Category Archives: Horror
“Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday” (1993)
The worst entry in the franchise. Honestly, you could probably stop playing this movie after the first eight minutes, because that’s when it stops even being a “Friday the 13th” movie. An attractive woman, played by stuntwoman Julie Michaels, rents a cabin near Crystal Lake. Sure, almost all slasher flicks have hot chicks in them, but when the only noteworthy aspect of a movie is a naked lady with an incredible body, then your film is lacking. Jason Voorhees has returned from the sewers of Manhattan. He chases her into the woods, but it turns out that she is an FBI agent. A trap has been set for Jason and he is executed. Well, it makes sense that there would be a manhunt for the notorious serial killer, but the rest of the movie is garbage. The coroner eats Jason’s heart and this leads to the spirit of Jason body swapping for the majority of the movie. Huh? The hero of the movie is played by John D. LeMay, who had previously starred in “Friday the 13th: The Series” (1987- 1990) which had absolutely nothing to do with this film franchise. The series focused on haunted antiques. Steven Williams played Creighton Duke, a bounty hunter searching for Jason. You’ll remember him as Mr. X from “The X-Files” (1993 – 2002). When I reviewed “Friday the 13th, Part IV: The Final Chapter” (1984), I stated that Jason Voorhees needed a Professor Van Helsing type, a Dr. Sam Loomis, an arch-nemesis. But, I think that ship had sailed by this ninth film. Jason is looking for a baby to possess. The baby is a blood relative, his grandniece. I’m sorry, I just don’t find this plot to be attuned with the rest of the franchise. Sean S. Cunningham, the director of the original film, returned as a producer and he made the decision to alter the storyline so drastically. With all due respect, I strongly disagree with the creative choices made in this film. The score also sounded pretty cheap. Like something out of a spooky Saturday morning cartoon series. Kane Hodder portrayed Jason for the third time, but had little screentime because of the silly nature of the story. After turning into some sort of weird worm demon monster, the real hockey mask wearing Jason Voorhees finally returns and kills Creighton Duke with a bear-hug. Jason is then stabbed with a mystical dagger and gets pulled down into hell by rubber monster hands. The end. No, not really because in addition to The Necronomicon from “The Evil Dead” (1981) making a cameo, this bad movie did have an epically awesome cliffhanger. Freddy Krueger’s glove pulls Jason’s hockey mask down into ground. Nice. So, I would recommend that you watch the first eight minutes for stuntwoman Julie Michaels and last two minutes for Freddy Krueger and skip the rest of this movie. Ten minutes is all you need.
“Jason X” (2002)
Man, what a rip-off of “Leprechaun 4: In Space” (1997). Besides, I thought that Jason Voorhees was burning in hell? I suppose that this movie takes place after the events of “Freddy vs. Jason” (2003). Jason is incarcerated at the Crystal Lake Research Facility. I defy you to read that sentence aloud and not roll your eyes. It’s hard to believe that this film received a theatrical release. He will soon be cryogenically frozen, but the military wants to transfer him, so they can study his ability to regenerate. It’s really like a stoned teenager wrote the screenplay. Jason escapes, kills everyone, then is frozen by Rowan LaFontaine, played by Lexa Doig. She must have been the winner of 2002 Jessica Alba look-alike contest. Rowan is also cryogenically preserved and they are discovered in the year 2455 by medical students on a field trip. Nanotechnology is used to bring Rowan back to life. Jason wakes up all by himself and picks up right where he left off. His first futuristic kill was pretty cool, freezing a hot blonde’s face. Other than that, he basically just stabs people. Jason should have been more creative. He kills one guy in front of his girlfriend. He should have ripped the guy’s heart out and tossed it to the girlfriend. Of course, any horror movie set in outer space wouldn’t be complete without stealing from “Aliens” (1986), so Jason kills a squad of soldiers. Jason also kills the pilots, causing the spaceship to crash into a space station. Their ship causes more than damage to the station than the station does to the ship. You’d think it would be the other way around. So, the responsibility of defeating Jason falls to the female pleasure android (sex-bot), who was also programmed to be a real badass. Kay-Em 14, played by Lisa Ryder. Her showdown with Jason was the highlight of the movie. And guess what? She kills him. She totally kicks his ass and blows his head off. Jason Voorhees is finally dead. Seeing how women in slasher movies are always being victimized, it was appropriate for a super-woman to ultimately vanquish him. But, the nanotechnology medical facility must have been left on automatic, resurrecting Jason Voorhees as Uber-Jason. Maybe some people like the look of Uber-Jason. Myself, I have mixed feelings. I still can’t decide if he was awesome or dorky. He knocks Kay-Em 14’s head off with a single punch, reminiscent of “Friday the 13th, Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan” (1989). Virtual reality returns Uber-Jason to Camp Crystal Lake and the sleeping bag bashed into a tree trunk scene from “Friday the 13th, Part VII: The New Blood” (1988) was recreated. Despite of this being a dumb movie, cool scenes like that make it much better than “Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday” (1993). The two scantily clad girls in the virtual reality scene parody most of the female characters from the 1980s slasher flicks. The movie ends with Uber-Jason being jettisoned into space. He crashes in a lake on Earth II. A pair of teenagers witness this, so it looks like the cycle will begin again. A whole new planet full of teenagers for him to slay. This was also Kane Hodder’s swansong. He was replaced for the next film.
