THE MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH. (1964) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©


THE MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH. (1964) DIRECTED AND CO-PRODUCED BY ROGER CORMAN. DISTRIBUTED BY AMERICAN INTERNATIONAL PICTURES. BASED ON TWO SHORT STORIES BY EDGAR ALLAN POE: THE MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH, AND HOP-FROG. CINEMATOGRAPHY BY NICOLAS ROEG OF ‘DON’T LOOK NOW’ FAME.
STARRING VINCENT PRICE, HAZEL COURT, PATRICK MAGEE, JANE ASHER, DAVID WESTON, NIGEL GREEN AND JOHN WESTBROOK.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

This is an excellent addition to Roger Corman’s body of work based on the writings of Edgar Allan Poe. Some people back in the day considered it a bit too ‘arty,’ and Corman himself admits that it is quite arty, but it’s artistic in a gorgeously-coloured, lush way, the way all Corman’s Poe adaptations are equally fabulous to look at.

Vincent Price as the evil Prince Prospero is probably wickeder than he’s ever been before, except maybe as the Witchfinder General in the film of the same name. He’s a really mean customer, that Matthew Hopkins. Prince Prospero gives him a good old run for his money, though.

Prince Prospero is the ruler of a mediaeval village back in the time of the plague and the Black Death, terrible or non-existent sanitation and general all-round misery and privations for those who weren’t princes, basically. It’s the period of history I’d least like to go back to, if I had a time machine. All those boils and weeping open sores and poop flowing unchecked down the streets and what have you, eeuw…

Prospero, a jaded Satanist, lives in his fancy castle above the village and spends his time amusing himself with the debauched antics of his equally jaded courtiers. It’s not a very useful or productive existence, living just to sate oneself with gluttonous feasting, degrading and deviant sexual practises and other kinky perversions. Oooh-er. Crikey, where do I sign up…?

Prospero abducts a beautiful, innocent young girl called Francesca from the village and is thrilled with the thought of initiating her into the evil mysteries of his devil-worshipping ways. He also throws her boyfriend Gino and her father Ludovico (played by hunky character actor Nigel Greene) into his dungeons, where people are tortured and ill-treated for no other reason than Prospero’s pleasure.

Juliana, Prospero’s conniving and very jealous mistress, is tasked with having the ravishing and pure-minded Francesca cleaned up and instructed in the ways of the court. Prior to Francesca’s arrival on the scene, Juliana has been hesitating about taking the last few steps that will turn her into a true Bride of Satan and Prospero’s wife and partner in crime and evil for all eternity, but now that she has competition for the Prince’s heart in the form of this red-headed, naive beauty from the village, she decides she’s ready to take those steps. On her own pretty little head be it, I say…

In the meantime, the plague known as the Red Death- in the film, the Red Death is represented by an actual person- has come to the village. Prospero delights in battening down the castle hatches and leaving the villagers to their terrible fate, and amuses himself with planning a fabulous masked ball, at which no-one will be allowed to wear red.

At the ball, Prospero’s evil sidekick Alfredo experiences a fiery come-uppance at the hands of Hop-Toad, the court jester. Also, a mysterious cloaked figure in red turns up at the ball, despite Prospero’s strict instructions to the contrary. No-one is to wear red at this shindig, remember?

Intrigued and slightly uneasy, Prince Prospero follows the figure in red, with Francesca by his side, through the coloured rooms of his castle. He thinks the fellow might be an emissary of Satan’s, here to give him his reward for all the years of faithful wrong-doing. I wouldn’t be in such a hurry to catch up with the hooded guy in red if I were him…

The cloaked figures in different colours have always given me chills a little bit. Imagine if the world really was ruled by such supernatural beings with almighty powers, and the future of mankind could be read in the cards like it is in the film. To them, we mortals would be no more than chess pieces on a board. Fair give you the willies, it would.

