CATACOMB OF TERROR
 

DR TERROR'S HOUSE OF HORRORS

1965. Directed by Freddie Francis

Aboard an atmospheric steam train are 5 strangers who are joined by a Dr Sandor Schrek (Peter Cushing) who sets about telling their futures with his tarot cards. The tales are fantastic and each has its own expected yet delightful twist that lovers of this style will just adore. The cast is superb with the five strangers including none other than Christopher Lee, Roy Castle and Donald Sutherland. Alan Freeman and Neil MacCallum make up the doomed party. The tales are weird and horrific with killer vines, voodoo, revenge, a creeping hand, vampirism and lycanthropy being the main themes. Each tale has its own identity and is a gem in itself with the Lee art critic romp a real classic and the killer plant a joyous piece of tongue-in-cheek terror. There is a final twist to the film as a whole which only firmly establishes it as a none stop enjoyment fest filled with classy touches and passionate performances. This is one of the best compendiums around and every worthwhile horror collection should have its copy. Another winner from Amicus.

 

THE BLACK CAT

1934. Directed by Edgar G. Ulmer

Kings of Universal horror Lugosi and Karloff do battle here against a backdrop of unique modernistic settings that remain sinister enough to maintain a tense edge. Lugosi is the tragic good guy (Dr Vitus Verdegast) and plays his role in typical menacing fashion with Karloff opposite (Hjalmar Poelzig) as the devil worshipping bad guy. The plot is intriguing with the main thread concerning Verdegasts vengeance against Poelzig for his imprisonment during the war. The hatred is venomous and played out superbly with Karloff being the almost indifferent recipient. Lugosi has a fear of cats hence the title but fans of Poe had better watch out as this has no resemblance to the timeless yarn whatsoever.

Inklings of satanism, necrophilia and sadism abound and add a spicy flavour to an already tantalising brew of terror. A classic of its time that deserves admiration and acknowledgement for its differing style and talented delivery.

 

THE TIME MACHINE

1960. Directed by George Pal

A childhood delight here where the imagination can run riot whilst absorbing a truly mesmerising production. The HG wells classic has been done proud as the time-travelling poser is solved and presented in glorious style. Our hero, a Victorian Englishman by the name of George (Rod Taylor) invents a time travelling device whereupon after a miniature demonstration to several friends he heads into the future. The time lapse sequences are excellent and although lack the modern day polished edge add to the films quaintness and innocence. Eventually George ends up 800,000 years into the future where the broken society is split into 2 divisions - the subservient Eloi and the subterranean dwelling masters the Morlocks. Whilst learning of the Morlocks cannabilistic dominance and the Eloi's blind acceptance of their fate George meets and falls in love with an Eloi girl named Weena (Yvette Mimieux). In his quest to address the social wrongs the adventure unfolds and reaches a great climax with the abhorrent Morlocks on full show. There are several theme's dealt with throughout this film which are subtly included and the effects are just a joy. Taylor is in full commanding bouyancy and really fits the bill as a dedicated and moralistic scientist/inventor/hero. A timeless classic that can be watched over and over again by both young and old with spellbinding pleasure and a standard bearer for many other films of this ilk.

 

THE REPTILE

1966. Directed by John Gilling

Charles Spalding (Dave Baron) dies mysteriously and his brother Harry (Ray Barrett) and wife Valerie (Jennifer Daniel) come to Cornwall to find the truth whilst living in their newly inherited cottage. A frosty shoulder from the locals awaits but bartender Tom Bailey (Michael Ripper) lends a helping hand. Sinister neighbour Dr Franklyn (Noel Willman) and his oppressed daughter Anna (Jacqueline Pearce) arouse suspicion and the story then unfolds. With Ripper having a meaty role for once, which he fills admirably, and a great cameo from John Lawrie as the eccentric harbinger of doom, Mad Peter, the film is a real treat and has some really tense moments. The first glimpse of the Reptile is done in true teasing horror fashion and images of scaly, lurid green skin and blazing red bulbous eyes filled with venomous passion are etched into the conscious. Despite the odd consistency flaw regarding the venoms toxic effects on various victims this is a truly great offering from Hammer and a solid example of why we love the studio and its brilliant productions.

 

 

COUNTESS DRACULA

1971. Directed by Peter Sasdy

Based on the real life shenanigans of Countess Elizabeth Bathory, Ingrid Pitt stars in the leading role as the aging Countess Elisabeth Nodosheen who discovers that bathing in the blood of virgins can regain her youthful looks and therefore attain the attention of her newly desired love Lt. Imre Toth (Sandor Elès), by posing as her kidnapped daughter. Toth doesn’t realise that mother and daughter are one and the same and herein the main story lies with many unexpected touches and moments of terror.  The plot is intricate enough to hold attention with Pitt’s performance as the tyrannical murderess played with a nasty conviction that really makes you believe that the said actress is actually revelling in the role.  This is a brutal film that highlights the disregard of the upper classes for the lower with many examples of indifference and malice.  Another innovative and well crafted film from Hammer that saves, for me, the most chilling shot until the very, very last where we see a lost Countess peering despondently through the bars of a cell out into the street where the hangman awaits.  A truly fine ending to a very good film.

