Classic Film : What classics did you see last week? (10/6-10/12)

What classics did you see last week? (10/6-10/12)

Please tell us what classics you saw last week. Modern films are welcome, as well.

You stole my adding machine, you calculating bitch!

Second week of October

Oct. 6

19. The Beast with a Million Eyes (David Kramarsky, 1955) - A zero budget sci-fi. I've seen worse films with no budget, but this certainly isn't any good. An alien invader lands near a small, desert farm. It can control animals and can see through them (thus the title). It almost has enough power to control the minds of people who get close enough to the spaceship, making it about the weakest alien invader in history. It's ultimately defeated by love, making it even wussier. 3/10.

Oct. 7

20. Vampire's Kiss (Robert Bierman, 1988) - Nicolas Cage plays a publishing exec who picks up Jennifer Beals for a one night stand. She bites his neck during sex, and in the following days he starts to believe she turned him into a vampire. This movie has no reason to exist except to let Cage go absolutely bonkers. I'm not sure whether or not this is supposed to be a comedy, but Cage is hilarious. 7/10.

21. Big Ass Spider! (Mike Mendez, 2013) - Somewhat amusing horror comedy about, well, you know. Greg Grunberg makes an affable hero as an exterminator who comes across a gigantic spider at a hospital. The Army (led by Ray Wise) soon arrives, and Grunberg hopes to kill it and collect a reward before the Army can beat him to it. Meanwhile, the spider continues to feed and grow. This pretty much follows the same template as any giant monster movie. I don't really like CGI effects, and the spider looks pretty awful. What makes this movie almost worth watching is the comedy. It is pretty funny. Grunberg teams up with a Mexican security guard (Lombardo Boyar), and the two have a pretty amusing give and take. Boyar's character might be just a tad too stereotypical, though (an appearance by some black street toughs confirms my suspicion that the director was a little too into racial humor; although, I'd guess by the name that he is Hispanic, so, I don't know, maybe it's okay?). Clare Kramer is pretty good as Grunberg's love interest, an Army lieutenant. Not bad for what it is, and it is very short. 5/10.

Oct. 8

22. Pumpkinhead (Stan Winston, 1988) - A pretty straightforward horror film which benefits from a great atmosphere and a scary monster. Lance Henricksen plays a farmer whose only son is accidentally killed by a group of dirtbiking teens. They run away, hoping to escape punishment, but Henriksen summons the demon Pumpkinhead to get revenge. He soon regrets it, and attempts to stop it before it wastes all the teenagers, but it's very powerful. 7/10.

23. The Man with Nine Lives (Nick Grinde, 1940) - A fairly typical Boris Karloff mad scientist movie. Here he plays an expert in cryogenics. When another doctor (Roger Pryor) who has been experimenting in cryogenics hits a brick wall with his experiments, he goes to seek out a long-missing expert in the field. He finds him frozen and thaws him out without problems. At first, Karloff seems like the perfect gentleman, but as time goes on he reveals himself to be quite maniacal. This isn't particularly memorable, but it's okay and Karloff is, as always, very good. 7/10.

Oct. 9

24. The Strange Door (Joseph Pevney, 1951) (re-watch) - An excellent, undervalued Gothic horror film. Its greatest value is that it is one of only three horror films starring Charles Laughton (the others being The Old Dark House and Island of Lost Souls). Without a doubt one of the best actors in the history of the medium, he could be simultaneously hammy and brilliant. I really wish he had done more in this genre. Here he plays a nobleman trying to exact a convoluted revenge against his brother (Paul Cavanagh), whom he imprisoned. Boris Karloff plays the only servant still faithful to Cavanagh. The hero and heroine of the story (Richard Stapley and Sally Forrest) aren't as interesting as the other performers, but they're not bad, either. Based on a Robert Louis Stevenson story. 8/10.

25. The She Beast (Michael Reeves, 1966) - A British couple vacationing in Transylvania gets in a car accident, driving into a lake. Hundreds of years prior, a witch was executed there, and it possesses the wife (Barbara Steele). It's up to her husband (Ian Ogilvy) and a descendant of Van Helsing (John Karlsen) to exorcize the witch and save Steele. This is pretty corny, but I found it surprisingly good. It's well paced and has a decent sense of humor. It has a lot of fun with Eastern European communism. 7/10.

26. The Black Castle (Nathan Juran, 1952) - Another very good Gothic horror, also co-starring Boris Karloff (in a somewhat smaller role than he had in The Strange Door). Richard Greene plays a man trying to discover what happened to his two friends who were guests of an Austrian Count (Stephen McNally). McNally definitely seems like an evil guy, and Greene finds himself quickly drawn into the Count's evil schemes. Karloff plays a sinister doctor who works for McNally. Lon Chaney Jr. also appears as a dungeon guard. The plot is fairly similar to The Strange Door, and I'd rank it slightly lower simply because it doesn't have Charles Laughton (though McNally is quite a villain), but it stands on its own merits. The Poe-like finale is very entertaining. 8/10.

10/10

27. Father's Day (Astron-6, 2011) - From the creators of the brilliant Manborg, this horror comedy came out the same year (no idea which one they made first). For a while, I was convinced this was a lesser product. The plot's a little convoluted and, up front, the jokes weren't quite landing. But then it started to click, and, holy crap, this is absolutely fantastic! I was laughing so hard I was crying at some points. It's imaginative as Hell and actually really well made. These guys know what they're doing. The plot revolves around three men, an eyepatched vigilante (Adam Brooks), a priest who's lost his faith (Matthew Kennedy) and a manwhore (Conor Sweeney), who join up to put a stop to a notorious father raper and murderer known as Fuchman (Mackenzie Murdock). Troma produced this (it's alternate title is Troma's Father's Day), and Troma founder Lloyd Kaufman appears as God. Troma's made some fun stuff before, but this is probably the best thing they've ever put their name on. I can't wait for the next Astron-6 film, the giallo spoof The Editor. 8/10.

28. Manborg (Steven Kostanski, 2011) (re-watch) - I had to re-watch this after falling in love with Father's Day. It's great. I do think Father's Day is a bit better - it's funnier. But, then, it's far jokier. I love the handmade feel of this thing. It just isn't like anything else ever made. 8/10.

10/11

29. Before I Hang (Nicke Grinde, 1940) - Pretty generic thriller starring Boris Karloff. He plays a scientist working on a youth serum. He uses murderer's blood to create it, and after he gives it to himself, he becomes a Jekyll & Hyde-style murderer. 5/10.

30. The Boogie Man Will Get You (Lew Landers, 1942) - Weird and somewhat annoying horror comedy starring Boris Karloff and Peter Lorre. Karloff plays a kindly mad scientist who has a lab in the basement of a colonial tavern/inn. He has been killing traveling salesmen in an attempt to create supermen to fight in the American Army. This stagey movie, I assume, was written in the wake of Arsenic and Old Lace (which was popular on Broadway but not yet released as a film). Lorre in particular is quite amusing, but the film's not very funny. 5/10.

31. The Uninvited (Lewis Allen, 1944) - I expected a lot from this one, saving it for special #31, but I was disappointed. Oh, it's okay. It's certainly gorgeous looking and there are a handful of memorable scenes, but the story is convoluted (and the solutions to its mysteries are often delivered in clunky chunks of expositional speech) and it undercuts the horror with a misplaced jocularity. Between Ray Milland's sardonicism and the jaunty musical score, suspense is never allowed to build up. Few on screen seem particularly scared of the film's ghosts. The story follows Milland and his sister (Ruth Hussey), who buy a supposedly haunted house in Scotland. The apparent ghost was a woman who threw herself off the cliff outside of the house. The dead woman's daughter (Gail Russell) has never been allowed in the house by her grandfather (Donald Crisp), but she starts to fall for Milland, who invites her in. The ghost's presence becomes more pronounced, and it seems to be attracted to Russell. A thought that often occurs to me with any older horror film that doesn't work for me: what would this have been like in the hands of Val Lewton? He never did a ghost story, and this one might have been perfect for him. 7/10.

32. The Host (Bong Joon-ho, 2006) (re-watch) - Liked this a lot when I first saw it in theaters. I bought it years ago, but haven't ever gotten around to rewatching it until now. The second time through, I absolutely loved it. It has a couple of weak scenes and a couple of scenes that could have been cut, but it's a pretty astounding film. First, that first monster rampage has got to be one of my favorite sequences of all time. It's just so different from anything else I've ever seen: it happens right off the bat, pretty much as soon as we're introduced to the main characters, eschewing all common sense when it comes to monster movies. Just the shock of that is enough to throw your expectations out the window. Second, I love the monster. Sure, the special effects weren't even state of the art at the time (I was surprised they were actually done in the US), but they're good enough. The design of the monster is quite different from anything else I've ever seen. I love that, at least when the movie opens, the monster's quite small, like probably no longer than ten feet long and no taller than a person. It does grow (perhaps too much), but it retains a personal touch which a behemoth like Godzilla never could have. Third, and most important in making the film so memorable, the characters are very well developed and the familial relationships are quite moving. This might be the only monster movie that makes me cry. It's a near masterpiece. 9/10.

33. The Devil Commands (Edward Dmytryk, 1941) - Another Boris Karloff mad scientist movie. I'm getting a tad bored of these films, but this one was quite a bit better than the ones I watched this morning. Karloff plays a scientist who loses his wife in an accident. He believes his experiments might lead to being able to talk to his wife from the great beyond, and he enlists fake psychic Anne Revere to aid him. The first third or so is a little boring, but it gets really good when Karloff, Revere and their retarded manservant (Cy Schindell) move to an isolated mansion to perform their experiments (shades of Lovecraft here maybe). 7/10.

Oct. 12

34. Pumpkinhead II: Blood Wings (Jeff Burr, 1993) - Unlike many horror fans, I'm not a huge fan of sequels. To me, they're almost always worthless. Pumpkinhead II is pretty lousy. Same set up as the first one but it lacks the artistry of the first and is mostly just boring. Among the victims this time are Micky Dolenz's daughter Ami and Punky Brewster. 4/10.

35. Even Dwarfs Started Small (Werner Herzog, 1970) (re-watch) - I liked this film okay when I first saw it many years ago. Upon revisit, though, I didn't like it much at all. It has some great imagery, to be sure, but it's dull, repetitive and annoying. It's also pretty offensive, both with its real animal killings and its treatment of little people as if they had the intelligence of small children. 5/10.

