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, June 30, 2010

Dominique Is Dead (1978)

Dominique is not a bad film.  It's simply too long for American audiences.  If this film could have been edited down to about 70-80 minutes it would be a nice thriller.  One of the reasons for this pace is that Dominique is from the UK whose films often have a slower pace in terms of plot development than their American counterparts.  Secondly, director Michael Anderson has stated in interviews that Dominique was taken out of his hands during editing and tampered against his wishes.  Who knows what the film would look like if he had more input into the finished product.
Dominique stars veteran actors Cliff Robertson and Jean Simmons who play David and Dominique Ballard.  The story begins with the Ballards who have a less than perfect marriage.  Dominique hangs herself and after the funeral her husband starts believing that he is being haunted by her spirit.  The acting is solid by everyone in the cast and the cinematography is fine as well.  The film establishes a nice mood even if it moves at a slow pace.
Dominique is available to view online or to download to your computer.  As long as you don't need constant action to keep you interested you might find Dominique is Dead to be an enjoyable tale of the supernatural.

Download a copy of the film from Archive.org
For more info check out the film's entry in IMDB.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Carnival of Souls (1962)

Carnival of Souls is considered to be a cult classic by many people.  However, I just don't get it.  If you're a fan, please tell me why you love this movie.  For me, it's just O.K.   If you haven't seen it I won't divulge the plot other than to say it's about a church organist who is involved in a car accident at the beginning of the film.  After this she takes a job in another city and finds herself being drawn to an old abandoned carnival that is located just outside of town.
Candace Hillgoss is fine as Mary Henry but the problem with the film is that she is not a very likeable character.  She views her church gig as just a job and seems to have no interest in faith or spirituality.  She's also a loner and doesn't connect very well with others in the film.  Because of this I found that as a viewer I didn't really care what happened to her.  There was no feeling of sympathy on my part whatsoever.
There is a 1998 remake of Carnival that is known as Wes Craven's Carnival of Souls.  However, Wes did not write nor direct this film and probably lent his name to the project.  Bad mistake.  The rewritten plot bears absolutely no resemblance to the original.  I saw it a few years back and didn't like it at all.  My hope it that some day a decent remake of this film will be done because the basic bones of the story are good.
This film is available to view online or download legally through Archive.org.  So, proceed with caution and judge the movie for yourself.  Maybe you can convince me this is a great movie, but I doubt it.
Rating: Good.
Download a copy of the film from Archive.org
For more info check out the film's entry in IMDB.

Monday, June 28, 2010

House on Haunted Hill (1959)

"Don't stay up thinking of ways to get rid of me, it makes wrinkles." says Frederick Loren to his fourth wife in this delightful haunted house story.  Vincent Price is excellent as Frederick Loren and Carol Ohmart is the perfect counterpoint as his wife Annabelle.  Their witty dialogue is both funny and sinister and makes House on Haunted Hill a joy to watch.
This is an old fashioned ghost story by legendary director William Castle.  The script is well written.  The ensemble cast is great through and through and also includes Richard Long [T.V.'s Nanny and the Professor].  The soundtrack is eerie and and establishes the perfect mood for the film.  The special effects are quite simple but not so bad that they diminish the quality of the film.
The basic plot of House on Haunted Hill is about an eccentric millionaire and his wife who invite five people to spend the night in a creepy mansion.  Those who last the night earn ten thousand dollars each.  The story line develops nicely from there and includes a few twists and turns along the way to make it interesting.  
As far as I'm concerned the 1999 remake of the film under the same name pales in comparison to the original.  Yes, they amped up the special effects and gore but that does not make up for the ridiculous script that tries to do too much as well as the acting that doesn't even come close to topping the original.
House on Haunted Hill is available as a free download [Yipee!] so that future generations can enjoy this well crafted thriller.  Great stuff!

