The 27th Day (1957)

Posted in Sci-Fi with tags , on July 22, 2015 by monsterminions

The 27th Day_Titles

When I was a kid I wanted three things: (1) an arm-blaster like the one the dude had in Laserblast (1978), (2) a lightsaber, and (3) a Daiwa skirted-spool spinning reel. I ended up getting the fishing reel, but have yet to encounter an alien intelligence that would bequeath me a laser-based weapon of destruction. However, technology is getting close to developing functional pseudo-lightsabers, and I still wait attentively and hopeful. Aliens bestowing weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) or special skills are rampant in our pop culture lexicon.

In film the best example is probably Klaatu (Michael Rennie) in The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951), who brings Earth a universal communicator device that gets shot up, and a 9-foot tall robot named Gort (Lock Martin) capable of destroying the Earth. Then we have these guys HERE and on television from 1963-1966, and subsequent reruns, we had Uncle Martin (Ray Walston) in My Favorite Martian, who lived with Bill Bixby in a garage and really didn’t share any of his powers. Actually, the pilot of MFM reminds me a bit of Hal Jordan’s (the re-booted Green Lantern, DC 1959) encounter with benevolent but dying alien Abin Sur. In the comics, Jordan receives a magical and radiant ring that lets him do all sorts of things best not further explored in a horrid film adaptation.

This all leads us to a bonafied sci-fi gem The 27th Day (1957).

27th Day_Abducted

Columbia’s The 27th Day fits into the sub-genre of “alien warning” films from the 1950’s through the mid-1960’s. The quintessential example is the aforementioned TDTESS (1951), but there are other films including the colorful This Island Earth (1955), Episode 89 of the Twilight Zone featuring a 9-foot tall alien “Kanamit” (Richard Kiel) bestowing humanity with a book To Serve Man, the infamous Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959), and several others.  In The 27th Day, five character are lofted away on a flying saucer (stock footage purloined from the Harryhausen-Schneer film Earth vs. The Flying Saucers) where they meet a humanoid alien (Arnold Moss) who presents them with a dilemma: The people of Earth have 35 days left and the aliens will be moving in.  The five characters are:

  • A reporter (Gene Barry)
  • A science-bent professor in the Prof. Barnhardt/Sam Jaffe mold (well played by George Voskovec)
  • A soviet private (Azemat Janti)
  • A Brit (Valerie French)
  • A Chinese peasant (Marie Tsien)

Things get complicated when the alien presents each of the five with further details and the means to humanely erradicate the planet’s entire human population.  The vehicle of destruction is a palm-sized translucent “box” containing three capsules. Each box can only be opened telepathically by its caretaker, but once open anyone can use the capsule-WMDs by verbally oratating target impact locations by way of coordinate data.  The humans are returned to Earth.

27th Day_Mysterious Devices

The capsules revealed….

27th Day_WMD

Early on, six of the capsules are quickly eliminated from the story, focusing the plot on America versus the Soviet Union.

27th Day_Soviets Attack!

The 27th Day refers to the protagonists having 27 days before the capsules are rendered inert.  Time runs out as the Soviets discover the secret of the alien technology.  The 27th Day is well-acted with a good supporting cast. I especially liked Friedrick von Ledebur (Brother Christophorus in The Howling Man TZ Episode; Queequeg in Moby Dick, 1956) as a consulting scientist, Paul Birch in a military role, and the virtually unknown Azemat Janti in a pivotal role as a morally grounded communist. Paul Frees also appears as a newscaster, and his voice is unmistakable. Look quick for Three Stooges cronie Philip Van Zandt as a taxi driver.

The film is a product of 1950’s commiephobia and McCarthyism. It reminds me of a fusion of several films. TDTESS’s DNA is certainly present, as is the dreadful Red Planet Mars (1952), with elements from Nevil Shute’s novel On the Beach (1957). This is a well-crafted “what if” film and highly recommended.  It is about as close to a film version of a Twilight Zone episode that I can think of.  The film is available on a Mill Creek “Vintage Sci-Fi 6 Movie Collection” DVD for about $12.

