over-the-top than THE ELEMENTALS by Michael McDowell (which I told you about several days ago), FINGERS OF FEAR is a novel of howling horrors!

Friday, October 11, 2019

NIGHTWISH {1989}

MORE LIKE NIGHTWACKY!!!  How do I begin to review this?!?!?  On the surface, it's a terrible movie with a good deal of wooden acting and a disjointed, confusing style.  However, since almost all the movie takes place in a sort-of dreamworld, this is actually appropriate.  A couple years before FLATLINERS, NIGHTWISH features dream experiments where subjects are encouraged to dream their own deaths.  Or something.  Bruce R. Cook's script (he also directed) never makes anything quite clear.  Which is OK, if the direction can shape and demonstrate these things strongly.   And sadly it doesn't.  I think the film suffers most from poor direction. 
Cook only directed one other film and there's probably good reason for that.  Another more skillful director might have taken the delirious script and made it more emotionally resonant whereas Cook's direction leaves one cold and often bored.  WIth such wacky goings-on, that's pretty damning for the direction.  There is also notable fun effects work from the early days of the KNB EFX Group.  Jack Starrett is quite loopy as the mad scientist who puts all these experiments into play and this sadly was his last film.  Brian Thompson is also memorable as a typical meathead.   NIGHTWISH is probably one of those films you either hate or love.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

DAUGHTER OF DR. JEKYLL {1957}

IS SHE OR ISN'T SHE?  That's the question hanging over Edgar Ulmer's 1957 poverty row werewolf movie.  Gloria Talbott is about to marry John Agar when Arthur Shields tells her she's really Dr. Jekyll's daughter.  Party pooper!  Jekyll's monstrous creation Mr. Hyde is here categorized as a werewolf and Talbott starts having nightmares that she has inherited her father's lycanthropy; she wakes up covered in blood and yet another villager has been killed in the night.  The mystery isn't much of a mystery as it's pretty clear who the baddie is about 5 minutes into the picture!  Especially since at least one of the film's posters spoils the "mystery".  


Ulmer does his best to spice things up but this is an Allied Production (formerly Monogram Pictures) so there was probably an eleven dollar budget.  Screenwriter Jack Pollexfen (who wrote the great THE MAN FROM PLANET X and the not-so-great THE ATOMIC BRAIN) provides an OK but uninspired script.  The performances of Agar and Talbott do most of the heavy lifting as they are always super-watchable.  And Talbott shows off her spectacularly tiny waist!  Most welcome is the presence in the cast of Martha Wentworth:  famed for her classic spooky record album TERROR TALES BY THE OLD SEA HAG! 
DAUGHTER OF DR. JEKYLL is not great shakes but I suppose an innocuous time-waster.

Wednesday, October 09, 2019

THE GHOST ON SATURDAY NIGHT {1974}

A MADCAP TALE OF FOG AND PHANTOMS. 
Are Scholastic Books still a thing in schools?  When I was 8 years old, I ordered this book from the Scholastic Books catalog which our teachers would provide us in school.  Besides Dynamite Magazine, I would always order spooky books:  THE ARROW BOOK OF GHOST STORIES, Ruth Chew's WHAT THE WITCH LEFT, Vic Crume's THE GHOST THAT CAME ALIVE, Alan Ormsby's MOVIE MONSTERS . . . and Sid Fleischmann's THE GHOST ON SATURDAY NIGHT was another one.  "
See the Ghost of Crookneck John! That's what Professor Pepper's sign promises, and Opie can hardly wait to see such a sight. But the unseen specter escapes from his coffin during the show, and if that weren't bad enough, the town bank is robbed too! Is Crookneck John a bandit from beyond the grave--or is more than the fog being pulled over the townsfolk's' eyes?"

That terrific cover and interior artwork by Eric Von Schmidt has stayed with me forever!  And that's what Fleischmann intended as, in his own words, he's said:  "The books we enjoy as children stay with us forever -- they have a special impact. Paragraph after paragraph and page after page, the author must deliver his or her best work." 

  

Monday, October 07, 2019

EYE OF THE DEVIL {1967}

THERE IS ABSOLUTELY NO GETTING AROUND THE "WICKER MAN"-INESS OF THIS SUMMER OF LOVE FOLK HORROR.  I'd be really interested to know if Robin Hardy saw EYE OF THE DEVIL before making his "CITIZEN KANE of horror films".  David Niven plays the Marquis who suddenly returns to his French estate/vineyard where all is mysterious secrets and odd stares from the locals.  Deborah Kerr is his abandoned wife who drags the kiddies along with her to find out what's going on with hubby.  If you've seen THE WICKER MAN, you probably already have an inkling of what needs to be done to save the failing vineyard.  

The beautiful black-and-white photography is provided by Erwin Hillier (who shot such Powell & Pressburger classics as A CANTERBURY TALE and I KNOW WHERE I'M GOING as well as the classic THE DAM BUSTERS).  Director J. Lee Thompson (who helmed everything from the original CAPE FEAR to 80's slasher HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME with a couple PLANET OF THE APES sequels in between) has a tendency to sway his camera back and forth a lot (Hey! It WAS the sixties!)
as well as not reigning in the occasional over-earnest, surprisingly silly at times acting by Kerr and Niven (who are alternately breathlessly melodramatic and grippingly convincing).  The top notch cast is also elevated by a host of great character actors:  Donald Pleasence, David Hemmings, Emlyn Williams, Edward Mulhare and John Le Mesurier.  And then we come to Sharon Tate who gives probably the best performance of her tragically short career.  Her two most notable scenes are probably the with the kiddies and the frog at the pond and later on the battlements with the kiddies and Deborah Kerr.  Tate shows an ability to command the screen I haven't seen in another of her other movies.  EYE OF THE DEVIL is a quite good, downbeat 60's folk horror that's well worth seeing.