THE FLY (1958) STARRING VINCENT PRICE. REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS.

 

fly vincent price

THE FLY. (1958) BASED ON A STORY BY GEORGE LANGELAAN. SCREENPLAY BY JAMES CLAVELL. PRODUCED AND DIRECTED BY KURT NEUMANN.

STARRING VINCENT PRICE, PATRICIA OWENS, AL HEDISON AND HERBERT MARSHALL.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘Help me…!’

This is no common or garden B-movie or sci-fi shocker. It’s a genuinely disturbing and moving film that makes you feel a terrible empathy for the stricken characters contained within it.

It also really makes me wish I’d been a rich glamorous ‘Fifties housewife married to a wealthy, successful and generous man, because all Helene Delambre seems to do is change from one spectacular outfit to another, give instructions to the maids and lie in bed waiting for her husband to, well, come and make love to her. (As Scarface says to Michelle Pfeiffer just before she leaves him, lol.) I could do that. I could very easily live like that, being some rich guy’s sex-Barbie and clothes-horse.

The Jeff Goldblum version of this film (1986) is pretty much unbeatable, but THE FLY (1958) holds its own remarkably well too, even today. Vincent Price plays Francois Delambre, a French-Canadian electronics millionaire who co-owns his business with his brother Andre.

Andre is the genius scientist-inventor who spends all his waking moments in his laboratory while Francois is most likely the brains behind the business side of things. Francois is suave, single, sophisticated, sexy as hell and, sadly, disappointed in love. Can you guess who disappointed him? Come on, guys. There are only three main characters, after all…!

One night, Francois is lounging about at home in his magnificent red satin smoking-jacket when he receives a phone call from Helene, saying rather bizarrely that she’s just killed Andre in their factory. Francois thinks she’s kidding at first, but this is no freakin’ joke.

A horrified Francois calls an acquaintance of his, a police inspector called Charas, and the two of them high-tail it over to the factory to find that Andre has indeed been killed, and in a particularly horrific way as well, with his head and arm crushed in an industrial press designed to squish heavy metals. I know, it’s gruesome, right?

Then the two men nip over to Helene and Andre’s house to find Helene quite composed and in control of herself. Immaculately dressed and playing the hostess, she admits quite calmly to having killed Andre but she won’t say that she ‘murdered’ him because that’s a different matter entirely. She also categorically refuses to say why she did it. End of story.

I daresay that if she were ugly, ancient and impoverished instead of a millionaire scientist’s beautiful young wife, Inspector Charas would probably throw her in jail without a second thought. As it is, he lets her stay at home on house arrest with a nurse catering to her every whim while they try to puzzle out her mental state.

When she gets hysterical one day over the squishing of a common housefly by the attending nurse, however, the floodgates open. Helene Delambre is ready to talk. Francois is permitted to fetch Charas over to the house (‘I can’t tell this story twice,’ Helene says) and the two men hear a tale from her that seems to belong more in the realms of science fiction and science fantasy than the real world of cold hard scientific facts to which they’re more used.

Do they believe her? Not at first, of course. It’s just too fantastical. But when Helene’s cute little ‘Fifties son Philippe points out the existence of a rather unusual fly in the garden to his dear Uncle Francois, it gives some credence- just a little- to Helene’s story.

Francois rushes like a mad thing to grab Inspector Charas, who’s right this minute busy arranging for Helene’s committal to an insane asylum, and hurries him out into the garden to see this fly. Is this the dramatic eleventh-hour corroboration the distraught Helene needs before the white-shirted orderlies cart her away to the funny-farm for the rest of her life?

Helene’s story is indeed fantastical, but it’s heartbreaking too. I was in floods of tears by the end. Naturally I can’t divulge the details but may I be so bold as to suggest that you add THE FLY (1958) to your Halloween viewing this year? Team it with the absolutely brilliant Jeff Goldblum version from 1986 and you’ve got yourself a nice little party going. And for God’s sake don’t forget the sugar. Flies love sugar…

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger, poet and book-and-movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens’ fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

You can contact Sandra at:

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor

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HAMMER’S FRANKENSTEIN AND THE MONSTER FROM HELL (1974) AND MEETING CHRISTOPHER FRAYLING AT THE HORRORTHON: BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

frankie monster from hell couple

FRANKENSTEIN AND THE MONSTER FROM HELL. (1974) BASED ON CHARACTERS CREATED BY MARY SHELLEY. WRITTEN BY JOHN ELDER. MUSIC BY JAMES BERNARD. DIRECTED BY TERENCE FISHER. PRODUCED BY ROY SKEGGS.

STARRING PETER CUSHING, SHANE BRIANT, MADELINE SMITH, DAVID PROWSE, JOHN STRATTON AND PATRICK TROUGHTON.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘His brain came from a genius. His body came from a killer. His soul came from Hell…!’

Yesterday was my favourite day of the year so far. I turned my back for one day only on my hermit-like writerly existence and mosied on down to the Irish Film Institute on Eustace Street, which was holding its annual Horrorthon, or five days of non-stop horror movies.