36. All Cheerleaders Die (Lucky McKee & Chris Sivertson, 2013) - Better than I'd heard. It has some major flaws. My guess is that there was some producer interference, because the set-up could have been better developed. It feels a tad chopped up. The whole horror premise is caused by vague, supernatural bullcrap that really could have used some better defining. Once it all gets going, though, the film is kind of fun. Four cheerleaders die in a car accident that's caused by the football stars. A goth teen (Sianoa Smit-McPhee) who once dated one of the cheerleaders (Caitlin Stasey) finds their bodies and brings them back to life through witchcraft. As with anything brought back from the dead, the cheerleaders become bloodthirsty monsters who want revenge. It's a pretty basic horror premise, but it works largely because of the very good cast. The other three cheerleaders are played by Brooke Butler, Amanda Grace Cooper and Reanin Johannik. The villain (the captain of the football team) is well played by Tom Williamson. Certainly not one of McKee's best works, but it's better than a majority of the horror films that are being released nowadays. 7/10.

37. Misery (Rob Reiner, 1990) - A fun Stephen King adaptation. James Caan plays a famous author who gets in a car accident. Kathy Bates plays the woman who drags him to safety, only to hold him prisoner over the next month. She's his number one fan, and she has no intention of ever letting him escape. Grievously injured, Caan spends his alone time trying to find a way out of it all. Meanwhile, folksy cop Richard Farnsworth is on the case (his fate is so sealed he might as well have posters of be-afroed women hanging above his bed). Bates received the lion's share of the praise for this film, and she very much deserved it. Annie Wilkes is a great character. You couldn't quite call Bates' performance subtle, but it's a lot of fun. Caan is quite good, too. 8/10.


You stole my adding machine, you calculating bitch!

The Uninvited's reputation doesn't do it any favors

The Uninvited is one of those films that probably owes much of its classic status to how little it has been seen over the years since its release: never available on a legitimate DVD release until a year or two ago and rarely seen on TV in most countries, it's developed a formidable reputation as one of the great screen ghost stories that it can't really live up to. Not that it's a bad film by any means, but a few frissons apart it's not a particularly chilling one. Given a bigger budget than usual for the genre in the 40s and a then A-list leading man in Ray Milland, the emphasis seems to be on turning it into a romantic melodrama that's a kind of friendlier, cosier variation on Rebecca even if the plot is quite different. Accidentally stumbling across a large old house in Cornwall, Milland and his sister Ruth Hussey find it's on the market at a suspiciously low price because of its reputation for `disturbances,' but buy it anyway. The former owner, gruff Donald Crisp, wants it off his hands to keep his granddaughter Gail Russell away, and as pets refuse to go upstairs and unexpected chills and scents give way to sobbing in the night, it becomes clear that her long-dead mother hasn't vacated the premises - and that she's not the only ghost in the house either...

It's a well enough developed mystery even if you can see the resolution coming as soon as one character lets slip one vital bit of back story, but it doesn't seem to want to frighten its audience much, which was probably a sound commercial decision in 1944 but today leaves it in the shadow of more genuinely unsettling ghost stories like The Haunting. Seen with lowered expectations, it's a nice, cosy picture (well, the screenplay was co-written by 101 Dalmatians' Dodie Smith) with some good moments - a faked séance that turns real, some effective apparitions and a satisfying way of finally laying the malignant spirit - rather than a great one.


"Security - release the badgers."

Re: The Uninvited's reputation doesn't do it any favors

Ever see this one: A Place of One's Own (1945)?

Made by Gainsborough in the year after The Uninvited, it starts off similarly, albeit with an older couple (man and wife, played by the much younger James Mason and Barbara Mullen) who get a house cheap because they didn't bother to ask if it was haunted.

As with the Paramount film, it goes through more reels than necessary since we can guess the direction, and it's more romance than mayhem just like the U.S. counterpart. The real mystery is why they hired Ernest Thesiger for a small but pivotal role, then shot him mostly from behind and had him dubbed by another actor.

It showed up on late night TCM 10-11 nights ago and insomnia was what really kept me to it. A week later, I watched James Mason in Murder By Decree where he was actually the age he was playing in the earlier film. He wasn't as stiff as he anticipated he would be but the make-up person sure goofed on the hairline - it did recede as compared to what was predicted in 1945.

It is not easy being an IMDb sig, maybe some day they will fix the apostrophe problem.

A Place of One's Own

Though I wouldn't call it a must see movie, it's great to see it pop up for discussion from one of my overseas brudders. Mason fans don't get value for money, the great man himself was very disappointed with how it turned out.


It is unhealthy to take seriously what is morbid superstition.

A gentle Edwardian ghost story that's full of charm and whimsical romance, it's clearly not a film for horror fans looking for a fright night in by candle light. There are a few nice supernatural touches such as hushed voices, the tinkling of the ivories, interior gust of wind, that sort of thing, while the possession angle is nicely handled by Knowles in what was his first major directing assignment.

Gainsborough were hoping to replicate the success of the Man in Grey from two years earlier, which had starred Mason and Lockwood, but A Place of One's Own was a flop, with Mason himself later saying that he dropped the ball with this one. The problem is that the film is often too off-beat, with Mason cast as an elderly man and pretty much hamming it up to the point of detracting from Lockwood's fine work.

Still, it's a very pleasing and harmless picture in spite of the mixed tonality, while having a Ernest Thesiger cameo is always a good thing. 6/10


The Spike

Re: The Uninvited's reputation doesn't do it any favors

I have, and I rather like it, but it would have been better suited to one of those portmanteau films like Three Cases of Murder, Flesh and fantasy or Dead of Night where it wouldn't feel so padded at a leaner 30-40 minutes. Mason does make a bit of a meal of it, it's true: it's one of those odd cases of simultaneously hamming it up and underplaying - and the biggest mystery is indeed Thesiger's brief appearance.


"Security - release the badgers."

I see we three agree....

We're pretty much on the same note on this one. Still, this ghost story moves Mason up the ladder a bit from his earlier Thunder Rock, another one that I caught in the wee hours on TCM, although it was a few years ago.

That one had Michael Redgrave stationed at a light house and being visited by the ghosts of those who had equal misgivings of the world they lived in earlier - all for the sake of a wartime propaganda piece that really seemed too depressing to be very stirring. Again, perhaps worthy as inclusion within a portmanteau, but at nearly two hours, it was a bit draggy.



It is not easy being an IMDb sig, maybe some day they will fix the apostrophe problem.

Oh I have to see Thunder Rock now!

In spite of your negatives, all things Boulting interests me.

Great sig BTW LMAO! :-)

The Spike

Re: Oh I have to see Thunder Rock now!

It's certainly worth a watch - I rarely attempt to steer anyone away from a film. Just a bit ponderous since it's the kind of thing where you're one step ahead of the character.

Thanks for the comment on the sig - I wanted to keep some vestige of what used to be, but got tired of manually fixing the old one.

It is not easy being an IMDb sig, maybe some day they will fix the apostrophe problem.

Re: Oh I have to see Thunder Rock now!

It's one I keep on meaning to watch when it occasionally turns up on TV but for some reason always forget to set the recorder for. It's one of those films that tends to vanish for a few years and then briefly go back into circulation.


"Security - release the badgers."

Re: Oh I have to see Thunder Rock now!

That's the way it was with The Uninvited here. When I was an adolescent, it was on TV constantly as well as being one of those recurring titles in the revival houses. It would disappear for a few years, show up on TV again for a few years and then recycle the pattern.

But after that one spin in the early 80s, it was as if it didn't exist. The title would be mentioned as one of the few genuine ghost stories, unlike those old dark house thrillers where it was just some plot to scare somebody out of an inheritance.

It is not easy being an IMDb sig, maybe some day they will fix the apostrophe problem.

Re: Oh I have to see Thunder Rock now!


When I was an adolescent, it was on TV constantly as well as being one of those recurring titles in the revival houses. It would disappear for a few years, show up on TV again for a few years and then recycle the pattern.


Another one that has vanished almost without trace for decades that is overdue for a revival is Alias Nick Beal. Eddie Mueller got Universal to strike a print for one-off screenings, but unless you're in San Francisco you've got no chance of seeing it these days. I remember being impressed by the way you never saw 'Nick' enter a room or location, the camera would just discover him there as it moved.


"Security - release the badgers."

Re: Oh I have to see Thunder Rock now!

I found a copy of that on YouTube about a year ago. Not the best quality, but it was the first time I've had to see it in over 30 years. I also found The Night Has a Thousand Eyes so I had a John Farrow double bill. That one I hadn't seen since the 60s.

It is not easy being an IMDb sig, maybe some day they will fix the apostrophe problem.

It's a measure of Mason the man

That he would always come out and express disgust if he felt the public wasn't getting what they paid for. Mills was another honest Brit in that respect, Caine cut from the same cloth me thinks, though with Maurice it's more a case of earning a living than anything else!

LOL



The Spike

Re: It's a measure of Mason the man

I always loved his comments on his movies in the book The films of James Mason (http://www.amazon.co.uk/films-James-Mason-Clive-Hirschhorn/dp/08532106 32/ref=sr_1_sc_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1413222202&sr=1-1-spe ll&keywords=the+fims+of+james+mason) - he was particularly and justifiably scathing of Forever Darling and apologetic for Genghis Khan, while he noted of Lord Jim that while he thought he was rather good in it nobody noticed because everyone left in the intermission and didn't come back.


"Security - release the badgers."

Re: It's a measure of Mason the man

LOL

That looks a steal at that price as well, so thanks for that. My pops will enjoy that as well, he loves JM.

[CHEERS]

The Spike

Re: It's a measure of Mason the man

You are, of course, buying him that new copy at £142.84...


"Security - release the badgers."

Re: It's a measure of Mason the man

Take a wild guess :-0

The Spike

Re: The Uninvited's reputation doesn't do it any favors

Great write-up.

You stole my adding machine, you calculating bitch!

Cheers! - nm

"Security - release the badgers."

Re: The Uninvited's reputation doesn't do it any favors

Agree the elusiveness quality probably added to its reputation - but you don't mention the theme STELLA BY STARLIGHT, which surely adds much to the film's overall lustre

Tell mama, Tell mama all....

There's certainly that

- but it's one of those songs that has taken on a life of its own. Like Unchained Melody, Thanks for the Memory, Que Sera Sera or All the way I don't think many people remember what film it was written for, or even that it was written for a film.


"Security - release the badgers."

Re: There's certainly that

sure - I was lucky enough to see THE UNINVITED on TV in the 70s so it wasn't one that acquired a rarity glow it couldn't live up to (cf CONSTANT NYMPH say) ... but the lack of actual scares didn't bother me - I rather bracket it with the likes of THE ENCHANTED COTTAGE (with which it would make a good double bill) ... a lush full blooded romantic fantasy from the golden age, rather than a horror film

Tell mama, Tell mama all....