Rating: Excellent

Download a copy of the film from Archive.org
For more info check out the film's entry in IMDB.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Nosferatu (1922)

Much has been written about Nosferatu and rightly so.  This is THE vampire movie as far as I'm concerned.  Director F.W. Murnau shows us his genius as a filmmaker in every scene.  It is creepy through and through.  Max Schreck, who plays vampire Count Orlok, is superb.  His performance is other-worldly and unnerving.  You simply can't take your eyes off of him.  He dominates every scene he's in.
Nosferatu was an unauthorized adaptation of Bran Stoker's Dracula with names and other details changed because the studio could not obtain the rights to the novel.  A lawsuit by Stoker's widow followed and all known prints and negatives of the film were destroyed.  Fortunately, not all copies were lost and the film resurfaced in other countries where it has been enjoyed by many generations of horror fans.
A delightful exploration of the relationship between Murnau and Schrek hit the screen in  2000 in the fictional movie Shadow of the Vampire with John Malkovich as Murnau and Willam Defoe as Schreck.  If you've never seen it, it's well worth your time and is a wonderful homage to Nosferatu.  Dafoe's portrayal of Count Orlok is deliciously deranged and twisted.
This film is in the public domain in the United States but not in Germany, the country of its origin.  Archive.org has a copy available to view or download legally.  However, I would recommend also seeing it in one of the digitally restored copies of the film such as Nosferatu (The Ultimate Two Disc Edition) which was authorized by the F.W Murnau Foundation.  See this movie!!!!
RATING: Excellent.
Download a copy of the film from Archive.org
For more info check out the film's entry in IMDB.  

Thursday, June 24, 2010

King of the Zombies (1941)

King of the Zombies (1941)
My gracious me!  Zombies aren't the most horrifying thing in this movie, racial stereotypes are.  While this film is hailed by many, I found myself squirming in my seat for all the wrong reasons.  Here's my take on it:
1) These are voodoo zombies, not Romero's gut munching variety so be warned.  Yawn!
2) This film is more comedy than horror.  In fact, I'd classify it as a comedy with elements of mystery in it.
3)  Mantan Moreland as Jefferson Jackson [He also played Birmingham in the Charlie Chan movies] definitely steals the show.  The white actors who surround him pale in comparison.  I appreciate his comedic talent and timing.  However, the film is also a product of its time and has been interpreted by many modern viewers as demeaning and offensive.  To his credit, Moreland made a career out of acting during an era where it was difficult for black actors.  He definitely broke a few barriers and opened doors for other black actors to follow.  Therefore, I'm willing to cut him a little slack.
Racist elements aside, this is a decent movie as long as you're in the good for a comedy and not a horror movie.  You can view it legally online and it can be appreciated as a solid effort that was done on a very limited budget.
Download a copy of the film from Archive.org
For more info check out the film's entry in IMDB.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Phantom of the Opera (1925)

The Phantom of the Opera is an iconic silent film.  Directed by Rupert Julian [along with Lon Chaney, Ernst Laemmle and Edward Sedgwick who are uncredited] , Phantom gives us a breathtaking view of Paris with lavish sets, beautiful costumes and an unsettling performance by Lon Chaney whose make up in the film is still sheer perfection.  When audiences first saw Phantom they were said to have screamed or fainted at the scene where Christine pulls the concealing mask away.  It is still a frightening image to this day.
There are many scholarly reviews written about the film that are available online.  I simply enjoy it as a fan of horror and appreciate its place is horror movie history.  Because of its success, Phantom inspired Universal to finance the production of a long string of horror films including some of my all time favorites: Dracula, Frankenstein, The Wolf Man and The Invisible Man. 
For modern audiences the pacing of the film is a bit slow.  However, no one can deny the power of a well told story and the delight of watching Lon Chaney at the height of his creative power.  This one should not be missed and can be viewed online at Archive.org, Google and YouTube.  I copy I watched was from Archive.org.  The film is a bit degraded in places but is still watchable.  If anyone out there has an opinion about the best copy of this film, please let me know.
RATING: Very Good.
Download a copy of the film from Archive.org
For more info check out the film's entry in IMDB.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Son of Ingagi (1940)

