Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Mummy's Curse (1944)

Director: Leslie Goodwins

Starring: Lon Chaney Jr., Peter Cole, Virginia Christine, Kay Harding, Dennis Moore, Martin Kosleck, Jurt Katch, Addison Richards

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Egypt's ancient loves live again in evil!

Plot: An irrigation project in the rural bayous of Louisiana unearths Kharis the living mummy (Lon Chaney Jr.), who was buried in quicksand 25 years earlier.

My rating: 5/10

Will I watch it again? Nope.

Sigh. I'm so glad this is over. This is the 5th and final official Mummy franchise movie from Universal. It's about on par with the previous sequels. I've got nothing to say that hasn't been said in those. I'd swear I heard the Mummy mumble something about needing whiskey. This might have satisfied 6 year old boys in 1944 but it's not doing anything for me. This train has left the station.

The Mummy's Ghost (1944)

Director: Reginald Le Borg

Starring: John Carradine, Lon Chaney Jr., Robert Lowery, Ramsay Ames, Barton MacLane, George Zucco, Frank Reicher

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Nameless! Fleshless! Deathless!

Plot: An Egyptian high priest travels to America to reclaim the bodies of ancient Egyptian princess Ananka and her living guardian mummy Kharis. Learning that Ananka^Òs spirit has been reincarnated into another body, he kidnaps a young woman of Egyptian descent with a mysterious resemblance to the princess. However, the high priest^Òs greedy desires cause him to loose control of the mummy...

My rating: 5/10

Will I watch it again? I can't justify it any longer.

Well, it seems you can't keep a good Mummy down, or at least you can't keep him down long enough to make a decent picture. At this point in the series I just don't care. They're not horrible but they're not really trying to do much with the character. It's the same rehash as before. I wish they'd stop trying to link these movies together and make a good flick with some good Mummy killing action, some groovy Egyptian-sounding music and locales. Again, Chaney brings little-to-nothing to the role of the Mummy. He's just a puppet manipulated by someone else. Gee, if they'd only put a brain in the creature for once...or in the writers. This series is getting tired. Having said all of that...THE BLEAK AS HELL ENDING IS THE BEST SO FAR! I can't believe they went there. I'm beside myself.

Burnt Offerings (1976)

Director: Dan Curtis

Starring: Karen Black, Oliver Reed, Burgess Meredith, Eileen Heckart, Lee Montgomery, Dub Taylor, Bette Davis, Anthony James

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Up the ancient stairs, behind the locked door, something lives, something evil, from which no one has ever returned.

Plot: The vacationing Marian (Black), David (Montgomery), Ben (Reed) and Elizabeth (Davis) rent a Victorian mansion in California for the summer and soon discover that all is not as it should be. For starters, dead plants come back to life and the pool appears to be a sort of trap. Behind all the strangeness are the Allardyce siblings, Arnold (Meredith) and Roz (Heckart).

My rating: 5.5/10

Will I watch it again? No.

#173 on Drive-In Delirium Volume 2 (part of the TRAILER TRASH PROJECT)

It's surprising that considering the talent involved, this isn't better. The performances are fine, music, cinematography, etc but the film falls flat for some reason. I'm sure the two hour running time has something to do with it, especially since it's really, really slow and there's nothing much more than suggestions that the house (or something) is driving these people insane. It's rather static. I REALLY liked the bleak-ass ending. THAT was neat and it would have been better suited if there had been a stronger near-two hour build up. I wanted to like this one. I'm a huge fan of many of the cast members. Dub Taylor is doing his fantastic Dub Taylor thing and Burgess Meredith is a gas to watch as usual (I really dig that guy) but they're barely in the movie and only at the beginning. Either one of those guys spread out over the entire picture would juice this up to a 7/10 without question. Hell, toss in Slim Pickens and you've got yourself a classic.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

The Vault of Horror (1973)

Director: Roy Ward Baker

Starring: Curd Jurgens, Terry-Thomas, Tom Baker, Dawn Addams, Michael Craig, Denholm Elliott

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Below the Crypt lies Death's waiting-room - The . . . Vault of Horror

Plot: Five men trapped in the basement vault of an office building share visions with each other of their demise. Stories revolve around vampires, bodily dismemberment, east Indian mysticism, an insurance scam, and an artist who kills by painting his victims' deaths.

