Archive for the Horror Category

The Frankenstein Theory (2013)

Posted in Found Footage Film, Horror with tags on May 27, 2013 by monsterminions

The Frankenstein Theory

This indie docu-drama is the best film on the Frankenstein mythos since Roger Corman’s Frankenstein Unbound (1990). The film postulates that Mary Shelley’s novel wasn’t fiction, but based on an actual genetic experiment performed by Mendel precursor Dr. Venkenheim, circa 1770’s. Venkenheim’s descendant (Kris Lemche) finances an expedition to the fringes of the Arctic region to prove his point. The crew includes Jonathon Venkenheim, documentary filmmaker Heather (Heather Stephens), camera-man Kevin (Brian Henderson) and sound technician Eric (Eric Zuckerman), and gritty Quint-like guide-frontiersman Karl (played to the hilt by Timothy V. Murphy). Along the way the crew also meets a wacked out meth junkie Clarence (Joe Egender), who allegedly met the monster while gazing at the Aurora borealis.

The Frankenstein Theory was written by Vlady Pildysh and Andrew Weiner, from a story from Pildysh. It is low-key. Don’t expect a whole lot of action, but sit back and enjoy the ride. I found the photography, filmed in Alaska, to be a highlight. Murphy also gives a humdinger of a monologue reminiscent of Quint’s USS Indy tale from Jaws (1975). The film uses a hand-held camera “film within a film” approach, but it is not a found footage film. Director Andrew Weiner has fabricated a thoughtful, fresh and original approach to the Frankenstein mythos. My only gripe would be the over use of the night-time infra-red photography effect (ala Finding Bigfoot), which has become all-too gimmicky and convenient (it worked in The Decent and The Blair Witch Project, but not so well here).

Still, this is terrific indie filmmaking and the reason why I gamble, occasionally, on streaming a video. Now, I will buy it for my collection. Great film! Here’s the trailer:

Mr. Sardonicus / The Brotherhood of Satan Blu-ray

Posted in Horror with tags , , on May 19, 2013 by monsterminions

London 1880.

Enter William Castle in trenchcoat on foggy exterior overlooking the Thames River.  A foghorn bellows. Castle attempts to strike a match to light his ubiquitous cigar.

Oh confounded fog. It makes the matches so damp you know. Ah there we are.  This of course is London and I am William Castle.  Oh its good to see you again my homicidal friends. This time our story is of a different kind.  It’s an old-fashioned story full of gallantry and graciousness and ghouls. You know about ghouls don’t you? They are —well let me find you an exact definition. Let me see [he pulls out a dictionary]: GHOOM. Well that’s an odd word. It means to search for game in the dark. GHOST. Ah here it is.  GHOUL: An evil being who robs graves and feeds on corpses [Castle smiles]. Ahhh yes just an old-fashioned story.  I hope you enjoy it and I hope your nightmares are nice ones. So nice to have met you again…

I took some time off to tackle a Steelhead run on the Rogue River in western Michigan.  While I was taking a break a few Blu-rays arrived, including this Mill Creek double bill.  Along with House on Haunted Hill (1959) and The Tingler (1959), Mr. Sardonicus (1961) is my favorite William Castle film.  Rosemary’s Baby (1968) is his finest film (Castle produced), but that is director Polanski’s vehicle all the way.

Sardonicus really was shocking the first time I watched it and it holds up well today.  Leeches and masks freak me out. Thematically it resembles a Twilight Zone episode and the earlier Val Lewton-Robert Wise-Karloff classic The Body Snatcher (1945), based on the Robert Louis Stevenson story which was loosely inspired by the Burke and Hare “graverobber” murders that occured in 1828 Edinburgh, Scotland.  In Sardonicus, Welsh actor Ronald Lewis (Sir Robert Cargrave) plays a sympathetic doctor much like Snatcher’s medical student Donald Fettes (actor Russell Wade).  He is summoned by the mysterious masked 6’4″ Baron Sardonicus (Guy Rolfe). I am still especially creeped out by the scenes of the dispicable toady Krull (Oscar Homolka at his nastiest), with a sutured eye socket, stringing a servant up on her tip-toes harnessed by her thumbs and applying leeches to her feet.  Take note of Oscar-winning cinematographer Burnett Guffey’s (Bird of Alcatraz, 1963) use of shadows where a bedframe suspiciously looks like the skeletal remains of a human pelvic gurdle.

Conrad Veidt_LaughsSardonicus is disturbing material —even by today’s remake of Evil Dead standards. Ben Lane’s (Salem’s Lot, 1979) reinterpretation of Jack Pierce’s The Man Who Laughs (1928) makeup is effective, although it is somewhat familiar now.  This new blu-ray looks great, but lacks supplemental features. Nothing. Zippo. Not even a trailer.  For $9 why gripe?