Esteemed film historian Sir Christopher Frayling gave a superb ninety-minute talk on FRANKENSTEIN: THE FIRST 200 YEARS, all the material for which can be found in his latest book, a gorgeous and sumptuous hardback of the same name. He signed my copy for me after the talk, and guess what he wrote in it under his signature? He wrote… ‘IT’S ALIVE…!’ Methinks it wasn’t his first book-signing, lol.

Anyway, he talked to us about the life of Mary Shelley, concentrating on that fateful summer in the Villa Diodati in which her famous gothic horror novel was written. He talked about how it wasn’t an overnight success but rather, a slow burner that only went viral, so to speak, when plays of it began to be produced a few years later. He had the most stunning-looking slides prepared for us as well, all of which can be found in his book.

He went on to talk about all the film versions of FRANKENSTEIN that have appeared over the years, and he confided in us that THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN is his personal favourite of all the Frankie films. Snap! My favourite movie scene of all time is when the deliciously evil Dr. Pretorius is dining off a tomb in the crypt. Frankie’s Monster comes up behind him and he literally doesn’t turn a hair. ‘Oh…!’ he smirks in his cut-glass English. ‘I thought I was quite alone…!’

A screening of Hammer’s FRANKENSTEIN AND THE MONSTER FROM HELL followed Sir Chris’s talk. This is a really dark addition to Hammer’s FRANKENSTEIN canon, the sort of film where you’re constantly asking yourself how the hell did they manage to slip this or that past the ever-vigilant censors, who were always on poor Hammer’s case, lol. That nightdress better not be see-through or you’ll never eat lunch in this town again type of thing.

Shane Briant (Hammer’s FEAR IN THE NIGHT, DEMONS OF THE MIND) is a blonde Adonis who surely was born to wear a frilly white shirt and black frock-coat. He plays Simon Helder, a posh, sardonic, arrogant, privileged young doctor with the deeply inbred sense of entitlement that can surely only come from being an upper-class twat with an Oxbridge education, lol.

He’s arrested for ‘sorcery,’ as in he’s been avidly studying the life’s work of one Baron Frankenstein and trying to create life out of the body parts of cadavers. ‘You’re gonna get caught one day!’ Patrick Troughton’s grave-digger-upper ominously warns him. And he does. Get caught, I mean.

The judge is not at all impressed with Helder’s uppity demeanour. He sentences him to a good long stint in the local insane asylum for his trouble, a fate which even the constable who delivers Helder to the loony bin pities him for. ‘Rather you than me, son,’ he says, and ‘Good luck, son…!’ Cor blimey. If even the delivering copper is pitying you, you know you’re in for a bumpy ride…

And he most assuredly would be in for a rough ride (if the ‘bath’ with which he’s initiated into the horrors of the Asylum is anything to go by) if it were not for one salient fact. Peter Cushing’s fellow Asylum inmate Baron Frankenstein is the real power behind the nasty, blustering Asylum Director…

Calling himself merely Dr. Carl Victor now and firmly maintaining that Baron Frankenstein is dead and buried in the Asylum graveyard, he’s overseeing the care of all the Asylum patients while keeping a few ‘special’ patients back for himself only. And, of course, he’s been continuing on the sly with his experiments to create new life out of old, stitched-together body parts…

Simon Helder is thrilled skinny to meet the Baron, his idol, and be given the job of his assistant. Dr. Victor, as he’s now known, is delighted to have for his helper such a qualified and knowledgeable groupie, a doctor in his own right.

Helder feels like he’s been given the keys to the kingdom when he’s even introduced to Dr. Victor’s ‘special’ patients. What must he feel like, then, when one night he accidentally stumbles upon the good Doctor’s real secret, the truly monstrous-looking ‘creation’ he’s cobbled together from the parts of cadavers from the Asylum’s various tombs…? He’s both thrilled and, I think, appalled…

Still, he quickly offers to help the Baron to continue with his researches and the eternal search to give the Monster real, thinking life. The Monster is a true abomination, unlike, say, Boris Karloff’s Creature which we still recognise clearly as a man.

This Monster is not a man, or even remotely human-looking. It’s hairy, lumbering and utterly hideous. It’s the saddest, most pathetic thing you could possibly imagine. The kindest thing you could do for it would be to put it out of its misery. Put an end to its terrible suffering.

And yet Peter Cushing’s Baron is as proud of it as any parent on School Prize-giving Night. Can any good really come from the two doctors continuing to try to improve on this dreadful ‘thing’ by adding sundry bits and pieces from yet more cadavers to its monstrous frame? The bit where they’re opening up a corpse’s skull and taking out a brain to transplant into the Monster’s head is one of those bits I’m shocked got past the censors.

Madeline Smith (THE VAMPIRE LOVERS with Ingrid Pitt) is a true thing of beauty here as Sarah, the deaf-mute Asylum inmate who, until the arrival of Goldilocks Helder, has been performing the Baron’s secret surgeries for him because the Baron’s hands are all burned and useless now. This bit’s a bit far-fetched but whatever. The Asylum inmates call Sarah ‘the Angel’ and certainly she’s visually an improvement on the hideous Monster, lol.

This was legendary horror director Terence Fisher’s last film and the last outing, I believe, for Peter Cushing as Baron Frankenstein. He’s looking tired here, a far cry from the fresh-faced young fella who first played the immaculately-turned-out Baron for Hammer in 1957 with his role in the iconic THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN. He’s still magnificent here though, and he still gives it his absolute all.

