Archive for the ‘Horror’ Category

Movie Reviews 395 – When a Stranger Calls (1979)

June 8, 2019

I clearly remember the chilling tag line from the TV trailer ad. “Have you checked the children?” Without context, it is a benign question and bears no terror. But as we learn in When a Stranger Calls when told to a lone babysitter, late at night from an anonymous caller, it is a chilling omen of ill tidings.

Jill Johnson (Carol Kane) is the babysitter who first receives the repeating calls, which progresses from ignoring it as a wrong number, mistaking it as a prank from a friend, becoming concerned enough to put in call to police to finally realizing that the caller is watching her every move. When she learns the calls were traced to the house itself, Jill runs to the door to be shocked not by the killer but by season cop John Clifford (Charles Durning).

But this is curdling sequence all that takes place in the first fifteen minutes or so. We learn that, yes, the children were already far gone by the time those phone calls were made and all Clifford and his team can do is console the sitter and family.

We cut to seven years later and hear how the perpetrator that night was Curt Duncan (Tony Beckley) a lone English sailor, but that he has now escaped. Clifford has retired from the force and is now a private investigator and upon hearing of the escape, the father of the murdered children that night hires him to find Duncan. But Clifford is way ahead on this one. So troubling was the case that he has decided that should he get his hands on Duncan he intends to end the problem once and for all.

Working with information provided by a sympathetic force commander who was also present that night, Clifford learns that Duncan is prowling around a particular neighborhood and has had an odd encounter with a woman he met in bar (Colleen Dewhurst). With that information he enlists her help to nab Duncan but soon finds out that Duncan has not finished with Jill, now socialite and mother of her own. And once a again, Duncan is dialling up a storm.

The problem with this film is that once it has spent it’s dread in those first few minutes it becomes a mediocre police drama. I actually liked the touch that an actor with the middle age physique of Durning was used instead of the stereotypical young and fit cop but that same realism also shatters the credibility when Durning engages in prolonged chase scenes with Duncan. Even some of best parts of this film are really rethreads. The ‘inside the house caller’ schtick was effective in 1974’s Black Christmas. The psycho killer was already masterfully done in Manhunter (the first true Hannibal Lecter film) and … well Psycho. Even the vigilante cop routine had already been cemented long prior by Dirty Harry.

Sorry to say that I don’t share the love of this film that others have plied on it to the point that even a remake was cobbled together in 2006. So my advice on how to deal with this stranger calling is simply to hang up.

Advertisements

Movie Reviews 393 – Prom Night (1980)

May 27, 2019

The high school prom can either be a terrifically exciting event or a dreaded affair depending on an adolescent’s social standing, milieu of friends and most of all, dating status. But in horror films proms take center stage and sovereign standing even greater than any queen and king.

The high school prom was first featured prominently (get it? prom-inently) in Brian De Palma’s adaptation of Stephen King’s Carrie, a story about a girl with supernatural abilities. But with the huge success of John Carpenter’s Halloween the 80’s became the decade of slasher horror cinema and one early entrant was Prom Night which also borrowed the services Halloween’s star and newly minted scream queen Jamie Lee Curtis.

The film begins with a flashback to four young kids, Wendy, Jude, Kelly, and Nick playing Hide’n’Seek in an abandoned building. We then shift to three other young kids immediately outside, walking to school. When Kim, the eldest of the three, realizes she’s forgotten something back home she urges her siblings to continue the walk without her. Her little sister Robin hears the other kids playing inside and wants to join them while her brother Alex refuses. But once inside, Robin becomes the target of taunting and is chased until she backed against into a second floor window. Her tormentors, pressed by Wendy, persist until the inevitable deadly crash to the pavement. The four kids then take an oath of silence.

Six years later Kim (Curtis) and her brother (Michael Tough) are enduring the usual shenanigans and anxieties as they are about to graduate from high school under the watchful eye of the school principal, their father (Leslie Nielsen).  Robin’s murder was never solved and the guilty kids,now all grown up have gone on to lead regular lives. Kim and Nick are even dating, and Kelly is one of Kim’s best friends. Wendy however is still a bitch, moreso since Nick dumped her before falling for Kim, him never having mustered up the courage to tell Kim he was partially responsible for Robin’s death.

But there is another card being played by a mysterious killer who has been phoning the four perpetrators. Could it be the sexual predator who took the fall for the murder, now having just escaped from prison? Perhaps it’s the creepy looking janitor?

