Saturday, June 30, 2018

Sixty Years of WAR OF THE COLOSSAL BEAST (1958)

Wolfman's Got Nards: a Documentary About THE MONSTER SQUAD (1987)

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Boris Karloff Artwork!


Monday, June 25, 2018

THE MOLE PEOPLE (1956) Ate My Brain!

The Mole People starts with an amusing four and a half minute talk from college English professor Dr. Frank C. Baxter, in which he ruminates about various crackpot "Hollow Earth" theories. This mini-lecture on some of the sillier ideas postulated about our planet is an indicator that this movie is not to be taken seriously. When Dr. Baxter states that if we think about the film's implications, it has much to say to us in the 20th century, I get my first chuckle of many. I'd like to think this was slapped on the beginning of the movie as a wink to the audience but it was probably done to pad out the running time.

The actual story begins with archaeologist Dr. Roger Bentley (John Agar) working on a dig somewhere in Asia. (That's as specific as the film gets!) He and his team find a tablet fragment with indications of Sumerian origins. After a small earthquake they are shown an unearthed ancient oil lamp found at the base of a local mountain. Convinced of the possibility of a major find, Bentley and Dr. Jud Bellamin (Hugh Beaumont) mount an expedition to the mountain's summit. After much stock climbing footage — shades of 1951's Lost Continent! — they reach a high plateau scattered with crumbling Sumerian buildings. When a member of the team falls into a deep crevasse the men descend into the mountain and make the archaeological discovery of the century: a living Sumerian settlement cut off from the world for thousands of years! Amazingly the inhabitants have survived through the ages and maintained their culture and history. Most of the population has become albino, with extremely pale skin and a high sensitivity to bright light, while some have 'devolved' into hideous mole-like humanoids. These Mole Men are used as slave labor and are treated horribly by their masters.

Using his still functioning flashlight, Bentley convinces the rulers that he's a messenger from one of their gods and starts romancing one of the rare Sumerian 'throwbacks' (i.e., normal-looking people), the slave girl Adad (Cynthia Patrick). Adad is a stunner with surprisingly fine make-up skills and a great hair stylist who takes to the manly Agar immediately. Good Doctor Bentley has the idea that he can effect positive change in these primitive people by keeping up the lie about being a divine messenger. But the Sumerian's High Priest Elinu (Alan Napier) begins to suspect the newcomers aren't what they claim to be after the eldest of the team dies. Wishing to retain the power he has over the king, Elinu has the two remaining archaeologists drugged and thrown into the city's execution chamber. But as this is being done the devolved Mole Men rebel at last, allowing Bentley and Bellamin to make good their escape with Adad in tow.

Silly, cheesy fun from start to finish, The Mole People never resembles anything close to reality. When our heroes encounter the Sumerians there is a very quick nod to Agars' ability to speak the (very dead) language but then all the other members of the party suddenly can as well. The mole men are treated as beasts and constantly beaten but never use their digging ability to escape their cruel masters. And of course, isn't Agar lucky to run across that incredibly rare 'normal' girl to romance and rescue? But with all the crazed fun this film offers it is Agar's character that gives the film its entertaining highlights. Arrogant almost to the point of annoyance, Bentley is so forward in the first third of the movie that it felt like he'd be the villain of the story. A pushy, arrogant ass, he really seems to be the guy most likely to get a harsh comeuppance until the final third when he slides jarringly into hero mode. I love the fact that the Sumerians mistaken assumption of divine powers meshed so well with Bentley's character. It didn't take much for him to start acting like a deity. I'm surprised his swelled head didn't give off a radiance of its own!

Adding to the strangeness on display is some of the dumbest dialog of any film of the period, with Agar getting the lion's share. That he was able to utter lines like "In archaeology all things are possible" with a straight face shows real acting skill. I love that someone asked an actor to say, "The thing that impresses me the most is the complete and utter silence — you can almost hear it." I live for this kind of wackiness.

In the right frame of mind The Mole People is a blast and while never actually good, it still stands as a great example of the qualities fans love about '50s science fiction movies. It's very well produced, with all the right elements to make it a fun Saturday afternoon matinee. I love this film the way you love a not too bright pet that might chew up your shoes but is simply too cute to strangle. They don't make them like this any more... And maybe that's a good thing. 

Now- Bring on the Blu-Ray! 

Friday, June 22, 2018

Bela Lugosi Art!

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Why Do I Keep Watching ZOMBIE 3 (1988)?