The danse macabre at the close of the film is a magnificently grim ballet, and Vincent Price seems like he’s loving every second of it. He really throws himself into it, and pirouettes in deadly desperation with the best of them. Great film, great acting, great sets and costumes. Ten out of ten for THE MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH. Poe would be proud.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Vampirology. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s 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

Her debut romantic fiction novel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:

The sequel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS LATER,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1781994234

THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM. (1961) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM. (1961) BASED ON THE WRITINGS OF EDGAR ALLAN POE. PRODUCED AND DIRECTED BY ROGER CORMAN. SCREENPLAY BY RICHARD MATHESON. STARRING VINCENT PRICE AND BARBARA STEELE.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

This is a really gorgeous and sumptuous film version of Edgar Allan Poe’s creepy story, and one of the cycle of film adaptations of Poe’s works undertaken by legendary director, Roger Corman.

The magnificent horror legend Vincent Price plays Nicholas Medina, a wealthy nobleman living in (almost) solitary grandeur in his cliff-top Spanish castle by the sea in the middle of the sixteenth century. It’s 1546, to be precise. Nearly time to be getting the dinner on, so…!

Nicholas doesn’t receive many visitors, as a rule, but, as the film starts, a man called Francis Barnard comes to his castle door, demanding to be let in and to be given the details of his sister, Elizabeth’s, recent demise. Nicholas’s sister, Catherine, feels that they have no choice but to let the man in and try to endure his pointed, suspicious questions about his sister Elizabeth’s death.

Elizabeth, by the way, was Nicholas’s beloved wife, who passed away recently under rather mysterious circumstances. Nicholas is still distraught and absolutely bereft at her passing. He loved her with all the intensity and possessiveness of his autocratic heart, and now he almost wishes that he were in the grave alongside her.

We see flashbacks of Nicholas’s perfectly idyllic life with Elizabeth (Barbara Steele), in which they dined, chatted eagerly and played music together, Elizabeth’s speciality being the harpsichord. Their life together might seem a little dull to outsiders, but Nicholas certainly seems to be having a ball with his ravishing young wifey in the flashback clips, and so does Elizabeth, to be fair.

But now Elizabeth is dead, under circumstances that her brother Francis finds highly dubious. Not only that, but harpsichord music is now being heard all over the castle, when everyone knows that the harpsichord was Elizabeth’s favourite instrument and that she was the only person in the house who ever played it.

The maid is claiming to hear her dead mistress’s voice in her bedroom and, then, when Nicholas hears it too, a grisly decision is taken. There is nothing for it but to go down to the crypt in the castle’s cellars and exhume the corpse of Elizabeth Medina. Just to check that she’s really dead, and not wandering around the draughty castle in her flimsy burial shroud saying ‘boo!’ to people when she pops out from behind the drapes to give ’em a heart attack.

Nicholas’s mental state is hanging by a thread at this stage (he physically swoons in virtually every second scene), but down they go, he, Catherine, Dr. Leon (who pronounced Elizabeth dead at the time of her demise) and Francis, Elizabeth’s brother. Down, down, down they go into the dusty, cobwebby bowels of the Medina castle…

Vincent Price is superb at playing widowers-in-mourning. He’s just terrific at it, and also at wearing the doublets and hose and long luxurious dressing-gowns and velvet slippers of Ye Olden Times.

Barbara Steele is the most beautiful and fascinating actress to ever don a wasp-waisted gown in which to play the ghost of herself, and the sets are gloriously-coloured and the torture chamber splendidly, if ghoulishly, equipped. Still, you’d expect that from a torture chamber, wouldn’t you?

Adding the Spanish Inquisition to the plot and the torture chamber as well was an inspired piece of writing, and the possession of Nicholas Medina by his father’s evil ghost a fiendishly delicious twist in its tail. The whole film is truly a feast for the eyes, and there are plenty of twists and turns to keep the viewer’s interest.

The only thing I found puzzling was that the film-makers hired three very similar-looking men to play Dr. Leon, Francis Barnard and Nicholas’s man-servant, Maximilian, who saves the day at the end of the movie.

All three men have short dark hair and similar nondescript faces and are pretty much of identical height and build. Why would the film-makers do that? The men look like three fraternal triplets. I just found the whole thing kind of confusing. It doesn’t detract from the movie in any way; it’s just weird that they didn’t hire actors between whom it was easy to tell the bleedin’ difference…!

