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Posted by mrbnatural on 2007.09.17 at 02:04
Current Mood: cheerfulcheerful
01] Please comment!
02] Credit mrbnatural or iconzicons if taking!
03] No hotlinking or altering, please!
04] Step right up to the vampire circus... er, no refunds!


Revenge of Frankenstein

Posted by dfordoom on 2007.05.16 at 04:15
Watching the Revenge of Frankenstein (directed by Terence Fisher in 1958) a couple of days after Dracula Has Risen from the Grave (directed by Freddie Francis in 1968) offers the opportunity to compare an early and a mid-period Hammer gothic horror movie. There’s also a definite contrast in directing styles. You notice immediately that Freddie Francis’s film is moodier and more striking visually (not surprising since he was also a distinguished cinematographer), but Fisher’s movie is a lot more energetic. Terence Fisher’s movies rarely suffer from pacing problems – he gets the story moving straight away and he keeps it moving. In fact as far as plot is concerned Revenge of Frankenstein is not much more than a remake of the original Frankenstein film – Baron Frankenstein has escape execution for his earlier crimes and has resumed his experiments under an assumed name. He has built up a flourishing new practice, and he also works in a hospital for the poor, performing a surprisingly high number of amputations – he does need an abundance of spare part for his experiments! This time he is determined that he’s going to get it right, and his new creation is going to be perfect.

Despite its lack of originality the movie has plenty of vitality and Peter Cushing makes Baron Frankenstein a subtly disturbing and morally ambiguous character, and the result is a very entertaining and very effective movie.

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The Abominable Snowman

Posted by chidder on 2006.10.10 at 15:06
Current Location: Brooklyn, New York
Current Mood: rejuvenatedforging ahead
Current Music: The Abominable Snowman

While it certainly wouldn't qualify for Paul Schrader's canon of great films (or anybody else's, for that matter, including mine), whenever I happen across this 1957 movie (sometimes calling itself The Abominable Snowman of the Himalayas) when it airs on Turner Classic Movies, I inevitably watch until the end. Director Val Guest treats screenwriter Nigel Kneale's intelligent script so matter-of-factly that parts of the movie achieve a documentary feel (helped along, admittedly, by the wealth of stock footage of the Himalayan mountain range and avalanches). 

I remember staying up late one night to watch this, for the first time, as a child, and being absolutely mesmerized by Peter Cushing's long-awaited face-to-face encounter with the Yeti. The effect remains the same for me today: menace mixing with mystery as the unbelievably tall beings step from the shadow into the light, finally revealing the eyes of the Yeti. Those age-old eyes. 


To the Devil…a Daughter

Posted by dfordoom on 2006.09.24 at 18:32
To the Devil…a Daughter, released in 1976, is best-known for being the last horror film made by Hammer Studios. It was a commercial success, but it came too late to save the studio. Hammer had been trying desperately to update their image and to get away from the gothic horrors that had been so successful for them but were now starting to feel a little tired, and were also starting to lose their commercial appeal. Dracula AD 1972 and The Satanic Rites of Dracula were attempts to bring their Dracula franchise into the modern world. Unfortunately they tried too hard to be superficially contemporary, with pop music and kids in outrageous (and now embarrassingly dated early 70s fashions. At the same time they felt like the old gothic horrors transplanted uneasily into modern settings. They failed to give Hammer’s image a modern feel and the company teetered towards ruin. Ironically, To the Devil…a Daughter shows that they were quite capable of making the sorts of films that would have allowed them to compete very successful against the new-style horror movies of the 70s. They’ve abandoned the studio entirely, the movie is set partly in modern Germany and mostly in modern Hollywood. It has a very gritty realistic feel. There’s lots of gore, and the violence packs a real punch. There’s also lots of sex, but the sex doesn’t have that traditional Hammer feel. It feels real, rather than being simply naughty. And they’ve assembled the strongest cast ever seen in a Hammer movie. Christopher Lee gives the best performance I’ve ever seen from him, as a renegade Satanist priest. It’s a very restrained performance, and the restraint gives it real menace. Richard Widmark plays an author of books about the occult who tries to stop this renegade priest’s nefarious activities. Widmark hated every moment of the filming and apparently made himself generally disliked. In spite of this he gives a good performance. Nastassia Kinksi is a young nun who only slowly realises she’s been dedicated to the power of darkness. She has to project a mixture of innocence, corruption, and depraved and earthy sexuality, which she manages with no trouble at all. As you’d expect. Denholm Elliott plays her father, a man who is unravelling more and more by the moment, jumping at shadows and completely overpowered by his fears. He always does such parts well, and he does this one extremely well. I’m always surprised, after Callan, to see Anthony Valentine playing a non-evil character. He plays a friend of Widmark’s who gets drawn into this struggle, while Honor Blackman plays his slightly hippie-ish much older girlfriend. They both acquit themselves admirably. There are also some familiar faces from Hammer’s glory days, like Derek Francis as the bishop.