“Freddy vs. Jason” (2003)
To be reviewed by me at…
“Friday the 13th” (2009)
When I saw some footage of this film at New York Comic Con 2009, I was pleasantly surprised. It actually looked decent, but when I finally watched the entire movie, I was not impressed. Considering that it was produced by Michael Bay, why did I ever get my hopes up? Michael Bay also produced “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” (2003) and “A Nightmare on Elm Street” (2010). There’s just something so sterile about these remakes of low budget slasher flicks from the 1970s and 1980s. I don’t have a visceral reaction to anything that occurs. The characters are all bland and the carnage seems subdued. This remake had a spoiled rich jerk, a promiscuous blonde, and a stoner. Yep, all uninspired stock slasher movie characters. This film did nothing to new with the genre the way “A Cabin in the Woods” (2012) did. Though, to be fair, I did appreciate how the screenplay was structured in a way that it was really an amalgam of the first four films in the series. The movie opens on June 13, 1980, recreating the climax of the original film with Mrs. Voorhees being decapitated with a machete. Then, her son Jason, who was said to have drowned, grows up and kills teenagers while wearing a burlap sack on his head. So, that was basically “Friday the 13th, Part II” (1981). He eventually replaces his old sack with a hockey mask, just like in “Friday the 13th, Part III” (1982). The hero of this movie, Clay Miller, played by Jared Padalecki from “Supernatural” (2005 – 2014), is searching for his missing sister Whitney, played by Amanda Righetti. I found him to be akin to a character from “Friday the 13th, Part IV: The Final Chapter” (1984), who was hunting Jason Voorhees so to avenge the death of his sister. Other than that, I guess I was a bit surprised that the character Jenna, played by Danielle Panabaker, was killed. I assumed that she was going to be the “final girl.” This reboot doesn’t have a sequel, but I’m sure that we have not seen the last of Jason Voorhees. You can’t keep a good slasher down, especially since the next “Friday the 13th” film will be the thirteenth installment in the franchise.
“There are two kinds of people in this world. Those who believe in flying saucers and those who don’t.” The pilot of this short lived, very underrated, TV series began with narration from a bounty hunter from Brooklyn, New York, who looks and sounds a lot like a cowboy. This show is so 1980s and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
A killer is on the loose. Someone, or something, stalks potential victims in a nightclub while “Silent Running” by Mike & The Mechanics plays. On his palm is a pentagram, which bleeds. In “The Wolf Man” (1941), a pentagram marked the next victim of the werewolf, here it serves as a warning to the werewolf that the transformation will soon occur. The show is vague as to whether or not the full moon has any effect. Eric Cord (John J. York) has everything going for him. He’s in love with his best friend’s sister, Kelly (Michelle Johnson), but she’s reluctant to tell her father about their relationship.
Eric, he cruises while listening to “The Future’s So Bright (I Gotta Wear Shades)” by Timbuk 3, so you know that he’s loving life at the moment. What could possibly go wrong? Eric is roommates with said best friend, Ted (Raphael Sbarge). Ted has been disappearing every weekend, claiming to be job hunting. Eric returns home and finds his that his dog, Heathcliff, is on edge. Eric also finds Ted in the dark, acting peculiar. Ted confesses to being the serial killer, but Eric dismisses him. Ted explains that while as a dock worker in Baja, California, he was what attacked by a werewolf. He knows that he must die because he is losing his humanity and the beast within is taking over. Eric is worried, not that his friend is werewolf, but that Ted has lost his mind. Eric humors Ted and ties him up. This was also reminiscent of “The Wolf Man” and even “Monster Squad” (1987). Tying up werewolves never really works out. Eric watches over him, armed with a pistol. Ted loaded the gun with silver bullets, forged from a silver crucifix he had melted down.
After midnight, Ted transforms and breaks free from his constraints. He attacks Eric before being shot. Death frees Ted from his curse, but Eric was bitten, so now he will become a werewolf. While recovering in the hospital, Eric is tormented by nightmares, just like David Naughton in “An American Werewolf in London” (1981). He is facing murder charges. He doesn’t tell anyone that Ted was a werewolf, but does protest that he acted in self-defense. Only Kelly is willing to believe him because Ted left her a cassette tape, explaining the situation. Remember cassette tapes? Anyone? Heathcliff the dog snaps at his former master. It seems that animals can always spot a werewolf. Kelly is not wholly convinced until she locks Eric up in a self storage unit and she hears him transform. He spends the night in the unit, but the murders continue, so he deduces that the werewolf who attacked Ted must be in the area. If this alleged werewolf is the first in the bloodline, then Eric can break this curse by killing it. Every incarnation of the werewolf legend has its own variation of the rules, but I like that this series provided some hope for the protagonist. An ongoing TV series couldn’t be as bleak as most werewolf movies.
Since Eric skipped out on his court date, his bail bondsman hires a bounty hunter, Alamo Joe Rogan (Lance LeGault). Meanwhile, Eric tracks down the werewolf that attacked Ted, Captain Janos Skorzeny (Chuck Connors). A werewolf who wears an eye-patch? How freaking badass is that? Skorzeny can sense that Eric is of his bloodline and promises that tonight they will make the transformation. Skorzeny instincts are strong enough that he doesn’t need to wait for the sign of the pentagram. Eric has Kelly tie him up in a motel bathroom, which probably wouldn’t have done much good, then she is abducted by Skorzeny. Alamo Joe also arrives and takes Eric into custody. Eric’s only concern is saving Kelly. He transforms in the back of Alamo Joe’s truck and escapes. Alamo Joe shoots him several times, but not with silver bullets, so the beast isn’t even stunned. Alamo Joe will never be the same after being exposed to the supernatural.
