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!

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Mystery of the 13th Guest (1943)

Monogram Pictures built a reputation for well made low budget films between 1931 and 1953.  While most of these were in the action/adventure genre, some also dealt with supernatural/horror themes.  Mystery of the 13th Guest is one of those films with a classic “whodunit” story line.  The patriarch of the Morgan family knows his days are numbered.  So he gathers his greedy, hateful family together for one last dinner party.  During dinner he hands his 8 year old granddaughter Marie an envelope containing his will.  The catch is it cannot be opened until her 21st birthday. 

Fast forward 13 years [how convenient!] and Marie shows up at the house to open the envelope.  Almost immediately her relatives end up dying one by one.  Who is murdering all these people?  What exactly does the cryptic message in the envelope mean?  This is the story of the Mystery of the 13th Guest.

Director William Bodine [The Ape Man] does a fine job of keeping things humming along at a decent pace.  While the movie treads familiar territory, it does so in a way that’s still interesting and enjoyable to watch.  The strongest performances come from Helen Parrish [You’ll Find Out] who plays Marie and Tim Ryan who plays the gruff Lieutenant Burke.  While Dick Purcell [King of the Zombies] gets top billing as private investigator Johnny Smith, Ryan bests him in every scene.  Ryan’s performance holds this film together and it would be a much poorer movie without him.

The only annoying feature in Mystery of the 13th Guest is the addition of Frank Faylen as Speedwell Dugan, Lieutenant Burke’s sidekick.  While he is a competent actor/comedian with a long film resume, his sight gags and jokes wore very thin, very quickly.  It’s hard to tell whether this was his fault or the fault of the script writers.

So, if you like murder mysteries, this one is not bad.  It win;t keep you on the edge of your seat but it is a decent film and I found it enjoyable to watch.

RATING: Good.

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


Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Hatchet for the Honeymoon (1970) a.k.a. Blood Brides

While much of Itailian horror means buckets of blood, Hatchet for the Honeymoon has more to do with Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho than it does some of Bava’s gore-fests like Bay of Blood (1971).  Yes, the body count is still satisfactory but Bava uses restraint in showing the carnage, opting for weird camera work and voices from beyond the grave.  It works very well and pays tribute to Bava’s artistic side which is always a little surreal and impeccably lighted!

The story centers on John and Mildred Harrington whose marriage died a long time ago but they stuck around to make each other miserable!  John owns a wedding fashion business he inherited from his mother and his wife brings all the cash to the relationship.  Things get interesting right away because John is a tad bit psychotic and his hobby is killing young brides-to-be before they get all mean and spiteful like his wife!

This is a well thought out and well told story that has at least two delightful twists in it.  Just when you think you know where the film is headed, it surprises you again and again.  Canadian born Stephen Forsyth had a brief career in Italian horror and he does a great job with this character.  While not as intense as Anthony Perkin’s portrayal of Normal Bates, Forsyth gives his character the right amounts of creepiness and crazy.

If you are new to the sub-genre of Italian horror, Hatchet for the Honeymoon is a great place to start.  It’s a great example of the talent of Mario Bava and his ability to take the viewer on a strange journey into unexplored territory.

RATING:Very Good.

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


Monday, July 28, 2014

The Day of the Triffids (1962)

And I really got hot when I saw Janette Scott fight a Triffid that spits poison and kills.  [Everybody sing!]  For the record, Janette Scott screamed like a helpless school girl every time she saw a Triffid!  She always waited for her man to kill it for her!  Oh well!  Rocky Horror Picture Show aside, The Day of the Triffids is a delightful B-movie.

Let’s start with the Triffids.  These are not the singing carnivorous houseplant in Little Shop of Horrors (1986), nor are they the terrifying pods that transform human beings into mindless duplicates in Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956).  Instead they resemble something Sid and Marty Croft would have created for H.R. Pufnstuf or Land of the Lost. [Bonus points if you get these two references.]  They are campy and crazy and that’s the way I like my movie monsters.  Hugh Skillen is credited in the film with “triffid effects.” Not surprisingly, this was the only film in which he did this kind of work.

Next we turn to the plot which begins with a classic Sci-Fi premise:  Most of the earth’s population was blinded by watching a spectacular meteor shower.  To make matters worse, the meteors carried spores with them that quickly grew into man-eating plants that are able to travel across the countryside in search of human prey.  YES!  It sounds crazy when you read it in print but it works.

