Saturday, October 31, 2009

Friday, October 30, 2009

THE KEEP (1983)-trailer

Rewatched this last night for the first time in years and once again I 'enjoyed' it. I say 'enjoyed' because it is such a mess of a movie and such a destruction of the book its based on that it could never really be a wholly great experience. But......I do like watching it and wondering what it might have been. What a cast! And it looks amazing too. But that score was a misstep. And I'm pretty sure at least 20 minutes of story was hacked out of the running time.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

More Lovecraft Radio

I meant to add at least one more non-Lovecraft penned horror radio show to the blog in October but my trip to Florida has delayed things a bit. Here finally is Suspense's pretty smart version of The Dunwich Horror which recasts it as a radio broadcast much like the Mercury Theater altered War of the Worlds. Enjoy!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Horror movie marathons

(click to embiggen)
Back in the 1990s (feeling old now) each October I and a group of friends used to trek up to Columbus, Ohio to attend a 24 hour horror movie marathon. First held in the Drexal North Theater then moved to various places it was a long but fun trip that always made for great stories afterward. And the movies we got to see were great too! How else was I to see THE ABOMINABLE DR. PHIBES, THE TINGLER, THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, THE EXORCIST, Jose Larraz's VAMPYRES, SCARS OF DRACULA or a host of other great movies on the big screen? Those were great days but we stopped going around 2000 when it just started to become too hard to get everyone's schedules in order. It appears that they have continued doing the show and I would have loved to go this year. *sigh* Sadly it was the weekend I was in Florida......and I had no idea until today! Maybe next year. Maybe.


Saturday, October 24, 2009

Italian Gothics list

Over at the web site someone has compiled what might be a complete list of the Gothic Horror films made in Italy in the past five decades. Two things occurred to me as I ran through it.

1. Were there only 36 made?!?
2. There are a couple I haven't seen yet!!

But closer examination brought up other questions. Why are the last three considered right for this list? NOSFERATU IN VENICE doesn't seem to really qualify, THE CHURCH is a modern day tale and DARK WATERS just seems a stretch. I like all three movies but I've never thought of them as Gothics. Also, including THE REINCARNATION OF ISABEL is pushing things too. Its a completely crazed movie but its not really got much in the way of Gothic trappings. And TRAGIC CEREMONY wasn't a Gothic at all as I remember it. Also, I would have listed number 16 by its more impressive title CEMETERY OF THE LIVING DEAD.

Still, quibbles aside, its fun to have a list like this. It gives me a few movies to track down I was unaware of at all and its good for debates among aficionados.


Friday, October 23, 2009


While obviously one of the long line of psychological thrillers that Hammer (and plenty of other studios) were cranking out by the bucket load in the late 60s CRESCENDO elevates itself above the pack in several ways. The script co-written by Jimmy Sangster is one of his more interesting efforts in that, while stealing wholesale from earlier movies from his own pen such as PARANOIAC , SCREAM OF FEAR, NIGHTMARE and HYSTERIA, he added enough things to make it a bit fresher than it really should be. After all- the plot is essentially the exact same damned thing as three of the four movies I just mentioned! I used to wonder if Sangster wrote a whole new screenplay each time Hammer asked for one of these tales or just scratched out the old names and replaced them. But this is film we’re talking about here. A certain amount of stealing is expected and even lauded if you can make it somehow entertaining. Of course, I’m tempted to give some credit to director Alan Gibson as I’ve always been entertained by his often mocked 70s twofer of DRACULA AD ’72 and THE SATANIC RITES OF DRACULA but the truth is the director’s hand is only strongly felt a few times. Gibson does a good job with this story but another competent filmmaker could have probably done just as well.

I won’t run down the plot as I hope to encourage folks to see it. I’ll just mention the stand out elements that I feel worked or didn’t. First- I loved the bookend shot-on-location sections at the beginning and end of the film. As the entire center of the movie takes place in the house/on a (good) set, having the real locations there in those places made Susan’s (Stephanie Powers) arrival and departure seem very much like entering and leaving another world. Almost as if her stay in the French house of her musical hero and his bizarre family was a dream turned nightmare she was lucky to awaken from. In a recent online discussion of CRESCENDO a buddy pointed out the similarity of this bracketing device to Mario Bava’s LISA & THE DEVIL (1972). Powers is one of the best things about the movie in my opinion. She turns in a completely believable performance that makes the journey Susan takes sad and scary by turns. It doesn’t hurt that Miss Powers was a stunning beauty and I was not made unhappy by her time in a bikini or her brief moment of nudity either.