Son of Ingagi is the first science-fiction/horror film to feature an all black cast.  It is one of approximately five hundred "race films" which were made in the United States between 1915 and 1950 and was intended for black audiences.  Because these films were produced outside of the Hollywood studio system, fewer than one hundred remain.  This makes Son of Ingagi an important film to view if solely for historical reasons.
The story revolves around a young newly married couple and their encounters with Dr. Jackson [a black, female doctor in 1940!] and her monster sidekick named Ingina.  The story definitely draws its inspiration from James Whale's Frankenstein (1931) but its plot unfolds in its own unique way.  Thankfully no pitchforks or torches were involved in the making of this film!
If you are wondering why the monster is called Ingina but the film is called Ingagi, it appears that the movie takes its title from the 1930 film Ingagi which is about a tribe of gorilla worshipping women who are encountered by an explorer.  It was a successful exploitation film and presumably the producers of Son of Ingagi hoped to piggy back on its success.
This film was well acted through and though.  Furthermore, they accomplished quite a bit on what I assume was a very limited budget.  However, the film lacked emotional punch for me.  There are no real scares in it and I doubt any viewer would feel sympathetic toward Ingina, like they did toward Frankenstein's monster.  That being said, I'm glad I got the opportunity to view the film and appreciate the fact that it has been preserved for future generations to enjoy. 
Download a copy of the film from Archive.org
For more info check out the film's entry in IMDB.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Nightmare Castle (1965)

Nightmare Castle is a good old fashioned horror film that pulls no surprises but still tells a good story.  This is the kind of stuff that belongs on late night fright television.  Barbara Steele is great in her dual role as two identical half-sisters.  [Just go with it!]  Her performance is very theatrical and dramatic in a good way.  The rest of cast is solid as well.
The story begins with Lady Arrowsmith [Barbara Steele] who has a torrid love affair.  She is caught by her jealous husband, Dr. Arrowsmith, who tortures and murders both her and her lover.  The good doctor then takes Lady Arrowsmith's half-sister as his wife who continues to be haunted by her dead half-sister.  I'll let you figure out the rest for yourself.
Nightmare Castle is available as a free download.  It is an Italian film that is dubbed in English but don't let that scare you away from the film.  All in all, a solid effort.
Download a copy of the film from Archive.org
For more info check out the film's entry in IMDB.

Friday, June 18, 2010

A Name For Evil (1973)

What is evil's name?  Perhaps it's bad script writing?  Or wasting the talents of a perfectly good actor?  Or labeling a film as horror that is terrifying for all the wrong reasons?  You decide.  A Name For Evil is a movie that doesn't seem to know what it wants to be.  It starts out as a melodrama where a married couple slowly sucks the life out of each other.  Then, about 22 minutes into the film, it tries to be a supernatural thriller.  Finally it evolves into a weird acid trip that can be best described as soft core hippie porn.  Maybe it made sense in 1973 but I just don't get it. [Penthouse is the production company which ought to tell the viewer something!]
Veteran actor Robert Culp tries his best to rescue this film with his enthusiastic performance.  The rest of the actors are solid as well.  Furthermore, the cinematography is quite good and the sets are effective in setting the stage for the story.  However, none of these elements can transcend the horrible screenplay.  There are a few moments of good filmmaking here but far too many WTF transitions.  Horror fans will find A Name for Evil very disappointing.  However, fans of vintage porn might think it's Citizen Kane.  Proceed with caution.
I obtained a copy of this film in a cheap DVD horror collection.  Thankfully, it's not available to view legally online.
For more info check out the film's entry in IMDB.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Dementia 13 (1963)