This film was one that tried to capitalize on the Disco dancing craze with the horror slasher motif and frankly it was an odd mix then, and stands out like a sore thumb now. Even the surprise ending isn’t all that hard to figure out when looking back on certain emphasized scenes. But it does deliver on a few good true to form ‘slashes’ and even a gloriously fake plastic head decapitation under the rays of a disco mirror ball.

For what it’s worth, many horror fans regard Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II one of those rare instances where the sequel is even better than the original. I’ll soon find out as I’ve got the Prom Night Collection box set with the four movies in the arc. I’ve never picked up the 2008 remake, but from what I hear, that is probably a good thing.

Movie Reviews 390 – The Shuttered Room (1967)

May 3, 2019

Did you ever remember a movie from your childhood where you can vividly recollect a number of particular scenes and the gist of the film and yet the title totally eludes you? Worse yet, any attempt to question others in search of an answer elicits nothing but blank stares? A few months ago my brother brought up such a film that we both saw as kids long, long ago which was terrifying enough to that we still remembered certain scenes. Being so young at the time neither of us had even an inkling of a title. But as the cinephile in the family (and more than a bit familiar with classic horror as this blog hopefully has proven)  I thought I should be able to deduce that fleeting title fairly quickly with a few well crafted internet searches. My first attempts were fruitless and the title dogged me for more than a month and after talking about it with my brother on a second visit I was determined to track that sucker down.

I didn’t have much to go on. We both remembered some feral woman either peeking through a barbed hole and otherwise spying on people, the main object of her prying eyes being another woman, her lovely sister. The only other thing I could remember was a haggard looking grey haired elderly lady and that in the finale she and the wild woman burn among the flames of a building fire.

It took awhile but I finally came up with a title – The Shuttered Room – and promptly managed to secure a copy.  In the back of my mind I worried that watching the film today would not live up to my childhood memories and that I may regret finding a turd erasing my fond recollection. My only glimmer of hope was seeing Oliver Reed as one of the stars.

The story is basically about a newlywed (Carol Lynley) reluctantly returning to her childhood home at the urging of her husband (Gig Young).  Sarah Whately has only vague memories of the place and even her parents, never having understood the circumstances in which she was ushered away as a child to be reared in a foster home. Almost as soon as the couple arrive on the island on which her ancestral home is located and Sarah’s identity is revealed to the locals the couple receive a frosty welcome with dire warnings to pack up and leave immediately for their own good. A chance encounter with a bunch of rowdy youths led by Ethan (Reed), Sarah’s cousin, is no more cordial but does come with an invitation to visit her aunt Agatha (Flora Robson) who basically gives the same warning, claiming a “Whately Curse” that has claimed many victims.

But the couple are determined to stay overnight in the mill house despite Sarah’s sporadic feelings of unease. Before long victims do surface as the mysterious individual keeps a keen eye on Sarah and other visitors. Before the couple end up as victims themselves aunt Agatha fesses up to the truth and takes matters into her own hands to end the ‘curse’.

Not only did this movie live up to my memories but I can honestly say that as I watched it and other memories clicked in my mind, it deepened my appreciation for this forgotten jewel of a thriller. Based on a short story by horror heavyweights H.P. Lovecraft and August Derleth, the film is rife with rattling scenes. From the very beginning in which a man is riding a pallet dragged by a pickup truck next to a barbed wire fence to it’s chilling frankensteinian ending, this film will chill and tingle. The ambiance of the gloomy English coast – I didn’t buy into the notion that this was supposed to be somewhere in Massachusetts – is a perfect setting. While there are little things like a focus on Sarah’s old doll house and Agatha’s servant’s infatuation by hosiery that add to the atmosphere, Reed of course caps all the performances as he was at the peak of his ‘bad boy’ years with the real life facial scars – prominent here – to prove it.

This is not a perfect movie by any means. The prelude to the film gives us a pretty good idea to who and what is up in that attic but leaves just enough to entice us to get the details.Gig was well beyond Lynley in age to their relationship being even remotely believable even as a May-December romance. But the parts that do work do so remarkably. It’s time this movie gets the credit it deserves and that starts by giving it your attention.

Movie Reviews 388 – The Nest (1987)

April 19, 2019

It’s been a while since I dipped into the B-Movie realm of Roger Corman so I thought it was high time to stir up that nest. In fact this week I’ll be reviewing exactly that, The Nest which was produced by Corman but not directed by him.