My rating: 8/10

Will I watch it again? Yes. Yes. YES!

#92 on Drive-In Delirium Volume 2 (part of the TRAILER TRASH PROJECT)

It's so rare that horror anthologies are done right. The Amicus studio made a half dozen or so for 7 year period beginning with 1965's DR. TERROR'S HOUSE OF HORRORS, which was very good. I didn't care too much for TORTURE GARDEN (1967) and THE HOUSE THAT DRIPPED BLOOD (1971) but I thoroughly enjoyed TALES FROM THE CRYPT (1972). The problem is that there are usually one or two good stories with the rest being weak filler. VAULT has the rare distinction of having five strong tales. It's the grand slam of horror anthologies.

I'm going to give some huge plot details so be warned...

MIDNIGHT MESS - Harold (Daniel Massey) visits his long lost sister to kill her in order to inherit their recently deceased father's estate only to find out she and the others in the village are vampires! After stabbing his sister to death he goes to a restaurant for dinner where he discovers all too late that he's the only human in the joint. They string him upside down and put a beverage tap IN HIS FUCKING NECK!!! How fucking badass is that? OMFG, what a way to start things off. I thought for sure the rest would pale in comparison.

THE NEAT JOB - Arthur (Terry-Thomas) marries a MUCH younger Eleanor (Johns). They get along splendidly except that Arthur is a neat freak and that begins to send Eleanor into paranoia in order to please her husband. In a wonderful scene where Eleanor has one mishap after another in anticipation of Arthur arriving home from work, she breaks under pressure when he berates her. She kills him and puts his body parts in large mason jars in the basement next to his well-ordered things. Great fun and it's nice seeing Terry-Thomas in a serious role. I've often wondered if he ever played a villain. I imagine he could have been very effective much like Henry Fonda in ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST (1968).

THIS TRICK'LL KILL YOU - Sebastian (Jurgens) is a world-class magician on holiday in India when he comes across a street magician with an amazing trick involving a rope rising out of a basket. Sebastian can't figure it out and is desperate to learn the secret, desperate enough to kill for it. Lots of fun and I love the music in this segment.

BARGAIN IN DEATH - Maitland (Craig) (I think this is the character's name) works out a deal with his friend that he'll take a drug that mimics the effects of death. Once he is quickly buried, Maitland's friend will dig him up and they'll split the insurance money. There's a problem (of course there is); his friend has no plans on digging him up. This one is cute with a very nice surprise ending.

DRAWN AND QUARTERED - Moore (Baker) is a painter that's been taken advantage of by a trio of art critics and dealers and he uses Voodoo to take care of business. He paints their portraits and mutilates them in a fun fashion (like poking the eyes out of one, ripping the hands off another) which has dire consequences for the subjects. But what is to happen to the portrait he made of himself? Tom Baker does a great job in this one and makes it a great bookend to the awesome first tale.

I'm just blown away at the quality across the board. Everything is top notch and this might just be the best horror anthology I've seen so far. There are others that have come close but this one knocks it out of the park no matter how you slice it. It's on a MGM Midnite Movies double bill DVD with the excellent TALES FROM THE CRYPT (1972) and you can pick it up for less than ten bucks. It's a steal.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Black Devil Doll (2007)

Director: Jonathan Louis Lewis

Starring: Heather Murphy, Natasha Talonz, Christine Svendsen, Erika Branich, Precious Cox, Martin Boone, Gregory Solis

More info: IMDb

Tagline: He's a Lover! He's a Killer! He's a muthafuckin' puppet! And if you think you're ready for him, think again bitch!

Plot: A young, moist, buxom teen vixen finds herself hurled into an odyssey of forbidden sex and unspeakable violence after an innocent evening dabbling in the occult. What started as a simple child's game has now become a fight for her life! What is this evil that she has summoned from beyond? And why does it have a fro? What kind of horrific acts will she be subjected to? And what price will her super-hot, half-nude friends have to pay?

