Movie Fan Man: Cinema Connoisseur

Traditional, Artsy, Genre-Within-Genre: A Little Something for Everyone

Halloween Favorites!!!

HAPPY HALLOWEEN EVERYONE !!!!!

Here is a list of my favorite Horror films. Enjoy! Hope everyone had fun with the Month of Hammer Horror.

  1. The Mummy (1959) – Directed by: Terence Fisher, Written by: Jimmy Sangster, Starring: Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, Yvonne Furneaux, George Pastell, Eddie Byrne, Felix Aylmer, Raymond Huntley, Michael Ripper
  2. Blood From the Mummy’s Tomb (1971) – Directed by Seth Holt, Written by: Christopher Wicking, based on the novel Jewel of the Seven Stars by Bram Stoker, Starring: Valerie Leon, Andrew Kier, James Villiers, Mark Edwards, Rosalie Crutchley, Hugh Burden, George Coulouris, Aubrey Morris
  3. The Devil Rides Out (1968) – Directed by Terence Fisher, Written by: Richard Matheson, based on the novel by Dennis Wheately, Starring: Christopher Lee, Charles Gray, Leon Greene, Patrick Mower, Nike Arrighi, Sarah Lawson, Paul Eddington, Rosayln Landor, Eddie Powell
  4.  Vampyr (1932) – Directed by: Carl Th. Dreyer, Written by: Christen Jul & Carl Th. Dreyer, based on the short story Carmilla by J. Sheridan Le Fanu, Starring: Julian West, Maurice Schutz, Sybille Schmitz, Rena Mandel, Jan Hieronimko, Henriette Gerard, Albert Bras, Georges Boidin
  5. La Maschera del Demonio (The Mask of the Demon/The Mask of Satan/Black Sunday) (1960) – Directed by Mario Bava, Written by: Ennio De Concini, Mario Serandrei, Mario Bava, Marcello Coscia, & Dino de Palma, based on the tale by Nikoaj Gogol, Starring: Barbara Steele, John Richardson, Andrea Checchi, Ivo Garrani, Arturo Domincini, Enrico Olivieri, Antonio Pierfederici
  6. I Tre Volti della Paura (The Three Faces of Fear/Black Sabbath) (1963) – Directed by: Mario Bava, Written by: Marcello Fondato, Alberto Bevilacqua, & Mario Bava, based on tales by Anton Chekhov, Aleksei Tolstoy, Guy De Maupassant, & F.G. Snyder, Starring: Boris Karloff, Michele Mercier, Mark Damon, Jacqueline Pierreux, Lidia Alfonsi, Susy Andersen, Milly
  7. The Pit and the Pendulum (1961) – Directed by Roger Corman, Written by: Richard Matheson, based on the short story by Edgar Allen Poe, Starring: Vincent Price, Barbara Steele, John Kerr, Luana Anders, Antony Carbone, Patrick Westwood
  8. The Gorgon (1964) – Directed by: Terence Fisher, Written by: John Gilling, based on a story by J. Llewellyn Devine, Starring: Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Barbara Shelley, Richard Pasco, Patrick Troughton, Michael Goodliffe, Prudence Hyman
  9. The Raven (1963) – Directed by: Roger Corman, Written by: Richard Matheson, suggested by the poem by Edgar Allan Poe, Starring: Vincent Price, Peter Lorre, Boris Karloff, Jack Nicholson, Hazel Court, Olive Sturgess, William Baskin
  10. Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb (1964) – Written & Directed by: Michael Carreras, Starring: Terence Morgan, Ronald Howard, Fred Clark, Jeanne Roland, George Pastell, Jack Gwillim, John Paul, Dickie Owen
  11. The Mummy’s Shroud (1967) – Written & Directed by: John Gilling, based on a story by Anthony Hinds, Starring: David Buck, John Philips, Andre Morell, Maggie Kimberley, Michael Ripper, Richard Wagner, Roger Delgado, Catherine Lacey, Tim Barrett, Dickie Owen, Eddie Powell
  12. Gatto Nero (The Black Cat/Black Cat) (1981) – Directed by: Lucio Fulci, Written by: Biagio Proietti & Lucio Fulci, suggested by the story by Edgar Allan Poe, Starring: Patrick Magee, Mimsy Farmer, David Warbeck, Al Civer, Dagmar Lassander, Bruno Corazzari, Geoffrey Copleston, Daniela Doria
  13. Tales of Terror (1962) – Directed by: Roger Corman, Written by: Richard Matheson, based on five tales by Edgar Allan Poe, Starring Vincent Price, Peter Lorre, Basil Rathbone, Debra Paget, Joyce Jameson, Maggie Pierce, Leona Gage
  14. I Lunghi Capelli della Morte (The Long Hair of Death) (1965) – Directed by: Antonio Margheriti, Written by: Ernesto Gastaldi, Tonino Valeri, & Antonio Margeriti, Starring: Barbara Steele, George Ardrisson, Halina Zalewska, Umberto Raho, Laura Nucci, Giuliano Rafaelli, Nello Pazzafini
  15. Caltiki, the Immortal Monster (Caltiki, Il Mostro Immortale) (1959) Directed by: Riccardo Freda & Mario Bava, Written by: Filippo Sanjust, Starring: John Merivale, Didi Sullivan, Gerard Herter, Daniela Rocca, Vittorio Andre, Daniele Vargas, Arturo Domincini, Giacomo Rossi Stuart, Nerio Bernardi

Filed under: Film: Special Topics

Danger Still Lurks in the Land of the Pharaohs

Hammer’s the Mummy’s Shroud

by Tony Nash

(#7 and the finale of The Month of Hammer Horror)

(all opinions are of the author alone)

(Some spoilers will be present)

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The Mummy’s Shroud (1967) PG ****

David Buck: Paul Preston

John Philips: Stanley Preston

André Morell: Sir Basil Walden (as Andre Morell)

Maggie Kimberly: Claire de Sangre (as Maggie Kimberley)

Michael Ripper: Mr. Longbarrow

Richard Warner: Inspector Barrani

Roger Delgado: Hasmid

Elizabeth Sellars: Barbara Preston

Catherine Lacey: Haiti

Tim Barrett: Harry

Dickie Owen: Prem

Bruno Barnabe: The Pharaoh

Toolsie Persaud: Kah-to-Bey

Eddie Powell: The Mummy of Prem

Based on a story by: Anthony Hinds (as John Elder)

Written & Directed by: John Gilling

Synopsis: When the Pharaoh is overthrown by a rival, his loyal servant Prem leads the rightful heir into the desert for safety until the usurper himself is overthrown. When the boy dies from exhaustion, Prem vows to protect him even in death. When an expedition led by Sir Basil Walden and funded by the greedy Stanley Preston finds the desert tomb of Prem and the rightful king, a half-crazy Arab nomad, whose family has protected the tomb for centuries, vows that Prem’s curse on the foreigners shall be fulfilled.

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Hammer’s third Mummy film once again has no relation to its predecessor, but still offers a nice interpretation of the classic story. In this go around an entire archeological team finds itself being hunted by a vengeful mother-son duo using the resurrected Mummy of the Pharaoh’s loyal servant. What Hammer does to make this film different from the others is its use of an ensemble cast. By not having one or two actors or actresses be the main focus of the film, viewers are allowed to follow the story and action more closely as each performer gets his and her moments in the spotlight. Some would say this might be a hindrance to the film’s success but in this case works in its favor as it offers a different and interesting approach in telling the tale. While a very by the numbers and standard fare, even for a Mummy film, the utilizing of a more theater like cast without the schism of big names gives the film a much needed and necessary leg up within the franchise.

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The two big names in the cast are André Morell and John Philips, very noted and respected stalwarts of British Cinema. Morell plays a dedicated and honest archeologist and Philips plays a glory and fame seeking callous businessman. Philips’ character is jealous of Morell’s character because the latter has been more like a father to the former’s son than the father himself. Philips’ character goes so far as to even discredit Morell’s character by having him declared insane, which was still a criminal offense in Egypt in the early 20th century. At some point in the film Philips’ character appears to have had a pang of conscious, but his actions and personality make it impossible for him to act otherwise.

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Michael Ripper, one of Hammer’s most reliable, if not the most reliable, character actor, gets the rare opportunity to play a character with depth and dialogue. While his role as Longbarrow has him as a somewhat sniveling yes man with no backbone, Ripper still manages to get the audience to feel sympathy for him as at times he appears to not want to do some of the things he does, but for one reason or the other regarding circumstances, seems to have no choice. The cast of the film being a more ensemble one allows Ripper to express a talent he rarely got the chance to display on camera, and in doing so was able to obtain much more interesting roles later on.

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Doctor Who fans will be interested in seeing the original Master to Jon Pertwee’s Doctor, Roger Delgado in the film. The Briton with Spanish roots gets to really play things to the hilt as a mad Egyptian/Arabic nomad who, along with his equally mad mother, decides to use the Mummy of Prem to seek vengeance for what they see as desecrations of sacred sights of Egypt. Unlike other cult-like worshippers of previous Mummy films, Delgado and the actress playing his mother are primarily played up as fanatically demented, leaning more on the demented side than fanatical, when it comes to the Pharaohs and spirits of Egypt. They seem to act more on a personal vendetta, not avenging the gods they’re supposed to be devoted to. This carelessness is what leads to the downfall of their plan as by not following accordance with the laws of the cult has in their own way made them infidels to the religion they belong to.

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Writer and Director John Gilling wasn’t overly impressed with Anthony Hinds original story, nor with the notion of doing a Mummy film after his success with The Plague of the Zombies  and considered this to be the worst film he ever made. Gilling even went as far as to distance himself from Hammer and filmmaking in general, forever viewing the project as an insult. Gilling may have not been impressed, but today’s audiences consider this to be an above average Mummy film. What it lacks in story it wholly makes up for it visually. While very by the numbers plot wise, and one dimensional on characters, the film is still very well made and finely acted. The cinematography of the film, particularly the angles, is well photographed, offering up a unique way of telling the story. Not very good, but not very bad either, the film is still entertaining and offers interesting new ways of telling Mummy tales.

(Out of the four Mummy films Hammer made, the first one and this one are the one’s I watch the most. While very average, the film is still photographed beautifully and keeps up the tempo and atmosphere. The UK and Australian Blu Rays offer the best transfers and audio of the film and are well worth the money.)

(This is the finale of the Month of Hammer Horror, but I will list all my favorite Horror’s as a specialty on Halloween. Private matters last week had me posting later than usual, but all is starting to look good and hopefully I’ll be posting regularly in the future.)

