CATACOMB OF TERROR
 

HORRORS OF THE BLACK MUSEUM

1959. Directed by Arthur Crabtree

I couldn't resist this on the shelf of my local stockist. The luridly coloured case and the typical horror title all enchanted me and when I read the blurb on the back I had to pick up a copy. £4 too and cheap at the price.

The film itself is corny enough with some staged acting but is still a highly watchable piece of hokum. Edmond Bancroft (Michael Gough) is a crime historian and author who sets about a series of grisly murders using a variety of instruments that he purchases and later keeps in his own 'Black Museum'. The museum is in fact a mockery of Scotland Yards similar showcase but Gough dismisses the latter as a merely a place of souvenirs whereas his own has real murder devices on show. Bancroft however doesn't get his own hands bloodied so to speak and uses hypnosis as a means of getting his young assistant Rick (Graham Curnow) to carry out the killings and remain desperately subservient.

As Bancroft gets more boastful and somewhat arrogant his downfall comes ever closer. Rick introduces his girlfriend Angela Banks (Shirley Anne Fields) to the hidden horrors much to the disbelief and anger of Bancroft - trouble soon follows.

A good romp with some tame effects but Gough holds the show with his over the top dramatics and sinister edge. If you can pick this up at a bargain price then why not give it a viewing?

   

DAWN OF THE LIVING DEAD

2007. Directed by David Heavener

I picked up this film in the local supermarket for a paltry £2.99 and after watching it thought about going back and claiming a refund. Absolute garbage of the highest order with a flimsy plot and some dubious acting

A family of Belizean immigrants are slaughtered at a house a few days before Jeffery (Todd Bridges) and Renee (Amanda Baumann) move in. It is to be their dream escape but due to some nonsensical curse the family who were killed are set to walk the earth feeding on the flesh of the living forever. Whilst out and about Renee meets local worker Michael (David Heavener) and invites him back to the house for dinner. Things get tetchy and Renee reveals that she was a former drug addict and suffered from mental illness and it was her partner Jeffery who was her counsellor and helped her through these tough times. The plot twists and Michael (surprise, surprise - he is the director after all) gets to screw Renee. The zombies are out there and Jeffery comes a cropper and it is up to the adulterous couple to save the day.

Dross of the highest order and despite the odd decent effect this is just one of those films you should watch just to say you have done. I may give it another run through as I can't believe it was so bad but I am not expecting to have my opinion changed.

   

SOYLENT GREEN

1973. Directed by Richard Fleischer

Perhaps generally classed as a Sci-Fi movie but for me the horror here is far more startling and effective than typical films of the blood-thirsty genre.

The year is 2022 and Soylent Green is the miracle foodstuff that will end the shortage of food. The population has gone through the stratosphere and the disgruntled populace need controlling. Enter city cop Thorn (Charlton Heston) who works hard to keep the peace and lives with old-timer Sol Roth (Edward G Robinson), his guide and mentor somewhat and the only link that Thorn has to a brighter, healthier past. Whilst investigating the assassination of the president (Joseph Cotten) of the Soylent company Thorn uncovers a terrifying truth and one that will be kept hidden until the final moments of the film.

The film doesn't rely on this one hidden secret to win favour and the rock solid storyline, brilliant acting and marvellous subtleties all make this a pure unadulterated classic. The relationship between Heston and Robinson is both intriguing and touching. The delight they find when tasting some long lost foodstuffs is brilliant and adds to the close interplay between the characters.

This film has it all and is one every collector should have in their cinematic library. In one word - ageless!

   

THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME

1923. Directed by Wallace Worsley

This is the earliest adaptation of the Victor Hugo classic caught on film and holds the attention throughout with its dramatic scenery and swift moving storyline. However, the film would have been more aptly entitled 'Esmeralda' as this is the real central character to all that unfolds.