Eric’s love for Kelly carries over into werewolf form. Skorzeny brings her to a shack in the woods, filled with rotted skulls, so this is likely where he feeds on a regular basis. Skorzeny seems to able to control his transformation and waits for Eric to arrive before he goes full-on werewolf. A fires breaks out and the two werewolves battle savagely in the flames while Kelly flees to safety. I wonder if this scene inspired the similar scene in the “The Wolfman” (2010) remake? Skorzeny throws Eric out of the burning shack and disappears. Eric wakes up the next morning and finds Kelly watching over him. He must now say goodbye to her and his life, leaving to hunt Skorzeny. Little does Eric know, but Alamo Joe is also hunting him and the bounty hunter knows to arm himself with silver bullets this time. We last see Eric hitchhiking, which calls to mind Bill Bixby on “The Incredible Hulk” (1978 – 1982). The pilot episode of “Werewolf” was a masterful way of launching a series. Heck, it could’ve have worked as a stand alone movie. “Nothing is worse than a nightmare, accept for one you can’t wake up from.”
Articles have been reposted at threeguysand.com
Parts 1 and 2 on threeguysand.com
Parts 3 and 4
1998. It’s been several weeks since human remains began to be discovered near Marble River in the Cider District of Raccoon City. S.T.A.R.S. Bravo Team was dispatched to search the Arklay Mountains, but contact was lost, so now the S.T.A.R.S Alpha Team will investigate.
Chris Redfield, a rugged ex-pilot. Jill Valentine, an attractive explosives experts. Barry Burton, a brawny weapons expert. Joseph Frost, a small-fry in a bandana. Brad Vickers, a cocky chopper pilot. And Captain Albert Wesker, the enigmatic leader of Alpha Team with slicked back hair and dark shades.
Chris Redfield and Jill Valentine were playable characters. The developers, Capcom, must have assumed that gamers would select Chris Redfield, but Jill Valentine was far more popular, likely because she could store more weapons in her inventory. Chris Redfield was featured on the cover art of the director’s cut, narrated the prologue, and even if you played the Jill Valentine scenario, he was scuffed up far worse in the final cut scene. A miscalculation on the part of the developers.
Frost gets killed by wild dogs in the opening cut scene and Vickers abandons his team in a cowardly fashion. The survivors seek haven at Spencer Mansion. If you play the Jill Valentine scenario, she and Barry search for Chris, who has gone missing. Wesker also disappears, but not until after the first zombie was encountered. Because of the pack of ravenous dogs, fleeing this mansion is impossible. Jill and Barry split up and search the mansion for their missing comrades. Barry vanishes first in the Chris Redfield scenario.
A cinematic game with a creepy score and an eerie environment. An atmosphere which was worthy of any classic horror movie. I saw George Romero, the father of modern zombies, at New York Comic Con 2013 and even he credited the “Resident Evil” video game franchise and its many imitators as the reason for the resurgence in the popularity of zombies since the 1990s.
There were a few out of place Indiana Jones style booby-traps throughout the mansion and the secret underground facility. And some of the cut scene dialogue is pretty hokey, especially Barry’s. Besides the regular zombies, you encounters zombie crows, a zombie shark, a giant snake, and a giant spider. That seemed to be overkill. I think normal sized snakes and spiders would have been sufficiently scary for the gamers. Imagine being engulfed by zombie spiders? Terrifying. I also thought that it was odd to open up secret compartments by playing the piano.
You discover that the Umbrella Corporation had used this mansion as a front for illegal experimentations. Umbrella’s Research and Development Department had successfully maturated the T-Virus, a mutagenic biological agent. The sole purpose of this agent was to engineer an undead super-soldier with the codename “Tyrant” to be auctioned to one of Umbrella’s wealthy defense contracts. Or at least, that is my assumption. Umbrella’s insidious plots become a little convoluted as time goes on. A T-Virus outbreak occurred in the mansion. All personnel, animal test subjects, and guard dogs were infected.
In the Chris Redfield scenario, you are introduced to Rebecca Chambers, a young field medic of Bravo Team. In both scenarios, it gets revealed that Wesker is the traitor. An “insurance policy” of sorts for the Umbrella Corporation. I’d gone trick-or-treating that year as Wesker with a friend who was guised as Barry. We had yet to beat the game and were unaware of Wesker’s treachery. Wesker was supposedly killed by the game’s final boss, the aforementioned Tyrant. A rocket launcher is required to vanquish the hulking creature. Vickers finally has the balls to return and evacuate the survivors.
Chris and Jill are shown in the back of the chopper no matter what. In the Jill scenario, Barry is with them. In the Chris scenario, it is Rebecca. Chris Redfield’s sister, Claire, was the protagonist in “Resident Evil 2.” Jill Valentine returned for “Resident Evil 3: Nemesis.” Both Chris and Claire Redfield appeared in “Resident Evil: Code Veronica,” which was developed for the Sega Dreamcast and not the Sony PlayStation. Rebecca Chambers was a protagonist in the prequel, “Resident Evil: Zero,” which was developed for the Nintendo GameCube. The original game also was remade for the GameCube in 2002. A new character, Lisa Trevor, was added to the canon.
A live action “Resident Evil” movie was released in 2002, starring Milla Jovovich and Michelle Rodriguez, directed by Paul W.S. Anderson. I was disappointed with the film. A laser beam killed more people than the zombies. No characters from the games were featured sans for a little girl hologram which was the equivalent to Lisa Trevor. In the increasingly worse live action sequels, characters from the games did start to appear in supporting roles.
*Resident Evil aficionado and gamer Jonathan Parente consulted on this article written by Dominick Cappello, author of this blog. A “Resident Evil 2” article will likely soon follow, but some time will probably pass before more sequels are chronicled.
