While I don’t need any excuse to watch me some classic horror films, there’s always an added flavor to them once the Halloween festivities roll around. As is my custom I try to watch scares from different eras of the genre and maybe even a sci-fi film or two. That doesn’t mean I won’t throw a curveball here and there with a western, comedy or any old classic.
On to the roll call in between innings of the MLB playoffs.
Ssshhhh ….. The Silent Film Project.
The Bells (1926)
Aside from knowing that Boris Karloff appeared in this film as a Mesmerist when he was still relatively unknown, I really had no idea as to where the plot would take me. The film stars Lionel Barrymore as a kindly Innkeeper who is in line to become the next Burgomaster of his local village.
He’s always available for a monetary “touch” against the wishes of his wife and Father-in-law. It’s no wonder. The mortgage is due and he needs 6000 Francs to meet the deadline. Life could be so much easier if he’d just give the hand of his daughter, Lola Todd, to the lecherous Gustav von Seyffertitz who holds the paper on the property.
Now that’s a plot I can deal with. What I didn’t see coming is the plot twisting itself to a grisly murder and a guilty conscience.
Barrymore seizes the opportunity to murder a traveler in the midst of a snowstorm. One with a heavy money belt full of gold that will deliver our leading player from poverty and seeing his family put out on the street. I won’t spoil the film for those who may be interested in this journey back through time or the Boris fans out there. For the record, Boris, had plenty more screen time than I expected and plays an integral part to the story as it unfolds.
At just over one hour in length, the film is easy to shoehorn into your schedule and is available on home video if you can locate it.
Murders In the Rue Morgue (1932) Bela Lugosi gets this as a consolation prize once he was rejected for James Whale’s Frankenstein. Same with director Robert Florey who was to direct the Shelley tale with Bela in the Monster’s role. Either way I’ve always liked Bela in this one with his curly hair though I find the film week overall.
The Black Cat (1934) One of the great horror films of the decade starring the legendary team of Boris and Bela. I’ve lost count of just how many times I’ve enjoyed this one of a kind thriller of the era.
The Mad Miss Manton (1938)
I’ve seen this maybe three times and I’m still lost with some of the plot details in this screwball murder mystery. Who cares. The screen chemistry of Barbara Stanwyck and Henry Fonda overcomes all and makes this one an enjoyable romp.
Charlie Chan at the Wax Museum (1940) Sidey Toler is on the trail of a killer in a spooky setting.
The Return of The Vampire (1943)
Bela Lugosi returns as Count ….. Armand Tesla? In name only I suppose but this is Lugosi bringing his vampire persona back to the screen at Columbia. He’s risen from the grave once a bomb during WW2 has unearthed his coffin. He even as a werewolf to do his bidding and lovely Nina Foch turns up as well. Deserves to be better known beyond Bela fans but as it’s not in the Universal Monsters Stable I believe it’s been a bit overlooked in general.
Son of Dracula (1943) Lon Chaney Jr. assumes the role that Bela Lugosi is most identified with in this fun Universal Monsters thriller.
A Night of Adventure (1944)
In between outings as The Falcon, Tom Conway, plays a smooth lawyer tangled up with a mob vendetta AND a murder mystery involving his wife’s lover. He takes the case to defend the accused when in fact he knows more about the murder then he is letting on. I’ve always liked Conway on screen and that stylish voice is always a delight. For the record, Conway is the brother of actor George Sanders. Just in case you didn’t know it.
The Monster Maker (1944) It’s J. Carrol Naish in the lab.
Abbott and Costello Meet the Killer, Boris Karloff (1949) The boys get tangled up in murder while employed at a swank hotel. Bud is the house detective and Lou’s a bellboy implicated in the movie’s first murder. Laugh out loud shenanigans follow with Boris shoehorned in as a shady hypnotist/red herring.
Four Sided Triangle (1953) Early Hammer flick from Terence Fisher that predates the direction the studio was headed. The tragic Barbara Payton is the beauty who comes between two life ling friends who happen to be scientists working on a machine that can duplicate solid masses and maybe even people. When Barbara chooses her man, maybe she’ll allow herself to be cloned for the pining Stephen Murray. Pretty good of it’s type.
