CATACOMB OF TERROR
 

CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN

1957. Directed by Terence Fisher

A remake of the Whale classic and with Cushing as the Baron and Lee as the monster we are destined for a wonderful treat of spirited horror from the Hammer studios.  The story is predictable and well known but there is enough Hammer influence here to make it thoroughly entertaining throughout.  Cushing’s portrayal of the manicially obsessive and insanely determined Baron is just impeccable and really brings a zest and gusto to the whole production.  His indifference to peoples emotion and value is alarming and the part is played to the full by an actor revelling in the role and giving it his all.  Lee is very good as the pathetic and brutal monster and the make up is original and effective although by today’s standards appears extremely dated.  Nevertheless this is a solid film and is a standard bearer for a studio that is heaped in horror history. A definitive landmark and a film that can be watched over and over again with great performances from everyone involved.

 

THE CABINET OF DR CALIGARI

1920. Directed by Robert Wiene

A sinister tale of a Somnambulist, Cesare (Conrad Veidt) and his ability to predict the future of anyone crazy enough to ask him a question. In control of the sleeping prophet is Dr Caligari (Werner Kraus) an unhinged man with various underhand motives. Various murders and an abduction entail with a final twist in the plot that is now dated but obviously worked well at the time. The most striking feature of this film is its strange expressionistic appearance that adds a unique if disjointed touch. Sinister and angular with over made-up characters the whole picture is a montage of the bizarre and corruptly baroque and really does leave a lasting impression. Personally its not one of my favourites but I can see its appeal to others. The film drips with character and the stories finale leaves many questions unanswered. A minor classic of its time.

 

THE APE

1940. Directed by William Nigh

A woman suffering from polio is aided by kind-hearted Doctor Bernard Adrian (Boris Karloff) who devises a potential cure based on spinal fluids of which he needs more to complete his experiment. In the meantime a circus ape has broken loose and is terrorizing the local people one of which turns out to be the doctor. A few twists and turns and the story is fully underway and for such a short flick this turns out to be a very good picture indeed. Karloff, as always, is convincing and he plays the good guy/bad guy with such natural ease that it is what makes the man so likeable and watchable. The ape costume is exceptionally good and quite an eye opener and the despite an obvious low budget approach the charming story wins the day. Worth seeking out and a must for fans of the 'Uncanny' one.

 

THE FLY

1958. Directed by Kurt Nuemann

After killing her husband Helene Delembre (Patricia Owens) relates the fantastic tale to her brother-in-law Francois Delambre (Vincent Price) and Inspector Charas (Herbert Marshall) how he, scientist Andre Delambre (David Hedison), invented a teleportation machine and after several hit and miss experiments decided to put himself through the device. Unknowingly he transported a fly with himself and the two living entities became mixed resulting in the scientist having the head and arm of the fly and the fly having the head and arm of the scientist. Her discovery leads to a frantic search for the fly so as to put it back through the teleporter with her husband and hopefully correct the accident. After the fly escaping and her husbands apparent plea for death he is taken to the local pressing plant where she uses a device to crush his arm and head and therefore hide any evidence of the experimental misdemeanour. There is a good amount of tension throughout with the near capture of the fly quite frustrating. The first vision of the half-man/half-fly is stunning and a view from behind the multi-faceted eyes is memorable. Visually superb and with a buzzing soundtrack that justs sticks in the head this is a classic of its kind and should be in the horror library as soon as possible if not already there.

 

 

HORROR OF FRANKENSTEIN

1970. Directed by Jimmy Sangster

Ralph Bates plays the infamous scientist in fine style with a role loaded with condescension and aloof arrogance that can't help but make you titter. In fact the whole affair has a tongue-in-cheek approach that doesn't detract from a fine story with several horrific moments. Bates goes to town with the role and despite not following the usual intensity of delivery we have come to expect from his predecessors, namely Cushing and Clive, he really does make his mark albeit in a more light hearted vein. The ruthless streak is less subtle here but works well and his role is backed up by various names from a fine cinematic era of horror such as Veronica Carlson, Kate 'O' Mara and one of my personal faves, Dennis Price. The yarn is as expected with the creation of a monster who causes the usual havoc and mayhem. There is the usual Hammer amount of heaving bosoms and the ending is abrupt but deliciously delivered and all in all we have a very watchable film. It's run of the mill stuff for the Hammer stable and that's what makes it so special. An above average spectacle.

