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Monthly Archives: September 2006

Poster for Bloodlust! 1961

From the DVD case: Beginning with a serene charter boat ride and quickly descending into savage brutality, this lost gem, inspired by the classic thriller, The Most Dangerous Game, features an eerie atmosphere and intense performances. When two couples enjoying a seafaring vacation spot an uncharted island, little do they realize the horrible events that will soon threaten their very lives. Ensconced in a sinister mansion as the guests of the mysterious Dr. Balleau, the visitors quickly discover a trophy room where the heads mounted on the walls are human, and that they are the next game to be hunted. (1961, b&w)

Mark says: Though Bloodlust! is nowhere near the caliber of The Most Dangerous Game (1932), it does hold a certain kitsch appeal. There’s not much suspense, but there are some laughs and even a few genuine surprises.

Our hero, Johnny, is played by Robert Reed. Does that name sound familiar? You’ll most likely remember him as Mr. Brady from the TV series, The Brady Bunch. Reed makes for a pretty dull hero, but his ridiculously tight-fitting shirt provides some entertainment value.

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Tor Johnson is The Beast of Yucca Flats, 1961

From the DVD case: Fans of The Incredible Hulk will love this early sixties horror film. After accidentally being exposed to a dose of atomic radiation, a Russian scientist’s body undergoes massive transformation. With this ill-tempered monster out to reek havoc on the world, is anyone safe? (1961, b&w)

Mark says: The Beast of Yucca Flats is as close as you can get to an Ed Wood movie without actually being an Ed Wood movie. It has a ridiculous plot line, cheesy narration, wooden acting, and features Ed Wood regular Tor Johnson (Bride of the Monster, Plan 9 from Outer Space) in a starring role. Still, Beast of Yucca Flats fails to capture that certain Ed Woodian charm.

The movie’s most obvious flaw is its lack of dialog. The entire story is told through the narration of writer/director Coleman Francis. What little dialog we do hear was obviously dubbed in later, and not very well at that. It seems the most creative efforts were devoted to obscuring the characters’ faces as they spoke.

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The Innocents, 1961

From the DVD case: The Innocents, a chilling adaptation of Henry James’ novella “The Turn of the Screw,” is one of the most frightening films ever made. Set in nineteenth-century England, this gothic ghost story centers around a governess (Deborah Kerr) taking care of two orphans in a foreboding Victorian mansion. As eerie apparitions appear and the children’s behavior becomes strange, the governess begins to wonder about the the fate of the previous governess and her sadistic lover. Could it be that their restless spirits are conspiring to corrupt the innocence of the children, or is this “haunting” a product of her own fears and imagination? (1961, b&w)

Mark says: This movie has everything going for it: a respectable lead actress in Deborah Kerr (as Miss Giddens), two fine child actors in Martin Stephens (Village of the Damned, The Witches) and Pamela Franklin (who later went on to star in such movies as The Legend of Hell House and Satan’s School for Girls) and a wonderfully atmospheric setting in an old, and possibly haunted mansion.

Add to that, fine direction by Jack Clayton, a screenplay by William Archibald and Truman Capote, which is based on a novella by Henry James, and you have a combination that is hard to beat.

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Konga, 1961

From the video case: After discovering a potion in the jungle that makes plants grow to ten times their normal size, Dr. Decker returns home to England to give the brew to his lab companion, Konga, a baby chimp. Amazingly, Konga begins to grow and obeys every wish of Dr. Decker, even murder! But when Konga’s growth spurt goes ape, things quickly spin out of control, and soon this killer gorilla goes on a rampage sending London into a frenzy of terror! (1961, color)

Mark says: Konga offers us man-eating plants, a giant ape, a pretty girl, and a mad scientist in the form of Dr. Charles Decker, played by horror/sci-fi great, Michael Gough (Horrors of the Black Museum, Horror of Dracula). It’s a terrible movie in most respects, but wonderfully entertaining overall.

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Promotional still for The Curse of the Werewolf, 1961

From the video case: Oliver Reed portrays the bloodthirsty man-beast who loves by day and kills by night in this gripping gothic thriller.

Directed by horror filmmaker Terence Fisher of Hammer Film fame, this atmospheric tale of terror follows Reed, the orphan baby of a maniacal beggar and a mute girl, from birth to manhood when he discovers his horrible secret.

Try as he may, the cursed youth is unable to suppress the dark forces within. When the moon is full, he becomes an uncontrollable killer incapable of distinguishing between friend and foe. (1961, color)

Mark says: This is the first and only werewolf picture produced by Hammer Studios. It’s also unusual for a Hammer film because the backdrop is in Spain rather than England.

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Werewolf in a Girl's Dormitory (aka Lycanthropus) 1961

From the DVD case: A reform school for wayward girls is plagued by monstrous attacks. Suspicion falls on several dubious characters when a death is caused from what appears to be an animal slaying.