Night People (1954)
Espionage story puts Gregory Peck into the middle of an international incident when Broderick Crawford’s son stationed in Germany has been taken hostage by communists in East Berlin. An offer comes through to exchange prisoners which has Peck navigating his way through political intrigue and looking to come out a winner. Good flick.
Son of Sinbad (1955) Pales in comparison to the Harryhausen adventures but this isn’t a bad popcorn movie in the Ali Baba style that once belonged to Jon Hall and Maria Montez. Dale Robertson takes the title role and there’s an evil ruler, a princess etc… best thing about the film is easily Vincent Price playing against type as Robertson’s sidekick as opposed to the villain which is exactly what I expected going in. Keep your eyes peeled for Woody Strode, Robert J. Wilke and though I missed her, Kim Novak is supposed to be in a harem or something somewhere.
It Conquered the World (1956)
Maybe Lee Van Cleef can save us from It. Roger Corman effort with Peter Graves, Beverly Garland and Van Cleef billed above the title. The movie’s fun in that drive-in era style with Van Cleef talking to “It” and bringing the alien force to earth with monstrous results of the low budget kind. Not sure but this might be the first time the western legend may have received above the title billing.
The Land Unknown (1957) Jock Mahoney leads a foursome into the Arctic interior only to discover a Lost World. It’s all been done before and afterwards but I still like to have to have fun with these stories that send men into a time capsule where dinosaurs still rule and danger lurks around every tree and man eating plant. A Universal International Picture during their 50’s run of sci-fi and monster “B” pictures.
The Revenge of Frankenstein (1958) The second of Hammer’s Frankenstein series served as a spotlight long ago here at the blog. Just catching up with a new blu ray release from Indicator.
Fellowship of the Frog (1959) A German made Krimi featuring a master criminal known as The Frog and yes he wears the mask to go with the title who murders those in his path. Dubbed of course but I love these German thrillers that are a genre unto themselves.
The Brides of Dracula (1960) Hammer’s follow up to Horror of Dracula brings Peter Cushing back triumphantly as Professor Van Helsing who is once again fighting the forces of evil. More specifically, David Peel’s blonde haired vampire. All to protect the beautiful Yvonne Monlaur from a fate worse than death. Expertly directed once again by Terence Fisher.
The Comancheros (1961)
Rip roaring entertainment starring John Wayne as a Texas Ranger out to put a stop to a band of white men raiding settlers and selling guns to the Indians. This one is a winner all the way with Stuart Whitman riding alongside Duke in what amounts to an early form of the buddy buddy picture. Michael Curtiz directs his final film and Lee Marvin nearly walks off with the picture in an elongated cameo as a half scalped drunkard with a penchant for selling guns to the Indians and violence.
Werewolf In a Girl’s Dormitory (1961) Black and white thriller where the title character is on the loose at a dormitory housing wayward young women. Spooky goings on but we needed more of the werewolf. Still, I love these Euro terrors.
The Comedy of Terrors (1964) A fun favorite with a legendary cast.
Invitation to a Gunfighter (1964)
When George Segal returns to his homestead following the Civil War in a Confederate uniform, Pat Hingle, worries there’s bound to be trouble that may result in his taking a financial loss or worse. To remove his problem he calls in the man in black, Yul Brynner. Hingle gets more than he bargained for with the unstable Brynner torn between collecting his paycheck and seeing that Hingle is the true villain of the town. Not bad and a solid cast of western veterans like Strother Martin and Yul’s old buddy from the Seven, Brad Dexter.
Yongary : Monster From the Deep (1967) Not quite Godzilla by way of Korean filmmakers.
The Hellbenders (1967) For those who have only dipped into the Leone films when it comes to Spaghetti Westerns, this Sergio Corbucci film would be a good one to look in on. Joseph Cotten stars as a Confederate officer looking to keep the war going after Lee’s surrender. Something of a Quantrill I suppose. With a coffin full of money stolen from a Union troop train, he and his sons set out to get back to the south and raise an army. Twists and turns follow and it’s hard not to love the ending in this one.
Frankenstein’s Blood Terror (1968) I’ve always had a fondness for this Paul Naschy thriller that saw him introduce his werewolf character Waldemar Daninsky. One of the earliest films I chose to spotlight back when beginning this blog when I had less to say…. have a look.
