CATACOMB OF TERROR
 

CHILD'S PLAY 3

1991. Directed by Jack Bender

The film at the heart of immense and shattering controversy and another episode in the series of that doll you just can't help but be appalled by.

Here we find we are still with the original young boy Andy Harmer (Justin Whalin) who was stalked by the accursed Chucky who desperately desires a body to transfer his soul to. It is now 8 years later and Andy has been enrolled into a military school after various problems in the past due to his encounters with the terror toy. Meanwhile the company Play Pal Toys have decided to re-release their best selling Good Guys believing that the bad publicity built around Andy and Chucky has died down and more cash can be gained. Somehow during the construction process the spirit of the murderer Charles Lee Ray enters the first doll off the production line which is given to the companies Director as a present. Yes you guessed it - gory killings ensue and it isn't long before Chucky arrives at the military establishment in search of a bit of old and fresh meat.

Routine and predictable and without any extra zing this film goes through the motions of the usual sequel and yet still entertains. The critics dug deep and stated that this film was 'the oddest, darkest and saddest of all Child's Play films'. Make up your own mind - it isn't a classic but is an easy watch nonetheless.

   

THE CURSE OF THE WEREWOLF

1961. Directed by Terence Fisher

Superbly shot, oozing those Hammer clichés and dripping with that atmosphere we all know, love and just can't do without The Curse Of The Werewolf is essential for the horror collector and will be watched over and over again.

The tale begins in Spain where a likeable beggar (Richard Wordsworth) arrives in search of aid and ends up at the castle of the obnoxious and ludicrously cruel Marques Siniestro (Anthony Dawson). It is the Merques' wedding night and for the gatecrashing beggar to gain some victuals he is forced to beg like a dog and then dance in front of the guests and basically make a fool of himself. One wrong remark from the beggar results in his imprisonment where he is looked upon by a mute servant girl (child-Loraine Carvana/adult-Yvonne Romain). The Marques ages over the years and despite his vile looks he makes a move on the now attractive servant girl, is duly rebuked and killed (yippee) whereupon the girl is incarcerated with the now insane Beggar. The girl is raped, she kills the beggar and escapes and his found by Don Alfredo Corledo (Clifford Evans) face down in a woodland lake. A child called Leon (Justin Walters) is born and the girl dies and it isn't long before the full moon takes effect and Corledo and his maid, Teresa (Hira Talfrey) begin to believe that things aren't what they should be with the young chap in their midst. Leon becomes a man (Oliver Reed), falls in love and unfortunately falls in a whole heap of trouble due to his nocturnal activities. The rest of the film is a joy and is shot and directed just so precisely to please all the connoisseurs of this genre.

The main gripe people may have with this film is the fact that the Werewolf only appears in the last few moments but for me the tale, the build up and the excellent end scenes all complete a grand package and this is duly rated very highly. Go on get out there and get bitten by the wolf - you won't regret it.

   

FEAR IN THE NIGHT

1962. Directed by Jimmy Sangster

A slow plodding film that lacks any real adventure and is one that will undoubtedly test the patience of any salivating monster/horror buff. In fact this is only just bordering on the horror genre and comes across as more of a mystery/thriller rather than anything else. Nevertheless a peek is worth having and for me this is not too bad of an effort despite the lack of scares.

The plot revolves around Peggy Heller (Judy Geeson) who is recovering from a serious mental breakdown and whom moves to a country school house with her husband Robert (Ralph Bates). Peggy is attacked several times by a mysterious one armed man whom remains nameless until the last throes of the film. The headmaster of the school is Michael Carmichael (Peter Cushing) a deliberately unsettling character with more than his own fair share of mental problems and surprise, surprise - only one arm. Carmicheal's wife Molly enters the fray and takes an instant dislike to Peggy thus tension builds and the story unfolds.

The twist in the plot at the end of the movie is played out nicely albeit quite predictable and the general essence of the film holds true. This is by no means a classic from the Hammer studio but has many facets to maintain interest. A good cast add strength and overall I'd give this a slightly just above average grading.

   

THE TWO FACES OF DR JEKYLL

1960. Directed by Terence Fisher

Another spin on the Robert Louis Stevenson classic, this time from the Hammer Studios with all those glorious colours and atmospheric sets.