Before the Godfather (1972) and Apocalypse Now (1979), there was Dementia 13, Francis Ford Coppola's fifth major film which he both wrote and directed.  The film was also produced by the legendary Roger Corman.  Dementia 13 is a delightful thriller that hints at the cinematic genius Coppola would become.  The script is well written and keeps the viewer guessing as to what comes next.  The film begins with a great rowboat scene where John Haloran suffers a fatal heart attack.  His wife Louise realizes she won't receive any inheritance money since John died before his mother.  So she forges a letter from John to convince the rest of the family he is still alive and flies to Ireland to meet the family and try to secure a share of Lady Holeran's money.
Dementia 13 is nicely filmed and Coppola continues to up the suspense and tension until it reaches a frenzied peak.  His work in Dementia 13 reminds me of Alfred Hitchcock or Val Lewton.  Each scene is carefully constructed and nothing is wasted or superfluous.  Acting is solid all around with everyone contributing something to the film's success.  
Dementia 13 is available to watch online or download for free through Archive.org.  The digital copy looks really great on an ipod.  If you're a Coppola fan, this film is a must-see.  If you're not it still stands as a well done and enjoyable thriller.
Rating: Very Good.
Download a copy of the film from Archive.org
For more info check out the film's entry in IMDB.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Birds (1963)

Pure Hitchcock perfection.  The Birds required nearly three years of preparation due to its technical complexity and was responsible for numerous innovations in special effects and sound.  It is truly a marvel to behold.  Tippi Hedron takes center stage as Melanie Daniels who rolls into Bodega Bay in hot pursuit of eligible bachelor Mitch Brenner [Rod Taylor]. There she is inexplicably attacked by a seagull and the rest is cinematic history.  
Tippi Hedron, with costumes designed by fashion icon Edith Head, is flawless as both an actress and a fashionista.  Carrie Bradshaw [Sex and the City] has nothing on her.  Any woman who can pilot a rowboat wearing a full length mink and heels gets my respect!  Rod Taylor is her perfect counterpart, playing the role of eligible bachelor with playful charm and wit.  The rest of the cast is solid as well and includes such notables as Suzanne Pleshette [The Bob Newhart Show]. Jessica Tandy [Cocoon] and Veronica Cartwright [L.A. Law among other things].
The Birds is not available to view legally online.  However, it can be watched instantly  or rented through Netflix.  Personally, I don't think anyone should settle for less than watching the DVD of this masterwork of horror.  I own the Collector's Edition from the Alfred Hitchcock Collection and am quite happy with it.  The DVD also includes a lengthy documentary, All About the Birds, that explores how they pulled off the special effects.  It makes you appreciate the film even more.  If you've never seen The Birds before, you're in for a treat.  You'll never look at Tweetie the same way again!
RATING: Excellent.
For more info check out the film's entry in IMDB.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943)

When Universal Studios made the sequel to The Wolf Man (1941) they couldn't resist the temptation to introduce another monster.  However, two is not necessarily better than one.  Lon Chaney Jr reprises his role as The Wolf Man and delivers another solid performance as the tortured soul Larry Talbot.  Bela Lugosi leaves his cape and fangs behind to play the Monster.  [Really?  Really.]  His performance, sad to say, is stiff and emotionless.  It makes the viewer long for the far superior portrayal of the Monster by Boris Karloff in the original Frankenstein (1931).    Furthermore, if Lugosi looks a little different from scene to scene it's because two stuntmen filled in for him in more scenes than he would care to admit.  
Other cast members include the "gypsy witch" Maleva who has a much larger role in this film than the original.  Maria Ouspenskaya does a very nice job with this character.  New addition Ilona Massey is Elsa, the daughter of Dr. Frankenstein.  She has a commanding presence on screen and her "say something" hat is a wonder to behold.
Curt Siodmak, who wrote the original Wolf Man, did the sequel as well.  This time out, however, the script is not nearly as good as the original.  Case in point, somewhere in the middle of the film it momentarily becomes a musical, providing a WTF moment.  It is unintentionally funny and completely out of place.  The pitchforks and torches from the original Frankenstein (1931) are also gone [Awwww!] and are replaced with dynamite.  I guess there are new and improved ways of killing monsters, after all!  As a side note, Jack Pierce who did the make up for Frankenstein (1931) and the Wolf Man (1941) lends his considerable talents to this film as well.
All in all, Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man is a well made film.  However, the originals are definitely better.  That being said, this film is definitely worth watching if solely for Lon Chaney Jr's heartfelt performance.  I don't believe the movie is available to view legally online.  However, you can rent it through Netflix.  [Choose the digitally restored Universal Legal Collection version.]
RATING: Very Good.
For more info check out the film's entry in IMDB.

