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!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Vampire Over London (1952) a.k.a. Mother Riley Meets the Vampire

IMDB is very unkind to this film, giving it a 3.0 rating.  It’s SO much better than that!  Vampire Over London stars Bela Lugosi in a slapstick horror comedy.  Yes, you heard me correctly!  Lugosi plays Von Housen who is also known as “The Vampire.”  He’s actually a madman trying to rule the world.  The vampire thing is just a ruse to throw people off. 

In spite of the fact that Bela looks a bit thin and ill, he has a blast with this role and totally hams it up in a few scenes.  This is the last decent film he made before his addiction got the best of him and he signed up for three Ed Wood films: Glen or Glenda (1953), Bride of the Monster (1955), and Plan 9 From Outerspace (1959) which was his last movie.  If you’re a Lugosi fan Vampire Over London is a must-see simply to watch the twinkle in Bela’s eyes as he tackles a comedic role.

His partner in crime is British actor Arthur Lucan who made a series of movies in drag, portraying a slightly-crazed old working class woman, Mother Riley.  This was the last of these films he did as this character and some Americans will miss the humor in it completely.  If you’re not a fan of British comedy, you're just not going to get this.  I love classic British comedies such as Absolutely Fabulous and Are You Being served? so I’m at home with this kind of material.  It’s completely absurd and that’s the point!

As an interesting bit of trivia, I read in another review that Bela Lugosi had to make this film in England because he needed the money for his ticket back home. He went to Britain to revive his famous Dracula play, but was stuck there when it bombed and the actor couldn't scrape up enough cash to sail to America! This film helped him get back on his feet.

Give this one a chance!  It’s not Bela’s best film but I thought it was a whole lot of fun!

RATING: Very Good.

You can download a free copy of this film at archive.org.

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

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Don't Look Now (1973)

Some movies hit you over the head with scare tactics and blood splatter galore.  This is not one of those films.  Don’t Look Now is a brooding supernatural thriller that makes the viewer feel slightly unsettled at every turn.  If you like lots of action, you’re doing to hate it.  If you like films that take their time developing characters and always have a little something unexpected up their sleeve, Don’t Look Now is definitely for you.

While I found the film to be a bit long for my taste, I was impressed with how it trapped you in a strange world and never let you go until the final credits rolled.  Don’t Look Now was filmed in Venice which is a city I adore.  But this Venice is both beautiful and menacing.  Something always feels a bit “off.”  You can’t put your finger on it, but you know it’s there!

Don’t Look Now is the story of John & Laura Baxter who lose their daughter in a drowning accident in the USA.  Then they head to Venice to escape this tragedy but it keeps following them around everywhere!  Donald Sutherland [Invasion of the Body Snatchers, The Hunger Games] gives a great performance as John and brings lots of depth and complexity to the character.  Julie Christie [Fahrenheit 451, Doctor Zhivago] matches him at every turn.  They are quite good together.

I won’t give away any details because this one needs to be seen with no preconceived notions of what is going on.  Don’t Look Now is one of those films that is hardly ever mentioned when horror films are discussed, but it deserves a bigger audience.

RATING: Very Good.

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


Monday, July 21, 2014

The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)

Michael Rennie was ill the day the Earth stood still and he told us where we stand.  [Everybody sing!]  The Day the Earth Stood Still is a brilliant movie.  Released in the aftermath of WW II, it stood as a warning, and a promise, for the future of the earth.  Unfortunately, we’re just as stupid now as we were back then!  The amazing thing about this movie is that it sounds as fresh today as it did in 1951.  The “if you don’t understand it, kill it” philosophy is firmly entrenched in our world and, according to Klaatu [Michael Rennie] who came to evaluate us as a species, we are STILL a failed experiment. 

Michael Rennie [The Lost World] is perfect as the even-keeled Klaatu who gets down to business and is not distracted by much.  He is a powerful and constant presence in nearly ever scene of this movie. [This is where the 2008 remake fails since Keanu Reeves is more of a zen stoner than a man’s man.]

Joining Rennie is the radiant Patricia Neal [Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Hud] who saves the world’s posterior by befriending Rennie and supporting him on his quest.  Joining these two is the sweet 1950’s kid Bobby, who is played nicely by Billy Gray who was also in the hit TV show Father Knows Best.  Oh, and there’s also a small role for Frances Bavier who played the iconic Aunt Bee a on The Andy Griffith Show!  Sweet!

From a technical aspect, The Day the Earth Stood Still looks great.  The Sci-Fi elements are good for their time and don’t come across as too hokey.  The robot is definitely iconic in its design and is different from others I’ve seen.  It works really well and the decision for it to remain silent was a good one.  It adds to the menace.  Furthermore you can’t go wrong with director Robert Wise [The Andromeda Strain, Star Trek: The Motion Picture] who gave us such iconic films as The Sound of Music and West Side Story.  The guy totally knows what he is doing and his direction in this film is smart and confident.

Everything about The Day the Earth Stood Still works well.  If you haven’t see it yet, what are you waiting for?  Forget about the 2008 sequel and savor the original.  It’s classic 1950’s Sci-Fi at its very best.

RATING: Excellent.

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


Saturday, July 19, 2014

The Munster's Revenge (1981)

It is well known that Fred Gwynne had mixed feelings about the success of his character Herman Munster.  It made it difficult for producers to see him as anything else, which is a shame!  Therefore, when producers asked him to do a reunion movie he asked for an astronomical amount of money…and he got it.