All images courtesy of Google.com/Google Images and their respective owners

For more information

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0062006/?ref_=nv_sr_1?ref_=nv_sr_1

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Mummy%27s_Shroud

https://www.amazon.com/Hammer-Horror-Mummys-Shroud-Blu-ray/dp/B00DQK7UAE

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Mummys-Shroud-Blu-ray-DVD/dp/B0085MXQAG

Filed under: Film: Analysis/Overview, Film: Special Topics

Barnabas Collins is Much Better Than Edward Cullen!!!

by Tony Nash

(The Month of Hammer Horror Special)

(All opinions are of the author alone)

(Spoilers may be present)

(This one I dedicate to my Mother, who gave me my love of the series, whom I binge watch this with from time to time, and is one of her own childhood favorites)

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Dark Shadows (1966-71) ***** TV-PG

Jonathan Frid: Barnabas Collins, Bramwell Collins (Parallel Time)

Joan Bennett: Elizabeth Collins Stoddard, Naomi Collins, Judith Collins, Elizabeth Collins Stoddard (Parallel Time), Flora Collins, Flora Collins (Parallel Time)

Alexandra Isles: Victoria “Vicki” Winters #1 (as Alexandra Moltke)

David Selby: Quentin Collins II, Grant Douglas, Quentin Collins II (Parallel Time), Quentin Collins I, Quentin Collins I (Parallel Time)

Grayson Hall: Dr. Julia Hoffman, Countess Natalie Du Pres, Magda Rakosi, Julia Hoffman (Parallel Time), Dr. Julia (Hoffman) Collins, Julia Collins (Parallel Time), Constance Collins (Parallel Time)

Nancy Barrett: Carolyn Stoddard, Millicent Collins, Charity Trask, Pansy Faye, Carolyn Stoddard Loomis (Parallel Time), Letecia Faye, Melanie Collins (Parallel Time), Amanda Collins (Parallel Time)

Louis Edmonds: Roger Collins, Joshua Collins, Edward Collins, Roger Collins (Parallel Time), Joshua Collins (Parallel Time), Daniel Collins, Amadeus Collins, Brutus Collins (Parallel Time)

Kathryn Leigh Scott: Maggie Evans, Josette Du Pres Collins, Rachel Drummond, Lady Kitty Soames Hampshire, Maggie Evans Collins (Parallel Time)

Lara Parker: Miranda Duval/ Angelique Duval Brochard Collins Rumson/Cassandra Collins/Valerie Collins, Angelique Stokes Collins (Parallel Time) Alexis Stokes (Parallel Time), Catherine Harridge Collins (Parallel Time)

Thayer David: Matthew Morgan #2, Ben Stokes, Professor T. Eliot Stokes, Sandor Rakosi, Count Andreas Petofi, Timothy Eliot Stokes (Parallel Time), Mordecai Grimes, Ben Stokes (Parallel Time)

Jerry Lacy: Tony Peterson, The Reverend Trask, Reverend Gregory Trask, Mr. Trask (Parallel Time), Lamar Trask

John Karlen: Willie Loomis #2, Carl Collins, William H. Loomis (Parallel Time), Desmond Collins, Kendrick Young (Parallel Time)

Diana Millay: Laura Murdoch Radcliffe Stockbridge Collins

Dennis Patrick: Jason McGuire, Paul Stoddard

David Ford: Sam Evans #2, Andre Du Pres

Roger Davis: Peter Bradford, Jeff Clark, Ned Stuart, Dirk Wilkins, Charles Delaware Tate

Joel Crothers: Joe Haskell, Lt. Nathan Forbes

Don Briscoe: Thomas “Tom” Jennings, Christopher “Chris” Jennings,  Timothy “Tim” Shaw, Chris Collins (Parallel Time)

Humbert Allen Astredo: Nicholas Black, Evan Hanley, Charles Dawson, Great-Grandfather Dawson

Lisa Richards: Sabrina Stuart, Sabrina Stuart (Parallel Time)

Mitch Ryan: Burke Devlin #1 (as Mitchell Ryan)

Anthony George: Burke Devlin #2, Jeremiah Collins

Robert Rodan: Adam

Clarice Blackburn: Mrs. Sarah Johnson, Abigail Collins, Minerva Trask

Dana Elcar: Sheriff George Patterson #1

Christopher Pennock: Jebez “Jeb” Hawkes, Dr. Cyrus Longworth (Parallel Time), John Yaeger (Parallel Time), Sebastian Shaw, Gabriel Collins, Gabriel Collins (Parallel Time)

Michael Stroka, Aristede, Bruno, Bruno Hess (Parallel Time), Laszlo Ferrari

Marie Wallace: Eve (Danielle Roget), Jenny Collins, Megan Todd

Addison Powell: Judge Matigan, The Voice of Jeremiah Collins, Dr. Eric Lang, Judge Wiley

Robert Gerringer: Dr. David “Dave” Woodard #2

Jim Storm: Gerard Stiles (Ivan Miller), Judah Zachary (while possessed), Gerard Stiles (Parallel Time) (as James Storm)

Kate Jackson: Daphne Harridge, Daphne Harridge Collins (Parallel Time)

Terry Crawford: Beth Chavez, Edith Collins

David Hennesy: David Collins, Daniel Collins, Jamison Collins, Count Andreas Petofi (while possessed), Daniel Collins (Parallel Time), Tad Collins

Denise Nickerson: Amy Jennings, Nora Collins, Amy Collins (Parallel Time)

Virginia Vestoff: Samantha Drew, Samantha Drew (Parallel Time)

Keith Prentice: Morgan Collins (Parallel Time), James Forthsye (Parallel Time)

Frank Schofield: Bill Malloy

Written by: Dan Curtis, Art Wallace, Ron Sproat, Malcolm Mamorstein, Sam Hall, Gordon Russell, & Francis Swann

Directed by: Dan Curtis, Lela Swift, Henry Kaplan, John Sedwick, & Sean Dhu Sullivan

Synopsis: Vampires, Witches, Warlocks, Werewolves, Ghosts, Occultists, and Satanists all ascend on the great estate of Collinwood, where the Collins family suffers a series of curses for past misdeeds. Only distant relation Barnabas Collins, afflicted with the Vampire Curse, is able to save his family from those who would destroy them.

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Long before Stephanie Myers conceived highly romanticized and enticing vampires and werewolves in her Twilight saga, there was the highly popular and well loved ABC Soap Opera Dark Shadows. Created by Dan Curtis as a homage to Gothic Literature, Gothic Films, Folklore, and Classic Movie Monsters, Dark Shadows was the only Soap Opera of the 1960’s to have an audience made up of teenagers and young adults due to its relevance of the re-emerging popularity of Horror films. Oddly enough the series started out as standard Soap Opera Melodrama with hints of the Gothic and Supernatural, but with encouragement from family and friends, Curtis slowly directed his writers into pure Horror based story-lines and characters. While the heroes and heroines remained the same, the villains were now vampires, witches, warlocks, werewolves, and ghosts, all still in the tradition of Simon Legree, Frankenstein’s Creature, and Larry Talbot.

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Originally the main focus of the series was Victoria Winters and her search for her true identity. Curtis always maintained his initial concept was a dream of a young woman entering a castle on a foggy night, with smatterings of Jane Eyre thrown in for good measure. As time progressed and more emphasis was put on homages to Universal Horror films, Victoria Winters primarily acted as the damsel in distress characters had to save from the machinations of evil characters. When actress Alexandra Moltke left the series to get married and have her son, the character was written out as deciding to live in the past with love interest Peter Bradford, seemingly stuck in suspended animation. Years after the series itself ended actress Joan Bennett told an interviewer that Victoria was to be revealed as her character’s daughter, whom she gave up for adoption. When the surviving cast gathered together for a special radio style drama reading to celebrate one of the show’s anniversaries,  in Elizabeth Collins Stoddard’s will, she confesses Victoria is in fact her oldest daughter and implores her other daughter Carolyn to find her and return her to Collinwood.

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What ended up making the show a hit, in spite of it’s initial star deciding to leave the series, was the casting of Canadian stage actor Jonathan Frid as the remorse-filled Vampire Barnabas Collins. Frid’s portrayal of Barnabas as a genuinely good man who made a brief series of poor decisions that led to his eventual predicament made him not only a romantic figure for a generation of young women, but a cultural icon for generations to come. While many may hold Frid responsible for vampires losing their fear appeal and turning them into Romantic personas, Frid never-the-less started a new trend of vampires who didn’t lose their humanity and retained a sense of sympathy from the audience. Ironically Frid had originally signed on only for a 13 Week stint as Barnabas and at the end was to be killed off, but the audience reaction to him was so positive that he was changed from a Soap Opera version of Dracula to a lovable and heroic selfless man who spent everyday atoning for his sins and mistakes.  After Frid’s introduction, a wave of other monsters graced the halls of Collinwood including witches, two Frankenstein like creatures, warlocks, Satanists, werewolves, etc. and made the show what it is today.

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Many venerable film and TV actors, previously well known and later well known, graced the series with their presence including Hollywood great Joan Bennett, Mitch Ryan, Dennis Patrick, Thayer David, John Karlen, Dana Elcar, Abe Vigoda, and Anthony George. Most of the cast however was made up of Theater performers like Nancy Barrett, David Selby, Jerry Lacy, Grayson Hall, Joel Crothers, David Ford, Lara Parker, etc, looking to branch into Television, some making it into other roles, others known only for the series itself. Kathryn Leigh Scott and Alexandra Molkte were recent graduates of the New York Academy of Dramatic Arts and Dark Shadows was literally their first acting roles ever. While some continued to later successes and others fizzled not long after the series ended, they are all still admired by fans past and present, and make appearances at the many conventions held yearly in honor of the series.

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With a cast made up of a plethora of Theater actors, the show developed a kind of repertoire feel and a continuous feel as well to it.  As Dan Curtis only had so much in terms of money to work with, the cast often found themselves playing their own ancestors or other characters in general when they entered into the past or other dimensions, which lended  to the show’s success in a big way. By having the actor’s play multiple roles, it made the universe they were in feel very real and very authentic. This also led people who enjoyed Theater as well to feel like they were watching a continues play that came on 5 days a week on TV, again giving more nostalgia as the years progressed. No other series, Soap Opera or otherwise had done it before or since, with the occasional exception here and there , and again adds to the uniqueness that has made it the classic it is.

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Time Travel, Science Fiction, Horror, Gothic Romance, and even some Comedy permeated the series and were used to great effect. The story-lines taking characters to the 1790’s, 1890’s, 1840’s, and even the 1680’s and 1660’s allowed viewers to get as realistic an interpretation as possible how people of those eras and periods behaved, interacted with each other, and even to certain extant, spoke. Everything from the clothes to the lighting, even certain euphemisms were done with as much authenticity without having the actors be in any kind of discomfort and disadvantage. The use of other dimensions, mad science, raising the dead, and creating new species all bring to life the world of Sci-Fi/Horror hybrid.  Science going in directions that would to man’s enslavement or demise wasn’t tackled too much within Dark Shadows, but was done enough that it allowed something different from the standard Horror affair. The works of the Bronte sisters, Stoker, Poe, Lovecraft, Stevenson, James, and even Wells abound in plot elements of the series, and offer their own unique twist on the classics.

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The only thing really to complain about with the series was the consistent continuity errors in terms of the historical timeline of it and the reference to past events. Things were constantly changing in terms of the character’s past, and events & lives changed as a result of what Barnabas and company was able to prevent happening in the past that directly affected the current state of the Collins family. With so much being fooled around with and changed, viewers and even the cast themselves were uncertain as to the proper history of the characters and of the events that occurred within. These errors tended to have the series get made fun of a little, but for those truly entranced by the series, these issues and glitches fade away and the show’s fine essence is all that matters.

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Whether people love it or hate Dark Shadows has withstood the test of time and brought new meaning and new ideas to the world of Horror and Gothic Drama and Fantasy. Rich characters and stories kept viewers tuning in every week for five years. Even when its decline became apparent with poor rehashing’s of previously successful plots, viewers still wanted to see what would happen to the residents of Collinwood, and remained loyal to the end. Syndication and fans wanting to see episodes on home media brought the show back from obscurity and has garnished an entire new generations of viewers and devoted fans. Actresses Kathryn Leigh Scott and Nancy Barrett have stated in interviews that the fans they meet always amaze them, some even going as far as legally changing their names to that of a member of the Collins family and in one woman’s case getting permanent fang implants from her dental surgeon. The fan base might be a little crazy, but it’s a love they don’t go overboard with.

