Friday, May 31, 2013

One Million Years B.C. (1966)

Starring Raquel Welch, John Richardson, Percy Herbert, Robert Brown, Martine Beswick
Directed by Don Chaffey
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

At the dawn of human civilization, a caveman leaves his savage tribe and falls for a beautiful woman from another tribe.

I'm not a big fan of caveman movies, but this one's not bad, a remake of 1940's One Million B.C., which juxtaposed caveman Victor Mature with menaces largely portrayed by ordinary lizards projected to sizes of tremendous proportions.  The effects here are a major step up, featuring realistic dinosaurs animated by the great Ray Harryhausen, which enlivens this film considerably, although the producers still make room for a lizard projection.  Stars Raquel Welch and John Richardson are also assets to the production, but I wish the filmmakers would have employed far more narration to explain their story, as some of the motivation behind the characters' actions is a little confusing to understand.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

The Witches (1966)

Starring Joan Fontaine, Kay Walsh, Alec McCowen, Ann Bell, Ingrid Brett
Directed by Cyril Frankel
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

After being terrorized by witch doctors in Africa, a missionary teacher thinks she's found a more relaxing career teaching in a British village, until she learns there are witches in the village.

An attempt by Hammer Films to add to their horror catalog with a "witch" film, I found this to be a fine suspense-filled effort that unfortunately doesn't quite pay off in its final act.  Although the film hints the witches' powers are genuine we never see true evidence of this onscreen, nor are we presented an explanation as to what motivates the witches to be witches, and the climactic sacrificial ritual's choreography comes off seeming a bit silly.  Nevertheless, the build up before that, well-scripted by Nigel Kneale, makes this a worthwhile film, and star Joan Fontaine is well cast in the leading role.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Island Of Terror (1966)

Starring Peter Cushing, Edward Judd, Carole Gray, Eddie Byrne, Sam Kydd
Directed by Terence Fisher
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

On an island off the coast of Ireland, a doctor discovers a body completely devoid of bones, and flies in a couple of specialists, who learn the creatures responsible were created in a laboratory accident.

This is just a really fun movie, craftily directed by horror veteran Terence Fisher, with many suspenseful scenes, worthy creature effects, and a number of witty lines for Cushing.  The creatures' design seems to be something of a homage to The War Of The Worlds, as they strongly resemble the Martian spaceships in that film.  Although they would probably be considered somewhat crude by today's special effects standards, they certainly work well within the film as designed, accompanied by a clever unnerving sound effect.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Frozen Alive (1964)

Starring Mark Stevens, Marianne Koch, Wolfgang Lukschy, Joachim Hansen, Delphi Lawrence
Directed by Bernard Knowles
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

Two scientists who have succeeded in deep-freezing and thawing monkeys want to do the same to a human being, but the head of their project is against it.

This is an entertaining sci-fi drama, although it places the ethics of experimenting on human beings on the back burner in favor of playing up a love triangle between the female scientist, the male scientist, and his wife.  Set in and filmed in Germany, the film doesn't appear to be dubbed, but actually filmed in English, with the German accents of some of the actors adding some color here.  Although the film's fairly straightforward without much depth, there's good acting all around, and I enjoyed it.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Zontar, The Thing From Venus (1966)

Starring John Agar, Susan Bjurman, Anthony Houston, Patricia Delaney, Neil Fletcher
Directed by Larry Buchanan
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

A scientist claims to have made contact with an alien on Venus with whom he agrees to help take over the world for the good of humanity.

A remake of the 1956 Roger Corman film, It Conquered The World, which was noted for its low budget and cheap special effects, this telefilm from notorious director Larry Buchanan doesn't up the ante any, with even cheaper effects, and an alien nowhere near as distinctive as the original's.  Corman's film also had the advantage of better actors, and although John Agar is fine following in Peter Graves' role, Houston and Delaney can't possibly compare with Lee Van Cleef and Beverly Garland.  It's a given that the original is not exactly regarded as a cinema classic, but there's more fun to be had with it than this pedestrian remake.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Eye Of The Devil (1966)

Starring Deborah Kerr, David Niven, Donald Pleasence, Edward Mulhare, Flora Robson
Directed by J. Lee Thompson
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

A Frenchman returns to his ancestral castle with little explanation to his family, but when his wife follows him there, she discovers he's become involved in weird pagan rituals.