Pumpkinhead

What format did you see Pumpkinhead on? I saw it a couple of years ago on an Upscaled DVD and I was impressed by the art design and colour photography, very much overcoming the low budget. I would like to have this on Blu-ray at some point if the transfer sparkles.

Agree about the formula, it's a safe choice for Winston, still great fun and Henriksen once again delivers a good 'un.

The Spike

Re: Pumpkinhead

Well, one of the reason I watched the first two Pumpkinhead movies is because Scream Factory released them both (or they're coming soon) on Blu Ray. But I saw them both on cropped DVDs "fitted for your TV." I think I've had a widescreen TV for like 8 years now.

You stole my adding machine, you calculating bitch!

Re: Second week of October

Wather happy to wead of your admiration for The Strange Door, shipmate. I knew Morgan Farley a wee bit and he were a dashing, well-defined bloke and a chap I fair dinkum admired.

God Save the King

Singin' and Loving It in Lisbon +more

My 5000th First Time Viewing

Singin' in the Rain (1952). Transitioning to sound proves difficult for the cast and crew of a '20s swashbuckler in this iconic musical with a detailed insight into the movie industry. Impressive though the spirited choreography is, the film's best moments are the behind-the-scenes ones; from various crewmembers commenting in disbelief at a projected "talking picture" (someone must be behind it!) to the difficulties of recording sound with hidden microphones, few movies can rival the insight that Singin' in the Rain provides. More surprising than this though is just how laugh-out-loud funny the film is. The dialogue is sparkling with wit ("bring me a tarantula!"), and a delusional Jean Hagen with her shrill Melanie Griffith style voice is very, very funny - fully deserving of all the plaudits that she has received - though the film's best performance lies with a charming Donald O'Connor as the protagonist's 'make em' laugh' best friend. Gene Kelly is, however, a less than totally likeable lead. He seems so smug and arrogant most of the time that they only reason why he is sympathetic at all is because Hagen is more irritating by contrast. Debbie Reynolds is also a little bland as his love interest. Two flawed lead performances aside though, there is little to hold against the film. Some of the scenes stretch out for too long -- notably, the dance number with Cyd Charisse -- but myriad of jokes and gags at hand offer ample compensation. The dance moves also do need to be seen to be believed; this may be the only musical in which the choreography is actually more memorable than the songs. -- #4 (of 40) for 1952, between Forbidden Games and White Sheik. (first viewing, Blu-ray Disc)

In summary, not nearly one of the top 20 films ever made, and not even one of the 20 best musicals ever made, but a superb film and a worthy selection for a milestone movie viewing.

Vincent Price Triple

The Oblong Box (1969). Only ever loosely based on the writings of Edgar Allan Poe, despite parading his name, The Oblong Box bears an excessively convoluted plot involving voodoo, faked deaths and stolen corpses - and yet, it is oddly enticing. Donning a bright red mask to hide his mangled face, Alister Williamson is superb as a mentally unstable man who fakes his death using voodoo techniques a la The Serpent and the Rainbow as a means by which to escape his room. What he did not bank on was being buried so quickly, and with those who conspired in his fake death content to have him buried alive, Williamson spends most of the film taking revenge after he is unwittingly exhumed by grave robbers. As alluded to, the plot is hard to swallow, but Williamson does so well invoking both our sympathy and disgust without ever using his face that the illogical plot is forgivable. The film drums up some good thrills from positioning one to think that his face will finally be revealed; Christopher Lee very visibly braces himself at one point, expecting Williamson's mask to come off before he takes a drink. The actual revelation of his face is a disappointment given how much it is built up, but his non-horrific appearance renders the film a satire on vanity. Add in the notion that his face was scarred as retribution by marginalised natives, and there is quite a bit to The Oblong Box, even if it is barely Poe at all. -- #49 (of 84) for 1969, between I Start Counting and The Illustrated Man. (first viewing, DVD)

The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971). With no dialogue in its opening ten minutes as a masked figure dances with various automatons while committing grisly murders, The Abominable Dr. Phibes is deliciously off-beat right from the get-go. The title character's lair is a magnificent feat of art direction, the costumes donned by his mute assistant are highly imaginative, and all of the slayings are utterly creative. The lack of exposition really works in the film's favour as we are just as clueless as the investigating policemen up until a point; an amusing line is worth mentioning though once all clues point towards Phibes, as one character casually shrugs at the idea, stating that there are simply some "very strange people practising medicine these days". This is also just about as close as the film comes to offering depth though; exquisite costumes and sets aside, the film just follows the same formula of the Friday the 13TH sequels with thinly drawn characters introduced only so we can watch die, and inventive as the murders are, the plot soon turns repetitive. That said, the final set-up is fascinatingly prescient of the Saw movies as Joseph Cotten has to spoilers operate on his son to retrieve a key avoid acid being poured on them. The film is also lusciously photographed with at least one very striking composition in which a reflection in a glass window appears superimposed on Cotten's body. -- #23 (of 108) for 1971, between Lets Scare Jessica to Death and Dr Jekyll & Sister Hyde. (first viewing, DVD)

Theatre of Blood (1973). Basically the same plot as The Abominable of Dr. Phibes, only ever-so-slightly reworked here with more emphasis on comedy, Price plays yet another assumed-dead man out to exact revenge on those who he begrudges. The only significant difference, in fact, is that Price is a hammy Shakeapearean actor this time round, out to take down all the critics who have given him (justly) poor reviews - a plot change that comes across as a mixed blessing. On the plus side, the filmmakers derive much giddy glee from having Price rewrite Shakespeare with his various slayings; the duel scene from Romeo and Juliet takes place on gymnasium trampolines (!) and Desdemona is a bedridden Diana Dors, while various beggars are driven towards killing another critic on the Ides of Match. On the downside, Price's motives are less easy to emphasise with this time round as he really is a terrible stage actor, and a number of the deaths come off as a little too sadistic to be funny. Still, it is hard not to find amusement in the notion of offing one's critics, and Price's recital of Hamlet's 'to be or not to be' speech before attempting suicide is certainly one of the most potent renditions ever committed to screen. Diana Rigg also looks simply stunning as Price's daughter, but it is not a particularly meaty role and it makes a curious choice for the film that Rigg regards as her very best. -- #48 (of 95) for 1973, between Cops & Robbers and Lemora. (first viewing, DVD)

Other First Time Viewings

Up the Academy (1980). Sent to military school for a diverse range of reasons, four teenage boys from different ethnic backgrounds form an uneasy alliance as they attempt to a have sadistic teacher thrown out in this enjoyable if rather lightweight comedy. The film was a commercial failure at the time on account of the humour coming across as in bad taste, and yet groan-inducing though some of ethnic slurs and homosexual stereotypes are, the raunchier gags are still quite daring by standards today (several boys touching themselves during class; the sadistic teacher giving a condom to his dog). There are also many genuinely funny moments to atone for all the stereotyping and the lameness of an incompetent singing trio etc, thanks largely to both a deliciously evil Ron Liebman and Ian Wolfe giving it their all. The film actually offers Wolfe what is quite possibly the largest movie role of his career and he plays it with gusto as the ageing, senile commandant of the military school. His very first scene is a hilarious send-up of Patton, and at all a ball near the end he almost shoots one of his cadets, mistaking him for an army deserter! The end credits are effective too as they scroll backwards while the action of the opening credits are played backwards. If not quite a runaway success, the film is arguably better than Police Academy, Moving Violations other similar efforts that have followed it. -- #52 (of 97) for 1980, between Hopscotch and Die Laughing. (first viewing, DVD)

Gremlins (1984). Very energetic with nary a dull moment to be had, zaniness is always at the forefront of this popular horror-comedy about a teenager whose exotic new pet reproduces mischievous offspring which ravish his hometown. There is barely any plot to speak of -- especially in the second half of the movie, which quickly becomes a series of jokes and skits built around the title creatures imitating human behaviour -- but the comedy generally works. The humour is surprisingly dark too considering the film's marketing as family entertainment; one of the biggest jokes comes from an elderly couple being mowed down by gremlins in their living room, while the funniest scene involves the protagonist's mother finding 101 different ways to a kill a gremlin using kitchen appliances and utensils (!). The special effects (not only how the gremlins move, but their cocoons too) and Hoyt Axton's performance as an amateur inventor are the film's best assets. There is, in fact, just as much humour to Axton's zany inventions as there is to the gremlins causing chaos. The film has its fair share of plot holes and inconsistencies, mostly notably the question of when "after midnight" ends, and the intriguing biology of the gremlins is never really tapped into, but then again, the film is always first and foremost a comedy rather than a sci-fi or horror flick. As such, it get the job done with enough imagination to last the entire duration. -- #35 (of 96) for 1984, between Firestarter and Ghost Busters. (first viewing, Blu-ray Disc)

Gremlins 2: The New Batch (1990). More family oriented than its predecessor, Gremlins 2 plays down the dark, morbid humour of Part 1 and plays up the goofiness of gremlins acting like assorted human beings. At its silliest, a gremlin becomes a Liza Minnelli musical star after drinking female hormones, and then there is the wackiness of the gremlins finding perfectly sized clothes and eye glasses (!) when adopting personae. While this change in humour renders the film less laugh-out-loud funny, the screenplay is cleverer this time with several self-reflexive, fourth wall shattering elements throughout. Most wittingly, some technicians mock the rather shaky rules for how to care for a gremlin. Then there is a scene in which Leonard Maltin comments on how horrible the original Gremlins is before a bunch of the critters attack him with a VHS copy of the film. Also, while it loses its effect on DVD, there is an imaginative bit in which the gremlins turn off the projection of the film that they are in (for video, this was changed to a channel surfing, and can be found as an extra on the disc). Add in scattered spoofs of movies such as Marathon Man, and Gremlins 2 is a hard film not to embrace, incredibly childish though much of the humour may be. There is also a slight satire on high-rise, technology-reliant living, but Poltergeist III is recommended instead as a horror film that properly explores this dynamic. -- #30 (of 86) for 1990, between Crazy People and Love at Large. (first viewing, DVD)

