CATACOMB OF TERROR
 

THE CORPSE VANISHES

1942. Directed by Wallace Fox

Brides are dying at the altar and their bodies are going missing. Who could be so deviant as to kill young, innocent women and then steal the body? Enter Dr Lorenz (Bela Lugosi) and his cronies.

Lorenz extracts a special fluid from the glands of his victims to keep his ancient wife young and beautiful. He is aided in his crimes by an old woman and her two sons - a vicious dwarf and a simpleton savage. Lorenz seems to have a strange hold on the family and even though he treats them quite brutally they serve him faithfully.

The crimes attract the attention of the local media and in particular roving reporter Patricia Hunter (Luana Walters). Hunter notes that all the brides were wearing a strange scented orchid, of which Lorenz is the creator. Determined to question the mad Doctor Hunter makes her way to his home via a hitchhiked ride from a Dr Foster (Tristam Coffin) who is also on his way to the same address for a meeting with the unhinged murderer.

The tale unravels and Lugosi hams it up in usual style and contributes to a fairly decent film. It's hardly a classic but moments of cold vindictiveness, a fair plot and the atmospheric ambience all add to it's quality.

 

I, MONSTER

1971. Directed by Stephen Weeks

Another incarnation of Robert Louis Stevensons classic 'The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde' this time with Cushing and Lee at the helm. This is a sombre movie of very little pace which sees Dr Charles Marlowe (Christopher Lee) instead of Dr Jekyll taking a series of intravenous drugs in the attempt to release his inhibitions and make him a more carefree person. He does indeed bring about a release! In fact it is the release of a one Edward Blake (instead of Mr Hyde) and on a mischevious adventure he goes.

Cushing and Lee can make any film work and they do so here despite the labouring tempo. There are some very watchable moments such as a knife fight involving Marlowe and a local street yob and the final showdown between Marlowe and his nemesis Dr Utterson (Cushing).

The film is quite short but as it is dealt by the skeletol hand of Amicus Studios it is well worth a look.

   

NIGHT OF THE EAGLE

1962. Directed by Sidney Hayers

An overlooked classic to say the least with a psychological tale of witchcraft and superstition and the penalties paid for its disregard.

New college professor Norman Taylor (Peter Wyngarde) is ruffling the feathers of his more experienced comrades with his ability to get the best grades from his students. The other staff are far from happy and when Taylor seems favourite to pick up an award for his efforts plans are afoot to hinder his progress. Little do we know how these plans will turn out but the suspense is kept high throughout. Taylor has a skeptical streak and when he learns that his wife Tansy (Janet Blair) has become involved in an all-consuming witchcraft the story really unfolds and reveals a sinister underlying element that takes both Taylor and the viewer by surprise.

A great atmosphere pervades throughout, some solid acting and a nicely paced storyline that holds attention quite forcibly. Taylors career and life are under severe threat and unless he changes his mind and realises that dark forces are indeed at work then all is lost. This will not disappoint.

   

DR JEKYLL AND SISTER HYDE

1971. Directed by Roy Ward Baker

Another twist on the Robert Louis Stevenson novel this time seeing the misdirected Doctor Jekyll (Ralph Bates) create a life giving elixir from the hormones of dead prostitutes with the consequence being a longer life, albeit in the female form of Mrs Hyde (Martine Beswick).

There is not a lot to say about the plot of this movie really as it has been retold countless times and the inclusion of Burke and Hare and a Jack the Ripper overtone does add a subtle extra twist but the formula is too structured and overcooked.  Bates takes to his role with usual frosty efficiency and the sexually deviant Professor Robertson (Gerald Sim) is an interesting character that is not used to the utmost effect.
 
One or two sequences work well with a few of the transformation scenes being particularly disturbing especially the cuts from male to female and back again.  The overall androgyny of these sequences and the questionning sexuality/behaviour of the lead character make the film watchable but as an out and out horror it pales somewhat against more successful counterparts.
 
The somewhat tongue-in-cheek inuendoes take the edge off the film and one or two Carry-On one liners are unnecessary and dilute the whole effect somewhat. 
 
Not the best, not the worst - take it or leave it.

   
THE MAN WHO HAUNTED HIMSELF
 
1970
.  Directed by Basil Dearden
 
Doppleganger goings on here as Harold Pelham (Roger Moore) gets involved in a car crash, dies on the operating table, regains consciousness and thus recovers.  It is during the death sequence that his heartbeat disappears from the hospital monitors only to reappear in duplicate.  Mmmm - what's going on here then?  We find out at some point that during this brief moment a duplicate of Pelham had been released and one that in no way wants to return from where he/it came from.
 
Whilst the original Pelham tries to return to normal life it appears that he has been doing things he has not been aware of, the most notable of which is having an affair with a woman he has no recollection of except briefly seeing at a swimming pool.  The doppleganger is at work it seems.  The unravellling of Pelhams mind and family life is both intriguing and unsettling and Moore does play the part convincingly albeit with little passion.  The final scenes where his family reject him and he knows all is lost are a nice touch although the film does tend to labour to get to these conclusions.
 
A good film, of its specific time, that could have been even better.   One to go back to now and again.
   
