Friday, October 15, 2021

PUMPKIN MOON [2005}

I SAW SOMEBODY SOMEWHERE SAY THIS WAS THE EQUIVALENT OF THE CHRISTMAS PERENNIAL "THE SNOWMAN" (1982) BUT FOR HALLOWEEN. 



I can certainly see that analogy.  This is a gentle animated film featuring a black cat who plants its own pumpkin for Halloween.  All the pumpkins get to become carved Jack O'Lanterns; even the cat's pumpkin which gets kinda overripe and soppy.  At the end of Halloween night, all the Jack O'Lanterns all fly off to the Land of Halloween or wherever Halloween Jack O'Lanterns go.  However, the Halloween witches are trying to stop them.  The black cat teams up with the pumpkins as well as other Halloween icons like skeletons, ghosts and scarecrows in order to prevent the evil witches from succeeding.  A lovely, lyrical animated film just coming in under a half hour, PUMPKIN MOON brings to life the children's book by Tim Preston and Simon Bartram and is perfect for little goblins in October. 

I thoroughly enjoyed it despite the fact that the colour scheme is a little too light and pastel-y for Halloween; while I would've liked it to be a little darker, it didn't bother me overmuch.  Also I was kinda disappointed that the Halloween witches were the villains of the piece; surely witches should be on the same side as all the other Halloween creatures of the night.  Of course, somebody had to be the villain, I guess.  But I know some witches and they're probably a little miffed at having to play the bad guys!  PUMPKIN MOON is the perfect first feature to play before screening a Halloween horror movie marathon especially before the little creatures go to sleep for the night.

Thursday, October 14, 2021

THROUGH THE FIRE [1988]

 OR THE GATES OF HELL:  PART II - DEAD AWAKENING. 


Huh.  


There's a woman named Sandra Curtis.  Her sister has been abductipated by a group of Satanists.  While acting out drunkenly in a local bar, the police are called.  Officer Nick Berkley arrives and escorts her to his police car.  She passes out.  Officer Nick stares repeatedly at her nether regions barely covered by her short skirt.  Ms. Curtis wakes up the next morning having been safely put to bed.  She wants to thank the cop for taking her home and not arresting her.  She calls Officer Nick.  He is naked in bed romping with a large-breasted naked lady on top of him.  We never see her again in the rest of the movie.  Sandra asks Officer Nick if he would let her hire him to find her sister.  This apparently is commonly done.  Officer Nick takes a week off and plays private dick with Sandra who go around interviewing random people.  Sandra comes home to find her cat dead in the refrigerator.  An obvious signal from the Satanists that they can "get to you".  A hysterical Sandra is escorted from the kitchen by the historian/archeologist Professor P.J. (whom they have roped into aiding them in their quest).  Officer Nick reaches around the frozen cat to get himself a popsicle.  Interspersed are scenes where we see the actual Satanists who are about as competent as the Keystone Kops and bicker with each other incessantly.  At some point a demon-monster is released and causes mayhem; killing people who then resurrect as demony monsters themselves.

My Main Talent!

Yes, this is a pretty terrible movie.  Every scene seems to go on too long with actors looking bewildered as to why the director hasn't cut yet and what they should do with themselves until he does! Tamara Hext as Sandra Curtis never made another movie; it's understandable but she not THAT bad.  Tom Campitelli as Officer Nick is pretty silly and not a very good actor either but he does have several movie credits including DARK ANGEL.  Director Gary Marcum (who also never made another movie and that's MORE understandable) seems to think Campitelli's main talent is to be shirtless as he IS for about half the movie.  After all this, though, the movie does have it's own dumb charm and I guess was worth watching.  I ain't mad at it.   

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

THE ELVIS PRESLEY SEANCE RECORD LP

POE WITH PIPES, JOHN CARRADINE, HALLOWEEN VINYL RECORD LP

POE WITH PIPES - JOHN CARRADINE (1975)

 I RECENTLY PICKED UP A BEAUTIFUL NEAR-MINT VINYL COPY OF THIS 1975 GEM FROM THE ELECTRIC LEMON RECORD CO. 