You’ll love THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM. It does credit to Poe’s work, and it’s one of the many jewels in both Roger Corman’s and Vincent Price’s crowns. And scream queen Barbara Steele’s majestic presence is truly the icing on an already fabulous cake.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. 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, women’s 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:

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

THE LAST MAN ON EARTH. (1964) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

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THE LAST MAN ON EARTH. (1964) BASED ON THE 1954 NOVEL ‘I AM LEGEND’ BY RICHARD MATHESON. DIRECTED BY UBALDO RAGONA AND SIDNEY SALKOW. STARRING VINCENT PRICE, FRANCA BETTOIA, EMMA DANIELI AND GIACOMO ROSSI-STUART. REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘Come out, Morgan…!’

(It’s September 2019 and I’ve just finished reading Richard Matheson’s superb short horror novel ‘I AM LEGEND,’ the kind of book I still haven’t given up hope on writing myself one day. Not necessarily about a vampiric apocalypse, but on any horror topic that grabs me.

Books like PSYCHO, ROSEMARY’S BABY, THE EXORCIST, JAWS, A KISS BEFORE DYING, THE BOYS FROM BRAZIL, CARRIE, PICNIC AT HANGING ROCK, DAY OF THE TRIFFIDS and THE MIDWICH CUCKOOS provide huge, huge inspiration. A book like that that lives on after you die, that people never get tired of reading or watching in film format, is probably most horror writer’s ultimate goal.

Anyway, the book I AM LEGEND was adapted so faithfully by the film THE LAST MAN ON EARTH that I felt there would be no need to bother you good people with two reviews, one for the book and one for the film. Instead, I’m choosing to share again the review I wrote for THE LAST MAN ON EARTH back in 2016, the year I discovered it for the first time.

I’ll go out on a limb here and say that I think this might actually be the best film that horror icon Vincent Price ever made, even though his numerous horror movies for Roger Corman in their Edgar Allan Poe cycle were all beyond fantastic.

It’s just such a grimly bleak and realistic performance he gives in THE LAST MAN ON EARTH that you get to see his ability to really act, as well as his undoubted talent for hamming it up in a doublet and tights, lol. So here we go, anyway, and I hope you enjoy it. ‘Come out, Neville…!’)

This is a brilliant sci-fi horror film from the era that brought us loads of equally great sci-fi horror films. Yep, it sure was a good era for the old sci-fi horror…! I came across it on a box-set I bought back in 2013 for only a tenner called 100 GREATEST HORROR CLASSICS. One hundred old horror movies for only ten quid? Hell, yeah…!

Other films on the set include THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA and THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME, both starring Lon Chaney Sr., George A. Romero’s zombie classic NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, Fritz Lang’s METROPOLIS and Alfred Hitchcock’s first ever movie, THE LODGER, starring Ivor Novello. Yes, I think it’s that Ivor Novello; who else could it be…?

Anyway, THE LAST MAN ON EARTH manages to be both brilliant and extremely grim at the same time. Horror icon Vincent Price plays Dr. Robert Morgan, a man who has survived a terrible wind-borne plague that’s killed off nearly everyone on earth, except for those whom it turned into bloodthirsty vampiric mutations. These monstrosities become active at night. During the day, they sleep…

Poor old Robert spends the daylight hours tracking down the mutants and staking them through the heart before chucking ’em in a giant pit of fire. Well, I guess he just wants to be sure they’re really dead. Fair enough, lol.

At night, he holes himself up in his gaff while the pathetically weak vampires, including his former work colleague Ben Cortman, bang on his door and beg him feebly to come out so that they can kill him and drink his blood. Naturally, Robert declines this delightful offer. Maybe he likes his blood where it is. I’d be the same myself…!

In any case, his existence as literally the last man on earth is so bleak that the viewer wonders why he doesn’t just end his own life and be done with it. Maybe he’s afraid that he’ll become one of the Walking Un-Dead like the monstrous mutations he grapples with every day and night. Also, we mustn’t forget that the instinct for survival is very strong. There’s always the chance/hope that things might, one day, return to normal. That’s what keeps us going when times are tough.

One miraculous day, however, while out doing his ’rounds,’ Dr. Morgan spies a sight that he never expected to see again; a human female! Is she real? Is she infected with the plague that turned the mutants into the bloodsucking demons they’ve become? And, most importantly, how will this seemingly chance encounter impact upon the already stressed-out Dr. Morgan…?

