Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Billy the Kid vs. Dracula


*

Oh, dear. This one is just right for the IMDb Horror Board's November Turkey Challenge, an annual event where boarders watch as many rotten apples as possible in a competition that asks people to remain masochists for over a month. I feel sorely in agony as I watch John Carradine trapped in this slog. William Beaudine, the director of this, was about to meet his end a few years later (1970) but before his career was over, he had two dogs left to posit on the cinematic universe.


In perhaps the worst casting choice I could ever imagine for Billy the Kid, Chuck Courtney sleepwalks through his part and has zero charisma. In fact, he's an absolute bore. I can't fathom what made him the right choice for the part during the casting process. And to treat Billy as some "golly gee" fresh-faced "reformed" outlaw who doesn't look the part of a notorious gunslinger feared by many does this film or the character a disservice.

And then there's the ass-kicking Billy gets by a rival over a job at the ranch of his squeeze, Betty (Melinda Plowman). The rival even kicks Billy's hat in the air after vanquishing him to add sting to the defeat. It is flat out embarrassing. The treatment of Carradine's vampire (Dracula isn't mentioned in the film!) as if he can walkabout during the day then later talk about how he needs to rest kind of toys a bit with the vampire as if those who made this film weren't all that versed in the character's tropes. The bat flying about all the time, with Carradine showing up on occasion to hypnotize female victims (this red light used by Beaudine when Carradine does this is laughable), looking mighty aged and tired compared to his youthful vampire in the Universal films that helped to develop him into a horror icon (of sorts), this "the old vampire passes through the wild west" crossing of genres was kind of an example of where the actor's career was heading unfortunately. One year later he shows up in Hillbillys in a Haunted House which tells you all you need to know about the descent his career takes.


Carradine's vampire takes the identity of Betty's Uncle James, and he immediately starts to enforce his will on all involved. The immigrant hired help who realize James is the vampire biting throats (including their lovely relative), Billy being replaced (albeit very momentarily by Bing Russell) by his rival, and Betty getting locked up in her room (she's not "of age" yet). Soon the vampire takes a bite out of Betty, planning their "marriage" as he sets up shop in a silver mine.


I wish I could say this was a good, campy time as its title might have you believe. It is just a chore to sit through. Billy the Kid is colorless and wimpy, Carradine has bags under his eyes and looks like a magician in how he's costumed. He tries to (I guess; I'm not sure of his sincerity or if this was a knowing spoof of the character) convey menace and ferocity (when an old lady, a nurse in the town, points a mirror at Drac, he responds by barking at her!) but it is sadly lacking.

The color added to this film, to me, might do it little favors, as the Dracula roaming about during the day just ruins his night stalking routine horror fans are so accustomed to. This plays fast and loose with the vampire lore. The score is very much of the traditional method one might attribute to Gothic horror. The silver mine set is unconvincing in color. Perhaps Carradine wouldn't look so old had the film been in B&W.



What drew a scriptwriter into the idea of Billy the Kid up against Dracula anyway? If you draw on a vampire and fire upon him, the bullets do no good. If he engages in fisticuffs, the vampire will overpower him. What does Billy do? In the film's funniest scene, Billy hurls a gun at him which knocks him down, allowing him to use a knife and rock to stake the vampire. Why a bat flies about even though Dracula is on the ground of the cave is anybody's guess.


Billy and Betty, the sheriff (who had arrested Billy until the nurse tossed him his gun while in jail much to the sheriff's dismay) and nurse of the town will confront the vampire in the mine and leave all happy and smiling. The end (a pleasant sight for yours truly).

This isn't the worst film ever made as some might moniker it. It is just a dull failure that tries to do something different with a real life person mystified by history and a character of literary fiction based on a historical figure. I wish Carradine's Dracula was actually potent but he's just a relic that reminds us of what had become passe. Billy the Kid has no real reason to be in the same movie with a vampire anyway. It might have had a chance if made with tongue in cheek. This film doesn't and the results are mediocre and disappointing.