Dracula Has Risen From the Grave (1968)
Hammer brings Chris Lee back from his watery end at the conclusion of Dracula Prince of Darkness and he now has his sights clearly set on the virginal, Veronica Carlson. Standing in his way is her boyfriend and a giant sized golden cross that will figure prominently in the bloody climax under Freddie Francis’ direction.
Taste The Blood of Dracula (1970) Hammer time! Lee is back as the Count and he’s out for revenge when a group of wealthy degenerates murder his disciple (Ralph Bates) who has brought him back from the grave. I’ve always been a fan of this one but then I’m a fan of Lee’s Dracula series in a big way anyway so I’m not really sure how much weight that statement carries. As always, Lee commands the screen in cape and fangs.
Cry of the Banshee (1970) Cruel and bloody affair with Vincent Price.
Daughters of Darkness (1971)
I’ve long loved this vampire flick of the arthouse variety. Countess Elizabeth Bathory continues to live on in the form of actress Delphine Seyrig who comes in to contact with a young newlywed couple in a lush hotel, deserted during an off season. It’s a slow burn tale that is hard not to get caught up in and after repeated viewings, I’m still convinced this is easily one of the best vampire flicks of the decade. Highest recommendation.
Slaughter Hotel (1971) A killer runs amok with Klaus Kinski and Rosalba Neri starring.
The Silence of the Tombs (1972) Time for a Jess Franco Giallo styled thriller with plenty of zoom lens effects and mixed with shoddy plotting but damned if his films don’t have some mystifying power that always draws me in. O.K. as far as Franco films go.
The Sinister Eyes of Dr. Orloff (1973) The second movie on this double feature blu ray with the cool art work stars William Berger in the title role. More murders and plot holes follow but …… damned if his films don’t have some mystifying power that always draws me in.
Black Magic (1975) Shaw Brothers thriller proving sex and lust is what drives the need for Black Magic. Ti Lung is under a love spell from a wealthy widow who employs a practitioner of the dark arts to bring him to her bedside. Lo Lieh also stars and he himself needs the voodoo man to gets the widows riches for himself. Plenty of corpses, death spells, blood and ghastly goings on. I liked it.
Stone Cold Dead (1979) Richard Crenna puts on his Dirty Harry persona in this Canadian made attempt to cross the mean cop with the Giallo thriller. Love the Young Street backdrop of 1970’s Toronto. Someone is murdering prostitutes and Crenna wants his own brand of justice which means putting an end to Paul Williams’s reign as a pimp with high class ladies. Not bad of it’s type.
City On Fire (1979)
A late attempt at the disaster film made so popular in the 1970’s, this one comes via Canada and while it’s pedestrian at times and in need of a Newman or a McQueen, some of the stunts in this fiery thriller are just that …. thrilling. Kudos to the stunt crews. So who turns up? Canada’s own Leslie Nielsen song with Henry Fonda, Ava Gardner, Shelley Winters and James Franciscus.
Fear No Evil (1980) A student is possessed and I’ve already forgotten the rest. Well, almost. A young man in the Damien Thorne mold is off to school and people are dying. Yeah the Devil has got a hold of him. At least I can say I’ve seen it?
Bloody Birthday (1981)
A trio of misfits go about behaving as if they’re Michael Myers. Blood and nudity abound in this 80’s slasher flick I’d overlooked. Jose Ferrer left his Oscar at home when he signed on for this one.
Naked Space ..aka .. The Creature Wasn’t Nice (1981) Low brow Leslie Nielsen laugher that might be his first attempt to capitalize on his newfound career as a funnyman following the success of Airplane. This time he’s the captain of a spaceship that has taken an alien lifeform aboard ship and it’s hungry. You laugh occasionally even though you know it’s not very good. Cindy Williams costarred.
Cult film this one may be but I have no idea what the hell was really going on. Isabelle Adjani and Sam Neill star. First time viewing so maybe I need to watch it 9 more times to fully grasp what I witnessed the first time around. On the plus side this turned up at a local movie house so my son and I paid our way in. First movie I’ve seen on the big screen since The Irishman in November of 2019 thanks to the Pandemic.