SCARED TO DEATH
 
1947.  Directed by Christy Cabanne
 
A midget, a bumbling cop, a suspicious doctor (George Zucco) a nosy press man, a mysterious figure in a green mask, a hypnotist (Bela Lugosi) and several ham actors and you have the ingredients for a film that is just about watchable and really does test the patience even though the running time is 67 minutes.
 
The story is told by Molly Lamont (Laurie Van Ee) who is already dead and is on the mortuary slab awaiting her autospy.  She relates how she came to be there with a series of inane one liners that are placed throughout the film.  The story line is rather wayward and the suspense is totally non-existant.
 
This is only one of three films that Lugosi made in colour and in truth would be of only real interest to the avid collector of horror films or a fan of the star.  This is a real dud and I suggest only to be purchesed when located at a real low budget price.
   

THE THING

1982. Directed by John Carpenter

A remake here of the original 1951 classic 'The Thing From Another World'. This really is a modernisation of a good yarn and quite surprisingly this effort is as good as the black and white original albeit more reliant on special effects and oozing gore.

In the desolate wastes of the Antarctic we follow a helicopter chasing a dog through the snowy land trying it seems to kill it.. The dog makes for the base of an American research team whereupon the passengers in the helicopter (two Norwegians from a distant research camp) land and pursue the dog on foot. The Americans try to intervene which ends in the death of the two outsiders. The dog is adopted unbeknown that all is not what it seems.

R. J. MacReady (Kurt Russell) wonders why the Norwegians were keen to kill the animal and upon investigating their research area finds all members dead. A crashed UFO is located nearby and what seems to be the corpse of something human. They return with the cadaver and attempts to reveal the truth are made.

From here on in the alien is amongst the crew and with various bloodthirsty deaths, high paranoid tension and some neat special FX the film does indeed hold the attention. It is however of its time but for me is a minor classic of a period when this blood and guts style was shockingly overdone.

   

THE HAUNTING

1963. Directed by Robert Wise

I first saw this film many full moons ago and despite the critical acclaim it had received I remained unimpressed. Having recently purchased a copy I was really looking to have my opnion changed and to be chilled to the marrow by a very atmospheric film and one that many a horror buff still enthuses about.

The tale revolves around a Dr Markway and his attempt to prove the existence of ghosts and other paranornmal activity by staying with 3 other guests in Hill House, an abode filled with tragedy. The 3 guests are Theodora (Claire Bloom) a clairvoyant, Eleanor (Julie Harris) who was victim to poltergeist activity when younger and Luke Sanderson (Russ Tamblyn) a young cynic sent by the owners to see that the property is kept unmolested. Luke is set to inherit the property so the interest is more than obvious.

There is a distinct edginess throughout the film and the whole package is reliant on atmosphere and sublety as well as whispered terror and the unsettled sounds of spirits ill at ease. The bending doors are a nice touch and only when the ghostly activity is in full swing does the film really get going.

In truth I am still far from impressed but acknowledge a nicely made film with some good chills and acting performances. Maybe the next viewing will convince me otherwise.

   

THE SWARM

1978. Directed by Irwin Allen.

I picked this film up as it was on offer for £3 and even though the price was so low I still feel hard done by.  This is a real bag of dross with a sheer lack of convincing acting, a plethora of stars struggling with a terrible script and overall a ludicrous storyline that could have been so much better.

African killer bees mass in large numbers and attack a military air base in Texas.  General Slater (Richard Widmark) wants to use military tactics to wipe out the swarm but a scientist called Dr Bradford Crane (Micheal Caine) is given the main command role and sets about dealing with the problem.  All sorts of problems ensue and despite the bees having enough poison to kill someone with just a few stings the main lead manages to survive.

The cast list offers promise - Caine and Widmark are accompanied on this trail of disaster by Olivia De Haviland, Henry Ford, Slim Pickens and Richard Chamberlain amongst others but all fail to raise the film to any level of respectability.  The whole delivery is sketchy to say the least and the bad special effects add sour cream to an already crumbling cake.  One of the worst films of this genre although some may deem it a cult classic rather than the mid-week afternoon B-movie it most definitely is.

   
CRUCIBLE OF TERROR
 
1971
.  Directed by Ted Hooker
 
Why I like this film is beyond me as it does come across as a low-budget effort with some real outrageous moments that defy logic.  However it just gets better and better and I never fail to enjoy this rather effective snippet of british horror.
 
Recluse Victor Clare (Mike Raven) is an artist obsessed with seducing his young models and capturing their beauty in one way or another.  He lives with his wife Dorothy (Betty Alberge) whom he has driven to insanity and friend Bill (John Arnett) who, funnily enough, loves Dorothy.  Micheal (Ronald Lacey) Victors drunken son, also lives here but is away selling his fathers work after stealing it for what I presume sheer defiance and the love of the bottle.  Enter Jack (James Bolam), a London art dealer who needs some quick cash.  After Clare's works sell well the dealer would like some more so Micheal promises to take him to meet his father and arrange a deal.
 
All set off with partners in tow and then the film gets going proper.  Raven for me steals the show with some over the top, downright sinister acting that is totally brutal and egotistical.  He is an imposing character and utterly dominant and this adds to the entertainment value.  As the curse within the plot unfolds I think a good tale is had despite obvious edit errors and general production blips.
 
It may be a hit and miss movie but I would suggest you make your own opinions and pick up a copy as soon as.
   

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