I will say this. There's one really good scene that has Natives reacting hostilely when one of their own is bitten by Dracula, believing the whites in the stagecoach attacked her. Hopping on their horses and soon besieging the stagecoach, all that is left are dead bodies on the ground as Dracula surveys the damage and his own handiwork the cause of their demise. It has a tragic quality to it and comments on Dracula's trail of death he often leaves behind. He is a scourge.

Monday, April 27, 2015

From a Whisper to a Scream


***


From a Whisper to a Scream is kind of a bittersweet little horror anthology for me because it was an obvious indication of how Vincent Price was entering the twilight years by 1987. Still I can only imagine that landing VP was quite a privilege for a young director like Jeff Burr. I always felt Burr was a decent, competent director who got a raw deal with the third Chainsaw film, Leatherface, ripped apart by censorship and sort of did him the injustice of not exactly getting hired on projects much thereafter. If anything, he has always been plagued by others grubby hands taking his product and altering each film to suit their own fancy.

Before he was besieged by the “sequel bug”, Burr had a chance here to lay down roots for a cult following, his anthology having the luxury of featuring Price as age was declining him into fewer film appearances. Films that could have Price’s name in their credits certainly were anxious to make sure we knew about it…why wouldn’t they?

In Oldfield, Tennessee, a reporter played by Susan Tyrell (in one of her, supposed, less eccentric roles) records on audio and is present at the lethal injection of guest-starring Martine Bestwicke. What does this have to do with the rest of the film? Well, we will find out eventually. So Tyrell goes to the residence of Price (he operates a library and was the uncle of the executed Bestwicke), informing of the fact she was there to see the death in person. I’m always amazed at what the legends of film have even at an elderly age like Price. The man has this presence, like Cushing did, and John Hurt currently does (even as the “War Doctor” of Doctor Who and other films like Hellboy, he exudes icon on the screen) where he just appears and this part of me wants to cheer. My heart certainly got excited when I finally had a chance to watch From a Whisper to a Scream on dvd back in 2008, knowing that Price was a part in it. I have Dead Heat, a little zom-com back in the late 80s starring Treat Williams and Joe Piscopo which also had Price in a small but fun part so again his late appearances (which included Bloodbath at the House of Death in ’84 where he had a chance to lampoon his persona) were a treat for us horror fans.

The story of how Burr was able to secure Price is now basic Hollywood legend and quite a wonderful bit of history. With Burr able to walk up to Price’s home’s door and be invited in (along with a producer for their proposed film), with a bottle of wine as a present, a script to be read if possible, and be able to get such a horror icon to be in his little rural anthology film (about locals in Oldfield responsible for notorious violence) is such a great read. It’s a dream, really. Burr was able to do that and this is quite a feather in his pocket. Kudos.

I think the first "documented story", found in a file by Price, and told to Tyrell, is especially unsettling. Clu Gulagher was not long after Return of the Living Dead when he appeared as a creepy, ancient grocery clerk fixated with his superior, equipped with those bottle cap sized eye glasses that makes his eyes larger. Megan McFarland is the object of his obsession and when she agrees to actually go out with him, couldn't anticipate Clu's true evil nature. The glasses and bow tie really give Clu this creep factor that will make many a person's skin crawl.



 He attends to his sister who is a hypochondriac (and there's this level of incestuous vibe that emerges in their scenes making their time together ever more yucky). So his advances are defied and he returns the favor by strangling her, afterward singing as her dead eyes stare off. This doesn't end here. His trip to her body in a casket of a funeral home, and what he does to it lead to something right out of Basket Case or It's Alive.


