Wednesday 10 October 2018

81 - Sci-fi horror - 30s/40s/50s stuff, 70s, Frankensteins, 81 films

Terror In The Wax Museum (1973) - Lots of people are watching Crazy Rich Asians. I am watching this. They both have Lisa Lu, though. Here, she's a helpful Dragon Lady. This feels like a TV movie, with its cast, tone and plot more suited to 1943 than 1973, and relatively slack direction. An American-accented Jack the Ripper (in a dream sequence John Carradine experiences) in this entertaining throwback. Carradine doesn't use an English accent, as the wax museum owner who tries to sell to Broderick Crawford, only to be slaughtered, leaving behind his waxen-faced disfigured sidekick Karkoff. Set in a phony London. Ray Milland, Maurice Evans, Elsa Lanchester, Louis Hayward and Patric Knowles prop it up. Mark Edwards, a Hammer/British horror regular of the time, and star of doomed Dr. Who replacement Snowy Black (intended to run if Pertwee's series flopped). The young female lead is American-born Benny Hill costar Nicole Shelby. There's a run about a will. Features a legendary but fictional murderous copper named Constable Henry Bolt. The dummies are clearly real people breathing. Karkoff, clearly intended as a breakout monster is attempted as a figure of Karloffian pathos, but actor Steven Marlo is more comical than anything. Elsa Lanchester is appealingly strident.  The villain turns out to be a mute scarface who poses as Jack the Ripper in the museum, or Jack the Ripper himself.

Night Of The Demon (1957 - B/W) - The noirish/Lewtonesque elements bore me (and Dana Andrews is well... Dana Andrews), but the fruity character work and intriguing plot saves it. Niall McGinnis is great, as is Liam Redmond (plus Maurice Denham and young Brian Wilde doing a West Country farmer accent in his unmistakable voice!), and the demon's quite cool.  Interesting at least four major actors are Irish (Cummins, McGinnis, Redmond and Richard Leech). I also find Peggy Cummins slightly cold, in a way I find a lot of Irish actresses.

The Bad Seed (1956 - B/W) - Can't really take little Rhoda seriously. Surely an influence on Angelica in Rugrats. Overlong, more of a melodrama. The Perry and Croft-type ending may be the highlight, but I didn't find Rhoda hateful enough. Patty McCormack did play the Ann Fourmile character in the US remake of George and Mildred, with kinky asshole Jeffrey Tambor as Geoffrey.

Baxter (1989) - Another weird French horror. I'm beginning to think that France made the best horrors of the 1980s. This is a Gallic Cujo, with a bull terrier, based on a pulp novel by American writer Ken Greenhall. The bull terrier is unique looking, and coupled with the Gallic Amblin feel, and the narration from the dog, it's memorable. It's not quite as good as Deadly Games, it has heart, kids talking about Hitler's sex life, and an interesting "the evil continues" ending.

Revenge (1971) - Same stock pop music from Carry On Camping (both produced by Peter Rogers). Joan Collins seems slightly miscast. For one so artificial, whose working class roots were always visible, playing a council house mum, she just seems out of place. Kenneth Griffith is unpleasant as hell, but so is the film.

The Last Wave (1977) - Beautiful but impenetrable. Cold.

The Exterminating Angel (1962 - B/W) - Hard to understand it. Not my type of film.

The Brain (1988) - Feels like an episode of Goosebumps. Bland Canadian-ness permeates it. Titular creature barely seen.

The Man In The White Suit (1951 - B/W) - Watchable, but not particularly funny. But then again, I find the Ealing comedies kinda baffling.

Hands Of A Stranger (1962 - B/W) - Chintzy Hands of Orlac do-ver with interchangeable leads. The Hands of Orlac (1960 - B/W) is better, even though it is a confused Mid-Channel Europudding padded out with cabaret acts.

Dungeon of Harrow (1962) - Regional period shocker, incomprehensibly shot in the sort of colour film where every frame looks like the last photograph of everyone involved. Feels more like a western by the end.

Cult of the Cobra (1955 - B/W) - Breezy, energetic, time-killing Universal late-comer,  an interchangeable bunch of US soldiers are cursed by some fakir in a backlot India. It all goes bland once it leaves the Indian setting. Of the snake-woman genre.

Curse of the Faceless Man (1958 - B/W) - Crappy Italian accents ahoy in this lethargic mummyesque Pompeii victim/lost brooch caper.