Set on the remote island town of North Port, this film includes many of the usual clichés of low budget horror thrillers that borrow heavily from preceding blockbusters like Jaws as well as adding elements from the recipe of ingredients for these ‘science gone awry’ movies.

We begin with the mandatory greedy corporation breaking rules and regulations while keeping nosy residents in the dark in the guise of property developer Intec corporation. They need a compliant elected official which we have in the form of a short sighted mayor Elias (Robert Lansing) who risks the town for what he believes is a profitable venture. Our flawed but heroic protagonist is Richard (Frank Luz) the young sheriff who is despised by the mayor having inherited the job when his father, the former sheriff, passed away. The requisite love interest role is filled by Beth (Lisa Langlois) who left Richard for the big city and who’s dad happens to be mayor Elias which is yet another reason for the animosity between the men. And the last, but not least, final ingredient is the evil scientist performing unsanctioned biological experiments dutifully fulfilled by entomologist Dr. Morgan Hubbard (Terri Treas).

The stars of the movie are the bane of mankind since time immemorial: cockroaches. The evil deed in question is introduction of genetically altered roaches that were supposed to do nothing more that eat other roaches and then roll over and just die – a superbug that would end the pestilence of these bugs once and for all. But instead of dutifully dying as intended the superbugs have adapted and not only keep growing in numbers have now developed an immunity to the only chemical that will kill them.

As usual in Corman films, while sating our lowest common desires for cheap thrills and creatures he is smart enough to make sure these films have other redeeming qualities, just enough to have them qualify as ‘fun’ viewing. Most it it here delivered in the form of Homer (Stephen Davies) the goofball local exterminator (excuse me “Pest Control Agent”) who ends up trying to help Richard when the entire Island is threatened with annihilation. With the exception of cool boxing bag sized hanging nest sacs and some eviscerated dogs, the special effects are pretty tame. But there is one lively scene in which a diner infestation is repulsed with the bugs being fried, toasted, blended, microwaved, and spatulated(!) all to the rhythmic harmony of La Cucaracha playing on the radio.

There have been other bug movies in the past that are been much better. The original series or Cronenberg remake of The Fly. The broader category of all insects as miscreants in Bug (based on the novel The Hephaestus Plague) or more recently del Toro’s Mimic and it’s sequels. But if you want to watch a 80’s pop infused fun movie, The Nest is a fine film to roost in. And if you want to see some other nests stirred up by Corman himself (which includes a rare cameo of him acting) check out The Wasp Woman.

 

Movie Reviews 385 – Gozu (2003)

March 30, 2019

If there is one consistent attribute that can be applied to director Takashi Miike it is that all his films (well excluding those made specifically for kids) have some aspect extreme violence. So extreme was his episode of Showtime’s Masters of Horror TV series that it could not in fact be shown on the cable network. Gozu, a story about a Yakuza member trying to locate a fellow clan ‘brother’ makes that clear in the opening scene as a cute Chihuahua is ripped out of the hands of the owner, is flung onto the sidewalk, stepped on, violently swung in an arc and finally hurled at a restaurant window creating a bloody splatter and all because a mobster thought the dog was suspicious.

Along with his trademark violence Miike also has a penchant for the surreal and bizarre as exemplified by such things as the gill slit face of Ichi the Killer, the human headed cybernetic reformed goon in Full Metal Yakuza or various sexual perversions exhibited in most of his movies (in this case including his kiddie fare Yatterman!). Once again Gozu plods that path as well with bra wearing men waiters, a lactating elderly woman filling in milk bottles for her hotel guests, and a mind bending, physic defying ending featuring the ‘birth’ of a character by essentially the same character who has transformed their body (and sex) earlier on in the film. Virtually every minute of this film presents questionable actions, situations, imagery that will keep viewers in a trance as they attempt to sort reality from dreams (if indeed any of it are dreams).

Minami (Hideki Sone) is the poor, pitiful yakuza that is supposed to drive his good friend and clan brother Ozaki (Show Aikawa) to an ambush set by the boss as Ozaki has grown too big for his own britches. Hesitant to complete the delivery Minami’s driving skills accidentally kill Ozaki (so it would seem) but taking a break in a restaurant while he tries to figure out what to do next, Ozaki’s lifeless body disappears from the car. This begins Minami’s adventures following a set of clues in which he must deal with eccentric hotel staff, a half scab faced man intent on helping him and finally a female incarnation (Kimika Yoshino) of Ozaki himself (herself?).