No one plays a slithering scumbag quite like Terry Kizer. He played a memorable one on Night Court, and you might remember him as the psychologist hoping to cash in on his patient's Carrie-like abilities in Friday the 13th: The New Blood. But most will know him as the famous dead guy in A Weekend at Bernies. However, he's quite memorable here as well in what was an entertaining little swamp tale where his lecherous no-good scoundrel has been shot by a pair of crooks he bilked, turned in by his tired girlfriend who was fed up with his sorry ass. He escapes into the swamp of Oldfield mortally wounded.






This second one is perhaps my second favorite tale of the anthology. A good trip to the swamp with an awesome (if short-lived) nightmare sequence where hands rise from the water to grab Kiser as his little boat breaks apart and he awakens alive thanks to "a little magic". The man who saved Kiser from the brink of death is Harry Caesar, living all alone all Hermit-like deep in the forests of the swamp. Caesar is happy to have some company, but unfortunate for him it is not the right company...Kiser isn't exactly the kind of cat you wish to carry on conversations with. He isn't a pleasant personality. Does he appreciate being held from dying thanks to a little swamp magic or show his gratitude in a graceful fashion? Of course not. Always looking for a meal ticket or a leg up somehow, Kiser will use anyone who shows an opportunity for him to capitalize on.


I love the sweaty, dark, swampy, dirt-poverty atmosphere of this second tale. It has that Boggy Creek look that is ideal for a tale of voodoo and avarice. Kiser is perfectly suited for the greedy, shifty character that poor Caesar's "old man" (Kiser says this with such a snide disdain) shouldn't have ever rescued from a most deserved demise. Instead of thanking the man for saving him he tries to "bargain" (by dumping him in the swamp if he doesn't inform of where the "magic water" is) with Caesar, and this is the ruination of him. He didn't realize he had the potion in him to survive another 70 years! What he gets in return when Caesar in retaliation is a fit sentence for the bastard.



The third tale--a tragic love affair between glass-and-metal-eating freak and "normal" woman (a paying customer who becomes smitten with him)--didn't do a lot for me although it does give Burr a chance to work with a carnival story. This will probably be most memorable for three key scenes.





The "eyeball in the chest" freak who is the carnival owner's "eyes", the glass/metal eater's undoing in a hotel room where what he swallowed tears him apart inside out, and Rosalind Cash anytime she's on screen because she's such a nasty piece of work (her mirror gag as she giggles in her victory and her "calling out" of her criminal freaks at the poker table, but particularly her torture of the glass/metal eater with the voodoo doll all three announce her vile, controlling nature). It is a sad downer, with a human pin cushion finale certainly telling us that if you screw with Cash, only bad awaits.


The forth tale is my favorite of the four just because I personally found it to be a fascinating "origin story" and comment on the victims of war: the children who lose their parents during all the blood shed. Cameron Mitchell is just a stone-cold murderer in this one. He has a small band of soldiers who kill the opposition just for the hell of it even after realizing the Civil War had been declared over. Hell, he even kills one of his own when the guy decides he wants no other part of them; in the back, no less, does Cameron do this. Walking into a mine field, the three remaining are carted by horse to the plantation house home to a group of kids who operate under the "guidance of the magistrate". Mitchell realizes that if he doesn't get away he will be "of service" to the kids in whatever means they see fit (one of his soldiers, for instance, "produces an eye" for a little girl!).




So Mitchell manipulates a crippled sweet girl, telling her he'd get a military surgeon to operate on her leg, eventually freed by her. So he murders her and tries to get away only to be stopped before he could break free from the front yard. He would be an example of the magistrate's justice, and these kids would be his executioner. The irony is that these kids are who founded Oldfield!

The wraparound has Price soon learning of Tyrell's real reason for meeting him, and this has to do with Bestwicke, her raising at his tutelage. His ravings about the evil that pervasively thrives--lives and breathes--in Oldfield had left its mark on Bestwicke and Tyrell was there to inform him that she was a pupil and wanted to become part of what gave the town its notoriety.