(This is one series I can watch for hours and hours and not be bored with. I highly, highly recommend it for anyone looking for something totally different and unique that’s also a love letter to Classic Horror and the Gothic. The entire series is on DVD in single editions, and a giant boxset. I normally list the items for purchase below, but given there are over 30 sets of 40 episodes apiece, it would take too much time to sort it all, but feel free to check out Amazon, where the sets are between $25-$30. I also recommend checking out the first 209 episodes which pre-date the arrival of Barnabas, and are just as good. I also highly advise avoiding Tim Burton’s 2012 film version, as while he’s an admirable fan, his version does little justice to the classic original, and changes the backstories far too much)

All images courtesy of Google.com/Google Images

For more information

IMDB/Dark Shadows 1966-71

Wikipedia/Dark Shadows 1966-71

The Dark Shadows Wikia

http://www.DarkShadowsOnline!.com

I also recommend checking out Kathryn Leigh Scott’s books about the series. She has chronicled her own life within the series, the series itself, and the popularity it has enjoyed throughout the years. The books are very good and Scott has some amazing stories to tell about her fellow cast members.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Filed under: TV: Analysis/Overview, TV: Special Topics

What to Watch in Horror….

And Why

by Tony Nash

Here’s a little list of the film’s I’ve reviewed and those I’ve seen but haven’t reviewed as of yet, and why Horror film fans should give them a try and look.

Häxan (1922)

Haxan, or: Witchcraft Throughout the Ages (1922) ***** – Written & Directed by: Benjamin Christensen, Starring: Benjamin Christensen, Astrid Holm, Maren Pedersen, Tore Teje, Clara Pontoppidan

Synopsis: An early documentary style film about the various forms of Witchcraft and the logical interpretation of their causes.

A must for those who love documentaries and scary films. Christensen’s make-up as Satan himself is both comical and frightening. Showcasing both the superstitions and the truths that lay behind them, viewers will be amazed and enlightened by what Fear of the Unknown does to the human mind.

Körkarlen (1921)

Körkarlen (The Phantom Carriage) (1921) *****- Written & Directed by: Victor Sjöström, based on a novel by Selma Lagerlöf, Starring: Victor Sjöström, Astrid Holm, Tore Svennberg, Hilda Borgström, Lisa Lundholm, Tor Weijden

Synopsis: A drunkard dies just as midnight strikes on the New Year, and a dying nun prays he won’t become the Coachman of Death.

For those who enjoy Dickens’ A Christmas Carol and the idea of spirits redeeming a forsaken man to live right. The mood and atmosphere are very ripe for Horror and Fantasy fans and gives audiences hope for people while also scarring them.

Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens (1922)

Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens (Nosferatu, Nosferatu – A Symphony of Horror) (1922) ***** – Directed by: F.W. Murnau, Written by: Henrik Galeen, based on Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Starring: Max Schreck, Gustav von Wangenheim, Greta Schroeder, Alexander Granach, Gustav Botz, John Gottowt

Synopsis: The sinister Count Graf Orlok has his sights set on the city of Berlin for new victims to satisfy his thirst for blood when the locals of Transylvania find spells and incantations to repel him. Only a man named Hutter and his wife Ellen can foil his plot.

The make-up for Max Schreck (whose surname means Terror in German) is the main selling point of this feature. It’s fame came mostly from Bram Stoker’s estate suing F.W. Murnau for copyright infringement and the film nearly becoming lost forever. Seen by some as the most accurate retelling of the Dracula story, the film’s atmosphere and the consistent sense of foreboding help make the film a must for any fan of Horror.

Vampyr (1932) ***** – Directed by: Carl Th. Dreyer, Written by: Carl Th. Dreyer & Christen Jul, based on the short story Carmilla by J. Sheridan Le Fanu, Starring: Julian West, Maurice Schultz, Sybille Schmitz Rena Mandel, Jan Hieronimko, Henriètte Gerard, Albert Bras, Georges Boidin

Synopsis: Allan Gray, a young man enamored of the Occult, finds himself drawn into the world of the Undead as he makes plans to rescue the daughters of a murdered aristocrat from a long dead Vampire and her Doctor assistant.

While more of an Art-House item than an entertainment, there’s more than enough to satisfy Horror buffs. The imagery and lighting alone is enough to draw anyone into its web.  The dream like atmosphere offers an interesting interpretation of time and place in context of the tale, leaving audiences to wonder if what they, and the lead character, are seeing is real.

The Mummy (1959)

The Mummy (1959) ***** – Directed by: Terence Fisher, Written by: Jimmy Sangster, Starring: Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, Yvette Furneaux, George Pastell, Eddie Byrne, Felix Aylmer, Raymond Huntley, Michael Ripper

Synopsis: After father and son archeologists Stephen and John Banning, along with relative Joseph Whemple, open the tomb of Egyptian Priestess Princess Ananka, cult devotee Mehemet Bey vows revenge for the desecration. When his father is institutionalized after going mad and then murdered, John begins to suspect something strange is afoot. When Bey suddenly moves to England with a strange case, the mystery deepens. The story of a High Priest buried alive for his blasphemous love of the Princess figures into events.

See my review

La maschera del demonio (1960)

La Maschera del Demonio (The Mask of the Demon, The Mask of Satan, Black Sunday) (1960) ****1/2 – Directed by Mario Bava, Written by: Ennio De Concini, Mario Serandrei, Mario Bava, Marcello Coscia, & Dino De Palma, from the tale by Nikolay Gogol (as Nikolaj Gogol) Starring: Barbara Steele, John Richardson, Andrea Checchi, Ivo Garrani, Arturo Dominici,

Synopsis: A doctor and his mentor accidentally bring a long dead Witch back to life after visiting her tomb prison. When the mentor mysteriously vanishes, the young doctor takes up residence with the local royal family the Vajda’s where he discovers the witch was their ancestor, who swore revenge when her brother had a mask hammered onto her face and she bled to death. The daughter’s uncanny resemblance to the witch has her father worried the curse is neigh, and strange goings on begin to happen.

See my write up

Vincent Price, John Kerr, and Barbara Steele in Pit and the Pendulum (1961)

The Pit and the Pendulum (1961) **** – Directed by: Roger Corman, Written by Richard Matheson, based on the short story by Edgar Allan Poe, Starring: Vincent Price, Barbara Steele, John Kerr, Luna Anders, Antony Carbone, Patrick Westwood

Synopsis: A young man looking into the presumed death of his sister comes across the shameful secret of his brother-in-law: his father was a bloodthirsty Spanish Inquisitor, and he’s fearful he’s inherited the man’s madness. When both men believe the dead woman has come back as a ghost, more secrets will be revealed.

One of the more restrained, straightforward Roger Corman/AIP made Poe films. While more of a Gothic Thriller than Horror, Price’s character’s recollection of his father’s murderous deeds years earlier make for good scares and dread. Corman and Matheson’s inclusion of the inherited guilt/sins of the father theme makes for a nice deeper meaning for later events in the film. While Price goes into some Melodramatic theatricals at a turning point in the film, the cast plays it mostly as if the events could happen in real life.

Tales of Terror (1962)

Tales of Terror (1962) **** Directed by: Roger Corman, Written by: Richard Matheson, based on three tales by Edgar Allan Poe, Starring: Vincent Price, Peter Lorre, Basil Rathbone, Debra Paget, Joyce Jameson, Maggie Pierce, Leona Gage, & David Franklin

Synopsis: Three tales by Edgar Allan Poe, each having a theme of revenge after death.

For those looking for traditional Horror with a little Dark Comedy at the center. The first of two Anthology Films based on Poe’s work mixes some of his tales together but the end result is genuine fun and creepy entertainment with fine acting from the entire cast. Cinematography and lighting are the highlights of the film.

I tre volti della paura (1963)

I Tre Volti della Paura (The Three Faces of Fear/Black Sabbath) (1963) ***** Directed by Mario Bava, Written by: Marcello Fondato, Alberto Bevilacqua, & Mario Bava, based on tales by Anton Chekhov (as Chekhov), Aleksei Tolstoy (as Tolstoi), Guy de Maupassant (as Maupassant), & F.G. Snyder, Starring: Boris Karloff, Michèle Mercier (as Michele Mercier), Mark Damon, Jacqueline Pierreux, Lidia Alfonsi (as Lydia Alfonsi), Susy Andersen, & Milly (as Milly Monti)

Synopsis: Three separate tales, set in three different places & eras, all dealing with tales of fear and the supernatural.

The first tale Il Telefono (The Telephone) is more of a Mystery/Suspense?Thriller rather than Horror (please see my write-up of that piece), but I Wurdalak (The Wurdalak) and La Goccia d’Acqua (The Drop of Water) are full on Horror pieces. Both are ripe with dread, atmosphere, and brooding, relying on lighting to heighten the sense of Horror. Not conventional by any means, Horror buffs looking for something totally different from the American and German Expressionist periods is in for a real treat as they go against all conventions of the genre.

The Gorgon (1964)

The Gorgon (1964) PG-13 **** – Directed by Terence Fisher, Written by: John Gilling, based on a story by: J. Llewellyn Devine, Starring Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Barbara Shelley, Richard Pasco, Patrick Troughton, Michael Goodlife, & Prudence Hyman

Synopsis: After his brother is found hung and his father turned to stone, a university student begs his Professor, who is knowledgeable on the Occult, to come and help him find the culprit. The locals insist it was Megaera, the surviving sister of Medusa, the Greek monster who turned people to stone. The Professor’s suspicions fall immediately on the local area doctor who seemed very anxious to have the brother’s death declared a suicide. The doctor is definitely hiding something, but everything seems to revolve around his nurse, an amnesic.

See my review

I lunghi capelli della morte (1965)

I Lunghi Capelli della Morte (The Long Hair of Death) (1965) PG-13 *** ½ = Directed by: Antonio Margheriti (as Anthony Dawson), Written by Ernesto Gastaldi (as Julian Berry), Tonino Valeri (as Robert Bohr) and Antonio Margheriti, Starring: Barbara Steele, George Ardrisson, Halina Zalewska, Umberto Raho (as Robert Rains), Laura Nucci (as Laureen Nuyen, Giuliano Rafaelli (as Jean Rafferty), & Nello Pazzafini (as John Carey)

Synopsis: In the 15th Century, a woman is wrongfully accused of witchcraft and burned alive. Her eldest daughter, believing the patriarch of the royal family seduced her to prevent her giving testimony to clear her mother, is thrown from a cliff by the man when she vows to expose him and the real culprit. The younger daughter, taken in by the remorseful servants, grows up despising the family. Not long after, a horrible plague in retaliation for the wrongful death hits the village. When the son reveals to his father he committed the crime the dead woman was executed for, the father rages because of him the village is doomed. Days later a mysterious beautiful woman arrives, and the plague suddenly ends.

See my write up

The Devil Rides Out (1968)

The Devil Rides Out (The Devil’s Bride) (1968) PG-13 ***** – Directed by: Terence Fisher, Written by: Richard Matheson, based on the novel by Dennis Wheatley, Starring: Christopher Lee, Charles Gray, Leon Green, Patrick Mower, Nike Arrighi, Sarah Lawson, Paul Eddington, Rosayln Landers, & Gwen Ffrangcon Davies

Synopsis: When Duc de Richleau and Rex Van Ryn prevent their deceased Army friend’s son Simon from becoming a member of a Satanic cult, the duo must rely on the Duke’s knowledge of the Occult to keep the group’s evil leader Mocata from taking revenge. Taking refuge at the Duke’s niece’s country château, the group spends the night fighting off the demons at Mocata’s command.