Honestly, I’m just scratching the surface of the idiosyncratic universe at play in Gozu. Scripted by writer Sakichi Sato (who Quentin Tarantino honoured by casting him as the henpecked “Charlie Brown” restaurant owner in Kill Bill) the film is pure Miike. Whether that is a good thing or bad thing is for you to decide, but I guarantee you will never look at a soup ladle the same way after seeing this film.

Movie Reviews 384 – The Birds (1963)

March 22, 2019

While I consider Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho to be his masterpiece among the many great films he directed over the years, The Birds comes in a close second place. Know as the master of the thriller genre, this is Hitch delivering pure horror and gore and if one considers those aspects alone, it is indeed superior to Psycho.

Based on a Daphne du Maurier novella of the same name, it is the story of birds suddenly congregating and then terrorizing a small coastal town close to San Francisco. Melanie (Tippi Hedren), a socialite with tabloid reputation hoping to snag local lawyer Mitch (Rod Taylor) drops in just as the attacks begin and aside from being caught in the melee has to deal with Mitch’s confrontational mother (Jessica Tandy), Annie (Suzanne Pleshette) the local schoolteacher who failed to land Mitch herself yet remains infatuated by him, and even some locals who point the finger at her as the cause of the uprising.

The impressive human cast have to share the limelight with the avians as the manner in which they were filmed in so many sequences are simply captivating. Even after all these years despite the crude special effects available at the time not only do the bird filled sequences still stands out but given that in most scenes actually birds were filmed, I’m still at a loss to how they put those scenes together. In one scene crows shown in the background slowly fill an entire playground ‘monkey bars’ as Melanie and Annie sit on a bench. There are scenes in which power lines have birds lined up side by side as far as the eye can see. And pivotal scenes include both an exterior massive attack in the town center as well as a swarming within Mitch’s house. Even a thwarted house attack is spectacular as the thousands of pecks begin to chip holes in doors and boarded windows. And then there is the famous attack scene in which Melanie gets caught in a closed room, one that rivals Psycho’s shower scene.

While the love triangle aspect and motherly concerns take a backseat in this feathered feature, they do add to the drama of the story. Veronica Cartwright plays Mitch’s little sister and aside from being responsible for Melanie meeting Mitch in the first place, provides the setup for yet another spectacular scene, the attack on the one room schoolhouse.

There are two things viewers should pay attention to while watching this film. The first is the iconic green suit that Hedren wears throughout the film designed by legendary Hollywood costumer Edith Head. Secondly there is the striking sound editing of the cacophony of bird squawks, screeches and cackles that have also become a signature of the film. The credits list Bernard Herrmann (who created the famous ‘violin screams’ in Psycho) as the ‘sound consultant’ so I have to assume he was also responsible for the bird emanations here.

I was shocked to learn that a sequel, The Bird’s II: Land’s End, was made in 1994 but all indications are that they were just winging it and that fowl offering it is nothing more than bird droppings. But do seek out The Birds if you haven’t seen it. It really soars above all other plumed pictures.

Movie Reviews 383 – The Doctor and the Devils (1985)

March 15, 2019

The sordid true life tale of how Victorian era tomb robbers Burke and Hare provided cadavers for doctors for anatomical study is a tale that has been lensed several times over the years, one such being The Body Snatcher (1945) starring Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi. As the story goes, the enterprising thieves got greedy and instead of simply waiting for opportunities to seize and sell the bodies of the recently deceased, they decided that it was quicker and more profitable to just knock off a few specimens earlier to meet the demand. Not only did their victims fetch an immediate return but, because they could choose healthier and younger specimens, those bodies fetched an even higher price.

The Doctor and the Devils is yet another take on the story in which a young ambitious lecturer Dr. Rock (Timothy Dalton), ever looking for quality subjects, ends up tempting poor vagrants Fallon and Broom (Jonathan Pryce and Stephen Rea respectively) to sate his demands. While the practice of acquiring bodies for scientific studies was permitted at the time, it was highly regulated and only certain cadavers, such as those of dead prisoners were legitimately distributed. This was not acceptable to Rock, and as he acquired more and more bodies, often dissecting them in his operating arena classroom, the number and suspect high quality began to raise eyebrows, notably that of Professor Macklin (Patrick Stewart), Rock’s superior and Rock’s very assistant, Dr. Murray (Julian Sands). It all unravels when Murray discovers that Rock’s latest acquisition is the best friend of the girl he has been trying to charm, one of the local town prostitutes (sixties model Twiggy).

