Sunday, February 28, 2010

THE FEAR CHAMBER (1972)

I caught up with THE FEAR CHAMBER (filmed in 1968 but released in 1972) this past week and got just about what I expected. Its one of the four movies that Boris Karloff made right before he passed away and while it’s generally referred to as the best of the bunch its still a pretty terrible movie. The horror icon plays a scientist who discovers a living, possibly sentient rock in some vast underground caverns. Somehow the creature communicates with throbbing sounds and lives off human fear. Now, you may ask- how did a creature living for centuries beneath the earth’s surface evolve to need human fear to survive? Well, just by asking that question you have thought far too hard about this movie. That is only one of the many WTF elements in a story that seems content to throw them around randomly until one sticks.

To get the necessary fear infused blood to feed the rock Karloff and his band of merry mad scientists have constructed a ‘Fear Chamber’ into which they drag duped women to scare the hell out of them. When the ladies (of the night) pass out in terror they drain off some blood and drug the victim so she can’t recall her awful ordeal. This is where we get to see the sadistic turban wearing loon, the crazy-eyed bald midget and the half-wit hulking male nurse with a lobotomy scar do their thing. Which is kind of interesting for five minutes. But then the plot kicks in and the film starts to suck. Boris gives his all even to this crappy material but he can do little to save it.

This is not a good or fun movie and I would not recommend it to any but the most completist of Karloff fans. Its deadly dull and a real chore to slog through. But I can recommend the Elite Entertainment DVD release of the film. The fantastic filmmaker Jack Hill provides a solo commentary track for the movie and it is more than worth the price. It turns out that Hill wrote the script for this and the other three Mexican made movies that Kaloff filmed before his death. Unable to travel to Mexico City because of his health his scenes were filmed in California by Hill with the rest of the picture made south of the border. This is a great commentary that answers nearly all of the questions I had about the film and its production. It turns out that most of the script was tossed out or altered by the Mexican director as he saw fit. Hill thinks what he wrote was much better than what got made but I don’t know if this mess could have ever been too wonderful. Still, this track is well worth listening to even if you don’t want to watch the film itself. Hill is a fount of information and stories about not just THE FEAR CHAMBER and Karloff but filmmaking in general. His tales of editing & sound tricks to save poorly shot scenes was an eye opener for me. As a huge fan of his Blaxploitation and Women In Prison films of the 70s I was glad to have Hill explain himself and relate how the infamous Mexican foursome that ended a horror icon’s career got made. It doesn’t make this movie any better but it makes its low quality worth enduring to learn something new about low budget movie making and Boris.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Paul Naschy interview in Rue Morgue # 98


Everything is coming up Naschy lately! Here's the cover of the newest issue of Canadian horror magazine Rue Morgue featuring his Valdemar Daninsky werewolf character in full growl. I'm not sure if this presents the last interview he gave before his passing but any chance to read the man's own words about his career is a good thing. I don't pick Rue Morgue up all that often but I'll be glad to purchase a copy of this one when it hits bookstore shelves next week.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

There's a DR. SYN movie from the 1930s?


How did I miss the fact that this film exists? I've been a fan of the Doctor Syn character since catching the Disney version of the story on the Wide World of Disney in my youth. Years later I caught up with a (bootleg) print of the Hammer take on the tale called CAPTAIN CLEGG (a.k.a. NIGHT CREATURES) and really enjoyed it. Happily both of these are available on DVD even if the prices being asked for the out of print Disney SCARECROW OF ROMNEY MARSH is insane. Rarely have I cursed myself so much for not pre-ordering a DVD release! I may never own that set. But I do own a beaten and water stained paperback of the second Dr. Syn novel 'Dr. Syn on the High Seas' but I've yet to read it. I kind of want to read the original first but the cover describes it as 'The First Adventure in the saga of Dr. Syn' so I'm a bit confused. Research is needed!

Anyway- the 1937 version of the tale is a British production directed by Roy William Neill who was later responsible for most of the Rathbone Sherlock Holmes movies of the 1940s and one of my favorite Universal monster movies FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLFMAN. The film has apparently been available on cheap Public Domain DVDs for years but I've never come across it until now. I can't wait!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Artwork for THUNDERBALL


I've never been as big a fan of the fourth Bond film as many other folks claim to be- I feel its bloated and slow- but it has some of the most iconic of images.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Neil Volks' Naschy artwork


Lately Naschy is all around me. The amazing Mr. Volks has done three new pieces for a tribute book and the other two can be seen at his blog. Ya gotta love it!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Because there can never be enough!

