Friday, October 29, 2010

Theater of Blood

Theater of Blood from 1972 is a wonderful, macabre, black comedy.  Vincent Price plays Edward Lionheart, an actor with a grudge against a circle of critics he believes singled him out for scathing notices on his season of Shakespeare plays, which cheated him out of a theatrical award. Believed to be dead, having thrown himself from a high balcony into the Thames, the actually very alive Lionheart wreaks revenge with the help of a bunch of strange hippies and bums.  

Price is fantastic as the crazed actor out to silence his critics forever and wastes no opportunity to camp up his performance to the max.  He is ably supported by an outstanding cast featuring many names and faces that will be familiar to fans of British cinema and TV: Ian Hendry, Arthur Lowe, Michael Hordern, Robert Morley, and Dennis Price appear as the critics; Milo O'Shea and Eric Sykes are the coppers out to catch the murderous thespian; and Diana Rigg and Madeline Smith are the ladies in the film.  

Despite being blessed with a witty script, brilliant direction and an unbelievably good cast, it is the inventive death scenes that will probably stick in most viewer's minds the most: each murder is inspired by a different Shakespeare play and this gives the filmmakers  ample opportunity to splash a bit of blood across the screen. Arthur Lowe's decapitation is a particularly nasty moment, although  made easier to stomach by Price's wonderful tongue-in-cheek performance.  The poodle-pie sequence is gloriously sick and totally unforgettable.

If you enjoy a sick macabre sense of humor, then this film is for you!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Twice Told Tales

This 1963 filmmization of Nathaniel Hawthorne's "Twice Told Tales", despite its very promising premise is in reality a bit of a mixed bag for horror lovers. For all fans of "terror" stories it has the always wonderful Vincent Price starring in each of the three individual stories which have a similar feel to them to the highly successful Edgar Allen Poe films that Price was filming in collaboration with director/producer Roger Corman around this time. However as pieces of suspense cinema they lack a certain bite to them that makes for ok entertainment but not really memorable horror viewing. On the plus side however along with Price's presence in all the stories, they have a plush look and feel to them with gorgeous colour photography, lavish sets and strong period feel.  The film is in three parts, each a different tale.

Story One is "Dr. Heidegger's Experiment", and has life long friends Alex Medbourne (Vincent Price), and Dr. Carl Heidegger (Sabastian Cabot), celebrating the latter's birthday and reflecting on their long life together. Carl is living in a world of constant mourning for his fiancee Sylvia (Mari Blancard) who died just prior to their marriage 38 years previously. A thunderstorm disturbs Sylvia's near by tomb and when the men investigate the damage they discover a strange liquid substance that has preserved Sylvia's body and might just be the much sort after fountain of youth. Both men try the liquid themselves and amazingly revert to their youthful selves. Carl gets the desperate idea of possibly reviving his long dead but perfectly preserved fiancee with the substance as well however while the miracle liquid succeeds in bringing her back to life it also unleashes the dark secret that Alex and Sylvia shared all those years ago which brings tragic results for all three of them.   This is the by far my favorite of the three.

Story Two is "Rappaccini's Daughter", and has a highly possessive man called Rappaccini (Vincent Price), taking parental protection too far when he injects his only daughter Beatrice (Joyce Taylor), with a strange substance that kills anyone who touches her. Supposedly designed to stop his daughter from being subjected to the evils and bad treatment that his former wife suffered it has the opposite effect on Beatrice who hates her father for what he has done to her in particular when she forms an attraction towards student Giovanni Guasconti (Brett Halsey), who lives next door. After futile attempts to form a relationship with the obviously in love but distant Beatrice, Giovanni manages to extract from her the real reason why she wishes him to go away. Rappaccini in an misguided effort to win his daughter's love drugs Giovanni and injects the same elements into him making him the only person now who can touch Beatrice without dying a horrid acidic death. Giovanni however seeks a cure for the both of them so that they are able to go away together however when he drinks the supposed antidote created by his College Professor Professor Baglioni (Abraham Sofaer), it instead poisons him and not wanting a life without him Beatrice also drinks it leaving a distraught Rappaccini to comtemplate the cruel irony of what he has done just before he ends his own life. This segment is a little slow and plodding at times, but still worth watching.  Reminiscent of Romeo and Juliet, with the forbidden love aspect to it.