This is the same legendary label which gave us such Halloween favourites as THE PHANTOM OF THE ORGAN, THE VAMPYRE AT THE HARPSICHORD, MUSIC FOR ZOMBIES and DOCTOR DRUID'S HAUNTED SEANCE.  Most of these records featured Verne Langdon on the organ and POE WITH PIPES is no exception.  Here we have a record tailor-made for the Halloween season with the venerable, sonorous-voiced John Carradine emoting the poems of Edgar Allan Poe while Langdon's funereal organ plays in the background.  On display are the Poe-ems "The Conqueror Worm", Ulalume, Annabelle Lee, The Sleeper (Irene), The Raven and A Dream Within A Dream.  Ah yes, the soundtrack for my Countdown to Halloween, all right.  And I believe someone has posted the album of youtubers so you can listen to it for your own Haunted Halloween.  Love that album cover, too!   

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

TALES OF THE UNCANNY [2020]

 TIME FOR A HORROR DOCUMENTARY. 


Severin Films originally intended this doc as a special feature on their THEATRE BIZARRE blu ray but, I suppose, got so much material they decided to make a full feature length doc of it.  And I'm glad they did because horror anthology films need their own full length documentary.  Whether this is it or not (and there is some debate), I still enjoyed the hell out of it if only because it shows all these horror anthology movies which I love.  I mean, just look at that cover:  BLACK SABBATH, TALES OF TERROR, TALES FROM THE CRYPT, DEAD OF NIGHT, TRILOGY OF TERROR and CREEPSHOW!  This documentary covers everything from 1919's EERIE TALES up to the current day; of course making special note of the wonderful Amicus string of horror anthologies.  There are quite a few "talking head" interviews which are conducted over Skype and the like owing to the times (2020) during which this was made; however, while the quality is necessarily compromised, it is not off-putting.  It'll actually be something of a curio piece years from now when we remember  the pandemic of 2020.  Having said how much I enjoyed this fun doc, it's by no means a definitive take on the subject.  Hopefully one day we'll get one.  But for now, this blu ray from Severin is perfect viewing for the Halloween season which not only gives us (trick or) treats from dozens of horror anthology films but also features as special features the entire films EERIE TALES (1919) and HISTOIRES EXTRAORDINARES aka STRANGE TALES (1949):  the German and French respectively horror anthology films mentioned in the documentary. Great fun!

 

  Of special note is a horror anthology film I'd never heard of before that was brought to my attention through this documentary:  THREE CASES OF MURDER (1955).  This English film made much in the style of 1945's classic DEAD OF NIGHT is sadly not included on this blu ray but I quickly hunted down a copy and it's an unknown gem!  Consisting of three stories, the first tale is absolutely fantastic:  moody, unsettling and atmospheric!  Two shocks are in this movie:  firstly being the fact that the first and best story is directed by the great Wendy Toye and secondly that the third tale in the film stars Orson Welles (!).   I'll have to write a post about this one someday!

Monday, October 11, 2021

FLESHEATER: REVENGE OF THE LIVING DEAD [1988]

 ROMERO'S ORIGINAL GHOUL MAKES A MOVIE. 


In George A. Romero's NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, the very first ghoul we see -- the Cemetery Ghoul -- was played by Bill Hinzman.  He famously comes stumbling through the tombstones to the classic line "They're coming to get you, Barbara!  There's one of them now!"  And the Romero ghoul/zombie was born.  Two decades later, Two decades later, Hinzman decided to make a not-really-sequel.  Good news is:  he looks JUST like he did in NOTL!


A typical horror movie group of young adults decide to go into the woods on a hayride for Halloween.  That's right, it's a Halloween movie too!!!  Meanwhile, a Mr. Handy pulls up a tree stump and unearths a random grave in the woods and out pops our FleshEater to bite said Nature Guy in the neck.  Each bitten person becomes a "flesheater" aka zombie and makes more and more exponentially.  What's left of our group of hayrider/campers hotfoots it to a deserted house (yes, exactly like NOTL) and tries to barricade themselves inside (yes, just like NOTL).  However, this scenario actually doesn't last too long and the movie moves on from there -- thus avoiding being a NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD carbon copy.  Lots of zombie biting ensues.

