CATACOMB OF TERROR
 

THE HOUSE THAT DRIPPED BLOOD

1970. Directed by Peter Duffel.

4 tales of the unexpected here by Robert Bloch that are linked by a Scotland Yard investigation into sinister happenings at an unoccupied house. The end mix is a delicious portmanteau of pure 70's horror that comes from a stable who set many a high standard.

The first tale features Denholm Elliot as a horror writer who seemingly immerses himself a little too deeply in his latest novel with disastrous results. The second installment sees Peter Cushing and Joss Ackland star in a sad tale of obsessive, unattainable love that ends in an atmospheric waxworks museum. Next we see Christopher Lee in an apparently overbearing fatherly role in which his daughter takes an unnatural interest in witchcraft with a sizzling finale. Finally we have a vampire spoof with Jon Pertwee in impish ham mode as he plays an egotistical horror star who comes across a cloak with alarming powers.

Overall this is a stunning film with all the horror cliches thrown in for good measure. Eerie shadows, thunder storms, grisly deaths and the twists in the tale make this a must see film and the excellent array of established stars and familiar genre faces only add to the overall enjoyment.

 

THE MUMMY'S SHROUD

1967. Directed by John Gilling

An overlooked Hammer film that follows the regular mummy formula in so much as you get the opening of a tomb, the ensuing curse on the blasphemous and the various deaths at the hands of the bandaged one.

Following a flashback piece that relates the foundations and history of the plot and years later, after the desecration of the boy Pharaoh's tomb, the keeper Hasmid (Roger Delgado) seeks revenge and summons the help of the Pharaoh's faithful servant Parem (Dickie Owen) who is the Mummy on a mission. One by one members of the archaeological party are killed until we are left with the lead couple. This is no bad thing, especially in the case of the expedition financer Stanley Preston (John Phillips) who is a glory-seeking beast who treats all and sundry like dirt beneath his feet. The final showdown is dramatic and the effects not half bad and throughout the tale one or two decent acting performances are thrown in, most notable being by Hammer regulars Andre Morell and Michael Ripper.

Despite being a lightweight film that labours a little too long between action with the story line seeming to meander to fill time rather than get to the point. Having said this it is a Hammer film and there is a certain ambience of these films that the connoisseur can't resist. The ubiquitous Micheal Ripper adds to this feeling and here gets a little more than his customary bit part. Overall an enjoyable Egyptian shenanigans.

 

TORTURE GARDEN

1970. Directed by Freddie Francis

Another omnibus of horror as Dr Diablo (Burgess Meredith) predicts the future for several visitors to his circus sideshow namely, The Torture Garden. The skeptical customers are given an insight into their deviant futures with greed, dishonesty and murder all ingredients in a simmering melting pot of terror.

There are 4 main stories here that involve a mind controlling witch that comes in the form of a cat, the darker side of an actors good looks, a killer piano and Edgar Allen Poe. In fact the Poe tale is a gem with Peter Cushing the ever-enthusiastic star and Jack Palance in a superb avaricious role of the highest order. Palance overacts in fine style and brings across an excellent conviction in role. The piano tale adds an obscure touch that is befitting of this genre's limitless boundaries and also adds a lighter touch to the whole film.

Overall this film is an adequate anthology but fails to live up to the classiness of 'Tales From The Crypt' and 'Vault of Horror' but does it does have its memorable moments and is well worth a horror buff's attention.

 

TALES FROM THE CRYPT

1972. Directed by Freddie Francis

On a tour of a crypt 5 people get lost and meet up with a sinister cryptkeeper who tells them of their dark and sinful futures. A superb line-up of stars gather to have their fortunes told in chilling detail.

Firstly its Joan Collins who stars in a classic Christmas tale of deceit and lunacy that is a joy to behold in its tense and gory prime. The second tale has Ian Hendry in the role of adulterer becoming caught up in a never ending cycle of death. The third installement is a masterpiece with Peter Cushing playing a blinder has a lonely old gentlemen who falls victim to the intolerance of his neighbour. The revengeful climax is a stunner. Fourthly we have a 'Monkeys Paw' re-working and what a damn fine job it is drawing on a morbid humour and a classical twist in the tale ending for final excellence. Lastly is the tale of an Institution for the Blind and its new brutal manager who brings with him all his army discipline and harsh codes of conduct. Again we have a finale to master that is both ingenious and spine-tinglingly horrific. The film ends superbly and it must be said that this is a gem and the yardstick that all other antholgies must be judged by.

5 classic tales, an all-star cast and a simply unforgettable atmosphere this is the pinnacle of horror in all its British glory. You would be way out of sync will all things spooky if this isn't high up on your all time list.

