It's October again and time for us to cover a horror film with Spanish connections. This time we tackle one of the best zombie films of all time - that's right - I said it! THE LIVING DEAD AT MANCHESTER MORGUE was conceived as a way to cash in on the popularity of NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD but it goes in its own direction to great effect. Indeed, it is such a creative and intriguing variation on the cannibalistic walking dead that both
Troy and I mark it as a
favorite of the subgenre. It plays with lots of ideas that can tickle the
intellect but never skimps on the atmosphere or scares. One of the themes of
the movie seems to be man's breach of trust in our dealings with nature with
the film wasting no time showing us images of our ecological crimes to drive
this thought home. As George leaves London
director Jorge Grau focuses his camera on car tailpipes, smoke stacks, piles of
garbage and venting sewer grates forcing us to look at our daily polluting of
the earth. These things are not dwelled upon as the movie continues but the
ideas, like a creeping zombie, lurk behind everything that happens. The film also presents a colorful
and beautifully shot series of images that can be enjoyed just as fine
cinematography and lovely framing so you don't have to be a gore hound to be
entertained by this one.
Saturday, October 18, 2014
Adams is one of my favorite comic book artists of all time and his work on various monster magazines is my second favorite of his career. (His Tarzan illustrations are even better in my opinion.)
Friday, October 17, 2014
Thursday, October 16, 2014
Voodoo Island is best known (if at all) as one of many programmers made by Boris Karloff in the 1950s. It's not one of King Karloff's best moments.
Howard Carlton (Owen Cunningham) is a very wealthy man who has finally decided to look into developing a Pacific island he purchased some time ago. Supposedly uninhabited, the island has a bad reputation with the natives in the area and it is said that no one who goes there ever returns. Unconcerned about superstition plus seeing potential gold on them thar shores, Carlton recently sent a team of land surveyors to look over the place with an eye to building a hotel and resort in this tropical paradise. But the only member of the group to return was Mitchell (Glenn Dixon) who washed up on another island in a small boat. Alive but in a catatonic, zombie-like state Mitchell can offer no information on what happened. Carlton calls in Phillip Knight (Karloff), a professional skeptic and debunker of supernatural claims, asking him to visit the island to discover what happened to the surveyors. Knight openly doubts Carlton's tale with not even Mitchell’s odd state convincing him this isn't an elaborate Voodoo publicity stunt. He agrees to go but insists on complete autonomy and the right to publish his findings his own way. Carlton agrees and allows Knight to take a small group with him sending his right hand man Finch (Murvyn Vye) along to smooth any money problems. Also making the journey is Carlton's head architect Clair Winter (Jean Engstrom), Knight’s assistant Sarah Adams (Beverly Tyler) and Mitchell is taken along just because Knight wants him to go.
En route by plane the group begins to experience strange things such as malfunctioning radios and odd disappearing storms. These phenomenon are topped by the strange death of Mitchell just as they are about to board a boat to the dreaded isle. Once on the island the intrepid crew slashes their way into the jungle looking for the previous team's trail but find only tree markers and abandoned surveying equipment. The group fight off pesky insects and pad out the film with some grade C romance between the very attractive Miss Adams and the macho boozehound boat captain Mr. Gunn (Rhodes Reason). Luckily for those of us who know the argue/fight/bond/kiss routine of such subplots we finally get to business when the fetching Miss Winter goes skinny-dipping alone in a lake. Craning our necks for a glimpse of skin instead we're given a carnivorous (and apparently inflatable) plant that attacks and kills the lady, depositing her corpse on the shore. Soon after this, another type of plant resembling a creepy, pulsing suction cup lampreys itself onto Adams' right breast! The men quickly free her (and just as I began to think all the plant life had a taste for human females) the island's natives take everyone prisoner. The native chief explains they have lived in this taboo place for years and wish to be left alone. After witnessing another of his companions die unexplainably after seeing his likeness on a voodoo doll Knight agrees, and the rest of the party are allowed to go home. The End.
Voodoo Island is a bore, pure and simple. A dull story, pedestrian acting, silly dialog and a complete lack of explanation for anything that occurs puts this on the list of the worst Karloff movies I've ever seen. I can't blame poor Boris too much — he tries hard to sell his lines, but he's asked to spout some very stupid things. Humorously, some of his most memorable lines are when he is trying to convince the group not to return to their boat and leave. His incredible argument for staying in the obviously deadly jungle is hysterical and actually had me laughing out loud. If the film had maintained this level of nuttiness I think we'd have had a cheese classic. But unfortunately this scene, the inflatable plant monster attacks and the silly romance are the only things that inject any life into this thing. I thought things were going to improve when character actor Elisha Cook Jr. showed up as the money-hungry owner of a nearby island, but even his efforts can't raise much interest. The bad script just can't be overcome.
Tuesday, October 14, 2014
This magazine was such a large part of my youth. Looking back it's easy to see how it helped to form my sense of humor from an early age bending me into the sick, sarcastic cynic I am today. Thank goodness for that!