CATACOMB OF TERROR
 

CIRCUS OF HORRORS

1960. Directed by - Sidney Hayers
 
After a botched operation in the UK experimental plastic surgeon Dr Shuler (Anton Driffing) flees with two assistants to the shores of France whereupon he seeks out a new place to continue his work under a completely new identity.  Whilst travelling he comes across a disfigured young French girl called Nicole (Yvonne Monlaur) whose father, Vanet (Donald Pleasance), is a circus owner.  Shuler persuades Vanet to sign the circus over to him after operating on Nicole and removing all of her scars.  Once in control the crude and icy cold Dr has big ambitions and after allowing a bear to maul the drunken Vanet to death it seems no one can stand in his way.
 
The circus is transformed as Shuler brings in people who are all disfigured criminals whom he operates on and then blackmails into staying by holding dossiers on their past unlawful lives.  Anyone who expresses a wish to leave somehow meets with an untimely end brought about by the calculated mind of the doctor.
 
Driffing is immense in this role and his purely selfish focused attitude and cold womanising ways are a treat for lovers of 'the bastard'.  The circus backdrop is ideal for this cracking tale and for me the circus and the horror yarn have a deep rooted affinity that works just fine.
 
A definite addition to the collection and a thoroughly entertaining bit of horror.

 

FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLFMAN

1943. Directed by Roy William Neill
 
And on we go with yet another installment in the Universal horror series that featured a whole host of familiar monsters.  Here it's the turn of the cadaver construction and the lycanthrope as they meet up and wreak havoc amongst the villagers of Vasaria.
 
We start with Larry Talbot (Lon Chaney Jr) the accursed werewolf and his quest to seek salvation from his affliction.  He has a brain operation in an asylum by a Dr Mannering in an attempt to cure the curse.  The full moon is soon upon us and Talbot escapes and seeks out the gypsy Maleva (Maria Ouspenskaya) whose son Talbot killed in the first Wolfman movie.  Maleva is fully aware of Talbots suffering and promises her help whereupon they seek out his only saviour Dr Frankenstein.  The doctor however is long dead and Talbot comes into contact with his daughter (Ilona Massey) whom he tries to persuade to give him all her fathers notes on  life and death.  She is unable to help so he goes to the castle to find them for himself whereupon - get ready for it - he comes across the frozen monster (Bela Lugosi).
 
Trouble follows and the villagers get rowdy and I suspect you can guess the rest. An old formula tweaked out and regurgitated in simplistic style makes this film a valid part of the series but as a stand alone effort it is a mediocre offering.  A lack of pace and action stall proceedings and some of the acting is a trifle ham.  Lugosi as the monster is fairly ridiculous and not a role he should of ever taken.
 
You have to get it because of what it is and some good moments are had along the way - however don't expect a classic.

 

FRANKENSTEIN MUST BE DESTROYED

1969. Directed by Terence Fisher

Murder, kidnap, blackmail, rape, deceit and illegal surgery are all what this film is about and Baron Frankenstein (Peter Cushing) is as cold and brutal as you could ever imagine.

We find the Baron here blackmailing a young Doctor Karl Holst (Simon Ward) and his fiancee Anna Spengler (Veronica Carlson) as he overhears them discussing the doctors theft of illegal drugs from the local asylum where he works. Frankenstein has grand ideas about brain surgery and only needs a certain formula to achieve his final goal. The formula is in the cracked mind of past associate Dr Frederick Brandt who is now a resident at the asylum and who the Baron and Karl kidnap in order to attain the secret.

There are some high action scenes as well as the odd gruesome bits especially the sawing of skulls just before the transplant episode. A cast of high calibre names for this level of film appears with Thorley Walters, Geoffery Bayldon and an almost unrecognisable Windsor Davies all thrown into the mix. However, Cushing steals the show with a superb performance of callous, evil, scheming behaviour unencountered at such depths in previous films.

One of Hammers many highs and one fans will never tire of watching.

