The more I looked for someone to feature in my third go around of ‘Slumming With”, it became painfully obvious that Samantha Eggar has done her fair share of low budget fodder of the horror variety. Now that might include The Brood from noted director David Cronenberg but that’s not the direction I wanted to go though I did check out another Canadian film that she graced with her appearance that I’ve featured here. It’s not that Miss Eggar descended into the horror genre either. If one looks at her credits early on she appeared opposite the likes of Cary Grant, Sean Connery, Rex Harrison in the original Doctor Dolittle but still she starred in the underrated William Wyler film The Collector which is a thriller at heart and one that is highly recommended. In 1963 before more prestigious productions came along, she appeared opposite Donald Pleasence in the genre pic, Dr. Crippen. She would go on to appear in all kinds of TV shows from Columbo to Starsky and Hutch, TV movie remakes like Double Indemnity yet find the time to appear in Welcome To Blood City or The Uncanny.
So here are three new to me titles featuring Samantha Eggar who I first encountered years ago while discovering both The Brood and The Molly Maguires on weekend VHS rentals.
Miss Eggar takes center stage literally as this Canadian production opens up with her running through a monologue for her director and assumed lover, John Vernon. Cut to Vernon having her committed to an asylum for the mentally ill. This segment leads to what is probably the creepiest parts of the film. Eggar isn’t actually in need of professional help but rather, she’s researching a role for Vernon’s next film production. A true student of “The Method.” Her ward mates are more than a little off their rocker and had me believing they’re putting Samantha around the bend herself. I was quickly reminded of poor Anna Lee’s predicament in the Lewton chiller Bedlam.
Now what if Vernon turns his back on her? After all he had her legally committed.
Next thing we know is Vernon has announced in the trade papers that six wannabe actresses are looking for their big break and he is personally going to look them over at his secluded countryside home. He also might try his luck at bedding each one as well to see who wants the starring role the most in his highly anticipated film. Things get a bit complicated when Eggar turns up having apparently escaped the asylum looking for her pound of flesh and the role she believes to be hers.
Cue the masked killer to begin narrowing the field of actresses up for the coveted part. I must say the mask involved here is one freaky looking piece of rubber with scraggly hair to match. Just which one of our weekend guests is under the latex, I’m not saying. Might it even be the director himself who has a definite kink for putting down women? Perhaps Samantha has come out of the nuthouse crazier than her inmates and is the one yielding all sorts of weapons to remove her competition. Then again she just might be the classic red herring.
Along with John Vernon is another well known actor in Canadian cinema, a very young and lean Maury Chaykin joining in this Samantha Eggar terror. Despite the uneven pacing it’s a passable slasher flick of the era after the dye was cast by Jason and Michael Myers and while I may forget most of the film in a year or two, that mask might stay with me in nightmares for years to come.
The Dead Are Alive (1972)
Based on the cover and the description on the blu ray slip for this Euro production, I thought I was about to embark on a ghoulish tale of the risen dead when in reality I got a Giallo styled thriller that could have come from the likes of Argento.
Leading an Etruscan archeological dig is leading man Alex Cord. He’s there to photograph the findings while at the same time attempt to win back his former flame, our featured star, Samantha Eggar. Eggar has taken up with “The Maestro”, John Marley. It’s become a habit that anytime I see someone conducting an orchestra, I can’t help but think of Seinfeld and “The Maestro” character. Marley is as surly as ever with his shocked white hair and when part of this flick takes place in a stable I damn near hollered at the screen to warn all the horses that this man carries death to any horse he backs. Beware the beheadings!
In true slasher/horror fashion, sex isn’t a very healthy thing when a young couple decide to partake in some heavy petting in your handy dandy tomb. I mean where else would you want to seduce the girl next door? Cue the POV camera shot and some heavy breathing as someone or something leaves our young lovers battered and bloodied with plenty of red ketchup. The same thing will occur with another rowdy couple who decide to take their pleasures in the hayloft.
Imagine your an actor handed a script in the horror genre and told you’re to read for a specific part. As soon as the scene turns to sex, you pretty much know that on the following page your time on the set and accompanying pay schedule is about to be terminated as the make up wizard douses you with goblets of red goo.
Back to the movie.
Cord is quickly becoming suspect number one over the killings and his past transgressions are coming to light. It seems that he’s an angry alcoholic who claims to be on the wagon and doing his best to convince Miss Eggar that Marley is the real villain here. Entanglements and giallo twists are just around each corner of the tomb as this inventively filmed thriller from Armando Crispino comes to it’s bloody payoff.
No big shakes here but it could have been worse.
Now I can’t honestly say that I’ll watch either of these first two features starring England’s own Samantha Eggar ever again but I do know that the third feature will require multiple viewings in the years to come. For all the wrong reasons.
Demonoid : Messenger of Death (1980)
Samantha Eggar takes center stage this time out for director Alfredo Zacharias’ thriller that involves a severed left hand that has the spirit of the devil upon it and takes refuge in various hosts, wreaking havoc for fellow star players Stuart Whitman who did a bit of slumming himself in his later years and Roy Jenson. Jenson is one of those faces you’re sure to recognize from the seventies in both movies and TV. Pretty much cast as a villain in most appearances.
Jenson is running a mining operation in Mexico and when he and his wife Eggar discover an ancient torture chamber, they unknowingly open a hand shaped artifact that frees the spirit of the evil hand from it’s prison. That spirit will now take refuge in poor Jenson’s left hand and of course the only way to rid oneself of the problem is too sever that sucker. Where’s Bruce Campbell and that chainsaw when you need him?
Jenson’s on the run and soon after blowing the mine entrance can be found using that hand to good fortune in Vegas. Criminals take notice and the film picks up the gore quotient when his left hand decides to defend it’s host. Like Campbell, Jenson seeks to sever his hand but has a serious setback resulting in his own death. Once Eggar tracks her hubby down, she’ll turn to local Priest Stuart Whitman sporting an Irish brogue when he feels like it to help her destroy the evil that took Jenson’s life. It isn’t Jenson’s dead body they need to worry about because our evil is going to find a new host.
Whitman may be playing a man of the cloth but that doesn’t mean he can’t play tough. Perhaps a little sparring in the local gym against a much younger opponent might prove to audiences worldwide that Whitman still has that tough guy appeal. Thankfully he has his crucifix on because his sparring partner is the current host of evil and packs a heck of a left hook. It’s a fast moving plot when Miss Eggar winds up fighting off first a cop who wants his hand severed and then a doctor who intends to do the same. It seems as if everyone wants to gift their left hand to her. Whitman is beginning to believe that there is an evil presence and saves our fair damsel for the time being. Now they’ll team up to send this evil hand back to hell.
Taking refuge in the church may be their only hope in the final battle between our rubber prosthetic and Sam and Stu. Who says women never get the heroic roles in movies?
It’s a warped edition of The Exorcist meets The Beast With Five Fingers and it’s best viewed in a room full of like minded film fans who enjoy a good bad movie. Don’t miss it!
Released in dual versions, be sure to watch the gorier of the two, Demonoid as opposed to the softer version, Macabra. Now if I could only get my hands on the original one sheet. Looks way to cool to pass up.
Anyone have a Samantha Eggar recommendation? Guilty pleasure or not.