Monday, August 20, 2018

Beyond Naschy #24 - A CANDLE FOR THE DEVIL (1973)

While most films made in Spain during The Golden Age of Spanish Horror could be seen as comments about the repressive fascist government of that country, few films so blatantly addressed the clash of conservative ideas with modernity as A CANDLE FOR THE DEVIL. Set in a small country town outside of Madrid, the film casts two middle aged spinsters as hypocritical defenders of the old ways. These sisters make their living running an inn that seems to mostly attract young, sexually liberated women. When an accidental death is interpreted to have been divinely intended, the ladies dispose of the body and pretend nothing happened. Their rationalization is that if God wishes them punished, it is his will. But crime often has unexpected consequences so soon the duo's lies are piling up as well as more young corpses. Is there any horrible act for which these two deluded women can't find a religious justification? Time and the symbolic secrets in the cellar will eventually tell all.      

The Golden Age of Spanish Horror is renowned for it's variations on classic monster movie tropes but there are other less well remembered sub-genres that got attention as well. Although this film could be easily seen as a proto-slasher it also fits nicely into the short lived Psycho-Biddy or Hag Horror genre best exemplified by WHATEVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE (1962). We discuss this film's connections to that long dead type of scary movie noting the specific Catholic tone imparted by the influence of the Spanish government. This was director Eugenio Martín's second horror film after the exceptionally fun HORROR EXPRESS (1972) showing that he had the touch necessary for the genre. His marriage to Lone Fleming also explains her very sexy presence here. The entire very talented cast comes under discussion as we marvel at the female performances and wonder at Vic Winner's inability to survive a Spanish horror film.

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Saturday, August 18, 2018

Classic Twilight Zone Comic Book Covers!

Thursday, August 16, 2018

What I Watched In July

OCEAN'S 8 (2018) is a very entertaining slice of star powered fun. The idea of continuing the saga of Danny Ocean's family focused on his sister (Sandra Bullock) is clever enough but it's the twisty script that wins the day. Every actor gets several chances to shine and there are so many tense turns and smart ideas in this heist tale that I suspect I missed a few. The good news is that this was so much fun I won't mind watching it again to see if there are any amusing details that I lost in the rush. The cast is superb and I would love as many sequels as can be produced, please.

After the third Purge film I thought the next one would detail the messy downside of ending totalitarian rule in the United States. Or perhaps it would continue the rebellion against military control that I suspect would be the natural next step in destroying such a fascistic government. Instead the creative team behind the series decided to back up along the dystopian timeline and show us the way the Purge became accepted. It was a smart move as it perfectly fits our current times. As we watch many democracies around the world start the sad slide into despotic rule having this tale told about a fictional USA rubs our faces in reality. Here we can see how easy it is to, little by little, tolerate awful actions against others until it's too late to save anyone. THE FIRST PURGE (2018) explains that it is only by pulling together that we can save ourselves and our society  from descending into chaos and anarchy. And also  that an authority that advocates any other path is consciously or unconsciously working to destroy humanity. It's almost as if the writers saw 2018 more clearly than most others. We much pull together rather than pull apart. Glad to see the tradition of violent exploitation films providing blunt social commentary has returned. 

ANT-MAN AND THE WASP (2018) lets Marvel fans know why Scott Lang's shrinking and growing superhero missed out on the Infinity War. It seems that he was serving a house arrest sentence after helping out Captain America in Civil War. Turns out that his little trip to Germany was illegal which has also put Hank Pym and his daughter Janet on the run as well. Our ankle-braceletted ex-con is suffering through the last few days of his incarceration when events take control of his life again. The Pyms have been working to find a way to rescue the original Wasp from the subatomic realm that Scott visited in he first film. They need his cooperation to finish this project meaning finding a way to escape detection when out of his house. Adding to the trouble is a ghostly woman capable of moving through solid matter who is interfering with the Pym's plans. Before you can say Rube Goldberg the plot is twisting several different characters and problems into a speed-freak ride of blissful fun. This isn't the best of the Marvel films but it is damned fun and funny - until that final scene! Whoa!


VENGEANCE (1968) - 7 (rewatch)
THE IN-LAWS (1979) - 7 (rewatch)
OCEAN'S 8 (2018) - 8
NO NAME ON THE BULLET (1959) - 8 (sharp western by Jack Arnold)
TARZAN, THE APE MAN (1959) - 4 (weak Jungle Lord film with Denny Miller)
THE FIRST PURGE (2018) - 8
CITY OF THE DEAD (1960) - 8 (rewatch)
STEP BY STEP (1946) - 6 (interesting crime tale with Laurence Tierney)
SUPERBEAST (1972) - 3 (boring and pointless)
THE SNOW CREATURE (1954) - 2 (grindingly awful Yeti film)
DEVIL'S ISLAND (1939) - 6 (Karloff prison tale)
SON OF PALEFACE (1952) - 4 (Bob Hope comedy)
TARZAN'S PERIL (1951) - 6
THE MYSTERIOUS DOCTOR (194)- 6 (convoluted fog-bound British chiller/war-time propaganda)
THE SHADOW (1994) - 8 (rewatch)

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Trailers From Hell - Sam Hamm on SCREAM OF FEAR (1961)

Screenwriter Hamm talks - quickly- about this under-seen Hammer thriller. I highly recommend checking this one out as it's a superb little mystery with an excellent cast! 