Clopin (Ernest Torrence) bought Esmeralda (Patsy Ruth Miller) from the gypsies when only a child and now that she has become a beautiful young woman she attracts attention from various males. Jehan (Brandon Hurst), the evil brother of the saintly Archdeacon desires Esmeralda and forces Quasimodo (Lon Chaney) to kidnap her. Enter Phoebus Captain of the Guards (Norman Kerry) to the rescue whereupon Quasimodo is arrested and flogged in public. Esmeralda takes pity on the beaten creature and thus gains another admirer. The plot thickens from here on in and without giving too much away I'll leave it to you the viewer to finish the tale.

For a film that is approximately 90 years old it does itself extreme justice and is still a darn good watch. As one suspects beforehand Chaney is excellent in his role and the animal-esque looks and behaviour only enhance the character. Once a classic, always a classic and this should be highly rated by any horror buff.

 

PET SEMATARY

1989. Directed by Mary Lambert

A grim tale indeed that depresses and impresses in equal measure.

Rachel (Denise Crosby) and Louis Creed (Dale Midkiff) along with their son Michael have just moved into their new ideal country home whereupon they meet up with neighbour Jud Crandall (Fred Gwynne). The only drawbacks to their relocation is the dangerous narrow road right outside the house and the nearby burial ground for unfortunate road victims (primarily pets). Apparently beyond the cemetery there is a burial ground where you can bury your recently departed loved ones and they will come back to life. The family cat is the first to get the treatment after coming a cropper on the said road. The cat returns to life but with a slightly more vicious streak than expected. After the Creeds son is killed on the road outside their house it is fairly obvious what comes next.

This is a strange film with a few clichés and blatant plot twists that takes the edge of what could have been a really effective showcase. The acting is hit and miss and for some reason I expected a more entertaining film rather than the gloomy sable picture it is. I think Stephen King fans will appreciate it however and the fact it stays so true to the original book will be a bonus.

 

HELLRAISER
 
1987.  Directed by Clive Barker
 
From the inventive and sable mind of Clive Barker comes this dark tale of a rebellious man called Frank (Sean Chapman) who in his quest for all things deviant unlocks a gateway to hell via an ornate magical box.  When the puzzle box is opened the sado-masochistic Cenobites appear and Frank is taken to live in another world of pain and torment.
 
Moving on we find Franks brother Larry (Andrew Robinson) and his wife (Clare Higgins) who had an affair with Frank in the not too distant past, move into Franks abandoned house and that's when the blood really begins to flow.  After cutting his hand on a nail whilst moving a mattress Larry goes up to the room for assistance where his wife is and incidentally where Frank was killed.  A blood droplet falls to the floor and disappears immediately - a veritable life source to feed Franks soul and to partially regenerate his destroyed body.  A thirst is awakened and it is a thirst that needs satisfying.
 
This film is perfectly shot and has a subtle terror that leaves one thinking about the storyline for a good while later.  The Cenobites are deep and mysterious and suggest a whole lot more than what we actually see here in the film.  Here is the production's winning aspect - a great balance of visual and suggestive horror that really gets one utterly absorbed in the story and pondering many fates.
 
Clive Barker is renowned as a writer and this may just be his best work to be put on celluloid.  For me one of the best of an era when horror films were enjoying a mini-revival.

 

FROM BEYOND THE GRAVE
 
1973.  Directed by Kevin Connor
 
Absolute class - what a great treat these compendium of horrors are.   The cast line up is astounding with Peter Cushing, Ian Carmichael, Ian Bannen, Diana Dors, Donald Pleasance, Nyree Dawn Porter, Leslie Ann Down, Ian Ogilvy and David Warner all producing convincing efforts and making this an absolute gem.
 
The 4 tales here come from the pen of horror writer R. Chetwynd Hayes and are neatly bonded via a curiosity cum antique shop were several customers acquire an item via a form of deviancy (well all except one honest fellow).  The tales follow each purchase and grisly punishments come in varied forms.  The items in question are a mirror, a medal, a snuff box and a door and although all don't exactly play a crucial part in the pursuing plots they are nicely chosen and add character.
 
