CATACOMB OF TERROR
 

ALIENS

1986. Directed by James Cameron

Following on from the original we meet up 57 years later with Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver), who has awoken from a deep hyper-sleep and is the sole survivor of the Nostromo disaster where all crew members fell victim to the ultimate killing machine. Ripley relates her tale to government officials after a salvage team rescue her. No-one believes her story of the creature discovered on the planet LV-426 especially since it has been colonised by humanity during Ripley’s slumber with no signs of trouble. Contact however is soon lost with the colony therefore the  government decide to send a group of crack warriors to the planet with Ripley as adviser. What they find is beyond their wildest dreams and from here on in the film increases in intensity.

Personally I consider this the best in a fine series and the film where Ripley really comes into her own. The sub-characters are all nicely played with Bishop (Lance Henriksen) a particular favourite. The intense action and all out destruction are quite impressive all these years on and the footage of the aliens is superb and perfectly tantalises with initial glimpses of these ferocious beasts.

A spellbinding encounter and with a running time that exceeds the 2 hour mark one will go away still wanting more and with high hopes for a follow-on movie. Prepare!

   

BLACK DRAGONS

1942. Directed by William Nigh

Confused? You will be for the greater part of this film. And if you don't read the blurb on the DVD case first you are really in trouble. I will try to make things easier for you.

The Nazis employ plastic surgeon Dr Melcher (Bela Lugosi) to travel to Japan and transform six members of the Black Dragon Society into six prominent American business men who will then replace the originals and try and interfere with the American war effort. After the original Americans are killed Melcher is imprisoned by the Black Dragon Society instead of being rewarded. This is to hide the secret identities but Melcher will not be stopped. He switches places with his cell mate and sets about tracking down the six Dragons and killing them all. FBI Agent Richard 'Dick' Martin (Clayton Moore) is soon on Melcher's trail who is now going under the name of Monsieur Colomb and so the tale gathers pace.

I am not convinced about this one and feel as though the plot trips up on itself and makes for a difficult watch. A slight twist at the end is tame and all in all a cheap film is had and used as a vehicle for American propaganda.

   

DEMENTIA 13

1963. Directed by Francis Ford Coppola

Whilst on a rowing boat in the middle of the night John Haloran (Peter Read) and his wife Louise (Luana Anders) argue about his mothers will whereupon John has a heart attack and dies and is duly dumped overboard by his spouse (an eerie scene is had when the camera follows John as he sinks to the bottom of the lake). Her reason for the disposal is down to the fact that if John dies before his mother Louise inherits a big fat nothing and the money will go to a mysterious charity for a young girl named 'Kathleen'. Louise wangles her way to Lady Halorans' (Eithne Dunne) castle where she meets Johns two brothers Billy (Bart Patton) and Richard (William Campbell) as well as Richards fiancée Kane (Mary Mitchel). A strange atmosphere abounds with all taking part in an annual ceremony where Lady Haloran mourns the death of her daughter Kathleen who died many years before by drowning in the local pond. Of course Lady Haloran becomes the target of manipulation by Louise thus unsteadying her nerves. Enter Dr Caleb (Patrick Magee) to add even more odd behaviour to the already unsettled mix. An unknown axe man is on the prowl too and who it is shall not be revealed until the final moments of the film - detectives beware.

A strange film with a looming atmosphere and a creepy cast all enhanced by the monochrome tones and the subtle shadow play. It is a film to digest over a few sittings and one that does leave a fair impression. With Coppola at the helm one wouldn't expect anything less.

   

HOUSE OF FRANKENSTEIN
 
1944
. Directed by Erle C. Kenton
 
The Devil's Brood! All the Screen's Titans of Terror - Together in the Greatest of all screen sensations!   Yeah whatever!   Some tagline for a film that must rank as one of Universals greatest let downs. 
 
