Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Murders In The Rue Morgue (1932)

Starring Sidney Fox, Bela Lugosi, Leon Waycoff, Bert Roach, Betty Ross Clarke
Directed by Robert Florey
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

A medical student and his girlfriend attend the carnival sideshow of Dr. Mirakle and his giant ape, not realizing that Mirakle is a mad scientist with designs on her as the subject of his next experiment.


Although an adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe's famous short story of the same name, this isn't a faithful one, refashioned as a horror vehicle for Bela Lugosi, fresh off his memorable performance in the classic Dracula.  Made up with a bushy unibrow, Lugosi again has a striking screen presence, but doesn't have a great deal to do.  The real star of the film is the cinematography by Karl Freund, who creates some genuine chills by shooting the actor in the ape suit in silhouette, and perfectly frames the climactic rooftop chase of the ape by Waycoff's young hero.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

The Frozen Dead (1966)

Starring Dana Andrews, Anna Palk, Philip Gilbert, Kathleen Breck, Karel Stepanek
Directed by Herbert J. Leder
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

A scientist is tasked with restoring Nazi soldiers frozen after Germany lost the war, but struggles to revive their memories, needing a living brain to study.

This isn't a bad premise for a horror film, and it starts out rather promisingly as we see Andrews' character's failures and limited successes, but the picture seems to lose its way after Andrews gets the human brain he needs to study, and morphs into a remake of the notorious The Brain That Wouldn't Die.  Despite this film having a bigger budget and better production values, the special effects used are primarily the same as that low budget stinker, and it's clear from the get-go, the story will end up advancing to a similar climax.  It's too bad the filmmakers didn't choose to go in a different direction with the resources at their disposal.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Sexton Blake And The Hooded Terror (1938)

Starring George Curzon, Tod Slaughter, Greta Gynt, Tony Sympson, Charles Oliver
Directed by George King
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

The head of a secret society of criminals plans a conference with his lackeys in London, but before long reputed detective Sexton Blake is on the villain's trail.

This film offers a bit of a departure from the usual vehicles for British thespian Tod Slaughter, not playing a psychotic killer here, but a master criminal, and also deferring top billing to Curzon's Sexton Blake.  The Slaughter/Curzon interplay comes off very similar to the Professor Moriarty/Sherlock Holmes dynamic in the stories of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.  Nevertheless, Slaughter is again fine in his role, plotting his evil schemes from behind a wispy beard, and lusting after his henchman's attractive girlfriend, in reality a covert agent for the French government.  As with the other Slaughter/George King collaborations, the pacing is exciting and the unveiling of the plot well-done, a fine complement to Slaughter's engaging performance.

Friday, December 27, 2013

The Electronic Monster (1958)

Starring Rod Cameron, Mary Murphy, Meredith Edwards, Peter Illing, Carl Jaffe
Directed by Montgomery Tully
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

An insurance investigator is sent to France to look into the accidental death of a movie star, and discovers he and other recent fatalities spent time at a psychotherapy clinic before their deaths.

This is a small-scale thriller but a fun one with some sci-fi content in the clinic's method of beaming images into their patients' brains, and the welcome presence of tough guy Cameron in the lead and Murphy as his very attractive love interest.  Although it's more or less a straightforward potboiler, one has to think that screenwriter Charles Eric Maine is making some satiric commentary on television, which is far too similar to the "electronic monster" of the title to be a coincidence.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Gammera The Invincible (1966)

Starring Albert Dekker, Brian Donlevy, Diane Findlay, John Baragrey, Dick O'Neill
Directed by Noriaki Yuasa
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

An atomic blast in the Arctic unleashes a giant prehistoric turtle that devastates all in its way in search of energy to feed on, leading the world's nations to convene to find a way to stop the creature.

The first in a long series of Gammera movies from Japan, and to the best of my knowledge, the only installment in the series in which Gammera is a villain (it battled other monsters menacing the universe in the sequels).  This isn't the original version of the film but the Americanized re-release, with Dekker and Donlevy playing members of the U.S. military brass trying to lend their support to the Japanese authorities, but the emphasis is still on a young Japanese boy's friendship with the monster turtle, paving the way for a series of young co-stars in Gammera movies to come.  It's a fun and entertaining concoction, with a much lighter tone than other Japanese monster epics, featuring some more than serviceable special effects that hold up fairly well.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Night Monster (1942)

Starring Bela Lugosi, Lionel Atwill, Leif Erickson, Irene Hervey, Ralph Morgan
Directed by Ford Beebe
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

Strange goings on at a wealthy man's estate lead to a series of unexplained murders near the grounds, and the only person who knows the truth fears she may be losing her sanity.

We have here more B-movie fun from Universal Pictures, with a quality cast, an unusual metaphysical premise, and great music cues from the Universal library.  Despite Lugosi's top billing, his character's a minor one, and only a red herring here, but nonetheless a key piece of the well-used ensemble in the picture.  There are a few plot holes, and the story's final resolution may require you to suspend your disbelief, but it's another good mystery-horror programmer from the studio.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Aztec Mummy (1957)

Starring Ramon Gay, Rosita Arenas, Crox Alvarado, Luis Aceves Castaneda, Jorge Mondragon
Directed by Rafael Portillo
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

After probing his fiancee's mind, a scientist discovers she was a virgin sacrifice to the Aztec gods in a past life, and goes in search of her tomb, where he unwittingly brings an ancient mummy back to life.

Mexican horror that borrows more than a few elements from the Mummy films of the 1930s and 1940s, this effort pales in comparison to those classics, with murky photography, badly lit night scenes, and little opportunity for the monster to emote or gain audience sympathy.  It's not all bad, featuring a fairly well staged hypnosis experiment, and some authentic looking Aztec ruins, but remains a misfire in my mind.  Nevertheless, according to IMDB, the monster did pop up again in a number of sequels.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Mysterious Doctor Satan (1940)

Starring Eduardo Ciannelli, Robert Wilcox, William Newell, C. Montague Shaw, Ella Neal
Directed by William Witney & John English
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

In this movie serial, Bob Wayne dons the mask of The Copperhead, passed down to him by his crime-fighting father, in order to oppose the plans of Doctor Satan, a brilliant evil scientist.

One of my favorite movie serials, and one of the best, from top serial directors Witney & English, with great stuntwork, fine music, and Ciannelli perfect as the clever and calculating villain.  The early chapters are by far the finest, but  I enjoyed hanging around through the later chapters to see the storyline play out to the final conflict in Doctor Satan's lair.  According to Wikipedia, this serial was originally intended to be an adaptation of the exploits of comic-book hero Superman, but the rights fell through.  One wonders if Ella Neal's character, a reporter named Lois, would have been Lois Lane in the original serial, and had a more substantial role- for the bulk of the serial, she's just hanging around her father's laboratory to answer the phone.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Gog (1954)

Starring Richard Egan, Constance Dowling, Herbert Marshall, John Wengraf, Philip Van Zandt
Directed by Herbert L. Strock
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

A government agent is called in to investigate murders and sabotage at a secret scientific laboratory, where an advanced supercomputer controls all the experiments as well as a pair of powerful robots.

Although the special effects are economical and not ground-breaking in any form, this is an efficient thriller well-directed by Strock, and the screenplay contains some fascinating insights for the time into approaching space travel, the focus of the laboratory's scientists in the film.  Despite a great deal of technical jargon and confinement to a small number of sets, Strock keeps things moving along at a nice pace, and the saboteur's attacks come off as exciting and suspenseful.  Although the robots, named Gog and Magog after figures referenced in the Bible (according to Wikipedia), are not especially memorable, they become effective instruments of death in the film's final act.  

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Crimes At The Dark House (1940)

Starring Tod Slaughter, Sylvia Marriott, Hilary Eaves, Geoffrey Wardwell, Hay Petrie
Directed by George King
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

A scoundrel murders a man who's inherited an English manor, but when the murderer tries to impersonate his victim, he finds himself deep in debt, and stalked by a mysterious woman.

Based on a Wilkie Collins novel, "The Woman In White," per the film's credits, that novel was later made into a Warner Brothers film starring Sydney Greenstreet which I've seen, and found to be more literate and polished than this version.  However, it lacks Slaughter's charisma as the villain here, whose brash indignation when questioned, and devilish laughter as he takes the lives of his victims, are grandly entertaining.  The film remains another example of the effectiveness of Slaughter's skill at playing nefarious characters, well-paired with King's quality direction.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Tower Of London (1962)

Starring Vincent Price, Michael Pate, Joan Freeman, Robert Brown, Bruce Gordon
Directed by Roger Corman
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

On the death of his brother, the king of England, the hunchbacked Richard of Gloucester plots and murders to seize the throne for himself, but is haunted by the ghostly apparitions of his victims.