Again, while low-scale considering Price's overall output (this isn't Corman Poe or perhaps even Castle Columbia Price), and quite indie compared to what the iconic actor has been associated with prior to the 80s, From a Whisper to a Scream still allows him to work that on screen magic. If anything, the film gets a boost by his charisma. It is that star power a film of this kind needs to maintain an allure decades later (as it has as evident by the upcoming Scream Factory blu release). Burr certainly benefited from it. He doesn't have to do a lot except be Price, horror star. He actually remains in that one room and shares dialogue only with Tyrell (wearing a Flock of Seagulls coif, haha) about Oldfield and its history of violence. Still, it's enough of an involvement to matter, and that is what Burr was successful most of all in attaining.


"Lovecraft or Poe. I will drink to those old two masters of horror."--Julian White (Vincent Price).

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Wolfcop


***

A bored, unhappy, alcoholic deputy in a podunk town, Lou Garou (get it?), gets mixed up with Satanists unintentionally (a wannabe mayoral candidate happens to be a victim he encounters while on the call for a disturbance in the area), and he has a new dilemma...he is turned into a werewolf thanks to a particular ceremony leading to a pentagram carved into his chest! Is there a particular reason why he is burdened with this curse and does it involve some regulars in the local political scene of his town?


Sunday, April 19, 2015

Twice-Told Tales






****
 

Twice-Told Tales (1963) is designed as a “trio of terror” but I prefer “three tales of the macabre”. There’s nothing terrifying about any of these tales. They have their degree of morbid to them, particularly the first tale while the third tale (House of the Seven Gables, more Hawthornian than the other two tales in this anthology) also has its share of shady goings-on. 

The first tale—Dr. Heidegger’s Experiment—concerns aging friends who are spending a rainy night celebrating a birthday. Dr. Heidegger (Sebastian Cabot) is 79, and he’s drinking away with long-time buddy, Alex (Price). Carl (Cabot) has been mourning the death (39 years ago) of his beloved fiancĂ©e, Sylvia, and with a reluctant Alex visits her casket (kept in a mausoleum nearby the mansion). Both notice a water leakage from the roof of the mausoleum onto her casket, soon discovering when the top comes off that Sylvia looks preserved, exactly as she was upon her death so long ago. Realizing that the water is a “virgin spring”, Alex and Carl drink some and return to their youth. Soon Carl yearns to return Sylvia to him, injecting virgin spring to revive her. During all of this, Alex keeps trying to halt Carl from his persistent desire to bring Sylvia back to life…the reason will become obvious when she is revived and Carl leaves the room to retrieve her wedding dress he’s kept “clean and pure” for 39 years. Alex and Sylvia were lovers and she was only going to marry Carl out of spite. So Alex and Sylvia embrace and decide to tell Carl of their affair. What they don’t realize is he hears them from the stairwell.

I love these love triangles set within the Gothic period setting, especially on a dark, stormy night. There’s nothing scary about this, but it does have the trappings of an atmospheric story about betrayal, return from death after a considerable absence of life, and renewed age thanks to the supernatural. Add the salacious detail of how Alex was behind his friend’s decades-long agony and loss due to jealousy, and the eventual scuffle between two friends over a woman both adore, and you have quite a melodrama. That the virgin spring is only temporary and a revived corpse returns to a bundle of skeletal remains while one friend kills another over her, and there’s plenty of tragedy. Left behind is someone with no virgin spring left to tap in order to return to the youth he momentarily had a chance to enjoy, and Dr. Heidegger’s Experiment is quite packed with plenty for fans of tragedy to enjoy.