Well-acted and visually striking, with accomplished photography and good suspenseful direction by Thompson, this is an intriguing little mystery, although it reveals its secrets a little too soon.  It probably would have also benefitted from displaying a bit more than the small glimpses of paganism it affords, and not placing quite so heavy an emphasis on Kerr's character.  Still, it's impressively assembled, and is notable for including the first major role for lovely actress Sharon Tate, who per Wikipedia, had her promising film career cut short by her tragic murder at the hands of the followers of Charles Manson.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Death Curse Of Tartu (1966)

Starring Fred Pinero, Babette Sherrill, Bill Marcus, Mayra Gomez, Sherman Hayes
Directed by William Grefe
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

While investigating an Indian burial ground, an archaeologist and his students find themselves in danger from the vengeful spirit of an ancient witch doctor.

We have here an efficient little chiller on a small budget from writer/director William Grefe, not quite as fun as his earlier effort Sting Of Death, but still very watchable and entertaining.  Although there's not much new or different, and the mixture between deadly animal footage and Grefe's actors is a bit too limited for true dramatic effect, I still enjoyed it.  Set and filmed in the Florida Everglades, the real-life scenery transports you there, and an energetic battle with the witch doctor at the climax makes up for some slow-moving scenes earlier in the film.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Daleks' Invasion Earth: 2150 A.D. (1966)

Starring Peter Cushing, Bernard Cribbins, Ray Brooks, Andrew Keir, Roberta Tovey
Directed by Gordon Flemyng
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

The eccentric but brilliant Doctor Who travels forward in time with his companions to 22nd century Earth, where he discovers London has been destroyed by his old nemesis, the Daleks.

What a fun movie!  I can't say I've been a fan of the long-running Doctor Who television series, which per Wikipedia, provided the storyline adapted into this film's screenplay, but certainly enjoyed spending an evening with the good doctor, well-personified by Peter Cushing in one of his two turns in the role.  The whimsical music score from Bill McGuffie is very enjoyable, deflating some of the horrific impact of the plot, and along with some comedic bits of business, helps to make the film suitable for family audiences.  Viewers of the television series, accustomed to its very limited special effects, will enjoy seeing much more substantial sci-fi imagery here, although the filmmakers stay true to the series' simplistic design of the ruthless Daleks.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Curse Of The Swamp Creature (1966)

Starring John Agar, Francine York, Jeff Alexander, Shirley McLine, Cal Duggan
Directed by Larry Buchanan
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

Fortune hunters trail a geologist searching for oil in the swamp, where they encounter a scientist who needs human subjects to achieve his dream of merging man and alligator into one creature.

Although Larry Buchanan's pedigree as a filmmaker is far from distinguished, there's some fun to be had in this picture, with Alexander making a great villain, conveying both haughty arrogance and simmering anger in his performance.  However, nothing else in the film is as accomplished, wasting the atmosphere of the southern swamp location with matter-of-fact photography, and providing an almost comical makeup for the creature that is not revealed until the film's climax.  Still, this is something of a guilty pleasure, and a personal favorite of mine among Buchanan's films, although that's not saying much.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

An Angel For Satan (1966)

Starring Barbara Steele, Claudio Gora, Ursula Davis, Anthony Steffen, Marina Berti
Directed by Camillo Mastrocinque
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

A sculptor is hired to restore a statue rescued from the bottom of a lake, but the superstitious villagers fear it will bring a terrible curse upon them.

This quality horror film offers another opportunity for Barbara Steele to play a dual role although encapsulated in the same character, a young heiress who seems to be possessed by the vengeful spirit of  a spurned female ancestor.  This results in one of her most predatory performances using her sensuality to ensnare her male victims in traps that will result in tragedy.  Steele's performance is augmented by a fine supporting cast, beautiful photography, and an effective music score, making this a very memorable film.  I'm not quite sold on the final moments of the screenplay, which tries to tie everything together in a not entirely believable explanation, but this was a fun journey into Italian gothic horror.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Fahrenheit 451 (1966)

Starring Julie Christie, Oskar Werner, Cyril Cusack, Anton Diffring, Jeremy Spenser
Directed by Francois Truffaut
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

In a future where books have been outlawed, the fire department burns them instead of putting out fires, but a fireman begins to find his world changing when he begins reading what he burns.

Ray Bradbury's classic cautionary novel still has relevance today and is brought to the screen by acclaimed director Truffaut with some distinctive visual ideas, as well as a quality score from composer Bernard Herrmann.  Standout sequences include the opening credits, not shown but spoken to prepare us for a world where the written word is forbidden, and Christie's dual portrayal of the two women in the fireman's life, representing his choice between conformity and free expression.  I've heard Bradbury was not enamored with this adaptation, and it probably doesn't quite capture all it needs to, but I still found it to be a worthy effort.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Dr. Goldfoot And The Girl Bombs (1966)

Starring Vincent Price, Fabian, Franco Franchi, Ciccio Ingrassia, Francesco Mule
Directed by Mario Bava
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

An out-of-work secret agent stumbles across the latest scheme of the evil Dr. Goldfoot, who aims to dispose of the world's military generals with his "girl bombs."

