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 11, 2019

The Man Who Lived Again, a.k.a. The Man Who Changed His Mind (1936)

Boris Karloff takes center stage as yet another mad scientist, Dr. Laurience, in search of immortality. The concept of the movie is interesting: The good doctor believes he can capture the thoughts and feelings of a person, i.e. their soul, and transfer them into another body. He succeeds in his quest and I'll leave it at that so I don't spoil the movie for you. The all British cast gives solid performances throughout the film. However, I found the cadence of much of their dialogue to be annoying at times. It reminded me of Pirates of Penzance or, dare I say, Terence and Philip from South Park if you need a more modern reference. Lines are traded back and forth at a lightning pace and are animated far beyond normal speech patterns. I would have enjoyed the film a little more if everyone in the cast took a Valium and toned it down a notch or two!

This is not Karloff's best work in horror films, but it is solid work nonetheless. If you're a Karloff fan, then you definitely need to see this one. It's not Frankenstein (1931) or The Mummy (1932) but it is a film that is often overlooked and needs to be rediscovered by fans of vintage horror. Now, thanks to Archive.org, this film is available as a free download so, what are you waiting for, you iPod is calling you!

RATING: Very Good.

Download a copy of the film from Archive.org

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

Saturday, July 6, 2019

The Corpse Vanishes (1942)

Brides are dropping over dead at the altar. Their bodies are mysteriously disappearing. Enter Patricia Hunter [played nicely by Luanna Walters], a crackerjack reporter who is bound and determined to get the inside scoop on this story. Along the way she encounters the mysterious Dr. Lorenz [Bela Lugosi in a less than impressive performance] and his demanding wife who is searching for the fountain of youth. It's a good set up for a movie, but The Corpse Vanishes never delivers the goods.

Things get a little strange along the way. The good doctor and his wife like to sleep in his and her coffins. Their servants include an old hag and her two sons—one of which is an evil dwarf and the other is a dimwitted pervert. Then the movie resolves in a way that is totally predictable with not a single twist or surprise to be found. Yawn! This is NOT the Bela Lugosi I love in Dracula (1931). It's a by-the-book performance that brings nothing new or interesting to the table. It's just another made scientist with too much time on his hands!

The Corpse Vanishes can be viewed online at YouTube.

Rating: Fair.

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

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Them! (1954)

"When Man entered the atomic age, he opened a door into a new world. What we'll eventually find in that new world, nobody can predict." says Dr. Medford in the Sci-Fi classic Them! This Sci-Fi classic plays into the fears of 1950s America. The plot is simple but effective: early atomic bomb tests in New Mexico cause ants to mutate into giant monsters that threaten civilization as we know it. The script is well written and believable, taking the audience on a fun ride through beautiful desert landscapes as well as the storm drains of Los Angeles.  The cinematography is a beautiful and the special effects work rather well, including the giant killer ants. Them! was actually nominated for an Oscar in 1955 for its special effects but lost to the Disney spectacular 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. [Them! didn't stand a change against that behemoth of a film.]

The acting in the film is first rate. Standouts include James Whitmore, a veteran character actor, as Police Sergeant Ben Peterson. He embodies the character with great warmth, empathy and enough "manly toughness" to get the job done. Joan Weldon is fantastic as Dr. Patricia Medford. Self-confident, empowered, intelligent women were not seen very often in 1950s films. [Surprise!] It's great to see one portrayed here. James Arness [T.V.'s Gunsmoke] is probably the most well know actor to modern audiences. He plays Robert Graham, an FBI agent and fits the part nicely.

Don't miss this Sci-Fi/Horror classic. It's a fun ride from start to finish.

RATING: Excellent.

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

Monday, July 1, 2019

Prisoners of the Lost Universe (1983)

Sometimes an epic journey is not so epic. Such is the case with the uninspired Prisoners of the Lost Universe. I watched it because it had John Saxon [Enter the Dragon, A Nightmare on Elm Street], Richard Hatch [Battlestar Galactica] and TV actress Kay Lenz [Midnight Caller]. My mistake! The problem is not the acting. The problem is the script. Prisoners can be best described as a Sci-Fi Kung Fu Western set in a parallel universe. Sounds confusing? It is. Prisoners simply cannot decide what kind of movie it wants to be and its limited budget doesn't help matters either. Prisoners contains just about every movie cliche in the book and is predictable every step of the way. Granted this is a made for cable TV movie but, in an era that was post-Star Wars this kind of drivel fells way short of the mark even back then. I cannot rate it bad because it is decently acted. However, it ain't good either. Skip this one unless you're really hard up for entertainment!