Flashback (1990). Assigned the task of transporting a hippie subversive to prison, a young by-the-books FBI agent gets more than he bargained for in this bubbly comedy that has Dennis Hopper and Kiefer Sutherland matching wits. The film has only the most predictable messages to offer as Sutherland becomes less uptight during their experiences together, however, the ever-evolving chemistry between the pair is very real. Hopper gets the film's brightest moments, even amusingly citing his own Easy Rider as an iconic '60s film, but Sutherland keeps pace and actually outwits him at times. The events that unfold are less than totally obvious too, with a hilarious subplot in which Hopper pretends to be a hippie hater to trick two drunks, only to be ineptly kidnapped by them after reigniting a latent passion for '60s! This in turn is one of the film's most interesting elements: its blatant nostalgia for a period of hope and political activism long gone. That said, a twst with Sutherland's character turns this affection into maudlin disarray; the film also never reaches a solid stance in terms of whether the hippie movement was great or simply whimsical. A touching scene has commuters listening in reverence to a speech by Hopper, yet the film also applauds his desire to sell out. If one does not dissect the film too much though, it is engaging stuff. The performances are great and the music choices are perfectly on the mark. -- #32 (of 86) for 1990, between Love at Large and The Incident. (first viewing, DVD)

Guarding Tess (1994). With Shirley MacLaine headlining the cast as a cantankerous former First Lady who likes manipulating the Secret Service staff employed to protect her, Guarding Tess had all the potential for a laugh-out-loud comedy, which sadly it is not. The fault though lies with the script more so than MacLaine or co-star Nicolas Cage (uncharacteristically restrained for a change) as the film repetitively pitches the pair in mean-spirited humorous situations wherein Cage gets humiliated in various ways but cannot talk back, lest he lose his job. The repetition does eventually cease, however, the deathly serious mood that the film all of a sudden adopts never quite gels, and the grim plot turn never feels like anything other than a plot device for the pair to finally learn to appreciate one another. It is a shame, because there are some touching moments of subtlety, such as how MacLaine refuses to sign a bad deal that her estranged son proposes - a scene that hints towards the fact that she sees more of a son in Cage - however, the film ultimately chooses the most heavy-handed way possible to confirm the pair's very real bond, all resentment aside. It does not help at all that the film bears a strong resemblance to the similarly themed but superior Driving Miss Daisy, though it does at least conclude on a solid note, avoiding the sort of sentimentality that one expects from a bonding movie. -- #51 (of 55) for 1994, between Naked Gun 3 and Pret-a-Porter. (first viewing, DVD)

Dracula: Dead and Loving It (1995). Heavily criticised upon initial release for not living up to Young Frankenstein, this giddy Bram Stoker spoof became the last feature film that Mel Brooks would ever elect to direct. It is a shame, because while not as technically accomplished as Young Frankenstein, nor as well acted, Dead and Loving It is up to Brooks par and not nearly his worst film. The gags are admittedly hit and miss, with various villagers manipulating their voices as they warn Renfield away, plus an overdone part with blood splatter everywhere as a stake is driven through a heart. Some of the jokes are also foreshadowed too far in advance, like a woman forgetting a message from the Count. The vast majority of the puns succeed though, and every scene involving Renfield under Dracula's spell clicks. Peter MacNicol is superb in the role, even outshining Dwight Frye with his weirdness as he scurries about like a wild animal yet talks with eloquence. There is an especially good bit in which he repeatedly eats various insects at breakfast while pretending that it is not happening. Harvey Korman deserves some credit too for his straight man reactions in the scene - which is one of the funniest in any Brooks movie. On the downside, the film does not play around with form as well as prior Brooks efforts with no attempts to break the fourth wall, but for what it sets out to do, the film is overall a success. -- #22 (of 51) for 1995, between The Last Supper and Copycat. (first viewing, online)

Transsiberian (2008). Plot twists and turns abound when two Christian missionaries encounter a mysterious couple on a train from China to Russia in this terse thriller starring Emily Mortimer and Woody Harrelson. As sundry passengers foreworn the missionaries about the dangers of travel in Russia with corrupt officials, soaring crime and dangerous wild beasts, the film acutely renders the Siberian landscape dark and mysterious; the film even rivals Don't Look Now at times with its foreboding portrait of a foreign land... then Harrelson mysteriously disappears. To write much more might spoil the film, but suffice it to say that the narrative takes many unexpected turns. Not all of the twists are credible and the film certainly loses its edge towards the end, but Mortimer delivers a sterling performance that keeps the film solidly chugging along (no pun intended). Mortimer's background is a little clumsily handled as it turns out that she is a born-again Christian with a checkered past, yet this barely factors into her current actions. Never to mind, it is a compelling performance to follow as Mortimer has several uneasy decisions to make, especially in terms of who to trust with what she knows. Indeed, while the penultimate scene of the film barks down 'stranger danger' territory, we can tell from Mortimer's expressions that trusting another human is something that she might never be able to do again. Interesting stuff. -- #20 (of 43) for 2008, between Revolutionary Road and Untraceable. (first viewing, televison broadcast)

Mistérios de Lisboa (2010). Or Mysteries of Lisbon, the titular mysteries refer to the background of a Portuguese orphan with an untold checkered history. The film begins decently enough with João Arrais affecting as the orphan in question who claims to only be called João (no surname). Things soon take a turn for the worse though with the story morphing into a series of flashbacks within flashbacks as a priest recounts João's parents' backgrounds to him; meanwhile the whole movie remains narrated by João as an adult. If this were not convoluted enough, João inexplicably renames himself Pedro, and when the film jarringly changes from the priest's ramblings to João as a teen (without any middle ground) it takes a long time to work out which actor is meant to represent João/Pedro. The whole mess would be tolerable if the characters were at least engaging, but everyone other than Arrais sleepwalks through their part, and with characters talking every minute, the excessive dialogue renders it hard to concentrate on the characters. The one thing that the film has going in its favour is exquisite camerawork. The film is very lusciously shot as per Raoul Ruiz par. From 360 degree spinning shots that travel all around characters, to an extreme low angle as a torn up paper is dropped on the camera, the film is imaginatively photographed. The camera rarely sits still, often following the characters around and gliding between rooms. Coupled with period sets and costumes, Mysteries of Libson is a good-looking film. Without solid characters and plot turns though, the whole thing adds up to little at all. -- #38 (of 44) for 2010, between Fair Game and Beginners. (first viewing, televison broadcast)

Re: Singin' and Loving It in Lisbon +more

God, with as many films as you watch a week, I'm surprised you're only at 5000. I would have guessed you surpassed me a long time ago (I'd guess it wouldn't be too long. I don't think I'm at 6000 yet myself).

You stole my adding machine, you calculating bitch!

Re: Singin' and Loving It in Lisbon +more

Heh. Well, it has been school holidays for the last two weeks... so a good chance to catch up on movie viewings. During the school term, I'm lucky to crack more than 10 viewings a week. I'm not sure if I'll ever surpass you... you have been watching and ratings movies for longer than I have and you a few years on me age-wise too if memory serves correct. [wink]

(where are the emoticons when you need them?)

Most people think I'm mad. At least I know I'm mad.

Re: Singin' and Loving It in Lisbon +more

What, you don't like the blobs? 😅

How old are you? I didn't think we were that far apart.

I have surpassed 6k, though. I looked it up. Just a little past that, with a good 900+ shorts rated, too.

You stole my adding machine, you calculating bitch!

Re: Singin' and Loving It in Lisbon +more

I suppose I'll eventually cave in and use a blob when I am desperate for an emoticon, but since we already know what [sigh] etc means, it seems a bit more practical to just going on using the defunct code for now. [gonemad]

I'll be 28 at the end of the year; from memory, you're already in your early 30s.

Just a little past that, with a good 900+ shorts rated, too.
Right. That's the tricky thing. According to my profile, I have submitted ratings for 19 shorts since my registration on IMDb, however, I have seen a lot more shorts than just that. I find it hard to rate shorts along side feature length films, so I have seldom submitted a rating for the myriad of shorts that I have specifically watched for the Fixing, the Doubling or one of Ale's polls. Anyway, I like the fact that my public ratings reflect 99.9% of what I have seen from feature films alone. I also haven't rated any television shows or TV episodes. Not sure whether you rate episodes yourself, but I know that robicheux does, which is part of the reason why I'll never catch up to him. You could though if you watch a few more shorts! Not that it's a competition, of course. [tongue]

By the way, I'm already thinking about what film to make my #6000 in two or three years time. Not that it's necessarily healthy to procrastinate watching acclaimed classics, but it was a delightful surprise watching Singin' in the Rain for the first time. It was like discovering a new ice cream flavour that I never knew existed.

Most people think I'm mad. At least I know I'm mad.

Re: Singin' and Loving It in Lisbon +more

I have my ratings split up into lists, and I keep the shorts one separate. I haven't rated TV episodes because that ability was added relatively recently. If I ever did do it, I would separate them into different lists, but I doubt I'll ever get around to it.

Yeah, I am a few years older than you. I thought you were more like three or four years younger than myself, but you're seven.

You stole my adding machine, you calculating bitch!

Flashback

I'd never heard of this one till I met my wife - It's in her top 5 movies!!! [Along with some of the usual suspects, To Kill A Mockingbird, It's A Wonderful Life etc]. I really enjoyed it too.

"He was a poet, a scholar, and a mighty warrior."

Flashback was a bit odd to watch...

...as a twenty-first century viewer who has never lived through the 1960s and who has only ever seen it depicted on film. Not sure if that is the case too for yourself and your wife, but Flashback seems blatantly written to provoke nostalgia in those who remember how promising a time the late 1960s must have seemed with so many folks prepared to stick it to the government and fight for peace and harmony no matter what.

With Sutherland and Hopper heading the cast, it does, however, seem odd that the film is not better known (I have seldom heard others mention it) but I'd say that that it has something to do with the appeal factor of a hippie movie to contemporary audiences. I honestly don't know if I would have bothered to check it out myself were two different actors cast in the main roles; as it is, it took OldAle announced a 1990 poll for me to finally pop in the DVD, which I have had for ages. Anyway, a very fortunate decision; I'll be more than happy to support it in Ale's poll (then again, I can say the same for over fifty films!).

Most people think I'm mad. At least I know I'm mad.

Re: Flashback was a bit odd to watch...

I seem to remember that when I saw it, some time in the late 90s when it popped up on TV, IMDb as it then was didn't even have a record of it. I liked it, but haven't seen it since.

And here we sit like birds in the wilderness

The Horror!

Hiya Cobber

I meant to get in touch last week, really enjoyed your Scream Franchise reviews. I do disagree about part 4, I hate it with a passion, to me it's the worst kind of cash cow.

Sadly The Oblong Box is missing from my Vinnie Price intake, but I'm working on it. Interesting to read your thoughts on Phibes and Blood, I am very much a devout fan of TOB (the poodle scene has haunted me since childhood) but have always felt both Phibes movies over praised; though still high in quality.

