From the DVD case: They came from deep beneath the earth’s surface: grotesque, reptilian creatures covered with slime, forced from their subterranean lair by underground nuclear testing. Setting up an almost impenetrable dome of fog over L.A. to lower the city’s temperature and make the surface more habitable, they’ve emerged from the sewers and cesspools, impervious to attack and mad as hell. Now, Los Angeles has been evacuated, its empty streets shrouded in a permanent twilight. Except for a small band of survivors, the Slime People have the city all to themselves. Holed up in a television station, pilot Tom Gregory, Professor Galbraith, his daughters Lisa and Bonnie, and marine Cal Johnson have been left behind doomed to a fate worse than death, unless they can find a way to penetrate the wall of fog that imprisons them.
Mark says: Robert Hutton (Invisible Invaders, The Colossus of New York) stars in and makes his directorial debut with The Slime People. Hutton’s inexperience as a director is painfully evident from frame one. Any chance the film had for building suspense is blown in the first few minutes of footage. Without buildup or fanfare, we are introduced to the creatures as they emerge from their sewer lairs. The monsters, undoubtedly, are the highpoint of this movie, but exposing them so early on seems premature and demonstrates poor showmanship. Or perhaps the philosophy was to hook the audience immediately before they could walk out from this talky and mostly non-action filled flick.
Though released in 1963, The Slime People seems more at home with the cheapie science fiction fare of the latter 1950s. All the elements are here: a cheesy premise, subpar acting, rubber-suited monsters, and an exceedingly low budget. Hutton states the budget for the film was $56,000, with three or four thousand dollars going to the creation of the Slime People costumes alone. Still, he was able to bring the movie in under cost, allowing the excess money to go for advertising. Roger Corman himself couldn’t boast more efficiency. Well, maybe.
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From the DVD case: Architect Scott Campbell (Ronald Foster) and his wife Nancy (Merry Anders) join another couple, Joseph and Loy Schiller (Richard Crane and Erika Peters), for what promises to be a pleasant stay at an empty castle set on a secluded California hillside. Soon, however, tension mounts as terrifying things begin happening: A group of ghoulish circus performers who once inhabited the castle become increasingly hostile towards their “guests,” turning their mini-vacation into a life-and-death challenge of wits! (1963, b&w)
Mark says: The premise of House of the Damned is not unique, but it did hold some promise. Lawyer Joseph Schiller (Richard Crane, The Alligator People) hires architect Scott Campbell and his wife, Nancy, played respectively by Ron Foster and Merry Anders (Women of the Prehistoric Planet) to survey the Rochester Castle, a piece of real estate saddled with a dubious past. Joseph and his wife, Loy (Erika Peters, undoubtedly thrown in for sex appeal), are to join the pair later in the week.
The Rochester Castle was built by a wealthy and eccentric woman, Priscilla Rochester (Georgia Schmidt, see image above), who was “put away” because of a scandal that embarrassed the family. We learn later that a bum ventured onto the property and she “blasted his head off.” Priscilla is a crafty old woman, though, and has been known to escape her sanitarium confines occasionally and return to the estate.
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From the video case: For reasons unexplained by science, hundreds of meteorites begin to fall to Earth and blind those who witness the phenomenon. The few who retain their sight are horrified to encounter dandelion-like fluff known as Triffids. These Triffids multiply and grow into man-eating plants that begin to march on civilization, destroying everyone in their path. Join four survivors of the terrifying onslaught of Triffids as they search for a means of destroying the menacing plants. (1963, color)
Mark says: Considering this film’s ridiculous premise, it’s surprisingly fun to watch. It is based on a novel by John Wyndham, whose book, The Midwich Cuckoos, was the basis for the sci-fi classic, Village of the Damned.
The Triffids themselves are not that impressive, and are hardly menacing. They uproot themselves and walk about in a fashion more apt to make you laugh than shudder. Though they have the ability to sting and gobble up humans, they move too slowly and look too silly to be truly sinister. Their only real threat seems to be in their numbers. These beasts multiply like weeds.
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From the DVD case: Twice-Told Tales spins three gripping, diabolical nightmares of madness, mayhem, and murder most foul!
Vincent Price stars in all three stories, including “Dr. Heidegger’s Experiment,” about a scientist who finds the fountain of youth and lives to regret it; “Rappaccini’s Daughter,” the twisted tale of a demented father whose love for his daughter turns poisonous; and “The House of Seven Gables,” the ghostly legend of an ancient cursed family who lived for power and died for greed! (1963, color)
Mark says: Twice-Told Tales is such an obvious attempt by MGM to cash in on the success AIP had with Roger Corman’s Poe series that it is almost embarrassing. Just the year before (1962) AIP released Tales of Terror, a film highlighting three tales by Edgar Allan Poe, with each story featuring Vincent Price as the connecting actor.
In Twice-Told Tales, we are treated to three tales adapted from stories by Nathaniel Hawthorne (the title is taken from his short story collection of the same name), and, again, Vincent Price (The Abominable Dr. Phibes, The Pit and the Pendulum) serves as the common actor in all three segments. Just a coincidence? I think not.
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From the DVD case: Simon (Oliver Reed) is a psychotic man who is driving his sister, Eleanor (Janette Scott), insane, so that he can inherit the estate of their dead parents. But when a mysterious man (Alexander Davion), who claims to be a long-lost relative, saves Eleanor from committing suicide, Simon’s plans are thwarted. Simon vows to get revenge on the impostor and take care of his sister in the process. (1963, b&w)
Mark says: Paranoiac begins with an interesting, though very improbable, premise: a brother, long thought dead, returns to the family estate to find his sister near madness, his brother a drunk, and himself the benefactor of a fortune. But first, he must prove to the family that he is the man he says he is.
Unfortunately, the story gets so tangled up in plot twists that it becomes preposterous. This is more of a thriller than a straight-out horror picture.
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From the video case: Dr. Markway is an anthropologist with a special interest in psychic phenomena who wants to try a true exercise in terror. Intrigued by the legend of Hill House, he invites two women, psychic researchers, to join him in his adventure. Mrs. Sannerson, who has inherited the old mansion, is suspicious of Dr. Markway’s intentions and insists that her young nephew Luke go along with the group. Luke is a skeptic about the supernatural, until he enters Dr. Markway’s eerie world. (1963, b&w)
Mark says: The major flaw with the description posted above is that it neglects to mention the character this film is centered around, the nervous Eleanor Lance, played exquisitely by Julie Harris. It also features the talents of Claire Bloom (The Illustrated Man) as Theo (the psychic with lesbian undertones), Russ Tamblyn as Luke Sanderson (the young skeptic), and Richard Johnson as Dr. Markway. This film is based on Shirley Jackson’s novel, The Haunting of Hill House.
As a testament to The Haunting, I will state up front that I’ve only watched it twice. Once when I first purchased it on video cassette years ago, and then again tonight. How is this a testament, you ask? It’s a testament in the sense that this movie freaked me out so much during my first viewing that I have only tonight gone back for seconds.
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