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!

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Summer Camp Nightmare (1987)

If Lord of the Flies (1963) was an after school special from the 70's, it would look EXACTLY like Summer Camp Nightmare. Good God, this one is a stinker. I'm not even sure why I watched it to the end except for the fact that once I commit to watching a film I really COMMIT to it...no matter how bad it is!

I can safely say there is not a single thing I liked about this film. The screenplay is chock full of cliche characters and bad dialogue as it tells the not-so harrowing tale of a summer camp whose rebellious children stage a coup in order to overthrow a strict camp director. The results are disastrous, of course with violence, assault, drunkenness an general mayhem abounding.

Veteran actor Chuck Conners [The Rifleman, Branded] is the Camp Director in question. I always picture him in some kind of Western with guns a-blazing and plenty of attitude to spare. Here is is merely collecting a paycheck. Some of this is not his fault because of the lines they gave him to work with. The only other actor worth mentioning is Charlie Stratton who plays the leader of the rebellion. He's actually quite decent in this role but, again, the script does not enable him to do much with the role.

That's all I really need to say about this red hot mess of a film. Don't give up 1 hour and 29 minutes of your life to watch it. You've been warned!

RATING: Bad [Really bad]

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

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Gargoyles (1972)

Considering it's a made-for-tv movie with a limited budget, Gargoyles is actually quite good. Yes, the plot is nothing special: An anthropologist and daughter are driving through the southwest desert and encounter a colony of living gargoyles whose goal is the extinction of the human race. It's familiar territory and there are no surprises along the way. Plus, it's surprising how easy it is to defeat a species bent on world domination. Daddy's never-ending shotgun bullets [Think Katniss' arrows in The Hunger Games] pretty much does the trick!

However, what makes this film rise above its plot limitations is as follows:

The soundtrack is better than it has a right to be. It's moody and atmospheric and gives the story some much needed emotional punch. We have Robert Prince [Wonder Woman, Night Gallery, Circle of Fear] to thank for this whose name is not well-known but who has a respectable body of work scoring television shows and films.

The design of the Gargoyles is interesting. Ellis Burman [Goonies, Back to the Future] chooses wisely to spend his modest budget on facial masks instead of the body suits the Gargoyles wear. There is enough variety and detail in the masks to help these creatures overcome their limitations.

The acting, for the most part, is solid. Cornel Wilde [The Greatest Show on Earth, The Naked Prey] channels his best 1950's man's man as the anthropologist at the center of the story. His acting style is definitely of an older era than the 70's but it work in this role. Jennifer Salt [co-executive producer of American Horror Story] fits the bill nicely as his daughter. Veteran actors Grayson Hall [Dark Shadows] and Woody Chambliss [Gunsmoke] have nice character parts that give this film some levity and fun. Finally, there is a young Scott Glenn [Silence of the Lambs, The Bourne Trilogy] who plays a motorcycle rider who helps Daddy take on the Gargoyles. This is one of those "his face looks so familiar" moments that sends you running to IMDB to figure out who he grew up to be!

So, give this one a try. It's not a huge blockbuster with a cast of thousands but Gargoyles is enjoyable fare that reminds the viewer that sometimes 1970's TV really got it right! Gargoyles is available to watch on YouTube.


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

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Tales From the Darkside: The Complete Series (1983-1988)

In 2010 CBS FINALLY released the classic 1980's TV anthology Tales From the Darkside. Let's get the one negative out of the way: While the series was shot of film, all the post-production work was done on video before it aired on TV. Unfortunately, all the original film was destroyed so the DVD transfer was done from video. This gives it a very grainy texture which may be off-putting for some in the age of Blu-ray and HDTV. But, hey, it's the only way we can view this delightful series. So set aside the quality of the picture and enjoy the quality of the storytelling. (The audio is fine, by the way. Although the DVD version was released without it's original musical soundtrack, probably due to copyright licenses and the cost of procuring them.)

It's almost pointless to name drop the directors, writers and actors that appears in this series which ran for four seasons from 1983-1988, by let me give it a try: George Romero, Tom Savini, Clive Barker, Stephen King, Jody Foster, Danny Aiello, Lori Cardille (Day of the Dead), Debbie Harry, Seth Green and some of the finest character actors to grace movies and television. What's not to like about that? While this series is not quite as strong as the 1990's HBO series Tales From the Crypt, it's got some great stories, fine performances and a few fun horror effects along the way. George Romero [Night of the Living Dead] was one of the Executive Producers for most of these episodes so you know you're in capable hands.