See my review

 

Blood from the Mummy's Tomb (1971)

Blood From the Mummy’s Tomb (1971) R ***** – Directed by Seth Holt, Written by: Christopher Wicking, based on the novel Jewel of the Seven Stars by Bram Stoker, Starring: Valerie Leon, Andrew Keir, James Villers, Mark Edwards, Rosalie Crutchley, Hugh Burden, George Coulouris, & Aubrey Morris

Synopsis: As she reaches her birthday, Margaret Fuchs begins having bizarre dreams, including visions of a beautiful Egyptian Queen having her hand severed and mummified alive. When her father Julian Fuchs, an Egyptologist, gives her a ring as an early birthday present, the dreams become more intense and her personality seems to change into that of the Queen. It’s soon discovered Julian and several colleagues had unearthed the tomb of an evil sorceress named Tera, who was also a ruler of Egypt at just the same time Margaret was born. Why do the two events seem connected?

See my review

Dr Jekyll & Sister Hyde (1971)

Dr. Jekyll & Sister Hyde (1971) R **** – Directed Roy Ward Baker, Written by: Brian Clemens, suggested by The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson, Starring: Ralph Bates, Martine Beswick, Gerard Sim, Susan Brodrick, Lewis Flander, Paul Whitson-Jones, Dorothy Alison, & Philip Madoc

Synopsis: Determined to find a way to extend human life, Dr. Henry Jekyll utilizes the hormone glands of murdered young women, which he believes holds the key to longevity, in his experiments. Upon testing it on himself, Jekyll turns into a beautiful, but cold woman calling herself the widowed Mrs. Hyde, whom Jekyll says is his sister. When Jekyll’s forced into murdering local area prostitutes for the glands to continue his work, “Sister” Hyde begins to exert her control more and more on him, to the point she plans to murder the woman Jekyll’s come to love.

See my review

Vincent Price and Virginia North in The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971)

The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971) PG-13 ***1/2 Directed by: Robert Fuest, Written by: James Whiton & William Goldstein, Starring: Vincent Price, Joseph Cotton, Virginia North, Terry-Thomas, Hugh Griffith, Caroline Munro, Sean Bury, Susan Travers, Norman Jones, John Carter, John Laurie, Maurice Kaufmann, & Edward Burnham

Synopsis: A deformed and disfigured artist wreaks a terrible vengeance on the 10 people whom he blamed for his accident and his wife’s death. Inspired by the Book of Exodus, the man recreates the 10 plagues of Egypt, each of the 10 dying more elaborately and gruesomely than the other.

Vincent Price in his last hurrah for AIP and Horror, is at his devilish and funniest in his role as Anton Phibes. A man both sympathetic and loathsome, viewers watch in awe and shock as he takes down the people he sees as the murderers of his lovely wife in a vein similar to that of Moses against the Pharaoh of Egypt. Bordering between tasteful and absurd killings, this very different Horror film takes the genre into a whole new direction.

Gatto Nero (Black Cat, The Black Cat) (1981) R *** ½ , Directed by: Lucio Fulci, Written by: Biagio Proletti & Lucio Fulci, suggested by the short story by Edgar Allan Poe, Starring: Patrick Magee, Mimsy Farmer, David Warbeck, Al Civer, Dagmar Lassander, Bruno Corazzari, Geoffrey Copleston, & Daniela Doria (as Daniela Dorio)

Synopsis: A British Police Inspector and an American Journalist team up to find the answers to several mysterious and sometimes gruesome murders that seem connected, but no motive or suspects exist. Circumstantial findings lead them to the home of a local professor of the Occult and supernatural who has a very nasty and violent house cat.

See my review

This list is primarily for those who want something different in their Horror Films and for those who only know Modern Horror and Slashers, and would most likely enjoy some of the more Old School Horror. These are only suggestions, but I’m sure there’s something here for everyone to pick out and enjoy. I would like to express that I don’t consider the majority of Italian Giallos, with a few exceptions, as Horror Films, and view them as Mystery Thrillers so you won’t be seeing any of them here.

All images courtesy of IMDB

For more info

IMDB & WIkipedia: Haxan

IMDB & WIkipedia: The Phantom Carriage

IMDB & WIkipedia: Nosferatu

IMDB & WIkipedia: Vampyr

IMDB & WIkipedia: The Mummy 1959

IMDB & WIkipedia: Black Sunday 1960

IMDB & WIkipedia: Pit and the Pendulum 1961

IMDB & WIkipedia: Tales of Terror

IMDB & WIkipedia: Black Sabbath

IMDB & WIkipedia: The Gorgon

IMDB & WIkipedia: The Long Hair of Death

IMDB & WIkipedia: The Devil Rides Out

IMDB & WIkipedia: Blood From the Mummy’s Tomb

IMDB & WIkipedia: The Abominable Dr. Phibes

IMDB & WIkipedia: Dr. Jekyll & Sister Hyde

IMDB & WIkipedia: The Black Cat 1981

 

 

 

 

 

 

Filed under: Film: Special Topics

An Obscure Icon Under the Radar:

Il Maestro dell’Orrore

by Tony Nash

(any and all opinions are of the author alone)

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In a horror film, lighting is 70% of the effectiveness. It’s essential in creating the atmosphere. – Mario Bava

Mario Bava, cited by many as the King of Italian Horror, was so much more: cinematographer, special effects man, writer, jack of all trades. His beginnings were as a protégée and assistant to his father Eugenio Bava, a sculptor and artist. Bava would recollect years later his father could be difficult and a borderline tyrannical, but the two did get along well and Bava even asked for his father’s skills in some of his early directorial efforts. Eugenio had worked as a cinematographer and special effects master on the Italian silent film Cabiria in 1914, often viewed as the first big success of the Italian film industry, prompting Mario to follow in his father’s footsteps. Bava was both an astute student and a fast learner as it wasn’t long before he was getting cameraman work in several “B” budget co-feature efforts that did fairly. His first big “A” grade film was Guardie e Ladri (Cops and Robbers), a Comedy-Drama starring the famed Italian comic Toto and character actor staple Franco Fabrizi. Another point in Bava’s favor as a cameraman was La Donna piu Bella del Mondo [Lina Cavalieri] (The Most Beautiful Woman in the World/Beautiful But Dangerous), a costume Drama Italian-US co-production starring Gina Lollobrigida, Vittorio Gassman, and Robert Alda. Bava’s specialty was fine lighting, cool camera angles, and panning to entice mood and atmosphere.

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Bava’s biggest success came as a special effects man. His work on the short-lived Peplum period including the big budget Ulisses (Ulysses) starring Kirk Douglas and Anthony Quinn, Le Fatiche di Ercole (The Labors of Hercules/Hercules), Ercole e La Regina di Lidia (Hercules and the Queen of Lydia/Hercules Unchained), and La Battaglia di Maratona (The Battle of Marathon/The Giant of Marathon), all starring US bodybuilder turned actor Steve Reeves. He also got his opportunity to direct some scenes of Reeves 2nd Hercules film, and also on his period adventure film Agi Murad il Diavolo Bianco (Hadji Murad the White Devil/The White Warrior). Bava never initially intended to become a director, but it was clear he had talent, and his years as a cinematographer made him perfect for the position as he’d be able to tell the cameraman where to exactly aim the lens. His friend and early collaborator Riccardo Freda gave Bava the chance to show what he could do as the main director with Caltiki il Mostro Immortale (Caltiki the Immortal Monster), Italy’s attempt at the Hollywood Monster movie. The film made history by being one of the first films to discuss the possibilities of how the Mayan people worshipped and what their deities might have looked like. While the movie had to be credited to Freda due to contractual reasons, he always insisted later in life that the film be referred to as Bava’s debut as a director. The film was a moderate success/hit, but didn’t have enough steam to steer the Horror genre into a new sub-category.

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I didn’t want to be a director because, in my opinion, a director must be a true genius – Mario Bava

In 1960, Bava would cement his place in the Italian film and Italian Horror industry with his “technical” debut Il Maschera del Demonio (The Mask of the Demon/The Mask of Satan/Black Sunday) about a 16th century Witch Princess who vows to retake the throne from her traitorous brother’s descendants. It was in this early period that Bava would show he was more than just a Horror director, doing his own sword-and-sandal films: Gli Invasori (The Invasion/Erik the Conqueror), Ercole al Centro della Terra (Hercules in the Center of the Earth/Hercules in the Haunted World), and I Coltelli del Vendicatori (Knives of the Avenger) – films ranging from tales of Vikings to Hercules battling the Underworld itself to inventing the Giallo (Italian style Mystery Thrillers): La Ragazza che Sapeva Troppo (The Girl Who Knew Too Much), 6 Donne per L’Assassino (6 Women for the Murderer/Blood and Black Lace)  and 5 Bambole per la Luna d’Agosto (Five Dolls for an August Moon) to Westerns: La Strada per Forte Alamo (The Road to Fort Alamo) and Roy Colt e Winchester Jack (Roy Colt and Winchester Jack), though Bava wasn’t a huge fan of the Westerns he made. Being so versatile allowed Bava to take on array of work, usually with very fine results, always earning a profit and praise from audiences, though the critics wouldn’t get it until years later.

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Bava’s only complaint during this prolific and consistent period was his forced association with the US film company AIP (American International Pictures). Owners Samuel Z. Arkoff and James H. Nicholson would often order heavy editing on Bava’s films when they came over to the States, as often the Italian versions dealt with topics that were still taboo for American audiences. While this was understandable to a degree, this often meant changing the story around in the dubbing so much to fit with the cuts, Bava’s films became totally different, losing the effect and power he originally intended for it. Only with Ercole al Contro della Terra, 5 Donne per l’Assassino, and Operazione Paura (Operation Fear/Kill, Baby, Kill…) did Bava not have to deal with Arkoff and Nicholson’s interference, as the majority of his 60’s work was co-financed by AIP. The biggest blow to Bava’s film work at the time was the complete re-edit of I Tre Volti della Paura (The Three Faces of Fear/Black Sabbath), particularly Il Telefono (The Telephone), totally destroying Bava’s intentions. Bava’s health was nearly destroyed by all these forced compromises to his integrity, but the want to provide well for his wife and sons, as well as encouragement from other Italian filmmakers convinced Bava to go on with what he loved. Bava would gladly welcome the arrival of the 1970’s when his contractual obligations to Arkoff and Nicholson were finished and he could go his own way.

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To celebrate his liberation from AIP, Bava finally got the opportunity to make a film he’d been writing and thinking about for nearly a decade. Lisa e il Diavolo (Lisa and the Devil), a surreal and spiritual exploration of a woman’s decent into madness and all forms of Satanic worship was to be Bava’s culmination of all the things he was famous for and his crowning career achievement. Sadly, the studios were dismayed and confused by the very artful way Bava did the film, the producer completely re-editing it against Bava’s wishes. This complete butchering totally shattered any confidence Bava had in doing the kinds of films he wanted ever again. Work as special effects wizard and cameraman on the films and made for TV movies of colleagues and newcomers allowed Bava to keep busy and shop around ideas to the producers of said films. Bad luck hindered the completion and release of the Crime Thriller Cani Arrabblati (Rabid Dogs/Kidnapped), bringing more frustration for Bava, but did convince producers he still had his touch and deserved another chance. He began writing treatments again and as things began looking promising with a big studio backing of a Science Fiction film Bava wanted to make, the Horror Maestro died in his sleep of a heart attack.