Gremlins 2, to me it's a biting piece of satire and it gets better each time I watch it. (both great fun and your reviews are on the money for both).


Dante does satire and nobody noticed?

I rate both films exactly the same but for very different reasons, the first film was an enjoyable romp fusing horror and comedy to great effect. When I saw that there was to be this sequel 6 years later I was very pleased indeed. What I hadn't bargained for was the sharpness of the writing and the satirical structure that director Dante laid out for audiences to watch.

Focusing very much on the then modern obsessions like tearing things down to build state of the art monstrous complexes, or the need for a better world; be it the laboratory testings for better life forms, or machines to run our lives; Gremlins 2 plays out as a sort of morality tale that sees the creatures themselves as byproducts of the human condition. In true classic creature feature fashion, Dante manages to garner a level of sympathy for the Gremlins. These vile offspring of the offspring are party animals, they have fun, they like to sing and go nuts, they are in short, quite like a stag party on the Costa Del Sol! Throwing in as many film references as it can, Gremlins 2 may have a satirical slant at it's heart, but sure enough the fun from the first film segues nicely into this picture to make this one of the better, and more smarter sequels on the market. And those darn Gremlins are nastier and uglier than ever as well! 8/10


Transsiberian

Yep, we have an accord >



At its core it's a mystery thriller, with questions deliberately left hanging in the air until the film nearly runs out of steam in the final quarter. It's only there where the film lets itself down, mainly because answers are given and hope springs eternal. You sense it would have benefited the film greatly to have gone out on an ambiguous note, or better still, to have taken a trip down even darker roads than the ones that had just preceded it.


Good film though, time well spent I felt.

PS: Singin' in the Rain is not just one of the greatest musicals ever, it's one of the greatest movies ever, period! :-)

The Spike

Re: The Horror!... and Transsiberian

No worries about the delay in getting in touch. I actually intended to send you a private message last week to say how nice it was to see you still around after your altercation with Jeff Cody (I thought you had vanished forever), but I somehow didn't get round to it. I hope you guys work it out, but I digress...

Interesting to hear you refer to Scream 4 as a 'cash cow', because that is a term that more often gets thrown around in regards to the underrated Scream 3, which Craven of course only agreed to make under the condition that he was given financing for Music of the Heart. I'm not sure quite sure what the situation was regarding Craven returning to the big screen (after a hiatus from 2005's Red Eye) with Scream 4, but the script was by Kevin Williamson again this time, so I guess he must have really liked it.

What I will say about Scream 4 is that it dropped in my estimation this time round by comparison to the other entries in the series. With so many meta-meta elements going on, it actually ranked as my favourite of the four Scream movies when I first watched them three years ago. Re-watching it though, I was surprised by how relatively non-scary it was by contrast to the other entries, but yeah, I still liked it a lot. And any film that can give Emma Roberts such a juicy part is fine by me.

You know, I actually wasn't aware of how widely praised Dr. Phibes was until I looked at all the external reviews and user comments afterwards. The film totally took me by surprise in a 'what the fork is going on here?' sort of way. I'll admit that I'm possibly overvaluing it based on the surprise factor, but considering what most of Vincent Price's horror films are like (The Haunted Palace, Diary of a Madman, Twice-Told Tales etc), nothing could possibly prepare me for the wild ride of Dr. Phibes.

I am not sure if I would have liked Theatre of Blood more had I seen it before Dr. Phibes. I actually specifically watched the two films in chronological order due to how similar their plots seemed. Theatre does have the upper hand in terms of more creative slayings; also the slayings are relatively accurate to Shakespeare, whereas the good doctor's murders are not true to the ten plagues. The set-up though just didn't make me go all [none] in the same way though, and I'm not sure if I'm totally into the sadism of having Robert Morley eat his dogs, though it does seem a logical precursor to his Great Chefs of Europe character!

The Oblong Box is worthwhile... but I wouldn't go into it expecting a Price film - or a Lee film for that matter. Both of them pretty much have glorified supporting roles, but Williamson is really that good that it is hard to resent all the focus he receives.

[with] the laboratory testings for better life forms ... Gremlins 2 plays out as a sort of morality tale that sees the creatures themselves as byproducts of the human condition.
I absolutely love that notion. It's almost true in a literal way too as the cute and cuddly beings are turned into gremlins in the first place by human actions (him feeding them after midnight in the first film).

Transsiberian -- like Dr. Phibes -- was another 'what on earth is going here' film for me. So often I thought I had it pegged as to what is was going to be about; initially I thought it was going to be a Frantic variant with the husband disappearing, then I thought that he was going to rape her, but of course all of this gets turned on its head. Yeah, the final quarter was certainly a bit of a letdown after the build-up. I'm not quite sure if I'd chalk it up as "hope springs eternal" though; isn't there still distrust between Mortimer and Harrelson because she doesn't officially admit to killing Carlos and therefore has to live on with the guilt? Or maybe I misread that scene near the end.

As for Singin' in the Rain, I suppose my only minor quibble (other than the less-than-stellar performances from Kelly and Reynolds) is the fact that the choreography really does outshine the songs. I'm not sure if this could really be chalked up as a valid detriment, but thinking of some of the musicals that I would regard as superior (Oliver!, Fiddler on the Roof, Gigi, Thoroughly Modern Millie, Pennies from Heaven), they are all characterised by memorable, iconic songs. couldn't say the same about Rain; 'Make 'em Laugh' is certainly well known, but the song is mostly music with limited lyrics. Anyway, as mentioned, it really is just a minor quibble. I'm sure I'll be rewatching the film in the near future, and I could well change my mind.

Most people think I'm mad. At least I know I'm mad.

Re: The Horror!... and Transsiberian

With Scream 3 I'll just post you an edit from my review, it's just easier than waffling on :-)

Written before Scream 4 of course!


Oh the irony of it all...

I have to admit that I once never gave this film much love, I loved the first two to such a degree that I felt this third and final instalment was way off being a fitting closure to the trilogy. Yet as time has wore on I have really grown fond of the film, Parker Posey no longer annoys the hell out of me, the once jarring itch of watching the makers kill off a fave character of mine in the opening sequence is something I now view as a masterstroke, and the twisty ending that was once an irksome pest has moved on to be the perfect trilogy closure.

Scream 3 has its tongue firmly in its cheek, it's aware of its number and it's aware of its formulaic root, so in spite of treading familiar ground (I mean come on gang, have you not learnt nothing from your previous experiences), the returning characters still have our undivided attention. While the transporting of the story to Hollywood, with its movie within a movie structure, is fresh and adds a new dimension to proceedings. New additions to the scary fun are Patrick Dempsey, Emily Mortimer, Lance Henriksen and the afore mentioned Parker Posey, and all of them add greatly to the mysterious plot unfolding. The death quotient is still high, and the Wes Craven school of whodunitry is well and truly open, and I personally feel that this one is easily the funniest film of the three, witness Jay & Silent Bob turning up, a Carrie Fisher sequence that once heard will never be forgotten, and a video appearance by passed on geek god Randy Meeks. Scream 3 closes the trilogy just fine, it's got bags of energy and a glint in its eye, now if only I could get a copy of the uncompleted Stab 3 off the internet... 7/10


Yep, Phibes is really "out there", I always think that The Masque of the Red Death is a great companion piece for Phibes, very trippy.


I'm not quite sure if I'd chalk it up as "hope springs eternal" though; isn't there still distrust between Mortimer and Harrelson


Oh I think you are right about the mistrust angle, I just on a personal level feel it should have stayed dark, given the narrative previously, it's a safe finale I feel.

Thanks for the read fella.



The Spike

Re: The Horror!... and Transsiberian


if only I could get a copy of the uncompleted Stab 3 off the internet
I chuckled when I read that, but expressing that just isn't the same without the [laugh] emoticon. [sad5]

Anyway, yes - Scream 3 rose the most in my esteem of all four movies upon second glance. The opening killing is indeed a bit of a masterstroke with Liev Schreiber complaining about having only a cameo role in the upcoming Stab movie, and yeah, Park Posey is very funny trying to a be a caricature of Courtney's Cox character, telling her even how she (as a character) would act. And yes - as the closure to a trilogy, the film works just fine, exactly according the 'rules'. I don't resent the extra chapter in Scream 4 though, since the film presents itself as a remake of sorts, and it's really fun to watch the characters contend with the rules of remakes. I can't imagine how Scream 5 could possibly come about, but I would love to see how the material could further be stretched.

Haven't seen The Masque of the Red Death, so thanks for the recommendation.

Most people think I'm mad. At least I know I'm mad.

Re: Mistérios de Lisboa

Now, sol-, how many times can you type Jo�o? Is that an inside joke of some sort, sol-�

He was sweeping, you sons of bitches, he was sweeping.

Re: Mistérios de Lisboa

Having not read the book upon which the film was based, I don't know if the whole name change was just something included in the film version of the story or not, but it does seem odd that anyone would change their name from something as exotic as João to something as pedestrian as Pedro, just on account of finding out that the latter was their father's name. I mean, would you? Of course, that question might hit a little close to home...

Most people think I'm mad. At least I know I'm mad.

Halloweens Car Candyman 28 Days...

An Open Challenge to Anyone Reading This

In the interest of turning the October Challenge into actual challenge, I dare you to convince me why the very decent Halloween III deserves its 4.4/10 IMDb. C'mon. I dare you.