“House of Wax” (1953)
The remake of 1933’s “Mystery of the Wax Museum,” which starred Lionel Atwill and Fay Wray. The updated version was directed by Andre de Toth and presented in 3D. My review will unfortunately be in 2D. Vincent Price plays Professor Henry Jarrod, a quite brilliant sculptor and co-owner of a wax museum. The museum is struggling financially because Jarrod refuses to cater the morbidly curious. He features no chamber of horrors, but his competitors do. His business partner, Matthew Burke, played by Roy Roberts, is not a patient man and burns their wax museum down for the insurance money. Jarrod is inside when it happens and is presumed dead. All of Jarrod’s wax figures are destroyed, including his Marie Antoinette, his pride and joy. Matthew feigns grief over the death of Jarrod. On the day he receives the insurance money, Matthew is murdered by a man cloaked in black, who limps and has a deformed face. The man in black makes it look like a suicide by hanging Matthew in an elevator shaft. Matthew deserved his fate, but this man in black also murdered his ditzy fiancé, Cathy Gray, played by Carolyn Jones. Her roommate, Sue Allen, played by Phyllis Kirk, witnesses the crime. A chase ensues and Sue seeks haven in the home of Scott Andrews, played by Paul Picerni. The body of Cathy is then stolen from the morgue, by not one, but three men cloaked in all black. It is revealed that Professor Henry Jarrod is still alive, but confined to a wheelchair. Due to the burns his hands suffered in the fire, he is no longer capable of fine work. He must rely on his two protégés. One is named Igor. This actor is billed as Charles Buchinsky, but it’s really Charles “Death Wish” Bronson. Jarrod is seeking financially backing for a new wax museum from Sidney Wallace, played by Paul Cavanaugh. This time, Jarrod will give the public what it wants. The macabre. A chamber of horrors. His new method for creating wax figures is to douse plaster bodies with boiling hot wax. Or, at least he claims that the bodies are made of plaster. After a brief intermission, Sue visits the new wax museum and recognizes Cathy in the face of the Joan of Arc figure. Jarrod claims to have modeled the figure after photographs of Cathy that appeared in the newspapers following her murder. Jarrod also becomes entranced with Sue since she is reminiscent of his Marie Antoinette figure. The deformed man in black begins to stalk Sue and she becomes suspicious of Jarrod. She informs the police, but they think little of her claims at first. They make further inquiries and Jarrod’s other assistant, Leon Avery, who is an alcoholic, snitches, admitting to the police that Jarrod has been covering dead bodies in wax. Sue returns to the museum after hours and discovers that the Joan of Arc really is Cathy. She is confronted by Jarrod and Igor. She tries to defend herself and shatters the wax face of Jarrod, exposing him as the deformed murderer. The most famous scene in both the original and the remake. Jarrod is intent on turning Sue into Marie Antoinette, covering her with boiling hot wax while she is still alive. Scott tries to save her, but Igor sticks head in a guillotine. The authorities arrive and rescue Scott first. Then, they have a confrontation with Jarrod, who has inexplicable strength, fighting off many policemen before he gets thrown into the vat of boiling hot wax. Presumably, meeting his demise. Sue is saved and poor Igor is incarcerated. Even with the 3D gimmick, I find this to be a sophisticated horror flick. I will not even acknowledge the 2005 “House of Wax” with Elisha Cuthbert and Paris Hilton as a genuine remake. We went from Fay Wray to Paris Hilton? Shame on you, Hollywood.
“The Tingler” (1959)
Vincent Price is reunited with William Castle, producer and director of “The House on Haunted Hill.” William Castle also introduces this film, warning the audience that they will literally have to scream for their lives. Vincent Price stars as Dr. Warren Chapin, a pathologist with a peculiar hypothesis. That a parasite attached to the human spinal cord feeds on fear, but he is unable to substantiate this theory. In a roundabout way, Warren becomes acquainted with the sister of an executed convict he performed an autopsy on, Mrs. Higgins, played by Judith Evelyn. A deaf-mute, who fainted at the sight of blood since she cannot relieve her tensions by vocalizing. Warren is married to Isabel, played by Patricia Cutts. Isabel is unremorsefully unfaithful, a recurring theme in these Vincent Price / William Castle collaborations. She also will not permit her younger sister, Lucy, played by Pamela Lincoln, to wed Warren’s helper, David, played by Darryl Hickman. Warren decides to perform an experiment in fear on Isabel by shooting her with a blank, then taking an x-ray, capturing an image of this parasite, which he dubs “The Tingler.” Warren experiments on himself next, shooting himself up with panic educing drugs. He learns that the Tingler can be held at bay with high pitched screams. The ideal candidate for all further testing would be Mrs. Higgins because she is incapable of screaming and thusly defenseless against the Tingler. Warren treats Mrs. Higgins for insomnia, but she wakes up and finds that her apartment has now become a spook house. The implication being that Warren drugged her and she is hallucinating. I believe the monster hand from “The House on Haunted Hill” even makes a cameo. Though a black and white flick, red blood poured from faucet in the bathroom sink and the tub is filled with blood. A cool and surreal moment. Mrs. Higgins is literally scared to death. Her husband Ollie, played by Phillip Coolidge, brings her dead body to Warren for examination. Warren surgically removes her Tingler, which looks like a giant centipede. Gross. Isabel sees this as her opportunity to rid herself of Warren. She drugs him and she leaves the Tingler with his unconscious body. It begins to strangle him. Luckily, Lucy comes home and screams, which temporally subdues the creature. Warren and David try, but the Tingler seems to be indestructible. Warren decides that the best course of action is returning the Tingler to Mrs. Higgin’s corpse, where hopefully it will become microscopic again. A hitch in that plan is that Ollie never reported his wife’s death to the authorities. Warren realizes that Ollie killed his wife. Other reviews of “The Tingler” omit this plot point, which has given some the false impression that Warren killed Mrs. Higgins. Yes, you are suppose to be suspicious of him at first, but he really was just trying to treat her insomnia. The Tingler then becomes loose in the movie theater owned by Ollie. This was the audience participation gimmick where you as a viewer are suppose to scream to help combat the creature. The Tingler gets captured in the projectionist’s booth. Warren will inform the authorities that Ollie is a murderer, but Mrs. Higgins rises, apparently the Tingler is her puppeteer, and Ollie is scared to death. Maybe this film doesn’t stand the test of time as well other Vincent Price cinematic opuses, but it was a hoot for my father’s generation.