STAR CRASH poster art for sale on eBay! And why not?

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The original song for BARBARELLA (1968)

I just recently learned that Michel Magne was originally invited to write the themes and incidental music for the film BARBARELLA but his work was rejected along the way. Its a shame. As you can tell from this recreation of the opening zero-G sequence the song he wrote was a perfect way to begin the movie's long, strange trip. Sung by Jackie Lee it captures the essence of the film's tone in much the same playful way the credits seem to. Maybe a future release could include this music as an alternate track?

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Spaghetti Western lobby card


Because sometimes three barrels just are not enough.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

EVIL FACE (1974)


I watched the Euro-trash film EVIL FACE (a.k.a. The Hand That Feeds the Dead) tonight and found it to be a really mixed bag. A fairly standard riff on EYES WITHOUT A FACE (a sub-genre with more entries than you might think) it has several points of interest but still can’t completely score.

First the good- it stars Klaus Kinski doing his typical great job with what little he is given. He plays the tragic doctor trying to return his scarred wife’s beauty by slicing flesh from unwilling donors. Strangely these transplants seem to go very well which isn’t the norm for the genre but the doc’s been at it for ten years so I guess he’s ironed out the problems. The ladies on display are all lovely and have just enough personality to make each interesting. My old friend Frank used to joke that ALL films have a lesbian scene but most get cut out in the final edit. Well EVIL FACE keeps its Sapphic Scene intact and it is nicely erotic- if you like that sort of thing. I enjoyed the period setting and location shooting which gave the picture some real flavor. The story moves pretty well and I was rarely bored by it but....

...it never really jells either. The story is a mess with the focus shifting from one character to the next with little reason. The person we are lead to think is the main character is very often shunted off screen (or into a lesbian embrace) while we watch scenes of everyone else mill about and do things. Too much time is spent on the tedious surgery sequences in which it is obvious Kinski is not the man behind the scalpel. I’ve no idea why he didn’t do these scenes but its clearly not him and the film suffers because of it. I kept waiting for the close-ups of Klaus giving an intense look at his handy work that would indicate his satisfaction, fear or anything at all. Not having these kinds of emotional touches make the laborious, gory grafting scenes get old quite fast. It’s a shame as Kinski could have really enlivened this stuff as he ably demonstrates in his surprisingly short time onscreen. His weepy breakdown near the end is highly effective and shows exactly why you hire someone like him.

In the end it’s the unfocused nature of the narrative that keeps the film from being very good. While it’s possible to move from character to character in the course of a film and retain a connection with the audience (think PSYCHO) it takes more scripting skill than is evident here. In the end, although it isn’t a terrible film it also isn’t good. As for the MYA DVD the less said the better. If I had paid for this disc instead of renting I would be furious. Taken from a videotape source it looks washed out and generally crappy while the English subtitles are pathetic in their laziness. That they want more than $20 for this is a joke of the bad kind.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

THE VALDEMAR INHERITANCE (2010) - trailer

One of the great things about starting the Naschy Podcast has been getting contacts from other fans of the Spanish Horror Master around the world. Top of this list is Elena. This nice lady runs a Spanish language blog about Naschy that (even through the Bable Fish translation program) is quite a fantastic read. She certainly loves the man and his work at least as much as Troy and I do.

One of the neat things I found over at Un Fan de Paul Naschy is this trailer for what will now be his final film. Inspired by H. P. Lovecraft and looking like a well produced supernatural horror tale I cannot wait to get the chance to see it. And since Universal was involved perhaps that will happen sooner rather than later.

Sadly this is only in Spanish with no subtitle option but it more than gets across the idea. Check it out!

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Naschy Cast #1 - THE MARK OF THE WOLFMAN


I have been a big fan of the films of Paul Naschy for about 20 years. I read about him and his work for years before I finally got to see any of it but, unlike many things longed for or anticipated, these movies were well worth seeking out. For the last few years my friend Troy and I have gotten together a few times a year for Naschy Nights during which we check out a couple of these cinematic efforts and, afterward, discuss them. With the recent passing of the great man we’ve decided to make a record of these little talks and let anyone who might be interested listen in as we ramble on. We’ll present these as audio PodCasts in MP3 format downloadable from right here. Our plan is to focus on a single film once a month and discuss it from stem to stern hopefully bringing some more attention to these often overlooked and still (in some cases) hard to find horror classics. With any luck we’ll be able to stick to our proposed schedule and in one year we’ll have an even dozen of these for your listening pleasure.