FLESHEATER is enjoyable and it's certainly nice seeing Hinzman back as the NOTL ghoul/zombie . . . even if he DOES take every chance to have his leading ladies go topless.  Ah well, it IS 1988 and I guess that's one of the perks of being the director.  The major problem is that the film is too long; 88 minutes (maybe Hinzman thought he needed 88 minutes because it was 1988?!?!?).  If about 20 minutes were cut, FLESHEATER would be a much better movie.  There are too many lingering shots of actors standing around as if they don't know what to do with themselves.  But I still had fun with this.  

Sunday, October 10, 2021

THE LAMP [1987]

 A.K.A. THE OUTING -- WHICH NO ONE ASSOCIATED WITH THE FILM CALLS IT SO I'M GONNA CALL IT "THE LAMP". 


This one was fun.  Better than it has a right to be, THE LAMP features an ancient woman's house being robbed by three petty criminals.  While ransacking the place (and sinking an axe into the old woman's head), the three stumble across a strange metal lamp just like you'd see in THE ARABIAN NIGHTS. 

When the old lady dies, a dangly red-jeweled bracelet falls off her wrist and the house-breakers rub the lamp for a joke.  No joke.  Something is released from the lamp which gruesomely kills the three crooks. The antique lamp (and the dangly bracelet) makes its way to the local museum and curator Dr. Wallace whose daughter Alex comes by, rubs the lamp (cause that's what you do with Aladdin's lamps) and tries on the dangly bracelet -- which she then cannot remove from her wrist.  Alex has a kinda psychotic ex-boyfriend who is terrorizing her and her new boyfriend.  Later, Alex's class goes on a field trip to the museum and she and her friends get the neato idea to try to sneak in and spend the night inside the museum.  Psycho ex-boyfriend and his sidekick overhear and hide inside the museum until after closing time.  Unfortunately for our gang of kids, the evil genie of the lamp periodically takes over Alex's body in order to facilitate the plan so that it will have plenty of victims locked inside the museum to kill horribly!


Firstly the cast does a really good job and there's not really any bad acting going on.  The prop for the lamp is superb and the evil genie itself is a nice practical effect which the cast remember was something like 18 feet tall.  SFX like green glowing energy zaps etc. are pretty woeful but the kills feature pretty excellent gory effects.  While the 80's were full to bursting with slasher movies, this one takes a novel approach by having an evil monster djinn offing teens in interesting, gory ways.  As I said, I had a lot of fun with this one owing to the novel premise and fun kills.  There were no real slow passages which made the film drag so that's also a huge plus.  So yeah, this is definitely a low-budget horror that really tries and, for the most part, succeeds in making a very watchable and entertaining Halloweeny viewing experience.  

Saturday, October 09, 2021

THE MUNSTERS - ZOMBO [1966]

 LET'S TALK A LITTLE BOOB TUBE FOR HALLOWEEN. 


A few years ago, my entire Countdown to Halloween consisted of Halloweeny episodes of TV shows.  But somehow I missed talking about this one.  Now, I always watched and liked THE MUNSTERS but they will always place second to THE ADDAMS FAMILY in my heart.  THE MUNSTERS were a little too sweet while THE ADDAMS FAMILY had sharp wit and an acerbic edge.  However, one of my favourite episodes of THE MUNSTERS was this second season show from February 17th, 1966 entitled "Zombo".  Directed by Ezra Stone (famous for playing the cracked-voiced Henry Aldrich on radio), "Zombo" is about a TV horror host (you had me at TV horror host) named Zombo (played by the wonderful Louis Nye) whom Eddie Munster adopts as his new hero.  Father Herman is a little put out that Eddie thinks more of Zombo than he does of his own father.  Eddie wins a visit to the set of the Zombo show and you all probably know what happens next since you've probably ALL seen this episode.


The major reason I hold this episode in such high esteem (and always did even as a kid when the reruns were on) is owed to Louis Nye's fantastic portrayal of Zombo; in and out of make-up.  In make-up . . . . I mean, just LOOK at him up there.  The teeth and eyes!!!!  Positively feral!!!!  When I was really little watching this episode, Zombo's appearance was slightly terrifying to me.  There's an obvious Lon Chaney "LONDON AFTER MIDNIGHT" vibe with his teeth and all.  But he's just a fantastic creation visually.  Even when he's out of the Zombo make-up (and you know it if you've seen this episode), Louis Nye's portrayal is absolutely heartbreaking!  I'm sure I saw this episode in reruns when I was very small -- in the early single digits -- and that image of Zombo has always lurked in the back of my skull.  Seriously a wonderful creation!  

