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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, March 31, 2013

Jesse James Meets Frankenstein's Daughter (1966)

Starring John Lupton, Narda Onyx, Cal Bolder, Estelita, Jim Davis
Directed by William Beaudine
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

Seeking help for his injured partner, the outlaw Jesse James turns to a pair of doctors experimenting in a Spanish mission, not realizing they are descendants of the notorious Dr. Frankenstein.

The 2nd of two western-horror films made by director William Beaudine, and released as a double-feature (the first was Billy The Kid Vs. Dracula), this film lacks the screen presence of an actor like the former film's John Carradine, and suffers a bit for it.  Although serviceable enough as a western, and Narda Onyx does her best as this film's Dr. Frankenstein, a classic horror actor might have helped carry this film over.  That's probably an argument most would see as pointless, as this movie and its companion film are generally regarded as among the poorest of horror films, but I found them entertaining, and this one outdoes Billy The Kid Vs. Dracula with a stronger script and a bit more appeal in the visuals, from the lab pyrotechnics to the outdoor photography.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Billy The Kid Vs. Dracula (1966)

Starring John Carradine, Chuck Courtney, Melinda Plowman, Virginia Christine, Harry Carey, Jr.
Directed by William Beaudine
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

Dracula masquerades as the uncle of a beautiful ranch owner to get close to her, but her foreman, the legendary Billy The Kid, grows suspicious.

The first of a double feature of horror films made by director Beaudine, set in the old west, (the other one was Jesse James Meets Frankenstein's Daughter), this is definitely not a highlight in John Carradine's career.  Carradine, a fine actor with excellent diction and a distinguished voice, alternated between roles in prestige productions like The Grapes Of Wrath and The Ten Commandments, and low budget sci-fi and horror films like The Unearthly and The Cosmic Man, but I would be lying if I didn't say I enjoyed his genre films better.  Still, it's somewhat beneath the actor to bring forth the googly-eyed stares and comical snarling for this role.  Nonetheless, it's part of this film's goofy charm, which also includes Dracula's bat form wearing a miniature version of the top hat Carradine wears.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Blood Bath (1966)

Starring William Campbell, Marissa Mathes, Lori Saunders, Sandra Knight, Carl Schanzer
Directed by Jack Hill & Stephanie Rothman
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

An artist who paints gruesome depictions of murdered women hides the secret that he is a vampire and the women he paints are in fact his murder victims.

This horror film from Roger Corman's production unit is hard to judge without acknowledging it's history.  As related in Wikipedia's entry on this film, it originated as a spy thriller, which was then refashioned by director Jack Hill as a horror film featuring Campbell's murderous painter and comic relief scenes with a group of beatnik artists, and then was further revised by Rothman, who added the vampire sequences.  That the film is coherent at all considering that history is something remarkable.  Unfortunately, as Campbell was unavailable for the final reshoots, a different actor who does not resemble him plays the vampire, making for a bit of a jarring contrast.  Regardless, as a whole, it's not a bad film, and it's fun to watch to guess which scenes were filmed when and by whom.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Queen Of Blood (1966)

Starring John Saxon, Basil Rathbone, Judi Meredith, Dennis Hopper, Florence Marly
Directed by Curtis Harrington
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

Earth scientists launch a rescue mission to Mars where the crew finds a female alien with a dangerous appetite for human blood.

According to IMDB, like the earlier Voyage To The Prehistoric Planet, this film makes use of extensive footage from some Russian science fiction pictures, but this time uses the footage primarily for special effects sequences, while the main story is new as filmed by Harrington and his crew.  The Russian footage is spectacular and impressive, capturing beautifully composed spacescapes and alien worlds, and at times the fit between those sequences and Harrington's scenes is a little awkward.  Nevertheless, it's a strong picture, with a screenplay that poses some interesting questions, and Marly's creepy mute performance as the alien is a definite standout.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

The Plague Of The Zombies (1966)

Starring Andre Morell, Diane Clare, Brook Williams, Jacqueline Pearce, John Carson
Directed by John Gilling
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

A professor of medicine looks into unexplained deaths in the village of Cornwall, and finds the bodies are mysteriously missing from their graves.