27th Day_Cast

On Photographing Thought

Posted in Weird Science with tags , , , on July 20, 2015 by monsterminions

 

Tesla_Thought Projector

I expect to photograph thought…. In 1893, while engaged in certain investigations, I became convinced that a definite image formed in thought…. [and] produced a corresponding image on the retina, which might be read by a suitable apparatus….

Nikola Tesla, 1933

While driving in to work this morning, I caught NPR’s morning edition on U.C. Berkeley scientists downloading pictures from your brain. This is freaky stuff reminiscent of sci-fi films like the underrated Brainstorm (1983) and a plot device used in Horror Express (1972). Check out this video showing movie trailers versus clip reconstructed from brain activity. Tesla Quote_1933This is fascinating research that conjures up fantastic claims by inventor and electrical engineer Nikola Tesla on a device for photographing thought. In 1933, at the spry age of 77, Tesla commented on exercising, eating properly (water, milk, fresh vegetable, fish and rarely red meat), and capturing thoughts with an “artificial retina” designed for conveying images without interference into the earth. See Article by Carol Bird, from the Desert News, September 9, 1993.

It’s unlikely that Tesla’s device every came to fruition (no patent or device of similar claims was ever developed by the maestro), and no prototypes were referenced by Tesla or his contemporaries. The concept is indeed thought-provoking and it blows my mind away that Tesla was referring to brain-scanning technologies 50 years before the successful implant of the Jarvik 7 artificial heart, and possibly 90 years prior, if Tesla’s 1883 claim can be substantiated.  This even predates Reed Richards development of a Thought Projector Helmet in FF#27.  Actually, the concept of brain windows and thought projection was explored much earlier as discussed in Direct to Brain Windows and Remote Neuron Reading and Writing TIMELINE by Ted Huntington.

NPR Transcript: Scientists Say They Can Read Your Mind, And Prove It With Pictures

U.C. Berkeley News Article

Gallant Lab

 

Tesla_1933_Bird Article_Thoughts

Flying Rod

Posted in Cryptids, Weird Science with tags , , on July 17, 2015 by monsterminions

Captured this interesting image with Nikon F5, with Nikkor 105 f2 DC lens and Kodak Ektar 100 film. Of course this is optical aberration and is really a flying insect.  Or is it?

Flying Rod_Flowers
Flying Rod

FLYING RODS

Wiki Entry on Rods

 

Christopher Lee Dracula Death and Resurrection

Posted in Lee & Cushing with tags , , on July 16, 2015 by monsterminions

Lee's First Appearance as Dracula

Christopher Lee’s Dracula first appears on screen atop a staircase in Dracula/Horror of Dracula (1958). He’s never resurrected and his origin is not known, but we know he is the embodiment of evil.

In the chapter The Traits and Practice of Vampirism in Montague Summers’ The Vampire: His Kith and Kin (re-printed 1960, University Books), Summers postulates that “all suicides might after death becomes vampires; and this was easily extended to those who met with any violent or sudden death”. Summers further cites that the traditional way of killing a vampire —a stake through the heart, stemmed from the English practice up to the time of King George IV, to bury the bodies of suicides at cross-roads with a stake driven through the body in order to keep the ghost from wandering abroad. Upon commenting on the “ethereal form” of the vampire he ruminates upon three hypotheses to be considered:

Does the body of the Vampire actually dematerialize and then re-integrate outside the grave?

Or, is another body built up by the Vampire quite independently of the body which remains behind in the grave?

Thirdly, does the spirit of the Vampire withdraw ectoplasmic material from his own body, which enables him to form more permanent corporeity by drawing yet further material from his victims?

Having recently watched all seven of the Christopher Lee Hammer Dracula films, I’m almost inclined to say that the Hammer writers were familiar with Summers’ writing on Vampirism, except we never really see the traditional pounding of a stake through the heart (like in Universal’s Dracula or a modern update with Carl Kolchak leaving waste to Janos Skorzeny) although there are some creative variations on the tried-and-true remedy for vampire elimination.  Beginning with Dracula/Horror of Dracula (1958), I’m going to look at each of the films and see how the dread Count is killed and subsequently resurrected in the sequels.

