Thursday, October 31, 2013

Well, it is ugly, wet, windy, and gray down here in Mississippi; while this may not be good weather for trick-or-treating, it is ideal for a night of horror. Good spirits were in the office despite the weather, many of whom were dressed up in Halloween costume. I'm going the lazy route tonight, watching the Vincent Price festival on Turner Classics. Might drop comments as I watch the three films that lead to midnight. Then I think some of us horror fans will take that much needed break (even if its only a few days or weeks) from the genre to watch something (anything) other than horror. Three films make up the line-up leading to midnight: Pit & the Pendulum, The Haunted Palace, and Masque of the Red Death. Nice line-up that are all three quite entertaining to me and as worthy a triple feature as I can think of for Halloween night. I hope all of you have a safe and happy Halloween night (perhaps with better weather than what we Mississippians have down here).

Pit & the Pendulum: some random thoughts...
  • the paint colors used at the opening, along with the unease of the score, really set the mood nicely, I thought.
  • Antony Carbone's dick of a doc seems to be inauthentic in his sympathies and insistence that he was sure that Barbara Steele, wife to Vincent Price's nobleman, had died "of fright". While I was unsure of Carbone's performance, it makes sense in tonight's viewing because he was playing a part in the hopes of tricking Price into madness (he succeeds to his own ultimate detriment however)
  • Steele's part isn't as sizable as it seemed to me in time's past. Sure her motives--in association with secret lover Carbone--are wicked and establish Price's transformation into his torturer father personality, but it really isn't all that big. She does mock Price when he surrenders his sanity and laughs along with her while Carbone discourages her antics.
  • Price really works it with his distressful voice, eyes of both innate fear (that he was responsible for entombing his wife alive and of her return to "haunt" him) and eventually pure evil (once "Sebastian" comes alive in Price's Nicholas, taking hold for good), and then his whole body changing to resemble the father (the limp walk, crippling gait) after being driven mad. It is quite the tour-de-force performance where he lets it all hang out.
  • John Kerr, like others in films alongside Price, is unfortunately stuck with the boring part that is essentially reactionary. He responds/reacts to the events as they unfold, outside eyes.
  • the Pendulum sequence works so much better because of the warped camera angles and colored lens. Giving all of it this nightmarish quality that intensifies the situation. I guess you could visualize it this way and to the person stuck under that swinging blade it all might just seem a little askew
  • Unfortunately, like Kerr, Luana Anders is saddled with a bore of a part that doesn't seem to require much zest or vitality. She basically is a mannequin reciting lines.
  • a scene that never seemed to remain in my mind from viewings of the past really left an impression this go around. The discovery of a petrified corpse fixed in a state of fear when her tomb is opened just rocked my world. So awesome.
  • also awesome this go around was the final screen image of Steele trapped in the iron maiden. No one will ever set foot in that room again. Too cool