It's difficult not to compare this adaptation of the story of Richard III to the 1939 version starring Basil Rathbone, which also featured Price in a lesser role.  Rathbone's version is the superior film in my mind, but the way the screenplay for this film casts Richard in a re-imagining of Shakespeare's MacBeth is interesting.  Price is good, playing a figure not dissimilar to some of the vile characters he played during Corman's Edgar Allan Poe cycle, and his supporting cast is accomplished as well, but Rathbone's Richard was a craftier villain, and Pate's role as henchman to Richard in this version, is far less memorable than Boris Karloff's executioner in the first film. 

Friday, December 6, 2013

Horror Island (1941)

Starring Dick Foran, Leo Carrillo, Peggy Moran, Fuzzy Knight, John Eldredge
Directed by George Waggner
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

A huckster tries to lure thrillseekers to a phony haunted castle on an island he owns, but the lure of a hidden treasure on the island also brings a mysterious phantom there.

A fun little B-movie mystery from Universal Pictures, this picture reunites Dick Foran and Peggy Moran, the stars of The Mummy's Hand, and benefits from their charming screen chemistry.  There's also a pleasant mixture of comedy and thrills in the offing, a nice assemblage of music cues from the Universal library, and a colorful supporting cast with standouts in Carrillo as a boisterous peg-legged sailor, and the sinister-voiced Foy Van Dolsen as The Phantom.  I've always felt the comic mysteries Universal put out in the forties were second to none, and this one's no exception.

Boys Of The City (1940)

Starring Bobby Jordan, Leo Gorcey, Hal E. Chester, Frankie Burke, Vince Barnett
Directed by Joseph H. Lewis
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

The East Side Kids, after another run-in with the law, agree to spend the summer at a home in the country, but end up having to stay the first night at a spooky house where murder strikes.

The East Side Kids, one of several incarnations of a gang of tough young boys living on the street who were featured in numerous films from the 1930s well into the 1950s, headline this production, and it's a pretty entertaining one despite its low budget, featuring memorable parts for some quality character actors.  Minerva Urecal, often cast as an old spinster in numerous films for the "Poverty Row" studios, particularly shines as the creepy housekeeper with an evil laugh.  The African-American member of the kids is saddled with the familiar stereotypes of the era, and there isn't anything particularly different or exciting about the plot or direction, but one can see why this kind of light entertainment kept audiences coming back for more adventures with this cast.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The Most Dangerous Game (1932)

Starring Joel McCrea, Fay Wray, Robert Armstrong, Leslie Banks, Noble Johnson
Directed by Irving Pichel & Ernest B. Schoedsack

A big-game hunter is stranded on a jungle island owned by a mad Russian count, who hunts human beings for sport, and displays their carcasses in his trophy room.

Perhaps my very favorite among the films I've seen, I've always loved this adaptation of Richard Connell's famous short story, although it's lesser known than the film it shares much of the same cast and crew with, the famed King Kong.  According to Wikipedia, this adventure was filmed concurrently with Kong on the same sets, and while it lacks that film's stop-motion special effects, it's a horror classic in its own right.  Featuring a driving musical score by Max Steiner, a memorable sinister portrayal of the villainous Zaroff by British actor Leslie Banks, great direction, and a wonderfully staged culminating chase, together all these elements contribute to making this one of the most exciting films of the early 1930s.

Monday, December 2, 2013

The Snorkel (1958)

Starring Peter Van Eyck, Betta St. John, Mandy Miller, Gregoire Aslan, William Franklyn
Directed by Guy Green
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

A clever sociopath murders his wife and makes it look like a suicide, fooling the police, but not his stepdaughter, who's convinced of his guilt, and tries to find a way to prove it.

Van Eyck makes a smooth villain in this suspense thriller from Britain's Hammer Films, and the filmmakers hook viewers early with the intricately planned and silently photographed murder, in which the killer uses a snorkel to breathe the harmless outside air while his wife asphyxiates on vapors from the gas lamps he turns on.  From there the race is on to see if the stepdaughter can find the evidence to expose him, or if he'll knock her off first, setting the stage for the finale in which one of them overplays their hand.  Although the rest of the film doesn't quite deliver as well as the opening scene does, this is enjoyable fare, with a story that avoids using the more relentless twists to be found in Hammer's thrillers to come.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

The Snake Woman (1961)

Starring Susan Travers, John McCarthy, Geoffrey Denton, Elsie Wagstaff, Arnold Marle
Directed by Sidney J. Furie
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

A scientist injects his wife with snake venom to cure her insanity, but when their daughter is born, she shows signs of being part-reptile, and is thought a creature of evil by the townspeople.

I'd have to label this film as disappointing, although there's some fine shadowy photography, good performances, and professional production values.  Despite all this, there's a lack of imagination in creating a compelling character for Travers as "the snake woman," and no payoff with a creature makeup or any special effects.  Intercutting Travers with footage of a regular-sized snake suggests her ability to transform into the creature, but the filmmakers could have done so much more to make this a memorable horror film.  Still, I can't quite dismiss the movie, as it's certainly well-crafted, and entertaining to watch.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Daughter Of Dr. Jekyll (1957)

Starring John Agar, Gloria Talbott, Arthur Shields, John Dierkes, Mollie McCard
Directed by Edgar G. Ulmer
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

On her 21st birthday, a beautiful bride-to-be discovers her father was the infamous Dr. Jekyll, and that she may have inherited his curse, doomed to transform into a terrible monster.

Although the script here seems to get its monster legends confused (it labels Mr. Hyde as a werewolf who changed during the full moon, and identifies a vampire-like staking as the only way to kill him), I'm fond of this horror film, directed by the reputed Edgar G. Ulmer.  Although largely dialogue-driven, Ulmer adds effective fog-drenched outdoor scenes, and Shields is a strong asset, entertainingly recounting the Jekyll legend in his charming Highland brogue.  At times its a bit hokey and over-the-top, but makes for fun viewing.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The 10th Victim (1965)

Starring Marcello Mastroianni, Ursula Andress, Elsa Martinelli, Salvo Randone, Massimo Serato
Directed by Elio Petri
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

In the 21st century, the sport of hunting human beings has been legalized, and when an American huntress travels to Italy to stalk her latest victim, she begins to fall in love with him.

More a social commentary piece than a serious science fiction effort, this Italian film has some good points to make, but it doesn't delve deep enough into the world it creates to draw the needed parallels to our own.  It spends more time trying to advance its central love story, but despite some chemistry between leads Mastroianni and Andress, I found their characters not very well-fleshed out or compelling.  The movie's premise is interesting, and has surely inspired plot lines in more recent films, but in my opinion, the filmmakers don't succeed at what they're trying to accomplish.

Monday, November 25, 2013

The Mummy's Hand (1940)

Starring Dick Foran, Peggy Moran, Wallace Ford, Eduardo Ciannelli, George Zucco
Directed by Christy Cabanne
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

An out-of-work archaeologist and his partner try to find a backer for an excavation of an Egyptian tomb, unaware that's it under the protection of an evil high priest and an ancient living mummy.

This is Universal Pictures' follow-up to the classic horror film The Mummy, but it's not a sequel, instead repurposing footage from that film to present a tale of a new mummy, this time a lumbering servant to George Zucco's sinister high priest, who controls the tana leaves that must be brewed to keep the mummy alive.  Tom Tyler, probably best known for playing the title role in the terrific Adventures Of Captain Marvel serial, plays the mummy here, and is not particularly fearsome, except when shot in close-up, with the actor's eyes blacked out in the film's eeriest effect.  Still, I love this film, which amps up the comedy considerably for a horror movie, and features a great villainous turn by Zucco, a fantastic Egyptian sacrificial chamber set, and lots of fun foreboding music re-used from Frank Skinner & Hans J. Salter's score for Son Of Frankenstein.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Maniac (1963)

Starring Kerwin Mathews, Nadia Gray, Donald Houston, Liliane Brousse, George Pastell
Directed by Michael Carreras
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

An American painter looking to restart his life in a French coastal village falls for the beautiful local tavern owner, and to have her, agrees to help her estranged husband escape an insane asylum.

One of a series of psychological thrillers writer/producer Jimmy Sangster made for Hammer Films in the 1960s, this is a well-acted effort with quality photography, but the script applies maybe one or two plot twists too many.  It's also a little difficult to believe that Mathews' character would abandon his initial interest in young beauty Brousse for her less attractive stepmother.  There are still some good suspenseful moments in a garage where the "maniac" confronts his victims with a welding torch, and in a stone quarry which serves as the background for the film's climax.  It's an entertaining enough thriller if you can suspend some of your disbelief.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

The Invisible Man (1933)

Starring Claude Rains, Gloria Stuart, William Harrigan, Henry Travers, Una O'Connor
Directed by James Whale
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

A scientist's experiments on himself result in turning him invisible, but also warp his mind, and he soon takes advantage of his invisibility to commit murder and mayhem.