Friday, October 08, 2021

FISH STORY {1975}

 ONE OF MY FAVOURITE COMIC BOOK STORIES FROM SECRETS OF HAUNTED HOUSE # 1.


I bought this issue offa the spinner rack at Thor's Drug Store on Westfield Avenue in Pennsauken, NJ when I was a kiddie-winkie staying at my grandparents' house for the weekend.  I love the whole issue but there was something about this story written by Jack Oleck and illustrated by the masterful Alex Nino that always stayed with me.  Nino's artwork is so quirky and odd that it perfectly fits this almost Lovecraftian story.  I mean, just look at that second panel on page one!!!  How creepy and menacing is THAT?!?!?!  I just love it to bits! 

Thursday, October 07, 2021

Horrified | Full Playthrough

HORRIFIED: THE GAME

 THE STAKES HAVE BEEN RAISED! 


It's game time in the ole Countdown to Halloween.  I picked up this fantastic board game sometime around January but what could be better for October playtime?  Special attention to this post needs to be paid by a certain Cheeks DeBelly and FaereMoon because I'm expecting to play this game with YOUSE ghouls before too much longer!  I hope to post a video up there of the gameplay so you'll get the hang of it!  After those historical cerpts Halloweeny games like DOORWAYS TO NIGHTMARE and NIGHTMARE:  THE GAME (Where is the olllllllllllld one?), HORRIFIED is set to take its place in the Halloween Hall of Fame.  The actual Universal Monsters are featured (with the studio's OK) which you as player are supposed to defeat.  The nice part is that this is both a single player AND a multi-player game; with more than one player it becomes a cooperative game; meaning that all players work together to defeat the monsters.  


From the back of the box:  "The village is under attack!  Dracula, The Mummy, Frankenstein's Monster, his Bride, and more are on the rampage, and your team of heroes must defeat them!"  Each player gets to choose to be one of a number of "heroes" like The Archeologist, the Professor, etc. 

Which monsters you fight is your choice; the more monsters, the harder it is to defeat them.  There are also villagers you must save and items you must collect to defeat them. 

And each monster is defeated in a completely different way.  If you choose to fight 3 monsters at a time, you will need to complete a different set of tasks for each monster to be defeated!  It never gets boring as the combinations are endless.  Yet another plus is the fact that the game will only last an hour or so because, if you don't defeat the monsters by that time, they defeat you!  I've seriously not had this much fun with a board game in about 20 years!  I know this was a hot ticket among monster lovers and was hard to get a copy for a while but by now I think it's readily available.  



Wednesday, October 06, 2021

SILVER SCREAMS FOR HALLOWEENS

 THIS CAME OUT A FEW MONTHS AGO BUT IT'S PERFECT  FOR OCTOBER! 


Australian company Imprint (no they're not paying me) released a slam-bang box set called SILVER SCREAMS which gathers together 7 spiffy horror movies from Republic (the sort-of apres-poverty row studio) in a gorgeous package with sparkling prints.  There are only 6 films listed on the cover but I'll get to that in a minute. This is the first and, so far, only Imprint title I've ever gotten because . . . . well frankly, we all know how much it costs to ship from Australia to the United States.  But this one was a no-brainer since I didn't have most of the films included and, those I did have weren't very good prints.  One thing I can say about this box set is that the prints for these films are immaculate!  Another thing I can say is that I really appreciate such rarely-seen horror movies are getting some light shined on them.  THE VAMPIRE'S GHOST, THE PHANTOM SPEAKS, VALLEY OF THE ZOMBIES, RETURN OF THE APE MAN, SHE-DEVIL and UNKNOWN TERROR are also accompanied by a special bonus film THE LADY AND THE MONSTER.  It's a bit bewildering why the last film isn't mentioned on the front of the box but it's undoubtedly a really nice surprise to find it inside!  The thing about these Republic horror movies is that they have such a distinctive, sometimes offbeat feel to them that you don't find in other films of the time.  