    One becomes accustomed to the darkness here.
    The Haunted Palace: some random thoughts...
  • I hadn’t realized just how much Lon Chaney Jr. suffered the ravages of bad health and alcoholism, but his physical condition sure shows in the film. Like when Debra Paget finds herself in a hidden passageway looking for her husband Price and there’s this intense close up of Chaney’s face, with wrinkled baggage under his eyes. He still has this sweetness in his voice and face that flies in the face of the character he’s supposed to portray (Spider Baby seems to better fit this Chaney during his latter days)
  • I love how this film works as a precursor to the prosthetics boom soon to come in horror, particularly in the 80s (the makeup that describes the curse of Joseph Curwen upon the children (and children’s children) of those male conspirators who burned him at the stake for his activities involving the Necronomicon and “bewitched” women of the village of Arkham, regarding mutations to the face, with a particular growling monster kept in a room with bolted door fed scraps by its father)
  • As cool as it was to see Chaney in a film directed by Corman, Elijah Cook’s presence was equally as thrilling to me, even if it was a rather insignificant part. He’s got the best “worried expression” to me. It’s a gas.  
  • I like the subtlety in Price’s performance compared to his Poe adaptations which often required a bit of melodramatic oomph. I like the Jekyll/Hyde approach to the performance. How Charles Dexter Ward is a good man, but unable to withstand the force of the villainous Joseph Curwen. It’s all in the details of the duel between two distinct personalities. Charles is genuinely concerned and understands he must get out of the “palace” (more like the castle), but upon nearly escaping, Joseph’s “pull”, his strong evil will, is just too much.
  • I love that there are so many Lovecraftian touches to this film. The mention of the well-familiar book, the elder gods, Charles Dexter Ward himself as the character undermined by his ancestor’s malicious spirit, and sacrificing women to the gods for “mating” purposes as to create this new race to overrule the earth. Adding Poe’s name at all to this is rather desperate marketing. Lovecraft, this film is.
  • Paget faints when seeing Chaney in the secret passageway, and she’s a rather weak heroine who is often apprehensive when Joseph toys with her emotions. I acknowledge that the film is set (and was made) in a different era of female screen character, but I guess I just prefer to see a heroine not take so much shit from her man. Joseph wants to bed her in one scene and she’s appropriate repulsed by him, but only when he decides the act would require much physical labor (she does put up a resistance) does the evil presence abandon this attempt.
  • I love the scenes where Price is touched up with a darker makeup to imply his takeover of Charles’ body. I also like the “weakening” of Charles and how Price shows him slipping away while Joseph works at his mind, body, and soul.
  • Because of pervasively “colorful darkness” and the presence of thickening fog (including a cemetery and the village itself also smothered), Arkham seems besieged by gloom and doom. Add the disfigured townsfolk (even Elijah Cook has a webbed hand!), along with the ancient palace housing a hidden chamber that serves as a place of worship and conjuring, as well as, provides a sort-of entrance to where a monster lives (only one monster, never shown in full form, with director Corman opting to blur the screen, merely hinting to us of its presence) and there’s plenty of Gothic delights.
  • At one point, this was in my top ten favorite horror films.
  • The credits sequence at the beginning with the spider spinning the web is probably my all time favorite opening to a film, along with Saul Bass’ Psycho. It sets the tone and how Joseph Curwen is such a spider. Closing with the butterfly (to me, Charles) falling into the now-developed web, and Corman has really prepared us for a doozy.
  • Along with Tomb of Ligeia, I think The Haunted Palace will eventually potentially surpass the more popular, highly regarded Corman films famous during this magnificent period for the highly influential producer/director with horror fans. Or at least, they might make it into the conversation.
  • The idea that Charles almost survives after the portrait of Joseph is burned in the fire, yet not quite with the wink to us at the end comes at a time when twists weren’t the rage. It also feeds the idea that the stronger personality will remain in control even if the vehicle for which Joseph used to gain access to Charles was destroyed.

Masque of the Red Death: random thoughts...
  • This isn’t your Curse of Frankenstein Hazel Court. She pledges herself fully to Satan, to be his wife! Even burning an upside-down cross on her marvelous bosom. Price claims, “She has just married a friend of mine.” This after his bird (trained now to do his bidding) attacks her!
  •  You have Price in all that wickedness, finding both his wealthy guests and the peasants who beg at his castle walls for sanctuary contemptible. He has the wealthy grovel at his every whim/game, them doing as he asks while the peasants beg for shelter and food, for mercy, and receive archers’ arrows instead.
  • On occasion, Patrick Magee has room to shine. In Masque, he was a member of aristocracy invited to Prospero’s castle, an adversary with a level of spite towards “the little people” who finds himself in an ape costume, hanging from a chandelier by rope, under the false impression that a dwarf performer will be his partner in the murder of Prospero. When he slapped a dancer (and assistant to the dwarf assistant), this sets in motion his demise.
  • The “figure in red” is an ingenious plot device (and that voice offers both a sense of hope and doom in equal measure) and quite a stunning use of symbolism. I love how Prospero believes the “Red Death” on legs is Satan’s emissary, even believing he has been rewarded for “corrupting” the innocent, only to “unmask his death”. Price in red moving towards Prospero is fantastic as is how the people in his castle, now themselves taken by the red death, ambush him and then all collapse to the floor. Magnificent.
  • The influence of The Seventh Seal is obvious, but Corman doesn’t just rob; oh, no, he has something else entirely to do with the concept of Death and those taken while walking the earth.
  • The closing credits sequence as Death’s hand offers the cards is just awe-inspiring (done is striking red). The final “Death card” is neat.
  • Jane Asher as a lovely peasant girl, impressionable and desperate to save her father and boyfriend by any means, clinging to her Christian upbringing and faith, is a part that allows us to see Prospero becoming enchanted by her. Maybe it is her pure, uncorrupted soul. Her dedication to those she loves and his need to see her forsaking all and joining him in a path towards total devotion to Satan. To do that he will need her to be shaken to the core and to have all hope devoid of her. But the Red Death has other plans.
  • The standout besides those already mentioned, I would think is Asher’s father and boyfriend each having to slice their arm with a dagger stuck in the table of Prospero, one poisoned, killing the unfortunate person who has it enter his bloodstream in five seconds. What makes it standout to me is how those gathered at the table to stuff their face and gorge themselves on Prospero’s food (taken from his farming peasants) look on in delight.
  • Another early scene has Magee, hoping to enjoy from the pain and suffering of others, thanks to Price and his soldiers, showing up at the peasants’ village to stir up trouble and choose from the lot to serve as entertainment!
  • The score, photography, art direction, sets, and cast—all British except Price (who convinced as British)—offer Masque a quality hardly surpassed in Corman’s output of this period in his career (I still think the exteriors of Ligeia, though, are so good that this movie might just rival Masque)