Apparently, he didn’t much care for the somewhat curly-wurly wig he was made to sport in FRANKENSTEIN AND THE MONSTER FROM HELL. Hee-hee-hee. I think it looks nice on him. And he goes out on a nice little question mark too, as in, is the Baron actually planning to put himself and his minions through all this horror again…? Well, you know the Baron’s motto, guys. If at first you don’t succeed…

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger, poet and book-and-movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens’ fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

You can contact Sandra at:

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor

THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA: THE HAMMER VERSION. (1962) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

Phantom of the Opera Lom

THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA. (1962) A HAMMER FILM PRODUCTION. A UNIVERSAL INTERNATIONAL RELEASE. BASED ON CHARACTERS CREATED BY GASTON LEROUX IN HIS NOVEL OF THE SAME NAME.

STARRING HERBERT LOM, MICHAEL GOUGH, THORLEY WALTERS, EDWARD DE SOUZA AND HEATHER SEARS. FEATURING MICHAEL RIPPER AND MILES MALLESON AS CABBIES AND PATRICK TROUGHTON AS THE RAT-CATCHER!

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

This fantastic Hammer Horror has as its central character one of the greatest horror icons of all time, Gaston LeRoux’s Phantom Of The Opera, a chap made immortal by Lon Chaney’s stunning silent movie performance of same in 1925. Lon Chaney’s Phantom will always be the best, but Claude Rains turned in a great performance too in the 1943 movie and so does Herbert Lom in this version we’re discussing today.

So, we’ve got a gorgeous London theatre (sorry but it’s not a patch on the Paris Opera House, sorry sorry sorry, lol) in which Michael Gough’s Lord Ambrose D’Arcy is about to stage for le premier fois an opera about Joan of Arc he’s written himself (ahem!). More about this scurrilous lie later on.

Lord Ambrose is the meanest villain you’ve ever seen. He’s rude, haughty, proud and arrogant already because he’s aristocracy, although aristocratic is as aristocratic does, surely? He’s a diva-like little uppity snob, this fella. And as for his behaviour on the casting couch, well! He makes some of today’s disgraced ‘celebrities’ look like amateurs and also-rans…

He engages as his Joan a pretty and immensely talented chorus singer called Christine Charles. He takes her out to dinner as part of the deal and tries to entice her home to his apartment afterwards so that she can show him exactly how ‘grateful’ she is for his having given her the job. The dastardly devil!

Christine, however, has the common sense and good morals to be repulsed by the Lord’s odious intentions. She turns for help to Lord Ambroses’s detested producer, the much younger and handsomer Harry Hunter, played by the darkly delicious Edward de Souza (KISS OF THE VAMPIRE). Harry is only too delighted to save Christine’s honour by performing as we say in ze French, le cock-block for the furious Lord Ambrose. Heh-heh-heh. So funny.

Christine gets the sack, unfortunately, for not putting out. You could totally sue for that nowadays. Harry resigns in sympathy with her and these two are an item from now on. Their troubles aren’t over, however. Far from it.

‘There’s something evil in this theatre,’ as an astute Harry observes. Someone has committed ‘suicide’ there during a performance and there have been odd little things happening that have led the theatre staff to think that the place is haunted. The deserted Box Five is the place from which You-Know-Who watches the performances. His beloved music continues to be his life.

And certainly, Christine has been spoken to in her dressing-room by a disembodied male voice, cultured and authoritative, who seems to want to turn her into the greatest singer the world has ever known. Well, that’s not to be sniffed at, I daresay.

I must say that I thoroughly approve of the Phantom’s musical Boot-Camp, which comes later on in the film. If I’d had someone to slap me about, shout abuse at me and throw water in my face every time I looked to be putting down my pen, I might have gotten more writing done in my lifetime, lol. Some people would pay good money for that kind of encouragement. It’s worth its weight in gold, truly.

When we learn of the tragic Professor Petrie’s story, it really is perfectly obvious that Lord Ambrose D’Arcy is a thief, a bully, a scoundrel and a villain of the highest order. How dare he do what he does to Professor Petrie, a musical genius and an honest if impoverished man of morals? A come-uppance is sorely needed here for the evil Lord Ambrose.

The performance of Joan is so moving I was in tears at the end of it. I was also thinking of two things during it. Firstly, did Heather Sears really have to cut her lovely long hair in order to give her that sleek, utterly boyish cap she sports at the end of the performance? That would have been a shame, because her crowning glory is so gorgeous.

Secondly, I was thinking of THE SIMPSONS. In one of their historical anthology episodes, Lisa Simpson plays the martyr Joan of Arc and, in one scene, when she’s sitting down, the voice of God calls out and says: ‘Joan, give me your dessert!’ and you just see this chocolate eclair ascending into Heaven in a ray of heavenly light accompanied by celestial music. Sweet.

The scene in Joan where she’s being ‘tried’ for heresy by a court full of men makes me so freaking angry. They sentence her to burn at the stake because she refuses to say that she no longer believes in what she believes in, that in fact she now believes what they believe.