One question. Has anyone heard of the word ghoom? I’m not sure what Castle is referring to in the prologue.

The second film on the disc is the colorful The Brotherhood of Satan (1971).

The Brotherhood of Satan UK Sheet

Frankly, I don’t understand Mill Creek’s pairing of films.  I found Brotherhood unsual, but bland.  Some folks consider it a mini-classic, but it left me flat. There are some effective scenes, including a terrific decapitation sequence and creepy doll shots. Strother Martin (Doc Duncan) is always good and we’ve seen cowboy L.Q. Jones (The Wild Bunch, 1969)(read what L.Q. has to say about Sam Peckinpah here) in hundreds of similar roles. For some reason this film reminded me a bit of Manos: The Hands of Fate.  Does anyone else see a resemblance?

Still, Brotherhood is worth seeing, but I wouldn’t buy it as a stand alone disc.  This double-feature is Sardonicus all the way!

Blue-Ray

Sound of Horror / El Sonido Prehistorico (1964)

Posted in Horror with tags on April 30, 2013 by monsterminions

Wow.

This film floored me. I need to find a clean Spanish print of this movie. Looking for something different?  Look no further than Sound of Horror (1964).  This Spanish b-movie gem is atmospheric, well-acted, scary, features a gorgeous Ingrid Pitt, has a mummy, Greek caverns, treasure hunting, an egg with eyeballs (like something Joseph Stefano would’ve dreamed up for The Outer Limits), AND —get this: An invisible screaming dinosaur. All right I am set. This made my guilty pleasures list.

Egg_Sound of Horror

Ingrid Pitt_Sound of Horror

Dino Prints_Sound of Horror

•Free Download•

http://www.bloodyplanet.com/el-sonido-de-la-muerte/

Castle Films No. 849

Posted in 8mm, Horror, Old School with tags , , on April 30, 2013 by monsterminions

A & C Meet Franky_8mm_CF#849

I couldn’t resist watching this little gem on Walpurgis Night.  I wonder how many people on any given night drag out an old Bell & Howell 8mm projector to watch A&C Meet Franky?  This is a terrific Castle Films edit approximately 9 minutes long, with dialogue card inserts.  Castle Film cuts right to the chase with Walter Lantz’s animated Bela-bat flying to the castle and Lenore Aubert’s Dr. Mornay working on the Monster.  I remember watching this at Shakey’s Pizza in Calumet City, Illinois (home of the Blues Brothers!).

8mm Frame_CF#849

Year’s ago in the 70’s my dad used to tell me that kids missed out on seeing the fun movies in a drive-in setting.  Before the days of video tapes we would pull out these old 8mm films or flag the TV guide for weekly gems on WGN’s Creature Features, Screaming Yellow Theater or, later Son of Sven. Man, those were wonderful times.  Now we have crap remakes of Evil Dead and Marvel superhero sequels.  Go Bela go.

Bela_8mm

Scott MacGillivray, 2004. Castle Films: A Hobbyist’s Guide. iUniverse, Inc.

Shakey’s Last Gasp

Shakey’s Commercial 1978

The Revived Monster Colorized

Posted in Horror with tags , on April 9, 2013 by monsterminions

Here’s colorized screenshot from The Revived Monster!

The Revived Monster (1953) Color

The Revived Monster (1953)

Posted in Horror with tags , , , on April 8, 2013 by monsterminions

You’ll live until I’ll live

Monster_Titles

Looking for a vintage, atmospheric horror film that you probably haven’t seen? Look no further than The Revived Monster (1953), also known as Monster and Il Mostruoso Dottor Crimen (Italian print reviewed here). This Mexican horror gem has it all:  romance, betrayal, a phantom-like madman, a creepy castle, a laboratory full of electrical apparatus and glassware, an ape-like monster in the basement, wax figures, graveyards, wind-swept coastal landscapes, howling wolves and a moody score.  Wow.

Monster is generally credited as being the film that kicked off the horror film cycle in Mexico in the mid-50’s. The film was co-produced by Abel Salazar (El Vampiro, 1957; El Barón del Terror, 1962) and comes from Churubusco Azteco studios, located in Mexico City, Mexico.  In the 1940’s, Churubusco attracted the attention of several prominent directors, including John Ford (The Fugitive, 1946), Don Siegel (The Big Steal, 1949) and Luis Buñuel.  Later, in the 50’s and 60’s this studio cranked out several effective and sometimes goofy horror films.

