From the DVD case: This Halloween is very special for good ol’ Charlie Brown. He’s finally been invited to a party! Snoopy gets to join the fun, so look out, Red Baron! Linus will find out once and for all if the Great Pumpkin will rise up out of his pumpkin patch “with his bag of toys for all the good children.” (1966, color)
Special Note: The following isn’t so much a review as unabashed gushing praise for a Halloween favorite from my childhood. True fans of horror/science fiction may choose to skip this particular entry and wait for my next review. However, if you share my love of this cartoon, be sure to click on the words in bold to view images that would not fit within the confines of these meager paragraphs.
Mark says: I know what you’re thinking. What is a Peanuts cartoon doing on a site devoted to reviewing vintage sci-fi/horror films? Well just take a gander at the screen capture above and note how viciously (and gleefully!) Lucy chops into that pumpkin. This was years before slasher flicks like Halloween and Friday the 13th became popular. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised to find that those movies weren’t directly inspired by Lucy’s sadistic assault on that pumpkin. Not to mention that opening sequence where the Peanuts gang is chased by skeletons, ghosts, floating pumpkins, a black cat, and witches. If that isn’t the true essence of horror, I don’t know what is.
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From the DVD case: In this vivid view of prehistoric life, a man from the mean-spirited Rock People (John Richardson) is banished from his home, but soon finds himself living among the kind, gentle Shell People. There, he falls in love with one of their tribeswomen, played by bikini-clad Raquel Welch, in the role that made her a major star. The two decide to strike out on their own, living by their wits in a deadly land of treacherous beasts and unknown dangers – all leading to a thrilling climax by the edge of an angry volcano. With stunning primeval imagery created by pioneering special effects wizard Ray Harryhausen, One Million Years B.C. is a true science fiction classic. (1966, color)
Mark says: I can’t watch One Million Years B.C. without reminiscing about the first time I saw it televised. I was a school boy and I watched it at my house while my friend, Tony, saw it at his. The next day we got together to discuss the merits of the movie. All I could talk about were the dinosaurs, but all Tony could talk about was Raquel Welch!
Stop-motion master Ray Harryhausen (It Came from Beneath the Sea, The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms) usually teamed with producer Charles M.Schneer, but here he freelances for Hammer Film Productions. The overall quality of the picture (story-wise) is inferior, but Harryhausen’s contributions hold up well.
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From the video case: A young party traveling to the Carpathian Mountains receives a strange warning from Father Sandor, the Abbot of Kleinberg, telling them not to proceed with their plans. Despite his advice, the Kents continue but are prematurely abandoned in a forest by their coachman, who refuses to continue after dark. Finally, their luck is changing it seems, when another mysterious black coach appears and delivers them to an enormous, eerie castle where they are offered the hospitality of Count Dracula. (1966, color)
Mark says: The opening flashback scene in Dracula: Prince of Darkness establishes it as the official sequel to Hammer’s Horror of Dracula. Though two vampire pictures were produced in between the films (Brides of Dracula and Kiss of the Vampire), neither one featured Christopher Lee as the famous bloodsucking Count.
Reportedly, Christopher Lee (Horror Hotel, Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors) was so appalled by the dialog, that he was allowed to play the character mute. To his credit, Lee’s silence is hardly noticeable as his presence is still very powerful, though much more limited than in the original feature.
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From the video box: In one of his most popular films, Don Knotts stars as a newspaper typesetter whose dream of becoming a reporter materializes after he spends a night in a haunted house. (1966, color)
Mark says: Don Knotts may have been a one-trick-pony (all of his roles seem to be a theme on Barney Fife) but he crafted the twitchy-cowardly-lovable character so well that I would have been disappointed to see him play anything else.
The Ghost and Mr. Chicken is the first film Knotts starred in after his departure from The Andy Griffith Show. He plays Luther Heggs, a newspaper typesetter with aspirations of becoming a big-time investigative reporter. Unfortunately, Luther’s aspirations far surpass his talents. He seems doomed to take taunts from not only his co-worker, Reporter Ollie Weaver (Skip Homeier), but from the general populace at large.
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From the video case: On a tiny island off the coast of Ireland, a new breed of terror is unleashed. In his quest to find a cure for cancer, a research scientist conducts an experiment involving mutated cells. But, this attempt to benefit humanity becomes a nightmare that threatens the entire human race.
The tranquil island is suddenly rocked by the mysterious death of a local farmer. When he is found in a cave, not a trace of bone is left in his body; he has been reduced to a horrible, shapeless mass. Enter eminent pathologist Dr. Brian Stanley (Peter Cushing) and Dr. David West (Edward Judd), a brilliant bone specialist.
Working together in a desperate race against time, they must find a way to destroy the seemingly indestructible, ever-multiplying horde of bone-eating creatures before the mutant monsters kill everyone on the island and spread like a deadly plague across the entire planet. (1966, color)
Mark says: I credit Island of Terror for reigniting my interest in old sci-fi/horror movies. Several years ago I caught this movie on television. I remembered it from my youth and was enthralled to see it again through the eyes of an adult. As I was watching the movie, a friend dropped by and we finished watching it together. Afterwards, he suggested we rent a slew of old sci-fi/horror films and view them over the course of a few days. That’s exactly what we did, and I have been hooked ever since.
What really makes this film work is the dynamic between the two lead characters, Peter Cushing (The Curse of Frankenstein, The Abominable Snowman) and Edward Judd (The Day the Earth Caught Fire). Both men play their roles (Dr. Stanley and Dr. West, respectively) without a trace of campiness. Edward Judd actually has more of the lead role, and gets the girl (Carole Gray), but it’s Peter Cushing who gets the better lines.
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From the video case: A strange disease reaching epidemic proportions is invading the English countryside where Peter Thompson (Brook Williams) practices. In desperation, Thompson seeks the help of his mentor, Sir James Forbes (André Morell), who comes to his assistance in trying to make sense of the horrible plague. Amidst walking corpses, voodoo dolls, and empty graves, the two embark on on an investigation that uncovers a ghastly secret and leads them to the shocking truth. (1966, color)
Mark says: Like the zombies in the film, this movie can be a bit slow-paced. This languidness can usually be attributed to the building of suspense. However, the time spent on creating an atmosphere of apprehension seems somewhat misplaced. After all, we know coming in that zombies are the cause of the plague. This is predominantly a fine Hammer production, though, filmed on the same set as another Hammer film, The Reptile.
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