Sunday, August 12, 2018

AWAKENING OF THE BEAST (1970) - Coffin Joe Rides Again

It's wasn't until the 21st century that José Mojica Marins was able to get a third full-blooded Coffin Joe film off the ground. Before that movie was finally made we got The Bloody Exorcism of Coffin Joe and this strange little piece, originally titled Ritual Of The Sadist. I guess the best way to look at AWAKENING OF THE BEAST is to consider it an anthology film of several small, depraved tales bracketed by a contrived wraparound story. Although I find some parts of the film to be very interesting, I don't like the movie as a whole. It's disjointed, silly, slow and at times boring. And when you can say a movie involving Coffin Joe is boring, you know something went wrong!

I'm not really sure that the short tales presented in the film were originally made to be a part of a Coffin Joe film. I think it's more likely that the pieces were fit into a framework Marins came up with to craft a feature inexpensively. Although Marins claims to love this movie and thinks of it as one of his best I very much disagree. He seems to be proud of it because of the 'social commentary' elements in the various stories but it's those very bits that drag the movie down and provoke yawns from me. There're few things more boring than being preached at when all you're looking for is an entertaining movie. This is easily the least of Coffin Joe films and it's the one I'd advise skipping if funds are short.

The set-up for the wraparound story is a discussion between several intellectuals and academics about the horrible state of the world because of the lack of morality in people. The men relate various absurd, sinister stories to prove their points. The men are obviously just trying to top each other in a kind of 'Who has the more bizarre tale?' contest but they all take it seriously... so maybe we should too. Naaaah! Each story has illegal drugs as its catalyst, with the point being that they "stimulate depravity and promote corruption". That's all well and good but the stories are so damned silly that there's no way I can take them seriously. You'd expect stories that relate awful circumstances of rape, adultery, murder, violence and humiliation to be depressing or at least interesting, but as presented here they're really just dull. And Marins' attempts at symbolism are so obvious and ham-handed (a fat, lecherous businessman turning into a pig; a shot of bull horns when a cheating wife speaks of her husband, etc.) that they cause laughter instead of reflection. As the stories are told we are gradually shown that one of the men in the discussion is Marins, going under the name of Mr. Mojica.

But it's not until the final story that things really get interesting. In this tale a professor relates the details of a highly unethical experiment in which he dosed four drug addicts with LSD and had them focus on images of Zé do Caixao. As the hallucinogen takes hold the film suddenly jumps to color and Marins parades every bizarre idea of psychedelic insanity he possibly can in front of the camera. Set loose from the constricting need to be coherent he splashes bright colors and shock imagery on screen and if you look carefully I'm sure you'll even see a kitchen sink! Of course, this sequence is more often than not ridiculous and silly but there are several moments that are genuinely creepy. Some of the hellish pictures presented during this segment strike an unnerving chord — even though there is no way the sight of a bunch of men's asses painted with faces is ever going to be anything other than unintentionally funny. This section of the film is like watching the unholy merger of a David Lynch film that's been put through Cronenberg's telepod from The Fly with a copy of an Ed Wood masterpiece. Demented? Yeah, but definitely interesting... which is more than I can say for the first hour of the film.

Thursday, August 09, 2018

Poster Art for LIVE AND LET DIE (1973)

This James Bond classic is forty-five years old this year! How time flies. There's a fine round table discussion of the film over on The Digital Bits

Tuesday, August 07, 2018

The Bloody Pit #71 - THE HOUSE OF SEVEN GABLES (1940)

Once again we travel back to 1940 to check in on the horror film output of Universal Studio! This time we have an adaptation of Nathaniel Hawthorne's classic novel THE HOUSE OF SEVEN GABLES. Filmed both before and since it's as straightforward an example of a melodrama filled with familial guilt and resentment played out against a background of possible supernatural components as you are likely to find. Did someone say Gothic Romance? Well - I did, even if this might not be exactly what some think of when imagining that specific type of creepy tale. I make the argument that this film may have been the template for a few dozen similar tales over the decades with Troy pointing out the Dan Curtis connection as well. This movie casts a long, dark shadow indeed!

We dig deeply into the film, happy that we get to talk about Vincent Price one more time before he exits Universal. The rest of the cast is even more impressive with George Sanders playing his standard cad character with arch skill. But it's the amazing Margret Lindsey as Hepzibah that takes top acting honors bringing real longing and nuanced emotion to the most difficult role in the story. We get return visits from Alan Napier, Cecil Kellaway and Nan Grey with singing cowboy Dick Foran making his debut in a Universal Horror film. As the discussion continues we talk about the changes and additions to the original story with special attention paid to future victim of the Black List, screenwriter Lester Cole. We also touch on the visual choices made by director Joe May. This is a beautiful movie with much of interest to classic horror fans and romantic drama aficionados too.

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