Miroslava

Monster was directed by Chihuahuan-born Chano Urueta, who helmed over 100 films, including several genre notables such as the wacky El Barón del Terror (The Brainiac)(1962), The Witches Mirror (1962), and the beautifully photographed crime-actioner The Magnifient Beast (1953).  Monster has been described by genre enthusiasts as Univeral-like, but to me, Urueta’s expressionist visual style reminds me more of Jacques Tourneur (Cat People, 1942) or Georges Franju (Eyes Without a Face, 1960).  However, there’s nothing Val Lewtonish about The Revived Monster.  We see grotesqueries very early on in the film.

Linares Riva_Dr. Ling

Looking for a story, sensationalist reporter Nora (played by Czech-born Miroslava*), responds to a mysterious advertisement from a wealthy man looking for companionship.  This is Dr. Herrmann Ling (José Linares-Rivas), a noted plastic surgeon and scientist who lives in a massive castle with his subordinant servant Mischa (Alberto Mariscal).  All of the mirrors in the castle are covered, and Ling wears a cloth mask and surrounds himself with his wax sculptures of beautiful women.  He reminds me a bit of Peter Lorre’s Dr. Gogol in MGM’s Mad Love (1935).

Nora meets Ling and travels back to his house.  She is touched by Ling’s sincerity and story how we was ostracized by his parents and later by his professional colleagues.  He retreated to his castle to conduct his research privately.

Dr. Ling's Creation

The bulk of Monster is filmed in the massive castle-set by cinematographer Victor Herrera (The Living Coffin, 1959; The Black Pit of Dr. M, 1959; El Castillo de los Monstruos, 1958).  The scenes are atmospheric, with contrasty compositions, slow pans, and weird angles of characters and props within the expressionist castle.  It reminds me of Baron Frankenstein’s house in Son of Frankenstein (DOP George Robinson). Wax heads are creepy.

Dr. Lings Masks

Nora of course confronts Ling to remove the mask.

Monster_Unmasked

And the response is similar to Mary Philbin’s in The Phantom of the Opera (1925).  Oddly, Nora responds moments later by kissing the pathetic Ling.  She loves Ling.  Or does she?

Dr. Ling Unmasked

The make-up is indeed clearly inspired by Lon Chaney’s phantom, with upturned nose, flared cheekbones and fleshy protruding lips.  For sake of surprise, I’ve deliberately omitted a closeup.  The makeup was effectively designed by Armando Meyer (The Curse of the Crying Woman, 1963), and appears to have been resued by Meyer in The Man and the Monster (El Hombre y el Monstruo, 1959), a film about a hiddeously deformed pianist (also worth a look).

Dr. Ling

The revived monster doesn’t actually refer to Dr. Ling.  He’s Dr. Frankenstein. The revived monster is a hairy humanoid that Ling experiments on in his lab.  These scenes remind me of  Universal’s Frankenstein (1931).  The Revived Monster is a fun hybrid film —Part Phantom of the Opera, part Island of Lost Souls, with a dash of Frankenstein.  The film holds up well today. Mexican horror fans with eat this film up with gusto.

Oddly, my DVD-R comes from an Italian print.  It’s sub-titled in English, but the dialogue/dub and titles are Italian.  It really doesn’t matter as this is a visual treat.

Monster in the Lab

*Actress Miroslava committed suicide in 1955, allegedly after her romance with bullfighter Luis Miguel Dominguin ended with Dominguin running off with actress Ava Gardner.

Life 1950_Miroslava

Book of the Dead

Posted in Horror, STOP-MOTION with tags , , on April 7, 2013 by monsterminions

Here’s some shots of the original “Book of the Dead” (Evil Dead) armature made by Tom Sullivan.

Book of the Dead_Evil Dead Museum

Book of the Dead_Back_Evil Dead Museum

Book of the Dead_Armature_Evil Dead Museum

Dracula Shots

Posted in Horror, Lee & Cushing with tags , on April 4, 2013 by monsterminions

Here are some more shots from the 2012 Hammer Dracula Restoration:

Dracula_Mina Scene 1

Dracula_Mina Scene 2

Face Claw_1

Face Claw_2

Dracula (Region 2 HD Blu-ray)

Posted in Horror, Lee & Cushing with tags , , , on April 4, 2013 by monsterminions

Dracula_Titles
Titles look different? The new DVD + Blu-ray Dracula (1958) 3-disc set from Hammer and Lionsgate is finally available. My copy arrived from Amazon UK this past week. The set is LOADED with extras that will take some time for me to get through, so this is a mini-review. I have not yet watched the Blu-ray disc. Peter Cushing_Van Helsing
Christopher Lee_Dracula Dracula_Face Claw Shot

DVD 1 includes the 2007 British Film Institute restoration and the 2012 Hammer restoration, which includes some of the “lost” Japanese reels footage, which includes the legendary “Face Claw” sequence during Dracula’s disintegration, and Dracula’s erotic seduction of Mina, also derived from the Japanese print.

