CATACOMB OF TERROR
 

THE QUATERMASS EXPERIMENT

1955. Directed by Val Guest

Classic sci-fi that is etched into the minds of those who can't get enough of all that is spaced out, monsterfied and innocently fantastic.

A rocket built by Professor Bernard Quatermass (Brian Donlevy) crashes back on earth and out of the three men on board (Carroon, Reichenheim and Greene) only Carroon (Richard Wordsworth) is found alive. Suspicions of something sinister are aroused as there are no signs whatsoever of the other two crew man and with Carroon in a complete state of shock an intense investigation begins. Carroon in the meantime is hospitalised but is helped to escape by his wife Judith (Margia Dean) and a Private Investigator who unfortunately falls victim to Carroon's new found power. After conducting experiments it is now discovered by Quatermass and his assistant Briscoe (David King-Wood) that Carroon is being taken by an alien element and if he isn't stopped soon he will somehow sporulate and the whole human race may be at risk.   Th ex-spaceman is on the run and fighting to restrain the entity with – will he hold out or will the world end with the infection of every last person?

This is swift action stuff with Quatermass at the helm conducting the pace of the film and all those around him. The Professor may be a little abrupt and annoying with his impolite orders and such and may have been better suited in a less commanding role but the film cracks on and this slight niggle is outshone by the tempo and high intrigue. The atmosphere surrounding the film is typically 50's with overtones of something Universal which all in all doesn't make for a bad old romp. Essential viewing!

   

HELLRAISER 3. HELL ON EARTH

1992. Directed by Anthony Hickox

The third and weakest instalment in the Hellraiser franchise with a more flimsy plot, less convincing atmosphere and forgettable special effects.

The erotically evil Cenobite Pinhead (Doug Bradley) is now trapped inside the ornate Pillar of Souls which is purchased by annoying playboy brat J P Monroe (Kevin Bernhardt) who also owns the nightclub The Boiler Room. Meanwhile reporter cum investigator Joey Summerskill (Terry Farrell) learns of the existence of the mysterious puzzle box (an intricate part to the Hellraiser series) via a young club goer Terri (Paula Marshall) who has stolen the box from the aforementioned nightclub. Add to this her eye-witness viewing of a club-goer ripped apart by the boxes chains and you can see why she is so intrigued to know more.

Back to Monroe and after learning of the horrors within the Pillar due to a bit of bloody assistance he his soon consumed himself and Pinhead is free. However our Cenobite sub-hero is split into two with his former self, World War 1 Captain Eliot Spencer, thus leaving Pinhead with no morals and rules to follow and becoming a greater evil threat than before. After contacting Summerskill Captain Spencer hopes that he will be united with his more sinister side and balance out the good and evil within. The race is on or there will be literally 'Hell On Earth'.

Shot outside of the UK, with added glamour that is more unrealistic, a heavy rock soundtrack that just doesn't work and a storyline that isn't as sound as what has gone before this film ends up just an average watch that leaves one mildly frustrated. The curse of the sequel strikes again but if you like the series you have just gotta buy - hard work sometimes I know!

   

QUATERMASS 2
 
1957.   Directed by Val Guest
 
Another episode involving Professor Quatermass (Brian Donlevy) and his focussed, almost rude characteristics.  Once again the pace is incessant, the story outrageous, the intensity aflame - nothing wrong with that I hear you say.
 
Quatermass is currently working on a project to colonize the moon and is struggling to get any governmental funding which leaves him in not the brightest of moods.  Marching around his focus is soon directed towards a shower of meteorites landing in an area known as Winnerden Flats.   Travelling with his colleague Marsh (Bryan Forbes), Quatermass is staggered to find an almost exact replica of his planned project (complete with three domes) hidden away in the meteorite laden area and soon becomes the attention of a large group of armed guards.  Marsh examines one of the fallen meteorites which duly cracks open releasing a toxic gas and unseen parasitic creature.  The creature is only seen briefly by Quatermass but the evidence of its presence is left as a V shaped marked on the face of Marsh.  Guards arrive, knock Quatermass to the floor and order him away at gun point whilst taking Marsh away without explanation.
 