 

CARRIE

1976. Directed by Brian De Palma

A sad tale of an outsider who is bullied and victimised for nothing less than not fitting in with the in-crowd. Carrie White is played wonderfully by Sissy Spacek and the unsettled atmosphere throughout the film builds perfectly to a cracking crescendo of blood, horror and death.

We start with Carrie being taunted in the school changing rooms after she breaks down into hysterics when discovering she is bleeding from below. Unaware that she is having a period due to her mothers smothering, manic religious ways she brings upon herself the full spite and nastiness of her obnoxious classmates. It is one of these classmates, Sue Snell (Amy Irving) that later feels guilt and gets her boyfriond and school jock, Tommy Ross (William Katt) to ask Carrie on a date to the school prom. However just as one classmate tries to help Carrie another, Chris Hargensen (Nancy Allen), who has been banned from the prom due to her treatment of Carrie, is out to make her pay big time and the revenge is not only drenched in blood but heart-wrenchingly tragic.

You can't help but feel real sympathy for Carrie throughout this film and the fact she has been both cursed and blessed with Telekinetic powers both ultimately saves and destroys her. Her mother Margaret White (Piper Laurie) is totally insane as a religious zealot and overbearing disciplinarian. A thoroughly excellent film with the subtle horror more effective than the gratifying 'kill all' finale.

 

PLANET OF THE APES

1968. Directed by Franklin J. Schaffner

A pure masterpiece and a film that has truly stood the test of time and even now never fails to impress with its excellent storyline, convincing special effects and high standard acting. Who would believe this film is 40 years old!

We begin with a group of 4 astronauts in deep hibernation 3 of whom awake to realise their ship has crash landed on a strange distant planet (or so they think)! Taylor (Charlton Heston), Landon (Robert Gunner) and Dodge (Jeff Burton) escape the sinking wreck and set off in search of food and life in what seems to be a barren planet. Eventually both are found with a tribe of mute savages being brutally hunted down by unseen catchers in a crop field. The tension builds and the first sighting of an ape is cinema history incarnate. This is a world where the apes are the rulers and the humans are the wild slave.

The story goes on to revolve around the capture of Taylor and his attempts to make sense of this upside down social order and his plans to escape. He finds assistance in the form of two primates known as Cornelius (Roddy McDowall) and Zira (Kim Hunter) and also finds a mate called Nova (Linda Harrison). The interplay between these characters is very convincing and the overall structure of the film a true gem to adore.

The many social commentaries that go on within the film add a fine depth with religion, bigotry and ego all called into question. Easily overlooked in today's all action thrill films this is a piece of cinema history to be admired by all and the finale is yet to be equalled.

 

BRIDES OF DRACULA

1960. Directed by Terence Fisher

One of those films outside the usual collectors series but nonetheless a fine piece of horror hokum that again brings all the essences of Hammer into one cracking dish. The plot unravels as a schoolteacher, Marianne Danielle (Yvonne Monlaur) is sidetracked on her a way to a new position in Transylvania and persuaded to spend the night at the home of Baroness Meinster (Martita Hunt).  Here Danielle learns of the Baroness's son (David Peel) who is chained up below and seems in need of help.  Freeing the captive after taking pity on him and  being somewhat charmed, Danielle is totally unaware what dark powers she is unleashing.  Thankfully Dr Van Helsing (Peter Cushing) joins in the action and all is not doomed.
 
The overall pace of this film comes across as being slightly slower than the Cushing/Lee films but the story still holds the attention and it is nice to have a new face in the vampiric role.  Peel does play the part with relish and gives a good account of himself even though not necessarily looking the part.
 
There are some insanely horrific moments here with the unhinged Greta (Freda Jackson), the sons protector, crazily cackling whilst urging one of the vampires fresh victims to emerge from the grave.  Cushing throws his entirity into the role (well what else would you expect) and the film comes across as a  very worthwhile watch.

