Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Thing (1982)

Director: John Carpenter

Starring: Kurt Russell, Wilford Brimley, T.K. Carter, David Clennon, Keith David

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Man is The Warmest Place to Hide.

Plot: Scientists in the Antarctic are confronted by a shape-shifting alien that assumes the appearance of the people that it kills.

My rating: 9/10

Will I watch it again? Yup.

#26 of 31 Days of Horror 2010.

I've seen this flick maybe 3-4 times. Once last night, four years prior and then go back another 20 years. HOLY FUCKING SHIT THIS IS A GOOD MOVIE!!! Excellent sci-fi/thriller/horror. Carpenter's HALLOWEEN (1978) seems to be everyone's favorite Carpenter flick but I have to give that honor to this one.

Best line?

"I know you gentlemen have been through a lot, but when you find the time,
I'd rather not spend the rest of this winter

It's tight and fucking intense. The special effects hold up incredibly well for nearly thirty years ago (fuck CGI). The atmosphere is thick, the story is simple but keeps you on the edge of your seat, the performances are on target, Ennio Morricone's score literally nails the pulse of the film and it's jaw-dropping how good this looks on Blu-ray!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

The Evil of Frankenstein (1964)

Director: Freddie Francis

Starring: Peter Cushing, Peter Woodthorpe, Duncan Lamont, Sandor Eles, Katy Wild

More info: IMDb

Tagline: He's never been more shocking! shocking! shocking!

Plot: Penniless, Baron Frankenstein, accompanied by his eager assistant Hans, arrives at his family castle near the town of Karlstaad, vowing to continue his experiments in the creation of life. Fortuitously finding the creature he was previously working on, he brings it back to a semblance of life but requires the services of a mesmerist, Zoltan, to successfully animate it. The greedy and vengeful Zoltan secretly sends the monster into town to steal gold and 'punish' the burgomaster and the chief of police, which acts lead to a violent confrontation between the baron and the townspeople.

My rating: 7/10

Will I watch it again? Yup.

#22 on Hammer Horror (1957-1976)

#25 of 31 Days of Horror 2010.

We pick up a few years after the last film, THE REVENGE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1958), and it's now been ten years since the doc was run out of town in THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1957). He's up to his old tricks (but, of course!) and he's run out of town yet again. Penniless, he and his assistant, Hans (I assume it's the same Hans that was his assistant in REVENGE but played by a different actor) decide to go back to Karlstaad, the town where it all began, to recover some of his priceless belongings to sell and start anew...only the townspeople completely looted the joint. Now the doc is PISSED!

Yep. This is a Hammer movie all right!

I really dig how Hammer at least tried to make logical sequels that took Dr. Frankenstein to where it feels natural to go unlike some of the shoddy excuses for sequels Universal made in the 30s and 40s. But since Universal was now partnered with Hammer on these pictures, Hammer was able to lift plot ideas to use in their films. Big mistake. Hammer didn't need to but they did in this one. Lifted right out of FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLF MAN (1943), once the doc gets to his old castle, he's underground and spots his first creation frozen in ice, ready to be re-born. That's all fine and good but that's not how the monster met its end in CURSE. Add to that that the creature looked nothing like this one. Nothing. Sadly we get a ten minute flashback to the new events of the doc's first monster's demise and it's also a completely different monster. Ugh. The blockhead look is just bad. I'd like to slap whoever had the final decision on that one.

Cool! The monster is trapped in sheet plastic, I mean, ice!

That's my only real beef with this picture. Woodthorpe was great as Zoltan, Frankenstein's necessary evil partner. I loved that aspect of the story and the rest of the film as well. Enough cannot be said about how important Peter Cushing's role as Frankenstein is. It's just remarkable watching this man's performances. He sells the character better than I've seen anyone else do. To me his will always be the definitive Dr. Frankenstein. Oh, and does he die in the end? Of course not. He'll be back in three years with FRANKENSTEIN CREATED WOMAN (1967). Can't wait.

The Revenge of Frankenstein (1958)

Director: Terence Fisher

Starring: Peter Cushing, Francis Matthews, Eunice Gayson, Michael Gwynn, Michael Ripper

More info: IMDb

Tagline: The Terror Rises Again

Plot: Having escaped death by the guillotine, Dr. Frankenstein relocates to Carlsbruck. There, as Dr. Victor Stein, he successfully establishes himself as a physician with a large practice and a hospital for the poor. After three years however he is recognized by Dr. Hans Kleve but rather than expose him, the young doctor wants to join him in his research. Frankenstein has resumed his experiments and is on the verge of re-animating a body he has constructed using the brain of Fritz, the deformed assistant who helped him escape from his death sentence. The operation goes quite well and Fritz is quite pleased with his new body. An encounter with a drunken hospital attendant however sends him on the run. As his mind and his body deteriorates, he publicly reveals the good Doctor's true identity.