Refusing to be deterred Quatermass contacts Professor Lomax (John Longden) the reliable police constable who assisted him in the previous film.  From here Quatermass meets up with government official Vincent Broadhead (Tom Chatto) and arranges to go on a tour of the sinister moon base which he learns has been constructed to create an all new synthetic food source for humanity.  Whilst on the tour Quatermass and Broadhead have a sneak around which finds the latter in more than hot water and the former with a real task on his hands trying to expose what the real secret is behind the dreadful domes and the hordes of zombified guards.  The pulse of the film quickens and we are hurtled towards the finale and despite the poor end effects it is the inner workings of the plot that hold true attention.
 
The Quatermass films rise above B-movie status by being heavily reliant on tension and being northing more than pure sci-fi hokum without any hidden pretence.  It is all serious stuff and could easily be regarded has somewhat 'over the top' but somehow the plot grips interest and the short running time is ideal.  If this was a 2 hour movie one would get bored for sure but by being a swift sprinting fantasy the treat is all ours.

   

COUNT DRACULA
 
1977
.  Directed by Phillip Saville
 
So we all know the story by now and are all a little more familiar with the characters than those outside the horror fraternity deem we should be - hey we just have a hunger you know! This is a nice effort that, in the main, stays faithful to the original story and comes across as a comfortable piece of horror that just does the business in steady style.

Just to refresh your memory, Estate Agent Jonathan Harker (Bosco Hogan) travels to meet Count Dracula (Louis Jourdan) in his castle in Transylvania where he is greeted by the legendary lines 'Welcome to my house. Enter freely and of your own will.' - oh yes. Harker has a terrible time of it in the vampire’s castle and only returns home to his beloved Mina (Judi Bowker) after Dracula has sorted a move to the Carfax residence in England. Once in this country the Count wreaks havoc feeding on victims close to Mr Harker - firstly Lucy Westenra (Susan Penhaligon) and then Mina. Lucy suffers due to the midnight feasts of the Count and it isn't long before Abraham Van Helsing (Frank Finlay) is called in and a diagnosis, and unfortunately a prognosis, is given. You should know the rest and soon Van Helsing, Harker, Dr John Seward (Mark Burns) and Quincey P Holmwood (Richard Barnes) are hot on the trail of the blood drinking devil and the tale speeds to a fine finale.

What I particularly like here is the slow and sure footed pace, the attention to minor detail and the quite unexpected shocking moments. The ambience is heavily laden with eeriness, Jourdan makes for quite an interesting Count and there is a subtle erotica that adds to the genuine spirit of all that we expect of Stokers tale. A must buy and well done to the BBC for a superb re-working of a sincere classic. 

   

THE MONSTER WALKS
 
1932
.  Directed by Frank R Strayer
 
Some old time hokum here in a loosely whodunit format with all the now readily identifiable clichés that come with people trapped in an old dark house with a murderer on the loose.  Add to the plot a caged ape with a disliking for the main heroine and the slight convolutions within the yarn are complete.
 
After her father dies Ruth Earlton (Vera Reynolds) and her fiancé Dr. Ted Clayton (Rex Lease) return to her old home to hear the reading of the will and so see what riches she has fallen into.  At the hearing are Ruth’s disabled wheelchair bound Uncle Robert (Sheldon Lewis), the housekeeper Mrs. Krug (Martha Mattox) and her son Hanns (Mischa Auer).  The Krug duo expect things from the will and are disappointed with the outcome so a false trail is left for us to pick up on.    Night-time follows and whilst Ruth is asleep in bed a hairy hand appears and tries to strangle her - has the ape escaped, are the Krug's out to make a killing - suspension is attempted.  Further along in this short tale the hand re-appears through the headboard of Mrs Krugs bed and strangles her to death - interesting indeed.  The murderer is soon revealed to us the viewer, a secret kinship exposed and a dastardly plot revealed.
 