RATING: Fair.

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

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Terror Creatures From the Grave (1965)

Oh, the melodrama of it all. Barbara Steele stars as Cleo, the second wife of Jeronimus Hauff. J-man has expertise in the occult, including the ability to summon the spirits of ancient plague victims. As the movie begins, Jeronimus has been dead for almost a year. Attorney Albert Kovac has arrived to settle his estate. Meanwhile, Jeronimus' daughter, Corinne, keeps seeming visions of her departed father the closer they get to the anniversary of his death. Steele is always a delight. [I'm a big fan.] Her piercing eyes and razor-sharp delivery are the highlight of this film. Mirella Maravidi [Corinne] is the "pretty one" in this story and she gives a decent performance. Walter Brandi [Albert] is the weak link in this trio. He oozes testosterone in a way that is annoying and overdone, delivering his lines in an all-too stiff manner. It just doesn't work for me.

Terror-Creatures is definitely a mixed bag. The most annoying part of watching this film is the over-the-top, melodramatic soundtrack. It hits you over the head with big symphonic bursts when it should be eerie and subtle. The over use of the theremin is distracting as well and was more humorous than ominous.

It's interesting to note that Italian director Massimo Pupillo disliked the final cut of the film so much that he allowed one of the film's producers Ralph Zucker to be credited as the film's director even though Zucker did not direct any scenes. That's NOT a good sign! But it's not surprising since Terror-Creatures is a hit and miss when it comes to well composed scenes.

To the film's credit, the small special effects are good for their time. They're not spectacular but they fit the bill nicely.

So, if you're into Italian horror or are a fan of Barbara Steele, Terror-Creatures is a solid effort but nothing special. If you're not a fan of either of these, you might want to consider skipping this film.

RATING: Fair.

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

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Frankenstein (1910)

This film is known by most people as the Thomas Edison Frankenstein since Edison's Manufacturing Company produced and distributed the film. For many years this film had been listed as missing. Fortunately, an original nitrate print of the film finally turned up in Wisconsin in the mid-1970s. Thanks to Archive.org, it is now available for everyone to enjoy.

Director J Searle Dawley, who considered himself to be the first motion picture director, adapted Mary Shelley's novel and brought it to life in this short [12 minutes long] but memorable film. According to IMDB, Dawley began directing in 1907 and Frankenstein was his 15th film [out of 162]. I am not a silent film expert, but I am amazed at what Dawley accomplished. He threw in a few special effects, the most impressive of which is the use of a mirror in several scenes. It is quite effective and you'll enjoy seeing how he utilizes it in the film.

The quality of Frankenstein is not great but at least we have the film to appreciate and enjoy. I consider this a must see not only for Frankenstein fans but also for anyone who loves filmmaking. A rare treat, indeed!

RATING: Very Good. [For its time.]


Download a copy of the film from Archive.org

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

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Post Mortem with Mick Garris (2010)

YouTube sometimes yields some great treasures. Such is the case with Post Mortem with Mick Garris, which is a series of in depth interviews with horror legends such as Wes Craven, Rick Baker, John Carpenter, Robert Englund, Tobe Hooper, and Roger Corman. Garris is a filmmaker/author [Critters 2, Sleepwalkers] who takes us to film school with every interview. He digs and probes intelligently and yields some really wonderful stories and insights. Great stuff!

This series is so well worth your time. If you want to get into the minds of the legends of horror, don't miss it.

RATING: Excellent.

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

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Creature From the Hauntd Sea (1961)

Omigod did this film suck! It tries to be hip and funny but it's neither. It's supposed to be a horror/camp movie. However, it's funny when it doesn't mean to be and horrifying on so many levels. The monster looks like something my 7 year old granddaughter built. And what's up with the guy who makes all the animal sound effects? Truly horrifying! Apparently Creature from the Haunted Sea appears in the documentary "50 Worst Movies Ever Made" (2004). It certainly makes my list! It makes Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959) look like a masterpiece.

Roger Corman, who won an honorary Oscar in 2009 for "his rich engendering of films and filmmakers," directed this mess. Don't judge his ability as a director by this film alone. Check out Little Shop of Horrors (1960) or his Edgar Allan Poe adaptations instead. Don't waste a single brain cell on Creature from the Haunted Sea.