Dracula_Dust

In HOD, Van Helsing (Peter Cushing) uses a Christian cross to pin Count Dracula into the purifying rays of sunlight.  Dracula melts away and crumbles into dust.  The dust blows aways. Dracula dies through DEATH BY SUNLIGHT (I).

DPOD_Resurrection 1

In the sequel Dracula, Prince of Darkness (1966), a follower resurrects Dracula through hydration of his dust with the blood of a freshly slaughtered victim.  Dracula is RESURRECTION BY BLOOD (I). Clip Blood Awakening.

DPOD_Resurrection 2

DPOD_Resurrection 3

Later, the Count is trapped on an icey moat with running water, and slips into the frozen grave. Dracula ceases due to DEATH BY FLOWING WATER (I). In Dracula has Risen from the Grave (1968), the Count is discovered in ice, much like the Monster in Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943), and resurrected by a trickle of blood to the mouth. RESURRECTION BY BLOOD (II).

DHRFTG_Resurrection

He is killed falling and being skewered on a cross as a priest prays. Dracula dies for the first time through IMPALEMENT (I).

DHRFTG_Impailment

The next film Taste the Blood of Dracula (1970) begins where DHRFTG left off, with Dracula squirming on a cross, but we see him die, desiccate and turn into a pile of dried blood, which is quickly purloined by the father of the brat (actor Roy Kinnear) in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971). Dracula’s blood ends up in a vial.

TTBOD_Blood in Vial

Later, Dracula’s blood is reconstituted in fresh human blood and drank by a wacko who dies and….TTBOD_Resurrection 2

halfway into the movie…. turns into Dracula. RESURRECTION BY BLOOD (III).

TTBOD_Resurrection

Dracula dies, oddly, surrounded by crosses and falls to his death on an altar. DEATH BY CROSS (I).  In the next film Scars of Dracula (1970) Dracula is reconstitued by the regurgitated blood of the world’s largest vampire bat, and is wounded by being impaled by an iron rod, struck by lightning and burned to death. RESURRECTION BY BLOOD (IV) and DEATH BY FIRE (I). Dracula A.D. 1972 (1972) is fun in having two Dracula death scenes.  In the opening prologue Van Helsing (Peter Cushing) battles Dracula on a runaway coach and Dracula ends up impailed on a wagon-wheel and crumbles to dust. DEATH BY IMPALEMENT (II).

Dracula AD_Wheel

As Roger Ebert once pointed out, Hammer’s Dracula ended up a few times in glass vials. DAD1972 was no exception, but we know where this is headed….

Dracula AD_Vial of Dracula

A blood ritual involving the charming Caroline Munro’s breasts, Dracula’s remains and the removal of an old wagon wheel spoke result in RESURRECTION BY BLOOD (V).

Dracula AD_Grail of Blood and Dracula

Dracula AD_Dracula EmergesDracula is killed once more by Van Helsing who unleashes all hell on the Count, including a knife to the chest, holy water, impalement on a stake, and the strategic thrusts of a shovel. Dracula succumbs through DEATH BY IMPALEMENT (III).
Dracula AD_holy water

Dracula AD_Van Helsings Shovel

Finally, in The Satanic Rites of Dracula (1974) the Count just appears in a mist (Van Helsing describes him as “rising like the Phoenix” and returning through reincarnation) and dies impaled on a spiney Hawthorn bush with a final fence rung to the heart by Van Helsing (Peter Cushing). DEATH BY IMPALEMENT (IV).

SROD_Blood Ritual Chicken

SROD_Impalement

Finally Tally:

Death

  • 4 Impalements (twice in Dracula AD 1972)
  • 1 Fire
  • 1 Sunlight
  • 1 Flowing Water
  • 1 Death by Cross

Resurrections

  • 5 Blood Rituals
  • 2 Dracula wasn’t resurrected

MARS ATTACKS!

Posted in Model Kits with tags on July 15, 2015 by monsterminions

Fun kit! This one took forever to paint.

   
   

The Wolfman Attacks!