The Munster’s Revenge is a tepid substitute for the original series.  Gone are Butch Patrick and Pat Priest, who played Eddie and Marilyn in the original series.  I’m not sure how you can have a reunion without them!  Bless K.C. Martel [The Amityville Horror, E.T.] for taking on the role of Eddie.  They give him absolutely NO material to work with so it’s no surprise he pales in comparison to the original.  The smart bet would have been to write a script that had the grown-up Eddie and Marilyn in it.  It seems desperate to try and portray the rest of the cast as much younger than they actually were when they made this movie.  I call this the Beverly Hills 90210 effect!

Speaking of scripts, this one is a stinker.  Absent are all the clever banter and bad jokes that made the original so endearing.  There are time spans where nothing funny is being said or done.  It just doesn’t work as a serious drama!  Furthermore, the wax figures turned robots are absolutely ridiculous for 1981.  [FYI wax does not move!] It’s obvious they are actors in suits who seem incapable of standing still when they’re supposed to.  It’s thoroughly annoying.  Ugh!

The one bright spot in the movie is the scene where Fred Gywnne and Al Lewis (Herman and Grandpa) go undercover as waitresses.  It’s the only moment in the film where I bust out loud laughing.  Classic stuff.  Another plus was the addition of Bob Hastings as Cousin Phantom of the Opera.  He gives the role everything he’s got and even when the jokes run a bit thin he manages to pull off a great performance.

What can I say?  This one is definitely for the fans.  The Munsters will always be one of my favorite shows but The Munster’s Revenge fails to capture the brilliance and energy of the original TV series.

RATING: Good.

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


Thriller: The Closed Cabinet (1961)

Season 2, Episode 10

The Closed Cabinet has enough atmosphere to power three episodes of Thriller.  The story starts in the Dark ages where Beatrice Mervyn murders her husband and then kills herself.  Her husband’s mother invokes a curse along with a riddle.  Anyone who can solve the riddle ends the curse. 

Three hundred years later we find ourselves in the 1800’s, after a brilliant introduction to the story by Boris Karloff.  In every generation, someone has died tragically and mysteriously since the curse was invoked.  Will this be the generation that ends the curse?  Stay tuned for an exciting episode of Thriller.

The Closed Cabinet benefits from an excellent script and spot on direction from Ida Lupino, an actress with a lengthy career who also found herself sitting in the director’s chair for numerous television shows.  Everything she does in this episode is subtle and never overplayed.  The cast responds well in her hands and gives great performances.

In addition to a great set and simple but effective lighting effects, the musical score for this episode by the one and only Jerry Goldsmith [Star Trek: The Next Generation, The Waltons] is perfection and greatly adds to the mood of the story.  You really can’t go wrong with this episode of Thriller!

RATING: Excellent.

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

Friday, July 18, 2014

Galaxy of Terror (1981)

Roger Corman is at it again!  Galaxy of Terror is a Sci-Fi adventure where the cast screams like little schoolgirls as they confront their worst nightmares…in space.  Bruce D Clark wrote and directed this not-so-fright fest with Corman acting as producer.  Galaxy of Terror is definitely the B-movie version of Corman rather than the one who gave us such epic films as Masque of the Red Death (1964).  The production values are bit weak and the movie feels like it was made in the early 70’s rather than 1981.  [That is not a compliment!] Furthermore, most of it is so dark you can barely see what is happening on screen.  It definitely helps to lessen the emotional impact the film might have had otherwise.

The cast holds untapped potential they never deliver.  Some of this is due to bad;y written dialogue.  Let’s drop a few names, shall we!  Robert Englund [A Nightmare on Elm Street], Sid Haig [The Devil’s Rejects] and Ray Walston [My Favorite Martian] are pretty much window dressing.  Erin Moran [Joanie from Happy Days] plays a “psy-sensitive who is flat and wooden in her performance. [The irony is not lost on me!] The only one with any spark of life in the cast is Grace Zabriskie [Big Love] who plays the slightly crazed captain of the ship.  She has made a career out of playing eccentric characters and gives this one all she’s got. 

I don’t know what else to say about this film except that they TRIED REALLY HARD to make this a scary film but I found it to be as bland and uninteresting as plain oatmeal!  After Star Wars was birthed back in 1977, there’s no excuse for making a space adventure this tepid.  Stick with Alien (1979) which knows how to frighten its audience to great effect.

RATING: Fair.

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


Thursday, July 17, 2014

Munster, Go Home! (1966)

After the TV show ended in 1966, they tried to extend the success of The Munsters by producing a full length feature film in living color!  From the get go, I actually found the color distracting and would have preferred it to be in black and white to match the original show.  However, color was the thing back in the day, so color they got!

The original cast is back, except for Pat Priest who played Marilyn.  They thought she was too old to play the part [She was over 30 at the time.  Beverly Hills 90210, anyone?]  so they cast the red-headed Debbie Watson in her place.  Watson does a fine job in Priest’s place and I admire that they didn’t try to duplicate Priest and went for a different vibe altogether.

While the Munster family makeup doesn’t look nearly as good in color as it did in black and white [it’s not bad, it’s just too vibrant] once I settled into the brilliant comedy of Fred Gwynne, Yvonne DeCarlo and Al Lewis, it became less of an issue.  Even in places where the script feels a little thin, these three amazing actors make it work.  I never tire of watching this trio do their thing.  They always deliver the goods…and then some!

Adding to the fun are Hermione Gingold [The Music Man], Terry-Thomas [The Abominable Dr. Phibes] as some of the Munster’s eccentric English relatives, and John Carradine [Silent Night Bloody Night, The Sentinel] who plays the butler.  I love Carradine’s makeup and his deadpan approach to his character works brilliantly. 

While Munster, Go Home is not quite as good as the original series, it is enjoyable from start to finish.  Fans of the show will definitely enjoy it.

RATING: Very Good.

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