The timing of me re-watching this film is kind of funny because yesterday, October 26th 2018, the Irish people (those that could be bothered, that is, because a lot of us apparently didn’t) went to the polls to decide whether or not they want blasphemy to no longer be a crime. As in, you can no longer be charged with blasphemy if you say something that someone else doesn’t agree with, or say something derogatory about God.

I don’t know if that many people were ever charged with blasphemy here in Ireland, but it’s probably just as well to do away with such an out-moded concept. When you think of all the women- and men- in Joan’s day who were tortured and/or executed in horrific ways for saying or believing things the Church didn’t agree with, well, it’d make your blood run cold.

The Salem Witch Trials are another terrible example of such ridiculous fears and intolerances taking hold of a community and rampaging through it like wildfire. Anyway, the lovely Christine Charles’s Joan is an absolute triumph. If you don’t sob like a baby when she’s going up those stairs towards the flames, well then, you must have a heart of stone, lol. Enjoy le film. It’s another marvellous triumph for Hammer Horror.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger, poet and book-and-movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens’ fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

You can contact Sandra at:

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor

THE EVIL OF FRANKENSTEIN. (1964) A HAMMER HORROR REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

evil of frankenstein caron gardner

THE EVIL OF FRANKENSTEIN. (1964) A HAMMER FILM PRODUCTION/A UNIVERSAL RELEASE. WRITTEN BY JOHN ELDER. PRODUCED BY ANTHONY HINDS. DIRECTED BY FREDDIE FRANCIS. STARRING PETER CUSHING, SANDOR ELES, PETER WOODTHORPE, DUNCAN LAMONT, DAVID HUTCHESON, KIWI KINGSTON, KATY WILD AND CARON GARDNER.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

This is a marvellous Hammer Horror film that sees Peter Cushing reprising his signature Hammer role as the mad scientist Baron Frankenstein, the man who created a hideous monster out of the body parts of cadavers from horribly plundered graves.

In this film, however, he’s seen as more rational and tolerant than the thoroughly reprehensible townspeople, who torment him at every turn, steal from him and destroy his life’s work. All the peaceable, own-business-minding Baron wants to do is to create life- albeit in a rather gruesome way- and he just can’t catch a break, lol.

Having made the current little mid-European hamlet where he lives and works too hot to hold him, Baron Frankenstein and his young idealistic assistant Hans make the journey back to Karlstaad.

This is the Baron’s home-town, from which he fled some ten years ago after the locals discovered that he was robbing graves and making a monster out of the body parts. Very nit-picky of the locals, I must say, to make such a humongous fuss out of such a trifling matter.

They hounded the Baron out of town and murdered his precious creation, the Monster, a frighteningly huge fellow played by a real-life enormous wrestler from New Zealand called Kiwi Kingston.

The Baron’s taking a bit of a chance in returning to Karlstaad, but he’s confident that the townspeople will have forgotten all that bad business about the Monster by now and that his castle will provide a safe and comfortable place from which to start his grisly experiments anew.

Not so, sadly. The rotten townspeople have ransacked the castle and nicked anything that wasn’t nailed down, and a few things that were, lol. A trip into the village sees the Baron falling afoul once more of his two old enemies, the Chief of Police and the Burgomaster of Karlstaad, an old duffer who’s sporting Baron Frankenstein’s beautiful old ring, a family heirloom, on one hand and a large-breasted, young blonde trophy wife on the other. She’s clearly only in it for the sex…! 

(The funniest scene in the whole film is when Baron Frankenstein breaks into the Burgomaster’s bedroom where he’s just about to consummate his new marriage to Busty St. Clair/Chesty LaRue/Hooty McBoob and so on.

It’s obvious from the giant grin on the bride’s face that she’s not at all averse to the sudden arrival in her bridal bedchamber of a man who’s clearly more virile and dynamic and pro-active than her new husband…!

When Peter Cushing as the Baron turns to her before abseiling out the window on her best bedsheets and says a polite ‘Goodnight,’ you can almost hear her saying sadly to herself: ‘Awwwww, he was nice…!’)

Anyway, the Baron is so angry at the thieving townspeople that he could positively spit. Forced to flee the village in a hurry under pain of arrest, he is thrilled beyond belief (whilst seeking shelter from a thunderstorm with a deaf-mute peasant girl) to find his beloved Monster frozen in the ice in a cave on the mountainside.

He and Hans thaw out the Monster and bring him back to the castle. The deaf-mute peasant girl accompanies them because she’s developed some kind of a bond with the Monster. After all, they’re both outcasts, both shunned and scorned and spat upon by the townspeople. The four of them make strange housemates indeed.

Now comes the desperate attempt to make the Creature ‘live’ again. After ‘shocking’ him with volts of electricity repeatedly fails, the Baron is forced to turn for help to a hypnotist called Zoltan, a fairground attraction whom he met on his disastrous jaunt to the funfair in Karlstaad.

Zoltan is a wonderfully funny villainous character. An oilier, more odious, more self-serving human being would be hard to find. He wakes up the Creature with his superior powers of hypnotism, but he cuts himself a decent whack of the Monster-business too by ensuring that the Monster will only follow his orders and not the Baron’s. The Baron is furiously angry.