The narrative of the central story works well enough but there are a number of odd and unevenly handled portions of the story that make it a bit frustrating. Rock’s wife is an anatomical artist which supposedly makes her a disrespectful woman that already casts Rock in a bad light in society. The evidence of Rock’s wrongdoings are quite clear from the very beginning yet it takes Macklin and the authorities forever to act on their suspicions. Murray’s chasing Twiggy is a significant part of the story so you can pretty much tell that this will be Rock’s downfall early on in the film. And of course Twiggy being, well Twiggy, she does have her own out of place song in this film (guess it was part of her contract) which, while lovely, is just an awkward and unnecessary mood swing that really does not fit in.

Directed by legendary Hammer director Freddie Francis, this film was actually based on a screenplay by celebrated Welsh poet Dylan Thomas who himself died under some strange circumstances.

The strength in the film come from Pryce and Rea’s performances and their characters. Just about everyone else including Dalton just slow things down to the point of being tedious until the miscreants show up again. If you can stand the unnecessary straying from the central plot it’s not that bad a film but go for The Body Snatcher if you have to choose one or the other.

 

Movie Reviews 380 – Happy Birthday to Me (1981)

February 16, 2019

I thought that viewing it on my very own birthday was a good choice for watching the 1980’s slasher Happy Birthday to Me despite not knowing which way the pendulum swung (victim or aggressor) for the celebrant. As it so happens, the answer isn’t as clear as you would think. And I sure did not know what to make of a horror movie which stars Melissa Sue Anderson, whose only notable role was that of squeaky clean kid on the virtuous Little House on the Prairie TV series, a far cry from this gorefest.

Virginia “Ginny” Wainwright (Anderson) is part of the ‘in’ college group known as the “Top Ten”, a band of rich, spoiled, vain kids who drive fancy cars and raise hell in pubs. Her father, a single parent, is overly concerned with her partying ways and the company she keeps not only for the usual reasons but also because of the hours she spends at her mom’s gravesite. Virginia’s obsession over her lost mom go hand in hand with a history of mental episodes, one that she continues to be treated for by psychiatrist (Glenn Ford).

When kids start disappearing and the rumors and finger-pointing begin the “Top Ten” are at the “Top” of the suspicion list. The audience gets to see all the gruesome manners in which victims are killed by an often veiled assailant even as the “Top Ten”’s own numbers dwindle. Meanwhile Ginny experiences episodes of memory flooding back and clearly appears to be the perpetrator killing off some of her friends.

But the name of the game here is to spot the evident red herrings – there are plenty – while Ginny questions herself and tries to sort things out. There are subtle clues at first that Ginny’s past treatment was anything but the usual until the details of the medical procedure are revealed and even then the audience has to figure out if she is really the one.

Without spoiling anything I can say that the multiple reveals at the end are not the ones expected, although closer examination does make some of them somewhat incredulous. Still this is another fine somewhat forgotten Canuxploitation film. And the “death by skewer” featured on the poster is not the only imaginative one.

Happy Birthday to Me.

January Movie Marathon – 2019 Edition

February 1, 2019

My annual tradition of cramming in (at least) 31 movie viewings during the month of January continued this year. It was a closer call getting in the required viewing (only one film over the target this time) mainly due to all that excess snow this year having me out shoveling instead of watching. Here’s a brief review of what I watched this year.

1) Anatomy of a Murder (1959) – Jimmy Stewart plays the small town lawyer hired to defend what is supposed to be an ‘open and shut’ murder case. Dealing with the evidence and facts isn’t as hard as dealing with the accused’s lovely wife. If all that wasn’t odd enough, consider that this is a comedy by director Otto Preminger.

2) Comic Book Confidential (1988) – A great documentary featuring the radical independent comic creators of the time. Lots of legendary creators (Crumb, Miller, Pekar,  Kurtzman, Eisner) with other not so familiar names. The best part is MAD’s Bill Gaines reminiscing about the pre-code EC days.