 

VAULT OF HORROR

1973. Directed by Roy Ward Baker

5 businessmen get trapped in the basement of an office building and relate tales regarding their recurring nightmares and foreseen deaths. Tom Baker, Denholm Elliot, Curt Jurgens, Michael Craig, Terry Thomas and Glynis Johns to name a few all star in this quite wonderful masterpiece of horror. The first tale involves the greed for a family inheritance that ends up with a vampire banquet second to none. The next tale is one for OCD sufferers everywhere as Terry Thomas sets about making his wifes life a misery with his sickening attention to detail. The stories end really tidies things up - in more ways than one. Thirdly we have a yarn of magic and theft with Curt Jurgens getting his untimely come-uppance. Next is tale of double-cross, insurance fraud and morbidity. This has the comedic elements of the film and is cleverly put together and breaks up the tension adequately. Lastly Tom Baker stars in a brilliant tales of voodoo with a paper guillotine moment a piece of horror genius. Almost a follow-up to Tales From The Crypt' this is again a wonderful collection of excellent stories that hits just the right spot for lovers of this style. Beautiful in its innocence and another classic of its time.

 

THE INVISIBLE MAN

1933. Directed by James Whale

Another cimematic moment of genius as Whale combines the renowned classic of HG Wells with his twisted black humour to create a mesmerising gem. The effects are startling throughout and the performances by all cast members are convincing. The story line revolves around a scientist who has created an invisibilty formula that drives him to insanity and murder. Claude Raines is the man of the moment and despite remaining unseen until the closing moments he still captivates the viewer with his manic utterances and irrational ravings. The vocal timbre is satisfyingly unique and at once recognisable bringing about a fantastic ambience whenever the Invisible Man speaks. Una O'Connor overacts in typical fashion and is an enthralling joy and the film is simply dripping with quality scene after quality scene. From the grand entrance onwards the Invisible Man is a captivating figure of mystery yet is so horrifyingly cruel. A fantastic film and a timeless piece that has spawned many lesser productions, this is enjoyment incarnate.

 

NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD

1968. Directed by George A. Romero

One of those 'What would I do do in that situation' films that sticks in the mind for many a fine hour afterwards. The cold and sinister opening set amidst an eerie graveyard is superbly done and despite an obvious low budget the film goes from strength to strength being solely reliant on atmosphere and tension. The main plot has a group of people trapped in a desolate house surrounded by flesh eating zombies. The characters are finely drawn together and the conflicts that arise are craftily scripted as hero and coward cross paths. Throughout the film you find yourself thinking what you would do and therein lies the beauty of this production as well as its underlying sensation of horror. I find the film gets better with each viewing and appreciation of the end product grows. An under-rated cracker that set a precedent for a deluge of similar films. Oh and - 'they're coming to get you Barbara...'.

 

THE RAVEN

1935. Directed by Lew Landers

For me - the greatest horror movie of all time. For atmosphere, story-line and all round fun this Universal diamond encapsulates a fantastic and adorable era for this genre that brings with it so much innocence and unique charm. Karloff (Bateman) and Lugosi (Dr Vollin) are on tip-top form making this a delightful treat from start to finish. Lugosi is a renowned surgeon and manic Poe fanatic who falls in love with a crippled and brain damaged dancer whom he restores to full health and envisions as his 'Lenore'. With the unwilling aid of Karloff (a man on the run and whom has been disfigured by Lugosi) the plan is set to kidnap the said dancer and kill off her fiance' and disputing father. The way in which Lugosi plans this is inspirational as below his wealthy home he has constructed a Poe-esque dungeon filled with murderous instruments of torture and death. In spasms of victory after capturing the said trio Lugosi hysterically raves ' Poe - you are avenged' and the ensuing manic laughter is a memorable high. The finale has the twist one expects and rounds off 61 minutes of untainted pleasure. The cream of horror and a fine example of wonderful generation of thrills.

 

AND NOW THE SCREAMING STARTS

1973. Directed by Roy Ward Baker

Set in 1795 Catherine (Stephanie Beecham) is about to marry Charles Fengriffen (Ian Ogilvy) Grandson of Henry Fengriffen (Herbert Lom) when she sees a series of apparitions. On her wedding night she is raped by a ghost and becomes pregnant. The reasons behind all this unravel with a haunting legacy from Henry's evil doings coming to the fore. Severed hands, eyeless spectres and a brutal and unsettling rape scene all add to the films chill factor and with a good cast it can be regarded as a minor great. Herbert Lom is particularly abhorrent in an arrogant, all domineering role that really moves the film up a few gears. Peter Cushing has a subdued role but adds a nice touch of familiarity and conviction. Definitely worth a try.

 

FRANKENSTEIN

1931. Directed by James Whale

Whales finest moment and from its opening warning to the blazing climax one can't help but admire this masterpiece in all its gothic glory. Karloff is quite simply superb as the mute monster and brings a certain pathos that is second to none and with Colin Clive in full theatrical mode as the Baron you have a recipe for unadulterated success. The shadows, the bold showy sets and the dark, subtle humour are all Whale signatures and give a flavour one can savour. The first appearance of the monster is cinematic history with the stop/start camera zoom a magical stroke. The showdown in the windmill has a moment where creator and created meet eye to eye through a turning cog and this is a brilliant example of attention to detail and the directors skill at creating a scene. The storyline should now be obvious and for me is a landmark in the annals of the twentieth century. No horror enthusiast should be without a copy - its as simple as that!

   

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