THE VAMPIRE'S GHOST stars John Abbott as one of the most tired-looking, world-weary vampires you're ever likely to see.  His sad, basset hound eyes and sonorous voice really give you a sense of this vampire's world-weariness.  Even running a bar in an African port fails to spice up Webb Fallon's drab existence; he seems hardly able to summon up the gumption to bite a neck.  There is a creepiness to the sedate slowness of the film's pace which I quite enjoy.  ** 1/2


THE PHANTOM SPEAKS stars Richard Arlen and Stanley Ridges.  In the horror woild, you know Richard Arlen from ISLAND OF LOST SOULS and Stanley Ridges from BLACK FRIDAY.  This will be a useful reminder to you since Stanley Ridges plays exactly the same character here as he does in BLACK FRIDAY!  Ridges is a kindly doctor/spiritualist Dr. Renwick who claims that he can communicate with the dead.  To prove it, he consults with death row convict Harvey Bogardus (Tom Powers) on the eve of his execution.  Dr. Renwick conjures the ghost of Bogardus who promptly possesses the doctor and goes on a revenge murder spree for all those who convicted him.  This is where Ridges enters BLACK FRIDAY territory; the actor gets to portray the mild-mannered doctor and the cold-hearted murderer personalities.  Character actor Tom Powers (probably best known as Barbara Stanwyck's husband in DOUBLE INDEMNITY) also does a really fine job as the killer.  I am NO fan of the extremely dull BLACK FRIDAY which totally wastes Karloff and Lugosi; it pisses me off every time I see it because it amounts to a Stanley Ridges movie with Karloff & Lugosi supporting.  Oddly, I'm struggling with my rating for this because I think I actually enjoyed THE PHANTOM SPEAKS more than BLACK FRIDAY so I'm vacillating between ** 1/2 - ***.


THE LADY AND THE MONSTER is the movie snuck onto this disc as an extra feature.  Here we have a telling of DONOVAN'S BRAIN with Eric von Stroheim as Prof. Mueller (who preserves Donovan's brain in a tank), Richard Arlen as the Professor's assistant Dr. Cory (who falls under the influence of the pernicious brain) and the titanic Vera Hruba Ralston (who performs ineptly and without charisma . . . as usual).  This is a fun version of the tale in which von Stroheim is over-the-top entertaining and Arlen is surprisingly good in his split personality performance.  We also have Sidney Blackmer (Roman Castavet of ROSEMARY'S BABY) as a sleazy lawyer.  ***


VALLEY OF THE ZOMBIES is definitely my favourite film of the set.  This first-time watch stars the awesomely-creepy Ian Keith as the spectacularly-named Ormand Murks who is dead from an operation in an insane asylum and somehow (which is not made quite clear) comes back to life and has been stealing blood in the dark of night from the hospital's blood bank.   Coming across as more of a vampire than a zombie, Murks can only survive on blood; however, I think he syphons all the blood out of the bodies by artificial means rather than a fang-chomp on the neck.  Regardless, the film is dripping with spooky atmosphere and benefits tremendously from Keith's incredibly-creepy eyes and sepulchral voice which sounds like it's echoing from the tomb.  Lorna Gray is quite terrific as our ingenue who displays more backbone and initiative than most of these movies allow.  A super fun movie that clocks in just under an hour!  ***1/2


RETURN OF THE APE MAN is our Bela Lugosi/John Carradine prehistoric man epic which I discuss over in my SPOOK SISTERS post a short while ago.  **1/2


SHE DEVIL is the story of a terminally ill woman named Kyra Zelas (Mari Blanchard) given a serum created by Dr. Bach (Albert Dekker) and Dr. Scott (Dan Kelly) from a fruit fly which not only saves her life but allows her to develop the ability to recover immediately from any injury.  This is an movie adaptation of the story "THE ADAPTIVE ULTIMATE" which I first heard years ago on the old radio show ESCAPE.  The story here is quite absorbing even if it doesn't really provide much on the horror-o-meter.  Blanchard does a fine job of depicting the deliciously evil Kyra relishing her naughtiness.  The special features on this disc not only include the two-part ESCAPE radio shows but also an episode of TALES OF TOMORROW of the same story with singer/actor Lola Albright in the Blanchard role.  ***