The 3rd story is "The House of the Seven Gables", and finds Gerald Pyncheon (Price), returning to his ancestral home with new bride Alice (Beverly Garland). All is not well at the Pyncheon estate as a centuries old curse rests on the property cast by Mathew Maulle the man who's land was stolen by the Pyncheons, and the house itself is presided over by Gerald's cold and ambitious sister Hannah (Jacqueline DeWit) who hates Gerald and wants him gone. Alice begins to have strange feelings of a presense around her and she is able to recall indiduals and features of the house she could not possibly know. Gerald has returned to the house with the sole purpose of finding a hidden fortune however he finds much more than he bargained for when Jonathan Maulle (Richard Denning), a descendant of Mathew's arrives and discovers a long lost connection with Alice which results in the raising of the vengeful ghost of his ancestor Mathew. This story is the most interesting of the three, but something doesn't quite work here.  The bleeding portrait and the chair with bright red blood on it were somewhat laughable, and the scene where the skeleton hand comes out to choke Vincent Price is unintentionally hilarious!  This is definitely the weakest of the three segments.  

The costumes, the color, the music and the mood makes it a entertaining film.  It is not the best, but certainly worth watching.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Curse of the Demon

"Curse of the Demon" (aka "Night of the Demon") is one of those weird little lost films that everyone agrees is wonderful and yet very few people seem to have actually seen. This is one of those rare British movies that is set, not in the city, but rather in the chilly, fog filled countryside where little seems to have changed since Stonehenge was built. Niall McGinnis really steals the film as the leader of a Satanic cult, Karswell, who swiftly deals with his critics by summoning a huge, horrific demon to rip them to shreds.

John Holden, played by Dana Andrews, travels to London for a paranormal psychology symposium, and is intent on exposing Karswell as a fraud.  He is skeptical and refuses to believe in demons, even when strange, unexplainable things begin to happen to him. Miss Harrington, played by Peggy Cummins is his love interest, the open minded schoolteacher whose uncle may have been a victim of the Demon. Niall McGinnis is disturbingly likable as the head of the Demon Cult.  He is very disarming as the films central villain, and Andrews confusion mirrors our own as the movie stalks relentlessly through a seance, a stormy Halloween party and a frightening hypnosis session to its surprisingly violent conclusion.

The demon is shown at the start of the film, and even though the special makeup effects would be considered corny by todays standards, the movie is so smart, so moody, so creepy and well done with an excellent cast to boot, that one can easily forgive the crude looking demon.  
This is an excellent adaption of the short story "Casting the Runes" by M. R. James and it still has the power to scare even 50 years later. TCM is showing it at 6 pm this Friday...I highly recommend you check it out...I know I will!  

 Here is Karswell talking to Holden, one of my favorite they are discussing the difference between white and black magic at a Halloween party he's thrown for the local kids. To make a point, he conjures up a stylish wind storm--which crashes the party and still fails to convince his intended audience.  

 Holden, finding the parchment in his coat....warning him of his impending death!

Holden and Miss Harrington, trying to figure out what to do.

The seance scene, adds a little comic relief to the film.

The final scene at the train that a demon up ahead?!!!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Happy Friday!

Enjoy Dr. Tongue's Evil House of Wax!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Eyes Without A Face

I first saw this film about 10 years ago at a local university auditorium.  It is a creepy little French film that features two most quintessential girly horror elements: obsession with beauty and disfigurement.  In a French chateau, in the country, a famed plastic surgeon tries valiantly time after time to restore his disfigured daughter's face...driven by guilt since he was responsible for the accident that caused it. Georges Franju's 1959 Gothic shocker still retains the power to disturb unlike other similarly themed horror films. It is grislier than others of the period and stunningly photographed in b&w with haunting images (like the mask) that linger with you for days afterward. The surgeon (Pierre Brasseur) and his assistant (Alida Valli) are obsessively devoted to the daughter (Edith Scob) and don't take into account her personal feelings. Young women are lured to the estate, drugged and used for skin grafts as the daughter stands by helplessly, hoping for a new face. A dreamlike quality to the film makes it all the more disturbing and unforgettable.

