Welcome, children of the night! This Blog is for fans of vintage horror films as well as those who are just beginning to discover the joy of these classic movies. I'd love to hear from you!

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Invitation to Hell (1984)

Fun! That's the best way I can describe Invitation to Hell, directed by horror-meister Wes Craven. This made-for-tv movie is predictable stuff but it's done with lots of energy and enthusiasm and, thankfully, does not take itself too seriously.

The story centers on your average American family looking to have their slice of the American Dream. Robert Ulrich [Spencer For Hire, Vegas] is the father of this clan and gives his usual excellent performance. He grounds the film and makes some of the more absurd elements believable. Soap Star Susan Lucci [All My Children] is the leader of The Club which offers more than most people bargain for. It's clear the entire costume budget was spent on her and she has a blast delivering all the comedic lines and campy elements of the movie.

If the kids look familiar they are Soleil Moon Frye [Punky Brewster] and Barret Oliver [The NeverEnding Story]. The cast also includes such veteran actors as Joanna Cassidy and Kevin McCarthy. You simply can't go wrong with all the talent assembled.

I won't tell you much more because the fun of it is watching all the silliness unfold. Craven has a good time directing this one and delivers the kind of thoroughly entertaining movie many of us watched on TV in the 1980's. The interesting thing to note is that this was also the same year that A Nightmare On Elm street was released. These two films together, show the breadth of talent this wonderful director possessed.


For more info check out the film's entry in IMDB.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Revenge of the Zombies (1943)

Monogram Pictures produced and released a series of low budget films from 1931 to 1953, some of which were thrillers like Revenge of the Zombies. This one is a strictly-by-the-book old-school voodoo zombie tale that is set in Louisiana. If you've seen one of these babies, you've seen them all.

Yet, this one has a few things going for it that some of the rest don't. First of all, John Carradine is quite good as Dr. Max Heinrich Von Altermann. It's the type of character he played many times in his career and has no trouble delivering his lines, even when they are sometimes poorly written.

My other favorite performance was Madame Sul-Te-Wan [King of the Zombies] who plays the good doctor's domestic servant, Mammy Beulah. She's got sass to spare and a cackle that's infectious. She's also the smartest character in the movie but doesn't let others know how observant she is.

Matan Moreland [King of the Zombies]  plays, well, Matan Moreland. He's the court jester of Revenge of the Zombies and gives the film its comedic elements. I'm sure he was a hoot in the 1940's but the ethnic stereotype he represents in these films is somewhat offensive and strange to modern audiences.

Finally, Director Steve Sekeley [The Day of the Triffids] knows how to make these low budget films work. He makes the most of a small set and paces the story well.

So, this is hardly Oscar worthy but it's not a bad little film. If you like films similar to it from this era, you will enjoy this one as well.


For more info check out the film's entry in IMDB.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Scared to Death (1947)

Depending on your expectations, you may or may not enjoy this film. If you're looking for atmospheric, gothic horror, then you better look elsewhere. If you're in the mood for a melodramatic, comedic thriller then Scared to Death will fit the bill nicely. The film is a series of flashbacks that begin with a dead body and then go back to explore how she arrived on a mortuary slab.

The star of this show is the recently departed Laura Van Ee, played by Molly Lamont. Her acting style is typical of many 1940's films, but modern viewers will find her affected delivery [over-annunciation and a bit too rapid for natural speech] to be over the top and a bit annoying.

The reason why I watched this movie is because of Bela Lugosi. To my knowledge, this is the only color film Lugosi made during his career so that piqued my interest. However, his performance feels more like a parody of his other roles than a fully-embodied character. [A cape, really? Who does that other than Dracula?] He is definitely collecting a paycheck here and not much more.

George Zucco [The Hunchback of Notre Dame, The Black Raven, Dead Men Walk] plays Ms. Van Ee's husband. He is well-known to fans of vintage horror and gives his usual performance here. Not outstanding but solid and dependable.

As far as I'm concerned Scared to Death does not deserve its low 3.9 rating on IMDB nor the thorough trashing of many user reviews on the site. This is lighthearted stuff and doesn't pretend to be anything else. If that's what you're looking for, this could be a nice way to spend an hour.


For more info check out the film's entry in IMDB.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Teenagers From Outerspace (1959)

You know you're in trouble when the spaceship is the size of a clown car and aliens keep coming out of it again and again and again. Then, to make matter worse, a commanding officer gives the orders to "Go down below and bring up the Gargon." While my curiosity was peaked as to what a Gargon was, there is clearly no "down below" from which it can be fetched!

Teenagers From Outerspace is just plain awful. The plot pf this film has been done to death and there are no surprises at all. Furthermore, the acting is wooden, although it's delivered with such sincerity and conviction that you can't help but laugh and be entertained by it.