Over the past 20 years I have watched  this particular film  at least half a dozen times. I have no defendable excuse for this fact because there is no good reason to watch it more than once - Ya know- for the experience!  So there is no good reason to own Zombie 3 on Blu-ray. In fact, there is no reason for Zombie 3 to even exist on Blu Ray. It is without a doubt one of the worst examples of zombie cinema made before the advent of cheap digital photography. It has a terrible script, awful acting, crappy sets, awful makeup effects, depressingly stupid ideas and a total lack of intelligence. For roughly 85% of its running time it is a nonsensical ramble thought half-formed scenarios that go nowhere. It is without a doubt one of the worst horror films I have ever watched more than once. The fact that I have to express my feelings in these particular terms will show you just how sick a horror fan I am.

So, why do I own it on Blu-ray?

Two reasons, I guess.

One is that clearly I'm a sucker. There's a part of me that seriously hopes that one day I will watch a horror film that I think of as absolutely terrible and find hidden depths or buried qualities that I was just too youthful or inexperience to discern on previous viewings. Sometimes it happens. Not often anymore, but sometimes it does and so hope springs eternal.

The second reason is that I am an incredible sucker in another way which might be worse. If there is a brand new sparkling HD edition of even a film as marginal and bad as Zombie 3 it can draw me in. Usually it's with the idea that somehow just being able to see the image more clearly may make me appreciate the film more. That has rarely happened but I can't stop thinking down that deadly path. So, Severin got me to pony up for their new Blu-Ray of this awful movie. I'm such a sucker!

Should I also admit that I bought their Blu of ZOMBIE 4 as well? How much shame can one man bear?

Sunday, June 17, 2018

What I Watched in May

ISLE OF DOGS (2018) is director Wes Anderson's second stop motion animated feature. It's a fanciful dystopian tale set in a future Japan where evil corporate interests work hand-in-glove with a compliant government to do away with all canine pet life in the country. The pets aren't euthanized - thank goodness - but are sent off instead to live on Trash Island. Those hearing overtones of Monster Island from Toho's Godzilla features would not be wrong in surmising a few of the themes played out in this wonderful and amusing film. I'm sure for some this film will be a bit too twee, as are all of Wes Anderson's films. But if you're on it's wavelength this really is a joy. The director's whimsical approach to storytelling is not for everyone so your mileage may vary.

As the culmination of several years of careful build up AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR (2018) had to do a lot of things. It had to take all the pieces laid out in over a dozen previous movies, meld them into a coherent story and then craft its own tale smartly enough to allow those who might have skipped a couple of Marvel movies to follow everything as well. Luckily the head writers of the cinematic universe have done their jobs expertly giving us an exciting and emotional superhero film that – even though it ends on an extreme down note – still feels exuberant in the right ways. The hard work of establishing the huge roster of characters has been done leaving the filmmakers the chance to build a series of escalating action scenes that bring the heroes to their knees. I was impressed that they found a way to make each fight a different kind of visual treat. In a movie with so many battles it would have been easy to fall into the trap of having them all feel too similar but they did not. I think it’s because each fight has not just different participants but also a very different goal. Each action scene felt necessary to drive the story and each was interesting in a fresh way. Other than the sheer exceptional confidence needed to pull off this project what may be the film’s most extraordinary accomplishment is that, by the end, you have some sympathy for the villain and his goal. Is it time for a philosophical paper on the war of ideas at the heart of an Avengers movie?

I was not on board with DEADPOOL 2 (2018) for the first fifteen minutes or so. The tone was the same as the jokey original but there is a death in the first section that seemed so odd that I assumed that it would become a joke as well. Since the movie up to this character’s demise had been filled with dozens of comedic deaths I thought that this one would be presented as some kind of elaborate fake-out leading to another joke. But as the story finally kicked into gear and I realized that this particular death was to be the motivating force for Deadpool it finally sank in that this one was real. Until the comedic ending post-credits that seems to reverse it. I think. Hard to tell, really. But once I caught the flow of things I really enjoyed this R rated ride and, in some ways, even more than the first. There’s a lot of creativity onscreen and it breezes along splendidly.


ISLE OF DOGS (2018) - 7
HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME (1980) -6 (rewatch)
THE SURVIVOR (1980) - 6
SEX & FURY (1973) - 8 (rewatch)
KONGA (1961) - 5 (rewatch)
THE HATCHET MAN (1932) - 6 (Edward G. Robinson as a Chinese assassin!)
THE RITUAL (2017) - 8 (strong monster tale)
WAR OF THE PLANETS (1965) - 4 (rewatch)
BLACK FRIDAY (1964) - 6 (rewatch)
MUTE (2018)- 7 (Duncan Jones has too many ideas here, but still well done)
DEADPOOL 2 (2018) - 8
JUPITER'S DARLING (1953) - 6 (silly, fun musical with Ester Williams)
THE STORY OF ROBIN HOOD (1952) - 8 (excellent Disney version)
DICK TRACY (1945) - 5 (rewatch)
THE SON OF ROBIN HOOD (1958) - 4 (pretty blah adventure with a weak script)

Friday, June 15, 2018

Mexican Vampire Cinema: A Brief History

This is the first episode in a fantastic series on ...well... Mexican Vampire Cinema! I was alerted to it by Steve Sullivan and it deserves to be much better known. Check it out! 