Pharaoh's Curse (1957 - B/W) - Set in a suspiciously forested Egyptian desert, another UA no-budget B-movie. Interesting monster, but little else.

The  Vampire (1957) - Tedious UA sci-fi-tinged timewaster.

Curse Of The Undead (1957 - B/W) - Late period Universal horror, actually a dull western with Michael Pate shoehorned in as a vampire gunslinger/member of the Royal Family.

ZaAt (1971 - B/W)  - The shite monster suit is the best thing about it.

The Golden Mistress (1954) - Boring if colourful voodoo-tinged Haiti travelogue with John Agar.

Something Wicked This Way Comes (1983) - An admirable failure. Something vaguely A Christmas Story in its rather too American nostalgia, ironic as it was directed by a Brit. It feels a little PBS. Slightly queasy that James Stacy, who plays the kids' one-armed friend turned out a few years later to be a paedo. By the end, it becomes a mess.

The Invisible Ray (1936 -B/W) - Slight, but it can entertain. Boris and Bela together! Karloff's "young self" is possibly an inspiration for Fester's "Gordon Craven" identity in The Addams Family. The plot is very slight, i.e. it's all based on the novelty of lasers.

The Black Sleep (1956 - B/W) - An allstar cast wasted. A very 50s American Victorian London. Bela Lugosi literally an extra. Lon Chaney drunk. Zombies dressed as Roy Jay. Akim Tamiroff has an earring. Carradine goes mad. Rathbone has the most dignity. Slither yes, but not spook. Feels a waste. Also, the end of an era. Made one year before Hammer, but already something of a throwback.

Unknown World (1951 - B/W) - Potholing fluff.

The Land Unknown (1957 - B/W) - More unenticing lost world fluff.

It Came From Outer Space (1953 - B/W) - This sort of US sci-fi I never really got. Sorry.

The Alligator People (1959 - B/W) - Shot in Cinemascope, has more atmosphere than the average cheapie. The plot and dialogue's thick-eared as usual, but the sets feel oddly convincing.  Though the costumes have obvious openings and seams.

Dr. Jekyll and  Mr. Hyde (1931 - B/W). Mostly without sound, which is better. The sound in most early sound films is hissy anyway. It still feels like a silent. March very much playing to the aisles.  The sets don't relly feel realistic.  Astonished by the use of split-screen, though. Feels quite primitive.

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1941 - B/W) - Much more professional, now studios now how to use sound. Not quite as primal as the 1931 one. The MGM production adds sentiment. Spencer Tracy doesn't bother for the accent. Not quite a fan of Jekyll or Hyde, as a character, in general. They can get rather silly. This is an example. Tracy sounds a bit Oirish as Hyde. There is some odd psychedelic hallucinations. "Ever so gay".

The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll  (1960) - Hammer do-over. Again, not my cuppa. Paul Massie is unlikeably hammy. The Man Who Could Cheat Death (1959) is slightly better, filmed on the same sets, with some of the same cast, although I, Monster (1971) is forgettable.

The Vampire's Ghost (1945 - B/W) -  Odd Republic horror, John Abbott an interesting vampire, but a weird tone. Attempting for Lewton, but merely a slightly more atypical jungle cheapie of the era.

Catman of Paris (1945 - B/W) - Another Republic dud.

Valley of the Zombies (1946 - B/W) - Talky, mediocre Republic potboiler.

The Bride (1985)  - A murky, atrocious mess. Mr. Sting is awful. The music is inappropriately childish.

Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed (1969) - The sets are excellent. Freddie Jones is wonderful, but I find it slightly too grim.  The trouble is there's too many great character actors weighing it down. A sea of Garrick club ties. It feels quite padded too.

The Frozen Ghost (1945- B/W) -  I'm not a fan of noir, and not a fan of the Inner Sanctum mysteries. Despite the wax museum setting.

The Spider Woman Strikes Back (1946 - B/W)  - Despite Gale Sondergaard in the title role, not a Sherlock Holmes spinoff. A folksy, dreary noirish sub-western drama set in 40s flyover country, no fish and chip bars and inaccurate BBC radio broadcasts to be found.

Dead Men Walk (1943 - B/W) - George Zucco shines in an otherwise unremarkable zombie film from PRC.

The Ape (1940 - B/W) - Not much ape suit action in this dull bit of proto-hicksploitation Karloff poverty row.

Terror Aboard (1933 - B/W) - Exists in a faded print. Ambitious but primitive Paramount thriller, unusually quite grisly. Lots of burning bodies. Confusingly paced and staged.