I think that this film works so well because it taps into those fears we all secretly have. You know, the ones about being one of the sole survivors of some kind of apocalyptic disaster that leaves us on our own battling against zombies and mutants? I’ve always had that fear at the back of my own mind, anyway.

There’s this horrible scenario I think about sometimes where I’m alone in my house in just such a post-apocalyptic situation as we’ve discussed and a mis-shapen shadow suddenly falls across my window. Then I hear a scrabbling at the door. I stay perfectly still but the noise continues. Then there’s the unmistakable sound of someone breaking in… It’s all very ZOMBIE FLESH-EATERS (Lucio Fulci), isn’t it?

Another thing that scares people is the thought of a plague or pandemic that wipes out half the world’s population. We’ve had worrisome thoughts like that about different epidemics over the decades: AIDS, swine flu, avian flu and the Ebola virus, to name a few. I’ve literally just read online, actually, about something called the ‘Zika virus.’

It’s not outside the bounds of possibility that something like a plague/pandemic could happen. That’s why films like OUTBREAK, QUARANTINE and RIGHT AT YOUR DOOR are so popular. It’s because, one day, it might just happen here…

I think THE LAST MAN ON EARTH must have been the inspiration for that TREEHOUSE OF HORROR episode of THE SIMPSONS in which Homer Simpson becomes ‘the last man on earth’ after a nuclear bomb wipes out most of the rest of the world. He isn’t remotely bothered by being surrounded by rotting corpses. He actually enjoys having the world to himself for a bit, haha. Until he finds himself being chased by freakish skin-eating mutants, that is…!

Vincent Price puts his heart and soul into his performance as the poor beleaguered Dr. Robert. Did I mention that I met his daughter Victoria Price in November 2015, by the way? I do try to mention that quite regularly, lol. She was having a meet-and-greet at the Irish Film Institute here in Dublin to promote the cookery book her dear old dad co-wrote with her mum and she was absolutely lovely and down-to-earth.

I chose to buy her biography of her dad, though, rather than the cookery book. It was a real whopper of a coffee-table book and it cost an even more whopping sixty quid…! Quite honestly, I’m not much of a Nigella Lawson, anyway. I prefer to spend as little time in the kitchen as I can get away with.

The flashback scenes in THE LAST MAN ON EARTH are excellent and the scenes with the puppy are just heartbreaking. The fact that the film is in black-and-white highlights the starkness of Dr. Robert’s awful situation. If you want to see how he copes with things, watch the film. It’s superb. And don’t answer the door after dark under any circumstances. It might be the mutants…

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. 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, women’s 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:

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor

MADHOUSE (1974) and HOUSE OF 1,000 DOLLS (1967): A PAIR OF VINCENT PRICE HORROR FILMS REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

Vincent-Price-Madhouse

MAD HOUSE (1974) and HOUSE OF 1,000 DOLLS (1967). A PAIR OF VINCENT PRICE HORROR FILMS REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘MADHOUSE’ is a marvellous Vincent Price vehicle that has his distinctive stamp all over it. HOUSE OF 1,000 DOLLS, on the other hand, is a rather boring, baffling film in which men dressed in black chase each other around Tangiers in the dark, and it rather looks to me like the film-makers decided they needed a big star name to sell the movie and poor old Vincent Price drew the short straw, lol. Then they stuck him in a few scenes and Bob’s your uncle, they had themselves a party. But let’s start with MADHOUSE, an infinitely more pleasing affair.

In this AMICUS/AMERICAN INTERNATIONAL PICTURES collaboration, Vincent Price plays an ageing American movie star called Paul Toombes, who is best known for making the hugely popular DR. DEATH films. Now, in the twilight of his career, he’s making a major comeback. He’s going to star with an attractive young actress in a television series which will be reviving the character of Dr. Death, for which he’ll travel to England and leave his old life behind.

His old life is more complicated than most people’s, and includes a murdered young porn star wife whom some folk still think Paul killed, even though he was acquitted of the crime. Certainly, bigshot TV producer Oliver Quayle, played by Robert COUNT YORGA Quarry, is one of these suspicious folks but, as he’s going to be producing the new DR. DEATH series, he’s willing to put his prejudices aside for the sake of the big fat juicy pay-off which Paul Toombes’s name in the credits will bring.