The imprisoned Dr Neimann (Boris Karloff) and his cellmate, the hunchbacked Daniel (J Carrol Naish) escape from prison by the most ridiculous of events.  By luck they come across a travelling carnival which they take-over and use as a disguise so the doctor can exact a revenge on the persons who sent him to jail.  By another piece of crazed coincidence it just so happens the carnival contains the actual skeleton of Count Dracula (John Carradine), complete with stake through the heart.  Neimann removes the stake, Dracula is reborn and a deal is made so as to make Neimans enemies pay.  More shenanigans and Dracula is soon out of the picture with a gypsy girl (Elana Verdugo), the wolfman (Lon Chaney) and Frankenstein’s monster (Glen Strange) eventually coming into the twisted plot. 
 
In truth the whole thing is a joke and nothing more than a money spinning rip-off that makes a mockery of all that has gone before.   The creature feature aspect attracts interest but the characters are so shallow and obviously used that Universal fans will feel nothing more than insulted.
 
Buy it for the collection and if you watch this on a regular basis I would be very surprised.

   

CREEPSHOW

1982. Directed by Georeg A Romero

Five small comic book instalments based on the fondly remembered E.C. collections that chilled and thrilled a whole generation of bloodthirsty kids. With Mr Romero at the helm assisted by the penmanship of Stephen King it seems we are in for a real treat and although falling way short of the standard set by the masters of the compendium, Amicus Studios, this is a unique film with a lot of idiosyncratic individuality.

The five tales deal with a variety of subject matter such as long forgotten beasts in crates, insectophobia cum OCD, revenge, sci-fi infections and life beyond the grave. A cavalcade of stars ride on through with Leslie Nielsen, Hal Holbrook, Adrienne Barbeau and E. G. Marshall the most notable. The acting is effective and in parts way over the top but hey this is based on comic book tales so why the hell shouldn't it be?

This film has is place in the annals of horror history and does contain many fine moments however some of the effects are now desperately dated which I suppose is part of the retrospective charm. One tale overruns a little its time but all in all we have a cute collection of yarns with a good variety of storylines. Obviously if you like this then you'll soon be seeking out Creepshow 2 - I know I am!

   

ALIEN 3

1992. Directed by David Fincher

An escape pod crash lands on a lonely refinery/prison planet killing each and every member on board except, that is, Lieutenant Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver). Ripley is taken into the prison where she recovers but also taken in is an alien facehugger that swiftly does the usual damage. The plot unfolds and Ripley eventually comes face to face with an Alien who, for some unknown reason, does not perform the killing act. Ripley's suspicions are aroused and when self scanning herself in the local med lab she finds that she is carrying the embryo of an Alien queen - interesting to say the least. Major decisions, political intrigue and high action all follows with the sexually androgynous Weaver a real stand out performer in a film that has had a fair amount of uncalled for criticism.

This is no turkey and is deserved of a place in the Aliens series with the central character Ripley revealing more inner layers to her marvellous character. At times the plot does slip into cruise mode but attention is held with good effects, strong atmosphere and well paced action. You can't help but get involved and even though this picture has to follow on from 2 spellbinding classics it does enough to earn ones attention.

   

THE OBLONG BOX

1969. Directed by Gordon Hessler

Julian Markham (Vincent Price) has his brother Sir Edward (Alistair Williamson) locked away upstairs in his plush house. The reason - well Sir Edward is the victim of voodoo based curse due to the trampling under a horse of a young child whilst the brothers were in Africa. All very suspicious but it isn't long before Sir Edward breaks free (due to more voodoo and underhand deviancy) and carries out a series of killings to settle a few old scores. He hides himself in the house of Dr J Neuhartt (Christopher Lee) who is by no means whiter than white and therefore a little bit of blackmail on either side secures each persons secret behaviour. Price soon learns of the whereabouts of his brother and the final (semi-surprise) scenes are played out.

Plenty of guts, a story that nearly becomes too convoluted but remains on the side of simplicity and some memorable murder scenes and The Oblong Box just gets by. This one takes a couple of viewings so as to appreciate certain roles and despite the Poe related title has nothing whatsoever to do with the author’s short story. A bit of cataleptic tomfoolery but nothing more! Neither the best nor the worst film of the horror genre and if in the right frame of mind then worth a viewing.