There’s not much to the plot, but there doesn’t really need to be. It simply requires Widmark to stop Christopher Lee from creating an incarnation of the evil Aztaroth, which he intends to do through the nun Catherine (Kinski). Peter Sykes directs the film with flair and imagination. It looks good. It looks modern, but without making the mistake of looking too much of its period. The acting is superb. It should have been an absolutely superb horror film. And mostly it is. The ending, though – to say the ending is anticlimactic would be putting it mildly. It’s as if they just got tired and decided to pack up and go home without bothering with a dramatic finale. Overall, though, this is a seriously underrated movie. If it didn’t save them, it at least allowed Hammer to bow out of horror on a high note.

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new cult movie community

Posted by dfordoom on 2006.08.18 at 05:47
I’ve started a new community. cult_movie, for lovers of cult movies – anything from 1950s schlock science fiction to Russ Meyer, from 1940s B-movies to David Lynch, from Jess Franco’s horror films to Andy Warhol’s underground movies, from 1970s lesbian vampire flicks to Ed Wood, from independent film-makers like Derek Jarman to Harold and Maude, from 50s camp classics like The Bad Seed to 80s camp classics like The Lair of the White Worm, from 50s juvenile delinquent movies to 60s and 70s Eurotrash. In fact we discuss almost anything that can be considered a cult movie. The only things we don’t discuss are slasher movies, modern horror gorefests and similar stuff. If you love offbeat movies check us out.

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Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed (1969)

Posted by dfordoom on 2006.06.20 at 01:14
Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed is one the best of Hammer Films’ horror movies. It has Terence Fisher, the best of the Hammer directors, at the helm. And it has Peter Cushing at the very top of him form. Cushing’s Baron Frankenstein is chillingly evil because he isn’t just mad - he is absolutely convinced that he is right and that anyone who stands in his way is standing in the way of progress, science and the happiness of the human race. So he feels that he doesn’t just have the right to destroy anyone who gets in his way and to mercilessly exploit anyone who can be useful to him – he has a positive duty to do these things. He’s a much more convincing figure of evil than Christopher Lee’s Dracula and he’s one of the reasons the Hammer Frankenstein films are, overall, better than their Dracula films. The other reason the Frankenstein films are better is that the formula is more flexible. In Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed Baron Frankenstein is working to develop his technique for transplanting brains. He makes use of a young doctor who works at an asylum. The information he needs to perfect his technique is locked in the brain of a former colleague who is now hopelessly insane.

The supporting cast is excellent with Freddie Jones being particularly good. Art director Bernard Robinson does a particularly good job in this one, and with Fisher’s sure touch as a director the movie looks great. It also moves along at a rapid pace right from the start – the opening sequence is very well done and sets the mood nicely. There are real chills too, chills that don’t rely on gore - Dr Brandt’s realisation of what Frankenstein has done to him, and then his wife’s realisation of what has been done to her husband, and the growing awareness of Frankenstein’s young assistant and his fiancee that they have been hopelessly entrapped in the baron’s schemes. A very fine example of Hammer horror.