 

DAWN OF THE DEAD

2004. Directed by Zack Snyder

Having a preference for old style horror rather than the modern day stuff that rather more relies on blood, guts and cheap titivation I watched this zombie fest with a certain amount of trepidation and an empty stomach. Little did I know what glorious treat I was in for. Basically we have a typical zombie formula in which several members of the community are trapped together in a shopping mall after a mysterious plague has turned the dead into ravenous flesh eating automatons. All the cliches are there but this doesn't detract from a well crafted story of survival and human instinct. An abundance of excellent touches are added that enhance an already quality production. The communication with the guy on the rooftop including a memorable chess game adds a classy well-considered edge. After running out of supplies the group make a plan for an escape and therein the rest of the story lies. Tense throughout with some strong opposing characters this transcends the run-of-the-mill gut-fest and turns into a great watch. A polished product indeed.

 

THE DEVIL RIDES OUT

1968. Directed by Terence Fisher

Some superb black magic hokum here with a Dennis Wheatley classic done proud justice by the Hammer team. The Duc de Richeleau (Christopher Lee) discovers that his young charge Simon Aron (Patrick Mower) has become involved with a group of devil worshippers led by the wonderfully unsettling Mocata (Charles Gray). The Duc is well versed in the black arts and along with his friend Rex (Leon Greene) set about saving the young victim and destroying the evil group. The film is drenched is classic moments and incessant high tension that make this an obvious classic. The scene where Lee and friends are protected within an holy circle and Mocata does his utmost to make them leave by using various hallucinogenic tricks is a mouth-watering treat for the horror buff of the highest order. The Devils appearance ready for Simon's baptism is still chilling and the car chase scene is excellently delivered. Truly a high in Hammers prestigious history and one on which Lee shines as the do-gooder. An essential addition to any collection.

 

THE BEAST MUST DIE

1974. Directed by Paul Annett

A whodunnit here with a plethora of stars all hamming it up to keep up the tension and mystery.

Millionaire hunter Tom Newcliffe (Calvin Lockhart) gathers a group of guests at his luxury home, the reason being that one of them is a werewolf and Newcliffe plans to find out which one and then hunt and kill it. Peter Cushing, Michael Gambon and Charles Gray add weight to the film with average casting but in general the final presentation lacks enough bite to make an impact with the audience. The 1 minute thinking time in which you have to guess who is the werewolf is gimmicky and reminiscent of a William Castle stunt with a less than tongue-in-cheek approach which makes it all the more ridiculous. The entire production looks dated with bad clothes and hair-dos aplenty. The soundtrack is dross and detached from the films theme to such an extent as to be pointless. Of course Cushing gives a performance filled with belief and zeal and in truth the other cast members do their bit to save the sinking ship and there are some choice moments but overall, this is not a classic. Worth a viewing anyway.

 

THE FIEND

1971. Directed by Robert Hartford-Davies

A cheap British movie that has the odd moment of suspense but overall fails to hit any nerve whatsoever.  The insane religious overtones and clammy oppressive atmosphere scream out for the subtle touch but despite its promise the end result never materialises and we are left with a third rate movie that tries to rely on a few topless glimpses and under-cooked murder scenes as its salvation.

The main plot involves an over-bearing religious mother (Ann Todd) and her crazed son (Tony Beckley) who carries the families religious fervour and his own sexual inadequacies to a new level that results in murder.

Patrick Magee is the unhinged man of the cloth and leader of the cult known as The Brethren in which Todd and Beckley are ensnared. Magee is a solitary high in a lowly cast and this film has very little to recommend it.  

 

THE SHE CREATURE

1956. Directed by Edward L. Cahn

Dr. Carlo Lombardi (Chester Morris) is a manic, love struck hypnotist who sends his idolised assistant Andrea Talbott (Marla English) back in time into her primitive descendant, The She-Creature. The plot is laboured and barely gets beyond 3rd gear as too much time is spent on dialogue and hypnosis scenes. The are some quite useful atmospheric locations and the potential is there only too be wasted on a cast that seems at a loss as how to fill time. The creature is a typical 50's cheapo construction and makes far too few appearances for my liking.

The Arkoff team have produced better and worse than this and for the collector this I presume will be avid viewing. For the horror nut in general it will do well to get any favourable reviews.

   

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