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Bava’s memory and films were kept alive by VHS, DVD, and Blu Ray releases, and the homage paid him by filmmakers like Martin Scorsese, Quentin Tarantino, Dario Argento, and Luigi Cozzi. His son Lamberto, who studied under him, made some films in the 80’s and 90’s that echoed his style, but were completely Lamberto’s creations. While not talked about as much as contemporaries like Argento, Lucio Fulci, Sergio Martino, and Ruggero Deodato, Bava gave the Italian Horror and Giallo industry many of the motifs and themes they would become staples of the movements. His praises might not be sung from the rooftops, but his influence is clearly evident in Horror films of the 80’s and early 90’s. A director who is need of more recognition then what he’s been getting.

Movies are a magician’s forge, they allow you to build a story with your hands – at least that’s what it means to me. What attracts me in movies is to be presented with a problem and be able to solve it. Nothing else; just to create an illusion, an effect, with almost nothing. – Mario Bava

(Mario Bava is one of my all time favorite directors. It took some years before I fully realized his genius and how great of a filmmaker he was, but he’s now up there on my list of greats with Spielberg, Scorsese, Kurosawa, Melville, and Rosi. I recommend any film he’s made from 1959 to 1971 as that was his time of par excellence. All of his films as director and writer are available on DVD and Blu Ray, so fans can take their pick of what to check out. Arrow Video offers some of the best transfers and extras for his films and are often the most comprehensive versions. Most of their Bava releases are Region B so Region Free Blu Ray players are required. Kino-Lorber offers fair versions here in the US for those who don’t have or are unable to afford Region Free players)

All images are courtesy of Google.com/Google Images

All quotes courtesy of IMDB’s Mario Bava page

For more information

IMDB/Mario Bava

Wikipedia/Mario Bava

Mondo-Esoterica/Mario Bava

BFI/Mario Bava

Filed under: Film: Director Spotlight, Film: Special Topics

Battle of the Sexes, Hammer Horror Style

Hammer’s Dr. Jekyll & Sister Hyde

by Tony Nash

(#6 in The Month of Hammer Horror)

(Spoilers will be present)

(all opinions are of the author alone)

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Dr. Jekyll & Sister Hyde (1971) R ****

Ralph Bates: Dr. Henry Jekyll

Martine Beswick: (Sister) Mrs. E. Hyde

Gerald Sim: Professor Robertson

Susan Brodrick: Susan Spencer

Lewis Flander: Howard Spencer

Paul Whitsun-Jones: Sergeant Danvers

Dorothy Alison: Mrs. Spencer

Philip Madoc: Byker

Neil Wilson: The Older Policeman

Ivor Dean: William Burke

Tony Calvin: William Hare

Julia Wright: The Street Singer

Written by: Brian Clemens

Loosely adapted from the Novella The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson

Directed by: Roy Ward Baker

Synopsis: Determined to find a way to extend human life, Dr. Henry Jekyll utilizes the hormone glands of murdered young women, which he believes holds the key to longevity, in his experiments. Upon testing it on himself, Jekyll turns into a beautiful, but cold woman calling herself the widowed Mrs. Hyde, whom Jekyll says is his sister. When Jekyll’s forced into murdering local area prostitutes for the glands to continue his work, “Sister” Hyde begins to exert her control more and more on him, to the point she plans to murder the woman Jekyll’s come to love.

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Hammer Films, in the early seventies, began welcoming independent filmmakers to showcase their talents. An early case led to a unique adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic Science Fiction shocker of Good vs. Evil The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.  In this version of the story, Dr. Jekyll is hoping to find a way to increase longevity in people, so he can find the cure to various diseases plaguing England. While a test proves his formula works, Jekyll is puzzled why the male fly he used for the test suddenly showed signs of female anatomy. Testing it on himself leads to the birth of a woman who slowly becomes mad upon realizing how she came to be. Writer Brian Clemens, most famous for two hit British TV series, The Avengers and The Professionals, takes Stevenson’s concept of Good vs. Evil and places it within the roles of men and women in Victorian era London. Dr. Jekyll is very quiet and dedicated to his work, with little interest in a social or married life, Mrs. Hyde, on the other hand, is very outgoing, full of vigor and spirit, hating the idea of being cooped up in one place. When Hyde starts becoming the more dominant and vicious personality, Jekyll must find a way to break free of his predicament. In a way the film becomes both a battle of wills and a battle of the sexes, as the audience wonders which personality, and gender, will win the final test of endurance.

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An interesting note for those who also enjoy History is the film’s inclusion of the infamous duo Burke and Hare. Burke and Hare were 19th century petty thieves who turned to murder and grave robbing for profit. Like in the film the majority of the bodies they pilfered from cemeteries were for the local medical schools to practice dissection and organ transplants. A historical inaccuracy in the film is that the duo’s murderous rampage didn’t begin with one doctor like Jekyll in need of a major supply, but because so many medical schools were in need of cadavers, the supply quickly dried up. Also different is how the duo met their ends. In real life they were tried and executed for their acts and in the early stages of the film are shown as being lynched by the locals of the ghettos for their actions. Also, the two were nowhere near England, but in Scotland when the revelation of what they were doing became public knowledge.

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Alan Bates, a British character actor whose career dwindled when Hammer made an unsuccessful attempt to have him become Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee’s successor when the veterans grew tired of Hammer’s offers, is actually quite good and sympathetic in the role of Dr. Henry Jekyll. Much like the character of the novella, Bates plays Jekyll as only wishing to benefit mankind, but in this version he’s looking for a way to extend and preserve the quality of life rather than finding out what makes men good and evil. Bates has Jekyll as a shy and unassuming man, very much like how he is most film adaptations and the book itself, but also adds a touch of the introverted as he seems to have no interest in love or a social life. Unlike the novel version of Jekyll, who realizes some ends never justify the means, Bates’ Jekyll resolves there can be no other course but to break the law to find his answers and thus begins to murder the prostitutes of London. It isn’t too long before he realizes the error he’s made when the female alter-ego of his experiments, Mrs. Hyde, begins taking over his body and mind, resulting in Jekyll’s realization of a friend’s warning not to meddle in certain elements of nature. While his behavior becomes increasingly erratic, Bates balances this out with Jekyll’s late recognition of humanity and love of fellow beings in trying to protect his upstairs neighbors, a sister and brother who’ve become close to him and his “sister”. While equally similar and different, Bates manages to keep Stevenson’s original concept of a good man destroyed by his own intentions alive and well.

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Martine Beswick, a Jamaican-Naturalized British-American actress who’s most famous for her appearances in the James Bond films From Russia with Love (she’s one of the two Gypsy cat fighters) and Thunderball (as an MI-6 agent and friend of Bond’s), and as Raquel Welch’s rival in the Hammer/Ray Harryhausen co-production One Million Years B.C., is beautiful, expressive, and vicious as Mrs. Hyde. Ironically the role had been offered to up-in-coming actress Caroline Munro, who turned it down because of the nude scenes, and in a way the film is actually better for it as Beswick had a great talent for playing wicked women very well. Like the book, Mrs. Hyde is Jekyll’s polar opposite: outgoing, sociable, and romantic. Also like the book counterpart, Hyde is very aggressive and lets very little get in her way. The character is very much in the vein of the modern woman: self-assured, assertive, intelligent, and wanting control of her own destiny. While it’s plausible for this to be seen as an attack on New Wave Feminism, because Mrs. Hyde is depicted as ultra-evil without any concept of right or wrong, not caring who she kills to prolong her existence audiences have no reason to see her as a woman to be discouraged.. What Beswick and Bates collaborate on is the uncertainty if Hyde is a completely separate personality the moment Jekyll takes the formula or if she gradually comes into her own as an individual with each regression. How Beswick makes Hyde even more frightening is that she clearly is the stronger persona of the two, very aware of what she wants. This configures back to Stevenson’s original concept the more volatile personality tended to be the stronger one if the originating personality was a little on the weak side.

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Another interesting note to history buffs is the parallel of the film to the figure known as Jack the Ripper. The method in which Jekyll, and then Hyde, kill their victims is very similar to how the Ripper was known to kill his prey. The idea that Dr. Jekyll/Mrs. Hyde was in fact Jack the Ripper is an interesting analogy as it certainly would explain the choice of prostitutes as the victims and the revelation that the murders were performed with the proficiency of a surgeon/physician. While the year the film is set in is never mentioned, that the newspapers refer to Jekyll/Hyde’s crimes as the Whitechapel Killings is a clear indication of the Ripper’s MO and style. Ralph Bates even dresses similarly to the fiend with a top hat and cape, thus completing the effect.

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A truly different take on one of the many classic literature of the 19th century, Dr. Jekyll & Sister Hyde offers thrills and some chills, and a unique mystery that leaves those who discover the truth dumbfounded and shocked. Bizarre and intriguing, the film shows what Hammer could’ve easily accomplished if they hadn’t relied so much on low-end blood and gore vampire films. Like with Blood From the Mummy’s Tomb, the film mixes suspense with a brooding atmosphere and interesting characters that leave the viewer wondering how events are going to play. The nice mixture of historical figures and legends into the fictitious story adds a nice touch as it gives an interesting what if scenario to real life happenings. While the idea of gender bending transformation at the time seemed very implausible, strides were being made in sex change operations, and the options for today’s transgender communities has flourished greatly. Whether the film can be seen as an insight into things to come as far as gender is anyone’s personal viewpoint, what is known is that it’s a fine film with an interesting premise and unique ideas.

(Like with Blood From the Mummy’s Tomb, the R rating is solely my own personal one, given the nudity and violence, though the violence is shown through shadows and minimal blood. I do recommend it for those looking for something different in Horror in general or would like to see a different take on the Jekyll/Hyde story. The UK Blu Ray and DVD look very well with fine transfers and decent audio and extras.)

All images courtesy of Google.com/Google images and their respective owners

For more information

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0068502/?ref_=nv_sr_3?ref_=nv_sr_3

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dr._Jekyll_and_Sister_Hyde

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Jekyll-Sister-Hyde-Doubleplay-Blu-ray/dp/B0753Q3JYS/ref=sr_1_1?s=dvd&ie=UTF8&qid=1539798959&sr=1-1&keywords=dr.+jekyll+and+sister+hyde

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Doctor-Jekyll-Sister-Hyde-DVD/dp/B0039LAPSE/ref=sr_1_2?s=dvd&ie=UTF8&qid=1539798959&sr=1-2&keywords=dr.+jekyll+and+sister+hyde

(Note: Since the Blu Ray also includes a DVD, I’m not sure if the original DVD release is still eligible for shipping to the US, though this may change over time)

Filed under: Film: Analysis/Overview, Film: Special Topics

The Curse Always Finds a Way

Hammer’s Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb

by Tony Nash

(#5 in The Month of Hammer Horror)

(Spoilers may follow)

(All opinions are of the author alone)

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The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb (1964) PG-13 ****

Terence Morgan: Adam Beauchamp/Biel

Ronald Howard: John Bray

Fred Clark: Alexander King

Jeanne Roland: Annette Dubois

George Pastell: Hashmi Bey

Jack Gwillim: Sir Giles Dalrymple

John Paul: Inspector Mackenzie

Dickie Owen: The Mummy of Ra-Antef

Michael Ripper: Achmed

Bernard Rebel: Prof. Eugene Dubois

Michael McStay: Ra-Antef

Written & Directed by: Michael Carreraes (credited as Henry Younger on screenplay)

Synopsis: An archeological expedition team led by a British explorer and a greedy American entrepreneur is slowly picked off one by one by the resurrected Mummy of a murdered Prince of Egypt, fulfilling the prophecy of death to those who disturb Egypt’s tombs. A mysterious gentleman named Adam Beauchamp weaves his way into the fray for unknown reasons and then falling in love with the team’s Egyptologist/Linguist, who’s engaged to another man.