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Images from Wonderfest 2018's Model Show!

Monday, June 11, 2018

Bela Lugosi, Lon Chaney Jr. and Vampira on The Red Skelton Show!

I never thought I'd see this! Made famous in Tim Burton's film of ED WOOD here is the actual scene in which Lugosi becomes flustered with Skelton's ad-libs. Fascinating! 

Friday, June 08, 2018

The Bloody Pit #69 - BLACK FRIDAY (1940)

This month Troy and I return to our new series focused on the Universal Horror films of the 1940's. In fact, we leap to April 12th of 1940 for the release of the second such feature of the decade, BLACK FRIDAY. We were reticent to cover this one as neither of us had great memories of it even though it stars two of our favorite horror actors. This has always seemed the weakest of the Karloff and Lugosi pairings at Universal so talking about a low point for them felt like a bad idea. But, in the end, the chance to finally talk about those two screen greats was too enticing for us to pass up so we dove in to see what we would find on a return visit to the University of Newcastle.

We discuss the genesis of the script and it's original title including some information about writer Curt Siodmak's reuse of this story's central brain swapping premise. (Gotta cover Donovan's Brain someday!) Director Arthur Lubin's career gets some love with the tale of his history with Lugosi playing a part in how he handled the film. Karloff's incredible wardrobe is a constant topic of wonder as I ponder how much of the production's meager budget was spent keeping him looking so cool. And, obviously, the subject of the last minute casting change is discussed with reference to both Greg Mank's book 'Karloff & Lugosi: The Story of a Haunting Collaboration' and 'Universal Horrors: The Studio's Classic Films 1931-1946' by Tom Weaver, Michael Brunas and John Brunas. We are indebted to those fine books for our understanding of the production and it's background.

Near the end of the show we get to read out an email sent in by a listener with some comments and questions. If you want to do the same please write us at where we'll try to get back to you quickly. We love getting show ideas from people that enjoy what we're doing since it usually points us into areas we haven't considered for years. This episode closes with a pretty obvious song choice but it's Lugosi that has the last word. Thanks for downloading and listening!

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Thursday, June 07, 2018

Brief Thoughts - THE SON OF ROBIN HOOD (1959)

My recent search for lesser known Robin Hood films turned up this little-seen effort from 20th Century Fox. After the high of the excellent Disney version from 1952 I was perhaps a but too enthusiastic for the lower level of quality present here. Indeed, this film is pretty lame overall with only a few points of interest for adventure fans.  

This story tales place several years after the death of Robin Hood with the aged remainder of his band of men waiting for the arrival of his twenty year old offspring. It seems the people of Sherwood Forest need a new leader because another oppressive ruler, Duke Simon Des Roches, has begun abusing his power. It is felt that a shot of the olde Hood spirit is just the right thing to set things right but a problem arises when it turns out that the child of Robin is of the wrong gender! Whoops! What else can be done other than enlist a strapping young lad with a desire for revenge against the Duke to impersonate Deering Hood and lead the new Merry men to victory.

This is a pretty weak film with a tired script and not much in the way of thrills. There are a number of swordfight scenes but almost all are sub-par with little skill on display in either the fighting or the action choreography. David Hedison plays the rogue pressed into service as the Son of Robin Hood and it's interesting to see him post-THE FLY (1958) playing a dashing hero, even if he (wisely) doesn't attempt a British accent. But the movie is uninteresting with very little depth given to the characters and only one really exciting villain.

The DVD 20th Century Fox has issued of the film doesn't help elevate it's few qualities. The movie is presented full frame chopping off huge amounts of information on both sides of the Cinemascope image. Adding to this insult is the fact that film is in desperate need of a remaster and clean up as well. The colors are faded and the print looks dull and muted. I don't know if a better looking version of THE SON OF ROBIN HOOD would make it more interesting but it certainly couldn't hurt. 

Wednesday, June 06, 2018

SUSPIRIA (2018) Trailer

I still can't understand why a filmmaker would set themselves up for the beating they will inevitable take for remaking a beloved classic of the genre. BUT - this trailer looks interesting, fresh and as if the creators have found a way to build something new on old bones. I am now curious to see this as soon as possible. 

Sunday, June 03, 2018

The Fantastic Films of Vincent Price #87 - EDWARD SCISSORHANDS (1990)

In the final episode of this great series Dr. Gangrene takes a look at the last three film Mr. Price made - with emphasis on the big Tim Burton movie, of course!