The Halloween Saga - in High Definition

Halloween (1978). For a pioneer slasher movie, Halloween still stands up as a good scare-fest more than 35 years on. John Carpenter's directional touches are divine, with effective point-of-view shots, scene compositions in which key action takes place in the corner of the frame and a very unsettling elongated shot over the killer's shoulder as he stares at our heroine for seconds on end while she strolls down a sidewalk. Carpenter is also responsible for the iconic music score - a composition that deftly adds both thrills and suspense. Viewed for a second time though, it is hard to ignore how poorly written the film is. The plot basically consists of various boo-moments with absolutely no psychological depth to the killer, nor any reason for why he targets our heroine in particular. The killer's psychiatrist does offer an explanation, but given the lack of supernatural elements at hand, it is hard to buy into the notion that he is just "simply evil" incarnate. Carpenter additionally offers no explanation of how the killer knows how to drive (he has been incarcerated since he was six) and an in-joke of the psychiatrist pointing out this plot inconsistency is not half as funny as Carpenter seems to think. There are, however, a surprising number of humorous moments that do work, particularly our heroine telling her friend that she will kill her if her screams and moans on the phone are just a practical joke (they aren't). The film is also quite gripping while it lasts - just a bit sloppy when dissected. -- Was #3, now #12 (of 91) for 1978. (second viewing, Blu-ray Disc)

Halloween II (1981). Given the three year gap between the two films, this sequel to John Carpenter's iconic slasher fest does a remarkable job portraying the further events of the same night; all the hairstyles, sets and costumes look exactly the same, and director Rick Rosenthal does well mimicking Carpenter's directional style. There are many creepy shots that are positioned right behind the killer as he walks along, and several of the deaths are well staged - most notably, an opaque window causes confusion in a sauna scene with a victim to-be inadvertently caressing Michael Myers! Where Halloween II trips up though is in aping the formula of the slasher movies that came in between the first two Halloween films -- notably Friday the 13TH -- films that were more about body count and creative deaths than scares. Myers acts totally out of character here with the inventive ways he kills his victims - resorting to scalding a facie in burning water at one point. It is a totally different Myers to the killer who valued his knife so intently in the first film. Several characters (particularly the hospital staff) also feel like they have been introduced simply so that we can see them meet their demise. On the plus side though, the film adds more depth to Myers than the first movie allowed for and we are actually given a reason why he wants to go after Jamie Lee Curtis so badly. The Chordettes song 'Mr. Sandman' has also rarely been used to such ominous effect as here. -- Was #33, now #39 (of 93) for 1981. (second viewing, Blu-ray Disc)

Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982). A commerical for the original film is the closest this Halloween entry comes to having relation to the franchise, and with no witches at all, Halloween III: Season of the Witch is straddled with a most unfortunate title. The title has, in fact, led to the film attaining a poor reputation, with its dissenters often citing the lack of Michael Myers and witches among its woes. In actuality, Season of the Witch is a gripping paranoid mystery thriller, with perennial everyman Tom Atkins well cast as a doctor who stumbles upon a conspiracy involving rigged Halloween masks. His search for answers takes him to a spooky outskirts town (where the masks are being made) with a curfew and security cameras everywhere. Still serving as producer, Carpenter provides another unsettling music score that rivals his original Halloween composition in moodiness, and in lieu of 'Mr. Sandman', a masks jingle is very eerie and keeps popping up on TV and radio. The payoff of Season of the Witch is not as good as the set-up though. The villain's motives are vague at best, the Stonehenge angle screams of implausibility, and the way Atkins superhumanly seem to pull through everything defies belief. The movie manages to conclude potently though, and Atkins receives really good character development. His desperate phone call to his ex-wife near the end is absolutely heartbreaking. -- #29 (of 103) for 1982, between Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and Evil Under the Sun. (first viewing, Blu-ray Disc)

Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988). Aptly titled, this fourth entry in the Halloween series returns to the original Michael Myers plot after the brilliant yet totally unrelated Halloween III: Season of the Witch. Jamie Lee Curtis is no longer on hand, but Danielle Harris is even better as her estranged preteen daughter who Myers invariably comes after once he learns of her existence. Relating genuine fear and upset (not only in the face of Myers, but school bullies too), Harris makes for a compelling protagonist, and the film is always engaging whenever focused on her. Her gloominess upon learning that no one wants to babysit her gives way to an especially poignant scene. Harris is, however, merely a supporting player in the overall tale, and the film is very dry whenever focused on her adoptive teen sister and Dr. Loomis rallying a bunch of rednecks to form a lynch mob. Also, it should be mentioned that while the twist involving Harris makes for one surefire memorable ending, the lack of foreshadowing leading up to the twist renders it rather gimmicky upon revision. Additionally disappointing is Myers continuing to indulge in creative murders, something more akin to Jason or Freddy than the killer from the original slasher classic. What does work quite well though is the local teenagers all dressing up in Myers masks (something prescient of the Scream saga perhaps), making it challenging for Loomis and his team to track down the real killer. -- Was #54, now #81 (of 115) for 1988. (second viewing, Blu-ray Disc)

Halloween 5 (1989). Squandering the rich potential of Part 4's twist ending, Jamie is back to normal here (being rendered mute aside) and once again, Michael Myers is back to claim her life. It is not just Myers who seems supernaturally invincible here, but Dr. Loomis too, with both men rising from certain death situations to continue to pursue each other. Baffling as all this is though, the film is at its best when Loomis, Myers and Harris square off, which is not very often. The plot is noticeably unfocused, sidetracking as Myers follows a bunch of random teenagers to an abandoned barn in which they are killed off one by one in Friday the 13TH style; there is also a tiresome comical subplot in which an airhead teen mistakes Myers for her own boyfriend - also called Michael. The pacing is noticeably off too, with little sense of imminent danger in the air, and the film's attempts at titillation, having Ellie Cornell run around in nothing but a towel for minutes on end, smack of desperation. The film is, however, at least partially redeemed by Danielle Harris, who is arguably even better here as the visibly traumatised Jamie. There is a very touching moment between herself and Michael in which she manages to glimpse under his mask. On all other accounts though, Halloween 5 is mostly bad news, and it is no surprise that the film's poor reception in 1989 led to a half a decade delay before the next film came out. -- #110 (of 114) for 1989, between C.H.U.D. II: Bud the Chud and All's Fair.... (first viewing, Blu-ray Disc)

Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers (1995). Developed under the working title Halloween 6: The Origin of Michael Myers, this fifth sequel to the iconic slasher flick ambitiously attempts to provide more background for Myers. Novel and refreshing as this might sound though, the film still adheres to a Friday the 13TH style random creative murders plotline with an overdose of boo-moments. The supposed origins of Michael's "curse" are disappointingly contrived and silly too with astrology and cultists all somehow involved, plus a plot to kidnap/sacrifice Jamie's child (or something to that effect). The acting is uniformly poor throughout, with Bradford English the worst offender as an easily irate cousin of Laurie's stepparents. Donald Pleasence has lost all dignity as Dr. Loomis too, and Devin Gardner is grating as a vulnerable child in the mix, never once as affecting as Danielle Harris in Parts 4 and 5 (who is replaced by another actress for her character). For all its woes, The Curse of Michael Myers certainly begins well with an amusing radio programme that encourages listeners to ring in and discuss the mystical Myers; one caller even views him in romantic terms as a mysterious enigma, citing "I want to know what's behind that mask"! This angle is soon forgotten though as the cultists and astrologers take over, and the film never regains momentum, not even in its climactic face-off scene. -- #50 (of 51) for 1995, between Johnny Mnemonic and The Mangler. (first viewing, Blu-ray Disc)

Halloween H20: 20 Years Later (1998). Worrisome though the presence of Friday the 13TH series director Steve Miner behind the camera may be, this seventh entry in the Halloween franchise is closest that any sequel has come to capturing the formula of the original. Michael Myers is back, but he is refreshingly just wielding that ominous knife rather than resorting to various creative killing methods--he even avoids using a garbage disposal to off a young lad at one point. Welcome though this return to form may be, the basic story is still as generic as ever with Myers as unstoppable killing machine, intent on getting Laurie and her offspring. Miner tries to spice things up by including several red herring jolts, but these quickly tire as everything from two kids banging on a window to Janet Leigh making appearance is used for a boo-moment. The film does admittedly try to add some depth with Laurie teaching a class on Frankenstein, which one of her pupils cites as metaphorical for confronting demons in one's closet, but it is nothing particularly or insightful. The film almost seems to be going in a different direction near the end with a touching moment as a vulnerable Myers and an in-control Laurie come face-to-face, but this potential is quickly squandered. The return of 'Mr. Sandman' on the soundtrack is excellent though and a shock moment in which the music all of a sudden stops is very well done. -- #64 (of 72) for 1998, between You've Got Mail and Disturbing Behaviour. (first viewing, Blu-ray Disc)

Halloween: Resurrection (2002). Quite possibly the best actual sequel in the Halloween series (i.e. excluding Season of the Witch), this vastly underrated eighth entry puts a wild and imaginative spin on the familiar plot as the house where Michael Myers grew up is used for a reality television show - on the exact same night that Myers decides to return home. Slightly vexing though this coincidence is, it gives way for a terrific satire on reality TV and its target audience as one of the show's producers pretends to be Myers to up his show's rating (leading to some spooky scenes with two Michaels on set) and as the real Myers goes about offing the show's participations with all watching assuming that it is just a hoax. One teenage viewer even scoffs at one of the most gruesome actual deaths, commenting that it is "sooo fake", while another teen girl remarks that one of the show's participations "really is a very talented actress", completing oblivious to the fact that she is cowering in terror for real. Intelligent as all this is though, the film barely gives us a single three dimensional character worth caring about; Busta Rhymes is also quite awful and the constant cutaways to grainy, handheld footage are really harsh on the eyes, even in high definition. Generally speaking though, Halloween: Resurrection is quite solid stuff - certainly far better than its decidedly mixed reputation would indicate. -- Was #84, now #74 (of 105) for 2002. (second viewing, Blu-ray Disc)

Rough order of preference:

1. Halloween
2. Halloween III
3. Halloween Resurrection
4. Halloween II
5. Halloween 4
6. Halloween H20
7. Halloween 5
8. Halloween 6

Other Revision Viewings

The Car (1977). Without rhyme or reason, a driverless automobile terrorises the residents of an outskirts town in this odd horror film. The premise is not half-bad, but the results are unfortunately unintentionally funny at times; frightening as a scene in which the car traps James Brolin in his own garage may be, it is difficult to fear the vehicle as it often acts like a hyperactive animal - especially when the lead actress shouts obscenities at it from a graveyard! The film also fails to provide a logical explanation for what is going on, but more irksome than the car's fuzzy motives and the inappropriate comedy is the fact that there is barely a single character who we are able to warm to. What's more, this seems to be intentional; the third victim, for instance, is an odious hitchhiker who enjoys making farting noises. One could perhaps argue that Brolin's melodramatic character background is attempt to humanise him, but his pining for his ex-wife and supposed confliction over whether or not to remarry is never really heartfelt; only Kym and Kyle Richards (well cast as his daughters) have the occasional touching moment, stuck in the middle of his messy private life. For all its narrative flaws, The Car is technically well produced though. Leonard Rosenman's score is very creepy and a dead ringer for the music from The Shining at times. The shots from inside the car are also quite nifty and the desert landscape is suprisingly eerie at night. It's just a shame the story is not up to scratch. -- Was #72, now #73 (of 92) for 1977. (second viewing, DVD)