The rest of the movie follows two story lines: The first is recovering from eye surgery so he escapes being blinded.  The second is a husband and wife research team who are on an island when all this happens.  They set their sights on finding a way to defeat the triffids.

If it feels like you’re watching two separate movies, there is a reason for this.  Director Steve Sekely’s [Revenge of the Zombies] original cut of the film, which followed the story of the sailor, was so terrible that the studio brought in an uncredited Freddie Francis [Dune, The Elephant Man] to save it.  He shot the second story line and interwove it into the first.

Francis’s work is definitely superior to Sekley’s.  His contains Janette Scott [Paranoiac] and Kieron Moore [Dr. Bloods Coffin] as Karen and Tom Goodwin.  Their scenes together have a lot of emotional depth to them, except for the hysterical screaming, and are the best part of the movie.  Sekely’s scenes contain Howard Keel who starred in numerous musicals as the charismatic leading man.  In Day of the Triffids, however, he is a bit flat and wooden and does not do the role justice.  His character also keeps traveling from city to city which makes no sense whatsoever.  It’s no wonder the studio wanted to bring in a new director.

Yet, in spite of this flaw, the film works surprisingly well and I found it thoroughly entertaining from start to finish.  Day of the Triffids is not really scary but it’s a heck of a lot of fun.  There is a reasonable print of it that can be watch on YouTube.  However, be warned, the DVD prints that are available are of poor quality so don’t spend the money to buy it.  The reviews on Amazon are not pretty.  Here’s hoping they will, one day, take the time to restore this gem to its former glory.  Don’t miss it!

RATING: Very Good.

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


Friday, July 25, 2014

The Lost World (1925)

The Lost World is not only a great adventure story, it’s a technical marvel as well.  The stars of this show are definitely the men who made the dinosaurs come alive in this adaptation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s novel.  The two main players in this special effects extravaganza are Marcel Delgado and Willis H. O’Brein, both uncredited.  Remarkably, this was Delgado’s first picture.  He vastly improved the techniques used in model building to make them appear as life-like as possible.  Delgado would later wow audiences with King Kong (1933), 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954), and Fantastic Voyage (1966).

O’Brien was the special effects person who helped to bring the dinosaurs to life.  He would work again with Delgado on King Kong (1933) and Mighty Joe Young (1949).  Most notably he worked with a young apprentice on Mighty Joe Young by the name of Ray Harryhausen [Clash of the Titans, Jason and the Argonauts] who would become a legend in the special effects world himself.

Credit also has to be given to cinematographer Arthur Edeson [Frankenstein, The Invisible Man] who was one of the best in the business and director Harry O. Hoyt who has numerous writing and directing credits to his name.  Hoyt was able to get a more natural acting style from his actors instead of the big gestured, melodramatic approach that was favored in many silent films of the era. Among the standouts in terms of acting were Lewis Stone whole played a big game hunter, Lloyd Hughes who played a young ambitious reporter, and Bessie Love his love interest who tried her best not to be the “helpless hysterical girl” that was so prevalent in early movies.

If you’ve never watched many silent movies, this is a great place to start.  It is very accessible to modern audiences and is the perfect example of how inventive and visionary some of these early films were.  A definite must-see.

RATING: Excellent.
 

A copy of the film can be downloaded for free at Archive.org.

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

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Death Race 2000 (1975)

Death Race 2000 is slightly miraculous for several reasons: 1) It was filmed for a budget of only $300,000, yet it looks like a big blockbuster, 2) They were able to snag David Carradine [after he starred in the hit TV series Kung Fu] and Sylvester Stalone [right before became a mega star with Rocky] as a part of that small budget, 3) Director Paul Bartel used cinematographer Tak Fujimoto early in his career before he racked up an impressive resume including Silence of the Lambs and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, and 4) Roger Corman was at his best as producer of the movie.

The stars aligned in the making of Death Race 2000 which can be described as a Sci-Fi comedy with a little gore thrown in the mix.  The plot is simple: It’s the year 2000 in America where it’s annual government sponsored entertainment extravaganza is a cross country race where competitors score points for killing pedestrians.  It’s sort of a Hunger Games on wheels, as it were, since the racers also end up getting killed off as well until only one remains standing.

David Carradine is Frankenstein who is a veteran of this race.  His costume, which is mostly black leather, is very effective and he plays the charter perfectly.  Sylvester Stalone is the slurred-tongued [No surprise there!] Machine Gun Joe Viterbo who is a larger than life Italian Stallion gangster [No surprise there either!].  He does what he does and does it well!  The rest of the cast is just as good and director Paul Bartel gets great performances from everyone.