The Boogie Man Will Get You (1942 - B/W) - Fun but nonsensical sci-fi comedy. Karloff as Victor Meldrew.

The Mysterious Doctor (1943 - B/W) - 1916 Rising Oppositon General Lowe's son John Loder stars in this energetic but clumsy Scooby Doo-ish wartime Scooby Doo-type mystery, distinguished only by its wartime Cornish setting. Full of fog and Mockney Yokels.

The Brighton Strangler (1945 - B/W) -Loder comes across as an American playing a Brit AND a Brit playing an American at the same time in this wartime thriller. Interesting setbound Blitz.  Confused, and Brighton could be anywhere.

Man-Made Monster (1941 -B/W) - Lon Chaney Jr. feels sorry for himself and glows. Not much.

SVENGALI (1931 - B/W) - Quite expressionist, John Barrymore too hammy. Feels like a silent.  Unconvincing death scene for Trilby. Hammy, too much of a caricature. Stars Marian Marsh and Barrymore did the same in The Mad Genius (1931 - B/W), Barrymore a hammy Russian and a blink and you'll miss it Karloff.

You'll Find Out (1940 - B/W) - Old horror-comedy/variety show hybrid vehicle for radio star/Looney Tunes star Kay Kyser, with Karloff,  Lugosi and Peter Lorre. Same old old dark house thing with added explosions and a prophetic prom subplot.  Typical quick-talking duo versus a gorilla suit and lost treasure.  Pleasing, overlong but complicated.

A Bell from Hell (1973) - Terrible Spanish schlock, possibly made more incomprehensible by the fact the director died in production.

Frankenstein Unbound (1990) - John Hurt is oddly rubbish in this film. A dry run for his brief Doctor Who guest appearance, it's miscast all round. Bridget Fonda as Mary Shelley, Cissy from You Rang, M'Lord as the Bride, Raul Julia does his best, but Roger Corman takes it way too seriously... A Bill and Ted-type vibe may have helped.  And the supporting cast of dubbing stalwarts are blank. It feels like it wants to be Merchant-Ivory,  but at other points, has a Charles Band vibe befitting the Italian shooting locations. All very silly. Not enjoyable in any way, sadly. Though the Carl Davis soundtrack is nice, but it does sound like it'll turn into the World at War theme any second.

From Beyond (1986) - I like Stuart Gordon as a personality, and I try to like his films, but they never quite gel. In this particular case, because it has that tacky Charles Band sheen. And that mix of gore, prosthetics and jokes that doesn't work.

Terminal Man (1974) - Hmm. WTF? Lots of slow, voyeuristic surgery in typically cold Crichtonia. Joan Hackett's good, though.

The Day The Earth Caught Fire (1961 - B/W) - Interesting to hear Leo McKern's strine accent come out.  I'm not really into newspaper dramas,  but it shines when it opens up. It feels like a natural event. All the sensation is painted wonderfully. The relationship stuff drags for me. But everything else, the side characters, the reaction, it feels real. It's a little overlong, but it feels the closest Britain got to the cerebral-disaster Japanese SF of the era. And there's a scene set outside the London offices of the Indo. An incredibly striking and profound depiction of world's end. The end scenes are a mix of depression and furious excitement, as London falls to ruins.  Astonishing.

The Walking Dead (1936 - B/W) - Gangster-infused Frankenstein knockoff with Karloff as an English accented crook revived as a Mallen-streaked zombie by Edmund Gwenn for some reason done up as Lionel Atwill. Average crime movie becomes an average mad science quickie. By Michael Curtiz. See also Karloff in the ridiculous "spacesuit = communication with the dead" cheapie The Devil Commands (1941 - B/W).

Isle Of The Dead (1945 - B/W) - Karloff in Lewtonian horror-mystery that merely spooks up a tired war story.

Blind Terror/See No Evil (1971) - It feels like a comedy without jokes. It's still caught in the roots of an old fashioned melodrama. They both feel like proto-DePalma. See No Evil does have HER (and now, she's moving back here, God help us) in a role that screams, "Bunty comic" (blind girl who likes horses, whose boyfriend is Norman Eshley). Paul Nicholas is more terrifying than Alan Arkin, though. Clemens clearly has a problem with travellers. It's all a bit Follyfoot gone wrong. It's the same old Clemens/Thriller bollocks riffing on the overrated Wait Until Dark (1967).
Wait Until Dark I find ridiculous, Alan Arkin a comedy beatnik and Aud's not convincing as a blind person.