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Paranormal Activity 3

Bringing over a box of tapes, Katie (Katie Featherston) hopes her sister, Kristie (Sprague Graydon) will allow her to put them in the basement (she has no room for them, she tells her). On those video tapes are the recordings of the sister's mother's second husband, Dennis. These VHS records from 1988 will foretell paranormal activity during the time when Katie and Kristie were children and how a demonic presence tormented their seemingly amicable family idyll.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013


Talbot was last seen dead by a cane to the skull by his father, but four years have passed and two graverobbers open his tomb, unknowingly releasing a werewolf to potentially savage innocents. Talbot will soon encounter Frankenstein's Monster, trapped in ice, in a weakened state, and dormant. Can Vasaria withstand not just a werewolf but undead brute as well?

While I think Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (Or, better titled, Frankenstein’s Monster Meets the Wolf Man, but I digress…) can be fun at times, the screenplay is a shambles of ideas, some making little logical sense:

·       Dr. Mannering (a London doctor who helped treat Lawrence Talbot after he is freed from his tomb by two bumbling grave robbers, allowing him to once again endanger the public) becomes inexplicably obsessed with providing Frankenstein’s Monster with full power even though this would encourage incredible horrors to the nearby village of Vasaria

·       Frankenstein’s Monster seems unable to speak, even though Ygor was able to in Ghost of Frankenstein, and sometimes he seems to see while other times he doesn’t.

·        A member of the village (Rex Evans), who lost a waitress to the wolf man, decides to blow up a dam so it will destroy any remaining ruins of Castle Frankenstein, but doing this would realistically flood the village, but all the villagers celebrate from a distance (seeing the flood erupting downward would seem to indicate such a result, but again, I guess applying logic to such a scenario would be wasted time)

·       Frankenstein’s Monster (thanks to production problems and sketchy decisions during production and plot-to-screen) stilts and walks arms stretched wide (this is used when critics and non-fans mock the Monster or send it up, ambushing Karloff’s terrific performances in the role) sometimes while other times Lugosi seems to indicate that he/it has proper movement.

·         Maleva, the gypsy, knowing how it went for Bela when he was accursed with lycanthropy, decides she will watch over and guard Talbot, although it is clear that once the full moon is out there with all its glory that he will turn werewolf and threaten her life (and the lives of others)

·         Talbot notices the Monster encased in ice in the catacombs underneath Frankenstein castle decides without a single thought of doing so to break him open and free him.

·         Frankenstein’s daughter (Ilona Massey) knows exactly where her father’s diary (notes on his Monster and the use of electricity to give life to the dead) is but how? If she knew its location why didn’t she destroy it? She said she’d destroy it if its whereabouts were known. And why wouldn’t she destroy it considering the diary is so toxic and caused her family such notoriety?