Paul can’t stand the oily, smarmy, sneaky Quayle, so it’s a good thing that his very dear old friend, the actor-screenwriter Herbert Flay (Peter Cushing), will be working with them both to provide a bit of balance. Herbert wrote the scripts for the original DR. DEATH movies and Paul is thrilled to be invited to stay with Herbert in his lovely secluded English mansion while filming of the series takes place.

Once filming starts, however, a series of gruesome murders immediately starts up also, as various people are fatally attacked by someone dressed in the Dr. Death garb, complete with rather freaky skull mask and black swirling cape, the works.

Paul Toombes starts to doubt his own sanity. After all, he experienced a period of similar confusion and mental derangement after the brutal decapitation of his gorgeous porn star missus twenty years ago, the murder he was accused of committing. He spent years in a mental hospital after that murder. Could it be that he’s off his rocker again and running around the place murdering people whilst dressed as his alter ego, Dr. Death?

There are just so many highlights in this one; the appearance of the stunning blonde actress for Hammer and other studios, Linda Hayden, as a pushy, wanna-be actress who thinks Paul Toombes can advance her career; a fancy dress party for the cast and crew of the Dr. Death TV series at which the suavely handsome Robert Quarry comes dressed as Christopher Lee’s Dracula; and the inclusion of several of Vincent Price’s actual old movies, all purporting to be old DR. DEATH films.

We see TALES OF TERROR, the Basil Rathbone vignette in which good old Sherlock Holmes himself tries to hypnotise a man (who else but Vincent Price?) at the exact point of death, in order to control the man for his own nefarious ends. The wiz-off between Price and an ageing Boris Karloff in THE RAVEN also features, as does the Edgar Allan Poe-H.P. Lovecraft mash-up, THE HAUNTED PALACE, and a visual but unmistakable reference to HOUSE OF WAX, possibly Price’s best ever and most famous horror film. THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM, THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER and SCREAM AND SCREAM AGAIN are in there too.

This film is great fun, and it looks like Vincent Price is enjoying himself. (Unlike in HOUSE OF 1,000 DOLLS, in which he kind of looks like he’s wondering, what the hell am I doing here…?) He plays the dual roles of Paul Toombes and Dr. Death in a theatrical and dramatic fashion, with all the panache, flair and style he’s capable of. Let’s just hope he’s not allergic to spiders, however, or to dark secrets that conceal themselves in the basements of elegant country houses…

HOUSE OF 1,000 DOLLS isn’t a very good film, despite the cool name. There are far from 1,000 dolls in the House of 1,000 Dolls, for a kick-off. There are only about twelve dolls at the very most, and they’re not even dolls at all, they’re all prostitutes, lol. That’s right, folks, the House of 1,000 Dolls is nothing more than a brothel with a lovely name.

You can pay to have sex with the dolls, which is all right ’cause they’re not bad-looking at all, but you can’t take a fancy to one and bring her home with you. You can’t bring one home with you even if she’s your legal wife and the ‘syndicate’ has kidnapped her for the purposes of sex trafficking. That’s when they try to hold onto her the most. If you’re the grieving husband, well, you might as well just feck off home for all you’ll be able to do about it. They’ll follow you most of your way home and then kill you in a junkyard, though. ‘S true, I swear it.

It’s a rather dull life, being a ‘doll’ from the House of 1,000 Dolls. You can change your sexy lingerie, change your hair, go for your 11am whipping (oh yes, there’s whipping, but no nudity, sadly!) and, erm, that’s about it. The poor ‘dolls.’ No wonder they’re always sitting around hoping to be rescued by their men-folk and organising unsuccessful protests against their incarceration. Being a ‘doll’ isn’t nearly as much fun as it sounds.

Vincent Price feels somewhat tacked on here, as I said earlier, as a suave, tuxedo-clad magician known as ‘Manderville.’ Manderville, together with his glamorous partner-in-crime, Rebecca (Tippi Hedren to the life in that severe blonde hairstyle, just look at her!), is responsible for hypnotising the beautiful young girls who are then abducted and conveyed to the- you guessed it- the House of 1,000 Dolls to be giving a sound training in the art of prostitution. Well, a trade is always a handy thing to have, Mother. I suppose it might as well be in blowjobs and anal beads as owt else, now all ‘t’ mills have gone for a burton.