I also liked the sleazy aspects of the tale. There’s drug addiction, sexual deviancy of several types, blackmail and nasty jealousy around every corner. I was almost relieved when the matriarch (Danielle Ryman in a fine performance) of this sick household revealed herself as not quite the sick puppy I thought she might be. I was sure insest was on the plate but I was off a little. There is a dual role in the movie played by James Olson which is handled very well too. Olson has a tough job as he has to appear to be hiding things (which he is) but also seem honest in his affection for Susan. Attributing his swings of emotion and temperament to his addiction is the obvious thing and it provides a solid cover for the warring desires the actor has to play.

I also like the mystery at the center of it all. I can honestly say that when the answer to things popped up I was shocked. It was just about the last thing I was expecting. The small hints toward a supernatural element are almost always a red herring in these movies but I had started to think (as I’m sure we are supposed to) that Olson just went non-verbal in his heroin fits and pounded on the piano…. and maybe his mother, if you follow my incest thought progression. I like the vaguely sinister chauffer/servant played by Joss Ackland and the evil/sexy maid played by Jane Lapotaire. Her exit from the story is quite well handled with the sight of the drained pool adding to the mystery at the time as well as the creep factor.

The one story element that I didn’t think highly of was Susan’s falling in love with Olsen’s character. It was the one element that seemed, in a way, too much....except... Powers had me buying it. That's how good she is here, in my opinion. Also, the obvious emotional rush Susan was feeling at her amazing opportunity to write about her idol made it plausible (to a degree) that she would get swept up in a romance. It wasn't until after the film was over that I thought too hard about that aspect of the story which tells me the movie worked better than it had a right to.

So, if it sounds intriguing please check it out.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

HAND failure

I give up! I have tried to watch Oliver Stone’s 1981 horror movie THE HAND twice now and haven’t been able to do it. This has nothing to do with the quality of the film in question. Not even the clear disinterest in the project that star Michael Caine displays could keep me from sitting through a disembodied hand movie. And he really does NOT seem to care here! Seriously- in some scenes it’s as if he thinks they were doing a camera test or a practice shot instead of an actual take! No! Indifferent acting is not the reason for me moving on to the next movie in the October stack. The truth is that I have tried two different DVDs of THE HAND from NetFlix and neither has been playable. The first looked as if it has been skipped across the Kroger parking lot for giggles and the second one has a strange dimple in it that locks the movie up at about the 17 minute mark.

So I give up. Maybe one day in the future I’ll see this flick but not this month. Or year.

I'm back!

Sorry I've been away from the blog but I have a good excuse. I took a brief vacation and jetted down to Disney World to experience Halloween with Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party. This is something I've wanted to do for years and this time things fell into place. I'll get back to posting some cool stuff ASAP. No more slacking!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Ash O'Lantern

Possibly the coolest carved pumpkin of all time!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Lovecraft radio drama

Horror author H.P. Lovecraft has always been extremely problematic for anyone attempting to adapt his work into another format. His style of horror storytelling is often too arch with his protagonists in situations where their wills are sapped or their actions forced by outside influences. Since these tales are mostly about interior struggles and unseen terrors it can be very hard to make a visual version of a Lovecraft story be, in any way, cinematic. Filmmakers usually have to find a way to juice up the story or bend it to a more normal form to convert it to something that makes sense as a linear narrative. This is usually a recipe for disaster. There have been far more misses than hits with Lovecraft film adaptations but his luck with audio drama is pretty good. I have found a number of really great old radio versions of his short stories and I’ll post links to a couple over the next week.

Here is his excellent 'Rats in the Walls' adapted by the show The Black Mass.


Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Monster art from Neil Volks

From one of my favorite comic book artists Mr. Neil Volks. Amazing stuff! Now I have the desire to re-read the brilliant graphic novel THE BLACK FOREST drawn by him and written by Bob Tinnell & Todd Livingston! That is one great period monster tale that any horror comic book fan would enjoy.

(Click to enlarge!)

Sunday, October 11, 2009

The first Fruit Brute TV commercial

The first attempt to add a fruit cereal to the General Mills Monster lineup. Sadly it only lasted a few years from the mid 70s to about 1983. We miss you Fruit Brute!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

StarShipSofa Stories Volume 1

I've not advertised the fact here but since last December I've been doing monthly film reviews for the science fiction podcast Star Ship Sofa. If you've never listened to the show I highly recommend it. Host and Master Controller Tony C. Smith puts together a consistently excellent hour to two hour a week program that includes great narrations of science fiction short stories as well as book & comic reviews. As good as the fiction is on SSS I often find my favorite sections being the wonderful fact articles on science by J.J. Campanella or the history lessons about the SF genre and its roots from Amy H. Sturges. They, as well as the other contributors, are amazing and I always feel that my time with them and the show is very well spent.

Recently Tony got the idea to publish the first volume of a Star Ship Sofa book and it is impressive. Collecting short stories that have been broadcast on the show (with the kind permission of the various authors) in print form STARSHIPSOFA STORIES VOL. 1 is a beautiful book packed with great SF tales that any fan would enjoy. It's being offered in three different styles depending on your budget with a fantastic new cover that you can see above. And if you just want to read the stories for free you can just download the free eBook version! That's right. FREE!

I urge you to check out both the free podcast and the book. Tell'em Rod sent you. They know me over there.


Thursday, October 08, 2009

Horror Radio

I'm a big fan of Old Time Radio shows especially the ones that focus on horror tales. Big surprise I’m sure. I first listened to them as a young boy when, on Saturday nights, I could just barely pull in a Chicago station that broadcast the CBS Mystery Theater at 11PM. This was just as I was being made to go to bed on those evenings and I would tune my little clock radio in as best I could, pull the covers up tight to my chin and thrill to some intensely creepy tales guaranteed to give me nightmares. These days I have a pretty large collection of various series from the 1930s to the 1970s and over the next few weeks I’ll post up a few goodies for your listening pleasure. Hopefully they will give you a pleasant shiver on a chilly October night.

First up is an episode of The Halls of Fantasy entitled The Twisting Weeds of Death!


Wednesday, October 07, 2009

THE CALL OF CTHULU (2006) trailer

Because I always fear the dark Elder Gods are watching from the next reality over......

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Horror movie poster art

Can the director of CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST make a good slasher? I'll know soon enough.

Great art for a not so great film. It almost had Nazi zombies though! Almost.

Apparently a terrible film but with John Saxon in the lead I will have to see it. You have to love the detail in this artwork. They don't make'em like this anymore.

Nazi Zombies!

Last week I caught up with the little horror thriller cum slasher film EYES OF A STRANGER (1981). During the film I was amused to spot that a future victim was watching a late night broadcast of SHOCK WAVES (1977) on a black & white TV. I grinned as I said to myself "I bet this was directed by the same fellow." Indeed Ken Wiederhorn did direct both movies and while the earlier film is definitely better EYES isn't too bad.

SHOCK WAVES stands out as a solid member of what used to be a very rare sub-genre – the Nazi Zombie Film. In the 70s Nazi zombies were a difficult thing to see as opposed to now where you almost trip over the damned things on the way to lunch. You can easily understand the thinking behind choosing them as your monster in much the same way the third Indiana Jones film reverted to Nazis as villains- if you throw a Nazi onscreen you have a ready made bad guy and all you need to do is add a few details. In THE LAST CRUSADE I rolled my eyes at this facile short cut to creating a hiss-able villain but I have to admit that once you make the Nazi a zombie I'm suddenly much more forgiving. Bring on more of this sub-genre! I love'em all! (Or, at least most of them.)

The best of the recent spate of NZ films is the amazingly fun EVIL DEAD riff from Norway DEAD SNOW (2008). Here's the trailer.