Furthermore, the unscrupulous Zoltan intends on using the Creature to steal gold and monies for him from the villagers and also to wreak a terrible revenge on the townspeople who’ve wronged him, namely, the Burgomaster and the Chief of Police.  Haha, his enemies are the same as the Baron’s, maybe they should pool their resources…?

Can Baron Frankenstein wrest his precious Creature back from the grasp of the evil Zoltan, so that it- the Creature- can be used only to further the cause of science and not for nefarious purposes? Will the Baron ever get to live in safety and serenity in his own chateau and study in peace and quiet the processes of life and death?

Will Hans ever get together with the red-haired deaf-mute peasant girl, for whom he seems to have a soft spot? And, most importantly of all as I see it, will the ludicrously night-capped old Burgomaster ever get laid on his wedding night? I wouldn’t bet on it, gentle readers. I wouldn’t bet on it…

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger, poet and book-and-movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens’ fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

You can contact Sandra at:

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor

VAULT OF HORROR (1973) and THE HOUSE THAT DRIPPED BLOOD (1971): A DOUBLE BILL OF AMICUS FILM REVIEWS BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

house dripped blood salome

VAULT OF HORROR (1973) and THE HOUSE THAT DRIPPED BLOOD (1971) : A DOUBLE BILL OF AMICUS MOVIE REVIEWS BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘CAN’T YOU DO ANYTHING NEATLY…???’

Ah, wonderful Amicus Productions, the brainchild of Max Rosenberg and Milton Subotsky. Every bit as good as its rival and counterpart Hammer in its own way. Two of my favourite films are Amicus films: TALES FROM THE CRYPT, a portmanteau or anthology film like VAULT OF HORROR, and THE WITCHFINDER GENERAL starring horror legend Vincent Price at probably his most evil, ever, and that’s saying something, lol.

You might say that Amicus specialised in the portmanteau or anthology film, a film that tells four or five short stories all under the umbrella of a piece that links them all together. The films we’re looking at today are two such films, VAULT OF HORROR and THE HOUSE THAT DRIPPED BLOOD. So come on then, gentle readers. Enter my crypt if ye dare. I made vol-au-vents…

In VAULT OF HORROR, five separate, affluent-looking middle-aged businessmen types enter the same lift and are taken to a place they definitely didn’t press the button for, a comfortable room down in the basement that looks like it might be a gentlemen’s club, a place they never knew existed in their building.

The men decide to stay and avail of the comforts of the club for a while. The conversation turns to the topic of dreams, and each of the men waxes lyrical as he reveals the details of a gruesome recurring nightmare from which he’s been suffering.

The handsome and authoritative-looking Daniel Massey goes first as a man who pays a private detective to track down his sister- played by his real-life sister Anna Massey- for devilishly nefarious purposes. When he then travels to the out-of-the-way town where his sister apparently now resides, he decides to stop off for a ‘bite’ in a most unusual restaurant after he concludes his business with her. ‘Juice, soup, roast, sweet, coffee’ indeed…

Next up, the plummy-voiced Terry-Thomas gets his come-uppance when his character of Arthur, a middle-aged businessman obsessed with tidiness- a place for everything and everything in its place, Eleanor– drives his younger trophy wife to commit a heinous crime…

This is followed by a tale in which an unpleasant husband-and-wife magic act travel to India to get some inspiration for their act. When they think they’ve found it in the form of a beautiful young woman’s ability to charm a rope out of its basket with her haunting musical stylings, it clearly never occurs to them that trying to steal this magic trick from her by violent means might have the most dreadful repercussions…

Next up, an insurance scam artist takes his life in his hands when his deeply unwise decision to ‘play dead’ leads him straight into the open arms of a pair of medical student body-snatchers.

This is follwed by a fun story in which a bizarrely red-bearded artist turns to voodoo to help him to get revenge on a trio of crooked art dealers, headed up by Denholm Elliott, who’ve tricked him royally. Truly, ye shall reap what ye have sown, gentlemen…

THE HOUSE THAT DRIPPED BLOOD gifts us with five more marvellous vignettes that each take place within a particular old country house which the estate agent, a certain Mr. Stoker, would have us believe is haunted. Stoker, eh? Where have we heard that name before? Heh-heh-heh, good one.

Anyway, this Stoker fella is attempting to convince not just us viewers, but also a police detective called Holloway who’s been called in to investigate the recent mysterious disappearance of a famous horror actor from the house.

The actor playing the detective, incidentally, John Bennett, is the living image of one Joseph Goebbels, a certain Propaganda Minister from a certain now-defunct regime. I’m just saying, is all, lol. Did Goebbels not after all then die in the flames that accompanied the demise of his precious regime, but instead escape to England to become an actor?

In fact, actor John Bennett who plays Detective Inspector Holloway did portray Joseph Goebbels in the 1973 film known as HITLER: THE LAST TEN DAYS. Legendary actor Alex Guinness does a superb job as the nasty little man with the toothbrush moustache and unflattering side-parting, and he has as his toady a man who bears an uncanny resemblance to Joseph Goebbels, our man John Bennett. It’s a marvellous film, but I wonder what it must have been like to go through life looking like a former Nazi Propaganda Minister? I know, I know, maybe I should just mind my own damn business, right? Gotcha, lol.