3) The Day the Fish Came Out (1967) – (see full review here)

4) Lifeboat (1944) – Only Alfred Hitchcock can get away with an entire movie set on a lifeboat adrift at sea after a Nazi U-boat attack. Of course he also manages to throw in a murder. Dazzling portrayal of the self centered journalist by Tallulah Bankhead (dahling!). It’s Hitch. It’s great.

5) Rock ‘n’ Roll Frankenstein (1999) – Greedy record producer decides he can make the greatest Rock star ever by piecing together the parts of legendary dead artists. The plot sounds a lot better than it is.

6) The Pursuit of Happyness (2006) – Will Smith plays the ‘down on his luck’ portable bone-density scanner salesman who earns a shot as a stockbroker intern, but has to live on the streets with his son in order to possibly get the job. The usual Smith goody-goody, “live your dreams” stuff.

7) Columbo: Double Exposure (1973) – Hey I’m slowly going through all the Columbo TV movies! Columbo nabs murderer Robert Culp, a motivational researcher, by using the same subliminal image video technique he learned from the perpetrator himself.

8) The Children (2008) – Not as frolicky fun as “Girls Gone Wild” but this horror is basically “Kids Gone Wild”. Lots of bad shooting choices makes one wonder where this movie is going for most of it (not in a good way) and the payoff just isn’t there at the end.

9) Lords of Dogtown (2005) – Docudrama capturing the birth of the competitive skateboarding scene on the beaches of Venice California in the mid 70’s. Don’t let the subject matter deter you if you’re not into that scene. Between all the Ollies and Halfpipes, this one packs a punch. Gnarly!

10) This Gun for Hire (1942) – One of the few Veronica Lake – Hollywood’s peek-a-boo girl – films I’ve seen. Not Film Noir at it’s finest to say the least. Lake is embroiled in a murder mystery centered on a chemical formula and WW2 traitors.

11) The Head (1959) – (see full review here)

12) Dead Poets Society (1989) – Robin Williams is the marquee star but this movie is clearly about the young boys in his class at an Ivy League seeding school who learn to “Seize the Day” against all odds. Carpe Diem!

13) 12 Days of Terror (2004) – Drama depicting the summer of 1916 New Jersey shark attacks that supposedly were and inspiration for Peter Benchley to write Jaws. Enough of a bite to watch, but it is a TV movie so keep those expectations in line.

14) Ice Station Zebra (1968) – The cold war goes frigid when a crucial satellite component ends up in the frozen Arctic and both the East and the West race towards Ice Station Zebra to recover it. The good guys can only get there by submarine but, as expected, not everyone on board are who they appear to be.

15) Paranormal Activity 4 (2012) – This fourth installment in the series of movies in which the story of household spooks activities are conveyed purely via the video feeds of home monitoring systems is the one where they ‘Jumped the Shark’. Really nothing new here despite it being something of a sequel to PA3.

16) Witness for the Prosecution (1957) – (see full review here)

17) Billy Elliot (2000) – Little Billy discovers that his interests lay not in the proud boxing tradition of his family, but in ballet, much to the chagrin of his father who is in the midst of England’s notorious coal miners strike just trying to keep the family together.

18) The Secret of Santa Vittoria (1969) – What is the secret of Santa Vittoria? Millions of bottles of wine. Anthony Quinn is the bumbling, reluctant mayor of the little Italian town who must hide their horde from the encroaching Nazis during WWII.

19) The Giant Behemoth (1959) – Even Britain was getting in on the Giant Monster kick of the 1950’s. While they did not use rear-projection footage of pet lizards and the stop motion animatronic was not much better.

20) 13 Going on 30 (2004) – Jennifer Garner plays the girl/woman who wakes up one day to discover that she has gone from a pubescent teen to a grown woman overnight. Honestly Tom Hanks did it better in Big in the 80’s.

21) Ghidorah: The Three-Headed Monster (1964) – Goofy Godzilla goodness in which Godzilla, Rodan and Mothra (larval form as the original Moth died in the previous movie) take on the new bad boy on the block King Ghidorah. In preparation for the return of Ghidorah in this year’s May release of Godzilla: King of the Monsters

22) House of Strangers (1949) – Edward G. Robinson plays the family patriarch who works all his life to build a successful local bank but his overbearing ways has taken a toll on his family, the and nearly costs his favored and most devoted son everything.