This is another fine effort from Britain's Hammer Films, quite distinctive among their horror output due to the zombie premise, and the atypical casting of the distinguished Andre Morell as the hero of this piece.  The film doesn't tie together neatly with many unanswered questions not addressed in the screenplay, but the direction by John Gilling is excellent, and Roy Ashton's zombie makeups are very effective.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Dracula: Prince Of Darkness (1966)

Starring Christopher Lee, Barbara Shelley, Andrew Keir, Francis Matthews, Suzan Farmer
Directed by Terence Fisher
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

After perishing in the sunlight, Dracula's ashes are kept by his faithful servant and ten years later, he lures two vacationing couples to Dracula's castle to resurrect the Count.

This was the second sequel to Hammer Films' 1958 hit Horror Of Dracula, but the first to feature Christopher Lee reprising his role as the undead count, who strangely has no dialogue in the film, but nevertheless turns in a memorable animal-like performance.  Director Terence Fisher, who helmed both of the previous films, returns, and delivers another atmospheric vampire tale with horror effectively built through deadly quiet sequences on the soundtrack and suspenseful pacing.  And behind the scenes, the excellent Hammer production crew contribute strong work in the areas of production design, music, and costuming.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Sting Of Death (1965)

Starring Joe Morrison, Valerie Hawkins, John Vella, Jack Nagle, Sandy Lee Kane
Directed by William Grefe
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

A marine biologist working in the Florida Everglades entertains a visiting group of teenagers, not realizing they will become the victims of a terrifying killer with a deadly poisonous sting.

Though low-budget to its core and lacking anything innovative in performance or direction, I found this movie to be a fun horror flick, making good use of the Florida locations and a suspenseful musical score.  Although there are some ludicrous plot twists and a rather silly reveal of the film's monster at its climax, it's all in good fun, as long as you don't take the story too seriously.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

The Eye Creatures (1965)

Starring John Ashley, Cynthia Hull, Warren Hammack, Chet Davis, Bill Peck
Directed by Larry Buchanan
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

A pair of eloping teenagers accidentally hit an alien being with their car, and while they try to convince the police of their story, the aliens' companions seek to frame them for their murder of a human being.

As near as I can determine from IMDB, this was the first in a series of science fiction monster movies director Larry Buchanan made for television, and is a remake of the 1957 sci-fi comedy Invasion Of The Saucer-Men, nearly exactly following the earlier film's screenplay.  As a film, it can't compare to that version, with its grotesque aliens having none of the charm of the "little green men" designed by Paul Blaisdell for the original film.  Although John Ashley makes a good lead with his smooth vocal delivery and there are a number of other competent actors in the cast, there's nothing new or different for them to distinguish themselves with here, and the special effects are bargain basement at best.

Monday, March 11, 2013

The Beach Girls And The Monster (1965)

Starring Jon Hall, Sue Casey, Walker Edmiston, Elaine DuPont, Arnold Lessing
Directed by Jon Hall
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

A teenager rebelling against his father's career plans for him by partying on the beach with his friends is shaken when one of his friends is murdered, apparently by a terrifying monster.

A horror/musical of sorts, in the same vein as The Horror Of Party Beach, per IMDB, this film was the last one of Jon Hall's career, after a long career as a leading man in films such as The Hurricane, Invisible Agent, and Arabian Nights, although this is a much lower budgeted production, which Hall also directed.  As a movie, running just over an hour, it's entertaining, and a fun diversion, but not particularly distinguished in any department, and the monster is just a man in a rubber suit.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Curse Of The Voodoo (1965)

Starring Bryant Haliday, Dennis Price, Lisa Daniely, Ronald Leigh-Hunt, Mary Kerridge
Directed by Lindsay Shonteff
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

A big game hunter kills a lion in the territory of a voodoo-practicing tribe and thereafter is haunted by visions of the tribesmen stalking him.

Actor Haliday, producer Richard Gordon, and director Shonteff reunited for this movie after making Devil Doll the previous year, turning out another intriguing British horror film.  It's not quite as creepy as their previous effort, but is blessed with a terrific music score by composer Brian Fahey, who effectively uses jungle drums to underscore Haliday's voodoo nightmares, along with stirring themes that complement the relentless drumbeats.  A highlight of the film is a dynamically photographed chase sequence on an English heath, in which Haliday is pursued by two spear-toting tribesmen (at least in his own mind).