Rating: Bad. (Really bad!)
 

Download a copy of the film, if you dare, from Archive.org.

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

Monday, June 24, 2019

Night Tide (1961)

Night Tide is listed as a horror/thriller on IMDB, but it's more a drama than anything else. So if you're looking for a horror film, then definitely look elsewhere. If you like slow burning thrillers, then you might enjoy this movie.

Night Tide stars Dennis Hopper [Land of the Dead, Easy Rider] who plays Johnny Drake, a young, naive sailor who falls in love with the mysterious Mora, a carnival worker who performs as a mermaid. Hopper is perfect for this role and his considerable talent as an actor is quite apparent even early in his career. His love interest is played by Linda Lawson whose chemistry with Hopper is wonderful.

The first half an hour is all lovey-dovey and then things get a bit mysterious when it becomes apparent that Mora might be a real mermaid who, as legend has it, lures men to their deaths during the full moon. This is not the Disney Ariel mermaid we're used to, but the true mermaid mythos that is rarely explored in movies.

Curtis Harrington [Queen of Blood, Killer Bees] does a great job of directing this film. He creates a subtle but mysterious mood that carries through much of the film. He was known for directing low budget independent horror pictures but, judging for his work here, his ability as a director is definitely underrated. He should have been offered bigger movies to direct.

Night Tide is a well made movie. My disappointment lies in that fact that I was expecting a horror film or a tense thriller. It failed on both of these accounts. But if you want drama and romance, this one will do nicely.

RATING: Good.

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

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Horror of Draculs (1958)

Horror of Dracula is a delight from start to finish. The sets are lavish, the script is well written, the soundtrack is effective  and the acting is superb. Peter Cushing is flawless as Dr. Van Helsing. He gives what I think is the best performance of this character in any Dracula movie. It's so good, in fact, that Van Helsing rather than Dracula commands center stage in this film. Christopher Lee gives a solid performance as Dracula, although I think that Bela Lugosi did it better in Dracula (1931). Both Carol Marsh [Lucy] and Valerie Gaunt [Vampire Woman] give enthusiastic performances as the recently undead. They look like wide-eyed children on Christmas morning as they wait for the Prince of Darkness to arrive.

Horror of Dracula is one of many successful movies from Hammer Film Productions which is based in the United Kingdom. From the mid-1950s to the 1970s Hammer was one of the kings of horror and dominated the market during their most successful years.  Surprisingly, these films had low budgets which goes to show you that money does not a good horror film make.

Horror of Dracula is one of the best vampire films ever made. You can watch it for free on Vimeo or it can be rented cheaply from many different source. Don't miss it! It's a good old fashioned horror.

RATING: Excellent.

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

Saturday, June 22, 2019

The History of Horror with Mark Gatiss (2010)

Any documentary which explores the history of horror is bound to leave something out. Therefore, Mark Gatiss wisely begins this 3 part, 3 hour TV show by telling his audience he's going to explore the films he personally loves. Smart move since the biggest absences in this docu-series are the German Expressionist silent films of the 20's, the Sci-Fi/Horror films of the 1950's, the Italian horror films of the 60's and 70s, and the CGI inventiveness of the 1980's.

There are plenty of critics who have gone to great lengths to complain about what is absent from this documentary, but I think its more productive to talk about the films he includes. The three big eras of horror Gatiss explores are the classic Hollywood monsters from the late 20's and 30's, the lush, gothic Hammer Horror films of the 60's, and the brutal realism of American horror in the 1970's. Each is given an hour screen time.

The strength of this documentary lies in Gatiss' inventiveness in exploring these three eras. Instead of always interviewing obvious choices, Gatiss digs deeper than most documentaries do. For example, he tracked down the little girl from the original Frankenstein (1931) to ask her what it was like to work with Boris Karloff. For horror fans, this is pure gold and a delightful choice.

Gatiss also visited many of the film locations of the movies he is commenting on. I'm sure this took a lot of time and resources. However, the documentary is stronger because of it. My favorite of these was learning that the Paris Opera House set from Phantom of the Opera (1925) is still standing! What a treat to see it.

It's clear from watching The History of Horror that Gatiss is totally in love with the films he covers. It feels like a very personal project and, again, the documentary is stronger for it. It sure beats a monotone voice-over any day.