All 90 episodes are in this box set which I bought at Best-Buy for $24.99 It's also available through Amazon. At that price, it's a steal to relive this 80's gem. Don't miss it!

RATING: Excellent.

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

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Svengali (1931)

When most people think of 1931 horror, the Universal Studios classics Dracula and Frankenstein immediately come to mind. However, Warner Brothers released a wonderfully crafted thriller that is every bit as good as both of them. What is this movie, you might ask? It's Svengali which boasts a remarkable performance by the incomparable John Barrymore, who first caught my eye  in the silent film Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1920). Svengali proves he was able to the make a successful transition between silent films and talkies, a feat few actors were able to pull off.

Barrymore is absolutely mesmerizing as Svengali, a maestro and voice teacher who could steal the panties of a nun with his unearthly gaze and powers of mind control. Naturally, women cannot resist him and the film explores all the facets of this phenomenon with both humor and pathos. Barrymore is splendid in this role and gives a tour de force performance.

His main love interest, Trilby, is played by Marian Marsh. I wish I could say she was Barrymore's equal in terms of her performance but she suffers from an acting style of that era which is overly-dramatic and theatrical. The same is true of Bramwell Fletcher [The Mummy] who plays Billlee, Trilby's spurned love interest. He pines for her in a way that makes me want to snuff him out with a pillow!

Therefore, this is Barrymore's show and he doesn't disappoint. I am surprised it took me so long to see this film. It should have been on my radar years ago. However, hopefully you won't make the same mistake I did. If you are a fan of 1930's horror then this one is a must-see. Thankfully it's available to watch on YouTube. Don't miss it.

RATING: Excellent.

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

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Stranger in Our House, a.k.a. Summer of Fear (1978)

Let me start off by saying I love Wes Craven. I have several friends who worked for him and they always say such wonderful things about his kind and generous spirit. I also love the iconic and groundbreaking films he directed such as The Hills Have Eyes (1977), A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), and Scream (1996). That being said, I absolutely HATED Stranger in Our House (SIOH). Even if I didn't know that Craven had directed it, I still would have hated it!

Here's why: SIOH is a made for TV movie which means it's going to be a lot tamer film than a cinematic release. Yet TV series such as the Kolchack: Night Stalker (1974-75) proved that TV horror does not need to be boring. SIOH feels like an after school special with very little suspense and a "reveal" toward the end of the film that's laugh out loud ridiculous. I expect more from Craven than this. I'd like to believe his hands were tied by TV executives who prevented him from doing more. That's my story and I'm sticking with it!

Furthermore, screenwriter Glen N Benest struggles to write great dialogue for his characters. He has only has 8 writing credits to his name on IMDB and I can see why! One of my favorite bits of dialogue occurs between the main character, Rachel, and her mother. Rachel says "Have you ever read anything about witchcraft?" Her mom responds "No, not recently." It sounds as if she was initiated into a coven back in the day but just lost interest in it over time. It was an LOL moment.

SIOH is also not helped by its portrayal of modern witches which is absurd. I actually know a number of practitioners of the Craft and, trust me, they don't control the weather or operate cars remotely. Horses are not afraid of them and they can be photographed. This last detail was so preposterous and SIOH made a big deal out of it. Apparently, in their world, witches are like vampires and are invisible when they are photographed. Seriously? Seriously?

Last but not least there's the acting. Linda Blair [The Exorcist 1973] is really bad as Rachel and delivers her lines like she's in a junior high school play. Her mom in the film, Carol Lawrence, is even worse. The bright spot in the acting pool is Fran Drescher [The Nanny] who plays Rachel's best friend. Unfortunately, she's a secondary character so her screen time in minimal. Then there's the "witch," who is played by Lee Purcell. She has potential as an actress but the material she has to work with limits what she can do.

I am surprised at all the positive comments on IMDB regarding this film. I just don't get it. My advice is that you avoid this one altogether.


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

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Demons 3: The Ogre (1988)

Lamberto Bava, son of Italian horror legend Mario Bava, definitely knows what he's doing behind the camera. I'm definitely a fan of Demons 1 and 2, but when it comes to Demons 3: The Ogre, here's what you need to know to enjoy it more:

This movie has nothing to do with Demons 1 and 2. In fact, the title of the movie is The Ogre or House of the Ogre which was its original title. Demons 3 got slapped onto the box art of the latest DVD release in the US in order to generate more sales through name recognition. Lamberto never intended it as a sequel. Booooo!