If this film were longer than the 60 minute running time my outlook may have been harsher but the one hour mark is nicely timed and we are left with an easy film to view that is awash with atmosphere and good old 1930's eeriness.   The acting is straight off the theatrical boards and only adds to the antique and archaic feel of this film.  It may not be an utter classic but I'll be watching it again when I have an hour to spare for sure!

   

THE STINK OF FLESH

2005. Directed by Scott Phillips

A zombiefied black comedy awash with bad acting, poor dialogues, oodles of gratuitous sex and violence and moments of sheer ridiculousness. Occasional moments do intrigue but they are so few and far between that this film is hardly worth the effort of viewing.

A polygamous couple open proceedings namely the sexually insatiable Dexy (Diva) and her husband Nathan (Ross Kelly) who is requested to seek out new men for his wife so as to fulfil her wanton appetite. At the same time the hero of the film Matool (Kurly Tlapoyawa) is out there battling with the living dead preferring the unarmed combat approach rather than resort to using guns. After rescuing a girl Matool (yes you heard right) takes refuge in a run down house where Mr Rainville (Bob Vardeman) and two young boys live. Idiocy ensues, the rescued girl tries to escape and all are devoured alive except Matool and one young boy whom eventually end up in the abode of Nathan and his wife. Within this household most of the film stays with dubious characters joining the sexual meltdown such as Dexy's sister Sassy (Kristin Hansen), another sister Dottie (now just wait for that one) and a three soldiers one of whom as been infected by the hungry zombies. Things press on, the spillage of blood and bad dialogues is high and we work towards the end with low hopes of any improvement,

The title of this one reeks of low budget tomfoolery and you can near enough guess what you will be getting. I have watched it once and feel no reason to do so again and if I had the choice I'd like my 82 minutes back. Pure dross in the grand scheme of horror history, not bad for an indie film but...not for me!

   

DRACULA
 
1979
.  Directed by John Badham

Another Dracula review and one I was expecting to be rather negative due to my creating an opinion of this film after viewing it at a young age and never giving myself the opportunity to change the view.  This was a mild surprise when I last watched it and a thoroughly good version of the famed gothic classic it is.
 
Due to the plot not being a strict facsimile of the book here is a brief overview to whet your appetite.    Dracula (Frank Langella) is the only survivor of a shipwreck and is found lying on a beach in Whitby by a suffering Mina Van Helsing (Jan Francis) who is in the local area visiting her friend Lucy Harker (Kate Nelligan).   Dracula soon takes the life of young Mina despite Lucy's fiancée Jonathon Harker (Trevor Eve) and father Dr Seward (Donald Pleasance) doing the utmost to help Dracula feel comfortable in his new surroundings.  It isn't long before the Counts attention turns to Lucy whereupon Mina's father, Dr Van Helsing (Laurence Olivier) is called into the action.  It soon comes apparent that a vampire is at work and the race against time is on to save many a soul from the blood drinking beast who, in this instance, is as eerie as ever.
 
This is a quality outing albeit more romanticized than one expects.  The acting is pleasing, the general look and feel of the film very impressive and the moments of powerful horror very welcome indeed, the most stunning of which is when Van Helsing confronts his vampire daughter in a creepy mineshaft - tasty stuff.  For some reason this film gets overlooked and that is a real tragedy as this is one of the finer versions of Stokers classic novel.  A good strong cast, a dabbling with the original tale, some great sets and some strong interaction between characters and it is nothing less than a big 'yes' for this one despite a somewhat odd ending.  Go get it horror nuts!

   

THESE ARE THE DAMNED
 
1963
.  Directed by Joseph Losey
 
A strange film set in the seaside town of Weymouth and using the atmospheric nearby location of the Isle of Portland.  What we get here is a unique attempt that falls short of a very ambitious mark.
 