Candyman (1992). Even creepier upon revision, the experience of Candyman is greatly enhanced by knowing what is to come as we watch a skeptical university student venture too far out of her depth as she conducts research into an urban legend involving a murderous ghost that invariably turns out to be true. Tony Todd is fantastic as the title villain; his first appearance in long shot is very well done, and his agenda is absolutely fascinating as he targets Madsen due to her attempts to dispel his legend. The idea that the film puts forth is that ghosts only survive based on their stories being told and told again, and even more intriguingly, the film makes the immortality that Todd achieves in this way seem attractive; his proposal to Madsen that she could live on forever in the "dreams" of others comes off as having real merit. All intelligence aside, the film works as a simple scare-fest too; while certain elements seem overly grotesque (the bees in the toilet only exists for shock value), everything from spinning aerial shots, to rapid fire edits to the memorable score by Philip Glass create an atmosphere of dread and uncertainty. The rundown sets are quite eerie too, and while the boo-moment ending is foreshadowed a little too heavily in advance, it still makes for a powerful conclusion to this tale about the price of immortality and the sacrifices needed in order to achieve such fame... or notoriety. -- Was #23, now #17 (of 64) for 1992. (second viewing, DVD)

28 Days Later... (2002). Not explicitly a zombie movie, 28 Days Later... came as a breath of fresh air when given widespread release in 2003; it is more so a contagion movie and one with social commentary built in as the 'infection' is simply labeled as 'rage' - something that all of the non-infected characters in the film exhibit at some point. Viewed for a second time, the film doesn't seem half as fresh and original with noticeable similarities to No Blade of Grass, The Omega Man and so forth; some of the thematic depth comes across as heavy-handed too, especially regards to the speechmaking of Stuart McQuarrie's disgruntled sergeant character. For the most part though, the film stacks up well to revision. There is a great, gradual pullback during one of McQuarrie's speeches as he lies handcuffed to a heater, and the barren London landscapes in the daytime are effective with an eerie serenity to them. The fact that the real horror in the film turns out to be humankind's inability to work together under stressful circumstances still resonates too, and the whole surrogate wife and daughter angle definitely clicks. Danny Boyle is quite correct though in regarding the theatrical ending of the film as misfire; a little optimism does not hurt, however, the chicken ending works better in a 'life goes on...' sort of way; it is also an intriguing reversal of the previous conundrum facing the soldiers earlier on. -- Was #6, now #11 (of 105) for 2002. (second viewing, Blu-ray Disc)

Plus One More F.T.V.

Blade II (2002). Returning as half-breed vampire hunter and human mentor, Wesley Snipes and Kris Kristofferson once again make an excellent team as they form an uneasy alliance with some local vampires this time to take down a new, more evil breed of vampire. Despite some interesting notions cropping up, such as that vampirism is "a cancer with a purpose", the plot mostly feels like just an excuse for great special effects and cool action scenes, but these elements are admittedly amazing. The oozing, vaginal-looking facial defects are really creepy, the glowing sparks of blood are very impressive as various vampires vanish, and there is a downright spooky bit in which a half-decapitated face blinks at the camera. The choreography is also sensational, full of imaginative martial arts style moves, and the various weapons bear the creativity of Q department, including a torch that switches in between UV and harsh LED light. If only the plot were better developed, Blade II would easily surpass Part 1. The central idea is intelligent - that vampires (like bugs and insects) can evolve to the point of immunity to silver and garlic - but the politics of the vampire underworld are dull, especially as the evil mastermind views his newly mutated creations as his 'children' who invariably betray him. Thomas Krestchmann is very good though in the role, and actually has even more screen presence than Snipes and Kristofferson. -- #54 (of 105) for 2002, between They and Signs. (first viewing, Blu-ray Disc)

Season of the Witch

I wont take up the dare, I agree, H3 is actually a great standalone horror movie, if it didn't have the H3 title it would be viewed differently as regards ratings. What I will say is that much like Exorcist III, it does have some healthy support in horror fan circles, and rightly so.

I have not reviewed H3 yet so thanks to you I'll drag it out the box set and rewatch.

The Spike

Re: Season of the Witch / Exorcist 3


thanks to you I'll drag it out the box set and rewatch
Glad to hear it, and thanks for the response. I suppose part of my motivation for the dare is the fact that the film exceeded my expectations to such an extreme degree that I am still a bit unsure about whether it is really is THAT good a motion picture, or whether it merely impressed me more than I had come to expect. I had, in fact, heard such horrible things that when I first watched Halloween I + II, I actually skipped straight to Part 4, something I don't think I have ever done in any other series. I even watched Exorcist II: The Heretic back in the day, knowing that it was going to be horrible. Speaking of which...

Oh yes - count me in as a fan of The Exorcist III. I haven't seen that one in ages, and to be honest, The Exorcist is due for a rewatch too, but I can't stand the thought of possibly having to endure The Heretic again were I to take on rewatching the series.

Most people think I'm mad. At least I know I'm mad.

Re: Season of the Witch / Exorcist 3

In simple terms it just isn't a Myers movie, though he does appear on the TV screen in one scene.

I'm still flummoxed as to why it was included as part of the franchise? I'm guessing contracts and stuff?

Exorcist III is a quality supernatural serial killer movie, a good companion piece for that is Denzel's 1998 film Fallen.

Cheers Buddy.

The Spike

Re: Season of the Witch / Exorcist 3


I'm still flummoxed as to why it was included as part of the franchise? I'm guessing contracts and stuff?
By all accounts, Carpenter originally intended the Halloween franchise to a be series of unrelated Halloween themed stories, released annually, with Halloween II only continuing the story of Michael Myers because Carpenter felt that his legend couldn't be contained in one film. When Halloween III bombed on account of everyone asking where Myers was -- and where the witches were! -- Carpenter apparently decided to abandon the series and pursue other projects (Starman, etc). There was, however, still enough public interest in Myers that a couple of producers inevitably thought to buy the rights to franchise off Carpenter and pick up where the second film left off. Of course, none of the other sequels to come would ever rival the quality of the first three movies (Resurrection excepted), but they must have pulled enough weight at the box office for no less than five sequels to come out in the space of fourteen years.

As far as I am aware, the only contractual obligation in the five other sequels was Jamie Lee Curtis agreeing to appearing in Resurrection if H20 proved a commercial success. Everyone else, it would seem, was apparently more than happy to go along with things (though Danielle Harris was sadly written out when she asked for too much money), which does invariably mean that it was Donald Pleasence's own choice to keep (over)playing his character again and again until he eventually passed away. It is a shame that such a talented actor as Pleasence is nowadays only really known for the one role.

Most people think I'm mad. At least I know I'm mad.

October Challenge Progress Notes

Total: 14
FTV's: 11

🍂 Franco's Living Dead Double Feature (Spain)
October 7
9. El Ataque De Los Muertos Sin Ojos (Return Of The Evil Dead 1973) Amando de Ossorio
The second in director Amando de Ossorio's "Blind Dead" series sees a horde of fifteenth-century Knight Templars rise from the dead to take revenge on the town that poked their eyes out and burned them alive centuries before...
I saw Amando's first entry, Tombs Of The Blind Dead, on WOR-TV's "Fright Night" (Saturdays at 1am) as a teenager back in the '70s and even then I knew these films were most likely edited but I never expected the gore I got last night. My letterboxed DVD of Return (nice print, too) was English-dubbed but a couple of parts were subtitles only and it's interesting to see just what was excised for US television (and possibly drive-in release) at the time. The flashback where a Knight Templar sacrifices a woman by tearing her heart out and eating it would never fly on the tube back then and neither would the bare breasts. This is the second time in the Challenge that I saw the ghost of SCTV- the fat mayor and the town hunchback reminded me of John Candy & Eugene Levy in Dr. Tongue's 3D House Of Stewardesses and another character was alot like Levy's Ricardo Montalban impression. That said, the robed, rotting Templars galloping slo-mo in the misty moonlight was genuinely eerie. Undead fun, for sure.

10. La Orgía De Los Muertos (Terror Of The Living Dead 1973) José Luis Merino
There's plenty of skullduggery in store for Serge Chekov when he travels to a gloomy estate to collect an inheritance bequeathed him by his late uncle. Not only does he have to contend with witchcraft, sexual seduction, and a seance upon his arrival, the guy also stumbles upon necrophilia for no good reason and just when you think the plot can't get any sillier, he's shown a laboratory where the dead are secretly reanimated. Resembling an Italian horror film from the '60s (like the ones with Barbara Steele, only in color), La Orgía is all about atmosphere even though there's an actual mystery (later explained through flashbacks) going on right under the nose of a none-too-bright police inspector puffing a Sherlock Holmes pipe. The dead are blind in this film, too, and there's also bare breasts and a woman's heart removed but I don't know what (if anything) can be inferred about audience tastes at the time. Filmmaking in Franco-era Spain obviously didn't shrink from explicit gore (there's an autopsy and a nice beheading here) but they were rather squeamish about nudity, it seems. There's a spinning montage as our hero gets drugged and seduced by the femme fatale and they're in bed together but he's got his pants on while she's completely nude. That's not the only thing weird; the film is set in nineteenth-century Scotland but I'm not sure the filmmakers knew where that was since the characters all have names like Chekov and Nadia and the fine-looking locations resemble Eastern Europe. Genre icon Paul Naschy plays a gravedigger who likes his ladies ice cold and he looked alot like John Belushi in some scenes. SCTV...SNL... I'm not surprised now since these two "zombie" films are unconscious parodies in themselves these days.

🍂 Marx Madness Double Feature (Serbia/USSR)
October 9
11. Srpski Film (A Serbian Film 2010) Srdjan Spasojevic
A retired, financially strapped porn star gets an ominous offer that'll set him up for life as long as he doesn't ask any questions about the kind of movie he'll be starring in...
I picked up A Serbian Film for last year's Challenge but I just barely crossed the finish line with 31 films seen and never did get around to it. I'd heard enough about its "extremes" to question why I even bought the damned thing in the first place so I was kind of relieved to hold off on it for another year. Now that I've had the pleasure, my initial trepidation was completely unwarranted. It's an excellent film that goes so completely over the top that I had no problem with any of the imagery ...per se. One IMDb reviewer wrote, "There are some things you can't unsee" but as far as I'm concerned, what's shown isn't nearly as horrific as the film's none-too-subtle message. It'd be pretty hard not to see A Serbian Film as anything other than a brutal, nihilistic commentary on the state of a State that cannibalizes its victim status for profit ("newborn porn" and a newly formed Republic, get it?) and even if this very dark film is only an allegory, all I can say is, "Put the Iron Curtain back up." Another disturbing aspect was that the film kind of has a ring of truth to it. Of course there's kiddie porn and snuff films in real life and the sex industry is booming in Eastern Europe -as is white slavery and God only knows what else. I do know it's the "gay porn capital of the world", flooding the video market with films like Master Of The Sword:
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1642630/reviews-1
I took a pass on Double Shafted and Twin Devils, of course- I knew they starred the handsome Mangiatti brothers (Fabrizio & Fernando) but I had no desire to see the twins get it on and if the Eastern European sex industry can do that in "legit" porn, one can only imagine (or not) what goes on "underground". A Serbian Film is a shocker, that's for sure, and its star looks alot like Roman Polanski but I don't think I wanna go there. Not everyone's as jaded as I am, I suppose, so I'll also caution that it's not for the squeamish ...for lots of reasons.