Dr Henry Jekyll (Paul Massie) dabbles with the good and evil within and comes out as a man defeated. Here we find Jekyll a drab, studious scientist who neglects his flirtatious wife Kitty (Dawn Addams) and loses her attention to the wayward hedonist Paul Allen (Christopher Lee). Allen is the ultimate waster who relies on Kitty to persuade Jekyll (his long standing friend) to loan him money and pay off his gambling debts. Meanwhile Jekyll is experimenting and his alter ego Mr Hyde befriends Allen and asks him to show him the seedier side of London nightlife. Hyde is clean cut with a wicked inner streak and it isn't long before his evil ways drag all and sundry into a maelstrom of horror.

The twist within this tale is well executed and the style in which Fisher delivers this tried and tested story is applaudable. Jekyll is a tragic character and the film concentrates on that aspect with relish. Subtle, avoiding gratuitous gore and maintaining a basic backbone of the original novel this gets by and entertains quite adequately along the way. Of course it will be judged against Hammers other highs but just accept this for what it is and enjoy.

   

MAGIC

1978. Directed by Richard Attenborough

A wonderful tale of madness that sees a ventriloquist tumble mentally downwards under the influence of his-all consuming dummy/inner demons.

Corky Withers (Anthony Hopkins) and his dummified sidekick Fats are on the brink of a major breakthrough as local entertainment agent cum wheeler dealer Ben Greene (Burgess Meredith) makes the most of his contacts and prepares the path for the upcoming ventriloquist act. Due to obvious mental difficulties Corky bottles the opportunity and heads out to the Catskills reuniting with an old school crush Peggy Ann Snow (Ann Margaret). Greene locates Withers and catches him in a fraught and insane argument with his dummy. Requesting that Withers take a psychological test Greene leaves with a refusal ringing in his ears and from there we see events take a nastier and completely more unsettling turn.

Hopkins performance throughout this film is remarkable, the story is one of a descent into madness and delivered with superb intensity and utterly draining effect with the twist of emotions an added extra that shouldn't be overlooked. This is a cracking film and one that is readily passed by – do not be guilty of this same mistake.  Get out, get this and be disturbed by what transpires - class!

   

RASPUTIN, THE MAD MONK

1966. Directed by Don Sharp

The Hammer colour shines bright, the essence of the film is superbly familiar and yet...! This effort is a decent watch but somehow falls slightly short be it down to a lack of action or being a fair way removed from actual historical events.

In the tale here we find Rasputin (Christopher Lee) to be a sin-committing rebellious monk who has an eye for the fairer sex and a taste for the old red wine. Thrown out of his monastery Rasputin travels to St Petersburg whereupon, after a drinking competition, he finds himself living with the disgraced Dr Zargo (Richard Pasco). By a shifty manoeuvre via one of the Tsarina's (Renée Asherson) ladies in waiting, Sonia (Barbara Shelley), he finds himself in a strong position within the royal household where he uses his mystical powers to heal, to deceive and to gain fulfilment for all his desires. Upsetting people along the way it isn't long before a few seek to destroy the mad monk and the climax is upon us.

Lee plays the part with conviction (would you expect anything less) and the story, although lacking high action, does maintain the interest of the viewer throughout. Rasputin does come across as a man spiralling down into an ever deeper chasm of insanity but just something extra is needed. Overall though we get a decent Hammer blow and we shouldn't really complain but one can't help but to expect every time the studio's name is mention. Such are the standards set!

   

SCREAM 3

2000. Directed by Wes Craven

Do you know what? I have found this series totally uninspiring, lacking in general scares and just a strain to get through. The slapstick, slasher approach plays on clichés, follows a set routine (albeit deliberately and with a certain homage paying in mind) and is just too darn regular to create any excitement.

Here we have original victim Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) hidden away in the hills recovering from the trauma of the two previous films (maybe in more ways than are obvious) whilst her stalker Ghostface is on a killing spree again, this time on the set of the film 'Stab 3' which is a movie about the events of previous Screams. The convolution is a nice touch and seeing actual characters meet people playing the characters they were in another movie is quite inventive and amusing (albeit a trifle befuddling). The story goes through the usual paces with the ending, as predicted by the film itself, being more than a little obvious.

The subversion of the clichés via a script and characters that know the horror genre is a neat trick but after a while comes across as pointless and all we require is just a darn good meaty horror yarn. There isn't a lot I can add and perhaps at some point I will roll this out again and reassess, but then again...

Oh watch out for cameos from Roger Corman and Carrie Fisher – now that’s interesting!