We have here a true horror classic, augmented by Frankenstein director James Whale's direction, and John P. Fulton's amazing special effects, which are still startlingly effective eighty years later.  As important to the film as Whale and Fulton is Rains, whose vocal performance is one of the great ones, conveying frustration, anger, and mania beneath the bandages.  The supporting cast is fine as well, and Whale adds humorous bits- one will never forget O'Connor's shrieking performance as the tavern owner's wife.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber Of Fleet Street (1936)

Starring Tod Slaughter, Stella Rho, Johnny Singer, Eve Lister, Bruce Seton
Directed by George King
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

A homicidal barber lures victims into his shop so he can steal their money and murder them, disposing of their bodies in his conspirator's meat pie shop.

Actor Tod Slaughter, who played a series of notorious killers in memorable British melodramas throughout the 1930s, has perhaps his best showcase in this adaptation of the well-known grisly stageplay.  Conveying the depraved character of Sweeney Todd through stares, mannerisms, and florid dialogue, it has to rank as my favorite among Slaughter's performances.  Although matter-of-factly filmed, Slaughter is supported by a good cast, and King's efficient direction.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Castle Of The Living Dead (1964)

Starring Christopher Lee, Gaia Germani, Philippe Leroy, Mirko Valentin, Donald Sutherland
Directed by Warren Kiefer
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

A traveling troupe of entertainers perform at the castle of a count engaged in embalming experiments, and discover too late he intends to use them as his latest subjects.

Although I felt the photography didn't take good advantage of the film's settings, wasting some impressive scenery, the actors more than entertained in this film, which features another villainous performance from horror veteran Lee, and an early appearance in Sutherland's career.  According to IMDB, Sutherland plays three different roles, including a grotesque witch who figures prominently in the story, but I never would have guessed it was him under the makeup.  Although a good music score by Angelo Lavagnino helps, there's just not enough atmosphere to make this an effective chiller, but it's still worthwhile viewing.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Man From Beyond (1922)

Starring Harry Houdini, Arthur Maude, Albert Tavernier, Erwin Connelly, Frank Montgomery
Directed by Burton L. King
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

A man frozen for 100 years in the arctic is found and brought back to consciousness, and he falls for a young woman who seems to him the reincarnation of his lost love.

The famed Harry Houdini, the magician and escape artist still recognized as one of the greats, stars in this interesting adventure which IMDB credits as produced by his own film company.  He only has one true escape presented in the film, in which he's wrapped in sheets and tied to a bed in a padded cell, but also seems to perform some dangerous stunt work, scaling tall buildings and swimming through a raging river.  Having only read of his famous illusions and terrific escapes, it's fascinating to see the real man captured on film.  While he doesn't have a great screen presence, the story affords his some nice heroic and romantic scenes, and makes me eager to see more of his films.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Pilot X (1936)

Starring Lona Andre, John Carroll, Leon Ames, Henry Hall, Hans Joby
Directed by Elmer Clifton
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

The mysterious disappearances of a number of aircraft lead to the discovery that a modern-day enemy ace is shooting down innocent victims, and a scientist aims to track down the man responsible.

Serial veteran Clifton delivers a pretty good little mystery with some nice aerial footage and a good assemblage of war pilot suspects.  Leading lady Lona Andre seems to be around just for eye candy (she's an absolute knockout), as although the script figures her in a love triangle, she ignores the man she was "almost engaged to" at the start of the picture for the bulk of the film.  Although the identity of the murderer doesn't come as a big surprise, I enjoyed this film as a nice mixture of aerial action with a murder mystery.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

The Black Cat (1941)

Starring Basil Rathbone, Hugh Herbert, Broderick Crawford, Bela Lugosi, Anne Gwynne
Directed by Albert S. Rogell
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

A real estate agent trying to buy the mansion of a wealthy spinster discovers one of her heirs may be ready to murder to obtain their inheritance.

A long-time favorite film of mine, this comic mystery from Universal Pictures features a great cast, atmospheric photography, some funny lines, and wonderful music culled from the scores of the studio's horror classics.  Crawford is extremely likable as the bumbling hero in one of his earlier roles, Hugh Herbert gives us some memorable schtick, and old pros like Rathbone, Lugosi, and Gale Sondergaard play the proper notes as sinister murder suspects.  On top of all that, the script offers a well-constructed whodunit plot, leaving the murderer's identity unclear until the final climax, but dropping enough clues before then to make for a logical conclusion.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

My Blood Runs Cold (1965)

Starring Troy Donahue, Joey Heatherton, Barry Sullivan, Nicolas Coster, Jeanette Nolan
Directed by William Conrad
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

A reckless young heiress encounters a mysterious young man who claims they were lovers in a past life, and once he starts producing evidence of their past, she begins to believe and fall in love with him.

Although this mystery could use more red herrings and I was able to guess its conclusion well before the midway point, it's entertainingly presented and young actors Donahue and Heatherton have the necessary chemistry for their roles.  The supporting cast is quite adept as well with Sullivan, Nolan, and Coster all bringing their characters to life in quality turns.  Although the film's climax is ultimately predictable, Conrad does a good job of keeping the film well-paced and weaving in what suspense he can.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Wayne Murder Case (1932)

Starring Regis Toomey, June Clyde, Lucille La Verne, Jason Robards, William V. Mong
Directed by Phil Whitman
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

A police detective and a snooping female reporter team up to investigate the murder of a wealthy millionaire, who was killed in front of his heirs before he could sign his will. 

We have here an interesting mystery film from Monogram Pictures with a number of good elements to its credit, including a worthy script, nice chemistry between Toomey and Clyde, who's quite smart and attractive in her role, and good staging by director Whitman.  Unfortunately, the portrayal of the stereotypical character of the easily frightened butler, as played by a black actor billed only as "Snowflake," in a performance reminiscent of the maligned Stepin Fetchit, is extremely offensive.

Monday, November 11, 2013

The Beast Of Hollow Mountain (1956)

Starring Guy Madison, Patricia Medina, Carlos Rivas, Mario Navarro, Pascual Garcia Pena
Directed by Edward Nassour & Ismael Rodriguez
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

A cattle ranch owner in Mexico suspects a rival rancher when some of his cattle go missing, but a prehistoric creature is the real menace responsible.

A conventional western for the most part before revealing its sci-fi twist in the form of a stop-motion animated dinosaur, I found this film to be pretty entertaining, well-abetted by a cast of skilled Mexican character actors, who build audience empathy with their plights.  American import Madison isn't given too much to do, but looks good on a horse and brings the requisite toughness to a knock-down drag out fight.  As for the dinosaur animation, it's pretty well-done, despite movement by the beast's tongue that borders on the silly.  Don't expect anything too profound, and you'll have a good time watching this.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

The Haunted Palace (1963)

Starring Vincent Price, Debra Paget, Lon Chaney, Jr., Frank Maxwell, Leo Gordon
Directed by Roger Corman
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

A century after the villagers of Arkham burned an evil warlock at the stake, his descendant inherits the warlock's palace and is possessed by the evil man's spirit.

Although promoted as another Edgar Allan Poe adaptation for star Vincent Price and director Roger Corman, Wikipedia indicates this is in reality an adaptation of a H.P. Lovecraft horror story, although one of Poe's poems is incorporated into the screenplay.  As such it's far different from the rest of Price and Corman's Poe films, avoiding the gothic sense of dread prevalent in those adaptations, with the focus on the warlock's schemes for revenge and to mate innocent female victims to supernatural demons.  As with the other Poe/Corman movies, the set design is first rate, and this entry boasts a music score by Ronald Stein which I enjoyed and found perfect for the film.  Although it ends in a rather ambiguous conclusion, and the demon's appearance at the film's climax is rather disappointing, this is a nice departure from the norm for the Poe series, and I enjoyed it on that level.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

One Million B.C. (1940)

Starring Victor Mature, Carole Landis, Lon Chaney, Jr., Conrad Nagel, John Hubbard
Directed by Hal Roach & Hal Roach, Jr.
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

A caveman from a hostile tribe journeys to another tribe's territory, where he meets a beautiful woman who teaches him the gentler ways of her people.

I was surprised to find how entertaining this film is, as for me, caveman movies often get bogged down by their lack of dialogue, and as a consequence are sometimes difficult to follow.  That's not the case here, with the filmmakers embracing a simple story and not calling on anything too complex for their actors to portray besides basic emotions.  The movie has almost a light-hearted tone, accompanied by a whimsical music score, despite some violent scenes.  The special effects combine men in dinosaur suits along with giant rear projections of lizards and elephants in wooly mammoth coverings to provide the prehistoric creatures of the film.  Although scientifically inaccurate, these are well-done effects that according to IMDB earned the film an Academy Award nomination, and were borrowed by numerous films well into the 1960s.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Green Eyes (1934)

Starring Shirley Grey, Charles Starrett, Claude Gillingwater, John Wray, William Bakewell
Directed by Richard Thorpe
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

A costume party at a wealthy man's estate is interrupted by his murder, and as the police investigate, one of the guests, a writer of detective stories, tries to solve the case on his own.