Considering the often obscene amounts of money that Studios spend these days on blockbuster hits, they could learn a lesson from Death Race 2000.  More money does not a great movie make [Battlefield Earth comes to mind].  Long live independent cinema!  Definitely give this one a chance.

RATING: Very Good.

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


Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Vampire Over London (1952) a.k.a. Mother Riley Meets the Vampire

IMDB is very unkind to this film, giving it a 3.0 rating.  It’s SO much better than that!  Vampire Over London stars Bela Lugosi in a slapstick horror comedy.  Yes, you heard me correctly!  Lugosi plays Von Housen who is also known as “The Vampire.”  He’s actually a madman trying to rule the world.  The vampire thing is just a ruse to throw people off.

In spite of the fact that Bela looks a bit thin and ill, he has a blast with this role and totally hams it up in a few scenes.  This is the last decent film he made before his addiction to morphine got the best of him. However, I’ve always had a soft spot for his films with Ed Wood because he gave it 110% in spite of his declining health.  If you’re a Lugosi fan, Vampire Over London is a must-see simply to watch the twinkle in Bela’s eyes as he tackles a comedic role.

His partner in crime is British actor Arthur Lucan who made a series of movies in drag, portraying a slightly-crazed old working class woman, Mother Riley.  This was the last of these films he did as this character and some Americans will miss the humor in it completely.  If you’re not a fan of British comedy, you just not going to get this.  I love classic British comedies such as Absolutely Fabulous and Are You Being served? so I’m at home with this kind of material.  It’s completely absurd and that’s the point!  There is also a lot of “insider” material that only Brits would understand.

As an interesting bit of trivia, I read in another review that Bela Lugosi had to make this film in England because he needed the money for his ticket back home. He went to Britain to revive his famous Dracula play, but was stuck there when it bombed and the actor couldn't scrape up enough cash to sail to America! This film helped him get back on his feet.

Give this one a chance!  It’s not Bela’s best film but I thought it was a whole lot of fun!

RATING: Very Good.

You can download a free copy of this film at archive.org.

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

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Don't Look Now (1973)

Some movies hit you over the head with scare tactics and blood splatter galore.  This is not one of those films.  Don’t Look Now is a brooding supernatural thriller that makes the viewer feel slightly unsettled at every turn.  If you like lots of action, you’re doing to hate it.  If you like films that take their time developing characters and always have a little something unexpected up their sleeve, Don’t Look Now is definitely for you.

While I found the film to be a bit long for my taste, I was impressed with how it trapped you in a strange world and never let you go until the final credits rolled.  Don’t Look Now was filmed in Venice which is a city I adore.  But this Venice is both beautiful and menacing.  Something always feels a bit “off.”  You can’t put your finger on it, but you know it’s there!

Don’t Look Now is the story of John & Laura Baxter who lose their daughter in a drowning accident in the USA.  Then they head to Venice to escape this tragedy but it keeps following them around everywhere!  Donald Sutherland [Invasion of the Body Snatchers, The Hunger Games] gives a great performance as John and brings lots of depth and complexity to the character.  Julie Christie [Fahrenheit 451, Doctor Zhivago] matches him at every turn.  They are quite good together.

I won’t give away any details because this one needs to be seen with no preconceived notions of what is going on.  Don’t Look Now is one of those films that is hardly ever mentioned when horror films are discussed, but it deserves a bigger audience.

RATING: Very Good.

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


Monday, July 21, 2014

The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)

Michael Rennie was ill the day the Earth stood still and he told us where we stand.  [Everybody sing!]  The Day the Earth Stood Still is a brilliant movie.  Released in the aftermath of WW II, it stood as a warning, and a promise, for the future of the earth.  Unfortunately, we’re just as stupid now as we were back then!  The amazing thing about this movie is that it sounds as fresh today as it did in 1951.  The “if you don’t understand it, kill it” philosophy is firmly entrenched in our world and, according to Klaatu [Michael Rennie] who came to evaluate us as a species, we are STILL a failed experiment. 

Michael Rennie [The Lost World] is perfect as the even-keeled Klaatu who gets down to business and is not distracted by much.  He is a powerful and constant presence in nearly ever scene of this movie. [This is where the 2008 remake fails since Keanu Reeves is more of a zen stoner than a man’s man.]