   

SHE-WOLF OF LONDON

1946. Directed by Jean Yarbrough

The best way to describe this Universal film would be as a mild, unthreatening, terse tale that plays on the studio's horror success but fails to deliver any scares. A tame offering but still an easy film to watch and with a tale that is soon sussed, but enjoyed nonetheless.

Phyllis Allenby (June Lockhart) lives with her aunt Martha (Sara Haden) and cousin Carol (Jan Wiley) at, quite obviously, Allenby Mansion. Phyllis is about to marry lawyer Barry Lanfield (Don Porter) which means that Martha and Carol could be forced to leave the house due to them having no relation to the Allenby family. It comes to light, via suggestion, that the Allenby family has a lycanthropic curse and it just so happens a series of murders are being committed by, what seems to be, a wolf-like creature. Phyllis is terrified that the curse is within her and takes to her bed and whilst Martha consoles the young heiress shifty Carol makes her move on the dashing Barry.

The twisted tale is more than a little obvious but Universal somehow hold attention and although conning the viewer with a very misleading title just get away with things due to some half decent acting and comforting sets. Sit back and just enjoy this and don't expect too much and you won’t go far wrong - one for the collecting connoisseur methinks!

   

FRIGHT NIGHT
 
1985.  Directed by Tom Holland
 
A mid-eighties vampire romp here that reflects its time, has oodles of familiar atmosphere and contains some quite impressive special effects that were really flogged to death within this year.
 
Charley Brewster (William Ragsdale) likes a bit of horror and stays up to watch his favourite programme 'Fright Night' which is hosted by the evergreen, ever-hammy Peter Vincent (Roddy McDowell).  One night whilst canoodling with his girlfriend Amy Peterson (Amanda Bearse) Charley is distracted, looks out of his bedroom window and sees some activity that gets his over-active mind thinking.  A couple more incidents and Charley is convinced that his new neighbour Jerry Dandridge (Chris Sarandon) is one of the sharp-toothed undead.  Of course his mum, girlfriend and best friend "Evil Ed" Thompson (Stephen Geoffreys) do not believe his wild accusations and even the police fail to pay heed to Charley's ravings.  Out of desperation there is only one way to turn - seek out the help of the recently sacked Peter Vincent and use all his experience to defeat this blood sucking menace.  Can the man of fantasy turn his talent to reality or are we destined to witness a frantic failure in vampire hunting?
 
I really enjoyed watching this film again after viewing it all those years ago.  Roddy McDowell is convincing in his role but for me the overall capture of a specific age within the horror genre is what makes the film.  The disco scene is so 'of the day' and the effects so advanced for their time that this is a film to be marvelled at even today.  The story has that nice twist and the fact that this film was the second highest grossing horror film of 1985, beaten only by 'A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge', says quite a lot, in fact, I personally prefer this film and feel it has stood the test of time a lot better.  At the time of writing this one is going cheap off the shelves (£3 in fact) so get yourself a copy as swift as!

   

FRANKENSTEIN AND THE MONSTER FROM HELL

1974. Directed by Terence Fisher

The final Hammer Frankenstein tale in a series that is a delight to behold. Unfortunately this one lacks any real shocks and fast paced action but does make up for it with some firm acting and a solid performance from the always astounding Peter Cushing.

The yarn begins with skilled and qualified doctor Simon Helder (Shane Briant) following in the footsteps of the apparently long dead Baron Frankenstein (Peter Cushing) in that he his collecting body parts and hoping to one day construct his own human being. It isn't long before the law but a dampener on Helder's activities and he is sentenced to serve 5 years in a local asylum. Here, he soon learns that one of the inmates is none other than the Baron himself whom has blackmailed his way into a position of authority and is using his everyday position to cover up the usual sinister practices. Due to the Barons hands being scarred all his surgical work has been carried out by his mute assistant Sarah (Madelaine Smith) and he is only too keen to make use of Helder’s skills after the young doctor susses the Barons underhand procedures. Gore and guts ensue and a beast is created but what follows again highlights the Barons unwavering, brutal evilness and that my Hammer hungry hunters is what carries the film.

Not the best in the series but not a bad one simply because the whole glut of films are beautiful food for the ever ravenous horror nut. The pace of this film is more sedate and in some ways that is a good thing as the tale has to rely on subtleties rather than obvious blood rushes like today's less convincing offerings.  Go on complete your collection.

   

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