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, September 29, 2010

Taste the Blood of Dracula (1970)

Hammer Horror strikes again with a slightly different take on Bram Stoker's Dracula story.  Christopher Lee plays the famous Count, a role he started in Horror of Dracula (1958) and would continue to play numerous times [9 by my count!] ending with Dracula and Son (1976).  He is excellent in the role, playing it his own way which is quite different from Bela Lugosi's original, but is nicely done nonetheless.
If you've seen other Hammer Horror films, you won't be disappointed with this one.  It shares the same production values as many of their other films and the acting is top notch through and through.  Kudos to Hammer Studios for making such consistently excellent gothic horror films.  They are a joy to watch.
I won't spoil the plot for you but in this one Count Dracula is literally reconstituted during a secret black magic ceremony.  [Not to be missed!]  The plot set up for this one is truly original.  I've never seen anything like it which is surprising considering how many vampire films I've seen over the years.  The rest of the movie follows a fairly predictable path but it is an enjoyable journey nonetheless.  Taste the Blood of Dracula can be seen in parts on YouTube and in whole at veoh.com but, do yourself a favor and rent this one.  It deserves to be seen on a decent screen.
RATING: Excellent
For more info check out the film's entry in IMDB.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Curse of Frankenstein (1957)

In the late 1950s, England's Hammer Studios decided to tap into the lucrative horror film market by producing loose remakes of Universal Studios' 1930s classics.  Their first attempt was The Curse of Frankenstein, starring Peter Cushing as Victor Frankenstein and Christopher Lee as the Creature.  Terrence Fisher directed the film.  Jimmy Sangster's screenplay was more faithful to Mary Shelley's original novel than the 1931 James Whale version.  Curse of Frankenstein helped turn Hammer into the new kings of horror.  They produced six more Frankenstein films over the next 20 years, most starring Cushing as the Mad Doctor.
Everything about this film works well.  The musical score is well done.  The sets and costumes are flawless, especially Hazel Court's wardrobe [Elizabeth].  She is given the attention that Alfred Hitchcock gave his leading ladies and steps into each scene like a fashion model on a runway.  Peter Cushing is excellent as Victor Frankenstein and gives what I think is one of the finest portrayals of this character.  Christopher Lee also gives a solid performance as the Creature.  He smartly steers clear of trying to mimic Borif Karloff's iconic performance of the Monster in the original and makes the character his own.  The rest of the cast is solid as well with very good performances from everyone.
This one is a must see, not only because it is the beginning of what would come to be known as Hammer Horror, it is also a wonderful movie in its own right.  A delight from start to finish.  You can find this film on YouTube but, do yourself a favor, and rent the DVD so you can enjoy this film in all its glory.  I found a copy of it at my local used book/DVD store as a double feature with Taste the Blood of Dracula.  The print was flawless.  
Rating: Excellent.
For more info check out the film's entry in IMDB.

Monday, September 13, 2010

House of Frankenstein (1944)

Here is is, Frankenstein, Part V which is not as good as I and II but better than IV.  So it goes with sequels!  House of Frankenstein starts off strong.  Boris Karloff is excellent as  Dr. Gustav Niemann who escapes from prison with his faithful hunchbacked servant, Daniel.  [Lugosi's Ygor is sorely missed here.]  Their quest is to find Daniel's brain a new body to inhabit instead of the old model.  So they go off in search of Dr. Frankenstein's notes to figure out how to pull it off.  Along the way they meet Dracula, played adequately by John Carradine; the Wolfman, play by Lon Chaney Jr. whose human form is as tortured as ever; and, of course, The Monster, played terribly by Glenn Strange [Gunsmoke].  They also throw in Lionel Atwill [Burgomeister forever] as Inspector Arnz for good measure.  
The problem with all this star power is that it gets awfully crowded.  Everyone some screen time but not nearly enough to develop their character.  However, thanks to Karloff's wonderful performance, the film is a joy to watch if only for him.  Back in the director's chair is Erie C. Kenton, who also did Ghost of Frankenstein.  His filmmaking skills have improved since the last time, giving us a stronger film in House than in Ghost.  The chase scene toward the beginning of the film with carriages and horses running full force is particularly well done.  Jack Pierce is also back again with his excellent make up skills.
This one is a must see if you're a regular Frankie Fan.  While it's not the best of the bunch, House of Frankenstein is still a well crafted film that brought Universal's Frankenstein series to a close.  Make sure you rent the Legacy Series edition of the film.  The print is clear and beautiful to behold.
RATING: Very Good.
For more info check out the film's entry in IMDB.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Curse of the Swamp Creature (1966)

Curse of the Swamp Creature is not the worst film I've ever seen, but it's not good filmmaking either.  Think of it as the poor white trash inbred cousin of the classic Creature From the Black Lagoon (1954).  Here's what's wrong with the film:
1. The Creature - The only part of the Creature we see through the entire film is it's webbed hand rising from an ice fog misted container in the laboratory.  When the Creature is finally revealed in the concluding scenes, it looks like a Kindergarden art project.  You have to see it to believe it.
2.  Continuity - My favorite WTF moment is every time the mad scientist throws another failed experiment into his pool to be devoured by hungry alligators.  It's quite clear the alligators are being filmed in a lake somewhere else.  Ridiculous.  The other laugh out loud moment for me occurs every time the expedition party is walking through the swamp.  The guide makes repeated claims of how tough the journey will be.  Yet every time we see them they are traveling on nicely manicured paths.  Seriously!  This is just the tip of the iceberg.
3. Bad Acting and a Bad Script - Some of the actors deliver their lines with the skill of a Jr. High School production of Our Town.  However, they're not so bad that they are campy.  They're just plain bad.  Furthermore, is it me or are the mad scientist's lines totally ridiculous at times?  Any what's up with the Tesla coils and boiling test tubes in the lab?  Could anything be more cliche?
If this film suddenly disappeared from the face of the earth, it would be a gift to the horror genre.  You've been warned!
Rating: Bad.
Download a copy of the film from Archive.org
For more info check out the film's entry in IMDB.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Altered States (1980)

I saw Altered States at the local Thursday night horror fest and was impressed with this intense thriller.  The film defies description.  I've never seen anything like it.  It is equal parts of drama, Sci-Fi, horror and psychedelic acid trip.  You're never quite sure where it is going which I think is a good thing.  Director Ken Russell [Tommy] has given us a unique and compelling piece of filmmaking that is as intellectual as it is visually stunning.  If you're a fan of mindless slasher flicks you might be bored with this one.  But if you want a movie that will keep you on the edge of your seat, paying attention to every detail in order to figure out what the hell is going on, then this film is for you.
The cast includes a very young William Hurt [The Big Chill, Kiss of the Spider Woman] who is perfection in his role as Eddie Jessup, a scientist who, with the help of an isolation tank and hallucinatory drugs, sets out to travel to the beginning of existence with surprising results.  [I won't spoil the plot here.  Enjoy the journey.]  Blair Brown [T.V. Series "Fringe"] plays his wife and is the perfect counterpoint to Hurt's compelling character.
Altered States is not available to view legally online that I am aware of.  However, this one is definitely worth a rental and can also be watched instantly on Netflix.  My suggestion is to see Altered States on the biggest screen possible because the visuals are quite compelling and shouldn't be reduced to an ipod.
RATING: Very Good.
For more info check out the film's entry in IMDB.