If there is one major weakness, it occurs in the last few minutes of the film where Gatiss slams everything that came after American 70's horror. I got the impression that he feels like everything after this age is merely a copy of what came before it with no inventiveness to be found. I totally disagree with this. The 80's produced some of the most inventive and unforgettable monsters such as Freddy Krueger and Pinhead. It is one of my favorite eras of horror and to dismiss it so quickly was surprising to me.

All in all, this documentary is well worth your time. There is a lot of great content to be found that will delight any horror fan. You can view this for free on YouTube so, if you've got three hours to spare…go for it!


RATING: Very Good.

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

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Premature Burial (1962)

When Roger Corman isn't busy cranking out B-grade horror on the cheap, he's creating lush, atmospheric thrillers such as Premature Burial. This film is beautiful in every way. It stands alongside some of his greats such as The Masque of the Red Death (1964) or The Raven (1963). The set designs are Hammer Horror lush with lots of color and opulence. My favorites are all the graveyard scenes which where shot on a sound stage. The fog around the tomb stones is perfectly placed and the sense of foreboding is palatable. There is atmosphere to spare in each and very scene which is enhanced by a first rate symphonic soundtrack. It may be stock music but it works wonderfully well here.

Premature Burial is based on the Edgar Allan Poe story of the same name. Writers Charles Beaumont [Burn Witch Burn, The Masque of the Red Death] and Ray Russel [Mr. Sardonicus] bring the story to life with crisp, powerful and emotive dialogue.

Then there's the acting which is also first-rate. Ray Milland, one of Paramount's most bankable and dependable stars, is perfect as the super-paranoid Guy Carrell. His family has suffered from catalepsy for many generations. Because of this, they've all been buried alive and his is afraid he's next. The radiant Hazel Court [The Masque of the Red Death, The Curse of Frankenstein] plays Emily Gault, his love interest who, with great persuasive powers, convinces Guy to have her hand in marriage. The third actor in this trio is Heather Angel [The Undying Monster, Family Affair] who plays Guy's devoted sister, Kate. Her disapproving stares speak volumes that this marriage is a terrible idea and will end badly for Guy. The chemistry between these three actors is simply a joy to watch.

I would have an easy job reviewing vintage horror if all films were this good. It may not be as well known as some of the classics, but it definitely deserves to be seen by everyone who is a fan of atmospheric thrillers.

RATING: Excellent.

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

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

The Dead Don't Die (1975)

No, this is not the 2019 zombie comedy directed by Jim Jarmusch. Instead, it's a low budget, melodramatic, made for TV movie which contains old-school voodoo zombies. The star of this film is the one and only George Hamilton [Zorro: The Gay Blade, Love at First Bite] who plays Don Drake, a man whose brother is executed for a crime he didn't commit. When Drake tries to find the real killer, things begin to get more strange and dangerous the deeper he goes. Hamilton does a fine job with Drake and drivers the goods scene after scene.

The rest of the cast does a solid job as well and includes veteran actors such as Ray Milland and Joan Blondell. Of interest to horror fans is Reggie Nalder who plays a zombie named Perdido. Nalder also appeared in Salem's Lot as the Nosferatu-like vampire. Nalder's make-up is quite sparse in this film, but his "zombie claw coming to get you" and large, piercing eyes give him a menacing appearance.

In addition to the actors, The Dead Don't Die benefits from a good screenplay by Robert Bloch who also wrote Psycho (1960) as well as the camp horror classic Straight-Jacket (1964). While the story is far from original, it moves at a good pace and has just enough twists to keep it interesting.

While director Curtis Harrington its hardly a household name, he specialized in low budget independent horror films [Queen of Blood] along with a number of successful made for TV horror films [Killer Bees]. He does a nice job directing this movie and it makes me want to seek out more of his work and review it for this blog.

The weak elements in this film include the costumes and set design (it's supposed to take place in the 1930's but often looks more like the 1950's), along with Linda Cristal's performance as Vera LaValle, a [SPOILER ALERT] "glam zombie" who looks NOTHING like the other undead. Furthermore, her weird, hard-to-place accent does more harm than good and is distracting at best.

In conclusion, The Dead Don't Die is classic 1970's TV. It's hardly a masterpiece of cinema but, as a teenager growing up in the 1970's, I would have watched it without hesitation and enjoyed every minute of it (including the bad parts)!

RATING: Somewhere between Good and Fair.

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


You can find this movie on YouTube.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

The Dead Don't Die (2019)

Last night I had the pleasure of helping two movie critics with a Q&A after a screening of Jim Jarmusch's deadpan comedy "The Dead Don't Die." I was introduced as a "zombie scholar" which was quite amusing. My task was to give a brief history of zombies in film along with giving my first impressions of the movie.