   

SALEM'S LOT

1979. Directed by Tobe Hooper

When I was younger and this 2 part ‘made for TV’ horror film was viewed I remember almost dropping the motherload during a couple of edge of the seat scenes. Time has passed and this is I suppose less scary than I believed but the story still holds firm and the performances are a delight. The head vampire is truly one of the scariest on film and some scenes still have a fair worrying weight to them.

Young author Ben Mears (David Soul) returns to his childhood town of Salem in New England to write another book, this time based on the local and very sinister Marsten House. Mears remembers the house well and many of the chilling tales connected with the said abode. Now the house is in the hands of a mysterious Mr Straker (James Mason) whom has decided to open an antique shop with his often mentioned, but rarely seen partner, Mr Barlow. Mr Straker has a new consignment of goods that needs picking up and are thus delivered in a sizeable, heavily chilled crate. After the crate is delivered to the Marsten house people begin to disappear and the tale doth wonderfully unwind.

What follows is a regular vampire romp but there are some fine roles played out within the yarn and plenty of memorable moments to savour. The burial scene, the priest versus vampire stand off and the floating blood-sucking kid are genuine high points and many peripheral characters add extra enjoyment. This flick has its own character and I'll be certainly watching this one several times over so as to fully appreciate the atmosphere and solid acting.

 

THE KILLER SHREWS

1959. Directed by Ray Kellogg

In truth I have seen my fair share of crap-happy flicks over the years that really do make me wonder what the bloody hell the director, cast etc. were thinking of. With a title such as this I was expecting a real turkey but to be fair this isn't that bad - in fact it is quite watchable (honestly)!

Delivering supplies to a group of scientists boat Captain Thorne Sherman (James Best) and his assistant Rook Griswold (Judge Henry Dupree) become trapped in a house due to a building hurricane. The inhabitants of the house are Dr Radford Baines (Gordon Mc Lendon), Dr Marlowe Craigis (Baruch Lumet), his daughter Ann (Ingrid Goude), Ann’s jilted fiancée Jerry (Ken Curtis) and do-it all Mario (Alfred DeSoto). It is soon discovered, after Rook becomes a cropper, that roaming the island are a race of giant shrews which have escaped after several experiments went severely wrong. The shrews are hungry, the cast potential victims and so - the plot glutinates.

Effects wise this is poor, acting wise it is average but, somehow the plot has enough meat on the bone to uphold interest. It is a bog standard 'how do we get out of this' monster flick with the shrews simply nothing more than dogs in disguise. I'd give it a few more viewings before putting the boot in (if at all) and recommend to potential buyers to take for what it is - a slightly above average B-movie.

   

SHADOW OF THE VAMPIRE

2000. Directed by E. Elias Merhige

Back to the beginning of the 20th Century we go to the filming of that undoubted horror classic Nosferatu. Director F. W. Murnau (John Malkovich) has his cast assembled in a small town in Czechoslovakia whereupon he reveals his lead star Max Schrek (William Dafoe) who is to play Count Orlock, the lead vampire. Murnau tells his cast beforehand that Schrek is an eccentric character who will live and breathe the part of the vampire but when the star is revealed all the crew are still unprepared for the ghastly presence before them. Slowly and steadily the creeping terror crawls through the film set and with captivating imagery, some wonderful performances and a solid atmosphere the whole film grows in stature.

Murnau is a man obsessed, a veritable fanatic and Malkovich plays it to its full potential yet doesn't go overboard and make a caricature of an intriguing man. Dafoe does just enough to keep Orlock believable and the supporting cast play their parts with baited breath almost ideally. I like the indistinct areas of fact and fiction and without too much effort one could take the whole tale as true. The switches from colour to black and white add effect and although lacking any high action scenes there is a general suspense throughout. There is a fascination to be had and I suspect many will partake. A film to watch though a couple of times so as to truly appreciate.

   

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