THE UNKNOWN TERROR is probably the least of the films in the set.  Gina Matthews' (Mala Powers) brother has gone missing in a remote jungle searching for "The Cave of the Dead" so she calls together an exhibition to go find him . . . and the cave if possible.  She brings along her husband Dan (Bulldog Drummond himself John Howard) and her ex-flame Peter Morgan (Paul Richards).  The group encounters a "mad scientist" who has created some kind of fungus monster which somehow attacks locals and turns them into monsters.  The "fungus" which pours down cave walls AND drenches possessed locals looks like nothing more than soap suds.  This is no deal breaker, however, for poverty row horror flicks.  However, there is precious little horror in the movie with endless "trekking through the jungle" scenes followed by endless "walking through caves" scenes.  There are one or two nice moments (mostly at the end)  but mostly it's a chore getting through those 76 minutes.  **

Tuesday, October 05, 2021

SPOOK SISTERS MARATHON

 A PREVIOUSLY UNKNOWN HORROR MOVIE FAMILY CONNECTION RANDOMLY MADE ITSELF KNOWN TO ME RECENTLY. 


The unfathomably beautiful Debra Paget has two sisters who were also actors and who also appeared in some classic horror films!  450 years of watching horror movies and I never ever knew dat.  Today I consider a good day to screen a "Spook Sister" marathon of horror movies with featuring Teala Loring, Lisa Gaye and Debra Paget.


                        Teala                                                 Lisa                                      Debra


We'll start off with Teala Loring who, besides having a bit part in the classic film noir DOUBLE INDEMNITY also appeared in the John Carradine starrer BLUEBEARD and the horror-adjacent Charlie Chan flick DARK ALIBI.  Today's first movie-watch will be RETURN OF THE APE MAN starring Bela Lugosi and John Carradine in which our friendly neighbourhood mad scientist Bela unfreezes a "prehistoric man" (played by veteran character actor Frank Moran . . . and ALSO apparently George Zucco confusingly) from a block of ice. 

Unlike THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD an electric blanket is eschewed in favour of Bela's blowtorch which thaws out the "caveman".  Dissatisfied with the "ape man's" homicidal tendencies, Bela decides to add a chunk of modern-day man-brain to the  prehistoric man's brain in order to molify him and give him the power of speech.  This is where our heroine Teala Loring comes in as her character's fiancee is Bela's target.  This pisses off John Carradine who stops Bela's fun and vows never to have anything more to do with him.  Naturally, Bela doesn't take kindly to such interference and promptly attacks Carradine and sews a chunk of HIS brain into the "ape man".  Of course, in these poverty row horrors (or any OTHER horror films), this doesn't really stop the murderous rampage.  This is a rather minor poverty row potboiler which derives most of it's fun and viewer interest care of Bela Lugosi who, as always, gives huge acting value to the paltry buck he was probably making.  John Carradine is also a huge plus.  Teala Loring gives a really nice performance as our young heroine who is given more to do than simply cower and faint; she has screen presence and real acting chops (looks like it runs in the family).  RETURN OF THE APE MAN is a harmless, adequate little horror film to start out the day's movie marathon.


Movie Number Two we focus on Lisa Gay who would appear in CASTLE OF EVIL as well as today's horror movie watch:  FACE OF TERROR.  Here Lisa Gay plays the lead as a woman named Norma who has half her face scarred and is places in an insane asylum.  Fernando Rey plays the (mad?) scientist Dr. Taylor who thinks he has a revolutionary new technique for plastic surgery which can remove scarring in a day. 

Norma is conveniently watering flowers outside the window where Rey is telling this all to a medical board who promptly pooh poohs his ethical standing and tells him to hit the bricks.  Norma promptly escapes from the asylum and shows up at Dr. Taylor's laboratory and begs him to fix her face.  Not knowing she is an escaped mental patient, Dr. Taylor uses his new process to totally fix her scarring.  The now beautiful Norma shortly starts causing some trouble.  This slightly overlong rehash of Franju's EYES WITHOUT A FACE features a little too much face and not enough terror.  Lisa Gay is superb in the role of Norma and her acting is again top notch (like her sisters) but the script simply doesn't give her a lot to do.  About 75% of the time, the script gives no hint that she has any mental aberration at all; only in the final 10 minutes does Gay get to really let loose.  Oddly, the film was made in Spain but everyone is speaking their lines in English.  All in all, the movie is rather too bland for its own good.