My rating? 5/10

Will I watch it again? Maybe. If I do there's going to be some fast forwarding.

Man, what a missed opportunity. There are as many things to like about this picture as there are not to like. Ya like boobs? There's plenty of 'em. How about trash-talking puppets that like to fuck and slaughter? It's here. Fart jokes? Unfortunately, there's more than a couple.

OK, the opening credits are slick, cool and have some groovy music backing it up. They're of a much higher quality than what comes after. I really dug the credits.

The early stuff with Heather and the doll is great. He gets her flowers, they go play on the swing and then they fuck. Eventually Devil Doll (DD) wants to bang some other broads in addition to her, tells her to call her friends over and that's when it starts to go downhill. We're now 20 minutes in with 53 more to go. The girls show up and proceed to wash their car (we don't see Heather until after they're done) which turns into a rap music video (and cut like one, too). It's filler, or a good way to promote your friend's music. I could've done without it.

Once inside the girls play "look at my tits" and then break up and the each do their own thing. One takes a bath, another a shower, another lays out in the sun, and so on. There's lots of nudity as you would expect. DD fucks one or two of the, kills them (lots of gore) and then faces Heather who now has a gun and wants to put a stop to this insanity.

Oh, and the end credits lasts ten minutes. Granted, there are some comedy bits thrown in there but still, ten minutes. BLACK DEVIL DOLL FROM HELL (1984), an obvious inspiration for this film, at least has a certain level of charm because it was made with no money and a video camcorder. This one, though, shot on digital, looks slick so it's going to have to work harder to bring that same level of fun to the table. Unfortunately it's either working too hard or the director Lewis felt he had to pad the film to get a decent run time. I wouldn't mind seeing this cut almost in half. Maybe not but it feels like it could use a trim. Speaking of trim...

Black Devil Doll from Hell (1984)

Director: Chester Novell Turner

Starring: Shirley L. Jones, Keefe Turner, Marie Sainvilvs

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Was it a nightmare? Or was it for real?

Plot: Helen, a very religious woman saving herself for the man she marries, buys a doll at a thrift store. Unbeknownst to her, the doll is possessed by an evil spirit and it proceeds to rape her. After losing her virginity to it (!), the doll mysteriously disappears and she desperately sleeps with other men to regain that wonderfully new feeling. Unfortunately, no man can satisfy her the way the Black Devil Doll from Hell could. She is left a broken woman. YES!

My rating: 6/10

Will I watch it again? Sure. Get some party liquor and friends together and it's a night to remember!

This one's been on my radar for quite some time and it's killing me I didn't watch it sooner. This is hilariously bad and fun all at the same time. A few years before Chucky and CHILD'S PLAY (1988), writer/director Turner cranked out his own evil doll flick with a zero budget! My hat's off to him for making it happen. It's shot on a VHS camcorder, the music is pitiful (it sounds like someone hit the 'demo' button on a cheap Casio keyboard - seriously, you should watch it for yourself), and I don't think there's a single 'actor' in the picture.

Hell, the movie's only 78 minutes long and the opening "do it yourself early video days" credits last almost 7 full minutes!!! Fortunately it's only about 20 minutes in (including the credits) before we get what we came for...

Oh, yeah! This picture is hilarious and if I hadn't been so sleepy when I watched it I would have dug it even more. I suspect that this movie improves with each viewing and, with liquor and friends, it'll become one of those WTF movies you throw on to impress what friends you have left. Either that or they'll all leave me to die alone. Please watch this movie. There's nothing else like it and I'd hate for it to die in obscurity.

Zombie 4 (1989)

Director: Claudio Fragasso

Starring: Jeff Stryker, Candice Daly, Massimo Vanni, Jim Gaines, Don Wilson, Adrianne Joseph

More info: IMDb

Plot: A woman goes back to the island where her parents were killed. They had been working on a cure for cancer and accidentally raised the dead by angering a voodoo priest. With the woman is a group of mercenaries and they meet up with some other researchers. They raise the dead again and all hell breaks loose.