Monday, October 05, 2009

THE FROZEN DEAD (1967) trailer

I have still never seen this one but a seemingly drunk Dana Andrews makes it a must view for me. And the fact that its in black & white. And appears to sport Nazi undead.

Damn! Where can I find this?

Monster cereal commercial

From 1973, Boo Berry makes his debut to a happy Saturday morning audience.

Sunday, October 04, 2009


I caught the very fun ZOMBIELAND today and had a blast. Very much a film aware of its predecessors it is willing to both absorb and subvert them as it plays with what we expect from a comedy/horror while still delivering the goods. Using a voiceover to inform us how things got started (beware of tainted meat) and to allow a peek inside young naïf Colombus' (Jesse Eisenberg) neurotic nature the story moves along effortlessly. His list of rules for surviving a zombie apocalypse are amusing with the wisdom of staying in shape and the importance of seatbelts becoming evident as the running living dead rush at our gun toting heroes. Woody Harrelson was born to play the role he commands here as a slightly testy but good hearted zombie killer with a bad attitude and a desire for snack cakes. He’s extremely funny and knows exactly how to play in this genre. On the list of great modern horror comedies it isn’t as good as SHAUN OF THE DEAD or RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD but its pretty damned good. And I’d damn sure prefer a sequel to this next October than another freakin’ SAW movie.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

The October Horror Movie Challenge

Each October, in a tradition that stretches back to my childhood, I try to see as many horror movies as I can. I call it ‘The 31 Days of Halloween’ reveling in the happiness that scary movies and the coming of Fall weather give me. I’ve been keeping track of the films I watch for this blog for a couple of years now but I think I’ve found a new, fun way to make this October’s horror movie binge more interesting. Over on the DVD Talk site there is a game called The October Horror Movie Challenge. Somewhat like a game of bingo the idea is to reach 100 movies in the month (which I will not be trying, thank you very much). I’m more interested in using their categories list to play my own version of the game. For my version the idea will be to check off as many of the categories listed with the fewest movies. And since a single movie can tick far more than one box on the list I think this way of playing will be far more fun.

Here’s the list—

The DVDTalk October Horror Challenge Expanded Checklist/Bingo Card

Watch one film from every decade of film history.
--- 1890 - (insert film title here)
--- 1900 -
--- 1910 -
--- 1920 -
--- 1930 -
--- 1940 -
--- 1950 -
--- 1960 -
--- 1970 -
--- 1980 -
--- 1990 -
--- 2000 -

Watch a film for each rating:
--- Unrated (pre-MPAA) - (insert film title here)
--- G -
--- PG -
--- PG-13 -
--- R -
--- NC-17 -
--- X (not porn; several horror films were rated X) -
--- Unrated (post-MPAA) -

Watch films in at least three formats (DVD, BD, HD DVD, Laserdisc, TV, online, UMD, theater, iPod, etc).
--- First format, (insert format), (insert title).
--- Second format, (insert format), (insert title).
--- Third format, (insert format), (insert title).

Watch a film starring:
--- Bela Lugosi - (insert film title here)
--- Lon Chaney Sr. -
--- Boris Karloff -
--- Lon Chaney Jr. -
--- Vincent Price -
--- Peter Cushing -
--- Christopher Lee -
--- Robert Englund -
--- Bruce Campbell -
--- Jamie Lee Curtis -

Watch films in at least two languages other than English.
--- First language, (insert language), (insert title).
--- Second language, (insert language), (insert title).

Watch a film in each of the following subgenres/types:
--- Vampire - (insert film title here)
--- Frankenstein -
--- Werewolf -
--- Mummy -
--- Invisible Man -
--- Ghost/haunting -
--- Witchcraft/satanic/religious -
--- Zombie -
--- Slasher/psycho/homicidal maniac -
--- Monster/creature feature/Godzilla -
--- Documentary -
--- Musical -
--- Spoof/comedy -
--- Revenge -
--- Killer/evil doll -
--- Killer/evil animal -
--- Killer/evil child -
--- Giallo -
--- J horror -
--- MST3K/rifftrax/CT -
--- film and its remake -
--- based on a video game -
--- based on a novel -
--- directed by Herschell Gordon Lewis or Uwe Boll or Ulli Lommel -
--- won an Academy Award -- any category -
--- silent film -
--- Criterion version film -
--- with commentary -
--- film and at least two of its sequels -
--- anthology film -
--- takes place on a holiday -
--- takes place in space -
--- takes place on or under the sea -
--- animated film -
--- called "Night of ..." -
--- called "Return of ..." -
--- called "Revenge of ..." -
--- called "Attack of ..." -
--- with the words "Living Dead" in the title -