Speaking of tragedy, the second tale—Rappaccini’s Daughter—is Shakespearian in its tragedy. Nearly all the characters are dead by the end of this! It concerns a scientist who left a university after his wife went away with another man (this after his daughter, Beatrice, was born). Scorned and wrought with anger, this scientist, Rappaccini (Price), decided to “keep his daughter from the touch of sin and evil” by “changing her chemistry through the use of a poison replacing her blood”, and this condemns her to a type of imprisonment he couldn’t have anticipated. As a young woman, Beatrice (Joyce Taylor), yearns to be free from her poisonous touch while her father seems quite pleased she isn’t able to be involved with anyone. A young man named Giovanni (Brett Halsey), a student at the nearby university, rents a room that overlooks Rappaccini’s garden and he is smitten with Beatrice, wanting to court her. Soon, Rappaccini’s madness sees his daughter’s happiness in a romance with Giovanni can only happen if her love is put under the same poisonous curse as her. This all ends horribly when Giovanni’s professor (Abraham Sofaer) concocts an unproven antidote that isn’t tested on humans yet (he says it could take years to perfect) but is taken by his student nonetheless. Giovanni drinks of it, as does Beatrice, but the results are not successful leaving Rappaccini to witness what he has done to this sweet, innocent couple who did nothing to deserve their fate. Rappaccini will fall victim to the monster he created…the very poisonous plants whose acidic toxins led his daughter to yearn for death instead of a lifetime of misery, not desiring an entrapment in a life where she cannot go near others.

This second tale is beautifully made with nice sets and art design. The garden is stunning and the color scheme of purple (the dangerous flowers and how it matches Price’s coat couldn’t have been just coincidence) is striking. The star-crossed couple unable to touch until poisoned by Price and how his actions lead to their demise is quite an emotional wallop. They have our sympathies because their fates are decided by an act of pure insanity. Someone so scornful that he would “keep pure” his daughter and her beau to be by poisoning their blood stream with a plant toxin just lends itself perfectly to a type of Shakespeare-mixed-with-science-fiction story. There’s nothing fairy tale about this, that’s for sure. Like the first tale (and the third, too), Rappaccini’s Daughter never appears as if it will end in a happy way for those involved. When there’s someone willing to use a poison to supposedly keep his loved one safe from sin, you know he’s not operating with a full deck. He’s brilliant, but this scientist has allowed what his wife did to him to ruin his outlook on life itself. He deserves what he gets, really.

Now let’s see if a dead man can stop me.

The third, and final, tale of Twice-Told Tales—The House of Seven Gables—truncated into a thirty minute version of the story from the literary classic novel concerns a returning Pyncheon (Price) named Gerald who has squandered the remaining family fortune in gambling, coming back to his ancestors’ old home in order to search for and find a vault hidden by the first owner who died in a specific chair (blood from his lips left a red stain on a certain chair that seems to have claimed multiple ancestors through the years). Gerald’s spooky sister, Hannah (Jacqueline deWitt) has also desired the vault, and her warnings of the curse taking Gerald also falls on deaf ears. Arriving with Gerald is Alice (the lovely Beverly Garland; I loved her in Corman’s Swamp Women), his wife, and it’s obvious they’re estranged, with a marriage broken by Gerald’s inability to satiate his avarice. Alice is possessed by a spirit that haunts the house, and a descendent of the Maulle family (Richard Denning) hears her playing a particular piano tune (that is known to him due to his grandmother’s also playing to him when he was a child). Soon both Denning’s Jonathan and Alice realize their past ancestors’ spirits want them to carry on a love they weren’t allowed to. Seeing them embrace, Gerald wants to kill them but Hannah sees Alice and Jonathan as a key to finding the vault which is somewhere in the cellar. Only a Maulle knows where the vault is.

The Pyncheons follow suit as their ancestors before them were also as greedy and shifty as they appear. The bloodline’s corrupting influence continues and Gerald and Hannah both show that they will stoop as low as their previous generations in order to retrieve monetary gain. Curses, spirits from beyond, criminal greed, a skeleton in a grave missing an arm, a map to the vault, a house with a dark history that bleeds the blood of the Maulle family (the ceiling and walls when cracked open bleed, as does the portrait of the first Pyncheon to live in the House of the Seven Gables), brother killing sister to keep it all to himself, premature burial, a locket from long ago, a crumbling castle finally meeting its end once the final Pyncheon has met his doom, and a skeletal hand strangling with blood from lips resting one last time on the cursed chair accumulate in this fitting conclusion to what turned out to be a fun United Artists anthology directed with flair and finesse by Sidney Salkow.