My rating: 4/10

Will I watch it again? Noooooo.

This is one series that gets worse with every picture. The only thing they really got right is filming it in the jungle. It's ridiculous how many zombie movies there are and so few of them take place in the jungle. That's one great and creepy locale that opens up all kinds of great imagery. Anyway, this might be best watched with a group to help you get through the slow spots.

The makeup effects are dodgy, the cheesy synth score is poor, the acting is bad - everything you need for a few laughs as long as there is alcohol and someone to enjoy it with. If not, then you'll be bored and mildly amused. There's only one thing that could make this better and it's knowing that ZOMBIE 5 is even worse.

Child's Play (1988)

Director: Tom Holland

Starring: Brad Dourif, Catherine Hicks, Chris Sarandon, Alex Vincent, Dinah Manoff, Tommy Swerdlow

More info: IMDb

Tagline: This doll is killer.

Plot: When serial killer Charles Lee Ray is mortally wounded in a police shoot-out, he uses a voodoo spell to transfer his soul into Chucky, a "Good Guys" doll. Andy receives the doll as a birthday gift, and Chucky soon resumes his killing spree. However, Charles doesn't want to be trapped in the body of a doll forever. His only escape would be to transfer into the first human he revealed his true identity to... which places Andy in mortal danger.

My rating: 7.5/10

Will I watch it again? Yes.

I'm really making up for lost time with horror movies in the past four years. This series has been on my to-watch list for more than twenty years and I'm FINALLY getting around to watching it. I really dig this one. I kind of figured I would since it did well enough to warrant a bunch of sequels and I'm a huge fan of killer toy movies like PUPPET MASTER (1989). The story is good (albeit standard but then what do you expect?), the acting works (the kid is GREAT), the effects are great and the kills are fun. Whoever designed the doll was working overtime. It's creepy and fun. I want one. The ending was fun, too, although it didn't leave room for a sequel (unless I'm an idiot and missed it). I'm now keen to watch the rest of the series and work on the rest of the PUPPET MASTER series (I'm told it's not pretty) as well as others like DOLLS (1987) and DEMONIC TOYS (1992).

The Mummy's Tomb (1942)

Director: Harold Young

Starring: Dick Foran, John Hubbard, Elyse Knox, Wallace Ford, George Zucco, Turhan Bey, Lon Chaney Jr.

More info: IMDb

Tagline: BURIED FURY!...stalking to life from the depths of doom!

Plot: Andoheb (Zucco), by day a professor at the Cairo Museum and a high priest of Karnak by night, travels to America to wreak revenge on an archaeologist, Steve Banning (Foran) who, thirty years earlier, on an expedition to find the sarcophagus of the ancient Egyptian Princess Ananka, instead unearthed Ananka's lover, Kharis (Chaney), buried alive for sacrilege but kept from death for over 3000 years by tanna leaves administered over the centuries by the successive High Priests of Karnak. While the now-middle-aged Banning is telling his family of the trials and tribulations of dealing with Andoheb and Kharis in Egypt, the unexpected Andoheb, with Kharis in tow, looms ever closer. This does not bode well for the Banning family.

My rating: 5.5/10

Will I watch it again? Probably not.

This one takes place 30 years after the last picture, THE MUMMY'S HAND (1940), and with many of the same cast. The only problem is that it didn't really take place 30 years earlier. This is a problem when Banning's son is drafted (he received a telegraph telling him to report for duty in three days) during WWII. That's the level of thought that's going into these sequels. And like the previous film, they spend an extraordinary amount of time re-capping the back story told in the first film (this time it takes more than 10 minutes to do it, taking a huge chunk out of the 60 minute run time!). It all takes place in the US which is OK, although I prefer my Mummy pictures to take place in Egypt.