 

CHILDREN OF THE DAMNED

1963. Directed by Anton Leader

Those darn kids again with their high intellects and powers of control. Here we have 6 children from 6 different countries who are all brought together in chosen London embassies due to their high intelligence levels and remarkably similar results in a given test. It is soon found out that none of the children have fathers (literally) and what one learns the others also learn.

The children escape and set up home together in an abandoned church. No one is sure of their purpose and Col Tom Llewellyn (Ian Hendry) and Dr David Neville (Alan Badel) try to crack the riddle as well as help them. A political struggle ensues and a plan to kidnap the children is carried out resulting in a retaliatory attack that makes the children looked at in a different light.

The tension builds and military reinforcements are brought into play and the finale is both bizarre and a trifle unexpected.

This film is something of a horror oddity as there is hardly any bloodshed, no monsters as such and no real special effects. The horror is subtle and trickles in via a solid storyline and some convincing acting. Not a bad follow up to it's predecessor although not a continuation of the original story.

 

THE LOST BOYS

1987. Directed by Joel Schumacher

A very eighties horror film that now seems a trifle dated although still has enough bite to make a worthwhile watch.

The story revolves around recent divorcee Lucy Emerson (Dianne Wiest) and her two sons Micheal (Jason Patric) and Sam (Corey Haim) as they move to a small coast town in California and meet up with one or two of its residents. Little do they know that the town is harrassed by a gang of bikers and a series of murders has been taking place which are slightly more gruesome than one imagines.

The eldest boy Micheal gets involves with the gang of bikers through his attraction to a young girl named Star (Jami Gertz). Not long after becoming invloved with the gang Micheal soon starts showing some strange symptoms that come across as entirely vampiric. The younger son gets hooked up with two local boys Edgar and Alan Frog (Corey Feldman and Jamison Newlander respectively) who run a comic store and seem to be clued in as to what actually is going on.

The tale unfolds and climaxes into the exposure of the killers and the hunt for the head vampire, David (Keifer Sutherland).

The musical score suits the times and the effects are certainly of their era. There is an underlying classiness about this film which I suppose adds to its longevity and the fact that it is always viewed with a ceratin fondness.

 

THE FOG

1980. Directed by John Carpenter

Slow paced, highly sinister and with a creeping storyline that does hold the attention, this film is a fair watch for nothing more than the heavy ambience it exudes.

A 100 years prior wealthy leper Blake and his band of fellow sufferers sailed to California and were misguided by a shore fire that forced their vessel to crash against the rocks. The whole set up was a plan by the local residents so as to have the bounty of gold from the sunken vessel for themselves and so fund the building of the town St Antonia. A century forward and a mysterious glowing fog rolls over the town during it's 100 year celebrations and within the fog are the zombified lepers returning for what is rightly theirs.

Jamie Lee Curtuis has a somewhat token gesture part as does Janet Leigh but the actors and actresses play second fiddle in a film that relies more on atmosphere than characters. This may not be Carpenters best offering but it will have it's dedicated fans who love the whole eerie offering as well as one or two of the scarier moments.

This can be picked up at budget price and is a good addition to any horror collection.

 

THE INVISIBLE GHOST

1941. Directed by Joseph H Lewis

Here we have local leading citizen Charles Kessler (Bela Lugosi) mourning the loss of his wife and carrying out a series of murders unbeknown to himself. Kesslers wife Virginia (Polly Ann Young) was allegedly killed in a car crash after leaving him for another man but there is a secret in store. Little does Kessler know but his wife is still alive and being kept in the basement of the house by his faithful gardener. Mrs Kessler appears at her husbands window, entrances him and forces him to commit his dastardly crimes.

For one of these crmes an innocent young man is hung, whereupon his twin brother visits the house of the deed and sets about solving the mystery.

Lugosi portrays a tortured soul and this pushes him into breaking away from the stereotypical roles he became so famous for and prove he is a far greater actor. The storyline is adequate and although more obvious thrills and spills are lacking the tale is intriguing enough to make enjoyable.

   

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