The Ogre was created as a made for TV movie. This means its a lot tamer than the usual "buckets of blood" Italian horror film. This is not a bad thing. You just have to go into viewing it with this in mind.

Where Bala excels in The Ogre is creating tons of atmosphere. In all the scenes where the actual creature is lurking about it's a total home run. The visuals are greatly enhanced by a simple but ominous musical theme that is repeated throughout each of these scenes. It helps to build a sense of dread every time.

The two things that prevent The Ogre from receiving a Very Good rating form me are it's length and the design of the creature itself. The Ogre would have been much stronger with a shorter run time of around 1 hour. There are far too many scenes that don't contribute much to the story. With regard to the creature, it's best when we only see a hand or part of his torso. When we finally see him in full form he looks more like a giant, slimy Ewok! The clothing choice is too cartoonish and would have been more effective with a more disheveled/degraded look. Hansel & Gretel outfits don't exactly work in creating a menacing monster.

So, definitely give this movie a chance is you like Italian Horror. It's strong points definitely outweigh its weak points.


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

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Zombie Nightmare (1987)

Zombie Nightmare is, indeed, a nightmare but not in a good way. Heinous acting. Stereotypical characters. The worst Italian and Jamaican/Haitian accents I've ever heard in a film. No wonder this movie was the target of Mystery Science Theater 3000. In fact, I recommend that if you dare to watch this film watch the MST3K version so at least you can laugh at this "so bad, it's bad" movie.

The basic story revolves around a mother whose husband dies early in the film. Then, years later, her son is killed in a hit and run car accident. Mama isn't going down without a fight so she enlists the neighborhood voodoo priestess (Doesn't everybody have one?) to bring her son back to life so he can seek his revenge. The scenes with the priestess are laugh-out-loud ridiculous and the make-up on the zombie son looks like something you're likely to see in your neighborhood on Halloween night. I know they had a limited budget but, even I do better work than this! The rest of the film involves zombie-boy bashing in everyone's skulls in with a baseball bat until everyone who was in the car that hit him is dead. What makes it worse is that there is no gore in these scenes so the deaths have no emotional or visceral impact whatsoever.

The only bright spot in Zombie Nightmare are the songs from Motörhead and Girlschool. [Why the UK band Girlschool never got noticed in the US is a mystery to me.] The rest is the worst of what hair metal has to offer from bands you've never read of. [Virgin Steele, anyone?] Even the promise of Adam "Batman" West isn't enough of a draw since he doesn't appear in the film until about 45 minutes into it and then gives a lackluster performance.
So if you're looking for zombies of the flesh-eating type, look elsewhere. If you're looking for horror that's scary, look elsewhere. If you're looking for a movie that has been made wit at least a minimum of competence, look elsewhere. You've been warned!


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

Saturday, March 11, 2017

The Unseen (1980)

Oh. My. Goodness. I really enjoyed this movie. If I didn't know any better, I would swear it was made in the early 70's because it has that slightly trashy, exploitive quality to it. And there's enough screaming and overall angst in the closing 20 minutes to rival any Italian horror film I've watched. Bravo!

The Unseen is the story of three female television reporters who end up staying in a house where something sinister is lurking in the basement. Granted, you figure out what's in the basement long before the reporters do, but that's half the fun.

Director Danny Steinmann only has four movie credits to his name which is surprising. He sets up the scenes very well and gets the maximum amount of suspense out of the story. His first film, High Rise, which he wrote and directed under the alias Danny Stone, was a hardcore porn feature. He definite carries that sensibility into The Unseen.

The biggest reason why this film works is the remarkable performance of Sydney Lassick [Carrie, One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest] who plays Ernest Keller, the owner of the house where the women are staying. He is able to cover a wide range of emotions from child-like innocence to bat-shit crazy. It's a delightful performance to watch and I cannot say enough good things about his work in this film.

The "star" of The Unseen is Barbara Bach, a doe-eyed model/actress who once graced the cover of Playboy magazine. She is best known for her role in the James Bond film The Spy Who Loved Me (1977). Unfortunately, they don't give her much to do in this film except crawl across the floor screaming, crawl through the mud screaming, etc. Jeez, she only twisted her ankle. Why was she so helpless in the climatic scenes of this film? I hate disempowered women in movies and wish they had made a few stronger choices for her character.