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Hammer’s second Mummy film, made about seven years after the original, takes a very different approach to the character/franchise than the Dracula and Frankenstein sequels. Instead of doing continuity based sequels, the Mummy films went into different years and decades, dealing with new characters and new Mummies. This go around has a team of archeologists dealing with the mysteriously resurrected Mummy of a murdered Egyptian Prince who begins killing off the people associated with pilfering his tomb. Things get even more complicated by a P.T. Barnum like American promoter who refuses to heed the warnings of the strange goings on and a very mysterious interested third-party who never seems to hint at his interest in the Mummy or his legend. While simple in plot, the film’s colorful characters, atmosphere, mood, and lightening accentuate the feel director Michael Carreraes intended for the film, and elevate it beyond its average status. Also by not knowing who among the group might be responsible for the Mummy’s reawakening adds to the tension as anyone could be the guilty party. With everyone in the dark as to why and how this Mummy got brought back makes for a nice head scratcher.

Dickie Owen in The Curse of the Mummy's Tomb (1964)

Another point in Hammer’s favor for the film is the completely original screenplay by Michael Carreraes. Carreraes takes the traditional idea of the desecration of a Mummy’s tomb the tragedies that befall the people who discover it, and it gives it his own unique spin on the tale. While Carreraes didn’t go for constant twists and turns, his keeping the audience and characters in the dark as to who was behind the Mummy’s revival and that person’s interest in his being reborn injects a nice amount of mystery and intrigue that allows the audience to play detective along with some of the characters.

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Terence Morgan, a fairly popular British matinée idol of the 50’s, makes a very unusual though very well-played role as the vague and mysterious Adam Beauchamp. Morgan plays him up as a man who seems naturally interested in Ancient History, particularly Ancient Egyptian History, and tags along as the group studying the Mummy and the artifacts found with him try to figure out the mystery of the Prince’s death and the key to sending him back to eternal rest. Morgan gets to revisit his matinee roots and begins something of a romance with the sole female character of the cast and seemingly has genuine feelings for her, but something always seems amiss or not right in his courting her. Morgan has Beauchamp’s behavior become increasingly paranoid in finding the whereabouts of the Mummy and his increasing desire to come in contact the being itself. A startling revelation by the character near the film’s climax puts everything into perspective.

Fred Clark, a well-recognized and consistent American character actor of both films and television gets a rare opportunity to play an important role in the character of Alexander King. Modeled after showman P.T. Barnum, King is portrayed as only caring about how much money (ironically this wasn’t a stab at Capitalism of World interest) the Mummy and the treasure found with him can make him in a series of showings around the world. Clark, who commonly played shady and sleazy types, excels with King and his greedy ways, getting the audience to look at him as a foolish and miserly, hardly aware of the danger he’s put himself and others in for the sake of a small fortune. Having the character only see the financial gain of such finds and not the historical and folkloric proportions make what his fate ends up being all the more ironic.

George Pastell, who was the villain of the first Hammer Mummy film, gets to play a conscientious objector character in this film. His character, Hashmi Bey, is still akin to the Old Ways and believes fully in the curses of his ancestral land, but offers his assistance for the sake of his country’s treasures being properly preserved. Pastell is the only actor of the bunch who plays up an inner conflict within himself as he seems to regret allowing the greedy King to take the artifacts on tour and not insisting the original idea of placing them in museums be followed. It’s this honesty and integrity that what happens to him in the end all the more tragic and sad.

A nice sub-plot involving how the Prince came to be mummified and the unfinished business involving his traitorous brother offers an interesting possibility in storyline for later on in the film. By having this be presented as a detailed flashback with narration has viewers wondering how much importance the event being played out has on what might be the outcome of the plot.

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While it doesn’t differ much from its predecessors, Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb still offers great thrills, suspense, story, characters, romance, intrigue, and mystery. While a little flimsy in the story and certain character revelations seem a little contrived it still works and doesn’t harm the pace and flow of the story. That the Mummy franchise doesn’t follow a continuity continuance makes the series work much better as the Dracula and Frankenstein ones had so many errors they became somewhat ridiculous, but because the Mummy movies tell different stories with each film, there’s no reason for fans to say there’s no misleading connections or differences.  What it comes down to is that this Mummy film is a simple and effective crowd pleaser, where viewers can sit back with drink and popcorn and enjoy the ride. Carreraes does work in some moments of depth and creativeness, and the little he does put in helps the film very well.

(I do recommend this Mummy film, though it is middle of the road in its story and style. The UK company Indicator/Powerhouse has a fine Blu Ray transfer of the film with nice extras. The box-set it’s currently featured in is region free so US and UK fans can enjoy it. I had the Mill Creek Blu Ray version, but I sold it after finding the audio on it wasn’t correct on my initial viewing.)

All images courtesy of Google.com/Google Images and IMDB

For more information

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0057986/?ref_=nv_sr_3?ref_=nv_sr_3

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Curse_of_the_Mummy%27s_Tomb

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Hammer-One-Warning-Blu-ray-Region/dp/B074JS3XDN/ref=sr_1_1?s=dvd&ie=UTF8&qid=1539633960&sr=1-1&keywords=hammer+volume+1

Filed under: Film: Analysis/Overview, Film: Special Topics

Ghostly Revenge From Beyond the Grave, Twice:

Two Horrors of Barbara Steele

by Tony Nash

(The Month of Hammer Horror Intermission #2)

(All opinions are of the author alone)

(Spoilers)

(The Italian language versions of the films will be discussed)

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La Maschera del Demonio (The Mask of the Demon/The Mask of Satan/Back Sunday) (1960) PG-13 **** ½

Barbara Steele: Katia Vajda/Princess Asa Vajda (as Barbara Steel)

John Richardson: Dr. Andre Gorobec

Andrea Checchi: Dr. Thomas Kruvajan

Ivo Garrani: The Prince Vajda

Arturo Domincini: Igor Javutich/Javuto

Enrico Olivieri: Prince Constantine Vajda

Antonio Pierfederici: The Priest

Tino Bianchi: Ivan, a Servant

Mario Passante: Nikita, the Coachman

Written by: Ennio De Concini, Mario Serandrei, Mario Bava, Marcello Coscia, & Dino De Palma, from the tale by Nikolay Gogol (as Nikolaj Gogol)

Directed by: Mario Bava

Synopsis: A doctor and his mentor accidentally bring a long dead witch back to life after visiting her tomb prison. When the mentor mysteriously vanishes, the young doctor takes up residence with the local royal family the Vajda’s where he discovers the witch was their ancestor, who swore revenge when her brother had a mask hammered onto her face and she bled to death. The daughter’s uncanny resemblance to the witch has her father worried the curse is neigh, and strange goings on begin to happen.

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I Lunghi Capelli della Morte (The Long Hair of Death) (1965) PG-13 *** ½

Barbara Steele: Helen Karnstein/Mary Karnstein

George Ardrisson: Baron Kurt Humboldt

Halina Zalewska: Lisabeth Karnstein/Adele Karnstein

Umberto Raho: Father Von Klage (as Robert Rains)

Laura Nucci: Grumalda (as Laureen Nuyen)

Giuliano Rafaelli: Count Humboldt (as Jean Rafferty)

Nello Pazzafini: Monk, a Servant (as John Carey)

Jeffrey Darcey: Embougr, a Messenger

Written by: Ernesto Gastaldi (as Julian Berry), Tonino Valeri (as Robert Bohr), & Antonio Margheriti

Directed by: Antonio Margheriti (as Anthony Dawson)

Synopsis: In the 15th Century, a woman is wrongfully accused of witchcraft and burned alive. Her eldest daughter, believing the patriarch of the royal family seduced her to prevent her giving testimony to clear her mother, is thrown from a cliff by the man when she vows to expose him and the real culprit. The younger daughter, taken in by the remorseful servants, grows up despising the family. Not long after, a horrible plague in retaliation for the wrongful death hits the village. When the son reveals to his father he committed the crime the dead woman was executed for, the father rages because of him the village is doomed. Days later a mysterious beautiful woman arrives, and the plague suddenly ends.

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What makes these two films intriguing is that they feature the same actress in two very similar roles that offer similar goals and destinations, but the paths diverge completely on the why and motivations of the characters. In both films a woman comes back from the dead to avenge her murder and the murder of someone she cared about, but the circumstances leading to the deaths are totally different and what will be in store for them at the completion of their plot differ as well. The second film isn’t a remake of the first film nor do they share the same storyline, but they do share a theme and a similar time settings of the Old World. Madness and intrigue are some of the things that help push characters and story along, but are in some cases not always for the same things.

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In Maschera del Demonio, Barbara Steele plays a 16th Century witch and her 19th Century descendent, the witch is killed by her brother the prince for having devoted herself to Satan and for engaging in a perverse relationship with a half-brother. In Lunghi Capelli della Morte, Steele plays a young woman in the 15th Century is murdered trying to prove her recently executed mother was framed by the royal family for witchcraft and murder. Now in the first film Steele is playing an evil woman who intends on reclaiming her birthright through regeneration, but not before slaughtering the direct descendents of her treacherous brother. The second film has Steele as an ordinary good woman trying to save her mother from a fate she doesn’t deserve, and in the process of realizing the royal family’s willingness to take secrets to their graves ends up drowned, and later re-summoned to life to exact her family’s just revenge. While these two women are both out for revenge, what differentiates them is one is out to reclaim a birthright so she can rule the world in the name of Satan and the other is allowed to return to life to make sure the wrong done to herself, her mother, and sister is made right and the guilty will pay, with their life if necessary.

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The people behind the deaths also act for radically different as well. While Princess Asa’s brother the Prince genuinely wants to rid his kingdom of Asa’s evil, he also has his own agenda at play. Since he and Asa were (from the looks they give each other) jockeying for power, his condemning her as a witch also eliminates her as a political rival for the rule of the people, so in a way he’s killing two birds with one stone, making his actions one part justice and two parts covert scheming for his own ends. While it’s clear Asa was a danger, that the brother uses the people’s fear and superstition as a means of furthering his own ends causes a conflict of interest for the viewer as we never really know if the Prince was truly acting for the people or himself. Count Humboldt initially has no idea his son is a pervert and a killer, and really kills Helen out of pure fear that his standing as a just ruler of his people will be jeopardy upon the revelation he took advantage of the young lady which would lead to accusations he knew the truth and stopped it. His complete remorse upon the truth coming out makes him somewhat sympathetic as he really didn’t know. Baron Kurt on the other hand, is the prime example of inbred sexual deviancy, lust, and greed, having no remorse whatsoever he murdered his Uncle to get his inheritance and allowing an innocent woman to die for the crime. He even laughs that his father won’t expose him as it would destroy the family’s standing in both the community and the Church, leading to revolt among the people.

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Another key difference is one has a male hero, and the other doesn’t. John Richardson, who can be considered the romantic lead for Barbara Steele in the first film, but the second film’s technical male lead in Giorgio Ardrisson is actually the antagonist. That one helps the heroine and the other is the man she must stop is a very intriguing contrast as it offers a unique differential in how the heroine of Italian Horror can be both the damsel in distress and the courageous bringer of justice.

The acting in the films by some of the varied cast is fine as well.