Vincent Price really gives it his all, as I suspect he does in all of his films, but it’s a very small role compared to some of his others and not as meaty. It doesn’t even feel like it’s his film, if you know what I mean. It’s like a bad foreign film in which he happens to have a part. (It’s an AMERICAN INTERNATIONAL PICTURES film, as it happens, released initially in Spain under a Spanish title. There’s some pretty bad dubbing in evidence, I’m afraid, and some dialogue goes for a burton too, lol.)

There’s a policeman running around trying to find out who killed this guy called Fernando, whose girlfriend Diana was kidnapped by the girlfriend-stealing, white slavery syndicate, and a doctor called Steven Armstrong who does virtually no doctoring at all, but he does manage to lose his beautiful and ridiculously dim missus to the good folks behind the House of 1,000 Dolls.

Well, that’s how fast they work, you see, these people. While you’re still standing outside the shop checking your flamin’ Lotto numbers and licking your Cornetto out through the hole at the bottom of the wrapper, they’ve nicked your girlfriend right out of your car and whisked her away to the House of 1,000 Dolls for a long apprenticeship in the oldest trade in ‘t’ world. Should you bother to go after her? Dunno, really. I guess it depends on how much you’re enjoying that Cornetto…!

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. 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, women’s 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:

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor

THE HAUNTED PALACE. (1963) A VINCENT PRICE/ROGER CORMAN FILM REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

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THE HAUNTED PALACE. (1963) BASED ON THE POEM BY EDGAR ALLAN POE AND ON THE CASE OF CHARLES DEXTER WARD BY H.P. LOVECRAFT.

DIRECTED AND PRODUCED BY ROGER CORMAN.

STARRING VINCENT PRICE, DEBRA PAGET, LON CHANEY JR., FRANK MAXWELL, LEO GORDON AND CATHIE MERCHANT.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘And travellers now within that valley,

Through the red-litten windows, see

Vast forms that move fantastically

To a discordant melody;

While, like a rapid ghastly river,

Through the pale door,

A hideous throng rush out forever,

And laugh- but smile no more.’

This is such a lush luxurious film, sort of the cinematic equivalent of a really fancy box of chocolates. The same can be said of all of the films in American International Pictures/Roger Corman’s Poe cycle: THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER, THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM, TALES OF TERROR, THE PREMATURE BURIAL, THE TOMB OF LIGEIA, THE RAVEN and THE MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH. All of these star Vincent Price in the lead role, except for THE PREMATURE BURIAL, in which Ray Milland is on leading man duty.

This film is book-ended by part of a Poe poem, which allows it to be included in the Poe cycle of films, but it’s mainly based on the Lovecraft story, THE CASE OF CHARLES DEXTER WARD.

I much prefer Poe to Lovecraft; the tentacles thing espoused by the latter isn’t really for me. I love a nice psychological horror story or haunted house tale, and my preferred ‘monsters’ are the Universal ones, lol. Still, there’s much to praise in this visually sumptuous first major filming of a Lovecraft work, even if you can’t help noticing the odd plot-hole.

Vincent Price plays the titular Charles Dexter Ward who, together with his lovely wife Ann, arrives at the spooky New England harbour village of Arkham in order to take possession of the family residence, the titular Haunted Palace, abandoned for a century or more.

The villagers are all horrified because Ward is the spitting image of his evil ancestor, Joseph Curwen, who was burned at the stake exactly one hundred and ten years earlier for being the male equivalent of a witch.

Curwen was a much more interesting individual than his insipid descendant Ward. In the  mid-1700s, he lured the virginal young women of Arkham to his house and tried to mate them with ancient deities spawned in his vast underground dungeon. Kick-ass, huh…? His ultimate goal was the resurgence of a master race of Old Gods, ‘such as Cthulhu and Yog-Sothoth.’

Unfortunately, these dubious ‘matings’ gave rise to several generations of hideous mutant or mutated eyeless monstrosities, some of whom are still alive and kicking and hidden in the locked rooms of the villagers of Arkham by the villagers themselves, whose progeny they are.

