CATACOMB OF TERROR
 

ASYLUM

1972. Directed by Roy Ward Baker

Yet another compendium from Amicus that is an excellent watch from start to finish. The story is about a young psychiatrist (Robert Powell) who applies for a job at a mental asylum. He is given four cases to study one of which is apparently a Dr B Starr the previous asylum director whom Powell has to find. The first tale is of unfaithfulness and murder that really has a funny yet macabre voodoo twist. The second installment concerns us with tailoring and astrology in which Peter Cushing makes a small appearance and adds his usual gusto and zeal with expected readiness. Thirdly we have a tale of schizophrenia in which Charlotte Rampling visualises Britt Ekland as a friend who carries out her darker actions. It is the weakest tale of the quartet but still makes good viewing. The final yarn stars Herbert Lom who controls his own-made manikins to carry out a sinister revenge. Its a grisly end and finalises 4 stories of the highest order. The final twist is still delightful after all these years and all in all this is Amicus magic at its humourous and horrific best.

Again we have a fantastic windfall of household names and familiar faces all contributing to another deluge of twisted horror. The opening film score is a real treat and sets up the ensuing visual just perfectly.

 

TALES FROM THE DARKSIDE

1990. Directed by John Harrison

A child relates a trilogy of tales so as to avoid consumption by a witch. Basically 3 tales in one wraparound story which all have a sinister twist. Tale one concerns the re-awakening of a mummy to reek revenge in which several grisly murders are carried out. A bit stale and too reliant on gore this is a weak opener but the second installment picks up the pace with an evil cat the main character and its curse over a bent pharmaceutical retailer and his family. There is one choice moment in which the cat kills a hired assassin that really turns the stomach. A typical video nasty moment which this film is definitely not. The final tale is a love story that uses a gargoyle, a never-to-be-told secret and a helping of blood and guts to help finish all 3 tales with a flourish. The wraparound ends in a great way albeit slightly dated and concludes a film that isn't a classic but which has some choice cuts and a good cast.

 

INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS

1956. Directed by Don Siegel

A local doctor (Kevin McCarthy) comes to realise that all is not well in his small town as people are being replaced by alien duplicates. To avoid duplication the doctor and his love interest (Dana Wynter) must stay awake and try their best to avoid the alien/authorities and make for the freeway. The tension throughout the film builds slowly from the initial reportings of people not being themselves to the final chase, its a timebomb of tension. The story still remains as the quintessential 'space invasion' yarn and holds up with anything from the sci-fi/horror cross-over genre.

All characters are played well with McCarthy ranging from the smooth sophisticate to the unstable man-on-the-run and being a great leading man.

The lack of graphic violence and monster titbits only highlight the strength of this film in its abilty to disturb and provoke thought. It is a well written piece of film that spans the years well making it worthy of the aficionados attention.

 

THEATRE OF BLOOD

1973. Directed by Douglas Hickox

A plethora of household faces star in this beautiful tale of revenge as thespian Edward Lionheart (Vincent Price) carries out various Shakespearian murders on a group of critics who denied him recognition for his achievements. Price is just outstanding in this role and really hams it up in fine style as he plays a host of theatrical characters with unhinged expertise. This really is a joy to watch and the subtle blend of horror and black humour is excellently done in a film that shines from an era of other classic efforts.

This film is a baroque masterpiece that besides anything else is just a damn good romp that is essential viewing throughout. The murder scenes are both gory and amusing which sets them apart from scenes in films of a lesser standard. Definitely an all time favourite and highly recommended to all Price fans who can watch a genuinely great horror actor at his very best.

 

HOUSE OF WAX

1953. Directed by André De Toth

A 3D extravaganza here starring Vincent Price as an artistic sculptor of waxworks (Prof. Henry Jarrod) whom, after a fire that results in the loss of all his figures and his own severe disfigurement, sets about re-building his own museum by using murdered/morgue victims covered in wax.

Price is once again the unhinged perpetrator of ghastly goings with a good supporting cast in tow. The sets are lavish and highlighted in lurid Warnercolor and the story is adequate. Price steals the show and puts up another convincing performance as a passionate artiste corrupted by circumstance.

A jolly good film this with the 3D effects somewhat overstated and adding a novelty value that is now dated but still fun. Charles Bronson plays a wooden bit part that is worth watching too.