Denholm Elliott (again!) is first up here as a famous horror writer called Charles who comes to the house with his pretty wife Alice to work on his new book, which features as its protagonist a thoroughly unpleasant character called Dominick, a strangler and escaped lunatic. When Charles actually starts to see the strictly fictional Dominick around the place in the flesh, however, one can’t help but feel that something is deeply amiss in the house…

Next up is Peter Cushing as a retired, cravat-wearing and genteel stockbroker called Philip Grayson, who becomes utterly fascinated by the waxwork figure of a beautiful woman in a local Museum of Horrors.

When the wax dummy has the exact same effect on Philip’s visiting friend and former love rival Neville, played by Joss Ackland, the viewer starts to wonder just what it is about the direct gaze of this beautiful waxwork that draws men to her like magnets. Let’s just hope that the two chaps don’t lose their heads over her, that’s all I’m saying…

The devastatingly handsome Christopher Lee is up next as John Reid, a wealthy country gentleman who advertises for a governess- companion for his pretty little daughter Jane, who has no friends and no toys and has never been to school. In fact, she is utterly isolated from other people in every way her father can think up. An attractive governess duly arrives at the house in the form of Miss Anne Norton.

It doesn’t take her long to work out that something is very, very wrong in the Reid household. But is it the uptight Mr. Reid who’s to blame for any strangeness or is it his angelic-faced little daughter? When Mr. Reid starts to suffer terrifying pains about his person, Miss Norton thinks that she’s starting to see the light…

Finally, Jon Pertwee (Wurzel Gummidge, Dr. Who) plays Paul Henderson, the ageing, diva-like horror actor whose disappearance while working on a new film and living in the so-called haunted house is what initially draws Detective Inspector Goebbels into the case, lol.

He’s working on a low-budget horror film called ‘CURSE OF THE BLOOD-SUCKERS’ that he thinks is beneath him. Beggars can’t be choosers, however, and his obvious love and enthusiasm for the horror genre leads him to visit a costumier’s in the village in search of something authentic to wear as part of his costume.

In what is possibly the most delicious part of the whole film, Mr. Von Hartmann, the ancient costumier in his old-fasioned emporium, sells Paul a vampire’s cloak that makes Paul behave in a very uncharacteristic way when he puts it on. You might even say that, like Red Bull if you’re to believe the TV ads for it, it gives him wings…

The fabulously divine Ingrid Pitt (THE VAMPIRE LOVERS, COUNTESS DRACULA, THE WICKER MAN) steals the show here as Paul’s gorgeous co-star in the film, Carla. With her blonde tresses, cigarette holder, pearls and white fox fur, she’s enough to take the sight out of your eye, as we say here in Oireland. But there might be more to this foxy wench than meets the eye, if you get me, so Paul had better be careful that he doesn’t get out-foxed by her…

Both films are drawn together in the finale in such a way as to tie up the loose ends neatly. In VAULT OF HORROR, we find out just who these shady businessmen are and why they’re re-enacting for our edification their terrible recurring nightmares.

THE HOUSE THAT DRIPPED BLOOD sees Detective Inspector Goebbels (no offence intended here, only joking!) visiting the house of mystery for himself and finding out exactly why it’s earned its evil reputation…

As the red velvet curtain falls on this joint review, let’s take a minute to fondly remember Amicus Productions. Featuring regular everyday streets and taxi-cabs and people and apartments rather than the forest paths and carriages and Counts and Countesses and castles atop mountains that Hammer favoured, the colours they used were quite extraordinary and blow my mind anew every time I see them. The portmanteau or anthology film deserves a re-birth. Any takers…?

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger, poet and book-and-movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens’ fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

You can contact Sandra at:

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor

 

FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLFMAN. (1943) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

Frankenstein-Meets-the-Wolf-Man_01

FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLFMAN. (1943) BASED ON CHARACTERS CREATED BY MARY WOLLSTONECRAFT SHELLEY. DISTRIBUTED BY UNIVERSAL PICTURES. DIRECTED BY ROY WILLIAM NEILL. WRITTEN BY CURT SIODMAK.

STARRING LON CHANEY, BELA LUGOSI, LIONEL ATWILL, DENNIS HOEY, MARIA OUSPENSKAYA, REX EVANS, DWIGHT FRYE, ILONA MASSEY AND PATRIC KNOWLES.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

“Even a man who is pure in heart
and says his prayers by night
may become a wolf when the wolfbane blooms
and the autumn moon is bright.”

This sounds like another hilarious horror movie monster crossover but it’s actually very dark, with the very real anguish of Lon Chaney Jr. as the Wolfman running the whole way through it, like the line of writing down the middle of a stick of seaside rock. He’s never played the Wolfman as a comedic character, but rather as a terrible curse forced upon him by the bite of a werewolf.

It happens on the moors one night while Lon Chaney Jr.’s human character, rich boy Lawrence Talbot, is back staying in his ancestral home with his father, played by Claude Rains, after an absence of some years. He’s a tragic character from the start, unable to live with this fiendish curse that causes him to turn into a wolf and kill people every time there’s a full moon. Howwwwwwwwwwwl…!