Even more exciting, the surving Japanese reels 6-9 are included on the Disc 2 supplements. Be sure to watch these as you will notice that Hammer has not completely restored the 2012 print to include all of the Japanese footage (thanks Mike).

These reels were badly beat up, but select scenes were polished up and included in the 2012 restoration. Here’s a screen capture from the original (scratched) Japanese reels showing Dracula’s seduction of Mina:Dracula_Erotic Scene_Japanese Reel

The DVD also includes other features, including:

  • The original shooting script (PDF).
  • An Essay “First Blood – Hammer’s Dracula Begins” (Colorful PDF with nice images).
  • A new documentary “Dracula Reborn” (Highly recommended).
  • A documentary about the film’s 2007 and 2012 restorations and discussion on the Japanese Reels.
  • A documentary on the British censoring of the film.
  • LOADs of rare production stills and other images.
  • Other features that I haven’t gotten to.

The film looks superb and I can’t wait to see this on Blu-ray. The Dolby Digital 2.0 Dual Mono audio on the DVD seems also to be an improvement from the American Warner Home Video disc from 2002.

Plenty to watch the next few days!

Artwork by Michael Tanaka (1999).

Artwork by Michael Tanaka (1999).

Frogs (1972)

Posted in Bad Films I Love, Horror with tags , , on April 1, 2013 by monsterminions

Frogs_Half Sheet US

During the opening 4 minutes of Frogs (1972), photo-journalist Pickett Smith (played by a nearly unrecognizable Sam Elliott) paddles about in a canoe and takes photos of a yellow ratsnake, a Tegu lizard, an alligator, a marine toad, a cottonmouth moccasin and a Tokay gecko. I find it interesting that Samuel Z. Arkoff and James H. Nicholson presented us with an obvious exploitation film about native species rebelling against polluting humans, when, 1) the species aren’t entirely native and, 2) the real ecological problem today in the Everglades isn’t pollution, but invasive species. Frogs was ahead of the curve in recognizing environmental disaster in the Everglades.

The Tegu lizard, Tokay gecko and Bufo marinus (the giant marine toad) are all exotic species released to south Florida largely through the pet trade. It is now estimated that 26% of all fishes, reptiles, amphibians, birds and mammals in the Everglades are not native. Some believe the recent surge in monster pythons is due to zoological garden escapes rendered during 1995’s Hurricane Andrew.

I’m fairly certain Frogs, which BTW features toads, wasn’t meant to be a message film about invasive species. The animal wranglers who worked on this film decided on easy-to-handle animals that looked interesting and were relatively safe. That’s why we see Boa constrictors as venomous snakes in crappy films like the TVM Fer-de-Lance (1974)(ok, I liked this film about snakes on a submarine). However, Frogs also uses venomous snakes such as the Eastern diamondback rattlesnake and the Florida cottonmouth. This adds authenticity to the film, and as an observant 9-year old I damn well knew the difference between a harmless ratsnake and a pit viper.

Frogs_Cottonmouth

Frogs features one of the greatest advertising campaigns ever in the history of filmdom. This is the graphic render of a bullfrog clamping down on a dangling human hand. I thought as a kid —How big is this frog to have gulped down an entire body? This I have to see…

Frogs_Trailer

And saw it I did at a Drive-In theater in Northwest Indiana. I was floored. Reptiles, amphibians and spiders killing rude obnoxious people. This is the greatest film ever. I got the message too —Don’t mess with mother nature or the Frogs will get you. Ray Milland is especially good as a wheel-chair bound crotchety old patriarch to a disfunctional family of losers. One of his cronies suggests “pouring oil in the water to choke the frogs off”. Milland gripes that he doesn’t want his property smelling like a petroleum refinery. Just you wait, the Frogs are gonna get you buster…

Ray Milland as Jason Crockett

Frogs benefits from a likeable cast with Sam Elliott and Joan Van Ark. I also like Morio Tosi’s cinematography, which is eerie and captures the surreal landscapes of a spagnum moss-covered swamp. He went on to better work in Carrie (1976) and The Stunt Man (1980). I can almost visualize Frogs as a black and white Roger Corman film from the 1950’s. Frogs is a bunch of hokum, and absolutely ridiculous (how menacing can a bunch of toads be?), but it’s left an indelible mark on my memory and it’s still a lot of fun.

They don’t make ‘em like they used to.

Hurricane Andrew Released Aliens

List of Invasive Species

Everglades Invasives

Frogs_Italian

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 91 other followers