Sticking to my guns, I had to sit in on 13 flicks released to blu ray by Scream Factory over the final 10 days of the month to tally 31 titles in 31 days thus clearing up many of the titles I’ve had backlogged on the movie shelves here in the vault at Mike’s Take.
On to the final roll call and spotlights.
Superbeast (1972) This Philippines shot flick finds Antoinette Bower as a scientist following up a trail of an infectious disease leading her into the jungles and ultimately a Dr. Moreau like operation crossed with the plot points of The Most Dangerous Game. Surprisingly dull but for those familiar with the many movies shot in the Philippines you can rest easy. Vic Diaz makes his customary appearance in a sleazy role.
Hammer’s version of the Stoker novel, Jewel of the Seven Stars is another fine later day studio entry. It came at a time when the vampire flicks were turning to outright sex and sadism yet this one harkens back to old school terrors of Egypt and reincarnation. Following the departure of Peter Cushing , Andrew Keir stepped in to take on the lead role of the Egyptologist who has discovered the tomb of a long ago Egyptian Queen just as his own wife gives birth to a baby girl. Fast forward to the girl all grown up and looking stunning in the form of Valerie Leon and the blood is about to flow. Enjoyable studio entry even if the title Blood from the Mummy’s Tomb is misleading but what’s not to love about that awesome one sheet? If the plot sounds familiar that’s because Chuck Heston and his magnificent profile also took a shot at bringing Stoker’s novel to the screen in 1981 under the title, The Awakening. Hammer did it better. Sorry Chuck.
It’s a Japanese setting for 1982’s The House Where Evil Dwells. Susan George and Edward Albert play a married couple who are off to the far East thanks to Edward landing a job via his pal Doug McClure who rekindles his friendship with them upon their arrival. Thanks to three ancient spirits that are “living” in the same house where Susan and Edward have settled, strange occurrences are about to commence and the young couple along with McClure are about to relive the violent ending that the three spirits endured a century earlier. This was the fifth film in short order that Doug McClure teamed with director Kevin Connor on. The first four being The Land That Time Forgot, The People That Time Forgot, At the Earth’s Core and The Warlords of Atlantis.
In Saturn 3 Kirk Douglas joined the Hollywood space race and who came blame him when Farrah Fawcett was cast as his leading lady with plenty of lusty embraces written into the script. A Stanley Donen film that I’ve always found rather boring, and this latest revisit has done nothing to change my opinion despite my love of all things Kirk. The pair are stationed alone on some space paradise but when a nutty Harvey Keitel arrives with a pet robot that does his bidding, their personal Eden is about to come to an end. From our vantage point the biggest problem with the film is the fact that Keitel has been dubbed! Apparently Donen didn’t like his voice. What the hell??!!
Directed by Narciso Ibanez Serrador, House is a solid thriller combining Giallo murders with a plot worthy of Hitchcock. Lilli Palmer is the headmistress of an all-girls school where young ladies from less than desirable homes are sent to be schooled in the ways of the world. Palmer makes for a very strict disciplinarian with little use for those that stand up to her authority. She also has a doting son who isn’t allowed to converse with the girls. Afterall, someday he’ll find a girl who will take care of him just as she does. A slow moving, rewarding murder mystery even with the exploitation title for its North American release.
Honestly, I have no idea what the hell was really going on in this Robert Fuest flick. To arty for my tastes. I much prefer the director’s work on the two Dr. Phibes films starring Vincent Price. Here it’s Jon Finch starring but outside of Sterling Hayden making an appearance I have little to recommend this futuristic title that I struggled to finish. Maybe you liked it and can explain to me why.
The Vampire and the Ballerina (1960) is a black and white release from Italy that treats us to a vampire Queen and her minion who are preying on the girls of a ballet school. Either you like this sort of thing, or you don’t. It may not be Mario Bava but it’s fun in a Gothic kind of way. In case you’re thinking of picking it up, know in advance it is subtitled.
1982’s The Beast Within sports a far better cast than one might have expected going into this werewolf like tale that plays like a bloodletting alter ego to Michael J. Fox’s Teen Wolf. When Ronny Cox, Bibi Besch and their son return to a town where their son was conceived via a violent rape, things begin to get a bit hairy. Peckinpah regulars L.Q. Jones and R.G. Armstrong pretty much steal the film as the small-town Sheriff and Doctor. Luke Askew also turns up as the mortician as does Don Gordon as the town Mayor. Again, a far better cast than one expects.
Christopher Lee as Rasputin is a match made in heaven or hell if you prefer and as much as I love Hammer films and this 1966 release, I do wish it had been more of a major production via a Hollywood studio to give Lee the platform he richly deserved. Don Sharp directed the movie which was filmed back-to-back with Dracula – Prince of Darkness and features many of the same sets and cast including Barbara Shelley, Frances Matthews and Suzan Farmer. Easily one of Lee’s best roles over the course of his decades long career. Lee worked with director Sharp a number of times including an enjoyable 1979 snowbound mystery, Bear Island.
The film that started a horror genre unto itself is this 1960 Price/Poe/Corman classic. Price was long associated with the horror film but for me this is the one that cemented his association with the genre for generations to come which then led to countless A.I.P. – Roger Corman productions with the Edgar Allan Poe name attached to the titles. I know I saw this one as a child on late night TV and it scared the hell out of me. Especially when leading man Mark Damon goes through the castle and its secret passages following a trail of crimson red blood at the film’s fiery finale. To see Price in this film is such a treat. His soft spoken delivery is pure poetry. A must.
Blacula was inevitable once the blaxploitation market was hitting its stride and despite its exploitation title and theme the film proves to be memorable in large part thanks to the performance and commanding screen presence of William Marshall in the title role. He’s a black Prince condemned to vampirism when confronted by Count Dracula in 1874. He’s freed from his tomb in modern day by a couple of antique dealers and thus begins his reign of terror while romancing Vonetta McGee who is the reincarnation of his long-lost love. Some great camera angles and a cast including Gordon Pinsent, Thalmus Rasulala and Elisha Cook Jr. make this one far better than you might think.
Scream Blacula Scream (1973) was inevitable considering the thrills and overall fun that the first film gave us. William Marshall returns once again to don the cape and the heavy sideburns that work their way high across the cheekbones. This time there’s some voodoo involved that brings Marshall’s Mamuwalde back to life and if that wasn’t enough to raise him from the dead, Pam Grier’s participation would surely do the trick. Like most sequels this one falls a bit short in my opinion when held up against the earlier film. Still I must say I’m surprised that A.I.P. didn’t somehow work this into a trilogy. Then again, they stopped both Count Yorga and Dr. Phibes at two films apiece leaving us fans all these years later wishing there had been more.
An all-time favorite that still freaks me all to hell. Must be my Catholic upbringing. Previously featured here’s how I began my spotlight on this Gregory Peck led terror….. Each and every one of us have films that stick with us and we love to revisit. If you are like me you have plenty. The Omen from Richard Donner is one I continually go back to on occasion and still find it a terrifying film. I love the mystery and how it unfolds bit by bit leading to what could be considered the ultimate in terror for those raised on The Bible and it’s stories within. The soundtrack alone is enough to scare the hell out of me and turn my hair white if I were to hear it while sitting alone in a darkened room letting my imagination run wild. Click here for more on The Omen.
With the amount of Severin and Vinegar Syndrome blu ray titles piling up I may have to set another month aside to get at those as well.