The final tale is more of a traditional, old fashioned horror with its content and developments having all the ingredients of a delicious Gothic movie. It is right up my alley, but admittedly, I like the first two more if just because they are so different.

None of the tales mirror each other which I always welcome. Repetition I don’t want in a horror anthology. Taking Nathaniel Hawthorne, though, and trying to Poe him seems desperate but the color and artistry applied by Salkow nevertheless didn’t bother me in the slightest. I wholly embrace this kind of movie when October rolls around, or when I want to rock a Price marathon (which I seem to be currently in the middle of).

I got interested in watching this after trolling a thread on the film’s own imdb message board as fans were asked to determine what their favorite tale was in Twice-Told Tales. I always enjoy reading the various opinions and seeing the differing picks for each tale. Fascinating enough, none of the three is decisive…all three were at some point chosen as the best of the trio. I think that only bodes in this film’s favor…it says that each tale offers something for a horror fan.

I personally think the second film is the best of the three just because of its uniqueness. It speaks of how a man is unable to coral his pain, instead allowing it to infect his own flesh and blood, and then, in a misguided sense of appeasing his suicidal daughter, chooses to curse her potential suitor. It doesn’t fall prey to the cutes or give the innocents the happy ending that could arise in such stories. Like Romeo and Juliet, Beatrice and Giovanni are denied their love, falling victim to fate. Saying that, there’s something quite delicious in the soap opera trappings of the first tale with its love triangle exposed and death resulting from it. The third tale actually has a crumbling house that competes (and in my opinion defeats) with Corman’s House of Usher burning inferno castle. So, I think there’s lots provided here quite inviting to the horror fan of the anthology.

Once again, a film allows Price a number of juicy characters to create in different characterizations. Each has their own villainy, although the first two tales aren't out-in-out monsters, as much as victims their own emotional hang-ups...resulting from the love and loss of women. The third is all about greed and getting at a highly-coveted vault quite desirable. Still none of the characters are the same and all have differing motivations which allow Price to craft specific people who cause varieties of mayhem.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Tales of Terror




***

You know, I think certain films are just right for October, Halloween month. Roger Corman’s Tales of Terror (1961) is Edgar Allan Poe in anthology form, with the first and final tale played straight and serious while the middle tale (with Peter Lorre) an absolute comedy (despite a rather morbid “walling up” of two people).

I think the first tale—Morella—is the traditional Corman Poe story developed with Price full bore tortured lonelyheart, toiling forlornly in his decaying mansion, for twenty-plus years pining for the wife who died not long after giving birth to the daughter he longed for death due to her “being responsible” for his beloved Morella’s demise. So twenty-six year old Lenora (Maggie Pierce) returns to see her father to tell him she’s dying. Morella (Leona Gage) claimed prior to her death that she would be getting revenge on Lenora for supposedly taking her life. Price is always fun to me when he has that look of torment, melancholy, and agony. Torn between the love of his wife’s memory and anger because of her early death and the need to embrace the re-introduction of the daughter he has never truly known (and soon to lose), Price’s woebegone castle hermit has to decide how to contend with a rush of differing emotions. Out of the three, this tale to me is the most familiar with an ending that is quite Corman-esque as the castle burns asunder in the truest fashion of the Poe films we know and love. Morella “replaces” her daughter and “gets even” with her husband. Not sure I ever quite understood why Morella wanted to exact pain on her husband but nonetheless she is full of fury and a face twisted with hate towards him. The one who is punished the most in the tale is Lorena, simply being born is what she’s blamed for. Nevertheless, she is the pawn to be used so that the castle burns in an inferno. Using the fog at the beginning as Lenora’s coach approaches and stops off at the castle, wrought with cobwebs and containing plenty of critters (disregarded and dying, the castle has been untended to and left to age badly), Corman immediately provokes similarities to Usher and Pendulum which is never a bad thing as far as I am concerned. The rest is father-daughter “bonding” (not quite without its tension and pointed fingers) and Morella’s reawakening.