12. Veld (The Veldt 1987) Nozim To'laho'jayev
According to 'wikipedia', Veld was billed as "The First Soviet Horror Movie" and maybe it was but "Sci-Fi" is a much better fit. The film combines a couple of Ray Bradbury short stories, foremost being "The Veldt" which first saw the light of day in "The Saturday Evening Post" back in 1950 and was source for a few portmanteau films over the years, most notably The Illustrated Man. The terrors of modern technology was its theme and the action takes place in a not-too-distant future where "The Happylife Home" takes care of all the family's needs. Children are raised in virtual reality nurseries and one young couple become alarmed when they hear the sound of roaring lions after their two kids, Peter and Wendy (in a nod to James M. Barrie), spend all their time in there imagining an African veldt. That's just the starting point in a film that, despite its muted colors and oppresive gloom, closely resembles the work of Italian horrormeister Mario Bava when it comes to spooky tableaux. Other subplots include an old couple who see their young son, dead forty years, outside in the moonlight one night and what appears to be a plague has broken out when hazmat-suited "sanitation workers" in tanks begin dragging bodies out of houses. The Russians also did filmic justice to Agatha Christie's "And Then There Were None" around the same time and they obviously had a knack for faithful adaptation.

🍂 Italian Sex & Horror Double Feature
October 10
13. Il Castello Dalle Porte Di Fuoco (Scream Of The Demon Lover 1970) José Luis Merino
This is the second José Luis Merino film I've seen this week and comparing the two, Scream Of The Demon Lover is much more sexual in nature than Terror Of The Living Dead due, no doubt, to the Italians being involved. Demon Lover is also set in the nineteenth century and stars Erna Schürer as a kittenish chemist who's come to Baron Dalmar's medieval estate to assist him in trying to bring his dead brother back to life. The villagers warn her that the Baron is killing women and ripping them to shreds after consensual sex but she stays on anyway -even after being drugged nightly and put on a rack in the dungeon (?!). Although it's nowhere near as atmospheric or entertaining, the movie owes something of a debt to Mario Bava's The Whip And The Body and it's fascination with sadomasochistic mise-en-scène. The Baron and his hounds cut a dashing figure atop the grand staircase and sexy Schürer shows her globes alot but she's outshone by the exquisite Agostina Belli, who also bares her boobs in the secondary role of a castle servant.
Erna Schürer was born Emma Costantino in Naples, Italy and modeled for Vogue and Harper's Bazaar before appearing in the popular "fumetti" foto-comic Satanik in the mid-60s. Placed under contract by movie producer Alberto Grimaldi, Erna spent most of the '70s cranking out "classics" like Erotic Confessions From A Women's Prison, Your Hands On My Body, Strip Nude For Your Killer, My Pleasure Is Your Pleasure, and Deported Women Of The SS Special Section before more-or-less disappearing from the cinema scene. There's no birth or death dates given for Erna on IMDb and there's precious little about her on the worldwide web, either, for that matter. Today, Schürer's sure as sh!t a GILF somewhere (unless she's split the scene, if you know what I mean).

14. Trittico (Sex Of The Devil 1971) Oscar Brazzi
What in the hell is South Pacific's Rossano Brazzi doing in Sex Of The Devil? Damned if I know but it's directed by his brother, Oscar, which may have had something to do with it. Explaining the plot's a little trickier but here goes- Andrea (Brazzi), questioning his competence as a surgeon and suffering from impotency, takes his much younger wife (Maitena Galli) and medical assistant (Sylva Koscina) to Istanbul where he rents a villa that his friend Omar tells him was once occupied by a French sculptress who committed suicide. One of the two men following Andrea tries to kill him and the villa's housekeeper is right out of Rebecca, only she practices some sort of zodiac witchcraft when no one's around...
At one point, Omar says he's leaving and that Andrea should come, too, and when Brazzi replied, "Not until I solve this mystery", I had no idea what he was talking about -and still didn't when the movie was over. The film's nebulus premise resembles Umberto Lenzi's A Quiet Place To Kill wherein troubled race car driver Carroll Baker goes to a Spanish villa to recuperate only to have things go from bad to worse as everyone traipses off to dance the night away at a disco. Same here -and speaking of which, the score by Stelvio Cipriani rips off Iron Butterfly's "Inagoddadavida" shamelessly. There's plenty of female nudity on display and the middle-aged Brazzi kind of comes close when he steps into the shower with his wife or rolls in the surf with Koscina like they were doing a softcore remake of From Here To Eternity. Part exotic travelogue and part erotic photo shoot with a story (not to mention title) that makes no sense whatsoever, this is the very essence of "Eurotrash". The gang who subtitled this were obviously appreciative and put "That was some good acid, man" in the end credits.

🍂 Selected Short Subjects
October 8 - 10
Tales From The Crypt
The seventh (and last) season relocates to Merry Olde England:
Fatal Caper (TV 4/19/96)
In order for two ne'er-do-wells to collect their inheritance, they have to find the brother they haven't seen for 15 years. They did and wished they didn't in a neat twist ending. Stars Bob Hoskins and Natasha Richardson.
Last Respects (TV 4/26/96)
Three sisters find the legendary monkey's paw at an estate sale and think they can outwit its curse. Good luck with that. Directed by Freddie Francis.

I also saw Gone Girl on the big screen and thought it was a pretty good "mainstream" thriller but I was more than happy to get back to my Eurotrash horrors ("it's too late, she's gone too far, she's lost the sun").

American Horror Story: Freak Show
Monsters Among Us
(TV 10/8/14)
The fourth season's first episode sets the stage by crossing Tod Browing's Freaks with Happy Days Americana and the result is a gruesome tongue-in-cheek hybrid served up in grand guignol style. It's the fall of '52 in Jupiter, Florida and Fraulein Elsa (Jessica Lange channeling Marlene Dietrich) and her failing Freak Show have just about run out of luck when she finds a surefire meal ticket in a two-headed girl that just killed her mom. Meanwhile, a crazy clown with a Conrad Veidt "man who laughs" grin is going around butchering local yokels... There's plenty of pop-culture references like Marlon Brando's Wild One sprinkled throughout but it's the spirit of Joan Crawford in Flamingo Road and Berserk hovering over Ms. Lange that'll ensure another tour de force performance this season. Throw in a nice body count and some cool CGI and Freak Show's off to a good start ...now please don't drop the ball.

A circus of horror, yeah, that's what you are
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TaWaQBxc0aI


This Week's Pick Of The Litter:
A Serbian Film, believe it or not.

In The Doghouse:
Sex Of The Devil, I suppose, but it's so damned demented, it's hard to dislike.

🎃

;
There's less to this than meets the eye ...as bees in honey drown

Horror:Week 2.

Hi Mel,I'm pleased to hear that you had a good time seeing Gone Girl, (the soundtrack of which by Trent Reznor/Nine Inch Nails being something that I'll hopefully pick up this X-Mas)and that after reading your Blind Dead reviews,I'm desperate to open up a box set currently sitting on my shelf:

www.amazon.com/Collection-Galleon-Seagulls-Ossorio--Director/dp/B000AM 6MVO/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1413151242&sr=8-1&keywords=Ama ndo+de+Ossorio

Seeing how much you enjoyed the Blind Dead,I've got a feeling that you would have a fantastic time with Further Than Fear,which mixes Italian-style Crime with Blind Dead style ghosts/zombies.

After reading your excellent review of the great-sounding Veld,I've got to admit that I'm pretty surprised about how long it took for a horror movie to be made in the Soviet Union,with even Yugoslavia getting there first with 1973's She-Butterfly.

Re: Horror:Week 2.

You're making short work of this Challenge, 'doc', I must say, and hopefully I'll be stepping up the pace this week, myself.
I'd go so far as to recommend Gone Girl and since I think I saw someone use it for the Challenge, the experience only bent my usual rule of "horror only" in October. Some may consider it horrifying, I suppose, but I'm not one of them. It was pretty good, tho. Tuesday (senior citizen discount day) I'm going to Dracula Untold in IMAX 3D and that'll definitely count!

That Blind Dead boxed set looks mighty enticing with its little coffin case. I've seen three of the four films in it but they were "edited for TV" until I came across Return Of The Evil Dead and used it for the Challenge last week. Those movies are definitely worth the very reasonable price!

I don't know if Veld really is "the first Soviet horror movie" or if it's only a tagline come-on but come to think of it, I've only seen two horror/sci-fi films from that part of the world. The sci-fi Krakitit was one and She-Butterfly (which you put me on to) was horror based on regional folklore so it's interesting to note the "first Soviet horror film" adapted the works of an American, Ray Bradbury. They also did a good job with Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None the following year and I doubt many source novels from the "decadent" West would have been filmed during the Cold War. I'd like to see more like Veld ...provided there are any, of course.

🍻

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There's less to this than meets the eye ...as bees in honey drown

Re: October Challenge Progress Notes

mel! [wave]

What a sexy Challenge you've been having - gay slashers (I've been meaning to Hellbent for ages), destroying angels (enjoyed immensely reading your review of Peter de Rome' film, and I'm delighted you found it as fascinating as I did), and now you managed to even mention somehow the Mangiatti twins on your review of 'A Serbian Film'!(naughty!)

I hated that damn thing, so obvious, so insistent, so childish, and with a sneaky snarky tone that prevented me from engaging with anything in there. As allegorical, nihilistic modern Serbian films go, I much preferred 'The Life and Death of a Porno Gang'.

Oh how wonderful to see 'Veld' amongst your challenge viewings (silly Wiki, there's a dozen of Soviet horror before - 'Viy', 'The Savage Hunt of King Stakh', from the top of my head!); the patchwork of Bradbury stories work very well, the virtual room with the children is a stunning piece of horror, and I love the mysterious, mystical ending too. (The Soviets and Ray Bradbury are a very special combination - I also love 'The Thirteenth Apostle', adapted from "The Martian Chronicles").

Hope more wonders are coming from your side, mel; I'm having loads of fun (and your lovely Marisa Mell was responsible for a considerable amount of it!).

[cheers]
jd
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