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Greetings, and welcome to VIEWING THE CLASSICS. Here you'll find capsule reviews of vintage movies from the early days of cinema through the 1970s, with a special emphasis on sci-fi, horror, and mystery movies. Be sure to check out the Pages links, where you can find a Film Index of all my reviews, links to the reviews organized by cast members, directors, and other contributors, and links to my reviews of the films of talented young director Joshua Kennedy.

I also cover vintage television at my sister site, CLASSICS ON THE TUBE , so please feel free to check that out as well.

Thanks for visiting!


Sunday, July 22, 2018

The Yesterday Machine (1965)

Starring Tim Holt, James Britton, Jack Herman, Ann Pellegrino, Robert Kelly
Directed by Russ Marker
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

A newspaper reporter looks into a young man's story that he was shot at by men in Civil War costumes, and while searching for his missing girlfriend, finds clues that suggest time travel.

An independent feature from writer/producer/director Russ Marker, the movie shows its amateurism, but remains an interesting attempt with much of the same feel of more professional 1950s and 1960s sci-fi efforts.  Hollywood actor Tim Holt, who plays the film's police detective, gets top billing, but Britton is the lead, and doesn't do too badly as the two-fisted crime reporter.  Marker's screenplay contains some interesting ideas, but is rather slow-paced and really gets bogged down when Britton meets the film's villain and has to endure a science lesson on the concepts behind the time machine.  Still, it's a novel idea, the actors do well enough, Marker makes good use of his low budget, and the jazzy soundtrack is pleasant to listen to.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Giant From The Unknown (1958)

Starring Edward Kemmer, Sally Fraser, Bob Steele, Morris Ankrum, Buddy Baer
Directed by Richard E. Cunha
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

After murder strikes a mountain resort community, a geologist falls under suspicion, but while the police investigate, he teams with an archaeologist looking for the remains of an ancient giant.

One of director Richard Cunha's four independent sci-fi/horror features, filmed and released in the late 1950s, I would judge this one as probably the best, although all four are entertaining in their own way.  Frank Hart Taussig and Ralph Brooke's screenplay follows the blueprint for a monster movie, with all the key elements in place, from a legitimately creepy monster to a stalwart hero to his love interest to the clever scientist and an unusual setting leading to the climactic confrontation between Kemmer's hero and Baer's creature.  The veteran actors in Cunha's cast are also a big plus, with Ankrum who had already been a staple in these kinds of pictures for some time, and Steele, coming to the end of a long career after making his name in a long series of westerns.  Perhaps the film's strongest asset is Jack Pierce, the creator behind the makeup of so many of Universal Pictures' classic monsters, who gives Baer's murdering conquistador a fearsome look with weathered skin and decomposing teeth.  With the wise decision to keep Baer's monster mute, and Baer's icy stare and Albert Glasser's menacing score also making important contributions, the filmmakers have succeeded in making an effective horror film on a low budget, and one that's definitely fun to watch.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Simon, King Of The Witches (1971)

Starring Andrew Prine, Brenda Scott, George Paulsin, Norman Burton, Gerald York
Directed by Bruce Kessler
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

A self-proclaimed warlock with the power to cast spells on others for good or for evil, plies his craft for money, while seeking a way to project himself into the realm of the gods.

I just wasn't fond of this picture- Prine gives a good performance as Simon, but no one else around him stands out, and a meandering plot and weak special effects don't help matters.  A pulsating red circle that delivers Simon's victims to their fates is almost comical when it murders by knocking a potted plant off a high building.  Adding confusion to the mix is some scenes as scripted don't make a lot of sense, as if other scenes setting them up were cut out of the film.  Perhaps I'm not the target audience for this picture, as there are a lot of references to drug use, which becomes pivotal to the climax, and a trip by Simon to "the other realm" features a lot of psychedelic imagery.  I admired some speeches for Simon in the screenplay that gave a serious background to his character's origins and abilities, but the rest of the movie surrounding his character is pretty weakly assembled.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Homicidal (1961)

Starring Jean Arless, Glenn Corbett, Patricia Breslin, Eugenie Leontovich, Alan Bunce
Directed by William Castle
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

A young woman intricately arranges and commits the bloody murder of a Justice of the Peace, and returns home, where she displays cruelty towards others who may be her next victims.

It's quite obvious from watching this thriller from William Castle to confirm what many have already written, that he fashioned this film to capitalize on the success of Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho.  There's similar character types, suspense scenes, and a psychotic villain drawn from the same cloth as Norman Bates.  This is no carbon copy of Hitchcock's film however, nor could it ever hope to be as effective a shocker.  However what Castle has done is deliver a picture that unreels with a captivating enough story, and keeps the audience guessing.  The highlight is a fine performance by Jean Arless (better known by her real name of Joan Marshall, and probably more famous for her role as Areel Shaw in Star Trek's "Court-Martial" episode).  She has to do more in this film than you might expect, and pulls it off admirably.  The film isn't the classic Hitchcock's was, but I believe Castle's fans are sure to enjoy it.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

House Of Frankenstein (1944)

Starring Boris Karloff, Lon Chaney Jr., J. Carrol Naish, John Carradine, Anne Gwynne
Directed by Erle C. Kenton
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

A mad scientist and his hunchback assistant escape prison and in a journey to find Dr. Frankenstein's records, encounter Dracula, The Wolf Man, and Frankenstein's monster.

Frankenstein Meets The Wolf Man, in which Universal's classic monsters met for the first time, and had a battle to the death, spawned this follow-up which returned Chaney as The Wolf Man, and substituted Glenn Strange as the Monster, while adding John Carradine's Dracula, Boris Karloff as the mad Dr. Niemann, and J. Carrol Naish as the hunchback Daniel.  However, despite having three of the classic monsters in the film, none of them fight each other this time around, while they are rather showcased in individual vignettes.  I liked the Dracula sequence the best with Carradine bringing his own distinguished take on the vampiric Count.  Karloff is very welcome in returning to the series after a five year absence, and Naish adds another unique character to his characterizations in the lovelorn hunchback who loses Elena Verdugo's gypsy Ilonka to Chaney's Larry Talbot.  I was left a little wanting for the three key monsters never really getting together, but there's lots going on to prevent any viewer boredom,  and it's good to see plenty of characters actors from Universal's stable on hand as the various villagers, police inspectors, burgomasters, and torch-bearing mob participants.  Hans Salter and Paul Dessau's music score also adds some distinctive themes and a complete new musical tapestry to the Frankenstein series, a change from the culling of old material from the Universal library for past productions.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Eegah (1962)

Starring Arch Hall Jr., Marilyn Manning, Richard Kiel, William Watters, Clay Stearns
Directed by Nicholas Merriwether
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

After witnessing a still living neanderthal man, a young woman trails it to the California mountains, where the beastly man captures her and her father, while her boyfriend tries to find them.

One of a series of film vehicles planned for his son by Arch Hall Sr., who also co-stars and directs under stage names, this is an amateur-looking and sounding production, although cinematographer Vilis Lapenieks would go on to some more distinguished credits, and Richard Kiel would later find fame as the Bond villain Jaws.  As for Arch Hall, Jr., others might denigrate his musical talent, but I was really fine with his numbers and found them rather pleasant.  I also thought he, Manning, Kiel, and his father (as William Watters) brought affable enough characters to the screen, and the screenplay, despite some awkward dialogue, had some good ideas about how a caveman might act and interact with others.  I think the major problem with the film for me was the long stretches of the movie traversing the identical scenery of the California mountains without much at all happening, which made the film seem far longer than its 90 minute running time.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

The Four Skulls Of Jonathan Drake (1959)

Starring Eduard Franz, Valerie French, Grant Richards, Henry Daniell, Lumsden Hare
Directed by Edward L. Cahn
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

A university professor fears a family curse has finally caught up with him and his brother, a curse that  left their ancestors with headless corpses.

A low budget but very efficient horror film, with producer Robert E. Kent and director Edward L. Cahn reuniting after collaborating on It! The Terror From Beyond Space, Invisible Invaders, and other genre fare, the picture still stands up well with plenty of unsettling material.  A very creepy atmosphere is maintained throughout, aided by Paul Dunlap's music score, which although it borrows liberally from his past work, features some key eerie organ notes at appropriate times.  Daniell, a familiar face from mysteries of the 1940s, makes a great 1950s villain, scoffing at his adversaries and forgoing any effort to be charming to his guests, delivering a flat "What a pleasure," when they arrive.  We never see any really big shocks on camera, but tight editing by the filmmakers, and progressively staged revelations in the screenplay add chills at the right moments.