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Barbara Steele offers three diverse and interesting performances. Her most nuanced performance is as Princess Asa Vajda, the witch. Steele is very animated, aggressive, intelligent, and self-assured in the role, giving audiences a clear idea of why Asa was to be feared. She comes off as very powerful and intent on fulfilling what she sees as her destiny, and really does let nothing or no one stand in her way, working her magic and hypnotism from her grave. One of the more interesting villains to come out of Italian Horror, it’s a shame Mario Bava and the writers couldn’t find a way to give Asa more time in the story and character development, though the little said about her is enough to give viewers a clear idea of what she wants to accomplish. That she grabs viewer attention is interesting to note too, as while audiences don’t necessarily want her to succeed, her presence and charisma have them wanting more of her. Princess Katia is a little more of a subdued character, but Steele still manages to keep her interesting by having her be sensitive, and clearly upset that her destiny might be to die so Asa can be reborn and take over the world. That she’s susceptible to emotions and the feelings of others make her integral to the story as this personality and trait make her the perfect target for demonic possession. As Helen Karnstein, Steele plays her as totally innocent and genuine in her goodness until her life is taken for fear she’ll ruin a prominent family in her village. When she’s allowed to return from the dead to exact her just revenge, she plays a mysterious woman who is crafty and stealthy, always playing hers and her mother’s murderer’s paranoia.

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Giorgio Ardrisson (credited under his stage name George Ardrisson) is incredibly demented and delirious in the role of Baron Kurt Humboldt. Normally known for his charming rouges who are generally good men, Ardrisson shows he was more than a pretty face with his role as the slimy and repulsive Baron who committed murder for money, then allowed an innocent to take the blame. While he starts the character as full of himself, Ardrisson displays well Kurt’s slow decline into madness and paranoia when he’s sure his actions have been discovered. By the end of the film he’s reduced to a complete rambling wreck on the verge of collapse. What Ardrisson does to keep the character a slime ball is have him also be something of a sexual predator, apparently lusting after the family ward since she was a child, then marrying her when she comes of age, making viewers wonder if there wasn’t a little inbreeding within the family that led to Kurt behaving so vilely or if he was just nuts. Andrea Checchi gives a very understated performance as Dr. Kruvajan, the mentor of the hero. Checchi gives one of the few accounts in Italian Horror of an otherwise good man who somehow gets sucked into the machinations of the evil Asa and becomes one of her undead servants. Checchi has Kruvajan not really wanting to be undead, but having no choice and even has him try to warn his protégé of the danger he faces in sticking around.

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While having more of a difference to each other rather than things in common, the idea of a woman coming back from the dead to enact revenge on those who killed her runs rampant throughout both and is the central context of both. Maschera del Demonio is the far superior film but Lunghi Capelli della Morte is still a fine atmospheric effort in spite of its clunky plot. The lighting of both is the highlight as it accentuates the atmosphere both Mario Bava and Antonio Margheriti intended the films to have. Two totally different films about ghostly revenge with totally different leading ladies who want different things to complete their quest and both having fine points in their storytelling that make them separate and unique.

(For anyone looking for something different, these are the two films to go with. I found both very well made, though Mask of the Demon was clearly the better film, Long Hair of Death having some continuity and story errors, but nonetheless still well made. The Arrow Video release of Mask of the Demon offers one of the best transfers of the visuals and offers the Italian audio with translated English subtitles and both English dubs. It’s Region B, so viewers will need region free players or a portable Blu Ray player. Kino Video has Blu Rays of the film, but only the English audio versions. 88 Films transfer of Long Hair of Death is excellent and again offers the Italian audio with translated English subtitles, and the English dub. Again this is a Region B release that requires region free players. Raro Video in the US offers a nice edition that includes both audio options)

All images courtesy of Google.com/Google Images and their respective owners

For more information

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0054067/?ref_=nv_sr_1?ref_=nv_sr_1

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Sunday_(1960_film)

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0058307/?ref_=nv_sr_1?ref_=nv_sr_1

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Long_Hair_of_Death

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Black-Sunday-Blu-ray-Tino-Bianchi/dp/B07895XNVG/ref=sr_1_9?s=dvd&ie=UTF8&qid=1539368073&sr=1-9&keywords=Barbara+Steele

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Long-Hair-Death-Blu-ray/dp/B06Y3K1KQF/ref=sr_1_2?s=dvd&ie=UTF8&qid=1539368073&sr=1-2&keywords=Barbara+Steele

https://www.amazon.com/Black-Sunday-Remastered-Barbara-Steele/dp/B008BWFOZA/ref=sr_1_5?s=movies-tv&ie=UTF8&qid=1539368244&sr=1-5&keywords=barbara+steele+blu+ray&dpID=51ie9jkYAuL&preST=_SY300_QL70_&dpSrc=srch

https://www.amazon.com/Black-Sunday-AIP-Version-Blu-ray/dp/B00PXDUICY/ref=tmm_mfc_title_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1539368244&sr=1-5

https://www.amazon.com/Long-Hair-Death-Blu-ray/dp/B00R33O65C/ref=sr_1_1?s=movies-tv&ie=UTF8&qid=1539368338&sr=1-1&keywords=barbara+steele+blu+ray&dpID=51ifTJVzCWL&preST=_SY300_QL70_&dpSrc=srch

 

Filed under: Film: Analysis/Overview, Film: Compare-Contrast, Film: Special Topics

Greek Mythology, as Envisioned by Hammer

Hammer’s The Gorgon

by Tony Nash

(#4 in The Month of Hammer Horror)

(Spoilers may follow)

(all opinions are of the author alone)

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The Gorgon (1964) PG-13 **** ½

Christopher Lee: Prof. Karl Meister

Peter Cushing: Dr. Namaroff

Barbara Shelley: Carla Hoffman

Richard Pasco: Paul Heitz

Patrick Troughton: Inspector Kanof

Michael Goodlife: Prof. Jules Heitz

Prudence Hyman: Megaera, the Gorgon

Joseph O’Coner: The Coroner

Jack Watson: Ratoff

Jeremy Longhurst: Bruno Heitz

Alister Williamson: Janus Cass

Toni Gilpin: Sascha Cass

Written by: John Gilling, based on a story by J. Llewellyn Devine

Directed by: Terence Fisher

Synopsis: After his brother is found hung and his father turned to stone, a university student begs his Professor, who is knowledgeable on the Occult, to come and help him find the culprit. The locals insist it was Megaera, the surviving sister of Medusa, the Greek monster who turned people to stone. The Professor’s suspicions fall immediately on the local area doctor who seemed very anxious to have the brother’s death declared a suicide. The doctor is definitely hiding something, but everything seems to revolve around his nurse, an amnesiac.

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Hammer Studios, always looking for new subject matter to expand their output, had one time turned to the fables of Greek Mythology for inspiration. A loose rendition of the Medusa legend, this go around saying she was one of three sisters, the youngest one, named Megaera, somehow fleeing to Germany where she terrorizes the locals. The plot element of people dying upon being turned to pure stone was an early ingenious effort by Hammer, and was certainly a welcome change from their Dracula and Frankenstein adaptations. What also made the film unique is that it was of the few Hammer Horror films to set in a totally different country. Most times the films would start out in another country and at some point the action and ending would return to England, in this case the characters and events are all set in and around Germany. Hammer also delves a little into the ghost story, something they didn’t do much of unfortunately, as the Gorgon appears to be more of an entity rather than a living being, presumably taking a living body as a host to commit its mayhem. That the Gorgon has her own image means at one period she was a living, breathing woman, suggesting that over the years that man’s loss of its Old World ignorance led to her losing much of her power and being forced into the form of a spirit.

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This idea also offers something of a contradiction as the people of the small hamlet, save for the ones who’ve been educated in the big cities, have a very real and terrifying belief in Megaera. With this in mind it seems strange she hasn’t been able to manifest herself into a full concrete form to terrorize without having to shed whatever host she utilizes after a while. This is never explained fully in the film and makes a kind of hindrance to the back-story as the beginning hints at Megaera having been situated in the city for quite a number of years.

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Christopher Lee, one of England’s many venerable character players, delights in one of his first good guy roles as Prof. Meister. While his performance is regulated to mainly the last half of the film, his character’s knowledge of the Occult plays a huge part in the figuring out the truth behind the events. Lee portrays Meister as a Van Helsing type who deals more in the world of entities of mythology and folklore rather than the undead. Appearing as very much cultured and educated in the modern sensibilities, Meister is fully aware even Old World traditions have a grain of truth to them, whether literal or metaphorical, and cautions everyone he meets to not take what he says lightly. Lee makes the role more interesting by having his character not delve into the melodramatics of other actors to play Van Helsing or characters that resemble him, keeping him as a realistic and believable as possible. That he maintains a calm and cool rationale makes the danger the populace is facing all the more frightening as the so called “smart locals” shrug off his warnings and knowledge, constantly arguing there’s a real world explanation to it all. Lee has his character take on the responsibility to end the terror as his protégé and favorite student has become too personally involved in the matter and that someone he has grown to care for may be somehow involved in the plot.

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Peter Cushing, Hammer’s resident hero, gets an even rarer opportunity to play a full on bad guy in Dr. Namaroff. Right from his first scene on screen, Cushing has Namaroff acting very suspiciously, clearly having some knowledge of what is really going on. Seeing Cushing playing a completely deceptive type who allows a dead, but innocent man to be held as responsible for the death of a young woman found turned to stone was shocking at the time as Hammer fans knew him primarily as good guys or generally decent men driven to insane desperations for what they see as the good of humanity. That he has no regrets about his actions adds to this idea of menace about the character and Cushing plays this aspect to the best of his abilities. Cushing adds a bit of warped romance to the character as he clearly shows a devotion and affection to his nurse/assistant, but if he is truly admirable is still up in the air. That he seemingly does all this for the sake of her seems strange, and makes his actions even more bizarre as the audience wonders what the woman has to do with the case. This warped affection will lead to Namaroff’s undoing.

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Barbara Shelley, an underrated and under discussed British leading lady and character actress is mysterious and sublime as Carla Hoffman. An émigré from another part of the country, Carla is a woman without a past and what may or may not be a grim future. Shelley portrays her as a woman who remembers nothing prior to several years ago when she ended up in the little hamlet village from a bigger city, and still has occurrences of blackouts to which everything is a complete blur. Her presence in the town seems to have intensified Megaera’s attacks, but her actual connection to the entity can’t be determined. Shelley also play up Carla as a mysterious enigma that no one can seem to figure out, seemingly coming and going at will with no rhyme or reason to her being there. Whether she knows something about what is going on inside of her is unknown, and Shelley portrays that as maybe a subconscious effect. She then falls for the man trying to figure out how and why his father and brother were killed and this genuine romance leads to revelations that will be shocking for the community and outsiders alike. Her genuine goodness will add to events that will prove heartbreaking.

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Doctor Who fans will be excited as Doctor #2 Patrick Troughton makes a supporting appearance as a Police Inspector who seems more concerned with keeping his superiors and Government officials happy than finding out the truth in the horrible deaths occurring right under his nose. Troughton, who was known as a lovable eccentric both on and off camera, gives a surprisingly good performance as the hard nose cop, whom it is never known is on the take or not when it comes to crimes of an unusual nature. While he doesn’t seem too willing to adhere to Dr. Namaroff’s ideas, but because the governing body of the city doesn’t want mass hysteria building up, accepts whatever the doctor and coroner have decided. Towards the end it seems apparent he agrees with the view outsiders like Prof. Meister and Paul Heitz aren’t to be allowed to roam free.