I'm not going to give away the ending because watching The Unseen unfold is half the fun. This movie is so much better than its rating on IMDB. You can watch it on YouTube so definitely give it a try, especially if you like your murder movies a little on the trashy side!

RATING: Very Good.

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

Friday, March 10, 2017

Curse 2: The Bite (1989)

Dear sweet Jesus, please make this movie stop! Bad story. Bad acting. Bad sequel. Bad sound editing. Bad snake cam shot from the snake's perspective. Bad radioactive mutant snake-dog. Bad soundtrack. Holy crap, this is one bad movie! I simply couldn't watch it all the way through so I fast forwarded to the ending scene. What did I behold? Bad mutant snake and a woman wallowing in mud.

Don't watch it. Just don't watch it! Even if you like cheesy movies, just don't watch it! You've been warned! There is a Curse 3 and there is no way in hell I'm watching it! Thank God this is the only film director/writer/producer Frederico Prosperi ever directed. He only produced one more. Enough said!

RATING: Bad. (really, really bad)

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

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Witchboard III: The Possession (1995)

Who knew you could receive hot stock tips from a Ouija board? But proceed with caution, because everything has a price. That pretty much sums up Witchboard III: The Possession (W3) which is an attempt to milk a little more money out of a movie that never needed a sequel let alone a trilogy. There are a few clever moments in the movie  such as a death by taxidermy butterflies (Believe it or not, it's quite effective) and a shocking suicide. However, most of W3 is pretty predictable stuff.

The problem begins with the script which starts out strong but gets a little lost along the way. With three authors listed for the story and screenplay, this usually indicates there were problems that needed to be fixed. It shows. This story definitely has potential that was never fully realized.

The second weakness lies in the main character whose body is stolen by the demon. All of a sudden his speech pattern is different, along with his new hairdo…and his wife doesn't seen to notice! It's a bit silly and a subtler approach was definitely needed.

The last weakness is the ending which has some ridiculous CGI effects including a wife spinning rapidly in midair (an LOL moment is there ever was one) plus a demon who is a guy in a slimy Godzilla suit. It just kills what's supposed to be the climax of the film.

So, viewer beware. I was a fan of the first Witchboard but, honestly, the other two are not exactly great cinema. Rumors have been swirling on the internet on a remake of the first film. If it comes to fruition, I look forward to seeing what they can do with it. It's still a great story that has never reached its fullest potential on the big screen.


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

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

The Curse (1987)

How this movie was never on my 1980's horror radar remains a mystery to me. Forget its low rating on IMBD. The Curse is a fun film that, somehow, I have not seen until now. Director David Keith, who is known more for his acting [An Officer and a Gentleman, U-571], does an excellent job of bringing all of the elements together to make The Curse work. First of all, he's got Will Wheaton who captured my heart as the troubled Gordie in Stand By Me (1986). He was excellent in that film and he is excellent here as a young abused farm boy who suspects something is amiss when an "asteroid" crashes nearby. Wheaton gives this character lots of emotional depth which is a rare gift for an actor his age. His counterpoint in this film is his religious zealot crazy father, played by veteran actor Claude Akins [Battle For the planet of the Apes] who has more acting credits to his name than can be mentioned here. They are great together. As an added bonus John Schneider [Bo in Dukes of Hazzard] makes an appearance as a TVA inspector who comes to the family farm to see what the fuss is all about.

The other element in The Curse that is a total home run is its special effects. Sight gags and gross out moments are in ample supply. This is old-fashioned ingenuity in an age where not a lot of CGI was happening. Modern audience will find that it still looks good and has aged well. The sight of mom going full-on crazy is pure delight and the maggots spewing from a cow is laugh out loud disgusting!

Hiding in the shadows of The Curse is horror legend Lucio Fulchi [City of the Living Dead, Zombi 2] who is listed as an associate producer and uncredited as a special optical effects designer. He has an artistic eye when it comes to gore and I have no doubt his input helped to make this a better film.

Thankfully, The Curse is readily available for viewing on YouTube so, what are you waiting for? If you love 80's horror, you will thoroughly enjoy this somewhat forgotten gem.

RATING: Very Good.