Biker psycho King (Oliver Reed) and his gang of leather clad trouble makers are the scourge of the local resort as middle aged American tourist Simon Wells finds out after he is lured by King's sister Joan (Shirley Anne Field) down a side street and beaten up and robbed by the gang.  Later Joan turns up at Well's holiday boat where the gang soon appear and start hurling threats and abuse at the couple who agree to flee, but it isn't long before Joan wants to return to shore.  Joan having confessed that her brother is over-protective and abhors the thought of men going near her later meets up again with Wells whereupon they make love in a secluded spot only to be pursued by King.  A chase begins which leads to a network of underground caves that are inhabited by a group of 9 cold skinned children who know little of the outside world despite being fully educated.  It comes to light that these children are part of a sinister experiment, run by the doom-laden scientist Bernard (Alexander Knox), and that they believe they are on a spaceship and are set to populate a far distant planet - how wrong they are!
 
 
The story here is potentially splendid but the execution is way off the mark and what we are left with is a slow moving, disjointed piece of cinema with some very shady acting and out of sync situations.  The latter half of the film is best and as the story unfolds one can forget the dull and tedious first half by enjoying some average action.  Overall though this production is a cold and sterile offering that should have been so much more!  It happens now and again and I feel totally let down by the whole offering.  One or two moments are memorable but I would suggest you wait until you can get this one cheap before dabbling.

   

THE SNOW CREATURE

1954. Directed by W. Lee Wilder

An American botanical expedition heads out to the Himalayas and comes across more than just a few icy flowers in this slow, plodding Yeti yarn. This one has been labelled a 'cult classic' by the way and in many cases we know what that means!

Dr Frank Parrish (Paul Langton) leads the aforementioned expedition and soon hits difficulties as the chief guide Subra (Teru Shimada) has his wife kidnapped. Subra seizes all the guns of the expedition as well as control of all members in the hope of tracking down the Yeti whom he believes has taken his much beloved partner. Parish is sceptical and has doubts of the Yeti's existence but he his soon forced to change his mind as evidence builds and an Abonimable encounter is had. Eventually the beast is captured and taken to Los Angeles, California, as an article of study where, as you can guess, trouble breaks loose and the creature goes on the run.

A film of two halves, both as bland as one another. The first segment, set in the snowy mountains is quite atmospheric and the narration makes for a load of promise that just doesn't bear fruit. The story has potential but flounders completely from halfway with some acting performances leaving a lot to be desired. This is a low rate B-movie and for that labelling there is good reason. You'll get what you most probably expect from this one and for me it is nothing more than a passing curio. In parts nicely atmospheric but in others totally stupefying and predictable - if you’re short of cash don't waste it here.

   

SLUGS

1988. Directed by Juan Piquer Simón

Incredible B-movie dross here with a ludicrous plot soaked with wooden acting, garbage dialogue and shabby, unconvincing effects. The film does have one thing though – character, and that aspect, perhaps in some small way, saves the day. Best viewed for laughs rather than horror this has its moments and some that are truly amusing even though they are not deliberately meant to be!

The rural town of Ashton falls victim to hordes of killer slugs whereupon, after several grisly deaths, health worker Mike Brady (Michael Garfield) susses out the cause and tries to convince the authorities despite becoming a minor laughing stock. Eventually convincing the ones in power and discovering that the killer gastropods are borne from a neglected toxic waste dump the main hero, and a few sidekicks, set out to banish the voracious flesh eating killers once and for all. Along the way we are treated to the death of a copulating couple, the sight of a man hacking off his own arm and a man's head almost explode in a restaurant scene to curdle your stomach - mmmm - nasty!

There isn't a lot to add about this film and if, after realising it was based on the Shaun Hutson bestseller, you didn't realise that gratuity was the order of the day then I sincerely feel for you. There is enough to keep one interested but this is far from a classic and is, once again, one to pick up from the bargain basement area. Ooze on baby!

   

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