For the inaugural show we’ve chosen to start at the beginning with Naschy’s first monster film THE MARK OF THE WOLFMAN or, as it was known in the US, FRANKENSTEIN’S BLOODY TERROR. Next month’s episode will focus on HORROR RISES FROM THE TOMB. We hope you’ll check out our humble effort and let us know what you think.

Download from here!

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

What I Watched In January


Whew! What a month. Snow in Tennessee is a rare and glorious thing and we've had plenty so far this year. All that snow has given me the chance to see a number of movies, run through an entire serial (TERRY AND THE PIRATES), read Stephan King's Under the Dome (not too bad at all) and come up with a new project I'll be announcing here in the next couple of weeks. I'm pretty excited and not just because the final season of Lost begins tonight!

By the way -TERRY & THE PIRATES was a fun Columbia chapter play. Spread over 15 installments it started to wear out its welcome near the end but overall it was a good one. Most serious serial fans regard the Columbia output to be of lesser quality than the ones from Republic Studio but I've found a number of them (THE SPIDER'S WEB, THE SHADOW, THE GREEN HORNET) to be very good examples of the form. I'm currently marching through the fantastic Republic produced DAREDEVILS OF THE RED CIRCLE with my girlfriend and having a hell of a time with it. This is my second viewing of this classic serial but the first time I really have a chance to enjoy it. The first time through was with my old buddy Jack years ago. We watched the whole damned thing all in one night- chapter after chapter. That was a long night.

Also, without planning, January became krimi month for me. I watched four of those great German crime movies and enjoyed each one. And I have more in the pile to see as soon as I can! The wonders of the film world are grand!


MY NAME IS BRUCE (2008)- 5 (fun but strained comedy)
LIGHTNING BUGS (2004)- 6 (well done coming of age drama)
RING OF DARKNESS (1979)- 4 (sloppy hokum about Satan, naked women, evil, etc.)
SLEEPERS WEST (1941)- 5 (not bad Michael Shayne tale)
HAVE A GOOD FUNERAL, MY FRIEND... SARTANA WILL PAY (1970)- 8
THE HUMAN VAPOR (1960)- 2 (deadly dull Toho sci-fi)
THE FROZEN DEAD (1967)- 3 (frozen Nazi/mad scientist films starring Dana Andrews should be much better than this)
HELL’S HIGHWAY (1932)- 6 (good Richard Dix prison film)
BARBARIAN QUEEN (1985)- 3 (pretty bad sword & breasts saga)
SHERLOCK HOLMES (2009)- 8 (fun new version of a great character)
THE MERCENARY (1968)- 8 (rewatch) (fantastic Corbucci western)
THE GORILLA OF SOHO (1968)- 6 (silly, frantic krimi with one big plot problem- but still fun)
LOTR: THE RETURN OF THE KING (2003)- 8 (rewatch)
RETURN OF THE GLADIATOR (1971)- 2 (terrible peplum)
DAYBREAKERS (2010)- 7 (good, gory vampire SF)
NOT OF THIS EARTH (1958)- 6 (fun Corman science fiction)
AMERICA 3000 (1986)- 2 (terrible post apocalyptic tale)
FLASHMAN (1967)- 6 (fun, Euro-heroic adventure)
THE DEAD ONE IN THE THAMES RIVER (1971) – 6 (good, late-in-the-cycle color krimi)
DEAD HEAT ON A MERRY-GO-ROUND (1966)- 9 (fantastic!)
DRAG ME TO HELL (2009)- 8 (rewatch)
OSS 117 (1963) – 5 (very DR. NO-like, but flat and uninvolving for the most part)
THE BOOK OF ELI (2010) – 7 (well done if a bit too flashy at times)
THE SCARLET BLADE (1963)- 6 (good Roundheads vs. Royals adventure tale with Oliver Reed the standout)
CHARLIE CHAN’S SECRET (1936) – 6 (Warner Oland was the best Chan)
THE TRYGON FACTOR (1966) – 7 (well done krimi)
THE ROARING TWENTIES (1939)- 9 (Cagney & Bogart ripping the place to the ground)
THE SINISTER MONK (1965) – 7 (great krimi)
TOWER OF TERROR (1941)- 5 (ok wartime spy tale)
ROCK ‘N’ ROLLA (2008) – 8 (rewatch)
THE CROSS OF THE DEVIL (1975)- 6 (supernatural, creepy tale)
THE MARK OF THE WOLFMAN (1968)- 6 (rewatch)
KILLDOZER (1974) – 6 (cool TV movie)

Monday, February 01, 2010

Lego Star Wars

I knew those Stormtroopers had to be good at something.