The film opens very atmospherically in a dark windswept graveyard by night in the little Welsh village of Llanwelly. A couple of grave-robbers are breaking into the tomb of Lawrence Talbot, who’s been dead for four years now, hoping to pinch any jewels or money that might have been buried with him.

Lawrence Talbot isn’t really dead however, and is thrilled of the opportunity to abscond from his crypt as his alter-ego the Wolfman. He ends up injured on a Cardiff street without any knowledge of how he got there.

He’s immediately deposited in the local hospital, where he gives Dr. Mannering and local copper Inspector Owen a cock-and-bull story about turning into a wolf when the moon is full. In march the orderlies with the strait-jacket for the nice crazy man…

Inspector Owen is played by Dennis Hoey, who brings the exact same detective’s outfit and brusque bedside manner to Inspector Owen as he does to Inspector Lestrade in the Basil Rathbone/Nigel Bruce Sherlock Holmes movies (1939-1945).

He doesn’t believe Larry’s mad story for a minute but, when Larry escapes from the hospital to go in search of the gypsy woman Maleva, whom he thinks can help to lift the curse from him, both he and Dr. Mannering are forced to take Larry’s wild claims seriously.

When Maleva tells a distraught Larry that she can’t take the curse away from him, Larry decides that, in that case, he wants to just die instead and have the whole thing over and done with. The two of them travel together to the little village of Vasaria somewhere in Europe in search of Dr. Frankenstein, whom Maleva has heard is a brilliant doctor who can cure the ailments other doctors can’t.

But Dr. Frankenstein is dead, and so is his creature, the Monster who wreaked such havoc in the town and caused such distress and horror to the townspeople. Would he have left a diary by any chance, some written records that might have the secret of life and death in them? Maybe the Baroness Elsa, the late Dr. Frankenstein’s attractive grown-up daughter, will know if such records exist and, if so, where to find them?

Elsa is only too happy to assist the handsome and tortured (a winning combination with the broads, lol) Larry Talbot, who by the way has come across an astounding discovery in the ruins of Dr. Frankenstein’s castle in the form of… well, I can’t tell you that, lol, but maybe you can guess?

Can Larry and Dr. Mannering- who’s caught up with them by now- recreate the conditions under which the original Dr. Frankenstein created life from the body parts of corpses and, if they can do that, can they reverse the process to end poor Larry’s tormented existence?

Oh, and, while they’re at it, can they manage to rid Vasaria of the mad Dr. Frankenstein’s evil creation once and for all? They can if the power of being able to play God doesn’t go right to Dr. Mannering’s head…

Dwight Frye is on the ‘right’ side of the law for once here, as a mouthy villager with a sharp haircut who calls for the destruction of Castle Frankenstein and all its warped inhabitants. Screen villain Lionel Atwill in a twirly moustache plays the Mayor of Vasaria and Bela Lugosi is brilliant- if voiceless- as Frankenstein’s Monster. Frankie’s head is flatter than ever, God bless his little electrodes…!

Check out the fabulous bling on the Baroness Elsa too, the pearls and the furs which I’m prepared to bet my bottom dollar are all real. This rather stunning Hungarian actress looks like a Viking Queen in her long blonde bedtime plaits. She really brings a touch of cool blonde glamour to the proceedings in Vasaria.

She’s clearly attracted to Larry but she’d be better off setting her sights elsewhere, like on Dr. Mannering, for instance. Larry is doomed, there’s no point at all in her hitching her wagon to his star. It’s a dead horse, a non-runner, a foregone conclusion. Dr. Mannering is smitten by the Baroness. If you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with, that’s what I say.

The showdown between the Monster and the Wolfman doesn’t take up too much time but it’s massively endearing. I love them both so much I don’t want them to hurt each other but they don’t really.

It’s the external forces that will bring about their inevitable destruction, not a bit of petty in-house squabbling between the two monsters, lol. Who’d your money be on though, if they really did have a big pay-per-view showdown on d’telly? I’m undecided…!

It’s a visually beautiful film to look at, deliciously atmospheric and wreathed in swirling mist. There’s a very catchy song in it too, a song sung with gusto by all the villagers to celebrate the season of the new wine. Wine, in my humble opinion, is always worth celebrating. Will you join me in a rousing chorus or two? All together now: ‘Faro-la, faro-li…!’

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger, poet and book-and-movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens’ fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

You can contact Sandra at:

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor

SON OF FRANKENSTEIN. (1939) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

son of frankie

SON OF FRANKENSTEIN. (1939) BASED ON CHARACTERS CREATED BY MARY WOLLSTONECRAFT SHELLEY. PRODUCED AND DIRECTED BY ROWLAND V. LEE. PRODUCTION/DISTRIBUTION BY UNIVERSAL PICTURES.

STARRING BASIL RATHBONE, BELA LUGOSI, BORIS KARLOFF AND LIONEL ATWILL.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

This vintage black-and-white horror film is an absolute cracker, containing four of the biggest name stars of the day, namely Basil Rathbone, Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff and Lionel Atwill.

It’s a sequel to FRANKENSTEIN and THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN that sees Basil Rathbone arriving in his father’s home town of Frankenstein as his father’s son, Wolf Von Frankenstein. That’s an awful lot of FRANKENSTEINS, as I think you’ll agree.