Writer/director/producer Tom Graeff is not so much channeling M Night Shyamalan as he is Ed Wood [Plan 9 From Outerspace]. Thankfully, he has only four director credits to him name and Teenagers is his swan song. RIP.

The viewing audience needs to keep in mind the this film was made for only $14,000 and it definitely shows. It explains the suitcases which the astronauts carry [I kid you not], but it doesn't justify the horrible acting.

Teenagers From Outerspace made its way to Mystery Science Theater 3000 as well as Elvira's Movie Macabre. It was also featured in the film Schlock! The Secret History of American Movies. I am one of those people who usually enjoys really bad movies but I just couldn't get into this one. Perhaps, if I saw it as a MST3K episode I would have enjoyed it much more.

This one is definitely a red, hot mess so, depending upon your taste in cinema, you'll either love it or hate it. Put me down in the hate it category.


For more info check out the film's entry in IMDB.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Dark Star (1974)

Yes, it's miraculous that director/writer/producer/musician John Carpenter made this film for a mere $60,000. [Even George Romero spent approximately $114,00 to make Night of the Living Dead.] Yes, it looks WAY better than it's budget constraints. Yes, it's somewhat funny and definitely quirky. Yes, it gives us a taste for certain filming techniques that he would use in other movies that followed. But, honestly, I have to go against nearly critic on this one and say that Dark Star was just okay. I can't believe it has a 6.5 score. I adore John Carpenter's work but I just couldn't get into this film. I think it's a case of you either like a "cult classic" or you don't. Some people adore Rocky Horror Picture Show and others just don't get it. Some think Attack of the Killer Tomatoes is a hoot and others wonder what in the heck people see in it. It all comes down to a matter of taste and Dark Star is not my taste in Sci-Fi. So, I'm not going to trash it as incompetent filmmaking because it is skillfully made. I'm just not going to gush over it like it's the end all and be all of campy Sci-Fi. For me, Dark Star is a highly overrated movie.

Rating: Good.

For more info, check out the film's entry in IMDB.

Monday, July 31, 2017

This Island Earth (1955)

I can't believe I've never seem this film before! This Island Earth is classic 1950's Sci-Fi that is every bit as good as It Came From Outer Space or Forbidden Planet. Cinematographer Clifford Stine was in charge of the optical department at Universal Studios during the 1950's and was their "go-to" guy for special visual effects. His contribution to this film cannot be denied. This Island Earth is simply beautiful to look at and uses color to great effect. Many of the sets are fairly monochromatic so the color just pops when it is used in a scene. The painted backdrops are also really great and Stine is able to make all the different elements look seamless together. [Remember this is WAY pre-CGI so its not simple to accomplish.]

The plot is basic Sci-Fi fare but the screenplay smartly doesn't fill you in on all the details at the beginning of the movie. They keep handing you tidbits along the way so it keeps things interesting. The only weakness in the screenplay is that is is awfully wordy, but that's pretty typical of 50's Sci-Fi were they tried to explain EVERYTHING. Lots of pseudo-science abounds but, hey, that's part of the fun!

This Island Earth was also cast well. Rex Reason [The Creature Among Us] has a commanding presence on the screen as the scientist who kind-of saves the day. He has quite a booming voice which works to his advantage here. Faith Domergue [It Came From Beneath the Sea] is his sidekick, who is a scientist as well. However, this is the 1950's and her character is not exactly a self-empowered woman! Still, Domergue does a good job with the role. Finally, Jeff Morrow [The Creature Walks Among Us] is SPOILER ALERT Exeter, the Alien who is oh-so tan and has quite a five-head and quaff of white hair on top. [All the aliens look like this!] He give his character enough depth that you feel sorry for the guy in the end.

Last, but certainly not least, is the mutant monster whose costume is really well-done. He's given very little screen time and it makes you yearn for more. I actually have a figurine of this monster as a part of the Universal Monsters Little Big Heads Collection. They are a fit hard to find but are really well done.

So, grab this one off of YouTube and give it a go. You'll be glad you did!

RATING: Excellent.

For more info check out the film's entry in IMDB.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Horror House, a.k.a. The Haunted House of Horror (1969)

If you like 70's fashion in all its polyester glory, then you will dig this groovy little film. If you're looking for a few scares and an interesting story, you better look elsewhere. Horror House is overrun by 70's runway model-types who are too hip for their own good. The outfits they wear are thoroughly entertaining, and the film spends way too much time in the front end setting up the story. We listen to them whine about how bored they are and how witty and clever they are…and that's about it. When the killing starts, the scenes are pretty tepid and offer no real scares.

The cast includes beach boy Frankie Avalon but they give him very little to do in the film. The rest of the cast is thoroughly British and will be unfamiliar to most Americans.

There is not much more to say about this one. It's not poorly made, it's just uninteresting. Find your horror entertainment elsewhere.


For more info check out the film's entry in IMDB.