“Tower of London” (1962)
Directed by Roger Corman and set in 1483. Vincent Price appeared sans his trademark mustache. A remake of the 1939 film of the same name, chronicling Richard III and his treachery, stealing the throne of England following the death of his brother, Edward IV. Richard murders his brother Clarence, literally stabbing him in the back with a dagger adorned with the family crest of Queen Elizabeth. Richard justified his deceitful actions by convincing himself that a “man of books” like Clarence could not rule. The ghost of Clarence appears to Richard and foretells that Richard will die by the hand of someone already dead. The name “Bosworth” is mentioned the second time that Richard sees the apparition of Clarence. There are those still loyal to Queen Elizabeth and her two sons, the eldest of which is the heir to the throne, so Richard spreads a rumor that the princes are illegitimate, discrediting their birthright. The original “Game of Thrones.” Richard also tortures their mistress (nanny) to death. The ghost of the mistress soon joins in the torment of Richard, taunting him because he is a hunchback. Richard, in a fit of anger, believes he is strangling the mistress, but he is actually killing his wife, Anne, the only person who had any real love for him. Richard’s villainy knows no bounds as he has his nephews imprisoned and murdered in their sleep. The ghosts of the princes appear and invite Richard to come play with them, and he nearly walks off the edge of the tower in a confused state of mind. Richard’s coronation ceremony goes on without the blessing of the archbishop. Richard is uninterested, but the ghost of Edward is seen in a mirror, laughing at his brother. Richard learns that all his enemies are rallying near the small village of Bosworth. Richard defies the prophecy by sending in his army. It seems like he should have outsmarted the prophecy by trying to coerce his enemies into having the battle on a different field. The bloody conflict ensues at Bosworth. Afterwards, Richard finds himself all alone on the battlefield. He seems to have proved the prophecy wrong, then all his victims appear to him for a final time. He panics and while trying to escape, he falls onto the battleaxe of a fallen soldier. He did die by the hand of someone already dead. Justice. Where they really ghosts or just manifestations of his guilty conscious?
“The Raven” (1963)
A loose adaptation of the immortal poem by Edgar Allen Poe, directed and produced by Roger Corman. I cannot stress how loose of an adaptation it is. It was actually a tongue-in-cheek dark comedy. Vincent Price played Dr. Erasmus Craven, a magician mourning the death of his wife, Lenore. A raven comes tapping at his chamber door. A talkative raven with the distinctive voice of Peter Lorre. This raven is actually a fellow magician, Dr. Adolphus Bedlo. Bedlo lost a duel with a more powerful magician and was hexed to become a raven. Craven concocts an elixir which will turn Bedlo back into a man, then Craven receives warnings from his deceased father. “Beware.” Bedlo intends on settling the score with the magician who bested him, Dr. Scarabus. Scarabus had been a rival of Craven’s father. Also, Bedlo claims to have seen Lenore at Scarabus’ castle. Craven is worried that Scarabus has possessed the spirit of his Lenore. Craven and Bedlo plan on confronting Scarabus, then are attacked by Craven’s servant, who is under a trance and wielding an ax. Craven uses his powers to subdue the servant. They travel to the castle of Scarabus with Estelle Craven, played by Olive Sturgess, and Rexford Bedlo, played by Jack Nicholson. Rexford also becomes possessed while driving their carriage and nearly kills them, driving like an absolute madman. An early onscreen Jack Nicholson mental disturbance. They make it to the castle in one piece and are greeted by Scarabus, played by Boris Karloff. How epic is this? Boris Karloff, Vincent Price, Peter Lorre, and Jack Nicholson in the same scene. Three generations of legends. Scarabus comes across as a quite pleasant individual. Still, Bedlo challenges Scarabus to a rematch and apparently gets killed with a bolt of lightning. Scarabus invites the others to spend the night since there is a violent storm raging outside. Craven sees Lenore, played by Hazel Court, but she is not a ghost. She had faked her death, so she could be with Scarabus. She is only attracted to his wealth and power. Bedlo is also alive. It has all been a plot on the part of Scarabus to steal Craven’s powers. Bedlo has second thoughts when he discovers that Scarabus will use Craven’s daughter Estelle as leverage. Craven is heartbroken when he learns that Lenore left him for his father’s adversary. Bedlo begs Scarabus to be turned back into a raven, but only so he can help his friends escape from the dungeon. Craven is freed, so it will be a fair fight. The main event is a duel to the death. Dr. Scarabus vs. Dr. Craven. Boris Karloff vs. Vincent Price. I won’t list all of the tricks they use against one another, just a few. Craven levitates. Scarabus turns into Craven’s departed father and hurls fireballs. Their showdown causes great destruction to the castle. It crumbles and burns around them. A standoff ensues where they project some form of energy at each other. It is Scarabus who falls. The duel is over. Boris Karloff’s reign of terror (I mean that as the sincerest of compliments) is over and Vincent Price is the new master of horror. Lenore comes crawling back to Craven, but is left behind with Scarabus to be crushed by falling debris. Craven, Estelle, Rexford, and Bedlo the raven escape. Since it is a comedy, there is scene that shows that Scarabus and Lenore survived underneath all the rumble. Bedlo assumes that Craven will turn him human again, but Craven decides to have some fun with him and takes away Bedlo’s ability to speak. “Quoth the raven… nevermore.”