Joining Rennie is the radiant Patricia Neal [Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Hud] who saves the world’s posterior by befriending Rennie and supporting him on his quest.  Joining these two is the sweet 1950’s kid Bobby, who is played nicely by Billy Gray who was also in the hit TV show Father Knows Best.  Oh, and there’s also a small role for Frances Bavier who played the iconic Aunt Bee a on The Andy Griffith Show!  Sweet!

From a technical aspect, The Day the Earth Stood Still looks great.  The Sci-Fi elements are good for their time and don’t come across as too hokey.  The robot is definitely iconic in its design and is different from others I’ve seen.  It works really well and the decision for it to remain silent was a good one.  It adds to the menace.  Furthermore you can’t go wrong with director Robert Wise [The Andromeda Strain, Star Trek: The Motion Picture] who gave us such iconic films as The Sound of Music and West Side Story.  The guy totally knows what he is doing and his direction in this film is smart and confident.

Everything about The Day the Earth Stood Still works well.  If you haven’t see it yet, what are you waiting for?  Forget about the 2008 sequel and savor the original.  It’s classic 1950’s Sci-Fi at its very best.

RATING: Excellent.

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


Saturday, July 19, 2014

The Munster's Revenge (1981)

It is well known that Fred Gwynne had mixed feelings about the success of his character Herman Munster.  It made it difficult for producers to see him as anything else, which is a shame!  Therefore, when producers asked him to do a reunion movie he asked for an astronomical amount of money…and he got it.

The Munster’s Revenge is a tepid substitute for the original series.  Gone are Butch Patrick and Pat Priest, who played Eddie and Marilyn in the original series.  I’m not sure how you can have a reunion without them!  Bless K.C. Martel [The Amityville Horror, E.T.] for taking on the role of Eddie.  They give him absolutely NO material to work with so it’s no surprise he pales in comparison to the original.  The smart bet would have been to write a script that had the grown-up Eddie and Marilyn in it.  It seems desperate to try and portray the rest of the cast as much younger than they actually were when they made this movie.  I call this the Beverly Hills 90210 effect!

Speaking of scripts, this one is a stinker.  Absent are all the clever banter and bad jokes that made the original so endearing.  There are time spans where nothing funny is being said or done.  It just doesn’t work as a serious drama!  Furthermore, the wax figures turned robots are absolutely ridiculous for 1981.  [FYI wax does not move!] It’s obvious they are actors in suits who seem incapable of standing still when they’re supposed to.  It’s thoroughly annoying.  Ugh!

The one bright spot in the movie is the scene where Fred Gywnne and Al Lewis (Herman and Grandpa) go undercover as waitresses.  It’s the only moment in the film where I bust out loud laughing.  Classic stuff.  Another plus was the addition of Bob Hastings as Cousin Phantom of the Opera.  He gives the role everything he’s got and even when the jokes run a bit thin he manages to pull off a great performance.

What can I say?  This one is definitely for the fans.  The Munsters will always be one of my favorite shows but The Munster’s Revenge fails to capture the brilliance and energy of the original TV series.

RATING: Good.

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


Thriller: The Closed Cabinet (1961)

Season 2, Episode 10

The Closed Cabinet has enough atmosphere to power three episodes of Thriller.  The story starts in the Dark ages where Beatrice Mervyn murders her husband and then kills herself.  Her husband’s mother invokes a curse along with a riddle.  Anyone who can solve the riddle ends the curse. 

Three hundred years later we find ourselves in the 1800’s, after a brilliant introduction to the story by Boris Karloff.  In every generation, someone has died tragically and mysteriously since the curse was invoked.  Will this be the generation that ends the curse?  Stay tuned for an exciting episode of Thriller.

The Closed Cabinet benefits from an excellent script and spot on direction from Ida Lupino, an actress with a lengthy career who also found herself sitting in the director’s chair for numerous television shows.  Everything she does in this episode is subtle and never overplayed.  The cast responds well in her hands and gives great performances.

In addition to a great set and simple but effective lighting effects, the musical score for this episode by the one and only Jerry Goldsmith [Star Trek: The Next Generation, The Waltons] is perfection and greatly adds to the mood of the story.  You really can’t go wrong with this episode of Thriller!

RATING: Excellent.