Cushing is the shops owner and plays the part by adopting a sinister likeability and pretend gullibility.  The tales are what you could expect but the performances enhance all and 4 winning yarns are combined with brilliance with the film just winning big time in all areas.
 
As you may notice I am a fan of these Amicus anthologies and really can't get enough of them.  These films are watchable over and over again, are a timeless inclusion in the vaults of horror and can be enjoyed by both younger and older generations.

 

FRANKENSTEIN CREATED WOMAN
 
1967.  Directed by Terence Fisher.

Ok so a film from the Hammer studios during the golden era and directed by a one Mr Fisher. Need I go on any further? With Peter Cushing in the role of the Baron and his sidekick Dr Hertz played marvellously by Thorley Walters this is the usual winning recipe that wins acclaim from horror fanatics far and wide.

The plot here revolves around a young man named Anton (Peter Blythe) and his disfigured lover Christina (Susan Denberg). After Christina is abused by 3 local louts Anton, whose temper is short just like his fathers who was hanged at the beginning of the film, explodes into action and is arrested. Twists and turns transpire to get Anton hanged and so Christina commits suicide. Enter the Baron - a quick re-animation of the girl’s dead body complete with the soul of her dead lover and the revengeful killing spree begins.

The whole ambience of the Hammer series is just perfect with atmospheric settings, basic but effective storylines and quality acting performances all intertwined to make one great movie. All actors and actresses seem comfortable in their roles and you just get the feeling that everyone is enjoying what they do. This is how horror should be - enthralling yet fun and not reliant on blood and guts. Another mini-classic from a solid director and a legendary film studio.

 

WAR OF THE COLOSSAL BEAST
 
1958
.  Directed by Bert L Gordon
 
Cheap, cheerful and to the point - films from the S Arkoff vaults were never going to be epics but the low budgets never stopped them from producing small gems of entertainment.  War of the Colossal Beast is a neat film and although being flimsy of plot it gets the job done and has some memorable moments.  The make-up of the 60ft man is quite spectacular and only enhanced by the black and white format.
 
The story revolves around Colonel Glenn Manning (Duncan 'Dean' Parkin) who after being exposed to radiation and turning into a 60ft giant and then surviving a fall from the Hoover Dam whilst under attack from government forces (see prequel Attack of the Colossal Man) is now back on the scene living in the wilderness whilst robbing local delivery trucks of the food supplies.
 
Eventually caught and restrained the plot is swift and before you know it the beast has escaped and the final showdown is upon us.  This is a quick film and despite nothing outrageously unexpected occurring, it is still a fair spectacle.  The effects in many places are lame but it really doesn't detract from the entertainment value and I would rate this as one of the studios better films.  Obviously more sci-fi than horror but worth checking out.

   

CURSE OF THE FLY

1965. Directed by Don Sharp.

This second and final sequel to the classic film The Fly, which was released in 1958, is a real let down and contains a whole heap of acting that would be better placed in a cardboard cut-out theatre. Here we have a plot that revolves around an escapee from a mental hospital Patricia Stanley (Carole Gray) and her subsequent marriage to Martin Delambre (George Baker). Delambre is the grandson of the original scientist who was obsessed with transporatation devices and who now is working with his brother Albert (Micheal Graham) and their father Henri (Brian Donlevy) on a new improved device. All is going well as Martin brings his new wife into the family home. Father originally disagarees and says it will affect the work of the trio but eventually gives way due to being an understanding old soul. Eventually Martin's wife discovers a few outcasts who are locked away and are the victims of botched transportations. The plot coagulates and disaster eventually looms when an escape plan is made after the polce discover Patricias whereabouts.

It all sounds like a good jaunt but it isn't. I'd waited a long time to see this film and felt nothing only total disappointment after my debut viewing. Baker and Donlevy are hopelessly lost with a script that gives them little to work with thus the acting suffers and we are left with a poor effort all round. I will watch it again but expect little change to my opinion.

   

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