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

Friday, February 3, 2017

Alien 3 (1992)

I usually don't review films made after 1990, but Aliens 3 is an exception since it's the follow up to the much beloved Alien and Aliens. Unfortunately, after such a high benchmark for excellent filmmaking, there is no where to go but downhill..and downhill it went with great speed and velocity! Alien 3 is the film critics love to hate. Even director David Fincher was infamously quoted as saying, "No one hated it more than me; to this day, no one hates it more than me."  That being said, it's not the worst movie ever made, but its not the greatest either.

Fincher points to a lot of reasons why Aliens 3 didn't work including his naivety as a young director, a studio that didn't care about its quality as long at it opened and was under budget, and severe cuts that were made to the original release that trimmed it from 144 to 114 minutes. There are a number of excellent critiques regarding the hows and whys of the failures of Aliens 3. I suggest you seek them out if you're interested.

Here are my observations as to why this movie wasn't as amazing as the previous two.

1). The screenplay. Why they decided to kill off everyone from the second film except for Ripley is a mystery to me. It made the saving of the little girl in Aliens a wasted effort. I also missed having Bishop around (played by the always excellent Lance Henriksen) whose animated remains appeared all too briefly in Aliens 3.

They also gave Sigourney Weaver very little to work with. Gone is the kickass, self-confident female from the first two films. In her place is a Ripley that is hesitant, fearful and just plain tired!

The rest of the cast is full of less than memorable characters with the exception of Dillon, played by Charles S. Dutton, who is one of the few characters who is given any depth. It felt like every time we were just getting to know someone better, they were food for the alien.

2). The creature. Damn to hell all bad GCI. Unlike the creature in the first two films, who was largely done by remote control and puppetry, this "new and improved" alien looks fake, fake, fake. It's just not the meaning character we know and love.

3). The cinematography. This is the brownest looking movie outside of the silent films of the 1920's. The darker tones of the first two Alien movies work much better. This just looks too bland and monochromatic.

I have seen both versions of Aliens 3 and I, like Fincher, prefer the longer 2003 Special "Assembly Cut" Edition. It provides information that's important to the storyline and the movie is better with these scenes added to it.

So that's my take. It's not as god-awful as move reviewers will tell you it is, but it's hardly the iconic films that Alien and Aliens are. After watching the breath-taking Prometheus (2012) which Ridley Scott wrote and directed as a prequel to Alien, I am reminded just how poorly Aliens 3 missed the mark.


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

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Aliens (1986)

Wow! It's hard to believe it took this many years to produce a sequel to the brilliant Alien (1979). This time out they upped the budget from 11 million to 18.5. They also jettisoned Ridley Scott [Black Hawk Down, American Gangster, Kingdom of Heaven] and brought in James Cameron [The Terminator, Titanic, Avatar] to direct. The urban legend is that Sigourney Weaver refused to reprise the character until she read Cameron's script. The rest, they say, is history.

So how does it stack up to the original? Both films are excellent but they are also quite different from each another. Alien is quiet, brooding, beautiful and intense. Aliens is a guns blazing action adventure with stunning special effects.  Scott and Cameron definitely know how to make big, epic films and these two are pretty much a virtual tie in terms of excellent filmmaking. It all depends upon whether you like to brood or blow things up. I'm a brooder so I prefer the original over the sequel!

In addition to a totally kick ass performance from Sigourney Weaver, the cast of Aliens is loaded with stars including Bill Paxton, Paul Reiser and my personal favorite Lance Henricksen who plays the android, Bishop, like no one else can. Everyone in this cast gives a stellar performance. Personally, I could have done without the screaming little girl who looked like a reject from Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome. I would have fed her to the creatures early in the film but, hey, that's just me. Some find her character adorable. I thought she was annoying.

The second film takes place 57 years after the first. Weaver's character Ripley has been in cryo-sleep all this time after having defeated the alien and saved the cat! Now she is discovered, thawed out, and ready for action. Weaver joins a group of marines for a search/rescue/destroy mission back on the planet she first encountered the creatures. She goes, kicks some booty, and that's all you really need to know.

Aliens is NOT an intellectual film. It's a joy ride.  \If you want the intellectual side to this story go see the brilliant and beautiful Prometheus (2012) that came out this summer and was directed by Ridley Scott. It's the "prequel" to Alien and is a brooding, intense work of art. Aliens needs to be approached like an Indiana Jones film. Root for the good guys. Enjoy seeing things get blown up. Ooh and aah at the special effects. And watch Sigourney Weaver as she gives a strong performance in one of the best roles of her career.