Forbidden Planet (1956) - It's visually exciting, but it's basically a Star Trek pilot, with typical 50s SF trappings and something vaguely resembling the Tempest given extra gravitas via a bigger budget and Walter Pidgeon. The costumes look silly. Lines like "mad scientist of the tape thrillers" add verisimilitude. Leslie Nielsen is an arsehole, while lovely Anne Francis shows him up.

It Came From Beneath The Sea (1955 - B/W) - Below average Harryhausen film, not much animation, before he went to England and got better actors. Even the Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (1953 - B/W) feels slapdash. Cecil Kellaway tries his best, but also Paul Hubschmid isn't best emoting in English.Then again, the script for Beast was written by Fred Freiberger, the man with the power to turn anything he touches into nonsense.

The Uninvited (1944 - B/W) - Aside from some nice village sets, this fails to capture an English atmosphere, with American-accented locals and lots of similar-looking women. Interesting to see a young-ish Alan Napier, but I'm not really into haunted house films. Typical 1940s melodrama, which don't quite appeal.

Konga (1961) - It looks expensive, Michael Gough treats it with much relish and the production feels so much better in Britain than it would have been in the US, the colour really helps, the mad science stuff is taken so seriously, it becomes more enjoyable, but Jess Conrad is shite. He really is. He is wearing THAT pullover, but just because he was vaguely photogenic doesn't explain how he has stuck around to this day. The teen stuff is excruciating. Though Conrad's family (Leonard Sachs - was this before or after the cottaging?) are fun. Why does have Jack Watson do an American accent, especially as he looks little like himself? The ending twist is fun.

Dracula Has Risen From The Grave (1968)  - A strange mix. Don't think I had actually seen this one in full. The Hammer Draculas all kind of blend into one for me. Plus it uses stock footage of modern Europe for what is supposedly a generic "olde worlde" time. Michael Ripper resembles a relative. The German atmosphere is variable. The trouble with the Dracula films is unlike Frankenstein, you can't develop the character. You have to introduce new characters, which means lots of filler. At least, Christopher Lee gets dialogue.  But the ending's a bit silly.

Dracula: Prince of Darkness (1966) - Overrated, rather silly. Dracula removed of any power. Father Shandor is an interesting character, but most of the film has to be carried by four posh tourists. Was Philip Latham cast because of his resemblance to Lee?

Legend of the Werewolf (1975) - Silly werewolf do-over of the less likeable, more serious Curse of the Werewolf (1961). It's very tatty, feels like it was filmed in the back of a farm, and the likes of Hugh Griffith, Renee Houston, Roy Castle and Ron Moody are all very Children's Film Foundation-y. It feels as if it was directed by Lionel Jeffries.

Son of Frankenstein (1939 - B/W) - Where the series devolves. Lugosi is great, almost Troughtonesque, but Rathbone's character is rubbish. But it is very much in the shadow of Mel Brooks. Karloff in this is clearly somewhat of an influence on Peter Boyle. It's also overlong, a bit of a mess.

The Fearless Vampire Killers (1967) - Awful film, laboured comedy, great soundtrack and sets, but basically a typical Eurocomedy in horror drag. It's overlong. Polanski has no on-screen charisma. Jack McGowaran looks like Denise Coffey. His accent and Irish theatre actor hamming is dire. Lots of mugging.

Curse of the Mummy's Tomb (1964) - Relatively small Hammer. Jack Gwillim kind of fills in for Cushing, like he would arguably would in The Monster Squad, only to be succeeded in the heroic role by Ronald "son of Leslie" Howard, though rival Terence Morgan is almost interchangeable. The period setting is non-existent, down to visible neon signs in a supposed Edwardian theatre. There's one good scene, with Fred Clark being stalked through the fog by the mummy,  but in all, it's the least of Hammy's Egyptian ventures.

The Power (1968) - All-star George Pal telekinetic mess. Overlong, overstretched, goes nowhere.