My rating: 8.5/10

Will I watch it again? Most certainly.

#59 on Hammer Horror (1957-1976)

#24 of 31 Days of Horror 2010.

It's absolutely brilliant how they've continued the story from where we left off with THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1957). It's been a few years since I've seen this one and it's just as powerful as it was then. If you've never spent any time with Peter Cushing you just need to look at his work in the Hammer Frankenstein pictures and you'll see his genius as an actor. Riveting. His Doctor Frankenstein is a cold man dedicated to furthering science...but with a grisly price.

He's escaped the gallows from the end of the last film and he's at it again. Jimmy Sangster's script is top notch. I can't say this enough that this goes beyond what some would consider a throw away horror flick. It really is a very good movie. Both of them are. Between these and the Christopher Lee Dracula movies you can see why Hammer ruled the horror world for more than a decade beginning in 1957.

The story is fantastic and Cushing is in top form. You really feel for the guy more than the last one. He's more human than evil here and his motivations are just and necessary. You want him to succeed. His creation is not a monster but a legitimate advance in science. Gwynn's performance helps create much sympathy that goes beyond what has come before in previous Frankenstein outings. His rise and fall is heartbreaking to say the least. And the end...oh, boy! I smell a sequel and I'm so ready for it! THE EVIL OF FRANKENSTEIN (1964) awaits!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Vampire Circus (1972)

Director: Robert Young

Starring: Adrienne Corri, Thorley Walters, Anthony Higgins, David Prowse

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Human fangs ripping throats - no sawdust can soak up the torrent of blood!

Plot: A village in Nineteenth Century Europe is at first relieved when a circus breaks through the quarantine to take the local's minds off the plague. But their troubles are only beginning as children begin to disappear and the legacy of a long-ago massacre is brought to light.

My rating: 6.5/10

Will I watch it again? Eventually, I guess.

#53 on Hammer Horror (1957-1976)

#23 of 31 Days of Horror 2010.

I was jonesing for a Hammer vampire flick I hadn't seen and this was next on the list. Sadly, there's few left that I haven't seen. It satisfied. It was neat seeing a pre-STAR WARS David Prowse (the man inside the Vader outfit in the original trilogy). Too bad he didn't speak.

David Whittaker's score is outstanding. The story's great, too, filled with revenge and gore. And there's no shortage of Hammer sexy! The dance sequence alone must have sent thousands of young boys to wonder, "What's that tingling sensation I'm feeling?" Nice!

I'll have to wait for a second viewing to figure it out but I think part of what gave the picture an overall underwhelming feeling is the abundance of use they got out of the circus set. It's on a soundstage and it feels like it. It's too clean. Yeah, that's it. VC could use some dirtying up. Oh, and this guy was hands down the worst actor of the bunch. I almost forgot about that. He was often cringe-inducing.

I do recommend it as it's quite different than the usual vampire fare. Lots of people die, you get to see Darth Vader with his shirt off and hear some great music.

The Omen (1976)

Director: Richard Donner

Starring: Gregory Peck, Lee Remick, David Warner, Leo McKern

More info: IMDb


Plot: An American ambassador learns to his horror that his son is actually the literal Antichrist.

My rating: 7/10

Will I watch it again? Yeah.

#24 of 31 Days of Horror 2010.
#150 on Drive-In Delirium Volume 2 (part of the TRAILER TRASH PROJECT)

I've always enjoyed this flick despite it's pacing issues and that Peck is too dramatic. For the most part I dig his performance...I don't know. Maybe it's because he's a 9 foot tall mass of solid rock. David Warner is terrific as always and it's nice to see Leo McKern in anything. The kid that plays Damien, Harvey Stephens, was well cast. He's got that look that feels at home in a Stanley Kubrick film. And the score! HOLY FUCKING SHIT! Jerry Goldsmith hit this one out of the park, winning an Academy Award bookended by John Williams (JAWS the previous year and STAR WARS the year after).

The kills are abso-fucking-tastic! The sequels are interesting despite their flaws. Besides Goldsmith besting himself with each successive film, I really like the grand ideas thrown out there in these pictures. Too bad the movies don't quite live up to them in such a grand way. Avoid the recent remake. It's not good and it doesn't even try until the end credits to recognize Goldsmith's iconic themes and that's just unforgivable.

Tales from the Crypt (1972)

Director: Freddie Francis

Starring: Joan Collins, Peter Cushing, Patrick Magee, Richard Greene

More info: IMDb

Tagline: DEATH LIVES in the Vault of Horror!

Plot: When a sightseeing trip leads them astray, a group of tourists find themselves lost in an underground labyrinth where they come face to face with a monk who foretells their futures.

