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, July 27, 2012

Suspiria (1977)

Regarded by many as Dario Argento's finest film, Suspiria is unsettling, disturbing and utterly unforgettable.  Everything about it makes the viewer feel a bit off balance.  From a vicious murder early in the film to the color scheme and set design, Argento puts us front and center in a world we've never seen before.  It's also a world we hope we'll be able to escape by the end of the film.
There is nothing negative I have to say about this movie.  I love the soundtrack by Italian prog-rock band Goblin.  They also worked with Argento on his director's cut of Romero's Day of the Dead which I also highly recommend. Goblin, with some assistance from Argento, create an atmosphere that sounds like Lucifer himself is at the mic.  It never lets up in its relentless creepiness and is brilliantly done.
The architecture used in this film is also strange and effective.  The set decoration is impeccable and the organic curved lines of doors and wall paintings make the mansion where the story takes place feel like its alive.
The acting is also very good with Jessica Harper [Shock Treatment, Minority Report] playing American ballet dancer Suzy Bannion who has come to study dance at a prestigious German ballet school.  I also love the over the top Nazi wanna-be dance instructor Miss Tanner, played brilliantly by Alida Valli.  She adds a great deal to the overall feel of the film.
As a disclaimer, Suspiria is not for the faint of heart.  It's one intense movie that grabs the viewer by the throat and never lets you go.  However, even if this kind of movie is not your cup of tea, it's hard to deny the brilliance of Argent's direction and artistic vision for Suspiria.  I don't think there's another film out there quite like it.
RATING: Excellent.
For more info check out the film's entry in IMDB.

Friday, July 20, 2012

The Immortalizer (1989)

As we say in the South, "Bless his heart."  Director Joel Bender [Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers: The Movie] set out to make a serious horror film in 1989.  He failed quite spectacularly.  It's too bad because The Immortalizer has a great concept behind it:  Old wealthy clients pay the doctor loads of cash so that their brains can be transplanted into young, nubile bodies.  It would have made a great episode of Tales from the Crypt but here the story feels like its been stretched to the breaking point and beyond.  Furthermore, it might have actually worked if the movie had a sense of humor.  Unfortunately, it doesn't and tries to pass itself off as genuine horror.  Too bad.
The Immortalizer is also hampered by marginal acting and a terrible soundtrack.  Yes, it's true they had a limited budget to work with but other directors over the years have proven that money isn't everything.  You can make a great horror film on a shoestring budget [Night of the Living Dead, anyone?] but this is not one of them.
To add insult to injury the surgical science in this film is groan worthy.   There are so many problems with it I simply don't know where to start.  The funniest gaffe is that once the surgery is done the young body speaks with the voice of the old brain.  This makes no sense whatsoever considering they now have new vocal chords, etc.
As a final groan, the "ghouls" or whatever they're supposed to be look like local wrestlers with really bad store bought make up.  They evoke no sense of terror whatsoever and their constant growling gets downright irritating pretty quickly.
The Immortalizer is not as bad as IMDB says it is, but it's not good either.  There are so many wonderful horror films to see that were made in the 1980's.  I don't see why anyone should spend their time watching this one.
RATING: Fair.
For more info check out the film's entry in IMDB.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Gore, Gore Girls: Special Edition (1972)

I think I'm scarred for life!  The Gore Gore Girls is supposed to be a cheeky comedy/gore fest.  However, the film is not as hip as it thinks it is.  It might have been funny to some in 1972 but the humor doesn't translate well to 2012.  Much of it is groan worthy and horribly misogynistic.  Furthermore, the acting is horrible which doesn't help the humor one bit.
As far as gore goes, there are buckets of it or, rather, face-fulls of it.  Director Herschell Gordon Lewis, who is known for such "classics" as Blood Feast (1963) and Wizard of Gore (1970) goes over the top in what many may classify as early torture porn.  As a disclaimer I have little patience or appreciation for this kind of horror so extended scenes of a psychopath bashing someones brains in with a hammer do nothing for me.  It's gross, disgusting and totally unnecessary.  But, hey, you just might be the kind of person who likes that kind of thing.  If that's the case you'll love with movie.
The basic plot is a simple one: Private eye Abraham Gentry, played absolutely dead-pan by Frank Kress, investigates the brutal murders of a group of strippers who dance at the same club.  That's all you need the know really.  The rest is stripper routines, horrific murders and a lame attempt to find humor in the situation.
I rate this one Bad for all the reasons stated above.  It's a low budget gross out movie that does absolutely nothing to advance the horror genre.  Now, if I could only get those 81 minutes of my life back, I'd definitely watch something else!
RATING: Bad.
For more info check out the film's entry in IMDB.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Scarecrows (1988)

Scarecrows is a nice low budget horror film with great atmosphere and excellent monsters.  The scarecrows in this film are great.  I love the faces which are spooky and mysterious.  The audience also knows absolutely nothing about them which also adds to the sense of mystery.  This film does not have big budget special effects but director William Wesley [Monsters: TV Series] knows how to create a creepy atmosphere and sustain it for the length of the film.  Nice!
The two big weaknesses in Scarecrows are the lack of a back story as well as the ending.  The movie never explains how the Scarecrows came to be.  It also fails to reveal the identity of the people in the picture on the living room wall.  The camera references this picture way too many times not to tell us anything about the people in it.  With a little more back story, this film could have gone from good to very good.  
The other weakness is the ending.  It was chugging along slow, steady and creepy...then it lost me in the last 15 minutes of the film.  The talking head in the refrigerator as well as other details seemed out of place.  Plus **Spoiler alert** did we really need zombie Daddy on the plane and his attempt to kill his daughter?  For me, it doesn't make sense that either the daughter or the father would meet their demise in this film.  They were innocent bystanders and should have been spared.  Oh well, no one asked me for plot advice!
Scarecrows stands on the verge of being a really fine film.  It just doesn't quite get there.  I'd love to see this one as a remake with a bigger budget.  If they did a little rewriting and kept the overall creepiness of the film, it would be a great remake.
RATING: Good.
For more info check out the film's entry in IMDB.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

I Spit On Your Grave (1978)

Brutal.  Intense.  Unforgettable.  Three words that describe my feelings about I Spit on Your Grave.  This was a hard film for me to watch.  It begins with a hip, sweet 70's girl who rents a summer house to write her first novel.  There she is savagely raped several times and left for dead.  These scenes were difficult to watch.  I though Wes Craven's Last House on the Left (1972) was brutal until I saw this film.  Camille Keaton is truly a marvel as Jennifer Hills.  Her performance as the victim is powerful, completely convincing and nearly impossible to watch.  This is as intense and honest as horror ever gets!
Thankfully, I watched the whole film because Jennifer does get her revenge and kills all of her attackers.  However, she doesn't do it in a Quentin Tarantino, guns a-blazing style.     She gets her revenge as a fully empowered and very angry woman.  It would have been predictable and much easier to go the other way so this was a refreshing surprise in the way the story line developed.
The critics really pan this film but I'm not sure why.  Yes, it is very low budget.  Yes, the direction is a bit lacking at times.  Yes, the rest of the actors' performances range from adequate to awful.   However, Ms. Keaton channels something raw and honest that is not to be missed.
As a warning, this film is definitely not for everyone.  It is deeply disturbing but honestly conveys the horrors of sexual assault in a way that feels very honest and true.  I don't need to see it a second time but I'm glad I at least saw it once.
RATING: Very Good.
For more info check out the film's entry in IMDB.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Screamtime (1986)

Screamtime is a collection of three British horror shorts that are connected by a stupid American story about two guys who steal videos from a store and then watch them.  Boy, where is the Crypt Keeper when you need him?  This is definitely not in the same league as the delightful Creepshow (1982) or Tales From the Crypt (1989).  Bad connecting material aside, all three horror shorts play it straight and underestimate the value of camp in these kinds of anthologies.  Here's how I see all three:
"That's the Way to Do It" - Its the story of a puppeteer who seems very attached to his little friends.  It's a family drama that pretty much unwinds in ways that are fairly predictable.  No surprises but decently put together.
"Dreamhouse" - A classic tale of a couple who move into a new house and "strange things start to happen"  and the wife begins seeing grisly things that no one else seems to be able to see.  This one also develops in ways you expect but the ending is a bit of a surprise which makes it a stronger entry than the first.
"Do You Believe in Faires?" - This one has some playfulness to it that makes it enjoyable.  The scene with the midget gnome is groan-worthy.  Otherwise it's a decent little story that doesn't take itself completely seriously which works in its favor.
Overall the production values on this one are quite low for the era in which it was filmed.  The copy of it I watched was grainy and the shorts felt like they were made in an earlier time period and were put together later in 1986.  The acting was decent in all there shorts.  The problem is that I couldn't get excited about any of them.  There are definitely better horror anthologies out there so why settle for just OK?
RATING: Good.
For more info check out the film's entry in IMDB.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

American Scary (2006)

American Scary is an insightful and thorough documentary on the subject of horror show hosting in America.  From its early beginnings to its modern incarnation on the Internet and Cable TV, American Scary covers it all.  Some, like Elvira, are well known by everyone.  Others, are local heroes who are no less beloved by the people who watched them every Friday or Saturday evening around midnight.
This is a subject that is near and dear to my heart.  As a young lad I was a big fan of Chiiler Theater in my hometown of Pittsburgh, PA.  Each week Bill "Chilly Billy" Cardille would show a double feature of horror and sci-fi movies after the 11:00 news broadcast.  He was like a trusted friend and I stayed up until I drifted off to sleep somewhere during the second feature.
I was glad to see Bill Cardille as one of the people who was interviewed for the documentary.  There were also many others I had not heard of before but I'm sure are equally beloved by others.  These unsung heroes gave many of us our love for the genre and it's great to see them celebrated in this film.  Nicely done!
RATING: Very Good.
For more info check out the film's entry in IMDB.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Eaten Alive (1977)

Tobe Hooper is one of the reasons why I live in the city!  No one does Southern back woods psycho-creepy like he does.  Hooper is the master at creating a truly unsettling world where everything, and I mean everything, is not quite right.  Eaten Alive takes place in one of those places.  The red filtered lighting, decaying hotel, weird characters and strange decor invite the viewer into an experience rather than a story.  It's sort of like a car crash.  You want to turn away but, for some strange reason, you can't stop staring at it.  
Eaten Alive is the follow up to the iconic Texas Chainsaw Massacre.  While it's not as great of a film as its predecessor, its not as bad as the critics say it is either.  Think of it as a dreamy nightmare rather than a well told narrative.  The basic premise is simple: Crazy man runs a dilapidated Texas hotel that has a crocodile swimming around its perimeter.  Then, lots of people get killed by both the crazy man and the crocodile.  What makes Eaten Alive so interesting to me is that it sustains a a creepy, unsettling atmosphere from the first frame to the last.  You almost feel like you have to take a shower after watching it!
Granted, this kind of film in not everyone's cup of tea.  However, no one can deny Hooper's skill in creating a nightmarish world the audience has never seen before and, hopefully, will never see again.  Neville Brand [Birdman of Alcatraz] plays the main character Judd with a subtle intensity.  Crazy does not always have to be big and dramatic all the time.  His crazy is often just below the surface until it erupts in sudden acts of violence.  He's creepy and convincing to say the least.  As an added bonus Robert Englund [A Nightmare on Elm Street] pays local redneck Buck.  It's a different kind of role for him but it's always enjoyable to watch Englud do his thing.
Eaten Alive is hard to rate but If you're a fan of either Robert Englund or Tobe Hooper, it's a must see.  If you have little taste for the weird and disturbing then you should probably look elsewhere.
RATING: Very Good.
For more info check out the film's entry in IMDB.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Hard Rock Zombies (1985)

There is a fine line between camp and crap.  Rocky Horror Picture Show is on one side of the line with its perfect balance of great music, comedy and horror elements.  Hard Rock Zombies is on the other side of the line with its bad 80's AOR tunes, a few chuckles and pitiful use of horror.
Where do I start?  The music!  There is nothing hard rock about it.  It's the worst of what the 80's had to offer.  Furthermore, the instruments you hear on the soundtrack and those we see the band playing are often mismatched.  It's a sad state of affairs, indeed.
Then there's the zombies which have some of the most amateurish make up I've seen.  We do MUCH better at the Asheville Zombie Walk.  Not to mention they all move in different ways from the dancing "zombie ho" who kicks and twirls her way through the streets of the city to the Romero style shamblers who sport the typical zombie walk.  In between is the band that moves in a military march at one moment and then like rock star posers in the next.  It's annoying and amateurish.
Finally, the so-called comedy elements rarely work.  I found myself giggling a time of two but the film was never laugh out loud funny.  Sure there are midgets, a granny werewolf, Nazis and Adolph Hitler [I kid you not!] but these elements are never used for their full comic potential.
So, Hard Rock Zombies is a red hot mess in my book.  There are some who find it amusing but I am definitely not one of them.  Furthermore, the quality of the DVD is horrible.  Grainy picture and bad sound put the final nail in the coffin for me.  RIP, Hard Rock Zombies!
RATING: Bad.
For more info check out the film's entry in IMDB.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Frankenstein 1970 (1958)

Frankenstein 1970 theoretically takes place in the future.  However, everything about it screams the 1950's.  From it's choice of clothing to it's use of nuclear radiation to awaken the monster, there's nothing futuristic about it.  It's all 1950's and that is not necessarily a bad thing.
F-1970 stars the one and only Boris Karloff who plays the last of the Frankenstein clan.  He is wonderful in this role and steals the scene every chance he gets [which is often].  Director Howard W. Koch [Airplane, The Odd Couple] also brings out the playfulness in Karoff's performance and gives the film an overall subtle sense of comedy that serves this film well.
Where this film looses its stream is when the monster appears on screen.  It is utterly ridiculous and looks more like a Mummy than a proper Frankenstein.  It's so bad that it drags the quality of the film downward.  Granted they only had a budget of $110,000 to work with but surely they could have done better than this.  A decent Halloween mask would have been a better choice than what they came up with.
If you're a Karloff fan then you definitely need to see Frankenstein 1970 solely to watch the master at his craft.  If you're not a fan there are definitely better Frankenstein pictures to watch and you might want to choose one of those.
RATING: Good.
For more info check out the film's entry in IMDB.

Monday, July 9, 2012

The Walking Dead (1936)

The Walking Dead [TWD] has nothing to do with the graphic novel and TV series of the same name.  This is the original The Walking Dead starring Boris Karloff as John Ellman, a man wrongly accused of murder who was executed and then resurrected by an ambitious scientist, Dr. Beaumont, played by Edmund Gwenn [A Miracle on 34th Street, Them!].  Both of them are very good in their roles.  Karloff gives a subtle but powerful performance.  Gwenn simply lights up the screen.  The camera absolutely loves him as well.

A special thumbs up also goes to Marguerite Churchill [Dracula's Daughter] who plays the doctor's assistant, Nancy.  While she doesn't have the biggest part in the film, Churchill brings a strong presence to the screen.  You notice her right away.  Her ability to convey empathy and compassion toward Ellman is an important element to the story and she nails the role perfectly.
TWD is part crime thriller, part Frankenstein story and original enough in plot development that it keeps things interesting.  Director Michael Curtiz [Casablanca, Mildred Pierce] filmed TWD in an astonishing 18 days.  Considering the quality of the film, this is impressive to say the least.  TWD is only 66 minutes long but this seems like a good length for the story.  It felt neither too short or too long.  
So, while this isn't an iconic film, it certainly is a job well done from Warner Brothers who were trying to play catch up to Universal Studio's domination of the horror genre in the 1930's.
RATING: Very Good.
For more info check out the film's entry in IMDB.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

M (1931)

M is the first "talkie" that was made by German director Fritz Lang [ Metropolis] who also helped to write the screenplay.  His subject matter was far from safe.  M unflinchingly explores the subject of a child murder who was terrorizing the citizens of a German city.  The police have not been able to apprehend "the monster" as they refer to him; so the crime families in the city band together and join the hunt.
Peter Lorre [The Raven, The Comedy of Terrors] plays Hans Beckert, the child killer, with understated power and subtle emotion.  It is one of the finest performances of Lorre's career I've even seen.  Lorre portrays Beckert as the neighbor next door which, of course, is far more interesting than if he played it like Hannibal Lector in Silence of the Lambs.  His final scene where he appears before the "court" is absolutely riveting.  It is then, any only then that he reveals his true emotions for all to see.  Brilliant!
M is supposedly based on the real-life case of serial killer Peter Kürten, the "Vampire of Düsseldorf", whose crimes took place in the 1920s, but Fritz Lang expressly denied that he drew any inspiration from the case.  You might also find it interesting to know that during World War II the Nazi's would actually used his character's image as an example of how degenerates help to bring down civilized society.  It's a prime example of life imitating art and much of this is due to Lorre's powerful presence on screen.
The print of M I watched is the restored version which was done around 2000.  The picture is strikingly flawless for such an old film and the sound quality is excellent as well.  The only thing that is missing is a soundtrack which was probably not a part of the original film.  However, it is an interesting experience to watch a movie with periods of silence in it.  We're simply not used to it in modern films.  It serves as a reminder that a good musical score can easily enhance the viewer's experience of the film.
This one is a must see for fans of vintage horror.  The direction, cinematography and editing are beautifully done and are way ahead of their time.  A truly remarkable film.
As a final note Peter Lorre, who is Jewish, fled the country shortly after this film's release and Fritz Lang followed two year later.  Both enjoyed long and respected careers in the United States.
RATING: Excellent.
For more info check out the film's entry in IMDB.

Friday, July 6, 2012

The Hands of Orlac (1924)

The Hands of Orlac is a film that requires a bit of patience from modern viewers.  It's story line unfolds slowly.  Most of what happens on screen is subtle and takes the audience deep into the emotional state of the main character.  Furthermore, with the exception of the train scene, the sets are small and simple, done in a minimalist German Expressionistic style.  Therefore, if you're the kind of horror movie fan that craves lots of blood and intense action, you will hate The Hands of Orlac.  If your preference is more toward psychological thrillers, then this just might be your cup of tea.
The Hands of Orlac is directed by the brilliant German filmaker Rober Wiene who also gave us one of my all-time favorite silent horror films: The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920).    Considering the time period in which was filmed, Wiene was a master at his craft.  His ability to edit a scene as well as capture deep human emotions with no words are a marvel to behold.  His work is greatly aided by Conrad Veidt [The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari] who plays the main character.  His performance is right up there with the best work of Lon Chaney Sr.  
The basic plot is a simple one: A world famous concert pianist looses his hands in a train wreck.  When we wakes up he learns that his new hands belonged to a recently executed murderer.  The film then explores the theme of whether the heart rules the hands or the hands rule the heart.
Personally, I appreciate this film and enjoyed watching Wiene and Veidt do their thing.  The copy I watched was a free download from Archive.org whose film quality is quite good and is a restored print with a new musical score attached  to it.  The score works well and the sound quality was very good.  Take a chance on The Hands of Orlac.  It might give you an appreciation for where the horror genre got its start.
RATING: Very Good.
For more info check out the film's entry in IMDB.

Download a free copy of this film from Archive.org.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Planet of the Vampires (1965)

The Planet of the Vampires is a beautiful film to look at.  The space suits are tight fitting black leather with yellow trim that look like something designed by Versace rather than NASA.  The modern minimalist sets, which are done in black and charcoal grey, are punctuated by lights in primary shades of red, green, blue and yellow.  Throw in a little dry ice fog in all the right places and you have one of the most striking visual designs I've seen in a horror film in quite some time.  I was completely hooked 5 minutes into the film.  A beautiful and brilliant design on a very tight budget!  Impressive to say the least. 
This is the genius of Italian director Mario Bava who also helped to write the script.  I absolutely love this film.  It reminds me a bit of Forbidden Planet (1956) but Bava's film is darker and more atmospheric.  The original score from Gino Marinuzzi Jr also helps to estalbish the mood which is mysterious and slightly unsettling.
The story is classic Sci-fi stuff:  A team of astronauts land on a mysterious planet and, then, strange things start to happen.  It's not original but, hey, it works, especially when Bava is at the helm.  The only weakness in the script is that the dialogue contains some pretty terrible "science speak" but it's nothing that you won't find in other Sci-fi films of the same period.  It can be easily forgiven and overlooked since the main story line is solid.
The acting is a bit uneven.  The best of the bunch is the captain of the spaceship who is played by Barry Sullivan.  He's a man's man and takes center stage every time he appears on screen.  A total testosterone fest.  The two ladies in the film are the worst in terms of acting.  They look more like runway models rather than astronauts.  But this IS an Italian film so female bombshells are to be expected.  Their ability to act is inconsequential.
Not every critic will rate this film as high as I do but I was completely drawn in by Bava's charms and couldn't take my eyes off of Planet of the Vampires.  It is visually stunning and takes the audience on a beautiful and mysterious journey.  Bellissimo!
RATING: Excellent.
For more info check out the film's entry in IMDB.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

The Monster That Challenged the World (1957)

There is a scientific explanation for everything.  And, boy, do they throw science around (or something that sounds like science) in The Monster That Challenged the World.  Overall, this is a decent 1950's creature feature.  The acting is solid and most of the cinematography is good as well.  The laugh out loud moment occurs when we first glimpse the creatures that look like giant sea caterpillars.  Granted, they're a tad better than some of the monsters found in Roger Corman's B-movies.  However, they're not very terrifying and are guaranteed to induce rolls of laughter from modern viewers.
The setting of Monster is a California Naval base that is located on a salt water lake.  The monsters in question come to life after an earthquake created a fissure bottom of the lake.  Supply a little radiation and, voila, giant killer caterpillars.  [The movie labels them as mollusks but they look like caterpillars to me!]
Director Arnold Laven [The Big Valley, Geronimo] keeps the action moving at a nice pace and gets good performances from all of his actors.  Furthermore, the underwater film sequences are unusual for the time period and while they're not up to the amazing underwater work in Creature From the Black Lagoon (1954), they're not bad either.
There are definitely better 1950's creature features than Monster, but you could do a LOT worse.  In spite of it's ridiculously overblown title, Monster is an entertaining film that, by and large, holds together pretty well.
RATING: Good.
For more info check out the film's entry in IMDB.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Zombie Lake (1981)

C'est horrible!  Zombie Lake is a red hot mess of a French zombie film.  It's only appeal is to 13 year old boys who will enjoy all the absolutely unnecessary nude scenes in this film.  The only good thing I can say about Zombie Lake is that the underwater shots were filmed rather well.  Other than that it's a complete and total disaster.
First of all, the zombie makeup and blood effects look like a group of Jr. High School students did them.  And maybe they did.  It would explain all the T&A used in this picture!  We're talking bright green stick makeup straight out of a Halloween kit from Wal-mart.  Then there's the flesh munching where zombies bite people's necks and we see blood smeared on them, yet their flesh remains intact.  It's a mystery or, perhaps, just bad filmmaking!
There is a plot but who really cares?  There are more holes in it than a French baguette.  The story merely sets up more nekkid women cavorting in the pond and zombies killing them.  It doesn't get any worse than Zombie Lake.  Even the worst of Roger Corman films had a sense of camp about them that make them bearable to watch.  There is nothing funny, artistic or scary about this little slice of zombie porn.  Avoid it like the zombie apocalypse.
RATING: Bad.
For more info check out the film's entry in IMDB.

Monday, July 2, 2012

What Ever Happened to Baby Jane (1962)

Baby Jane is a tour de force performance from Bette Davis and Joan Crawford.  They play two show biz sisters whose fifteen minutes of fame have come and gone.  Blanche (Crawford) is now in a wheel chair after a car "accident" and Jane (Davis) is her caretaker.  Jane is now bat-shit crazy and is jealous of her sister Blanche whose talent was remembered long after Jane's career had fizzled.  Things go downhill from there and Jane books herself a one way ticket on the crazy train!  Brilliant!
Director Robert Aldrich [The Dirty Dozen, Hush Hush Sweet Charlotte] delivers what I believe is a perfect film.  It's his version of Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho.  Everything, and I mean everything, about this film works.  The acting is stunning, the script is clever, the tension is unbearable and the cinematography is spot on.  There is nothing to dislike about this film.  It's an amazing study in human nature with its themes of jealousy, abuse of the handicapped, and mental illness.
This film is definitely a high point in both of these great actresses careers.  You simply can't take your eyes off of them.  This is one tense story whose images will stay with you long after the film had ended.  If you've been living under a rock and have never seen this movie before, put it at the top of your list.
As an added bonus, character actor Victor Buono [The Stangler, Beneath the Planet of the Apes] give a delightful performance as Jane's new accompanist who is supposed to help her restart her career.  It's obvious it's just not going to happen and he play off of Davis' illusions of grandeur very well.  
RATING: Excellent.
For more info check out the film's entry in IMDB.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Witchfinder General (1968)

While it's not historically accurate, Witchfinder General is a film about the life of Matthew Hopkins, a witch hunter in 17th century England.  The horror represented in this story is real.  Many innocent men and women were tortured during this time period until they "confessed" to being witches.  Then they were summarily hanged.  This same kind of torture and murder was also seen in the United States as well, especially in Salem, Massachusetts.  
Witchfinder presents the subject matter at hand with unflinching honesty.  Vincent Price is excellent as Hopkins and embodies the role without his usual sense of camp.  He portrays Hopkins as a man who had zero empathy for his victims and was sadistically cruel to those he tortured.  Powerful stuff!  The rest of the cast is very good as well and help convey the brutality of the subject matter in a way that rings true.
The sets and costumes are great and look like the kind of stuff associated with Hammer Studios.  It really adds to the enjoyment of the film.  The direction and cinematography are spot on as well.
Don't miss this one.  It's not one of Price's best known films but it should be.  Furthermore, if you find the subject matter interesting then also check out the 1922 Danish silent film Haxan which can be rented through Netflix.  It's my personal favorite on the subject of witchcraft and the unfortunates that were accused of practicing it.
RATING:  Excellent.
For more info check out the episode's entry in IMDB.