Vampira (1975) - David Niven as Dracula. Produced by Columbia, but sold to AIP, who later reused ideas for their own Love At First Bite. Features Nicky Henson, Bernard Bresslaw, Frank Thornton, Kenneth Cranham, Freddie Jones very low billed, surprisingly.  Nadim Sawalha pops up. The trouble is Niven doesn't convince as a vampire. He's just David Niven. He's trying to have fun, but he's sleepwalking. A few times, he shows promise of the sinister, but the script by Jeremy Lloyd is feeble. It needed David Croft. The Playboy Playmates stuff comes from a sleazier film, and I'm not into sleazy exploitation stuff. And the whole "Dracula is a racist" stuff, which AIP previously used in Blacula is now supposed to be the main plot, and not the catalyst for someone else's origin. Teresa Graves is quite graceful, and sufficiently beautiful for the role. And convinces as an aristo who fancies Jim Brown. Freddie Jones does his American voice, and seems to be wearing a wig to make him look like Ed Bishop. Dracula has to find white blood, which means interrupting Aimi MacDonald's fling with Patrick Newell. Interestingly, it connects Vlad the Impaler with Dracula, an early usage of that connection. But it's mostly unfunny, and ends with Niven turning black, something which even the film seems embarrassed of. There's a funky theme by Tony Newley. The print is in rough condition.

The Mutations (1974) - Sleazy atmosphere, despite being directed by Jack Cardiff. Feels very cheap shot on the fly. Tom Baker plays an acromegalic giant freakshow owner assisting plant-obsessed Mittel European Donald Pleasence with ideas of cloning dinosaurs and creating plant-men. Endlessly padded with Freaks-ish domestic drama and Man About the House-style middle-aged college hijinks, and crap sound. Fire eater played by Bob Bura, who was animation partner for Gordon Murray and John Ryan. Tom does some good shouting opposite Michael Dunn, and literally kicks up a fuss at a birthday party, but it's such a mess of a film. It probably isn't finished. It's almost like a Blood Island film crossed with Freaks. Tom sounds hoarse, but he's probably muffled by the heap of plastic on his face.

Magic (1978) - Decent but it lacks something. Cos it is directed by Dickie Attenborough, it lacks a certain punch. Anthony Hopkins' Welsh-American accent explained by the fact he's of English parentage. Jerry Goldsmith's soundtrack is typical 70s Goldsmith. The early showbizzy stuff is fun, with mentions of Rich Little, but it gets a bit silly.

The Mummy's Hand (1940)/The Mummy's Tomb (1942)/The Mummy's Curse (1944)/The Mummy's Ghost (1944 - all B/W) - All the same, really. Shoddy in both setting (set over decades, and it's always WW2), and with a suspiciously grassy desert and quarry. Not my thing. Formulaic. Almost interchangeable. John Carradine a less convincing Egyptian than anyone, which is something.

Blood (1974) - Godawful agitprop Andy Milligan monster rally. Old dark house-ish mystery done on stagey homemade sets.

Brides of Dracula   (1960) - A weak followup. Cushing is great, as is Miles Malleson in his cameo, and there's an interestingly mostly female cast, but David Peel as Dracula surrogate Baron Meinster is a weak nemesis. Even John Forbes-Robertson was better.

Shadow of the Cat (1961  - B/W) - Dire old dark house film that Hammer took their name off.

Been watching a lot of indie horror from the 70s. Attempted The Maltese Bippy, The Boy Who Cried Werewolf, Beyond The Door,  Horror High, Ombre Roventi, Queens of Evil, Savage Weekend, 1973's Hex, Monster from 1979, Witches' Brew with Lana Turner, Haunts, Whiskey Mountain and Return to Boggy Creek, and all of them - nah. Just couldn't maintain me. And tried a few Bollywood horror, Purana Mandir, Junoon and Bandh Darwaza. Bollywood films are so odd, anyway, plus Bollywood music I find samey.

1 comment:

  1. Been watching a lot of indie horror from the 70s. Attempted The Maltese Bippy, The Boy Who Cried Werewolf, Beyond The Door, Horror High, Ombre Roventi, Queens of Evil, Savage Weekend, 1973's Hex, Monster from 1979, Witches' Brew with Lana Turner, Haunts, Whiskey Mountain and Return to Boggy Creek, and all of them - nah. Just couldn't maintain me. And tried a few Bollywood horror, Purana Mandir, Junoon and Bandh Darwaza. Bollywood films are so odd, anyway, plus Bollywood music I find samey.

    The Monster That Challenged the World, Hand of Death, Thing That Couldn't Die, Night the World Exploded, Face Behind the Mask Kronos, Port Sinister, Man Who Turned To Stone, Donovan's Brain, Colossus of New York, Deadly Mantis, Screaming Skull, Blood of Dracula, City of Fear, Face Behind Monk, Stateline Motel, Wonderwall, Enemy Territory,