Saturday, September 25, 2010

The Devil's Bride aka The Devil Rides Out 1968 ***

Director: Terence Fisher

Stars: Christopher Lee, Charles Gray, Nike Arrighi

Just to get this out of the way first, if you watch the film you will get see the things on the poster, and more. There is a man with a goat head, there is a giant spider, there is an Angel of Death with a skull face - riding a horse with bat wings! And even more creepy stuff. I generally enjoy any film I watch from Hammer Studios but this is one that really delivers. For one thing, as opposed to many films where Christopher Lee appears only a few times and speaks little or not at all, he's in almost every scene of this movie and has many lines that would make effective sound bites in a Rob Zombie song. It is unique in that Lee plays the hero of the film, for once trying to work against Satan, and manages this with conviction. The villain of the piece is portrayed by Charles Gray, whom many will recall as Blofeld in Diamonds are Forever, or as the Criminologist in Rocky Horror Picture Show ("It's just a jump to the left!"). Gray is trying to raise the devil and nearly succeeds except for the interference of that snooping Christopher Lee and his own version of the Scooby-Doo gang.

The movie doesn't just hint at certain dangers, it actually depicts them, which makes for some fun visuals and genuinely scary scenes. Though I often also enjoy a good use of power of suggestion, as say in the original Night of the Living Dead, where half the time we are just shown people arguing in a house, but it's what they are arguing about that creeps us out. And speaking of the original Night of..., tonight is the triumphant return of Elvira's Movie Macabre to local stations in the U.S. and the Romero classic is slated at the inaugural flick. I live in Canada unfortunately, so will have to miss out because none of our U.S. affiliates are carrying it. Well, I'll still be flipping through channels later hoping I missed something in my research.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Brides of Blood 1968 ***

Dir: Gerarde DeLeon & Eddie Romero

Stars: Kent Taylor, John Ashley, Beverly Hills, Eva Darren, Mario Montenegro

Virgin sacrifice, a busty blonde, a monster, island rituals, bloodthirsty mutant trees, and lots of midgets. Combines elements of King Kong, Forbidden Planet, and The Incredible Hulk. A scientist, his young assistant, and his free-livin’ wife arrive at an island in the Philippines to look at effects of atomic tests that took place in the area years earlier. They discover that the islanders have slidden back into primitive ways, and that virgins are regularly sacrificed to a mysterious creature in order to placate it. They meet Esteban, who seems like the only civilized person on the island, and who offers them hospitality. Hills’ sex appeal is slowly uncovered as the film goes on, as opposed to having her in skimpy outfits from the get-go, which is unique. The monster is wonderfully bizarre looking, definitely a throwback to the old fifties creatures. As eerie and evocative as it gets, with a tribal chant repeated throughout to great unnerving effect.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Cat-Women of the Moon 1953 ***

Dir: Arthur Hilton

Stars: Marie Windsor, Sonny Tufts, Victor Jory, The Hollywood Cover Girls

Man makes a small step onto the moon for the first time and finds a society of telepathic women living in caves where there remains a breathable atmosphere. The women plan to steal the earthmen’s rocket and use their powers to take over the world, but first they must perform a strange space pilates to wonderful music by Elmer Bernstein that sounds more Biblical epic than space movie, but those are just some of the unconventional elements that makes the film a lot of fun. (Bernstein did the score for Ten Commandments, thus the Biblical epic connection.) We got a revolver brought along on the rocket ship, we got throwing a cigarette onto the bright side of the moon where it explodes into flames. The olden days when space was magic and exotic. There are also giant spiders on quite visible wires, and some space-double entendres: “If you take me on board your rocketship I’ll let you into my cave of gold.” Or something along those lines, I might have bent it a little. There’s even a bit of a love triangle among the astronauts which, given the news of a few years ago, turns out the be the most prescient element. The movie seems very fantastical, but it is taking place in just might be that in 1969, the "future" year when the film takes place Cat-Women were found on the moon, only the government doesn’t want you to know. For all we know, this film may be a documentary presented as fiction to hide the truth in plain sight. Space may be as magical as we always thought, but who’s funneling the info?

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Kong Island 1968 ** 3/4

Dir: Robert Morris aka Roberto Mauri

Stars: Marc Lawrence, Brad Harris, Esmeralda Barros, Adriana Alban, Ursula Davis

This Italian movie is also known as King of Kong Island, but don't let either title fool you, the apes in this are all regular sized. But gorillas are gorillas, and I'm a sucker for any movie with gorillas, especially if they are portrayed by people in gorilla costumes, and especially if, as in this movie, they are remote controlled by a mad scientist. The Leonard Maltin Movie Guide says this movie is "not even good for laughs". I beg to differ, but that could be because I find amusement in the concept of a mad scientist named Albert plotting to somehow control the world with an army of mind controlled gorillas in Africa. There are, admittedly, a lot of scenes where the film drags, as people walk endlessly through the jungle, but there's a lot to recommend it, as there is a jungle girl, referred to as "The Sacred Monkey", and a kind of fun dancing/club scene, as well as just a bizarre, twisted plot. One highlight includes the gorillas invading a camp and kidnapping the breathtaking Ursula Davis, also seen in Crypt of the Vampire and An Angel for Satan; she's one of my favourite Eurohorror beauties, seeming to always play the "good girl".

The last twenty or so minutes are especially good, as everything comes to a head and there is one fight after another in the lab/cave hideout of Albert; man versus man, woman versus woman, mad scientist versus gorilla. I must also admit I like this movie because it seems like something I may have caught part of on TV when I was a kid and been forever baffled and intrigued. I'm not sure if I really did, but it has that sort of strange evocative feel for me, between the nonstop muzak soundtrack and the blurry, otherworldly visuals. It puts me into a good b-movie trance, what can I say. That's what I look for.