*Volume 3 will include…
“The Pit and the Pendulum” (1961)
“The Haunted Palace” (1963)
“The Masque of the Red Death” (1964)
“The Abominable Dr. Phibes” (1971)
This will be the first time I review an adaptation Robert Louis Stevenson’s novel, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and My. Hyde, since I neglected to include 1953’s “Abbott & Costello meet Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde” in my Universal Classic Monsters section. The reason for the omission was because it was not a classic like 1948’s “Abbott & Costello meet Frankenstein” and because Boris Karloff only played Dr. Jekyll. Due to his age, a stuntman needed to portray Mr. Hyde in a pullover mask. I also usually review films in chronological order, but I already posted an article about “The Curse of the Werewolf,” which was released a year later, so you can read this article first, then scroll down.
Terence Fisher (who else?) directed. Paul Massie stars as Jekyll and Hyde. Dr, Jekyll’s wife, Kitty (Dawn Addams), is cheating on him with Paul Allen (Christopher Lee). One of the first times since “Horror of Dracula” that Lee was cast a suave villain as apposed to a traditional lumbering brute-type monster. Unlike most adaptations, Dr. Jekyll does not become a hideous fiend, but rather a much more handsome and debonair version of himself, Mr. Hyde.
Mr. Hyde begins to socialize with Kitty and Paul, claiming to be an acquaintance of Dr. Jekyll. Hyde and Paul get into a drunken scuffle with Oliver Reed. When he turns back into Jekyll, he experiences and existential crisis. He doesn’t know who he really is and he isn’t sure if Hyde is the man he wants to be. Hyde and Paul become buddies, which makes for a bizarre love triangle. Hyde seems to enjoy that Kitty is cheating on Jekyll even though they are supposedly one in the same. Paul has great gambling debts. Hyde offers to bail him out of his financial jam in exchange for being introduced to the seedy side of life. Hyde and Paul go on a bender and they end up in an opium den. Hyde then makes an inappropriate request. He wants Paul to “lend” him his mistress. He wants his wife to cheat on him… with himself. Mr. Hyde is one sick puppy, so Paul refuses.
Dr. Jekyll needs to exercise his demons, but Mr. Hyde has other plans. He will have his revenge on behalf of Jekyll. Hyde kills Paul first with a poisonous snake, then he forces himself on Kitty. He also strangles a sexy belly dancer he has been sleeping with. Kitty awakes, dazed, perhaps drugged, and falls over a railing to her death, crashing through a glass ceiling. Jekyll finally has a conversation with Hyde via his reflection in a mirror. Something a lot of Spider-Man villains seem to do nowadays. Apparently, this town is not big enough for the both of them. Hyde fakes the death of Jekyll by burning down his laboratory. Hyde’s crimes are pinned on the late Jekyll, but after an inquiry, Hyde turns back into Jekyll. Jekyll will face the consequences for all of Hyde’s offenses, but seems confident that Hyde will not return.
Not a horror movie in the traditional sense since Mr. Hyde was more of a sexual deviant than a monster. This film was major box office bomb, but I give director Terence Fisher credit for his decision to make a thriller that would appeal to an older demographic. He also allowed Christopher Lee a reprise from being typecast.
“The Fly” (1958)
Based on the short story by George Langelaan, adapted by screenwriter James Clavell, and directed by Kurt Neumann. Presented by Twentieth Century Fox, “The Fly” is one of the most famous monsters, along with George Romero zombies, not to be part of the Universal Studios Classic Monster stable. Vincent Price plays Francois Delambre, who is shocked to learn that his sister-in-law, Helene, played by Patricia Owens, has killed her husband, Andre. She crushed him at the family owned factory. Helene is presumed to have lost her mind since she is so calm when being questioned by the authorities. She only looses her composure when in the presence of a housefly. For some reason, Helene also pretends to not know her own son, Philippe, played by Charles Herbert. Francois is in love with Helene, but never resented her for favoring his brother. Francois looks after Philippe, who tells his uncle about a peculiar fly with a white head. Francois lies about having captured the fly, so that Helene will finally reveal the truth to him and Inspector Charas, played by Hebert Marshall. A flashback shows the tragedy of Andre, played by David Hedison, a scientist who has been constructing teleportation devices in secret. At first, only inanimate objects can be teleported. When Andre attempts to transport their cat, the furry little feline vanishes into thin air. Meow. Andre then becomes obsessed with his experiments. He spends most of his time in his laboratory. He finally perfects his device, successfully teleporting a guinea-pig. Helene is distressed by the potential danger in her husband’s invention. Andre does not attend a lunch with his brother. This was when the mysterious fly with a white head was first spotted. He slips Helene notes underneath the door to his lab, letting her know that he has had a terrible accident and is unable to speak. He allows her inside. He keeps a towel on his head and his hand in his lab coat. He needs the fly with a white head, but Helene had already told Philippe to set it free when he caught it earlier. Helene catches a glimpse of Andre’s hand, which was now a hairy claw. Helene tries desperately, but cannot catch this elusive fly. Andre had tested his teleportation device on himself, but he wasn’t alone. A fly was with him and they swapped parts. Andre will commit suicide rather than live as a monster if the fly is not caught. He is beginning to lose his humanity. The insect is taking over. Helene begs Andre to teleport himself again. He reemerges and she removes the towel, revealing his horrific fly head. She faints and he destroys his laboratory, burning research papers. No hope remains. They go together to the factory and she crushes him to such a degree that his fly head and arm will me unrecognizable. The flashback ends. Francois and Charas humor Helene, but believe her to be mad. That is until they discover the fly with a white head. It is calling for help while trapped in a spider’s web. Charas panics and crushes it with a rock. Such a freaky scene. Since no one would believe their story, Francois and Charas opt to label Andre’s death as a suicide. Helene is set free. They explain the death of Andre to Philippe as noble sacrifice in a quest for knowledge. “The Fly” was remade in 1986, directed by David Cronenberg, and starring Jeff Goldblum and Geena Davis. It was perhaps the greatest horror / sci-fi remake of all time, along with John Carpenter’s “The Thing.” Bart Simpson also became the fly on a “Treehouse of Horror” Halloween special.