 There’s one moment—Lugosi’s sole bright spot as the Monster (I can only imagine if given the chance, Lugosi might could have done something with the part, particularly since he spoke while in the body of the Monster in Ghost of Frankenstein)—has that old devilish grin that is so Ygor in a close-up as Mannering gives him power thanks to the old Frankenstein lab machinery (powered by the dam’s turbine). It is to me a sign that this was a missed opportunity. Sure, Lugosi would sound Hungarian (that thick Ygor-ish accent would shine through) but that comes with the character that actually inhabits the body of the Monster (curse of the test screening, I guess: it is rumored that was why the idea of the Monster speaking in Ygor’s voice was nixed; too bad). It is kind of fascinating knowing that in the previous Ghost of Frankenstein that Chaney was in the role of the Monster and Lugosi was leading him around, with the roles reversed in Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man.

A great deal of the film is Chaney as sad sack Talbot, always in a state of melancholy and despair. Look, I’m a Chaney, Jr. guy. But by the time House of Dracula rolled around, the pitiable Talbot character was even wearying to me. There’s only so much whining and agony, bitching and moaning anybody can stand…even those of us who sympathize with the big lug. In this film, he just wants to die. Could Mannering just assist him in the kind of sympathetic demise he deserves? Actually asking that has me questioning my own personal ethics, but anyway…

The opening, to me, is more interesting than the latter stages of the film when logic takes a hike and remains absent. I like the London of director Roy William Neill and the gothic graveyard and mausoleum of the Talbots when the graverobbers open the tomb of Lawrence. I really loved the idea (and presentation) of a European Werewolf in London with Larry loose to feed on a copper or potential others that might be in the midst of the wolf man. In fact, I even liked the inclusion of Dennis Hoey (who worked on Sherlock Holmes films with director Neill) as the Inspector, finding Larry’s ravings of being a wolf when the moon’s full nonsensical gibberish. Patric Knowles is yet another in a long line of boring secondary characters with a little empathy for Larry (even finding him in Vasaria and not informing the authorities) but could have used a little personality (granted these kinds of characters have little color to them).

The sets once again are an asset, especially the wintry catacombs and the ruins of the castle (it really does look like it was gutted by explosives). The whole deal with Mannering summoning the mania of Frankenstein just didn’t wash with me…if fact, I found this development forced and absurd. At least it was better than the half-assed Frankenstein Monster resurrection in House of Dracula, though.

I can’t really say the final climactic showdown is any great shakes, with the dueling stunt doubles going at it, but there are some large props tipped over, not to mention, the lab is flooded, so it could have been worse, I guess. Lugosi might have wisely abandoned the project when it was offered to him, but maybe he expected the part to be as intended; we’ll never know.
Well, we are on the last leg of Halloween season, with two days left of October. I'm kind of torn. A part of me will kind of be glad to watch something (anything) other than one/two/three horror movies a day, and part of me will miss that special quality this month brings to the genre. Essentially, the horror fan in me never totally fizzles, but I would be remiss if I didn't admit that by the 31st, I'm a bit shopworn. Like most Octobers, I have big plans--a grand design--which includes 100 movies, and I wind up watching forty/fifty if I'm lucky. I just don't have the wherewithal or endurance  to do that at this juncture (nor will I if keeping this blog going during October is in the cards). I do lament inside not watching certain films I had planned to view (Captain Kronos, Twins of Evil, Martin, Children Shouldn't Play with Dead Things, Lemora, to name a few) this month, but realistically, there's only so much time one has when they commute to work, have two autistic children, and use their brain all day doing the stuff that pays the bills. I give a lot to horror (and to this blog, for that matter), and this month. I have enjoyed this month as I do every year. But I'm rather relieved October is nearing the end. Tonight I have Paranormal Activity 3 (already started but taking a break because the kids are still awake) and Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man on the program. Tomorrow and Halloween will feature old friends that will need no writing (thank goodness), although I figure I'll drop a few thoughts (just no huge blog entries): Frankenstein & Bride of Frankenstein will be Wednesday, and Halloween II ('81) & Night of the Living Dead will finish it off. I just want to watch these movies and enjoy them (thankfully I've written about all four on the blog, so perhaps the urge and voices in the brain screaming out to write will remain dormant and quiet), and relish my last two days with the creative beast caged. We shall see.