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

Friday, July 18, 2014

Galaxy of Terror (1981)

Roger Corman is at it again!  Galaxy of Terror is a Sci-Fi adventure where the cast screams like little schoolgirls as they confront their worst nightmares…in space.  Bruce D Clark wrote and directed this not-so-fright fest with Corman acting as producer.  Galaxy of Terror is definitely the B-movie version of Corman rather than the one who gave us such epic films as Masque of the Red Death (1964).  The production values are bit weak and the movie feels like it was made in the early 70’s rather than 1981.  [That is not a compliment!] Furthermore, most of it is so dark you can barely see what is happening on screen.  It definitely helps to lessen the emotional impact the film might have had otherwise.

The cast holds untapped potential they never deliver.  Some of this is due to bad;y written dialogue.  Let’s drop a few names, shall we!  Robert Englund [A Nightmare on Elm Street], Sid Haig [The Devil’s Rejects] and Ray Walston [My Favorite Martian] are pretty much window dressing.  Erin Moran [Joanie from Happy Days] plays a “psy-sensitive who is flat and wooden in her performance. [The irony is not lost on me!] The only one with any spark of life in the cast is Grace Zabriskie [Big Love] who plays the slightly crazed captain of the ship.  She has made a career out of playing eccentric characters and gives this one all she’s got. 

I don’t know what else to say about this film except that they TRIED REALLY HARD to make this a scary film but I found it to be as bland and uninteresting as plain oatmeal!  After Star Wars was birthed back in 1977, there’s no excuse for making a space adventure this tepid.  Stick with Alien (1979) which knows how to frighten its audience to great effect.

RATING: Fair.

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


Thursday, July 17, 2014

Munster, Go Home! (1966)

After the TV show ended in 1966, they tried to extend the success of The Munsters by producing a full length feature film in living color!  From the get go, I actually found the color distracting and would have preferred it to be in black and white to match the original show.  However, color was the thing back in the day, so color they got!

The original cast is back, except for Pat Priest who played Marilyn.  They thought she was too old to play the part [She was over 30 at the time.  Beverly Hills 90210, anyone?]  so they cast the red-headed Debbie Watson in her place.  Watson does a fine job in Priest’s place and I admire that they didn’t try to duplicate Priest and went for a different vibe altogether.

While the Munster family makeup doesn’t look nearly as good in color as it did in black and white [it’s not bad, it’s just too vibrant] once I settled into the brilliant comedy of Fred Gwynne, Yvonne DeCarlo and Al Lewis, it became less of an issue.  Even in places where the script feels a little thin, these three amazing actors make it work.  I never tire of watching this trio do their thing.  They always deliver the goods…and then some!

Adding to the fun are Hermione Gingold [The Music Man], Terry-Thomas [The Abominable Dr. Phibes] as some of the Munster’s eccentric English relatives, and John Carradine [Silent Night Bloody Night, The Sentinel] who plays the butler.  I love Carradine’s makeup and his deadpan approach to his character works brilliantly. 

While Munster, Go Home is not quite as good as the original series, it is enjoyable from start to finish.  Fans of the show will definitely enjoy it.

RATING: Very Good.

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


Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The Munsters: America’s First Family of Fright (2003)

The Biography Channel produced this wonderful documentary which exceeded my expectations.  Director Rick Hull leaves no stone unturned as he explores the making of one of TV’s most beloved shows,The Munsters.  The most interesting I learned from the documentary is that in the late 50’s Universal Studios licensed their classic films of the 30’s and 40’s to be aired on TV.  This created a renewed interest in horror and networks were scrambling to come up with new material to cash in on the trend.  It’s no surprise, therefore, that in 1964, three shows aired that were delightful mixtures of horror and comedy: The Munsters, The Addams Family and Bewitched. 

This documentary explores the challenges of making the show, including Fred Gwynne’s heavy body suit and extensive makeup.  It also talks about the show’s enduring popularity that has never been out of syndication after the original episodes aired.

If the documentary doesn’t give you enough info, the disc also includes biographies of Fred Gwynne, Yvonne DeCarol and Al Lewis.  I’ve always been a big fan of Fred Gwynne and his segment gave me an excellent overview of a remarkable man, both on and off screen.

If you love The Munsters, this one is a must see.  It will make you appreciate the show even more, if that’s possible!

RATING: Excellent.

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

Friday, July 4, 2014

The Howling II: Your Sister is a Werewolf (1985)

There’s nothing quite as appalling as taking a well crafted film, Joe Dante’s The Howling (1981), and turning it into a piece of crap sequel that is followed by other pieces of crap sequels.  Philippe Mora takes over the director’s chair for both Howling II and III and makes a royal mess of both.  Howling II takes itself WAY to seriously and Howling III doesn’t take itself seriously enough!  [You can read my review of The Marsupials: The Howling III elsewhere on my blog.]