“The House on Haunted Hill” (1959)
Vincent Price plays Frederick Loren, an eccentric millionaire hosting a haunted house party in honor of his treacherous wife. $10,000 is the reward for any guest who spends twelve hours in this spooky domicile. Frederick invites desperate people, who are likely to risk their lives for the money. The guests arrive in hearses and are greeted by a falling chandelier. A clichéd scare, courtesy of producer / director William Castle. Frederick is on wife number four, Annabelle, played by Carol Ohmart. He suspects her of adultery and even attempting to poison him once. Watson Prichard, a drunkard played by Elisha Cook, is the only character who truly believes the house is haunted. The house is locked down at midnight. Escape is impossible and there are no telephones, so no calls for help can be made. There are supposedly seven ghosts, four men and three women, so one for each party guest. The ceiling bleeds and there is a vat of acid down in the wine cellar. The best scare is when Nora Manning, played by Carolyn Craig, is confronted by an old hag, witch like lady, who then floats out of the cellar. On Bravo’s 100 Scariest Movie Moments of All Time, Tom Savini aptly described his reaction to this scene as “Fuck me.” The old woman turns out to be the blind wife of the caretaker. No explanation was given as to how or why she floats. Annabelle subtly accuses Nora of being Frederick’s mistress. Nora becomes the focal point of the scares as someone plants a severed head in her suitcase. Handguns are distributed, but Annabelle refuses to accept hers, then she is found hung atop the staircase. It is deduced that she committed suicide, which seems the most unlikely scenario given these circumstances. Soon, Frederick becomes the red-herring. Secret passages are uncovered and the torment of Nora continues. She sees the ghost of Annabelle hovering outside her bedroom window and a monstrous hand tries to strangle her. A pipe organ plays by itself. More cheap, but effective scares. Frederick searches the house with Dr. David Trent, played by Alan Marshal. It gets revealed that Annabelle is still alive and having an affair with Dr. Trent. Their plan is to drive Nora into such hysterics that she will shoot Frederick, making his murder seem like a prank gone terribly wrong. The plan works and Nora shoots Frederick in the cellar. Dr. Trent disappears while admiring his handiwork. Then, a skeleton emerges from the vat of acid and literally scares Annabelle to death, chasing her into the vat. The skeleton was being controlled by Frederick like a marionette. He was one step ahead of his deceitful wife and her lover the entire time. He loaded Nora’s gun with blanks. The house was never actually haunted… Or was it? “The House on Haunted Hill” was remade in 1999 with Geoffrey Rush in the Vincent Price role and visuals which were quite impressive, but it was an instance of style over substance with sequences cut like a music video. The film was trying too hard to be hip and not hard enough to be genuinely chilling.
“Return of the Fly” (1959)
“The Fly” was filmed in color, but its sequel is black and white. I watched an interview once with the late Vincent Price, where he condemned the decision. He loved black and white, but felt strongly that there be uniformity in a film series. Edward L. Bernds was the director. Vincent Price reprised his role as Francois Delambre. Brett Halsey played Philippe Delambre all grown up. Helene Delambre has passed away, but never escaped the controversy surrounding her husband’s death. Inspector Beecham, played by John Sutton, has replaced the Inspector Charas character. Beecham assisted in the cover up of the events in the original film. Philippe has become curious and wishes to follow in the footsteps of his late father. He defies his uncle to do so. Philippe recruits a friend to aid him in these daring experiments, Alan Hinds, played by David Frankham. Danielle De Metz plays Cecile Bonnard, Philippe’s love interest. Philippe, knowing the truth about his father, suffers from a phobia of flies just as his mother did. Francois eventually finds out what Philippe and Alan are up to. He reluctantly agrees to back them financially, so he can protect his nephew. It turns out that Alan is not who he claimed to be. His actual name is Ronald Holmes. He plans on stealing Philippe’s research and having a gangster sell it to the highest bidder. They successfully teleport an ashtray and a guinea-pig, just like Andre Delambre, but this guinea-pig suffers from gigantism. Alan’s true identity is discovered by an inspector, so he murders the inspector and disposes of his body in the teleportation device. The inspector’s corpse reappears with the paws of the guinea-pig. Philippe realizes that Alan is not be trusted. A fight ensues. Alan knocks Philippe out cold and teleports his unconscious body with a fly. What are the odds? Francois has bad timing, arriving just as Alan flees. Alan shoots Francois in the abdomen. Francois is one tough bastard, walking around with a bullet in his gut. Philippe gets reintegrated with a fly head and also suffers from gigantism. Ed Wolff portrayed this giant fly. The head of Philippe is then seen on the little fly. Francois refuses to speak to the authorities while he recovers in the hospital until Inspector Beecham arrives. The big fly makes its way to the funeral parlor where Alan met with his accomplice and kills the gangster. Beecham searches the laboratory and catches the little fly. The big fly waits for Alan to arrive at the funeral parlor. It crushes his neck and leaves him to die in a coffin. Then, like any of the classic mad scientists turned monsters, it searches for the woman it loves. Cecile is woken up by the big fly sneaking into her bedroom. It collapses after taking her by the hand. Beecham helps the big fly down to the laboratory. Francois, still hobbled from the gunshot, operates the teleportation device and Philippe is restored to his natural state. A happy ending. Vincent Price did not appear in 1964’s “Curse of the Fly,” where no one even turned into a fly. That film was about various monstrosities that could be created with the teleportation devices. 1989’s “The Fly II,” starring Eric Stoltz, was essentially a remake of “Return of the Fly,” but just in its basic premise. It was a weak follow up to David Cronenberg’s classic remake with Jeff Goldblum.