Monday, June 14, 2010

The Wolf Man (1941)

The Wolf Man is not the first werewolf film ever made but it is the one from which all other werewolf movies draw their inspiration.  Two silent films explored the same topic Wolf Blood (1925) and Werewolf of London (1935).  The former is reviewed elsewhere on my blog.  The latter was Universal's first attempt at a werewolf film with make up by Jack Pierce who also did Frankenstein.  He also designed Lon Chaney Jr's iconic make up for The Wolf Man.  [FYI.  There is also a 1924 silent film entitled "The Wolf Man" but it is a melodrama and not a horror film.]
The basic plot of The Wolf Man is about an American who returns to his home country of Whales following the death of his brother.  While staying in his ancestral home he is bitten by a werewolf and becomes one himself.  The acting in this film is great all around.  Lon Chaney Jr. plays the conflicted Larry Talbot/Wolf Man and is effective in both roles.  Claude Rains, who is best known for his role as The Invisible Man (1933), plays Talbot's father.  Veteran Acttor Ralph Bellamy is solid as Colonel Montford and Evelyn Ankers is delightful as Chaney's love interest, Gwen.  Bela Lugosi even makes a cameo appearance as Bela the Gypsy but is less than impressive.
I enjoyed this film through and through and consider it to be a classic.  While it is not as strong as Frankenstein (1931), director George Waggner establishes an eerie mood with lots of atmospheric fog and a nice stage set.  The soundtrack is also very good and helps to heighten the suspense of the werewolf scenes.

The Wolf Man was remade in 2010 with Benicio Del Toro in the lead role.  It is one of the best horror remakes I've seen and stands on its own as an excellent film.  It was also lovingly homaged in Wes Craven's Cursed (2005).  I don't think you can view this film anywhere legally online.  However, you can rent the Universal Legacy Series version of it through Netflix.  This is definitely one you want to view on a decent sized screen.  It's a must see for fans of vintage horror.
RATING: Excellent.
For more info check out the film's entry in IMDB.

You can also view this movie in parts on YouTube although I recommend seeing a better copy of the film on DVD.  Here is Part One:

Friday, June 11, 2010

The Undertaker and His Pals (1966)

Maintaining the right balance between horror and comedy is a tricky thing.  When it succeeds [Shaun of the Dead] it is most entertaining indeed.  When it fails [Creature From the Haunted Sea] it's like enduring a root canal without novocaine.  The Undertakers and His Pals falls somewhere in between success and failure.  Reviews I've read of this film elsewhere are all over the place.  Some people like it.  Some people hate it.  I guess it depends on what you think it funny.
Here's my take on the film.  The basic premise for the film is good.  An undertaker with no scruples teams up with two psychos.  The three of them go on a killing spree to drum up more business for the undertaker.  Furthermore, body parts from each of the victims end up on the menu at a local greasy spoon that is run by the psychos [it's like Sondheim's Sweeney Todd but not nearly as brilliant or funny.]  
The acting in Undertaker is solid through and through which makes it hard to completely dislike the film.  However, the balance between horror and comedy is a bit off for me.  The horror scenes feel like vintage torture porn which is not a good thing in my book.  The comedy element needs to be upped a bit in order to match the brutality of the horror.
Undertaker and His Pals can be viewed online at fancast.com but the quality of the image is not great.  It can also be rented through Netflix.
Rating: Fair. [Some good.  Some bad.]
For more info check out the film's entry in IMDB.