Clearly, "The Dead Don't Die" is not a vintage horror film. However, I'm writing about it on this blog because the movie is a love letter to George Romero. I saw homages paid to themes and visuals from Night of the Living Dead (the opening scene and a zombie that was the spitting image of actor Dwight Jones), Dawn of the Dead (consumer culture commentary), Day of the Dead (look closely for a zombie that looks like Bub), and Land of the Dead (zombies communicating with each other and returning to things they did when they were alive).

Although the pacing of the film is Fargo slow, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Highlights included Tilda Swinton as the town's samurai mortician and the artistic way the zombies met their demise when decapitated. If you are a Romero fan, it's definitely a must-see. It's not as brilliant as Shaun of the Dead (2004), but it's great to see slow moving shamblers with a hunger for human flesh on the big screen. (I'm not a fan of turbo-charged viral zombies, by and large.)

RATING: Very Good.

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

Monday, June 17, 2019

Monstrosity a.k.a. The Atomic Brain (1964)

WOW. This one is soooo bad, but not in a good way. The plot is an atomic age Frankenstein story where a rich old lady [played dreadfully by Marjorie Eaton. I cannot believe she got hired to do other films after this one!] hopes to have her brain transplanted into the body a sexy young woman. The scientist to do the job is Dr. Otto Frank, who is also her boyfriend. [Never mix business with pleasure!] The stupidest part of this movie is that in several experiments the good doctor transplants the brains of animals into human bodies. In one of these experiments the unfortunate young woman who receives the brain of a cat hisses, meows and also purrs like a kitten. I believe the last of the three is a physical impossibility with human vocal cords.

This movie raises more questions than it answers: Why does the guy with the dog's brain end up with sprouting werewolf teeth? How in the hell you do fit a human brain into the skull of a cat? Why does the homely domestic always meet her demise first while the pretty ones live a little while longer? [We geeks demand justice!] Who financed this film and why did they not ask to have their money refunded?

Don't waste a single minute of your life watching this film. But, if you insist on ignoring my warning you can download a copy of this dreadful film to keep for all eternity thanks to Archive.org.

RATING: Bad.  [Seriously!]

Download a copy of the film, if you dare, from Archive.org

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

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

I Bury the Living (1958)

Don't let the movie poster fool you. I Bury the Living is more Twilight Zone than it is Creepshow. The basic premise for the movie is a clever one. The recent supervisor of a cemetery is convinced that he is causing people's deaths by inserting a black pin into a wall size map of the cemetery. Richard Boone, who is a distinguished actor with a long resume, gives the main character emotional depth and believability. He definitely carries the film and commands center stage in every scene.

My only negative criticism of the film is that I think it's too long. I Bury the Living would have been better suited as a half hour episode on a show like Alfred Hitchcock Presents than a feature length film. There is really not enough material here to justify the length.  That being said, I still found the film well made and quite enjoyable.

This movie is in the public domain and can be viewed online at Google Video.  Just type the title in the search engine.

RATING: Good.

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

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

I Eat Your Skin

Caribbean islands, voodoo and machete-wielding zombies. Who could ask for anything more? Well, let's start with the title. This film began with the title Zombies but was changed in 1970 to I Eat Your Skin when it was paired with I Drink Your Blood as part of a double feature. My personal suggestion is Not Another Caribbean Zombie Movie, since I Eat Your Skin has NOTHING to do with the eating of flesh whatsoever.

Next on my list is a simple question that demands an answer. If the descendants of Voodoo Island came from Africa through the slave trade, why do they all speak Spanish? Haitian's speak their own version of French. Jamaicans speak Patois which is a combination of English and some African languages. It seems like s strange choice to me.

Number three is some of the worst zombie make-up I've seen in a long time. I do better zombie make-up than this. The eyes are ridiculous. Furthermore, their mannerisms are not consistent. One moment they're shambling in a daze and the next minute they're track stars. Give me a break!

Last on my list are the extended voodoo dance numbers that look and sound more like a Broadway musical than a tribe of indigenous people dancing with evil intent. While I didn't detect a plié or jeté, all the main movements are purely modern dance.

I could go on, but I think you get my point. This one is simply not good. It is an underwhelming piece of cinema that even zombie fans will want to avoid.

RATING: Bad.

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