Some of the less dangerous, but no less physically shocking, mutants are brought out in force to scare the Wards away from Arkham, but Charles Dexter Ward has a destiny to fulfil, even if he doesn’t quite know it yet, and he opts to stay in his newly-acquired residence. There’s no law against a man living on his own property, is there? Of course there isn’t, more’s the pity for the poor doomed villagers…

To the horror of his loving wife Ann, Ward becomes possessed with the evil spirit of Joseph Curwen, through a magnificent portrait of the latter which hangs in the palace. Determined to carry out Curwen’s unfinished work of creating the master race of ancient gods through the mating of local young beauties with his basement ‘experiments,’ Ward/Curwen gathers around him his undead assistants of old, Simon Orne (Lon Chaney Jr., aka the Wolfman) and Jabez Hutchinson. Now he can pick up where he left off…

He seems to waste a lot of his newly-recovered time in trying to revive his long-dead mistress Hester Tillinghast, and also in revenging himself against the villagers who are direct descendants of the ones who burned Joseph Curwen to death over a century ago.

His two helpers beg him not to waste his time in petty vengeance, but Curwen feels that, after being dead for a hundred and ten years, he’s entitled to a little fun. Well, okay, fine, Master, but will there still be time to create a master race by forcibly mating your terrified wife Ann to the ungodly thing you’ve got hidden in your basement prison? If there is, there is, lol. We’ll have to see…

The movie, as well as being the first of Lovecraft’s works to be filmed, marks the first screen appearance of Lovecraft’s Necronomicon, a sort of mythical Book of the Dead which contains spells for conjuring up those ancient deities we mentioned earlier.

It’s the sort of really cool book which, if it really existed, you’d need permission from the Vatican to consult it, and you could only consult it by accompanying a grim-faced, disapproving elderly clerk in rusty black togs through several locked doors, the keys to which he keeps about his person.

In a huge, book-lined room, he’d take the book out of a locked safe, blow the dust off it and place it reverently on a table, and then he’d watch you like a hawk while you leafed nervously through its yellowed pages, looking for the bits you want to read. Oh, and you’re only allowed to consult the specific pages you’ve requested to see and no more. Can’t you just picture it…?

Vincent Price is perfectly at home in his two roles. Joseph has fancier, frillier togs and a sneerier, more menacing tone of voice than his nineteenth century counterpart, but Vincent Price is well able to chop and change between the two characters.

The sets are gorgeous, the costumes exquisite and the fog rolling in from the sea good and plentiful. The mutants are disturbing, the silhouette of the palace awe-inspiring and Lon Chaney Jr. as cuddly and loveable as ever he was in his Universal Wolfman films of the 1940s.

(I’m sure he thought he was being terribly frightening in that role, lol, but I’ve only ever thought of him as cuddly and loveable, with his cute little furry face and matching clodhoppers…!) 

I heartily recommend this Poe-Lovecraft mash-up. The critics had a lot to say about it- and not all good, either- but that doesn’t mean that it’s not both enjoyable and entertaining. Never mind the critics. What do they know? We’ll make up our own minds. Can I get an answering harrumph…?

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. 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, women’s 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:

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor

THE PREMATURE BURIAL. (1962) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

premature burial couple

THE PREMATURE BURIAL. (1962) BASED ON A STORY BY EDGAR ALLAN POE. PRODUCED AND DIRECTED BY ROGER CORMAN. SCREENPLAY BY CHARLES BEAUMONT AND RAY RUSSELL. AN AMERICAN INTERNATIONAL PICTURE.

STARRING RAY MILLAND, HAZEL COURT, RICHARD NEY, ALAN NAPIER AND HEATHER ANGEL.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

This is a visually gorgeous gothic horror film,  a superb addition to Roger Corman’s cycle of Edgar Allan Poe film adaptations for American International and the only one, if I’m not mistaken, not starring horror legend Vincent Price.

I’m not sure why Roger Corman opted to switch one leading man for another at this point but the film still works. It’s a wonderfully Gothic piece of dramatisation, with a setting as atmospheric and fog-wreathed as in all the other Poe films of this period.  

Ray Milland, an excellent actor whose film LOST WEEKEND is one of the best ever made on the horrors of alcoholism, plays the lead role here of Guy Carrell. Guy is a wealthy aristocrat who’s got a bee in his bonnet the size of Notre Dame Cathedral about being buried alive.

Now, you can’t really blame him for that, I suppose. No-one likes the idea of being buried alive, of waking up in their coffin underground, with the lid sealed down and the gathering population of worms sharpening their tiny knives and forks and tucking their napkins into their shirts, while others print up tiny menus that all carry only the one dish.

So, what’s given poor sensitive, touchy Guy the fear of being buried alive? Well, he’s convinced that his Pops, Daddy Carrell, was buried alive in the family crypt while under the influence of catalepsy, a terrifying condition that simulates death.

I’m not keen on the idea of a family crypt myself, having all your horrible dead relatives buried in tombs in the basement of your house. Why can’t they go in the ground in a dreary churchyard miles away, like normal people?

It would have been bad enough being around them while they were alive, without knowing that their rotting corpses are mouldering away beneath you in the family crypt. It’s enough to give you the willies, that is.

Still, it was the aristocratic way, you know. That was how the poshos did it back then, maybe still do for all I know. Probably couldn’t bear to relinquish anything that belonged to them, even if it was in a state of advanced putresence, lol.

Anyway, Guy is obsessed with the notion of being buried alive, just like he thinks his Paw was, much to the concern of his beautiful new younger wife Emily, his young doctor friend and advisor Miles and his older sister Kate Carrell. He won’t go on honeymoon with Emily, because he’d rather stay at home building himself one kickass mofo of a crypt on the grounds of his estate…

This crypt is really quite remarkable. It’s like a small house with a purpose-built coffin filled with tools for breaking out if one should have the misfortune to wake up and find oneself buried alive. There are stores of food and wine so you don’t starve to death while you’re trying to gain, as Guy himself rather splendidly puts it, ‘egress’ from his frightening hand-made mausoleum.

There’s even stores of deadly poison for killing yourself if all else fails and you can’t manage to break out of your tomb. It’s really the most ingenious of contrivances, this tomb, but it’s also the product of a very sick mind. Guy’s wife, sister and doctor are convinced of this once they realise that Guy has practically set up shop in this awful crypt, painting his horrible disturbing paintings and waiting for death.

‘What you fear has already happened, Guy,’ says Emily sharply to him when she’s had enough of his nonsense, ‘because you’re already buried alive.’ She’s right, too, you know.

Guy is being plagued in other ways as well, by the constant popping-up in his vicinity of two sinister grave-diggers who seem to wish him ill, and he’s hearing a creepy tune, Ireland’s Molly Malone of all things, coming from nowhere that’s making the hairs stand up on the back of his neck. He seems to be associating it with death and his old favourite thing to do or to have done to you, premature burial.

So when the worst happens and the thing that Guy fears more than anything else in the world comes to pass, it may not just be the catalepsy that’s put him there. There’s a foul agency at work here and I shouldn’t be at all surprised to find that it might have small feminine hands and genteel girlish fingers…

I love Alan Napier as Emily’s doctor father, Gideon Gault. He does a Peter Cushing here in that he takes delivery of newly dug-up corpses which he intends to dissect for medical purposes. Dr. Frankenstein, much? When he comments with a chuckle that Guy Carrell will be of more use to medical science dead than alive, he may even be right.

Guy is wasting whatever life and talents and time he’s been given. By obsessing night and day, day and night on what might possibly happen to him in his afterlife (which we’ll all find out, soon enough), he’s actually missing out on his one chance to live his actual life. He’s squandering his life. Other people would kill to have what he has, and he’s just throwing it away like so much rubbish.

The sets and costumes here are all stunning and luxurious-looking, as they always are in these Roger Corman productions for American International. The bedrooms, the living-rooms and the family crypt are all decked out in the most fabulously rich autumn colours of russet, brown, orangey-brown and the deepest of reds.

And the Carrolls’ beautiful, atmospheric gothic gardens and estate have got more mist than an X FACTOR final. And that, folks, as any self-respecting X FACTOR fan will tell you, is a whole helluva lotta mist…!

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