Friday, March 8, 2013

The Earth Dies Screaming (1964)

Starring Willard Parker, Virginia Field, Dennis Price, Thorley Walters, Vanda Godsell
Directed by Terence Fisher
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

After a mysterious attack decimates England, a handful of survivors gather together in a small village, where they discover alien invaders are responsible.

This is a well-done British sci-fi effort tautly directed by Terence Fisher.  A cast largely made up of unknowns, rather than big stars, complements the idea that these are complete strangers banding together for the common good, and is nicely offset by Dennis Price's contrary character, a cynical outsider who'd rather fend for himself.  Fisher and his crew succeed in getting around the limited budget, creating decent chills with suspenseful cutting between the stalking aliens and their victims.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Dr. Goldfoot And The Bikini Machine (1965)

Starring Vincent Price, Frankie Avalon, Dwayne Hickman, Susan Hart, Jack Mullaney
Directed by Norman Taurog
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

A junior intelligence agent stumbles across a plot by an evil scientist to use his beautiful female robots to seduce the rich and powerful.

Although it sounds like a spoof of James Bond movies and the like, this madcap comedy from American International Pictures has more in common with their outlandish beach party movies, with the spy elements downplayed in favor of having Avalon's bumbling character pursue one of the robots with romance on his mind.  To be honest, most of the humor falls flat, yet nonetheless this is a fun romp and a nice showcase for Susan Hart, who after smallish roles in Pajama Party and War-Gods Of The Deep, gets a chance to shine as the most glamorous of the robots, taking on multiple personalities and accents in her pursuit of a rich executive played by Hickman.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Die, Monster, Die! (1965)

Starring Boris Karloff, Nick Adams, Freda Jackson, Suzan Farmer, Terence de Marney
Directed by Daniel Haller
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

A young man travels to visit his girlfriend at her ancestral home, where he discovers her mother is gravely ill, and her father, engaged in strange experiments, warns him to leave immediately.

According to IMDB, this was Daniel Haller's directorial debut, coming after a long career as an art director for American International Pictures, adapting a short story by writer H.P. Lovecraft.  Although Wikipedia points out that the film only "loosely" adapts Lovecraft's story, with many differences in characters and plot details, it's interesting to see Haller combine both sci-fi and horror elements in guiding this picture to its climax.  It's by no means a great movie, but Karloff's screen presence is always engaging, and the film showcases some nice scares and worthy special effects.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Planet Of The Vampires (1965)

Starring Barry Sullivan, Norma Bengell, Angel Aranda, Evi Marandi, Stelio Candelli
Directed by Mario Bava
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

Two spaceships land on an alien world inhabited by life forms who drive the ship's crew to kill each other so they can take over their bodies.

A rare excursion by famed Italian horror director Mario Bava into science fiction territory, this film is saddled with the unfortunate English title, Planet Of The Vampires, despite the fact that there are no vampires in the movie.  However a strong screenplay builds suspense as the planet's landscape and the aliens are introduced, and offers Hollywood veteran Barry Sullivan a choice role as the captain who saves his crew from surrendering their bodies to the aliens' control, but then must face the crew of the other ship who were not so lucky.  The movie's sets are also first rate, creating believable futuristic spaceship interiors, and a otherworldly alien setting shrouded in mysterious fog.  The only shortcoming is special effects, although the filmmakers supply some nifty camera tricks in place of more costly effects.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

The Black Torment (1964)

Starring Heather Sears, John Turner, Ann Lynn, Peter Arne, Norman Bird
Directed by Robert Hartford-Davis
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

A nobleman returns with his new bride after a long absence to his estate, only to discover that some claim to have seen him there recently, and he's suspected in a murder.

This is a quality British horror film with some genuine suspense and good performances.  Actor John Turner is especially fine as the nobleman, whose initial righteous indignation at the suspicions levied against him later turns to doubt and horror at the thought that he might be losing his mind.  The performances are supported by effective chills, in particular those created by the filmmakers' use of sound, including the frantic breathing of the murder victim in the opening prologue, the squeaking of the wheelchair carrying the nobleman's infirm father, and the banging of open windows against the side of the house that are normally always locked.  Although the revelation of the truth at the climax didn't come as a huge shock to me, this is still a nicely crafted period horror piece.