Chamber of Horrors

...reviewed October 26th 

A psychopath, who murdered his potential bride because she rejects him, vows to get even with those who were behind his arrest and sentencing for execution. Having to ax off his hand could very well be the catalyst behind this vow of vengeance. Two proprietors of a wax museum could very well be caught in the crosshairs of this dangerous killer.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Dracula, Prince of Darkness

While not one of my favorite Hammer Dracula films, Dracula, Prince of Darkness does have rather suspenseful goings-on, with a particularly strong cast of characters involved (and they have to be considering Lee is so scarcely in the film and never speaks!). Dracula’s use is sparingly so we have no option but to either enjoy the other characters (and the actors that portray them) or this won’t work at all. Thankfully, the awesomeness that is Andrew Keir is cast as the forceful, bluntly honest monk who doesn’t mince words or restrain himself from offering his opinion. He isn’t exactly reserved or sophisticated as Van Helsing, but I found him refreshing and a nice against-type hero to match wits with Count Dracula.

Let's Scare Jessica to Death

There is just some sort of ethereal power to Let’s Scare Jessica to Death that captures me. The independent filmmaking of the 70s (and the 60s prior to it) just had some advantages that seem to have been lost in the modern era of today’s digital, rapid-cut editing filmmaking. Long, extended takes, dependence on piano and guitar as background music, and the long-lost look of action and characterization on film; so much is now missing that is heavily visible on Let’s Scare Jessica to Death. I agree with Quentin Tarantino that the loss of film and total reliance on digital has removed a distinct look and feel no longer present today.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

The Ninth Gate (1999)

It never fails. I get right back absorbed in Polanski’s Ninth Gate any time it’s on. This time it was syfy showing it Sunday afternoon. Cut, with all that advertising crap from the channel at the bottom of the screen; the movie is up against it considering its on cable television, but the story is basically intact (there are some clips I’ll just watch to make up for that) with little taken from it.
Criticisms (I’m still at a loss the likes of Maltin and Ebert gave it such poor reviews) have been against it since it came out in ’99 (it, as of now, rests as my #1 film of horror in the 90s).

It is more of a Satanic mystery/thriller than horror (I guess, although, it has elements that are very much horror to me) with European flavor (we get to essentially tour Europe as Depp’s “book detective” (I simply love Lena Olin's label for him) researches the authenticity of a book in his possession (a book that just might have been acquired nefariously)).
 Developments galore:
  •  the three books supposedly pinned by a Satanic devotee with help from Lucifer himself have clues that provide Depp with the information that will lead him to a significant life-changing event
  •  people are dying around him while he attempts to authenticate his Nine Gates book
  •  the other two people who own books from the author of Depp’s benefactor (played by Langella) suffer terrible fates because they stand in the way of someone willing to kill to get his/her hands on certain pages from their copies
  • a blond black man seems to be following Depp and could hurt him at any time
  • Emmanuelle Seigner seems to be a type of “hell’s emissary” (or so I believe) often helping Depp escape hairy situations, and she motivates him into action, even sometimes leading him down the path of discovery.
I love how Langella, so delightfully pompous, considers himself the only one worthy to conjure his Lord Satan and enjoy “the fruits” of his master’s power. His downfall is most certainly gratifying. Getting rid of Lena Olin in front of a crowd of “bored millionaires” wearing robes, by choking her with a pentagram necklace (it cuts into her throat…yikes!) also still rather floors me. Langella just kind of bursts in, scolds and mocks her audience, retrieves the book supposedly stolen from him, and then kills her when Olin strikes at him like a ferocious feline. I guess I find his open murder of her rather startling. Langella even goes “Boo!” The congregation scatters when Langella does that. It is hilarious. By this point, Langella has abandoned any care about law enforcement doing anything to him. He believes he has now secured what he needs (thanks to Depp’s help; Depp’s journey from merely an investigator for him to following his own burgeoning agenda to uncover the mystery of the nine gates proves to throw his mission askew) and can gain access to a power that equals him with God. Depp has become himself obsessed with achieving access to the ninth gate, but Langella believes he is the rightful heir to such a destiny. He learns the hard way that fire burns and hurts, even if he believes that he is now invulnerable to its flames. Depp remains in access to the drawings that could unlock the ninth gate and Seigner could be the key to realizing what went wrong with Langella. Perhaps an engraving not yet discovered is Depp’s final piece to the puzzle that will provide the endgame?