This densely plotted mystery isn't a bad one, but could really use something more, lacking a music score, a dynamic performance, or anything imaginative as far as the photography or direction.  As it stands, the film hinges almost solely on dialogue between the characters to advance the story, and although the movie moves along at a brisk pace, I found it difficult to hold back a yawn.  It's still an efficient mystery that keeps you guessing, but the filmmakers could have used much more imagination in filming this story.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Attack Of The 50 Foot Woman (1958)

Starring Allison Hayes, William Hudson, Yvette Vickers, Roy Gordon, George Douglas
Directed by Nathan Hertz
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

A wealthy socialite, mentally suffering due to alcoholism and a philandering husband, encounters an alien being who infects her with radiation that makes her grow to a tremendous size.

Probably better known for its iconic movie poster in which a gigantic bikini-clad Allison Hayes menaces a city she towers above than for the actual content of the movie itself, this film has achieved a pretty trashy reputation over the years, which it doesn't completely deserve, despite poor special effects and a fairly thin storyline.  Don't get me wrong- a giant woman in her underwear wreaking havoc on a city is fairly trashy, but that actually makes up a pretty small portion of the movie, and the rest I found enjoyable, whether you take the plot seriously or not.  Hayes gives a sympathetic performance, Ronald Stein's music score is a good one, and if you do check it out, even if you find it to be a terrible movie, I think you'll still stay tuned to see what happens.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

The Black Scorpion (1957)

Starring Richard Denning, Mara Corday, Carlos Rivas, Mario Navarro, Carlos Muzquiz
Directed by Edward Ludwig
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

A pair of geologists in Mexico trace savage killings in the wake of a volcanic eruption and earthquake to a horde of giant scorpions, freed from their subterranean lair by the disaster.

Another of the giant insect movies of the 1950s, this one boasts excellent stop-motion animation effects overseen by Willis O'Brien, who pioneered creature effects of this kind in the classic King Kong.  This film doesn't compare to that masterpiece, but remains a fun effort, much in the same vein as 1954's Them!, with Denning and Rivas tracing the beasts back to their underground nest and attempting to re-trap them inside.  Although O'Brien and his team supplement the animation with effectively grotesque mockups of the scorpions' heads, these aren't integrated too well in the film, and according to Wikipedia, a number of scenes where we only see the scorpions' silhouettes represent unfinished work by O'Brien's unit because they ran out of money.  Nevertheless, I've found this to be one of the more enjoyable monster pictures of the 1950s, and one well worth revisiting to experience and appreciate O'Brien's wizardry.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

The Intruder (1933)

Starring Monte Blue, Lila Lee, William B. Davidson, Gwen Lee, Arthur Housman
Directed by Albert Ray
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

After a murder takes place on an ocean liner, the ship is wrecked during a storm, and the murder suspects and a police detective are stranded together on a jungle island.

Although otherwise a routine mystery, the film's island setting makes this an intriguing one, with wild gorillas and a crazy castaway also inhabiting the island.  Humor is mined from that castaway, (leading up to a pretty funny sight gag), and a perpetually inebriated character, who's not quite as amusing.  All in all, it's an entertaining time-passer which makes good use of its locale to stand out from other entries in the genre.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Cry Of The Werewolf (1944)

Starring Nina Foch, Stephen Crane, Osa Massen, Blanche Yurka, Barton MacLane
Directed by Henry Levin
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

A scientist studying the creatures of legend founds a museum in the former home of a female werewolf, and when he seeks to publish her secrets, enrages her daughter, who shares her mother's curse. 

One of Columbia Pictures' rare excursions into horror in the 1940s, this is a small-scale low budget piece, getting around the cost of a werewolf makeup by portraying the creature as an actual wolf.  While that choice is unfortunate, it's still a worthwhile film with Foch making a compelling villainess, MacLane entertaining as a glib police detective, and atmospheric music, some of which was borrowed from the previous year's The Return Of The Vampire. That film and this one make an interesting double feature, with Foch featured in both, and scripts from Griffin Jay, who wrote a number of the Mummy films for Universal Pictures.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Dr. Mabuse: The Gambler (1922)

Starring Rudolf Klein-Rogge, Aud Egede-Nissen, Gertrude Welcker, Alfred Abel, Bernhard Goetzke
Directed by Fritz Lang
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

A criminal mastermind amasses great wealth by manipulating the stock market and using his hypnotic abilities to dominate his victims.

Klein-Rogge gives an excellent performance in a well-regarded silent film from acclaimed director Lang, most famous for Metropolis, but who had a long career in both Germany and the United States, including helming a couple of Mabuse sequels.  Filmed in two parts, this is a lengthy work to digest, running over four and a half hours in total, and I definitely found it a bit too drawn out at times, but there's much to admire, from the opulent sets to the well-rendered characters to some excitingly staged bits of action.  Armed with a near-perpetual scowl and plethora of disguises, Klein-Rogge brings intensity to each of his personas, and creates a memorable villain that must have been highly influential.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Dead Men Walk (1943)

Starring George Zucco, Mary Carlisle, Nedrick Young, Dwight Frye, Fern Emmett
Directed by Sam Newfield
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

A climactic battle between a good doctor and his evil brother results in the death of the evil brother, but he returns from beyond the grave as a vampire.

George Zucco plays both the good and evil brothers in this low-budget horror film, and while Zucco had excelled in a number of villainous roles over the years, he's not surrounded by enough here, nor is the film polished enough to make this a memorable showcase.  The vampire scenes are presented rather drably, with little imagination put forth in their staging, and despite the inspired casting of Dwight Frye as a villainous henchman, (who memorably played the unbalanced Renfield in Dracula), he's not given enough to do to enliven the production.  The film still makes for interesting viewing, but despite the promise of the premise, it's just not one of Zucco's finer hours.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

The Wolf Man (1941)

Starring Lon Chaney, Jr., Claude Rains, Warren William, Ralph Bellamy, Patric Knowles
Directed by George Waggner
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

Young Larry Talbot returns home to manage his ancestral estate, where he tries to save a woman killed by a wolf, but after he's bitten, he soon begins to fear he could now be a werewolf.

Lon Chaney, Jr. stars in what became his most iconic role, that of the tortured Larry Talbot, cursed to transform into the bestial Wolf Man during the full moon.  It's a classic film, with a good cast of character actors, great foggy atmosphere, and a first-rate musical score.  Although Chaney would make scores more movies, he probably never got as terrific a showcase again, but went on to reprise the character in four more films.  There's some gaffes, with Chaney starting to transform into the Wolf Man in one set of clothes and then appearing in a completely different outfit as the monster, as well as the werewolf at the beginning of the film being played by an actual wolf rather than an actor.  But these are easily overlooked in this gem of a movie.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

A Shot In The Dark (1935)

Starring Charles Starrett, Robert Warwick, Edward Van Sloan, Marion Shilling, Helen Jerome Eddy
Directed by Charles Lamont
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

A college student is found hanged, but when evidence points to murder, the father of his roommate, an amateur criminologist, takes charge of the investigation.

Despite its low-budget trappings, this is a well-done mystery with a clever script and some interesting twists and turns that keep you guessing.  It would have been enhanced by a music score and better production values, but still entertains.  Van Sloan is the biggest name in the cast, known for his supporting roles in Dracula, Frankenstein, and The Mummy, but the entire ensemble of actors comes off well.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Horror Castle (1963)

Starring Rossana Podesta, Georges Riviere, Christopher Lee, Jim Dolen, Anny Degli Uberti
Directed by Anthony Dawson
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

A young wife moves with her husband into his ancestral castle, where she learns he's descended from a famed master of torture, whom she's horrified to find may still be stalking the grounds.

British horror star Christopher Lee has a supporting role in this Italian chiller from veteran director Antonio Margheriti (credited as Anthony Dawson).  It's an effective picture, with a sumptuous castle set, and some potent shocks, enhanced by well-done makeup effects.  Unfortunately, the story isn't an altogether strong one, and Podesta seems an odd choice for the leading lady, in a role seemingly more suited to Barbara Steele.  I still liked the film however, and would rank it with Margheriti's better efforts.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Tangled Destinies (1932)

Starring Gene Morgan, Doris Hill, Glenn Tryon, Vera Reynolds, Ethel Wales
Directed by Frank Strayer
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

After bad weather forces a plane to land, the passengers and crew take refuge in an abandoned house, where robbery and murder soon ensue.

The filmmakers deliver a pretty routine mystery, which to their credit keeps the audience guessing, with plenty of suspects and red herrings to go around.  That's the film's only hook however, with no compelling performances or particularly clever sequences to speak of.  It's still quite watchable and easy to follow, even though the print I saw was heavily marred by oversaturated contrast.  The film's pretty much what you would expect from director Strayer, who kept busy in the early thirties making many a mystery for low-budget studios, so presumably they found a consistent audience during this period.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Mothra (1961)

Starring Frankie Sakai, Hiroshi Koizumi, Kyoko Kagawa, Ken Uehara, Emi Ito
Directed by Ishiro Honda
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

A pair of inch high women are abducted from their South Seas island, and put on exhibition, but they warn that a creature named Mothra will be coming for them and will bring much destruction.

Honda brings us another sci-fi monster adventure, well-designed and featuring some enjoyable characters, notably a journalist played by Sakai in a light-hearted performance.  The special effects in the first half of the film, when Mothra is in its caterpillar form, are excellent, following the creature on a devastating path through anything in its way across the ocean.  But when Mothra transforms into a giant moth, its flapping wings creating giant winds of destruction, the cars and buildings sent flying are unconvincing miniatures.  It's still an enjoyable monster romp, and provided for Mothra's return in several future films.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

The Mummy (1932)

Starring Boris Karloff, Zita Johann, David Manners, Arthur Byron, Edward Van Sloan
Directed by Karl Freund
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

An archaeological expedition accidentally resurrects an ancient Egyptian mummy, who then plots to seize the reincarnation of his lost love with his tremendous hypnotic powers.

The first of the many Mummy movies, and the best, in which Karloff stars in one of his greatest roles, abetted by closeups of the actor's face in which the lighting is manipulated to make his eyes seem to glow.  Freund, who served as the cinematographer on Dracula, directs this time, but oversees many effective panning camera movements that set up scenes and transition to new locales.  A largely unsung contribution to the film is an uncredited musical score that adds color to the Egyptian backgrounds and supports the menace within Karloff's performance.  This ranks in my mind as one of the all-time Universal Pictures horror classics, and one of my favorite films.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Haxan (1922)

Starring Maren Pedersen, Clara Pontoppidan, Elith Pio, Oscar Stribolt, Tora Teje
Directed by Benjamin Christensen
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

This documentary traces the origins of witches through historical texts and illustrations, and presents new filmed sequences portraying their secret rituals and the horrors they suffered when put on trial.

Although this silent film from Denmark starts out more or less a straight documentary, once director Christensen lets his camera and actors take over, it becomes a highly stylized horror film, with dark and daring imagery and quality makeups for the denizens of hell, none more impressive than the horned, clawed devil, portrayed by Christensen himself.  The film's closing sequence in which Christensen compares the witches of yesteryear to the women of 1922 is probably the weakest in the film, but his filming of a witch's trial from initial suspicions against her to her forced confession makes for powerful cinema at its best.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Life Returns (1935)

Starring Onslow Stevens, George Breakston, Lois Wilson, Valerie Hobson, Stanley Fields
Directed by Eugene Frenke & James P. Hogan
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

A scientist is determined to find a formula to return the dead to life, ignoring everything else, leading to tragedy for his family.

Featuring documentary footage of an experiment that actually restored a dead dog to life, this film concocts a melodramatic backstory to lead up to that moment, and at times it's almost silly, but I can't say I wasn't entertained.  Breakston is earnestly likable as the scientist's son, and probably gives the best performance in the movie, as his travails and his unfailing dedication to his father and his dog are more compelling than Stevens' somewhat listless portrayal of the scientist.  Interestingly, Breakston and Richard Quine, who plays another youngster in the movie, went on to become film directors.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Rodan (1956)

Starring Kenji Sahara, Yumi Shirakawa, Akihiko Hirata, Akio Kobori, Yasuko Nakata
Directed by Ishiro Honda
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

A mining accident breaks opens a sealed cavern containing prehistoric creatures, including two giant flying reptiles that cause disasters and terrorize nearby cities.

Honda's followup to his successful Gojira is another fine Japanese monster picture, with an intriguing story and good production values.  Although the special effects are primitive by today's standards, they're well-done for the era, and distinctive and memorable, especially a sequence in which one of the Rodans hatches from a massive egg.  Honda efficiently builds suspense by keeping his monsters off screen for as long as possible, and the screenwriters wisely keep the subplots of the human characters secondary to keep the film moving at a lively pace.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

The Day Of The Triffids (1962)

Starring Howard Keel, Nicole Maurey, Janette Scott, Kieron Moore, Mervyn Johns
Directed by Steve Sekely
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

A meteor shower brings blindness that afflicts nearly all of the Earth's population, and also spores that grow into immense mobile plants that stalk human victims.

Howard Keel stars in this version of the science fiction novel by John Wyndham, which per my recollections of the book and its synopsis on Wikipedia, is not a very faithful adaptation, eliminating characters and condensing a bit too much, but still offers some effective scenes, with the triffid plants rendered about as well as one could expect for special effects of this era.  The filmmakers and actors do a good job of creating characters we can care about, and the eerie sound effects accompanying the triffids' movements are first rate.  However, the film would have been better had the screenwriters kept more of Wyndham's novel in their script.

Friday, October 11, 2013

The Ghost And The Guest (1943)

Starring James Dunn, Florence Rice, Robert Dudley, Mabel Todd, Sam McDaniel
Directed by William Nigh
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

A newlywed couple move into an old farmhouse but discover it belonged to a hanged criminal, whose body is delivered in a coffin, but then soon disappears. 

Despite the title, no ghosts are to be found in this low-budget mystery-comedy from "Poverty Row" studio PRC, which suffers from some pretty bad lighting during nighttime scenes.  It's still watchable and a few jokes are still good ones.  Though African-American actor McDaniel is unfortunately saddled with the stereotypical role of an easily spooked servant, to his credit he doesn't overplay it, and has most of the best lines.  All in all, if you don't go in with too many expectations, it's entertaining enough, and has a brief running time, so the film doesn't overstay its welcome.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

The Vampire's Coffin (1958)

Starring Abel Salazar, Ariadna Welter, German Robles, Yerye Beirute, Alicia Montoya
Directed by Fernando Mendez
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

A scientist unearths the body of notorious vampire Count de Lavud for experimentation, but before he can, the creature is resurrected and takes the opportunity to again prey on the lovely Marta.

Salazar, Welter, and Robles reprise their roles in this follow-up to The Vampire, the Mexican horror film that introduced Count de Lavud, a sinister Mexican version of Dracula.  Robles is an impressive villain, and there are a few atmospheric moments, but I found this to be a fairly unimaginative horror film, with sparsely decorated sets and static photography.  Although the majority of the film takes place against the promising backgrounds of a darkly lit hospital and a creepy wax museum, the cinematographer doesn't take advantage of these settings to build chills.  As a result, the picture drags quite a bit.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes (1969)

Starring Kurt Russell, Cesar Romero, Joe Flynn, William Schallert, Alan Hewitt
Directed by Robert Butler
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

A small-town college student gains the super-intelligence of a powerful computer in an electrical accident, but after becoming an international celebrity, he lets the fame go to his head.

This routine Disney comedy isn't particularly funny, but has its charms, and is notable for featuring a young Kurt Russell years before his later stardom, and for spawning a couple of sequel films featuring Russell's character, as well as co-stars Flynn, Schallert, and Romero.  Despite the sci-fi premise, there's little in the way of special effects, and the film's climactic chase sequence can't compare to the more madcap action of Disney's past efforts.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Haunted House (1940)

Starring Jackie Moran, Marcia Mae Jones, George Cleveland, Christian Rub, Henry Hall
Directed by Robert F. McGowan
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

A pair of teenagers try to find evidence to clear a kindly handyman convicted of murder, but their efforts keep getting them into trouble.

Earnest performances from Moran and Jones are the best asset of this small-town murder mystery from low-budget Monogram Pictures, which despite its title, does not actually feature a haunted house.   The young leads are cute together, and surrounded by a good cast of character actors, but one actor's performance as a Chinese restaurant owner comes off as an offensive stereotype.  Nevertheless, there's enough good-natured fun here to make this an amiable time-passer, and I'd therefore rank this film as one of Monogram's better productions.

Friday, October 4, 2013

She (1935)

Starring Helen Gahagan, Randolph Scott, Helen Mack, Nigel Bruce, Gustav von Seyffertitz
Directed by Irving Pichel & Lansing Holden
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

The descendant of an explorer who purportedly found a fountain of youth in the Arctic follows his ancestor's trail and discovers a lost civilization ruled over by a queen who's lived for centuries.

H. Rider Haggard's classic adventure story is adapted by the producers of King Kong, who deliver fantastic sets, interestingly choreographed rituals, and special effects that still hold up well.  Although there's an overemphasis on flowery dialogue, and not enough chemistry between Gahagan and Scott to make their ages-old romance believable, it's still a distinctive picture.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Most Dangerous Man Alive (1961)

Starring Ron Randell, Debra Paget, Elaine Stewart, Anthony Caruso, Gregg Palmer
Directed by Allan Dwan
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

A gangster caught in an atomic blast not only survives it, but finds it has mingled his atoms with that of a steel tower, turning him into an indestructible man.

Not a film too distinguished in any regard but nevertheless still very watchable, this low-budget effort from veteran director Dwan could have been something special had more money been put into the makeup or effects, although a scene where Randell is electrocuted still comes off pretty well.  The story's paper thin and some of the dialogue is near comical, but a strength is the fine casting, with Caruso perfect as a mob boss, Paget and Stewart very lovely as the ladies in Randell's life, and Tudor Owen a nice fit as the scientist trying to help him.  Ultimately, the low budget dooms the film, with stock footage taking over at the climax, but I still enjoyed it.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Tomorrow At Seven (1933)

Starring Chester Morris, Vivienne Osborne, Frank McHugh, Allen Jenkins, Henry Stephenson
Directed by Ray Enright
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

A crime novelist researching a book on a killer calling himself "The Black Ace" tries to protect a wealthy man who's been targeted by the criminal.

Although there's not much original here, with familiar elements such as a mysterious killer who leaves a calling card, a pair of dim-witted bumbling detectives, and lights that go out at pivotal moments, there's still some entertainment to be had.  Morris is an affable lead who may or may not be the villain, the screenplay does a good job of introducing a number of other suspects, and McHugh and Jenkins amuse without being too grating.  There's even a small role for familiar serial villain Charles Middleton.  The end result is a film not all that different from mysteries put out before or since, but this one's better than most.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

The Embalmer (1965)

Starring Maureen Brown, Gin Mart, Luciano Gasper, Anita Todesco, Francesco Bagarin
Directed by Dino Tavella
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

An insane killer murders young women and preserves their bodies in caverns below the city of Venice, while a determined newspaper reporter follows his trail.

Although rather simplistic in its approach, with the identity of the killer made clear early on, I enjoyed this Italian horror film and how it takes advantage of its Venice setting and the city's reputation as a romantic destination.  With the killer stalking his prey from underwater, scenes of the victims walking late at night along the canals gain natural suspense despite the romantic setting.  I would have liked to have seen the filmmakers play up the romance more between the reporter and a beautiful tourist, delve a bit deeper into the villains's motives, and throw some more red herrings in to distract us from guessing his identity, but this is still a good horror film and fun to watch.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Godzilla Raids Again (1955)

Starring Hiroshi Koizumi, Setsuko Wakayama, Minoru Chiaki, Takashi Shimura, Masao Shimizu
Directed by Motoyoshi Oda
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

Pilots for a fishing company discover dangerous prehistoric creatures on a remote island that are soon making their way towards the city of Osaka.

Despite the title and this film's status as the first followup to the original Gojira, Godzilla doesn't actually return in the film, although the movie's main creature is almost an exact lookalike.  With the same serious tone as the original film, this effort has its moments and some worthy special effects, but pales in comparison to the original, at least in my opinion.  It does have some more humor and light hearted moments to balance out the grim devastation, which I thought were welcome, but it's a bit too much of a retread of the original film, without too much new to offer.

Friday, September 27, 2013

A Trip To The Moon (1902)

Starring Georges Melies, Victor Andre, Bleuette Bernon, Brunnet, Jeanne d'Alcy
Directed by Georges Melies
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

A group of astronomers make a successful journey to the moon, where they discover a race of creatures living underneath the surface.

In one of the earliest science fiction movies, filmmaker Georges Melies uses stagecraft, camera tricks, and impressively illustrated backgrounds to create a memorable fantasy.  It's truly a landmark film, although modern audiences may not recognize how revolutionary it must have been at the time of its release.  Nevertheless, many of the effects still come off well, particularly scenes of the moon creatures transforming into clouds of dust.  Even after over a century, it's a triumph for Melies and invaluable to film history.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

The Rocket Man (1954)

Starring Charles Coburn, Spring Byington, Anne Francis, John Agar, George Winslow
Directed by Oscar Rudolph
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

A young orphan is given a special ray gun with magic powers by an alien visitor, and he uses it to help the kindly judge who takes him in.

This picture offers a charming fantasy with a wonderful cast, and even though it's completely predictable, it's grand entertainment, with young Winslow a definite charmer as the little orphan boy, whose terrific monotone delivery brought forth some big laughs from me.  Although the sci-fi elements are kept to a minimum, it's interesting that a number of the film's cast would go on to star in some of the best known sci-fi films of the 1950s, including Agar, Francis, and Beverly Garland.  As wholesome and good-natured as the film is, it's difficult to reconcile that the controversial comedian Lenny Bruce collaborated on the screenplay, but he's a solid contributor among many to this memorable film.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Dracula (1931)

Starring Bela Lugosi, Helen Chandler, David Manners, Dwight Frye, Edward Van Sloan
Directed by Tod Browning
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

Count Dracula, the legendary vampire of Transylvania, travels to London to seek new victims, but a determined professor is dedicated to stopping him.

Bela Lugosi stars in his most famous role in this classic, albeit not completely faithful, adaptation of Bram Stoker's novel, and it still holds up well, with Lugosi personifying Stoker's creature of evil in eerie closeups and fluid movements.  Although the film lacks a music score, the silence on the soundtrack is to the film's benefit, with Dracula's quiet stalkings of his victims creating unnerving suspense.  Over the years, the film has been criticized for its second half, notably by film historian David J. Skal, who indicates the second half lacks the imaginative and atmospheric photography on display in the early scenes in Transylvania.  I concur with that assessment, but I also think the second half is bolstered by the confrontations between Lugosi and Van Sloan, which are among the best scenes in the movie.  Sadly, Lugosi never had quite the same showcase for his talents again, but we're fortunate his definitive performance here has been captured for posterity.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Jack Armstrong (1947)

Starring John Hart, Rosemary La Planche, Claire James, Joe Brown, Pierre Watkin
Directed by Wallace Fox
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

The heroic Jack Armstrong and his friends trace a kidnapped scientist to a South Seas island, from where an evil mastermind is plotting to dominate the world.

I enjoyed this movie serial from Columbia Pictures, based on the radio series Jack Armstrong, The All-American Boy, and infused with sci-fi elements including a death ray and spaceship.  Charles Middleton, best known as Ming The Merciless in the Flash Gordon serials, is good as the villain, although strangely uncredited in each chapter's cast listing.  Comparatively, John Hart, as Armstrong, is a rather bland hero, but the stuntwork on display is pretty nice, and I liked the supporting cast, including Watkin, later to play Perry White in the Superman serials, and Brown, offering some silly humor as the dim-witted and perpetually hungry Billy Fairfield.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The Cat And The Canary (1939)

Starring Bob Hope, Paulette Goddard, John Beal, Douglass Montgomery, Gale Sondergaard
Directed by Elliott Nugent
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

A wisecracking radio actor tries to protect a beautiful young heiress from a vicious killer after her fortune.

Bob Hope fires off a steady stream of jokes, many of which are still pretty funny, in a good old-fashioned mystery, adapted from the 1927 film of the same name.  Hope's paired here with the ever-charming Goddard and well-supported by a professional cast, including familiar character actors George Zucco and Gale Sondergaard.  The mystery is well sustained throughout, with good spooky atmosphere provided by the requisite mysterious mansion with secret passages, situated against the background of a Louisiana swamp.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The Crooked Circle (1932)

Starring Zasu Pitts, James Gleason, Ben Lyon, Irene Purcell, C. Henry Gordon
Directed by H. Bruce Humberstone
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

The head of a group of amateur detectives is targeted for death by a gang of hooded criminals, who plan to strike the same night the man moves into a mansion said to be haunted.

This is a fun little mystery, featuring the comedic stylings of Pitts as the easily rattled housekeeper of the mansion, and enlivened by mysterious characters, secret passages within the mansion, and a number of red herrings spicing up the plot.  Most early sound films of this type are a bit creaky, due to the lack of a musical score and staging of scenes around a microphone, but there's so much action in this film, you don't have time to notice.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Man Made Monster (1941)

Starring Lionel Atwill, Lon Chaney, Jr., Anne Nagel, Frank Albertson, Samuel S. Hinds
Directed by George Waggner
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

A scientist invites a carnival performer who's survived electrocution to his lab for study, but doesn't realize his ambitious assistant has plans to turn the man into a being dependent on electricity.

Lon Chaney, Jr. stars in his first horror film for Universal Pictures, which serves as an interesting trial run for the actor before taking over the roles of Universal's classic monsters in the ensuing years.  Starting out very earnest and likable, Chaney does a good job of diminishing the energy in his performance as he's fed more and more electricity until he's only emoting through the angst in his eyes, well abetted by some subtle makeup and nice glowing effects.  Atwill, as the true villain of the piece, provides the appropriate intensity and enthusiasm for his mad scientist, and the film has a strong musical score with the proper flourishes accompanying the electrical sequences.  Although a faithful dog's pursuit of Chaney at the film's climax comes off as a little heavy-handed, this is still a very worthwhile horror film.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Daughter Of Darkness (1948)

Starring Siobhan McKenna, Anne Crawford, Maxwell Reed, George Thorpe, Barry Morse
Directed by Lance Comfort
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

A beguiling young Irish woman irresistible to men and thought evil by the women of her village is driven out, and settles on an English farm, where she soon disrupts the peaceful life there.

We have here an intriguing character study, well-acted, and featuring some quality cinematography- it's not quite a horror movie, but close, as the main character transforms in our eyes from a misunderstood victim to a creature of evil.  McKenna's casting is very interesting, as she does not fit the bill of a classic beauty, but has an enticing quality to her that serves her character well.  I would have preferred that the screenplay explain some of the rationale behind her evil acts, which primarily occur off-screen, but it nevertheless is a quality film. One wonders if this movie was an inspiration for 1960's Carnival Of Souls due to McKenna's secretive performances of eerie organ music in a church, also a plot point in that later film.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Two On A Guillotine (1965)

Starring Connie Stevens, Dean Jones, Cesar Romero, Parley Baer, Virginia Gregg
Directed by William Conrad
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

A magician's estranged daughter attends his funeral, where she learns he's promised to return from the grave, and requires she live in his mansion so she can witness his return.

This is simply a terrific movie, expertly directed by Conrad, with superb production values, a good score from veteran composer Max Steiner, and a winning cast.  Stevens and Jones are utterly charming as the young leads, and Jones in particular is interesting to watch, cast in this film shortly before his long run as the star of several Disney comedies.  Conrad and his crew do an admirable job of balancing their love story along with the mystery behind the magician's wife's disappearance, and some horrific moments within the mansion, all without revealing too much until the film's entertaining climax.  It's a top flight horror-mystery from beginning to end.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

The H-Man (1958)

Starring Yumi Shirakawa, Kenji Sahara, Akihiko Hirata, Koreya Senda, Makoto Sato
Directed by Ishiro Honda
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

When a drug smuggler disappears, leaving his clothes behind in the street, the police assume he's gone into hiding, but a scientist fears a radioactive menace is responsible.

Gojira director Ishiro Honda delivers here a pretty good sci-fi picture, and one that's a bit of a departure from Honda's giant monster films.  Although the special effects aren't particularly innovative or memorable, they're well-executed enough- I just thought it was too bad the filmmakers didn't choose to give their monsters some sort of character or personality.  Nonetheless, it's a skillfully assembled picture, and an interesting one.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The Drums Of Jeopardy (1931)

Starring Warner Oland, June Collyer, Lloyd Hughes, Clara Blandick, Hale Hamilton
Directed by George B. Seitz
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

After discovering a member of the Russian royal family is responsible for his daughter's death, a maddened scientist pursues the family to America for revenge.

I liked this horror thriller, which has gained some fame for naming its villain Boris Karlov in an odd coincidence, as according to IMDB, the movie was released months before actor Boris Karloff's star-making performance in 1931's Frankenstein.  The film has its drawbacks, with few of the actors playing Russians being convincing as Russians, and I thought Oland's villainy could have been played up a little better.  However, it's still fun to watch, with some memorable imagery, and actress Clara Blandick is entertaining as a crotchety old woman with some funny lines.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

The Day Mars Invaded Earth (1963)

Starring Kent Taylor, Marie Windsor, William Mims, Betty Beall, Lowell Brown
Directed by Maury Dexter
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

After successfully landing an unmanned space probe on the planet Mars, a scientist returns home to California to be with his family, not realizing an intelligence from Mars has followed him there.

This film has a lot going for it, from an impressively staged opening scene on Mars, to a terrific musical score from Richard La Salle, to some suspenseful sequences in the film's primary setting, an isolated Beverly Hills estate filled with foreboding angles and maze-like shrubbery.  Obviously filmed on a limited budget, Dexter and his crew make the most of what they have, and very successfully, but just as the film seems headed into an exciting third act, it abruptly ends.  One can't help but wonder if the filmmakers ran out of money, and if so, that's a terrible shame, because with a few added scenes it could have earned a place among the classic sci-fi chillers.

Friday, September 6, 2013

The Phantom (1931)

Starring Guinn Williams, Allene Ray, Niles Welch, Tom O'Brien, Sheldon Lewis
Directed by Alvin J. Neitz
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

A district attorney is guarded by the police after a notorious killer escapes from prison, but the killer's intended victim may really be the attorney's daughter.

Part mystery, part horror film, but with many comedic scenes, this picture isn't great, but is entertaining enough and has a few distinctive visuals, including the killer's escape onto a speeding train, and a cloaked figure with twisted fingers who may or may not be "The Phantom."  Per IMDB, director Neitz is actually veteran western and serial director Alan James, who regrettably doesn't have too many action scenes to stage here.  The character of a frightened maid is a little grating, and the inclusion of a romantic triangle seems rather pointless, but all in all, this isn't a bad time-passer.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

The Thing That Couldn't Die (1958)

Starring William Reynolds, Andra Martin, Jeffrey Stone, Carolyn Kearney, Peggy Converse
Directed by Will Cowan
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

The residents of a California ranch dig up an ancient chest containing the still living head of an evil and powerful being.

To my mind, this is probably the least imaginative of Universal Pictures' horror films, and not scary in the least, but it doesn't matter- it's a hoot.  From the film's bizarre heroine who searches for buried treasures with a divining rod, to the bug-eyed stares and silent lip movements of the disembodied head, to the ranch hands whose characters seem to be ripped from the pages of "Of Mice And Men," this is a guilty pleasure throughout, and an entertaining one to watch.  The filmmakers should be given some credit for creatively hiding actor Robin Hughes' body in his scenes as the "head," perhaps due to the skill of cinematographer Russell Metty, who put his talents to far better use in Orson Welles' Touch of Evil the same year.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Unidentified Flying Objects (1956)

Starring Tom Towers, Floyd Burton, Marie Kenna, Robert Phillips, Gene Coughlan
Directed by Winston Jones
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

This documentary examines the evidence of UFO sightings and eyewitness accounts collected by the Air Force, and presents the sightings they have been able to explain and the ones they have not.

Combining a docudrama approach with actual filmed testimony from UFO witnesses, this documentary is unabashedly presented from the Air Force's perspective, with Towers portraying a former journalist who goes to work for the agency's press corps, and learns about the sightings and their investigations first hand.  Don't expect much revelatory footage, for while there a couple of unexplained films of possible flying saucers presented, they're shot from a great distance and only show some white dots in the sky.  The most effective sequence is a recreation of a UFO encounter tracked on an airport radar screen, which features the voice of a jet pilot coming over the intercom which is indisputably actor Harry Morgan, who went on to TV fame in the series Dragnet and M*A*S*H.  Although much of the film is highly technical, it's entertaining in its own right.

Monday, September 2, 2013

East Of Borneo (1931)

Starring Rose Hobart, Charles Bickford, Georges Renavent, Lupita Tovar, Noble Johnson
Directed by George Melford
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

A beautiful woman journeys deep into the jungle in search of her estranged husband, and finds him on a volcanic island ruled over by a sadistic native prince.

This is an entertaining jungle thriller, headlined by Hobart, very beautiful and appealing and believable in her role- it's hard to figure why she didn't become a bigger star.  Melford does a good job of staging the jungle perils, and Renavent makes a nice villain.  The film's showpiece is a well-executed sequence of a native's doomed swim through a river swarming with crocodiles.  The only shortcoming for me was the lack of dialogue for Tovar, who plays a native servant jealous of Bickford's wife, and her character would have been better defined with some dialogue.  She's better known for playing the female lead in the Spanish-language version of Dracula, released the same year, so perhaps her accent or knowledge of English played into this.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

The Underwater City (1962)

Starring William Lundigan, Julie Adams, Roy Roberts, Carl Benton Reid, Chet Douglas
Directed by Frank McDonald
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

After losing out on a contract to build a space station, an engineer accepts a job to design and construct a complex on the ocean floor, but doesn't feel it's as important as the space station would be.

This is an interesting, if not very in depth, look at what it would take to construct a means of living under the sea, and it's fun, with romance in the offing for the principals, and humor from a character trying to get drunk with no alcohol around.  The underwater photography and special effects are serviceable but nothing special, and the film could have used a little more conflict in its second act, but overall, it was charming and I enjoyed it.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

The Bat Whispers (1930)

Starring Chester Morris, Chance Ward, Una Merkel, Richard Tucker, Wilson Benge
Directed by Roland West
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

After renting the house of a prestigious banker, a lady and her housemaid are frightened by the appearance of "The Bat," a masked villain after a sum of money hidden in the house. 

According to Wikipedia, this film is reputed for being filmed in an early widescreen format and also as a possible inspiration for the creator of the comic book hero Batman.  I found it to be an interesting and well-filmed mystery, although it has probably a few too many characters to keep track of.  The camerawork in particular should be singled out, which is very dynamic for an early sound film, panning up buildings and through windows and following a police car as it darts in and out of traffic during a high speed chase.  Based on a story and stageplay by Mary Roberts Rinehart, and previously filmed by director West in the 1920s as a silent film, the spoken dialogue this time around benefits the comic moments in the screenplay, and gives Morris a fine showcase.  However, there's just a bit too many characters and too much going on to follow for my taste.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Mad Ghoul (1943)

Starring David Bruce, Evelyn Ankers, George Zucco, Robert Armstrong, Turhan Bey
Directed by James Hogan
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

A chemistry professor recreates an ancient poison gas that turns men into zombies, and uses it on his assistant, so he can pursue the young man's beautiful fiancee.