The grisly storyline is subdued by brilliant black and white cinematography and an evocative mood which is maintained throughout the entire film. Granted, the operation scene is not for the faint of heart, but the images that resonated with me were the young girls eyes behind that eerie mask as she wanders through the big country house and Allida Valli's menacing black raincoat flickering in the night.

In addition to the excellent production values, the acting is impressive. Christiane Genessier, as the young Edith, who wears a mask in every scene except one, manages to convey her character with body language and her haunting eyes. Alida Valli as the "woman in the pearl choker" (and there is a reason for that choker!) is menacing and creepy as the doctor's assistant. 

The film has an atmospheric, mesmerizing, ethereal and surrealistic beauty. The pacing is French Arthouse-slow  but tantalizing.  

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

What The Heck Is it??!!!

I found this little treasure while walking the dog last night.  Not sure what it is, but I was drawn to it as soon as I spotted it.  It was practically begging me to take it home....but seriously, what the heck is it?  Is it an ashtray?  A bird feeder?  It is made of pewter or something very similar, and is very lightweight.  What really drew me to it was the art deco style dog at the top.  There is a little rusting in the bowl portion and it looks like the bottom base was painted with silver paint that has started chipping off.  

Looks like I have a new project...although I'm still working on my previous project of refinishing that know...the one I pulled out of the trash back in August?  The reason that project has taken so long was because it was way too hot to work on when I first got it,  so I had to postpone it till the fall when the weather is much cooler.  I've started working on it, but I'm about halfway done the project now, and will hopefully have a reveal in a week or two.  

In the meantime, I'm trying to decide what to do with this latest trash find...should I paint it a color or keep it metallic?  Should I use it in the bedroom for jewelry or perhaps a place to put my keys when I walk in the door?  So many choices it makes my head spin.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Tony Curtis

In memoria

Tony Curtis passed away last week and TCM had a marathon of his films in tribute over the weekend.  I managed to catch this little gem of a film entitled "Who Was That Lady? from 1960" starring Tony, his wife Janet Leigh and Dean Martin.  I must admit that I've never even heard of this film when it aired, but I was intrigued by the premise:  Ann Wilson, (Leigh) catches her straight-laced husband, (Curtis) Columbia University Assistant Professor of Chemistry David Wilson, kissing another woman. From David's perspective, he was the one being kissed innocently, the woman in question was just a grateful transfer student. However, Ann immediately wants a divorce. On the advice of David's friend, actor Mike Haney (Martin) makes up a story that  David is really an FBI agent,  and that the kiss was all in the name of national security. David, with the help of Mike's prop friend, gets a fake FBI badge and gun. The ruse works, but Ann is a bit over-excited about her husband's secret life, and may not be able to keep her husband's occupation a secret. The real FBI somehow get wind that a fake ID has been made and decide to teach him a lesson.  The plot sounds ridiculous...and it is, but it is a very funny movie and worth watching, just for the restaurant scene alone!  Also, the Wilson's apartment in the film is just to die for.

The two blondes were hilarious!  

Sadly, when this was being filmed, Leigh and Curtis were having marital problems, but they never let that show in their performances, which just shows you how professional they were.  Martin is wonderful with his snappy dialog and sarcastic remarks and he even sings the title song for the film.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Thrifty Goodness!

On Saturday, me and my boyfriend dragged our asses out of bed at 7:30 in the morning so we could check out a local church flea market.  When we arrived, they were still setting up, but there was already a small crowd checking out the items for sale.  They had a strange setup out on the lawn...there were stakes in the ground with tape creating a little maze, and it made me feel like a mouse in an experiment as I made my way through the maze.  It was supposedly done to contain the crowds.

