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, August 30, 2016

The Monster Club (1981)

In the name of all things unholy, why have I never seen this film? The Monster Club is a horror-comedy trilogy starring Vincent Price, John Carradine and Donald Pleasence. What's not to like about that? Price and Carradine are the "hosts" for this show which is set in a "Monsters Only" nightclub. Yes, the costumes are uber-cheesy but Price is having so much fun as vampire Erasmus that it's easy to overlook this weakness. Carradine is also the perfect foil for Price's antics.

In addition to Price's gleeful performance, the stars of the club scenes are the music acts who provide entertainment. It's classic 80's new wave/alt rock with my favorite being B A Robertson who plays a vampire crooning "Sucker For Your Love." The weird angle of his head as he performs, instead of looking out at the audience, adds greatly to the mood of the song.

The first story is about a strange monster called a "shadmock" which has a deadly whistle. It was the weakest of the three but unique enough to keep my interest.

Next in line is a dark humor vampire story with Donald Pleasence playing a vampire hunter. The story centers on a family whose kid is being bullied in school. His father in a vampire and his mother is human. The story has both serious and comedic moments and was a perfect blend of the two.

Director Roy Ward Baker [Asylum, Dr. Jekyll & Sister Hyde, The Vault of Horror] definitely saved the best for last. "Humgoo" was a wonderful story about a village of ghouls and a half ghoul/half human girl named Humgoo. It has heart, horror and lots of atmosphere. Nicely done!

Overall, The Monster Club is hardly a masterpiece but it sure is a lot of fun! If you like horror that is quite campy with a few dark moments thrown in for good measure, then you will find this movie quite enjoyable. It's one of those films that the whole family can see and enjoy which doesn't often happen in the horror genre.

RATING: Very Good.

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

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Twice-Told Tales (1963)

What is better than a Vincent Price movie? Three Vincent Price movies in one! Twice-Told Tales is a horror trilogy based on stories by Nathaniel Hawthorne, author of such classics as The Scarlet Letter. Director Sydney Salkow [The Last Man on Earth, The Addams Family] paces these stories perfectly and know how to build interest and tension in each of the three vignettes. The script by Robert E Kent [Zombies on Broadway, The Werewolf] is well written and give the actors lots of great material to work with.

First up is Dr. Heidegger's Experiment, starring Price and Sebastian Cabot [Miracle on 34th Street, Family Affair] as two old friends who may have discovered the fountain of youth. Of course, such elixirs are not without consequences which is what makes the story interesting. These two veteran actors play their role well and the chemistry between them is very good, even though Price is a tad bit over the top.

Second is Rappaccini's Daughter where Price is in his glory as slightly demented and way overprotective father. Brett Halsey [Return of the Fly] is the new next door neighbor who has his eye on Price's reclusive daughter. It's a great story and the special effects hold up well considering when this film was made.

Finally, they saved the best for last with The House of the Seven Gables. Price is manically delightful as Gerald Pyncheon who is determined to be victorious over the family curse while finding a secret vault in the house. Jacqueline deWit is great as Price's sister and Mari Blanchard [She Devil] is radiant and slightly possessed as Gerald's wife. The three really give this last vignette power and bring it to a wonderful conclusion.

While it's not quite a classic, Twice-Told Tales is an excellent anthology that was quite enjoyable to watch. If you're a Vincent Price fan you definitely won;t want to miss it.

RATING: Very Good.

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

Saturday, August 27, 2016

The Sadist (1963)

The Sadist is believed to be the first feature film based on real life serial killers Charles Starkweather and Caril Fugate. Mainstream Hollywood would not produce films inspired by the pair until a decade after this one. A number of films were inspired by the duo (some very loosely) and included such major examples as Badlands (1973) and Oliver Stone's Natural Born Killers (1994). I thought everything about this movie worked. The pacing was good and a number of scenes were quite tense. They even managed to make me wince a time or two. I can see how this film paved the way for others of its kind. The Sadist is well acted and the scenes were framed very well. The climactic scene where the killer falls into a pit with rattlesnakes is perfect. The look in his eyes mirrors that which we saw in his victims. Nicely done.

The film was directed by James Landis [not to be confused with John Landis] who I was surprised did not direct more films than he did. His work here is very competent and shows great potential for more. Arch Hall, Jr who plays the killer channels James Dean with a crazy streak. After watching this film, I had a greater appreciation for the many slasher flicks that would follow. It's hardly Psycho (1960) but it is enjoyable nonetheless.

RATING: Very Good.

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

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

The Fatal Hour (1940)

Monogram Pictures produced and released a series of low budget films from 1931 to 1953, some of which were thrillers like The Fatal Hour. This film is the fourth in Boris Karloff's Mr. Wong series where he plays a street smart detective. Karloff is good in this film but it is hardly a stand out performance. Still it's worth seeing if your a fan of his work.

The basic story is the murder of a police captain's best friend and Mr. Wong is brought in to solve it, which he naturally does! This is a buy-the-book thriller that is quite common for the time period. My favorite performance in this film is not Karloff's but Marjorie Reynolds who plays the sassy and determined reporter Bobbie Logan. Her energy on screen is wonderful and is a joy to watch.

Director William Nigh [Black Dragons, The Ape] keeps the action humming along at a nice pace with some good dramatic moments. The screenplay by George Waggner [best knows as the director of The Wolf Man] is solid and gives the actors decent material to work with.

The one thing that is definitely missing is a soundtrack. This movie is absolutely silent in most places with dialogue being the only thing we hear. It makes you appreciate how much a good soundtrack can add to the emotion of a film.