My rating: 7.5/10

Will I watch it again? I won't rule it out.

#23 of 31 Days of Horror 2010.

I've seen quite a few horror anthologies over the years and most of them just don't work for me. There's rarely a story that even feels like it's trying to frighten the audience. Usually there's just one segment that works but, much to my pleasant surprise, most of the stories in this one are very good and a couple are pretty horrific. There's five stories in all.

AND ALL THROUGH THE HOUSE - Joan Collins murders her husband on christmas eve and gets attacked by a psychopath in a Santa outfit. Nice!

REFLECTION OF DEATH - A family man leaves his wife and kids with his mistress and their car crashes leaving you wondering who's dead and who's not. This one's the least enjoyable but it's still not bad.

POETIC JUSTICE - a wealthy prick wants the dingy old man across the street (Cushing) removed from their upscale neighborhood because he's an eyesore. Getting better.

WISH YOU WERE HERE - A variation on The Monkey's Paw tale where a couple should be more careful of what they wish for. FUCKING AWESOME!

BLIND ALLEYS - Asshole ex-military man, Major Rogers, has been given charge of running a home for the blind and treats himself to luxuries while everyone else suffers. Even better than the last one.

Once you get past the bump that is the second tale, each story gets progressively better and horrific, although it's tough to top the end of WISH YOU WERE HERE. Yikes! After the last few anthologies I've gone through, it's so nice to finally watch one that doesn't bore the piss out of me. Highly recommended.

Kiss of the Vampire (1963)

Director: Don Sharp

Starring: Clifford Evans, Edward de Souza, Noel Willman, Jennifer Daniel

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Giant devil Bats...summoned from the caves of Hell to destroy the lust of the Vampires!

Plot: When car trouble strands a honeymooning couple in a small Southern European village, an aristocratic family in the area reaches out to help them with sinister consequences.

My rating: 6/10

Will I watch it again? Ehhhh, probably.

#17 on Hammer Horror (1957-1976)

#22 of 31 Days of Horror 2010.

Gothic. Vampires. 1960s. Hammer. I'm there. I remember seeing this one a few years ago for the first time and not thinking an awful lot about it. Time hasn't changed my opinion. It starts out like you'd expect - the wealthy couple traveling and somehow gets detained in a quaint forest village that sits below an ominous castle where the evil aristocracy lives and happen to be a cult of vampires, little bits of happenings in the middle and then a confrontation to cap it all off. By the way, why is it that it's always the rich and powerful that are the vampires? Is it because they've lived for generations and have built up the wealth?

There are two great things about this picture that stand out - another fantastic score by James Bernard and the awesomely insane ending. Bats everywhere and it looks convincing, too. Yeah, it's rubber bats on strings but there's shitload of them and the editing and special effects really make it work. I also really dug how Professor Zimmer decides to fight fire with fire by battling the vampires with black magic. Supposedly, that kept Cushing from being in the film because he felt Van Helsing would have never gone down that road. I liked it but it would have been cooler to see Cushing doing it instead.

As always, the sets, costumes, acting, music, atmosphere are wonderful. I could have used a bit more life in the mid-section and have more to do for Zimmer but the ending almost makes up for that. Had this been a Lee/Cushing Dracula/Van Helsing picture, it could have been one of Hammer's best 60s vampire outings.

Stop Me Before I Kill! (1960)

Director: Val Guest

Starring: Claude Dauphin, Diane Cilento, Ronald Lewis

More info: IMDb

Tagline: A diabolical new technique in suspense!

Plot: High-strung race car driver Alan Colby is trying to recover from a serious head injury. Alan and his lovely new wife Denise go on vacation to the South of France for some much needed rest and relaxation. But Alan is having trouble resisting his more violent impulses. Suave local psychiatrist David Prade offers to help Alan out.

My rating: 6/10

Will I watch it again? Nah.

#14 on Hammer Horror (1957-1976)

#21 of 31 Days of Horror 2010.

It's not a bad picture but it sure does get weighted down by the plodding 107 minute run time. It took me three attempts to finish it. The cast does very well and the story's fine; it's just that it would work better at probably around an hour and twenty as there isn't THAT much story to tell. It tries for that Hitchcockian psychological thriller angle but it delivers little in tension and suspense.

Lewis constantly reminded me of a young Sean Connery, Dauphin reminded me of Claude Rains and Cilento is so delicious she reminded me that I need to get out more. Grrrrrowl! She needs to have my Italian-speaking babies! The end isn't the kockout it could have been as they give you some details minutes before the shit hits the fan that take the wind out of it. Maybe for 1960 it had more punch but I'm not entirely convinced. Perhaps in the skilled hands of Alfred Hitchcock. Who knows. All I know is that it would have been better and more effective...and with Sean Connery and Claude Rains.