Suffice it to say that even the great Christopher Lee [Dracula Prince of Darkness, Horror of Dracula] cannot save this film.  Lee stars as Stephen Crosscoe who is an occult specialist and werewolf slayer.  As a tribute to his talent, he takes a crappy script and finds a way to make his lines convincing.  The rest of the cast is not so fortunate. [Rumor has it that Christopher Lee actually apologized to Joe Dante for being in this film when they worked together on Gremlins!]

The Howling II suffers from being overly dramatic with a storyline that borders on utter nonsense.  It also suffers from inconsistent special effects, especially in the way the werewolves are portrayed.  The original film was great because the werewolves had a distinct and terrifying look.  The ones in this film look like bad Halloween costumes that vary from person to person.  Shame on the special makeup effects department for giving us such sloppy work!

I won’t belabor the point.  You can skip EVERY sequel to The Howling but do see the original.  It is by far the best of the bunch.

RATING: Bad. 


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


Thursday, July 3, 2014

Thriller: A Third For Pinochle (1961)

Season 2, Episode 9

Edward Andrews [Gremlins and a long career in TV] is a delight as Maynard, a submissive husband with murder on his mind.  This episode of Thriller strikes a perfect balance between horror and humor. The ensemble cast works perfectly together and takes the audience on a fun and spirited ride.  Kudos to director Herschel Daugherty [Alfred Hitchcock Presents and a number of other Thriller episodes] for keeping the mood light and mischievous.  He takes full advantage of a clever script and hits this episode totally out of the ballpark.

Sometimes horror just needs to be fun and A Third For Pinochle serves as a great example of why the Thriller TV Series is one of my all-time favorites.  Boris Karloff puts the icing on the cake with his playful and slightly macabre introduction and summary of the episode.  Most people know him for his horror roles but this proves he also had a wicked sense of humor as well.

RATING: Excellent.

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

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

The Blood Beast Terror (1968)

Utterly ridiculous!  IMDB describes this film as “A scientist, working with genetics, creates a creature that is capable of transforming back and forth between a giant Dead Head moth and a beautiful woman.”  Then why does she look like a giant housefly when she undergoes the change?  And, why would anyone want to create such a creature in the first place?

The premise of this film is so stupid I don’t know where to start!  The film looks good.  In fact, it looks like a Hammer Horror film, but it’s not!  Even the great Peter Cushing, who is its nay recognizable star,  cannot save it.  In fact, Cushing said this was the worst film he ever made.

Why belabor the point?  This film is SO not worth your time.  It left me wishing I could get back the 88 minutes of my life I wasted on it.

RATING: Bad

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


Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Captive Wild Woman (1943)

Nature cannot be tamed.  This is the theme of Captive Wild Woman that tells the parallel and often intersecting tales of Fred Mason [a wild animal trainer] and Dr. Sigmund Walters [a mad scientist].  Milburne Stone [Gunsmoke] plays the former and has a strong, charismatic presence on screen.  A young John Carradine [House of Frankenstein, The Mummy’s Ghost] plays the latter and gives his usual slightly quirky performance.  Evelyn Ankers [The Wolfman, Son of Dracula] rounds out this trio and runs interference between the two male leads.  All three are great and fit the bill nicely.  The only odd one out is Acquanetta who plays Paula Dupree, the ape woman.  In her human incarnation she has very little to do but stare; and I’m quite certain she didn’t don the ape suit which belongs to a person of a much bigger frame than she.  She is also hampered by the “transformation” make up effects which are laughably bad.  It’s shocking to learn that the one and only Jack Pierce did the make up for this film.  It is some of his weakest work by far which makes me suspect he had no budget and limited creative freedom in the final look of the creature.

Director Edward Dmytryk does a fine job of directing the cast and keeps the action moving along.  The problem is they give him very little material to work with.  This is especially true of the pseudo-science that transforms the ape into a woman.  Carradine gives it his best shot as he tries to convince us this transformation could work but it comes across at utter nonsense.  The other annoying feature are the way-too-long circus scenes where the music starts to grate on your nerves.  We got it.  He’s a talented and fearless animal trainer!  Let’s move on…PLEASE.

Captive Wild Woman is not a bad film.  It’s just not that interesting.  It might have worked for 1940’s audiences, but it’s rather dull for modern audiences.  Watch this one only if you’re a Carradine fan.

RATING: Fair.

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