Wild Beasts (1983) It’s a gross out nature strikes back flick from overseas. Plain and simple. Stay away from the local zoo.
Nightmare Sisters (1987)
Considering I’m a child of the VHS era, I have to wonder why me and my teenage buddies never discovered this one with copious amounts of nudity thanks to the participation of Linnea Quigley, Brinke Stevens and Michelle Bauer. No apologies. Just teenage boys growing up in the era before the internet changed everything for youngsters everywhere. The film? Laughable and not in a good way overall. The blu ray packaging from Vinegar Syndrome? First rate and collectible.
The Ambulance (1990)
A pleasant surprise. Larry Cohen feature starring Eric Roberts as an animator with an overactive imagination who is trying to locate a girl taken by ambulance to the hospital. When no record of her admittance can be found he’s on a city wide search for the mysterious ambulance while trying to evade police who think he’s a nut job. Red Buttons also stars and let’s be honest, steals the movie. Also stars James Earl Jones, Laurene Landon and even Stan Lee.
Low budget? Check. Straight to video? Check. Burt Reynolds in a toupee? Check. Enjoyable? Surprising yes. I didn’t expect much going in but there’s plenty of explosive action and best of all, Burt Reynolds, is cast against type. He’s a former Gov’t operative gone rogue and is quick with the Reynolds wit and willing to kill anyone who stands in his way. He’s gonna have to go up against his former pal, Matt Battaglia in the fade out. Either that or reteam with the muscle bound Matt to take out a third party.
As of late …..
Hidden Agenda (2001) Just needed a bit of mindless action which led to watching this Dolph Lundgren bone cruncher. Passable bit of espionage.
Color Out of Space (2019)
Another of the latest Nicolas Cage flicks that has him morphing from action star to modern day horror star. Richard Stanley directs this latest take on an H.P. Lovecaft story that had been previously filmed in 65 with Karloff and 87 with John Schneider. Far different then it’s predecessors, this one goes for F/X in the style of Carpenter’s The Thing. Worth a look and I do like the colors on screen. Almost Bava like? Let’s just say I think there are a lot of influences at work here.
Werewolves Within (2021)
I had some fun with this Agatha Christie like thriller with a decided bent towards black humor. Sam Richardson is the new police officer in a small town snowed in during a harsh winter. Someone has been feeding on the locals and tempers are rising. If you love the old Peter Cushing flick, The Beast Must Die, then I do believe you’ll like this one too.
Lansky (2021) Gangland flavor hits the target when Harvey Keitel takes on the title role of the well known underworld figure in the final years of his life telling his story to a writer played by Sam Worthington. Flashbacks mingle with John Magaro playing the younger version of Lansky. Violent when need be and while it’s no Scorsese flick, it’s admirable and nice to see Harvey in action.
A second trip to the theater in one month? Say it ain’t so. Off I went with some buddies from the office. Not being a fan of the original or having never read any book(s) in the Dune Universe, I found this pretty impressive visually and it was hard not to like the cast that turned up including a veiled actress who’s voice I knew. BANG! That’s Charlotte Rampling I told the buddy sitting next to me. Yes they all recognize I’m some know it all. As much as I enjoyed the film as a whole, I hate to admit I’m being hooked like a fish into some Star Wars trilogy or LOTR set up. I must say the costume design in this along with the visual effects seemed Oscar worthy for those interested in that sort of thing.
The Monthly Report Card …..
48 Films Seen
28 new to me titles.
3 seen on VHS
10 seen on DVD
28 seen on blu ray
2 seen on TCM. A Night of Adventure and Son of Sinbad.
3 seen on Netflix. Color Out of Space, Werewolves Within, Lansky
2 at the Theater. Possession and Dune.
If I could take just one of these to that well known desert isle for repeated viewings I’ll make it triple bill of Hammer Dracula Films.
Most enjoyable of the new to me titles? I’ll go with Werewolves Within. Quite sure I’ll see it again sometime down the road.
Best revisit is pretty tough considering I sat in on plenty of horror favorites but let’s go classic with The Black Cat. The best of the Boris/Bela teamings.
Don’t forget to let Brando and myself know how your checklist compares to ours with the number of these you’ve already seen. Likes? Dislikes?