One of my favorites of the horror pictures Universal Pictures put out in the 1940s, this one features George Zucco in fine sinister form as the villain, well-supported by a cast of Universal's contract players, along with King Kong's Robert Armstrong, entertaining as a wisecracking reporter.  Although star David Bruce turns in a fairly non-descript performance as the monster of the film, the zombie makeup on him by Universal's Jack Pierce is nicely understated but effective.  But despite being third-billed, this is clearly Zucco's film, and he's a pleasure to watch as his evil character cleverly uses his silver tongue to advance his agenda.

Doomsday Machine (1972)

Starring Bobby Van, Ruta Lee, Mala Powers, James Craig, Grant Williams
Directed by Harry Hope & Lee Sholem
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

After U.S. authorities discover China is in possession of a doomsday weapon, they add women to the crew of a space flight to Venus, so that the human race won't die with the planet Earth.

This film offers a very good sci-fi premise, and it's unfortunate the movie's limited budget and production values can't do it justice.  The special effects are barely serviceable, and although the screenplay and the actors held my interest, this story would have likely been better off in more capable hands.  The movie's not without some fun, as when Williams' character transforms into a loony villain, and it's interesting to see future TV stars Mike Farrell and Casey Kasem pop up in small supporting roles.  However, any positives are completely overwhelmed by a horrible ending, which according to IMDB was filmed years after the rest of the film in order to finish it after production was stalled, but they can't have spent much money.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

I Eat Your Skin (1964)

Starring William Joyce, Heather Hewitt, Betty Hyatt Linton, Dan Stapleton, Walter Coy
Directed by Del Tenney
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

A publisher coaxes his star novelist into traveling with him to a tropical island for inspiration, but when they get there, voodoo sacrifices and zombies make it a hazardous vacation.

An efficient thriller from independent producer Del Tenney, who also made The Horror Of Party Beach and The Curse Of The Living Corpse, this doesn't have the depth or shock value of some other voodoo/zombie pictures, but it's fun and doesn't overstay its welcome.  IMDB says the original title was simply Zombies, but it wasn't released until 1971, and then renamed I Eat Your Skin, probably to capitalize on the popularity of 1968's Night Of The Living Dead- there's no actual skin-eating in this movie as there was in that film.  The zombie makeups are distinctive if not groundbreaking, with decaying skin and crusted-over eyes, the voodoo rituals are well-staged, and Tenney's script mixes in enough humor and romance to keep things moving at a nice pace.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

War Between The Planets (1966)

Starring Jack Stuart, Amber Collins, Enzo Fiermonte, Alina Zalewska, Freddy Unger
Directed by Anthony Dawson
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

Repeated natural disasters on Earth lead authorities to look into outer space to find a cause, and send Commander Rod Jackson, who discovers a giant asteroid is to blame.

This is another sci-fi effort from Italian director Antonio Margheriti (credited as Anthony Dawson), and he makes good use of costumes, settings, and special effects from his previous films, such as Assignment: Outer Space and The Wild Wild Planet.  Focusing as much on the strain on Commander Jackson's crew, and the women he's involved with as the actual mission to save the Earth, there's no time to explore the origins or intelligence behind the rogue asteroid, and once they land on the asteroid, what they find seems all too similar to Margheriti's Battle Of The Worlds.  So this was a bit too much of a retread for me, with not enough original ideas to sustain my interest.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Isle Of The Snake People (1971)

Starring Boris Karloff, Julissa, Carlos East, Rafael Bertrand, Yolanda Montes
Directed by Juan Ibanez
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

A captain of police tries to establish law and order on an island where the people practice voodoo rites, but in return his men are assaulted and killed, and a powerful curse is placed upon him.

Here's another of the Mexican horror films actor Boris Karloff filmed scenes for before his death, none of which have been critically praised, and this one may well be the worst of the lot.  With an overemphasis on depicting the voodoo rituals at length, including an interminably long opening scene that doesn't make much sense until midway through the movie, there's not much entertainment to be had here.  There are some intriguing scenes with Karloff as a scientist trying to harness the power of the mind, and coming up with a scientific explanation for the zombies on the island, but these aren't followed through on, and what we end up with isn't worth watching.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Blood Thirst (1971)

Starring Robert Winston, Katherine Henryk, Yvonne Nielson, Vic Diaz, Vic Silayan
Directed by Newt Arnold
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

When a murderous creature strikes in the Phillippines, leaving behind young female victims drained of blood, the local police are stymied, and call in a famed American detective for help.

This is a fun little chiller, which according to Wikipedia, was shot in 1965 but not released until years later.  It boasts excellent black and white photography and an interesting cast of characters, led by Winston's wisecracking detective.  Although obviously shot on a tight budget with nothing too elaborate as far as sets or locations, and the creature makeup being fairly limited, the film still entertains.  It almost plays like a James Bond movie, with Winston walking into dangerous traps, and romancing a woman who at first despises him.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Captain Nemo And The Underwater City (1969)

Starring Robert Ryan, Chuck Connors, Nanette Newman, Luciana Paluzzi, John Turner
Directed by James Hill
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

A group of passengers cast overboard during a storm are rescued by the famed Captain Nemo and taken to the incredible underwater city he's created, but he warns them they can never leave.

Wonderful sets and special effects highlight this sci-fi adventure, based on Jules Verne's classic character Captain Nemo, who was featured in his 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea and The Mysterious Island.  Not based on either novel, this film has an original story, imagining an underwater city as Nemo's greatest triumph and haven from the inhumanity of man, jeopardized by the desperate people he's brought there who view it as a prison.  Although star Robert Ryan is not the first performer I'd think of as Nemo, he's very true to the character, and is joined by a fine supporting cast, although a pair of greedy brothers seem to be patterned a bit too closely after comedians Laurel and Hardy.  I enjoyed this film and it's a fitting companion piece to the previous Nemo film adaptations, Disney's 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea and Ray Harryhausen's Mysterious Island.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The Haunted House Of Horror (1969)

Starring Frankie Avalon, Jill Haworth, Dennis Price, Mark Wynter, George Sewell
Directed by Michael Armstrong
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

A group of partying teenagers decide to visit a haunted house for some fun, but one of them ends up murdered, and the rest suspect the killer could be one of them.

Despite the title, this is more of a murder mystery than a supernatural thriller, and there's few attempts by the filmmakers to make the haunted house spooky or terrifying, although they should be given credit for sustaining suspense as to the murderer's identity until the film's climax.  Once we reach it, there's an effective confrontation shot between the two final suspects in which the murder weapon appears between the two, but it's not clear who's holding it, before the big reveal.  The young British cast is good, although Avalon seems an odd fit with the rest of them, but is likely in the movie with an eye towards making a profit at the U.S. box office.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Moon Zero Two (1969)

Starring James Olson, Catherine Schell, Warren Mitchell, Adrienne Corri, Ori Levy
Directed by Roy Ward Baker
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

A space pilot is hired by an unscrupulous millionaire to crash an asteroid loaded with gemstones onto the moon.

An offbeat departure from British studio Hammer Films' usual output, this is an entertaining sci-fi adventure with a good story and a nice lead performance by James Olson.  Promoted as a "space western," it features western staples like shootouts and a barfight, but doesn't quite emphasize these scenes enough to capture the flavor of an Old West adventure.  The special effects are serviceable, not particularly well-done, but come off well enough to enhance the story where they need to.  Where the film is most interesting in its depiction of a moon city and the barren lifeless surface outside it, and the burgeoning romance between Olson and Schell, who's quite fetching, even in a bulky spacesuit.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Scream And Scream Again (1970)

Starring Vincent Price, Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Judy Huxtable, Alfred Marks
Directed by Gordon Hessler
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

While London police search for a killer who drinks the blood of his victims like a vampire, a mysterious operative uses murder to climb the ranks of a military government.

Despite some effective shocks, including a hospital patient waking up to discover his limbs are missing, and the presence of horror stars Price, Lee, and Cushing, this film's marred by a convoluted screenplay that fails to adequately explain a number of plot points.  Genre fans will also be disappointed that the three stars have no scenes together, save for a brief exchange between Lee and Price at film's end.  Director Hessler does stage some effective sequences, particularly a police chase of the "vampire" killer, but it's not enough to overcome the film's problems.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed (1969)

Starring Peter Cushing, Veronica Carlson, Freddie Jones, Simon Ward, Thorley Walters
Directed by Terence Fisher
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

The ruthless Baron Frankenstein blackmails a young couple into assisting him with his latest round of experiments, this time focused on transplanting an insane man's brain into another body.

Peter Cushing reprises his role as Victor Frankenstein for the fifth entry in the series from Britain's Hammer Films, and his character is certainly depraved this time around, lopping off a living man's head, and raping the young woman he's blackmailing.  Frankenstein's monster for this outing is a subordinate character, a sensitive scientist reborn in another body, well played by Freddie Jones.  It's hard to say whether all of this adds up to a good film, but Cushing is always watchable, and Hammer's production values give him an admirable showcase.