Although a sequel to American International Pictures' Dr. Goldfoot And The Bikini Machine, and Vincent Price reprises his role as the titular villain, the entire production seems to have been farmed out to a cast and crew in Italy, helmed by of all people, famed horror director Mario Bava.  However, any hopes this would result in a darker picture are dashed, as madcap silliness again reigns the day, often more over-the-top than in the first film.  I have to admit I cracked a smile at a few bits of humor and was taken with the eye candy of the lovely ladies on display, but this is definitely a film that could have used a lot more substance.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Picture Mommy Dead (1966)

Starring Don Ameche, Martha Hyer, Susan Gordon, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Maxwell Reed
Directed by Bert I. Gordon
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

Three years after her mother's horrific death sent her into an institution, a young woman returns home and is tormented by visions suggesting she may have killed her.

Director Bert I. Gordon's daughter Susan gets a memorable showcase in this psychological thriller that features one of Gordon's biggest name casts, with Ameche, Hyer, and Gabor, and she holds her own among them.  Bert I. Gordon was probably best known for also creating the special effects in his films like Earth Vs. The Spider and Attack Of The Puppet People, but there aren't really any here, causing this film to hinge on Susan's performance and the quality of the screenplay.  None of the plot twists really came to me as a surprise, and the story's a bit familiar, and executed better before in similar films, but it's still an entertaining movie in its own right.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

The Night Caller (1965)

Starring John Saxon, Maurice Denham, Patricia Haines, Alfred Burke, Warren Mitchell
Directed by John Gilling
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

A team of scientists investigate an alien sphere that descended from outer space, and soon discover it has brought a mysterious creature to Earth.

A suspenseful sci-fi chiller from director John Gilling, this film has only limited special effects but you don't notice, as Gilling tantalizes us with glimpses of the alien and leaves the rest to our imagination.  Good performances all around and subtle touches of humor are also to the picture's credit, with the one wrong note being a somewhat cheesy pop song played over the opening credits that doesn't fit with the rest of the film.  Although the payoff in the film's closing scenes is somewhat of a letdown as Gilling reveals he has tricked us a little bit, all in all, it's an entertaining sci-fi mystery which makes the most of its budget.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Castle Of Evil (1966)

Starring Scott Brady, Virginia Mayo, David Brian, Lisa Gaye, Hugh Marlowe
Directed by Francis D. Lyon
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

A ruthless scientist's heirs gather at his island sanctuary to discover he is dead, but that he blames one of them for his death, and that he will obtain his revenge from beyond the grave.

Not a great movie, or even a particularly good one, but I found it to be a welcome time-passer with enough sci-fi and horror elements to keep me interested.  The cast of Hollywood veterans is a plus, with Brady, Mayo, and Marlowe providing worthy characterizations, but the film is heavier on exposition than action or suspense, although there's a few memorable creepy moments.  More mystery and atmosphere would have gone a long way, but it's still worth seeing.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Way...Way Out (1966)

Starring Jerry Lewis, Connie Stevens, Robert Morley, Dennis Weaver, Howard Morris
Directed by Gordon Douglas
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

A reluctant astronaut is assigned to live on the moon for a year, but must first marry a qualified female scientist to take with him.

An unfunny misfire from comedian Jerry Lewis, it's rather surprising he went through with this film, playing a fairly straight-laced character as opposed to his more wacky creations.  Although a fine veteran cast is on hand, including Connie Stevens as an attractive feminine foil for Lewis, the material is beneath them, and the sci-fi setting is hardly taken advantage of for comic effect.  The film does offer a fairly solid framework for what could have been a memorable farce, but fails to follow through on the possibilities.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Chamber Of Horrors (1966)

Starring Patrick O'Neal, Cesare Danova, Wilfrid Hyde-White, Laura Devon, Patrice Wymore
Directed by Hy Averback
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

The proprietors of a wax museum aid the police in successfully tracking down a psychotic murderer, but he escapes and plots revenge on all those who contributed to his capture and trial.

Having read the synopsis of this film before seeing it, I had thought it was going to be a grisly horror shocker with much blood splattered on the screen, and was delighted to discover despite its subject matter, it turned out to be something far lighter and much more enjoyable.  Although O'Neal's one-handed killer is a true sadist, executing his revenge with a variety of deadly appendages affixed to his arm, most of the violence is kept off camera, and deflated by warnings to the audience in a memorable gimmick.  The filmmakers balance the sinister goings on with romantic adventures for Danova and Devon, who could not be lovelier, and welcome humor from Hyde-White.  In fact, the entire cast is wonderful, and William Lava's score nicely captures the fun of this memorable and entertaining film.