(One film could fill multiple items. Example: Dracula would fill one for decade, rating, actor, vampire, based on novel, and maybe others as well.)
(Use a * to mark first time viewings.)
(Change "---" to "-X-" or some similar mark when you have completed
that line item.

This will be fun and a good way to think about my horror viewing as I go along this month. Now I’m off to watch DEATH SHIP (1980)! Let’s see- that hits the 1980s category and it takes place on the sea. Do I get points for George Kennedy?

Friday, October 02, 2009

What I Watched In September

I didn't get out to the theater as much in September as I have the rest of the summer. I suppose this was because there was less I really wanted to see- the thought of suffering through Zombie's HALLOWEEN 2 makes my head hurt. The real surprise of the month was the Alec Guinness film OUR MAN IN HAVANA which was incredible. A fantastic film I recommend to everyone. I had no idea how much John le Carre had stolen from this and the Graham Greene novel its based on for the also great TAILOR OF PANAMA. They would make for a fascinating double feature of darkly comic cold war spy tales.

THE BRANIAC (1961)- 7 (rewatch) (insane Mexi-horror fun)
REVOLVER (2005)- 8 (Guy Ritchie’s bizarre take on crime, ego and the ‘self’)
HOLIDAY (1938)- 8 (wonderful old Hollywood romantic comedy/drama)
BAND OF OUTSIDERS (1964)- 7 (Godard’s pulp noir)
INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS (2009) – 9 (a second viewing bumps it up a point)
DISTRICT B13 (2005)- 7 (French version of ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK)
MY NAME IS MODESTY (2004)- 5 (good idea and story hampered by low budget- will there ever be a good Modesty Blaise film?)
GIRL BOSS REVENGE (1973)- 6 (tasty Pinky Violence film)
SHOOT ‘EM UP (2006) – 7 (fun live action cartoon with Clive Owen as Bugs Bunny)
SINISTER HANDS (1932)- 4 (static, predictable murder mystery)
HORRIBLE (1981)- 3 (sloppy, silly, gory Euro-horror)
WHITEOUT (2009)- 6 (pretty good thriller with one too obvious mystery element)
DANTE 01 (2008)- 5 (interesting French sci-fi film that is too ambiguous to be satisfying)
TOMBS OF THE BLIND DEAD (1971)- 8 (rewatch)
POLTERGEIST (1982) - 9 (rewatch)
THE THRONE OF FIRE (1983)- 3 (terrible Italian barbarian movie with some fun elements)
POLTERGEIST II: THE OTHER SIDE (1986)- 4 (rewatch)
9 (2009)- 9 (excellent animated post-apocalyptic film)
SAVAGE SISTERS (1974) - 6 (fun Philippine made exploitation nonsense)
OUR MAN IN HAVANA (1959)- 9 (Alec Guinness with a script by Graham Greene directed by Carol Reed- amazing)
PANDORUM (2009)- 4 (could have been good but is too muddled)
POLTERGIEST 3 (1988)- 3 (rewatch)
CHILDREN OF THE CORN (1984)- 3 (rewatch)
ROOM 205 (2007)- 6 (Danish ghost tale)
THE PYX (1973)- 5 (not awful but not good either)
TERROR AT TENKILLER (1986)- 2 (lame low budget slasher filmed in Oklahoma)
OUTPOST (2008)- 6 (OK British action/horror effort that could have been better)
EYES OF A STRANGER (1981)- 5 (not bad slasher/thriller)

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Happy October!

I usually try to watch as many horror movies of any vintage during this most scary month and this year will be no different. In fact I've gotten a head start the past two days! More reports as I forge ahead in the next 31.