“The Last Man on Earth” (1964)
A tale of zombie-vampires, based on the novel I Am Legend by Richard Matheson and directed by Sidney Salkow. Vincent Price plays Dr. Robert Morgan, who is seemingly the only individual not yet infected by the plague. Every night, Dr. Morgan’s house gets surrounded by these lumbering zombie like creatures, but Morgan protects himself with mirrors, garlic, and crosses, so traditional vampire mythos apply. It has been three years since the beginning of the epidemic. Morgan leads a life of repetition. He drives around during the day in a hearse, searching for ghouls and driving wooden stakes through their hearts. More classic vampire imagery. Morgan tosses the bodies he slays into a fiery pit. It’s hard to believe that the ghouls can’t infiltrate his home. The garlic must be pungent. Repetition is how he survives, but one day he falls asleep in his daughter’s mausoleum and barely makes it home in time. Dream sequence flashbacks reveal how his wife and daughter succumb to the disease and that his friend and colleague, Ben Cortman, played by Giacomo Rossi-Stuart, is the apparent leader of the ghouls. There is a sequence with a dog that is too heartbreaking to write about. Morgan crosses paths with Ruth Collins, played by Franca Bettoia. Ruth is one of many who are infected, but able to function in daylight due to a vaccine. Apparently, Morgan has also been killing those being treated with this vaccine, so he is considered just as much of a threat as the zombie-vampires. Since Morgan is immune, his blood can be maturated into a permanent cure, but Ruth’s brethren chase him down and murder him inside his daughter’s mausoleum, destroying the last real hope for humanity. I Am Legend was adapted again in 1971 as “The Omega Man,” starring Charlton Heston. “The Simpsons” satirized the premise in one of their classic “Treehouse of Horror” Halloween specials. The most recent adaptation was the CGI vampire catastrophe, 2007’s “I Am Legend,” starring Will Smith. The theme of the last man on Earth being considered the monster from the point of view of the vampires was nixed, making the title of the film absolutely meaningless. All that resonated was Will Smith’s ill-fated friendship with a canine. The doggy stole the show in that film.
*Volume 2 will include…
“House of Wax” (1953)
“The Tingler” (1959)
“Tower of London” (1962)
“The Raven” (1963)
Horror fanatics know the history. German director F.W. Murnau’s unsanctioned silent film adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula. To avoid lawsuits, the vampire’s name was changed to Count Orlok. The story is set in 1838. Hutter (Gustav von Wangenheim) is the real estate agent dispatched to Transylvania, not Jonathan Harker. He leaves behind wife named Ellen (Greta Schroeder), not a fiancé named Mina. The villagers freak out when they learn that Hutter is traveling to Count Orlok’s castle. They warn him about a werewolf in the vicinity. Remember, a vampire can transform into a bat or a wolf. A hyena seems to be standing in for the wolf. Hutter laughs at their silly superstitions.
Hutter rendezvous’ with a carriage, driven by Count Orlok (Max Schreck), whose rat-like features are mostly obscured. After arriving at the castle is when Count Orlok gets revealed to Hutter. None of this weepy, pretty boy vampires looking for true love trash. Count Orlock is terrifying. If you’ve seen most adaptations of Bram Stoker’s novel, you know how the story unfolds. The Count’s guest accidentally cuts himself while slicing a piece of bread and the sight of blood agitates the vampire. Then, the vampire finds the framed likeness of his guest’s love interest and begins to lust after her. Hutter realizes that his host is one of the undead. Though he is in a far off land, Ellen can sense when Count Orlok preys upon her beloved husband.
Count Orlok departs Transylvania via a schooner, feeding on the crew. The sequence was better executed in this version than in Tod Browning’s “Dracula” with Bela Lugosi. Hutter travels back to his native Wisborg by land, aware that Count Orlok is now after Ellen. Professor Bulwer (John Gottowt) is the Van Helsing of this production. Knock (Alexander Granach), a stand-in for R.M. Renfield, snacking on insects in an asylum, awaits the arrival of Orlok. The deaths of the sailors on the schooner have the locals in Wisborg fearing the plague. If that wasn’t enough, Knock escapes from the asylum and runs amuck.
Ellen is metaphysically in tuned with Count Orlok and learns that only a woman “pure in heart” can vanquish a vampire. Orlok becomes mesmerized with her beauty. Ellen is aware that the evil which is Orlok must be destroyed and sends Hutter away when she can sense Orlok approaching. He enters her bedroom. His shadow reaches for her and clutches her heart. She faints and he begins to drain her. Meanwhile, Knock is captured as Hutter seeks the aid of Professor Bulwer. Orlok spends the better part of the night feeding on Ellen. Obviously, he is enjoying her and not just looking for sustenance. The sun rises while Orlok sucks the life out of her. The distraction of her beauty was his undoing as she hoped it would be. She sacrificed herself. He evaporates when touched by the sunlight. The monster is dead. Ellen lives just long to die in her husband’s arms.
Before the introduction of talkies, filmmakers had to rely primarily on the visuals to tell their stories. There are so many iconic images in this film. Almost every shot was awe-inspiring. “Nosferatu, A Symphony of Horrors,” though unofficial, was the first of the five definitive theatrical adaptations of Bram Stoker’s immortal fable. Max Schreck was succeed by Bela Lugosi, Christopher Lee, Frank Langella, and Gary Oldman.
A remake, “Nosferatu the Vampyre” was released in 1979, directed by Werner Herzog, and starring Klaus Kinski. This time, the name Dracula was permitted. 2000’s “Shadow of the Vampire,” starring John Malkovich as F.W. Murnau and Willem Dafoe as Max Schreck, played up on the urban legend that Schreck actually was a vampire. Too cool. Sure, it’s all hokum, but what a great premise for a fright flick.