23) Doctor Who and the Daleks (1965) – This was the first of two Dr Who films made by Amicus which starred the great Peter Cushing and the world’s first chance to see Daleks in color. Who and crew take the TARDIS on its first voyage to a far future post-apocalyptic Earth where the last few remaining Daleks are still fighting the handful of humans.

24) The Bodyguard from Beijing (1994) – Your typical “feds have to bodyguard a witness to a mob murder” plot where Jet Li is the all-business master protector and Christy Chung is the beautiful, rich, overbearing damsel he has to keep alive. And of course at the end they are in love.

25) The Werewolf Versus the Vampire Woman (1971) – (see full review here)

26) The Jerk (1979) –  Steve Martin’s first feature film where he took his brash, daring stand-up comedy and came up with a dimwitted man on a rags-to-riches-to-rags journey to find himself. I still get a kick of him discovering his ‘special purpose’. Silly but still funny.

27) Hellboy (2004) – I hear that there will be another Hellboy movie coming out this year. But without Ron Perlman, John Hurt, or director Guillermo del Toro. No chance in Hell it’s as good as this original.

28) Born to Kill (1947) – Film Noir great Lawrence Tierney in a movie in which the title says it all. He’s a lowly con man who wants it all and doesn’t blink an eye snuffing out anyone who crosses him or just rubs him the wrong way.

29) Black Snake Moan (2006) – Odd film in which a weathered black man (Samuel Jackson) takes in a battered promiscuous young white woman (Christina Ricci) to get both her and himself back on the right track of life.  (I hope to have a full review in the coming days.)

30) Timecop (1994) – Jean Claude Van Damme at his barely comprehensible thespian best. Which isn’t a whole lot. Well at least it’s a Science Fiction time travel story which JCVD mumbles through.

31) The Right Stuff (1983) – I decided to revisit this movie about the original Mercury astronauts on the 50th anniversary of the tragic Apollo 1 fire. Great film but if you have a chance read Tom Wolfe’s book that was the source for the script

32) The Spirit of St-Louis (1957) – I started with Jimmy Stewart and it was only fitting that I ended this month long blitz with another of his films. Aside from the fact that Stewart was nearly twice the age playing Charles Lindbergh, the story of the first solo transatlantic flight remains a classic.

 

 

Movie Reviews 378 – The Werewolf Versus the Vampire Woman (1971)

January 25, 2019

While not a household name, Spaniard Paul Naschy was legendary in the horror movie biz, concentrating his efforts to revitalizing the classic horrors. He will forever be best known for his take on the Werewolf trope, making no less than a dozen films portraying the benevolent werewolf Count Waldemar Daninsky. The Werewolf Versus the Vampire Woman (original title: La Noche de Walpurgis) is one of, if not the best in that series.

As implied by the title, the story is one in which Wademar is pitted against a vampire, in this case the equally noble but decidedly evil Countess Wandesa Dárvula de Nadasdy (Patty Shepard). The story begins when researcher Elvira (Gaby Fuchs) and her assistant Genevieve (Barbara Capell) take a trip to Turkey in search of the tomb of the countess. When they arrive at a small town believed to be area in which the tomb can be found they encounter Waldemar who believes he knows where to find. Unknown to the girls is the fact that the remains of the countess is also rumored to have a cross-handled dagger which happens to of great interest to Waldemar. When the trio find the tomb and open it revealing the countess’ body an accidental drop of blood is enough to revitalize the vampire releasing her from her grave prison. But the Countess must rebuild her army of slave vampires and Genevieve is her first victim. As Waldemar falls for Elvira he must sacrifice not only his newfound love, but his one chance to end his own torment in order to save everyone.

Comparable to Hammer Gothic horrors of the era with sexy women, isolated villages, and the classic monsters, this film is set in a contemporary, modern setting while retaining the doom and gloom of its British predecessors. Naschy delivers a poignant, despondent werewolf worthy of commiseration and there is enough depth to the story to keep things interesting for those few moments of horror and gore.

One of the things that should be kept in mind is the staggering number of alternate titles this movies in this series have been released both on media and cinema screens over the years. Walpurgis Night, Shadow of the Werewolf , and Werewolf Shadow are but a few titles you may find in DVD formats.

My one problem with this and other Naschy films is that the media always seems to be comprised of worn weary, barely visible film stock which has been pretty much the case for the few others I’ve (barely?) seen. Hopefully I can someday enjoy this and the other Naschy films decently restored someday as they certainly deserve better treatment.