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!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Zombies of Mora Tau (1957)

I so wanted this one to be a good film.  It has a number of things going for it:  The story line is interesting as dead crewmen from sunken ships come back to life to guard the treasure that is still buried on the sea floor.  Who will try to get the treasure next?  Will the zombies claim another victim?  It sounds great but it never quite gets there and the ending is ridiculously bad as the treasure is returned to the sea and a zombie sea captain "vaporizes" leaving a pile of clothing.  WTF?
Most of the acting is decent enough in Mora Tau.  However, Marjorie Eaton is terrible as Grandmother Peters.  This role really needs to sizzle for this movie to work but Eaton is as stiff and wooden as the zombies onscreen.
The really bad news comes in the form of the "underwater" scenes which look like they were filmed by Ed Wood on a studio lot. Baaaaaaad.  Furthermore, the zombies aren't menacing in the least and no one really explains how they got to be that way.  The unspoken explanation has something to do with voodoo but then this theme is not explored in the movie at all.  They just leave you hanging.
With a little more work this could have actually been a decent little zombie flick along the likes of Val Lewton's I Walked With a Zombie (1943) but it never quite gets there.
RATING: Fair.
For more info check out the episode's entry in IMDB.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Trilogy of Terror (1975)

Sometimes television gets it right.  Scream queen Karen Black stars in four different roles in Trilogy of Terror.  It's presented in a Creepshow or Tales From the Darkside format.  None of the stories are interconnected except for the presence of the actress.  
Trilogy starts things off right with a screenplay by Richard Matheson [I Am Legend, The Night Stalker, among others]. Matheson has had a long and successful writing career both as a novelist and as a screenwriter.  His ability to tell a good story really shines through here.  Matheson is paired with director Dan Curtis [Dark Shadows, The Night Stalker] who had a long career in television directing and producing.  [He recently passed away in 2006.]  This is a winning formula.
Karen Black is definitely the star here.  She shines in every role and her considerable acting skills bring depth and intrigue to the characters she brings to life on screen.  In the first vignette "Julie," Black plays a college professor who is stalked and black mailed by a student.  The twist in this one came as a surprise to me.  I didn't see it coming which is a good thing.
The second vignette "Millicent and Therese" was the weakest of the three.  It's the story of two sisters who are polar opposites.  I saw the direction this one was headed from the very beginning.  Perhaps it would work for some folks but it pulled no surprises for me.
By far the last vignette "Ameila" is the best.  A cult classic.  It's so simply constructed but Black delivers the screams and terror to great effect.  The story line involves a Zuni warrior doll who comes to life.  It's quite intense, even though very little blood is shown.  I especially appreciate how effectively Curtis shoots the doll.  There is no CGI here.  Just great camera work combined with marvelous acting that make the doll come alive.  The final scene of this vignette is simply brilliant. 
Don't miss this enjoyable thriller.
RATING: Very Good.
For more info check out the film's entry in IMDB.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Let's Scare Jessica to Death (1971)

I simply don't know why this film gets a rating of 6.4 out of 10 on IMDB.  Let's Scare Jessica to Death has a great title going for it but nothing much beyond that.  It is quite slow in its pacing and feels long even though the film is listed with a run time of 89 minutes.
There are a number of great early 70's horror films.  This is not one of them.  The acting is uneven and poor at times.  The way that Jessica runs in terror through the field makes one wonder if she has any muscles in her legs at all.  I know it was the Seventies but, come honey, you can run with a little more determination than that!
I just found this film rather dull and hardly suspenseful at all.  The basic story centers around Jessica who just got out of a mental hospital and is desperately trying to hold onto her sanity.  While the movie is nicely moody and atmospheric at times, this is about all it has going for it.
The vampire angle is a bit interesting but, again, they don't do much with it.  I have to disagree with the majority of people on this one and say "Ho-hum."  If you want a nicely crafted horror movie from the early 1970's try Black Christmas (1974) or Deranged (1974).
RATING: Fair.
For more info check out the film's entry in IMDB.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Curse of the Werewolf (1961)

Surprisingly, Curse of the Werewolf [COTW] was the only werewolf movie made by Hammer Studios.  While the beginning of the movie is a bit of a slow burner, it does offer a fresh and intriguing explanation as to how the first werewolf came into being.  Stay with it because the pace does pick up after a while.  The legendary Oliver Reed takes on the role of the werewolf, playing Leon Corledo, an unfortunate soul whose mother died at childbirth after being raped by a mad beggar.  Reed does a very good job with the character.  However, I prefer Lon Chaney Jr's performance in the 1941 classic The Wolf Man over Reed's any day.  There are a few places in COTW where Reed simply looks like a human in a wolf suit.  He is missing something in his movements that  Chaney definitely got right in the original film.
COTW has all the trappings of a Hammer production with great sets, beautiful color and capable directing by Terence Fisher who did his best work as a director with this Studio.  While the make-up magic of Jack Pierce is missing, the werewolf in this film does have an interesting look that makes sense considering the werewolf's origins.  Definitely give this one a try.  It's well worth your time.
RATING: Very Good.
For more info check out the film's entry in IMDB.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Brides of Dracula (1960)

The Brides of Dracula [BOD] is the kind of film you expect from the legendary Hammer Studios: beautiful sets, rich cinematography, impeccable acting, and a nicely written script.  BOD has all of these and much more.  Originally intended as the sequel to Horror of Dracula (1958), Hammer found themselves without Cristopher Lee to reprise  the role.  The script then went through extensive rewrites eventually resulting in Dracula remaining dead and a new vampire, Baron Meinster, taking his place.  David Peel is very good as the young Baron with matinee looks and a dashing smile.  This works to his advantage in the beginning of the film.  However, it's simply challenging for him to look menacing since he's such a "pretty boy."  Peter Cushing reprises his role as Dr. Van Helsing.  He is wonderful as always and gives the role 110%.  I also really loved Martita Hunt as Baroness Meinster, the Baron's Mama.  Her wardrobe is fierce and she has an intensity about her that is delightful to watch.  I think she steals the show in every scene she's in.
Terence Fisher's direction in this film is wonderful and the cinematography is eye-poppingly beautiful.  My only complaint is that the fangs of the vampires make them look like they are wearing over-sized dentures.  They are simply too big for their mouths.  But this is easy to overlook considering what a nicely crafted film this is.
I wanted to give this one an "excellent" rating and probably would have done so if it weren't for the ending of the film.  It seems a bit anti-climactic and I would have chosen to do something different that had a little more punch.  Still, don't miss this one.  It's a great example of the kind of film that made Hammer Horror legendary.
RATING: Very Good.
For more info check out the film's entry in IMDB.