The second tale—The Black Cat—is a Peter Lorre showcase where Corman allows him to act drunk and ornery. Price is finally allowed in a Corman story to be silly as a prissy, expressive wine-tasting connoisseur. Mocking those wine experts who slosh wine in her their puckered mouths and consider their authority in such knowledge quite unchallenged, Price is still able to make him innocuous and harmless enough. Lorre, on the other hand, is a letch. He’s a pitiful waste of humanity who frequents pubs until he can no longer pay and the barkeep tires of his presence. Half the time he’s so wasted, Lorre’s basic dialogue maintains a slur. When he’s downtrodden (but gorgeous) wife, Annabelle (Joyce Jameson) has endured longsuffering and tolerated his odious treatment of her far enough, she finds solace with Price’s wine-taster, Fortunato Luchresi. Lorre’s name (Herringbone) ought to tell you all you need to know regarding the tone and approach of this particular tale. It does have Lorre getting rid of the two sources fueling jealous rage (although he’s solely responsible for driving her into the arms of another man) that overtook him. The black cat Annabelle owns which Herringbone despises (and vice versa) “outs” the no-good, sad-sack drunk. This is something I think you’d see turn up in an Amicus omnibus.

The third and final tale—The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar—has Basil Rathbone offering up a deliciously nasty villain in the form of a devious hypnotist who causes a dying client (his hypnotherapy keeps M. Valdemar from enduring pain from his ongoing illness) to “not pass on” to the afterlife, holding the poor guy hostage within a dead body and functioning mind that wants release. The corpse shell of Valdemar with Price’s haunted voice terrified of the darkness that shrouds him is quite a macabre dilemma as Rathbone’s Carmichael makes demands for his client’s lovely wife, Helene (Debra Paget) in return for freeing the dead guy’s soul. Soon enough, Carmichael makes a move on Helene when she incites his ego (she makes demands of her own and he will have none of it; she will listen to him and do as he commands) and spurns him to just attempt to get him some lovin’ whether she wants to give it up or not. The great finale has the decaying corpse of Price rising from his deathbed to stop Carmichael, his body deteriorating quickly as he descends upon his hypno-captor while Helene tries to get out of the room. This has David Frankham as Valdemar’s loyal and honorable physician, a direct thorn in Carmichael’s ass. He could smell a rat and just knew something wasn’t right about Carmichael, but the pain was so great that Valdemar was willing to take that risk. To me, this is the best of the trio of tales as it offers a unique method behind how a cruel man uses a specific skill to get what he wants and how that backfires in grotesque fashion. This is all about a superb actor in his final years effortlessly sliding into a part of the manipulative scoundrel that gets his just desserts thanks to a walking dead man. Price prior to the whole “dead in the bed” predicament is sweet and accommodating to his Helene, giving his doc the blessing to marry her once he kicks the bucket. Well , Carmichael will have none of it, using the hypno-hostage crisis as a means to get what he wants…Helene.

All three tales are period pieces, using sets from films quite familiar to Corman/Price/Poe fans. The device Carmichael uses to cast the trance on Valdemar should call to remembrance “The Terror” with Nicholson and Karloff. Each tale is atmospheric or blackly humorous enough, and none of them favor the other. I do think the third tale (unless you just love yourself some Peter Lorre) is the strongest of the movie just based on its own uniqueness. The first tale, while quite Gothic and tragic, is perhaps too close in the vein to films Corman is known for, while the second tale is maybe too desirable for wicked grins and pining for amusement.

I almost felt like watching this in April was a sin, haha. It just seems made to order for October.

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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 ...