Recently I bought the Alien Quadrilogy (Blu-Ray Edition) that contains a Director's Cut of the film. James Cameron tells the audience at the beginning of the film that the original version was too long for the producing studio so it demanded several cuts to tighten the plot. Cameron restores these cuts to the film and says it is his preferred way to see the Aliens. I really loved the extra material and didn't feel like it was too long in the least. It adds a little more depth to the film without sacrificing the pacing of the action. See this version if you can get your hands on a copy of it.

RATING: Excellent.

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

Monday, January 30, 2017

Alien (1979)

Alien is as close to a perfect film as you can get. Director Ridley Scott is a master at telling big stories with immaculately conceived visuals and lots of mood and emotion [Black Hawk Down, American Gangster, Kingdom of Heaven]. Alien is certainly no exception to this rule.  It's absolutely gorgeous to look at, especially when they arrive on the alien planet. The "chest-popping" scene is a classic in American horror and there are other moments that are just as powerful. Scott also got very strong performances from an amazing cast and gave birth to a strong female heroine with Sigourney Weaver. Other great performances in the cast include Tom Skerritt and John Hurt.

There is lots to love in Alien. The story is well conceived and continues to slowly amp up the tension until the conclusion of the film. Furthermore, Alien is a relatively quiet film with lots of silence behind the actors voices instead of a continuous musical track. This works extremely well with this film and I found myself completely drawn into the story, listening intently for signs that the creature was moving in for the kill.

I absolutely love the creature in all of its forms. It's a modern horror icon that few can match. Kudos to the special and visual effects crew for giving us truly frightening and unforgettable images that hold up very well over time. I could go on but I think you get my point.  SEE THIS MOVIE! It's one of the best of the best that appeals to lovers of both Sci-Fi and Horror.

I recently bought the Alien Quadrilogy Blu-Ray set which includes a "Director's Cut" of the film. (The Blu-Ray version is gorgeous, by the way!) Here is what Ridley Scott has to say about it: "The traditional definition of the term 'director's cut' suggests the restoration of a director's original vision, free of any creative limitations. It suggests that the filmmaker has finally overcome the interference of heavy-handed studio executives, and that the film has been restored to its original, untampered form. Such is not the case with Alien: The Director's Cut. It's a completely different beast."

You might be interested to know that Scott still considers the original his preferred version of the film. The Director's Cut was originally longer but Scott ended up parring it down to slightly under the original running time. Here's what he said about the editing process "Upon viewing the proposed expanded version of the film, I felt that the cut was simply too long and the pacing completely thrown off. After all, I cut those scenes out for a reason back in 1979. However, in the interest of giving the fans a new experience with Alien, I figured there had to be an appropriate middle ground. I chose to go in and recut that proposed long version into a more streamlined and polished alternate version of the film. For marketing purposes, this version is being called 'The Director's Cut'." As far as I'm concerned, you can't go wrong with either version of the movie.

[As a side note, Alien only leaves me with two unanswered questions: 1) Why are they smoking cigarettes on a spaceship? and 2) who the hell brings a cat on space mission?  Discuss…]

RATING: Excellent.

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

Friday, January 20, 2017

Lady Frankenstein (1971)

Only the late 60's and early 70's could give birth to this wild reinterpretation of the Frankenstein story. Rosalba Neri is delightful as the daughter of Baron Frankenstein who returns home after having become a "surgeon" and is determined to assist her father in his research. She is a force to be reckoned with: smart, sexy, ambitious and just a little bit crazy. Perfect! The film starts out as a woman's liberation tale but gets stranger as the plot develops which is a good thing. The basic moral of the story is if you bring the dead back to life, you die. If you have sex, you die. If you bring the dead back to life and have sex with them...well, I think you can figure out the rest for yourself.
The Frankenstein monster is a bit more like Michael Meyers in Hallloween (1978) than Boris Karloff's iconic performance in the original Frankenstein (1931). There is no sympathy for the monster here. He is a not so lean, mean killing machine. This movie is so much better than I thought it would be. I found it thoroughly entertaining and am glad I stumbled upon it. Warning to the timid:  There is a little bit of T&A in this film.  But since you're a fan of horror, I hardly think this will shock you.  
The one unintentionally funny thing for me in Lady Frankenstein is the mob with torches and pitchforks. Does every village have one of these? Where do they keep their torches when they're not using them? How do they keep them lit while they go about their vigilante justice? Inquiring minds want to know.
RATING: Very Good.
Download a copy of the film from Archive.org
For more info check out the film's entry in IMDB.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Diary of a Madman (1963)