The police investigate as to whether the attacks are caused by a beast or a vicious werewolf on the prowl. In the dormitory the girls are in a state of panic and terror.

A nightmare of fiendish horrors! Unbelievable until you see it with your own horror-stricken eyes! (1961, b&w)

Mark says: Not nearly as provocative as the title suggests, this is an Italian/Austrian film dubbed in English. I personally prefer the original title of the movie, Lycanthropus, though I appreciate the camp value of the English version.

This is more of a murder mystery than a genuine horror flick, and sometimes the intricate plot gets in the way of a good werewolf story. The false leads presented in the film become tiresome, and I found myself longing for more scenes involving the actual monster. The werewolf itself is not elaborate, but the make-up is adequate. I doubt any hardcore horror fans will be frightened by this beast, though.

If you are lucky enough to purchase a certain copy of this film, you will be treated to a terrible schlock song, The Ghoul In School, during the opening credits.

This movie stars Barbara Lass, Curt Lowens, and Carl Schell. It is directed by Paolo Heusch (sometimes credited as Richard Benson).

Scene to watch for: The unusually ghastly expression on Mary’s face (the first victim) as the doctor examines her throat wound.

Line to listen for: “You wanted a little love on the sly, then find me a way out of this pig pen!”

Trivia: The pretty lead actress, the late Barbara Lass, was Roman Polanski’s first wife.

Mark’s Rating: ! ! ½ out of 5.

IMDB Link

Brides of Dracula, 1960

From the DVD case: Marianne (Yvonne Monlaur) is traveling to Eastern Europe from Paris for a teaching post. She gets stranded at an inn after her stagecoach mysteriously leaves her. She is persuaded to stay at Baroness Meinster’s chateau. During her stay Marianne meets the Baroness’s son (David Peel) who is chained to a wall. Feeling bad for the son, Marianne frees him, only to discover that he is a vampire. Luckily for her, Dr. Van Helsing (Peter Cushing) is on his way to rescue Marianne and destroy the vampire. (1960, color)

Mark says: Before Christopher Lee could be convinced to reprise his role as the fiendish Count from Horror of Dracula, Hammer Films had to come up with a contrivance to keep audiences interested until Mr. Lee could be persuaded to don his fangs again (which he would do in 1966′s Dracula: Prince of Darkness). What they concocted was a story involving the “living” disciples of Dracula, with David Peel in the lead role of Master Bloodsucker, Baron Meinster.

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Erika Remberg takes a tumble in Circus of Horrors, 1960

From the DVD case: A deranged plastic surgeon (Anton Diffring) takes over a traveling circus then transforms horribly disfigured young women into ravishing beauties and forces them to perform in his three-ring extravaganza. But when the re-sculpted lovelies try to escape the clutches of the obsessed doctor, they begin to meet with sudden and horrific “accidents.” Now the trapeze is swinging, the knives are flying, the wild animals are loose, and “The Grisliest Show On Earth” is about to begin! (1960, color)

Mark says: Circus of Horrors is Anglo Amalgamated’s attempt to cash in on Hammer Films successful formula of combining horror with sexuality. The film works rather well, and though considered tame by today’s standards, it still has the power to shock and entertain.

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Lobby Card for The Wasp Woman, 1960

From the DVD case: A cosmetics magnate fearful of aging uses a potion made from queen wasp enzymes in her quest for eternal beauty, causing her to periodically turn into a wasp-monster that must kill. (1960, b&w)

Mark says: The Wasp Woman is a poor production even for low-budget producer/director Roger Corman (It Conquered the World, Attack of the Crab Monsters). Made in less than a week, Wasp Woman was obviously meant to capitalize on the success of 1958′s The Fly. Needless to say, Corman’s film does not come close to matching The Fly in quality, concept, story, or production.

The Wasp Woman insults the viewer’s intelligence almost every step of the way. From the opening credits, that roll over a shot of honeybees (not wasps) to the final credits where the honeybees shot is replayed, we are treated to inane concepts, bad science, horrendous “effects,” and poorly scripted scenes. In other words, this is the epitome of a B picture. The annoying music by Fred Katz only aggravates matters.

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From the video case: When an Earth rocket lands on Mars, the crew finds the planet more pink than red and not entirely dead. As these well-armed scientists begin to explore, they are attacked by unbelievably horrific and demented creatures at every turn. Battling for their lives, the survivors make it back to their ship only to discover intelligent life – and a warning they’ll never forget! (1960, color)

Mark says: Let me state right up front: I rarely get through this movie without falling into a hard slumber. However, for the purpose of this review, I slugged down a pot of coffee and was able to view the film in its entirety.

I’m not saying The Angry Red Planet is a complete loss; it does have some camp value and one memorable creature, but be prepared to listen to a lot of inane dialog before finding anything of value here. Even the technology known as “Cinemagic” can’t save this sleeper.

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