 

A BUCKET OF BLOOD

1959. Directed by Roger Corman

A cafe full of self obsessed artists and poets is the main focus point of this film where we encounter disgruntled nerd Walter Paisley (Dick Miller) who is a wannabe artist but only a lowly, disregarded waiter. After accidentally killing his landlady's cat Paisley covers the corpse in clay to hide the evidence. Surprisingly he passes off this construction as work by his own creative hand and recieves his much sought after admirable critical acclaim from the cafe's in-crowd. To keep in with these assorted beatnicks Paisley covers several murder victims in clay and presents them with equal praise being forthcoming. Eventually his bogus behaviour is found out and the finale ensues. This is a good film with Miller doing a great job of playing the child-like and unhinged Paisley. His internal sufferings and inadequacies are truly heartfelt and despite a low budget this performance holds the film together. One of Corman's finest moments that shows an eye for good direction and a watchable yarn. Definitely worth seeking out.

 

DR JEKYLL AND MR HYDE

1941. Directed by Victor Fleming

One of several films relating the fantastic Robert Louis Stevenson tale of mans battle with his inner personality. With Spencer Tracey, Ingrid Bergman and Lana Turner thrown into the mix its no wonder this film was nominated for Oscars. Its a delightful tale with Dr Jekyll (Spencer Tracey) concocting and partaking of a potion that seperates his good and evil self thus turning the respectable man of science into an hideous unthinking monster by the name of Mr Hyde. Bergman plays inn waitress Ivy Peterson who after coming into contact with Dr Jekyll is later preyed upon by Hyde where she undergoes a brutal and sadistic oppression that results in her death. Eventually Jekylls friend Dr Lanyon (Ian Hunter) comes to learn that both Jekyll and Hyde are one of the same and the finale ensues. The whole presentation is wonderfully brought together with some Freudian imagary thrown in during the transformation scenes that smacks of sexual repression and male dominance. Hyde's make-up is subtle and lacks the final punch but Tracey's delivery and conviction over-ride this slight failing and make the picture a real treat. Better and worse versions abound but in its own right this is a very rewarding watch.

 

A STUDY IN TERROR

1965. Directed by James Hill

Another Sherlock Holmes escapade with John Neville playing the super sleuth and Donald Neilson as his trustworthy sidekick Dr Watson. The cast has some familair faces with Judi Dench (Sally), Barbara Windsor (Annie Chapman), Robert Morley (Mycroft Holmes), Frank Finlay (Inspector LeStrade) and Anthony Quayle (Dr Murray) all contributing to an above average film. British boxer Terry Downes has a cameo appearance has butcher Chunky. Its a typical romp with Holmes displaying his usual investigatory skills has he blazes a trail after Jack the Ripper throughout old London town. Nevilles portrayal of Holmes is good and he convinces us that we are watching a man of action and sharp mind. The story is predicatble and the end of film reasoning as to how Holmes knew who the killer was lacks any real imagination. This is still a highly watchable film though with some nice touches and good acting performances. Moments of suspense are well spread and are delivered well with the finale building adequately to its fiery climax. For fans of Conan Doyles master detective a definite watch.

 

HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL

1959. Directed by William Castle

Frederick Loren (Vincent Price) is holding a party at a supposedly haunted house for his 4th wife Annabelle (Carol Ohmart). 5 guests are invited to stay the night and if they can will recieve a $10,000 reward. Each guest has a different background but in need of money. When the clock reaches midnight the doors are locked and the suspense begins with various shocks along the way.

Castle draws us into a game of 'guess who' as murder takes place and all are under suspicion. The frosty tension between Price and Ohmart is intriguing and the moments of terror are fantastic and delivered in true Castle-esque cornball style. The film has a great feel too it with all players contributing well to the diversity of character and overall eerie ambience. William Castle always tries to entertain and here succeeeds in a good movie with a great final twist.

 

RETURN OF THE FLY

1959. Directed by Edward Bernds

A good follow up to the classic bug film 'The Fly' that captures the essence of its predecessor and has some choice moments particularly the squashing of a half man/half guinea pig type creature. Here we have moved on 15 years and the son, Phillipe Delambre (Brett Halsey) of the original scientist is itching to follow in his fathers footsteps. His uncle Francois (Vincent Price) is persuaded to fund the project which is destined to result in disaster. There is a nice sub-plot with Phillipes assistant having ulterior motives and causing all sorts of chaos. The film is well presented with all players performing admirably and the story line being intriguing enough to hold attention. The make-up lacks the realism of the first picture but is still a good effort. Unlike most sequels this is a very enjoyable film that is similar to the original in many aspects but has enough originality to stand up on its own.

   

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