The Fatal Hour is not a great film by any stretch of the imagination, but it's not bad either. It's definitely a film of its time so if you like that kind of thing you just might enjoy it. 

You can download a copy for free from Archive.org and there is an HD version on YouTube if you follow the video below.


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

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

House of Wax (1953)

House of Wax is one of my favorite horror films ever. Vincent Price as Professor Henry Jarrod is virtually flawless, offering what I think is one of the greatest performances of his career. The film also includes Charles Bronson who plays Jarrod's loyal servant. House of Wax first came out in 3-D. I was fortunate enough to see it this way in a theatrical rerelease of the picture. However, the film is just as powerful in its 2-D version.

The story is about a talented sculptor whose museum is set ablaze by his business partner in order to collect the insurance money. The sculptor resurfaces a number of years later to launch a his own wax museum. However, as new figures appear in his museum, bodies mysteriously disappear from the city morgue. Hmmm. The plot thickens.

Not everyone is aware that this film is a remake of the 1933 film "Mystery of the Wax Museum." The original is not a bad film either and I recommend watching it to get an idea of where the 1953 film came from. A wretched remake of House of Wax came out in 2005 that is bad beyond words. The only entertaining moment in that red hot mess is when Paris Hilton gets impaled in the head by a stick. This particular scene can be viewed in all its glorious splendor on YouTube so don't waste your time sitting through the whole film.

I don't think "House of Wax" is available to view legally online. There is a decent edition of it that is available through Amazon that includes both the 1933 and 1953 versions of the film. I own it and am quite happy with it.

RATING: Excellent.

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

Sunday, August 14, 2016

The Devil Bat (1940)

Fans of Bela Lugosi will not want to miss this one. Instead of playing a vampire, he plays a "mad scientist" who experiments with bats. [A little bit of type casting here?] Lugosi is Dr. Carruthers in an old fashioned tale of revenge. He's miffed because the products he invented made his employer rich but not him. So, he cooks up a scheme to get even that involves giants bats and a new after shave they are particularly attracted to. I'm sure you can imagine where it goes from there!

The unintentionally laughable scenes in the film occur when the bats leave Dr. Carruthers laboratory. The director uses the same footage over and over and over again. This also happens when the bats are flying in the air. I guess they hope we won't notice! Oops!

The movie is well acted by everyone and is nicely filmed. The plot is well thought out and the characters are believable. It's not a "magnum opus" by any stretch of the imagination. However, it is an enjoyable film to watch. You can watch it for free on may internet sites.


Download a copy of the film from Archive.org

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

Friday, August 12, 2016

Creature From the Black Lagoon (1954)

I saw this film for the first time when I was seven years old. It scared the crap out of me but I couldn't stop watching it. It was then that I knew I was hooked on horror. "Creature from the Black Lagoon" is the perfect creature film. The cinematography on the underwater scenes is breathtaking and was innovative for its time. Ricou Browning, who is uncredited in the move, played the Gill Man in all these scenes. His work is remarkable. He brings a physicality to the Creature that makes you forget that you're watching a man in a costume.

The story has a "man vs. nature" plot line and is set in the Amazon [although the scenes were shot in Florida]. In this case the humans are on a scientific expedition where they discover the mysterious Gill Man whom, of course, they try to capture. The Gill Man returns the favor by kidnapping the fiance of one of the scientists. It's basically King Kong retold underwater! The acting is impeccable and the scene where Kay Lawrence does an underwater ballet in her torpedo bathing suit while the creature watches from afar is priceless. The beauty of the film is that it leaves the viewer rooting for the creature instead of the stupid, misguided humans. I love it!

There are several editions of this film out on DVD. My personal favorite is the two CD set from the Universal Legacy Collection which includes not only the original film but also it's two sequels: "Revenge of the Creature" (1955) and "The Creature Walks Among Us" (1956). All three are beautifully restored, although I would argue that the third film is far less effective than the first two. This DVD set also includes an excellent documentary "Back to the Black Lagoon" which examines the making of all three films as well as their influence on other filmmakers.

I don't believe you can watch this film legally anywhere online. If you know differently, let me know. This film is required viewing for any serious fan of horror.

RATING: Excellent.

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

Thursday, August 4, 2016

The Giant Gila Monster (1959)

IMDB is horribly unfair to The Giant Gila Monster. Yes, the movie is full of cliches such as the town drunk, the wise sheriff, and a group of crazy kids looking forward to the next sock hop. Yes, the special effects amount to footage of a real gila monster that is made to look gigantic but is about as menacing as a basket full of kittens. Yes, there is a heart-throb crooner who breaks out his ukulele and starts singing cringe-worthy songs. Yes, the scientific explanation regarding how this lizard came to be is ridiculous. But what's not to like about all of the above!

The Giant Gila Monster is one of those so-bad-it's-good kind of movies. The thing that saves it is Ray Kellogg's direction. He is a capable director whose visual effects have graced such classics as The King and I, Love Me Tender and The Seven Year Itch. His scene compositions and pacing of the film are solid. He is also able to get solid performances out of his actors.

The other thing that works in the film is the eerie soundtrack (minus the ukulele player) which uses the theremin as its main instrument. The atmosphere is perfect for this B-grade creature feature. Jack Marshall is credited as the composer and is best known for the 60's T.V. classic The Munsters.

Finally, I speak on behalf of the Gila Monster who terrorized this small town in Texas. Yes, it hokey, but it is on par with other bad monster movies of the 1950's. It's laugh-out-loud funny and I think the filmmakers are in on the joke.

Is the Giant Gila Monster a great film? Not by a long shot! Is it a fun sci-fi romp whose sum is better than its parts? You betcha! Give this one a try if you're a fan of 1950's movies.


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