Posted in CONS, Horror with tags on July 9, 2015 by monsterminions

1075410196 (1)1075410231 (1)

Christopher Lee as Fu Manchu (Part 3)

Posted in Lee & Cushing with tags , , on July 1, 2015 by monsterminions

TBOFM_Titles

Two separate Fu Manchu films? Naaah —Just different names for the same production. The U.K. and U.S. title was The Blood of Fu Manchu (1969), while the Spanish tilte was Fu Manchu y el beso de la muerte (Fu Manchu and the Kiss of Death). To add confusion, the U.S. TV release was titled Against All Odds. Here, I am reviewing a restored and gorgeous European print and Blue Underground DVD release of the first of the Jess Franco Fu Manchu films.

Kiss and Kill_Titles

I must admit I am only an occassional fan of Spanish director Jesús “Jess” Franco (1930-2013), much prefering his early entries into the horror genre, including The Awful Dr. Orlof (1962), The Sadistic Baron Von Klaus (1962), which is fairly graphic even by today’s values, Dr. Orloff’s Monster (1964), The Diabolical Dr. Z (1965), and Count Dracula (1970), starring Christopher Lee. I haven’t (yet) seen Vampyros Lesbos (1971) and Venus in Furs  (1969), considered by some to be his greater achievements in film making.  I’ve dabbled in some of his 80’s films and quickly lost interest, although Oasis of the Zombies (1982) still escapes me.

I do believe him to be a true auteur (or schreiber [from the Yiddish for writer], if you accept David Kipen’s view that the writer is actually the author of the film) as his films do have a distinct feel and he has honed his craft.  One might be able to identify the last two Christopher Lee Fu Manchu films as having Franco DNA just by watching them. I’m gonna piss off every Jess Franco fan in the land and compare him to Edward D. Wood, Jr., not for the sake of drawing similarities in making bad films, but because they wrote and directed most of their films and they both followed a vision. Like Wood and some of Franco’s contemporaries (Bava, Argento, Ossorio, Romero), Franco has an ardent following as exemplified by unusual film making honored on various blogs HERE and HERE and others celebrating his career.

This all brings us to The Blood of Fu Manchu (1969). I think it is the weakest film of the lot, primarily because there’s too many characters buzzing around and the Franco-Harry Alan Tower’s screenplay lacks coherency. Actually, Tim Lucas from the VideoWatchdog penned an essay Exit Fu Manchu (BU DVD liner notes) that notes that the story is vaguely reminiscent of the first Fu Manchu novel The Zayat Kiss. Oh, and the score. It is horrid bad.

Franco and long-time cinematographer Manuel Merino are also a bit trigger happy with the use of zoom perspectives, which comes across as being amateurish. Still, the film is colorful and the change in location shooting from Ireland and Hong Kong to Spain and Brazil helps. I still think the film is a lot of fun and worth a peek, especially the Blue Underground pressing. It’s not nearly as bad as Christopher Lee may have led you to believe: “The series had really run down by this one….”

In TBOFM, Fu Manchu (Lee, of course) is hunkered down in the jungle with his daughter (Tsai Chin) and henchmen in what appears to be an Aztec lost city.  There they use snakes to consecrate a “kiss of death” upon 10 gorgeous women who are set to spread a global plague by kissing everyone.  Nayland Smith (this time played by Richard Green) and associate Dr. Petrie (Howard Marion-Crawford, looking old) return, searching for an antidote for the deadly snake toxin.  There’s also some double-crossing and too many characters to follow. Why is there an archaeologist in the story? Along the way a few guest stars appear including Shirley Eaton (Goldfinger, 1964) as “Black Widow”. I could do a linear regression fit in the overlap of Fu Manchu – Bond film talents.  Be sure to watch the special feature “The Rise of Fu Manchu” on the BU DVD, where Shirley Eaton claims producer Harry Alan Towers heisted uncontracted footage of Eaton from Franco’s film Rio 70 (1969) for use in TBOFM.
TBOFM_Snake Kiss

In the end, we see yet another explosion and Fu Manchu exclaims:

The world shall hear from me again….

TBOFM_End Titles

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