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The film’s only flaw is of course the make-up used for Prudence Hyman as the Gorgon, but in spite of that the film is still very enjoyable, suspenseful, and atmospheric. Star Christopher Lee maintained throughout his life the poor monster make-up hurt the film greatly, and in some ways he was right, but it doesn’t hurt the film so much its other aspects can’t be appreciated and still have it as part of the pantheon of fine British Horror. A good, if in some ways far-fetched, story, interesting characters, a little tragic romance, and some very good practical effects enliven this spectacle a great deal and make the film a well worth watch for aficionados and newcomers alike. The Thriller aspect is at play as well, as the audience, and some of the characters, don’t know who to trust and what could really be going on.  A very interesting take on a popular Mythology, Horror style.

(This one might be a little flimsy, but it still comes highly recommended as an underrated item from the Hammer vaults. There’s a US Blu Ray from a company called Mill Creek, but several reviewers previously have not recommended it for poor audio quality. I had this release myself, but never viewed it after reading one of the reviews. The UK and Australia releases are the recommended better releases both for visual and audio and are fairly inexpensive, one of which is part of a box set)

All images courtesy of Google.com/Google Images and their respective owners

For more information

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0058155/?ref_=nv_sr_1?ref_=nv_sr_1

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Gorgon

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Hammer-One-Warning-Blu-ray-Region/dp/B074JS3XDN/ref=sr_1_1?s=dvd&ie=UTF8&qid=1539192690&sr=1-1&keywords=hammer+volume+one

https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/offer-listing/B01M1CDR9T/ref=tmm_blu_new_olp_sr?ie=UTF8&condition=new&qid=1539192762&sr=1-1

 

 

Filed under: Film: Analysis/Overview, Film: Special Topics

So Beautiful, But So Evil is Tera

Hammer’s Blood From the Mummy’s Tomb

(#3 in The Month of Hammer Horror)

by Tony Nash)

(Spoilers present)

(All opinions are of the author alone)

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Blood From the Mummy’s Tomb (1971) R *****

Andrew Keir: Professor Julian Fuchs

Valerie Leon: Margaret Fuchs / Queen Tera

James Villars: Mr. Corbeck

Mark Edwards: Tod Browning

Rosalie Crutchley: Helen Dickerson

Hugh Burden: Geoffrey Dandridge

George Coulouris: Professor Berrigan

Aubrey Morris: Dr. Putnam

Tamara Ustinov: Veronica

Written by: Christopher Wicking

Based on the novel Jewel of the Seven Stars by Bram Stoker

Directed by: Seth Holt (post production and reshoots by Michael Carreras)

Synopsis: As she reaches her birthday, Margaret Fuchs begins having bizarre dreams, including visions of a beautiful Egyptian Queen having her hand severed and mummified alive. When her father Julian Fuchs, an Egyptologist, gives her a ring as an early birthday present, the dreams become more intense and her personality seems to change into that of the Queen. It’s soon discovered Julian and several colleagues had unearthed the tomb of an evil sorceress named Tera, who was also a ruler of Egypt at just the same time Margaret was born. Why do the two events seem connected?

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Hammer’s final Mummy film takes a very dark and atmospheric look at the subject and plot. Made in the era when they started to lean more towards sex and violence to keep up with new Horror trends, this one comes right in the middle with enough sexuality and violence to be effective, but not overbearing. Taking a page from the Boris Karloff original, the Mummy character is the actual villain of the piece instead of a devoted cult member reciting spells to bring the creature to life. The events depicted go into the true supernatural, forces from beyond pulling and driving the characters to their eventual fates. Gone is the plot device of revenge for the desecration of a tomb and the fanatical zealot who’s determined to see to it the decree of the curse is upheld, instead a power-hungry sorceress looking to dominate the world and become humanity’s supreme ruler is the main focus of the film. Also gone is the classic bandaged/shambling Mummy character and instead a very beautiful, jewel incrusted-flowing robed, frozen in a deep slumber Queen who is awaiting to be awaken so she can finish her plans dominates the screen. Another nice touch is that the events are all a part of prophesy that was foreseen long ago.  This completely different turn around the classic genre provides a new and interesting take on a type of film that had become stale to an extent, as at the time there was little to improve Mummy films on.

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An interesting point of note is that the film was based off of the little known Bram Stoker novel Jewel of the Seven Stars, which deals in exactly the same plot. Characters and plot elements are switched from book to film, but on the whole is a fairly faithful adaptation to the source material. In a surprising turn, Hammer managed to improve on Stoker’s original ending and made it much more ambiguous, mysterious, and scary. As Stoker’s original title didn’t seem appropriate for a Horror film and the writers and producers stuck on what to actually call it, settled on the somewhat lackluster, at the time, Blood From the Mummy’s Tomb,  though given what happens to the majority of the film’s characters now seems a very appropriate title.

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Valerie Leon, an actress whom Hammer planned on having as a companion sex symbol to other leading lady Ingrid Pitt, is wonderful, alluring, and even a little frightening in the dual role of Margaret and Queen Tera. As Margaret, Leon plays her as a woman who wanted to lead a normal life until learning her father’s stumbling on to the resting place of the most evil woman in the world led her to be reborn in the woman’s image and as the vessel for her to return to life and to rule over humanity with an iron fist. Both intrigued and frightened by what could very well happen Leon has Margaret straddle between her own identity and the identity of Queen Tera’s, at times enjoying the power and confidence Tera wields. As Queen Tera, Leon portrays her as a tyrant looking to extend her stronghold on the world well after her lifetime. What makes her scary is the dark powers at her command and the self assuredness she wields it with. The opening moments of the film have her summoning spiritual jackals to kill the priests who have just mummified her in a death like slumber and severed the hand that was the source of her abilities and this really helps to clarify how powerful and dangerous she is. That she pre-ordained those who would discover her and the woman who would vessel her spirit in the 20th century again shows the extent of what she can do. Even though the majority of the film has her in the death like sleep, just looking at her has viewers getting this feeling she is not someone to take lightly.

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Andrew Keir, who could be looked at as a poor man’s Peter Cushing, as he often took roles Cushing either wasn’t interested in doing, or was already attached to another film, is quite good in the role of Prof. Fuchs. Unlike his colleagues of the expedition, Fuchs is somewhat aware of the terrible fate that awaits humanity from what he uncovered long ago. Keir plays Fuchs as a man who doesn’t want to ensure Queen Tera’s rebirth on Earth, but forces and powers beyond his control keep pushing him to act on the Queen’s behalf. This aspect makes Fuchs a tragic figure as he knows the truth, but is also completely powerless to stop it. This harkens back to stories in Science Fiction, in that there are many things out there in the universe that man isn’t meant to know and men like Fuchs and colleagues must pay the ultimate penalty for it. Keir has Fuchs make desperate attempts to warn both Margaret and her boyfriend of the looming danger, but injuries and other circumstances prevent his doing so. Both he and Margaret realize towards the end they must break away long enough to put an end to the nightmare, even at the costs of their lives.

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James Villars, a now somewhat forgotten British character actor, is a slimy delight as the mad and greedy Corbeck. A former colleague of Prof. Fuchs who was also a member of his expedition to Tera’s tomb, Villars recognizes the Queen as his key to power and fortune, willingly obeying the silent signals she transmits from beyond the grave. It ends up being Corbeck who helps the events move along and the tragedies that befall the other members of the expedition, hoping to ensure Queen Tera rises. Villars takes over the zealot character previously played by George Pastell, John Carradine, Roger Delgado, and Turhan Bey, but instead of being a loyal follower of a Cult sworn to protect the tombs of Egyptian Pharaohs, he’s completely out for himself, desiring only the wealth and prestige he believes Tera can obtain for him when he helps to resurrect her. Villars plays Corbeck as so obsessed with his own gains he fails to realize Tera is a force and power he can’t hope to control and will surely be her first victim when she eventually rises from her slumber.

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Two other interesting, albeit sad notes, to the film’s history, was the departure of the original lead actor and the death of the original director. Peter Cushing was set to play Prof. Fuchs, a nod to his appearance in the 1959 original, but a call of his wife’s declining health on the first day of shooting forced the actor to depart and care for the woman he loved. Seth Holt, the director, had completed most of the shooting, when one day he suddenly collapsed on set and was pronounced dead not long after of a heart attack. Michael Carreras, a long time writer, producer, and director for Hammer, who was producing the film, stepped in to finish the last days of shooting, and some retakes while in post-production, but because little of what Holt shot had to be changed drastically, Carreras insisted Holt’s name be kept as the sole director.

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One item that would’ve greatly added to the film would’ve been some flashback sequences showing what Tera was like while she was alive, as she’s only animated toward the end of the film. Such scenes would’ve helped her characterization greatly and made her even more menacing and scary than she already was. This omission doesn’t hurt the film in any way, though their inclusion would have added even more intrigue and suspense.

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Brooding, atmospheric, and eerie, Blood From the Mummy’s Tomb is a truly original and unique take on the classic Horror theme. It really is unlike anything ever seen before and is really a shame that it didn’t revive the franchise for future projects as the ending clearly left the door open for a sequel. It’s a not a talked about film as much as many other Hammer films, but is certainly a underrated and hidden gem that deserves reevaluation and rediscovery. The first of Hammer’s Mummy films offered a great reinterpretation of the original American version and the fourth and final film offered a complete recycling and revamping of the genre that took it in a whole new direction, once again showing how diverse and creative Hammer was.

(This is my 2nd favorite Mummy film and 2nd favorite Hammer film. When I first viewed the UK DVD last year, I was thrown for a loop how eerie and dark it was, but impressed and  in awe at the same time at how different it was. My R rating is my own personal one, as while it’s rated PG in the US, the UK rating is 15 and Australia has it as M/R +18 due to a brief nude scene and the sudden bursts of throat ripping. The rating is totally up to personal tastes and what each individual sees as overly violent, but I felt R was appropriate for my blog. This one I highly recommend for those interested in seeing what else can be done with Mummy films. The DVD and Blu Ray from the UK and the Blu Ray from Australia are both excellent in quality and audio.)

All images courtesy of Google.com/Google Images and their respective owners

For more information

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0068290/?ref_=nv_sr_1?ref_=nv_sr_1

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blood_from_the_Mummy%27s_Tomb

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Blood-Mummys-Tomb-Doubleplay-Blu-ray/dp/B0753P27VH/ref=sr_1_1?s=dvd&ie=UTF8&qid=1539031260&sr=1-1&keywords=blood+from+the+mummy%27s+tomb+blu+ray

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Blood-Mummys-Tomb-Andrew-Keir/dp/B000KRMZCE/ref=tmm_dvd_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1539031260&sr=1-1

https://www.amazon.com/Blood-Mummys-Tomb-Blu-ray-Andrew/dp/B07SRF1NK2/ref=pd_sbs_74_1/131-2583089-0403115?_encoding=UTF8&pd_rd_i=B07SRF1NK2&pd_rd_r=31809c85-d092-4616-9f9a-c989994aa658&pd_rd_w=xfzAw&pd_rd_wg=KYZPP&pf_rd_p=d66372fe-68a6-48a3-90ec-41d7f64212be&pf_rd_r=WWFVBNY1KPHAPA6V0NGJ&psc=1&refRID=WWFVBNY1KPHAPA6V0NGJ

https://www.blu-ray.com/movies/Blood-from-the-Mummys-Tomb-Blu-ray/193968/

Filed under: Film: Analysis/Overview, Film: Special Topics