Is Magistrate Simon Cordier slowly losing his mind or is he being possessed by a darker, more sinister force? This is the question that is explored in Diary of a Madman. Vincent Price [The Fly, House of Wax] is wonderful as Cordier. Although Price can sometimes be guilty of over-the-top performances, his work in Diary is subtle and nuanced. This is definitely Price's show and everyone else is along for the ride.

The screenplay for Diary is from veteran writer Robert E. Kent [Zombies on Broadway, Twice-Told Tales] who adapted several of the short stories of French writer Guy de Maupassant. He gives Price plenty of great material to work with and the story is classic thriller material. Director Reginald Le Borg [The Mummy's Ghost, The Black Sleep] is no stranger to the director's chair and does an excellent job of bringing this story to life. The only bad choice in this film is this way the Horla (the evil entity in question) is portrayed. The green light bar over Price's eyes and the "voice in an echo chamber" come across as cheesy other than menacing. With a different choice, Diary would have been even more powerful and dramatic.

So, if you like thrillers and are a fan of Vincent Prince, then I highly recommend Diary of a Madman. It is one of Price's most overlooked and underappreciated films.  Don't miss it!

RATING: Very Good.

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

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Curse of the Undead (1959)

A vampire western? You betcha! I know it sounds like a bad idea but somehow Curse of the Undead avoids all of the the vampire and Wild West cliches you see in most films. It gives us, instead, interesting characters you care about and actors who give dynamic performances in their roles. Why director and co-writer Edward Dein was not given more films to direct is a mystery to me. He handles his subject matter well both in print and onscreen. Curse of the Undead is also helped by a great symphonic soundtrack by Irving Gertz which adds tons of atmosphere to film.

Standout performances include Kathleen Crowley [tons of TV credits] as Dolores, who is the vampire's one true love.  She is tough when she needs to be but also vulnerable when the scene calls for it. Michael Pate [The Black Castle, Julius Caesar] leaves all the bad Bela Lugosi impressions behind him, in favor of a more human vampire. It works rather effectively here. Finally, Eric Fleming [Conquest of Space, Queen of Outer Space] gives the Preacher Dan a stoic grace presence without resorting to the pious clergyman you see so often in movies.

So, if you like vampire pictures you definitely need to give this one a try. It's not as well known as some of the others but you will be surprised and pleased by what you find in Curse of the Undead. You can find it easily on YouTube.

RATING: Very Good.

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

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Gallery of Horror (1967)

One would think that a horror anthology with Lon Chaney Jr. and John Carradine in it would be a home run. Well, this one struck out at home plate! Galley of Horror presents five short stories that are unimaginative and horribly acted. The budget for this yawn-fest was a paltry $20,000 and it shows. Lon Chaney only appears in one of these stories and it's clear he did this just for a paycheck (However small it may have been). It's some of the poorest work I've ever seen from this much beloved actor.

John Carradine is the host for this anthology and also appears in several of the stories. His work is sub-par as well and he showed more spunk in the god-awful Ed Woodesque Vampire Men of the Lost Planet (1970) than he does here. The other actor with a major stick up his posterior is Roger Gentry who, unfortunately, appears in four of the five stories. I have rarely seen lines delivered with less enthusiasm than he does here. He is completely devoid of emotion and is stiff and wooden in every scene.

The director for Gallery of Horror is David L. Hewitt who is better known for his special effects than he is for his directing. He also worked on the screenplay which is never a good idea. M Night Shyamalan does this all the time with mixd results, and I think it's always good to have someone around who can tell you "no" when it is needed!

Not much more need to be said about this terrible film. The stories include witches, vampires, zombies and mad scientists but none of these is the least but menacing nor interesting. If you want a good horror anthology from this time period, try Tales of Terror (1962) starring Vincent Price, Peter Lorre, and Basil Rathbone. It's the perfect example of how a collection of horror stories should be done.

Gallery of Horror can be found on YouTube. Watch it if you dare, but you've been warned!


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