Our third film in the "Spook Sisters" marathon is AIP's THE HAUNTED PALACE featuring Debra Paget along with Vincent Price and Lon Chaney Jr.  The old-favourite H.P. Lovecraft adaptation (masquerading as a Poe film) features Paget as the put-upon wife of split personality Vinnie in this loose adaptation of "THE CASE OF CHARLES DEXTER WARD".  Joseph Curwen was a warlock burned at the stake who comes back to possess the body of his grandson Ward (both played by Price) to get revenge on the descendants of the village torch-lighters.  The film includes a rape scene which displeased both Price and Paget (in the same way a rape scene crowbarred into FRANKENSTEIN MUST BE DESTROYED  later displeased Peter Cushing and Veronica Carlson).  Whether because of that or other reasons, Paget would retire from acting after this film.  THE HAUNTED PALACE is another of those deliciously atmosphere Corman AIP "Poe" films which you can watch again and again and of which you never tire.  A superb Halloweeny way to end this marathon of the three "Spook Sisters".  

Monday, October 04, 2021

THE BODY BENEATH [1970]

 SEXUALLY RAMPANT GHOULS, DEPRAVED SOULS . . . AND BLOOD RED ROSES! 


I can't say I recall see any of those things . . . including the roses . . . in THE BODY BENEATH; however, watching an Andy Milligan movie can result in catatonia so I may have missed them.  Dipping into the box set of THE DUNGEON OF ANDY MILLIGAN, I plucked out this movie because I think I read somewhere some interesting comments about it that made me want to check it out.    And I have to tell you . . . as Andy Milligan movies go, this one was probably the best I've seen so far!  Please don't take that as a ringing endorsement.  I'm a weirdo.  But THE BODY BENEATH was strangely hypnotic and, while it's still woefully shot and unbearable uneventful, I still found it strangely watchable.


There's an ancient vampire family named Ford (now that sounds like an ancient vampire family name, don't it?) who have been around since around the year 98 or something like that in Highgate Cemetery (which is a helluva trick since Highgate Cemetery has only been around since 1839).  The apparently elected patriarch of the family (this is an Andy Milligan movie so there will be a lot of "apparently's" in referring to this confused script) named Reverand Alexander Algernon Ford moves into Carfax Abbey (now where have I heard THAT name before???) in order to . . . . uh, get an infusion of new blood into the family by tracking down modern-day members of the Ford family who are NOT vampires but ARE pregnant. . . . but not really because some of the Ford descendants are men . . . . and the women who are kidnapped in order to use as breeding stock for future Ford vampires are very quickly killed for no reason I can see since they were supposed to be used for breeding and then . . . . . aren't.  As I said, this is an Andy Milligan movie so don't sweat the details ESPECIALLY where plot is concerned.


The acting is typically bad but not nearly so bad as in something like Milligan's GURU THE MAD MONK.  Here we have some actors who appear to be actually giving a performance and that makes all the difference towards watchability.  I found myself actually interested in this weird movie where Milligan's usual incompetence isn't as pronounced and it somehow kept my interest all the way through.  Particularly wonderful is Gavin Reed as the spectacularly over-the-top, petulant and illogical Rev. Alexander Algernon Ford.  If for no other reason, watch THE BODY BENEATH for Gavin Reed alone.  Rev. Ford is the ficklest vampire you're likely to see; he lectures his kidnapped Ford about how valuable she is to breed a new race of Ford vampires . . .and shortly thereafter tells his underlings to kill her because she's no use to him anymore.  The fangy rev crucifies his hunchbacked lackey Spool by nailing spikes through his hands and then apologizes that, even though he possesses no soul, he feels some sympathy for him.  The aforementioned Spool (played by Berwick Kaler) is also a hoot; a few scenes his performance causes himself and others to struggle to keep a straight face.  


THE BODY BENEATH is such a languorous, hallucinatory, contradictory, dull yet fascinating artifact that I kinda loved it in some perverse way.  Several scenes are lifted directly from Bram Stoker's novel DRACULA including three "brides" who here have blue skin and are dressed each in a different color dress as if they are some sort of vampiric Flora, Fauna and Merryweather.  The aforementioned Carfax Abbey is blatantly lifted from DRACULA.  The end of the film climaxes with a psychedelically-trippy vampire PTA meeting/Satanic bacchanal which is equal parts Roger Corman's THE TRIP and C-SPAN 2.  The really surprising thing is that the end of the film is not a letdown; it's an excellent wrap up to a bizarre movie.