I find the dialogue amusing, particularly when Depp is described by others (he’s not well liked and there’s a reason why; his nature is all about the paycheck, but the journey for uncovering the ninth gate provides incentive for giving his life a type of meaning, beyond his commission when searching for rare books for his wealthy clientele), and I’m of the minority who enjoys the journey instead of the end result. I don’t agree with Leonard Maltin…I do think this should be mentioned in the same breath as Rosemary’s Baby. In fact I like this film better than Rosemary’s Baby. I think if Polanski had provided a look into what lies beyond the ninth gate, the visual effects/art design of this would have been considered disappointing and/or laughable. Anytime there’s a description of hell visually, it can be met with ridicule and scorn. So why not leave it to our imagination?

After writing Chamber of Horrors (still having trouble with the blog entry due to some sort of site issues where my written work doesn't show up, but oh well...) tonight, I realized I'm hitting that exhaustion phase of the month. I've been writing reviews for practically all the films I've watched this month. Some two films a day. It's my own fault, really. This obsession with image and word I now have since conducting this blog for the last few years. I was almost relieved watching Universal's The Mummy on Turner Classics tonight because I had written about it last year and I could just sit back without composing thoughts and words in my head/mind reflecting what I feel about it. This passion for writing doesn't leave. It is an itch I must scratch. Movies are a passion for a so many of us and the blog/website on the internet superhighway affords us an option to put word to a format that can be seen by those with similar interests. But I think October for many of us eventually leads to burn out. It has about eclipsed me. I also just moments ago finished Halloween with audio commentary from John Carpenter and a delightfully enthusiastic Jamie Lee Curtis. She just analyzed the film while an amused John listened with affection at her constant praise of all that was happening onscreen (while also obsessing with candy glass and a door knob gaff). Again it was almost a relief to not have to indulge in long-winded reviews I so often churn out.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll

Can you cut evil out of man with a scalpel, Henry?
Hammer's Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll concerns the scientist dealing with a dark side that overtakes him in personality and physically changes him from an older man to a young handsome buck with vitality and unrestrained by any consequence of morality. Could this lead to Jekyll's destruction?

The Tingler

Call it a bad movie worthy of many chuckles (with its own red carpet rolled out in Golden Razzie fandom) or a cheap way to get audiences in seats with a device that buzzes patrons in theatres, I positively adore The Tingler.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Daughters of Satan

Does the fly rest easy caught in the web?

There are times where I can’t tell you why I like certain movies. I can say that Daughters of Satan takes me way back. I can distinctly remember a number of films showing on TNT one Friday night back (I think; it could be a year before or after) in 1989, in kind of a “Chiller Theatre” night. Because TNT had the rights to MGM product, Daughters of Satan was one of those oldies that was available for such an airing. I can recall this coming on after Deadly Blessing, another film I watched today to commemorate a significant night that drew me to the horror genre for good. This was the kind of day I have been looking forward to. Both films, thanks to the internet, can be found, whereas when I wanted to see both of them in the 90s and early 2000s, I wasn’t able to. This day was a dream come true. Granted, neither film will ever hold their place in a top ten (or 100, for that matter), but both remained engrained in the depths of my nostalgia, resting comfortably in my good spirits regardless of their reputations and critical reception.

Admittedly, this second viewing (the first since 1989; wow, just to think that has been 24 years!) was a tough slog at times because the pacing is rather glacial (and the plot developments are rather silly), but I like the location of Manila with a subplot of witches reborn in the forms of their ancestral line in modern 1972.