 

THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN

1935. Directed by James Whale

At moments like this words fail me. To view such an admirable work of such morbid and yet humourous skill is a total joy. This is without doubt the pinnacle of the director Whale's career and the leading star Boris Karloff shines as he plays the monster with such heart wrenching emotion it is almost unwatchable in that it is so good. The main story concerns Ernest Thesiger (Dr Pretorious) who is the ultimate in camp insanity, as he persuades, by unfair means, Frankenstein (Colin Clive) to build a bride for his born again monster. The interaction between characters is a delight as is the deluge of quirky individuals we come across along the way. Una o'Connor is notable and once again plays an over-the-top busy body with ridiculous ease.

This epic is abundant in unforgettable moments and is quite simply enthralling. A drunken Thesiger sitting alone in a crypt laughing manically is unsettling, the monsters encounter with the blind man is a selected high from cinema history and Thesiger's showcase of his creations is quite bizarre. The whole film is genuine class and is the greatest sequel ever made. The cast is a gallery of household horror stars with Dwight Frye (Karl) and Elsa Lanchester (Mary Shelly/The Bride) adding weight to a cracking list.

If you love horror then you should have already seen this and admired its beauty, if not do so at once. For anyone else it is essential viewing because we have here one of the greatest films of all time.

 

HALLOWEEN

1978. Dir by John Carpenter

The build up throughout this film has been mimicked over and over again by lesser efforts that fail to hit the mark.  This in itself tells you we are dealing with a classic here.  This is the ‘Slash ‘n’ Stalk’ era at its very best with all the now obvious clichés being used to perfection and the teenage victims being murdered in various repugnant ways.
Our murdering machine here is Michael Myers (Tony Moran) who after killing his sister on Halloween in the quiet American town of Haddonfield, is imprisoned in a secure mental institute for 15 years under the scrutinous eye of Dr Loomis (Donald Pleasance).  Years later Micheal escapes and returns to Haddonfield on the 31st October hellbent on death and destruction with Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) his main target.  With Loomis in pursuit and Strode on the run we have a well paced film that is compelling viewing.

The soundtrack is inspired and really enhances the atmosphere to an edge-of-the-seat high that never really lets up.  This is the pick from a genre of films that was a teenage generation in itself.  Myers is particularly sinister and carries an air of menace unequalled by lesser cinematic murderers.

 

HALLOWEEN 2

1981. Dir by Rick Rosenthal

The sequel to Halloween  with Myers again on the rampage leaving a trail of death in his wake.  The plot is diluted and Jamie Lee Curtis barely utters any word of relevance as her script is stripped to a few whimpers and the odd cry for help.  This smacks of a low budget and lacks any real firepower that its predecessor had.  It’s still not a bad film but already the storyline is predictable and laboured with the odd nasty killing scene barely saving the day.

A few revelations come to light as to Myers’ obsession with Curtis but its no big deal to shock the viewer.  Fans of this style of movie will like it no doubt and the general horror buff will find the prime cuts but for the neutral it will make easy viewing with no real highs.

 

PIT AND THE PENDULUM

1961. Dir by Roger Corman

Nicholas Medina's (Vincent Price) wife, Elizabeth (Barbara Steele), has died and her brother, Francis Barnard (John Kerr) turns up at the family castle demanding to know the cause. Investigations are made and it comes to light that Elizabeth may have been buried alive. The plot thickens with tales of adultery and torture heightening the drama and tension amid the elaborate Corman settings that are evocative of a moody eeriness second to none. The colour is glossy and lurid and this Poe tale is carried out in fine moribund style.

Price plays the nervous disposition and unsettled demeanour so beautifully and sincerely that his performance alone is worth watching the film for. A nice twist at the end rounds off a film full of foreboding terror that moves slowly and confidently to the disturbing climax. The Price/Corman pairing is equal to any within this genre and here we see it at its best.

 

JAWS

1975. Directed by Steven Spielberg

A horror film that reaches the upper echelons of terror with directorial brilliance with an atmospheric beauty unparalleled in kind throughout the film age.  The characters and the way they interact is both credible and contrasting and holds the viewers attention entirely with the realistic moments of horror perfectly positioned to maintain a thoughtful cutting edge.  The plot involves a giant great white shark and its terrorisation of holiday island Amity resulting in its pursuit by the islands chief of police Brody (Roy Schneider), aquatic expert Matt Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss) and Quint (Robert Shaw) the unstable fisherman.

There are many great moments in this film with and without the shark and some scenes are etched on the mind forever. The whole film oozes a classy touch and the chase and survival aspects add greatly to its appeal. In fact there are so many facets to this presentation to make it a truly remarkable achievement. The musical score is perfection and adds to the almost unbearable tension. Spielberg is a master at work and here he reaches another zenith. Unmissable.

   

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