The setting is somewhere in that sort of ambiguous ‘mitt-Europe’ favoured by Hammer Horror films as well as UNIVERSAL ones. It’s that sort of blurry Germany/Austria area that has men wearing Tyrolean hats and lederhosen while they’re dancing gaily to old folk songs from their native soil or downing the kind of massive tankards of ale that normally come with bratwurst on Oktoberfest. Well, that’s an awful lot of racial stereotyping to begin with, let’s quickly move on to the plot…!

The opening scenes are tremendously atmospheric. Wolf von Frankenstein arrives in Frankenstein by train, via London and Paris, with his attractive wife Elsa and adorable curly-headed young son Peter. It’s dark and lashing rain when they disembark from the train, facing straightaway into a sea of umbrellas owned by the waiting villagers, the welcome committee, as it were.

Except that it’s not very welcoming, lol. They’ve only come along to express their deep dissatisfaction, not to mention disgruntlement, that yet another member of the accursed Frankenstein family is moving into the village to bring more trouble down on their heads. At least, this is what they think.

If they only had the least idea of what was going to happen, they’d have run the little family of Frankensteins outta town on a rail, ‘the same way we got ridda Laura Ingalls Wilder,’ heh-heh-heh. (SIMPSONS reference there!)

Basil Rathbone (the Sherlock Holmes films with Nigel Bruce as Dr. Watson) is marvellous as the handome and aristocratic- and neatly moustached- Dr. Wolf Von Frankenstein, who initially has no intention in the world of following in his father’s ultimately murderous footsteps.

His father was, of course, the fantastic Colin Clive’s character in FRANKENSTEIN and THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN, the ‘mad scientist’ who created life, ie, the Monster, out of the dead body parts of cadavers which his mad assistant Ygor dug up for him from local cemeteries. What a wholesome thought.

His triumph ended in catastrophe for the locals, however, who don’t even want to hear the word of ‘Frankenstein’ mentioned in their hearing ever again, never mind nestling and nurturing a further generation of mad Monster-creators in its collective bosom.

They don’t even like the idea that the mad scientist’s old laboratory is still there, glowering down at the town from its lofty position on the top of a mountain just across from the Frankenstein’s family domicile, the fabulous old castle. I bet they’d just as soon see it burned down in one big inferno and be done with it.

But when Bela Lugosi (DRACULA, 1931) as the still-living Ygor takes Wolf to view the still-intact but comatose remains of the Monster in the Frankenstein family crypt, Wolf can’t resist Ygor’s suggestion that he use his father’s old notes and records to… You’ve guessed it. Revive the Monster…

Of course, when he inevitably succeeds in bringing Boris Karloff’s superb Frankenstein’s Monster back to grisly life, the Monster predictably runs amok in the town, just like the cookie foretold. (Another SIMPSONS reference there, heh-heh-heh.)

He’s particularly gunning for Ygor’s enemies, the last of the eight men who sentenced Ygor to hang for his part in Colin Clive’s character’s crimes. They did hang him, in fact, but it didn’t fully take and so now Ygor feels invincible, untouchable, like he’s unkillable or something.

Certainly he can’t be sentenced to death again, as he’s already been declared legally dead by the town council, headed by the Burgomaster, without which no self-respecting town in a UNIVERSAL FRANKENSTEIN movie would be complete. No wonder Ygor feels that he can safely send Frankie out into the streets of the darkened village to kill the last two still-living members of the posse of eight that initially sentenced him to death.

Screen villain Lionel Atwill (SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE SECRET WEAPON, THE VAMPIRE BAT) is brilliant as Inspector Krogh, the local copper who knows full well that there’s skullduggery afoot in Castle Frankenstein but he and Wolf have to play this elaborate game of cat-and-mouse with each other first before he can get to the real truth of the matter.

Inspector Krogh has first-hand experience of the horror of the Monster. When he was a child, presumably during the initial period when Frankie was brought to life by Colin Clive’s character, he bumped into the Monster during one of his rampages. He had his little right arm ripped out by the roots for his trouble. Now he wears a fake arm, and he’s understandably wary when he hears rumours from the worried townspeeps about the possibly monstrous goings-on up at the old castle.

Little curly-headed Peter is the one who gives the game away to Krogh when he talks about a friendly ‘giant,’ wearing a big furry jacket, who comes to visit him in his bedroom at night through a hole in the wall… Sounds well dodgy to me, does that…!

By the way, the chap who plays Peter- Donnie Dunagan- is still alive at the ripe old age of eighty-four. Furthermore, it may interest you film buffs to know that in 1942, this child star was the voice of Bambi in the famous DISNEY film that’s been tugging at heartstrings everywhere for nearly eighty years now, which is no mean feat. 

THE SON OF FRANKENSTEIN is so atmospheric, and it brings out a wonderful nostalgia as well in the viewer for the original Frankie films. Basil Rathbone hams it up marvellously as the slightly manic Dr. Frankenstein and Bela Lugosi is deliciously evil as Ygor. And with those fake teeth he’s wearing, he looks like the cartoon character Muttley from the pairing of Dastardly And Muttley, remember, the doggie who was always sniggering? Aw. Such a sweet film. You’ll love it.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger, poet and book-and-movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens’ fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

You can contact Sandra at:

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor