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!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Day of the Dead (1985)

Day of the Dead (DOD) may well be one of the best zombie film ever.  At least it’s one of my all-time favorites!  DOD is the third zombie offering from the one and only George Romero who basically invented the modern zombie genre single-handedly with Night of the Living Dead (1968).  DOD take place sometime after Dawn of the Dead (1978).  The story line involves a group of military personnel and scientist who are living in an underground bunker while the world around them is overrun with zombies.  The setting is perfect because it creates a claustrophobic feeling which Romero exploits to its fullest effect.  Most of the humans are one step short or a nervous break down and sometimes it’s hard to tell who is the greater menace: the zombies or the humans!  Brilliant!

The scientists in this film are experimenting on the zombies, trying to figure out what makes them tick with the hope they can rehabilitate them.  The star of this show is Sherman Howard who plays a zombie named Bub.  His performance in this film is astonishing.  He is, in my opinion, the BEST ZOMBIE EVER!  The way he embodies the character is nearly flawless.  He makes the audience care for Bub in a way that makes us want to shoot some of the humans and save the zombie!

The human cast is a bit cliched but they serve their purpose.  The exception to this is Lori Cardille, the daughter of Bill Cardille who hosted a weekly double feature monster fest in my hometown of Pittsburgh. Lori’s character, Sarah, brings lots of emotional depth to the table and helps carry some of the other actors in the film.  As a bit of trivia, make-up effects guru Greg Nicotero [The Walking Dead] makes his acting debut in DOD.  He was also an apprentice of Tom Savini who did the effects work on DOD.

Speaking of effects, Tom Savini upped his game big time since Dawn of the Dead and gives the audience some brilliant blood-spaltter effects and classic zombie make-up.  His work is a feast for the eyes and his influence on Nicotero cannot be denied.

John Harrison also gives DOD a wonderful soundtrack which always cranks up when the zombies appear.  It reminds me a bit of the work Goblin did on a number of Dario Argento’s films.  It sets the perfect mood in the scenes it’s employed.

What more need to be said?  Day of the Dead is essential viewing for those who love all things zombie.  A remake of Day of the Dead was done 2008 with Steve Miner [Friday the 13th, Part II, Halloween: H2O] in the director’s chair.  The zombies in the remake are the fast-moving viral kind which I find annoying, especially when they violate the laws of physics!  The remake has its good points but it simply doesn’t compare to the original.

RATING: Excellent.

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


Monday, May 12, 2014

The Mighty Peking Man (1977) a.k.a. Goliathon

For the love of all things horror, there is NOTHING in this film that works for me.  I’m serious about this.  From the periodic use of inserted stock footage, to the massive problems of scale from scene to scene, to the luxuriously decorated cave in the middle of the jungle, to the guy in the ape suit, to the sizzling hot love story in the middle of the film, to the girl wearing a loin cloth bikini in an urban setting, EVERYTHING is simply god-awful.

No, it’s not "so-bad-it’s-good."  It’s simply bad.  Peking Man is an obvious rip-off of the King Kong story with the look and feel of a Godzilla flick.  I don’t care if IMDB gave it a 5.4 average.  This is pure cinematic trash and is definitely not worth your time.  You’ve been warned!

RATING: Bad [REALLY Bad].

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


Friday, May 2, 2014

Thriller: The Last of the Sommervilles (1961)

Season 2, Episode 7

TV perfection is achieved!  Ida Lupino [FINALLY, a woman in charge!] directed and co-wrote this delightful slice of dark comedy that begins with in the family cemetery where Ursula is burying her dead aunt Sophie under the cover of darkness.  It’s an excellent set-up to all the campy mayhem that follows.  Who will be the last one standing to inherit the Sommerville fortune? Stay tuned to find out the answer.

The ensemble cast in this episode is near perfect.  They are masters at combining horror and comedy elements.  British character actress Martita Hunt is crazy good as the eccentric and slightly demented Cecelia Sommerville whose fortune everyone is trying to get their hands on.  [Think Baby Jane meets Dame Edna!] Phyllis Thaxter [Alfred Hitchcock Presents] and Chet Stratton play her greedy relatives.  Somehow they are able to keep up with Martita in every scene which is not an easy task.

Then there’s Boris Karloff who plays Cecelia’s doctor and friend Albert Farnham.  Karloff dons a ridiculous hair piece and bushy eye brows and has more fun with this role than should be legal.  It’s such a joy to watch him really let loose and just be crazy in every scene.  Fans of Karloff cannot miss this performance!

Watch this!  Watch this!  Watch this!  If all TV were this good, we would be most fortunate indeed!

RATING: Excellent.

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

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Journey to the Center of the Earth (1959)

Journey to the Center of the Earth is epic 1950’s filmmaking at its best.  It is a family friendly, Sci-fi delight that is based on the book by Jules Verne.  The adventure begins at a university in Edinburgh, Scotland but eventually takes the audience on a trip down an extinct Icelandic volcano to the earth’s core. 

I simply admire the sheer ambition of making such a film in 1959.  Pre-CGI means the filmmakers have to work really hard at creating exotic landscapes.  The sets look gorgeous and the cinematography is simply flawless.  The colors in Journey really pop and would look amazing on the big screen.  Yes, the giant lizards are a bit much to take but, hey, that’s all anyone had to work with back in the day!

The cast also does a great job at bringing this story to life.  Veteran actor James Mason [20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, North by Northwest] plays Dr. Lindenbrook who leads the expedition.  His performance grounds the film and makes all the science seem believable.  His associate, Alec McKuen, is played by teen heartthrob Pat Boone who does his best Team Jacob and remains shirtless for most of the film whether he needed to be or not.  Not surprisingly there’s a femme fatale in the mix played by the sultry Arlene Dahl.  She gives the guys something to look at and she is a great actress as well.

The only negative thing I can say about Journey is that the opening material is a bit too long for my taste.  I kept waiting and waiting for the grand adventure to begin but it does take a while to get there.  Fortunately, the movie is peppered with humor which helps to keep things light and fun.

The final icing on the cake is the gorgeous film score by Bernard Herrmann whose credits are too numerous to mention.  He was the John Williams [Star Wars] of his day and helps set the mood for every scene.

Regrettably a 3-D remake of Journey was done in 2008 starring Brendon Fraser.  I took my nephew to see it in the theater and while it had a few interesting and amusing moments, it pales in comparison to the original.  If you love Sci-fi, this one is a must see.

RATING: Excellent.

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