Even though I didn't have my coffee yet, I perked up when I saw this fabulous tin sign written in English and German..warning of Army dogs on patrol.  On the back was a card taped to it stating that it was a Cold War era sign taken from an East German fence.  Regardless of the history, I found the sign to be very interesting.  I like how they made the dogs eyes create a feeling of menace.  (Sorry for the crappy quality of the photos, my digital camera is MIA and I had to use my crappy camera phone).

The only other purchase I made was a set of wooden elephant coasters.  What drew me to them in the first place, was the cute google eyes glued to his head.  I just couldn't resist.  It is great that he is functional as well as being decorative.  I almost purchased a groovy mirror from the 70s...with lots of ferns painted on it, with a bright green frame to match, but I had to remind myself that I no longer have any wall I left it.  All in all, even though I didn't buy much, I was pretty happy with what I did get.  

Friday, October 8, 2010

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Horror Hosts

As Halloween approaches, it makes me somewhat reminiscent of the old Horror Hosts...those folks who were tasked to introduce low grade B horror films usually on the weekends.  I truly miss those hosts, they always had such enthusiasm for the films they aired and could always provide a laugh or a scare.  Sadly, the era of the Horror Host is gone, but certainly not forgotten.  Below are some of my favorites:

In Philadelphia, where I grew up, we had Dr. Shock who hosted Horror Theatre and Mad Theatre.  He aired on Saturday afternoons, and I rarely missed an episode.  Originally, when he first aired in the early 70s, it was on around midnight on Saturdays and when I was around 8 years old, I would often sneak down to watch.  Once I was caught by my father, and instead of being scolded, he allowed me to stay up and watch the movie, and he would watch along with me, because he also loved the old horror films.  He was glad when the show finally moved to Saturday afternoons he and I didn't have to stay up late.

Commander USA on USA Networks in the 80s was perhaps the funniest of all the horror movie hosts.  I would always tune in on Saturday afternoons to catch the double feature.  His catch phrases were "Holy Cow";  "Keep your nose in the wind and your tail to yourself" and "Always a Brideshead, never revisted".  One of the funniest moments I can recall was when he was reading some fan mail and a woman gushed about how much he looked like a portly Clark Gable, he got so flustered and embarrassed it was hilarious to watch.
Another classic Commander USA moment...the zombie song.  This show was the best!
In the 80s Philadelphia had Saturday Night Dead which came on after Saturday Night Live.  The host was Stella, the maneater from Manayunk.  The show was OK, but some of the humor would fall flat.  It was quite madcap and it seemed like they were not using a script, but just turning on the cameras and doing what they wanted and it wasn't always funny, but they used to show a lot of the old Vincent Price films of Edgar Allen Poe stories, which I thoroughly enjoyed.
By the late 80s and early 90s, comedians would take the stage and introduce horror films.  There was Joe Bob Briggs on TNT's Monsterfest...

...and my favorite, Gilbert Gottfried.  He was one of the funniest hosts from the late 80s early 90s.  Always putting himself into wacky situations, such as pretending to do acid and having a wacky trip, or having his head sticking out of a table while people whacked his head and fake blood dripped down (just like the poor monkey in one of the Faces of Death movies, which I found out years later was totally fake!  And to think I cried for that poor monkey!).  
I truly wish the horror movie host would come back, they brought so much fun horror films.  

Monday, October 4, 2010

Wood You Want This??!

I understand how people can think that their crap is actually worth something..but seriously, a discarded piece of firewood as art?  I think that most likely this auction is a joke or a hoax and they are just trying to get some attention.  It has to be a joke...they are asking $10,000 for it. But wait...perhaps it is not a joke...take a look at what this guy is asking for a crappy Beatles bootleg!  At one point he was asking $6,000 but has slowly dropped the price to a mere $1,000...a bargain! Crazytown!