So here is just a little of the busy plot with lots of weird involved:

The painting of the figures on it of the witches vanishing before star Tom Selleck’s eyes, a dog “manifesting” from the painting after Selleck as he drives home and remains afraid it could jump him at anytime, the psyche doc (Vic Silayan) actually seeing the witches on the painting burning alive in 1592 with smoke filling the room (!), one of the witches (Tani Guthrie) tries to seduce Selleck (who is unresponsive to her obvious erotic interest in him; she even removes her top to expose her breasts to him!) in her bedroom, the witches dance about outside after leaving the painting much to Selleck’s befuddlement, the dog Nicodemis’ collar leads Selleck to a morgue (which has the proprietor singing and photographing a woman’s corpse!) but the proprietor talks gibberish about religious mumbo jumbo that is barely legible, and Barra Grant (Selleck’s girl who is becoming possessed; she’s the middle girl on the painting; her figure’s direct resemblance to Chris is why Selleck purchases the painting, inviting nothing but danger into their lives) hearing her voice in the night, provoked by her maid (played by Paraluman) to use the knife and get revenge for the witches, and often nearly using the knife on Selleck (he is a descendent of a Spaniard responsible for bringing the witches to justice for their practices which led to the burning at the stake).

These developments are just some of the stranger aspects that find their way into the plot. Selleck does show that what he is going through has effects that leave him constantly ill at ease and confused. He is trying to rationalize it all but seeing figures just vanish from a painting, and his wife's mental state under the subjection of possible evil does leave him unable to come up with practical answers to impractical situations.

Seleck's character is an American art historian in Manila for about four months, looking for an artifact to complete a collection for a New York museum. He discovers the painting, notices how cheap and ugly it is, yet he's compelled by it thanks to his wife's resemblance to the witch about to burn on it. Once he purchases it, takes it home, and presents it to his wife, Chris (Barra) responds negatively, as if immediately anxious by its presence. Instead of getting rid of it (what one would do if it led to their loved one being bothered intensely by it), Selleck hangs it on the wall in an office. Obviously bad results come from not getting rid of it.

The plot is a little far-fetched and the coincidences of the plot are a bit much. Like the fact that Selleck just happens to be the descendent of an adversary of the witches and married to the descendent of one of them his ancestor burnt at the stake. That the two other witches have descendants who just so happen to live in Manila. And this all just so happens to start when Selleck  finds this painting in some shop in Manila while searching for something else entirely. I guess we can just chalk this all up to fate and how these characters are meant to be in this scenario. Again this is all a bit silly unless you just go with it. The bummer ending makes sense considering it is supposed to be this way: revenge is to be meted out from a witch to her executioner.

There’s one particular scene that is striking in its exploitative nature: we learn that the witches and their servants were part of a Manila Assembly of Lucifer while whipping the weak Chris (Barra reveals her impressive breasts while taking a couple strikes from Guthrie in a punishment session where she must recite Lucifer’s prayer). It is a look at their activities before all fully committing to re-affirm their representation of Satan once again. This allowed for some of the Manila Filipino actors you might see in exploitation and horror fare at the time to appear in bit parts as members of this “assembly.” In order for Chris to once again find her place in the assembly she must spit on the crucifix of Christ, denounce he she once worshipped in favor of Satan, and kill her husband. So will she or won’t she? A devout Catholic and church-goer, Chris allowing her maid to drug James (Selleck) and embracing her ancestral roots is a big deal. James’ screwed.

My favorite scene in the whole movie consists of the three descendents “returning to their selves” at the stroke of 12. It is just bizarre but somehow worked for me. They just start questioning why they are in a bar together when none of them know each other. The witches are gone, and it is believed James dead after the evil spirits set up his car to go over a cliff, crashing into a flaming heap down a mountain. It amused me because you go from one set of personalities to another set, from the dominant forces of the witches to these modern people (one a wild divorcee, the second a rather dependent suburban wife, and the third a working class nurse) with no clue of how they wound up at the bar.

The twist at the end where it seems everything is all good, with James carrying his wife upstairs to rest, hugging her and getting stabbed in the back (literally and figuratively), kind of goes against what just happened previously. I guess the witches can just come and go whenever they please. It makes the prior scene before it in the bar feel a little less special.

I wish I could say Selleck seems inspired in his performance, but I consider him sleepwalking. Still, it is neat to see a pre-stardom Selleck winding up in a cheap exploitation film about re-incarnated witches leaping from a painting to their modern day counterparts. This is also what I consider ideal fare for a late Friday night as part of a double header with Deadly Blessing. It can be quite an entertaining line-up if you don't mind unexceptional plots and characters behaving rather irrationally.




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The Boogens - Intro

While I must admit that as a monster movie, The Boogens (1981) doesn’t quite measure up (its monsters aren’t particularly menacing ...