It's remarkable how frail and easily broken people were in the 1940s, isn't it? Chaney adds nothing to the role of the mummy. There's no speaking, just shuffling along, strangling folks. It must have been a bitch for him to have to drink his liquor from a straw. So far, it's his greatest role (since he doesn't have any lines). Say, how about that ending? It goes from this...

to this...

in one instant. Show the happy couple at the train station and roll credits. Clearly Universal just wanted to get something out there to capitalize on the Mummy name. The only thing I can say this improved on the last film is it didn't have the comic relief that can be so annoying. In fact, the character Babe (Wallace Ford), who provided the laughs last time, is now 30 years older and he's as serious as a heart attack. I dug it. The rest of the picture is by the numbers. Not a bad way to kill an hour but then...

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Mummy's Hand (1940)

Director: Christy Cabanne

Starring: Dick Foran, Peggy Moran, Wallace Ford, Eduardo Ciannelli, George Zucco, Cecil Kellaway, Charles Trowbridge

More info: IMDb

Tagline: The tomb of a thousand terrors!

Plot: A couple of comical, out-of-work archaeologists (Foran and Ford) in Egypt discover evidence of the burial place of the ancient Egyptian princess Ananka. After receiving funding from an eccentric magician (Kellaway) and his beautiful daughter (Moran), they set out into the desert only to be terrorized by a sinister high priest (Zucco) and the living mummy Kharis (Tyler) who are the guardians of Ananka^Òs tomb.

My rating: 5.5/10

Will I watch it again? Not sure but probably not.

It seems like so many horror pictures of the 30s and 40s had at least one character to provide some comic relief. The only thing I can say about this one is Ford excels at it and his character isn't as obnoxious as a lot of them were back then. But still, I'd rather not have any funny in my Mummy movies at all. The picture's also only 67 minutes long and they waste 10% of it re-capping the ancient legend that was told in the first picture. That's a lot of filler. Of course whenever there was to be a clear shot of Boris Karloff (filmed for the 1932 film), they cut away to a newly-filmed actor. I understand why they did it, I just didn't want to watch it again. They clearly didn't know that Universal was going to put out a box set of the Mummy films and I would watch them so close together. The rest of the picture is OK but it sure was lazy and there certainly wasn't much attempt at horror. Comedy? Yes. Horror? Not really. I want a straight up horror picture with some great Mummy action. If I want comedy, I'll bust out Abbott & Costello.

Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter (1974)

Director: Brian Clemens

Starring: Horst Janson, John Carson, Shane Briant, Caroline Munro, John Cater, Ian Hendry, Wanda Ventham, William Hobbs, Brian Tully

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Evil Ends Here.

Plot: Vampire hunter and expert swordsman Kronos finds himself in a small village where several of the local young women have been found in an advanced state of age, their youth drained from them by a vampire's kiss. Kronos' search leads him to the Durward estate where he is met by the effete children of the apparently aged and sick Lady Durward.

My rating: 8/10

Will I watch it again? Absolutely!

#54 on Hammer Horror (1957-1976)

KRONOS is one of the best, if not the best, of the later horror pictures from the Hammer studio. It's a great concept that sadly didn't continue on with more films. It could have been a very interesting and fun franchise but I guess it didn't do well enough at the box office. The idea was that Kronos is a time traveling vampire hunter which means he could (in subsequent films) find himself killing vamps in ancient Rome, WWII, etc. THAT would have been so freaking badass.

Kronos's companion, Grost (John Cater), says everything you need to know in one line where he explains that there are many different species of vampires, each with different powers and effects as well as means of killing them. A cross doesn't do shit to a vampire who doesn't believe, wooden stakes only work on some, etc. What a wonderfully simple and effective means of opening up all kinds of possibilities that is!

There's plenty of action and dark humor, my favorite being when Kronos & Grost must destroy a friend who has been bitten and they go through a trial and error sequence to see what can kill this species of vampire. It's deliciously funny. Janson makes a great lead and the supporting cast is well played, too. The cinematography is gorgeous (as per usual in the Gothic Hammer horror pictures) and Laurie Johnson's rousing score is very good, too. You owe it to yourself to check this one out. It's one of the best vampire movies of the 1970s.