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The Devil Rides Out (1968)

Posted by dfordoom on 2006.05.24 at 06:23
The Devil Rides Out is one of the most lavish and most expensive of the horror movies made by Hammer Films. With Hammer’s best director, Terence Fisher, at the helm, a cast headed by Christopher Lee and a script by Richard Matheson you’d have expected the results to be pretty special. And they are. This is possibly Hammer’s finest moment. The larger than usual budget allowed them to depart from their customary 19th century setting. This one is set in the 1920s, and it looks scrumptious. It’s a tale, bade on a Dennis Wheatley pot-boiler, of the dangers of meddling with Dark Forces. Christopher Lee is the arrogant Duc de Richleau, who is something of as control freak, but this time Lee is one of the good guys, battling the Forces of Darkness. Lee actually knew Dennis Wheatley and it’s obvious from the commentary track that he actually believes in the reality of these satanic forces. That may have given his performance added zest, because he turns in a career-best performance. Patrick Mower is good as the naïve young man dabbling in wickedness. The special effects are excellent by the standards of 1968. It’s a movie that stands up very well today – the feel of malevolent agencies lying in wait for the unwary is conveyed extremely well, there’s plenty of action and there’s plenty of suspense. And there are some real chills. This is one of the less camp Hammer movies – it was intended to be taken seriously, and it works as a serious horror film. And the print on the Anchor Bay DVD is absolutely gorgeous, a very sharp picture and wonderful colour. A very good and very entertaining movie.

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Blood from the Mummy’s Tomb

Posted by dfordoom on 2006.05.21 at 00:45
The director of the 1971 movie Blood from the Mummy’s Tomb, Seth Holt, died before the movie was completed. Which is a great pity, because judging by this movie he had plenty of promise. I’d heard bad things about this one, but I thought it was extremely good. It has more a feeling of the uncanny and the forbidden, of things that should not be, rather than out-and-out horror.

The plot involves an attempt by Tera, a long-dead sorcerous queen, to return to life in the body of Margaret Fuchs, daughter of the leader of the expedition who uncovered Tera’s tomb. Although you might suspect that Valerie Leon was cast more for her cleavage rather than her acting her performance as Margaret and Tera is actually rather good. Andrew Keir as her father is excellent, James Villiers is suavely villainous, Aubrey Morris as Dr Putnam is delightfully and eccentrically creepy. Mark Edwards as the boyfriend is a little on the bland side – the most amusing thing about the character is his name – Tod Browning. Overall though the acting is exceptionally good. As you expect from Hammer Films, the movie looks good. There’s some nicely atmospheric cinematography, the pacing is excellent, and the ending extremely good. By modern standards there’s very little gore, although there’s certainly more than in earlier Hammer movies. Personally I can happily do without gore. Overall a highly entertaining movie.

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The Mummy (1959)

Posted by dfordoom on 2006.04.27 at 21:34
The 1959 Hammer version of The Mummy is in opinion not a bad effort, but it just doesn’t quite have the magic that Karl Freund’s 1932 version has. Christopher Lee is OK, but he doesn’t give the role the dignity and the sense of tragedy that Karloff gave it. The love story angle isn’t emphasised as much in the 1959 version, so it becomes more a tale of revenge. It does have some fine moments, though – the mummy breaking into the hospital room of the old archaeologist is exceptionally well done. As you’d expect from a Hammer film helmed by Terence Fisher it looks great, and the scenes supposedly in Egypt are very effective and (considering the fairly limited budget) quite spectacular. The best moments of horror don’t involve any gore or any actual violence; it’s the thought of what’s happening that makes them horrific – especially the scene where the high priest is sealed into his tomb. Overall it’s a highly entertaining film.

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