1925. Directed by Rupert Julian
Based on the Gaston Leroux short novel this story has been done over and over again but for me this still remains the best version to date.  Sinister, gothic and beautifully orchestrated the whole films bleeds character.
Erik (Lon Chaney) is the terror of the Paris Opera House who causes havoc so as to attain the love and attention of rising star Christine Daae (Mary Philbin).  Christine's lover Raoul (Norman Kerry) suspects shifty goings on and after eavesdropping on Christine talking to her guiding spirit (The Phantom) and hearing the words 'Soon, Christine, this spirit will take form and will demand your love!' he soon gets caught up in a great adventure..
Murder and blackmail is the order of the day with Chaney playing the Phantom with utter excellence.  Excellent imagery is had throughout such Chaney's appearance at the Bal Masque Ball which is undoubtedly a piece of timeless, majestic horror.  The underground catacombs are perfectly shot with an eerie atmosphere almost tangible and the umasking of The phantom a moment never to be forgotten.
A classic to say the least and after all this time still a thoroughly captivating film.


. Directed by Arthur Lubin
Violinist at the Paris Opera House, Erique Claudin (Claude Raines) is desperately in love with singer Christine Dubois (Susanna Foster), so much so that he secretly pays for her to have singing lessons to enhance her career thus leaving himself to live a miserly life and build up rental debts.   After losing his place in the orchestra Claudin is keen to make monies so as to maintain Dubois' training and therefore composes a concerto he wishes to sell.  A disagreement is had with a dubious music publisher whereupon Claudin commits murder and then gets a face full of acid for his troubles.  He flees to the undergrounds of the Opera House taking on the guise of the Phantom whereupon he starts a reign of terror to try and get his adored one to the top of the billing.  In pursuit are two of Christine’s squabbling suitors, namely lead man Antole Garron (Nelson Eddy) and policeman Raoul d'Aubert (Edgar Barrier).
This film has many pleasing aspects with the lavish Technicolor making for a splendid spectacle.  Raines plays the Phantom with tragic excellence and the comedic behaviour between Garron and D'Aubert is perfectly in tune with the whole picture.  The first watch of this film doesn't really give a true insight into what a solid effort it is and the more and more one views this one the better it becomes.



1959. Directed by Terence Fisher

Another film from the Hammer Studios and one I find not as good as what I expected.  A couple of flashback scenes seem an excuse to pad the film out and for me there just isn't enough 'mummy' action.
The tale involves the uncovering of Princess Anankas' tomb in the late 1890's whereupon her mummified ex-lover Kharis (Christopher Lee), who has been entombed with her for acts of blasphemy, comes to life after group leader Stephen Banning (Felix Aylmer) reads out loud the Scroll of Life.  Stephen has already been warned about the consequences of entering the tomb by local zealot Mehemet Bay (George Pastell) and so the ensuing catatonic state he falls into after seeing the living mummy is only to be expected.
3 years later in England Stephen is found in a local mental hospital where he calls for his son John (Peter Cushing) and warns him that Kharis is alive and out to punish all those who desecrated the tomb of his beloved Princess.  John who was on the original expedition but couldn't enter the tomb due to a broken leg takes heed and prepares himself for some Hammer style action.
There are some good points to recommend this film such as Cushing’s and Pastell's performances, the general colourful presentation and the imposing presence of Lee as the bringer of death.  However, the story is too predictable and the lack of atmosphere disappointing.  Not a total turkey but just not living up to the studios more impressive productions.  The weakest of the three major monster movies with Dracula and The Curse of Frankenstein being more impressive efforts.



1979. Directed by Ridley Scott

Mining ship The Nostromo is taken off course to investigate a mysterious SOS call from the dark recesses of space, whereupon the 7 crew members are placed in severe danger after member Kane (John Hurt) is attacked by a small alien parasite that attaches itself to his face.  Despite Warrant Officer Ripley’s (Sigourney Weaver) concerns Kane is let back on board by Science Office Ash (Ian Holm) thus jeopardising the entire crews safety.
Kane appears to make a full recovery after the parasitic creature detaches itself and dies.  A celebration meal is taken whereupon Kane has a little more than he can stomach and subsequently dies after a new critter bursts from his abdomen.  The alien flees and the crew are in hot pursuit.  With acidic blood and a 'seek and destroy' mentality the alien will be no push over and the action is non-stop from here on in.
A stunning atmosphere of claustrophobia, fear and impending threat along with some great 'never to be forgotten' HR Giger-influenced visuals make this a total classic up there with the best Sci-Fi films of all time.  The acting is perfectly executed with all characters are nicely slotted in to the film and contribute to the status of the film no end. 
A treat for all with several follow-ons that only enhance this original offering.



1956. Directed by Fred F. Sears

Dr Russell Marvin (Hugh Marlowe) is sending a series of exploration rockets into space, as part of Operation Sky Hook, which are mysteriously blowing up after a short while in orbit. Whilst on his way to HQ with his wife Carol (Joan Taylor) to send the 11th rocket up into the heavens their car is approached by a flying saucer whereupon a message is accidentally taped by the couple. Shortly afterwards a saucer lands at the military base which results in an alien killed, several human fatalities and the abduction of Carols father Brigadier General John Hanley (Morris Ankrum). After the invasion Dr Marvin and his wife are trapped underground in the base and by chance decode the message previously recorded. It seems the aliens want to set up a meeting with the world’s major leaders and inform them that they are going to invade the planet earth. Tension builds and Dr Marvin develops an anti-magnetic device and becomes the last hope to save the unknowing human race.

Not a bad romp this one with once again Ray Harry Hausen coming up trumps with some fine effects to admire. I suppose now the film is heavily clichéd but take it for what it is and just enjoy.



1985. Directed by Stuart Gordon

I first watched this picture about 20 years ago and thought it was a mad, mad film. All these years later I picked up a copy for a real cheap price and indulged once more. Wow - talk about a cinematic asylum! A total horror comedic classic with hammed up performances that are way over the top but a delight to behold.

Herbert West (Jeffrey Combs) is an unhinged scientist who has recently cracked the art of bringing dead tissue back to life. After enrolling at the Miskatonic University he moves in with fellow student Dan Cain (Bruce Abbot) much to the disgruntlement of his fiancée Megan Halsey (Barbara Crampton). Soon a series of bizarre experiments lead the two students into a whole heap of trouble with gore and humour the order of the day. One character to mention also is the insanely creepy Dr Carl Hill (David Gale) who is in opposition to West and really loses his head about the whole reanimation process.

A choice film and with a follow-up equally as entertaining. Based on a HP Lovecraft tale this one avoids the author’s art of suggestion and just bares all without any subtlety at all - great.



1972. Directed by Roy Ward Baker

Kung fu capers and vampire bites combine and make for a tale of madness that does get better after a couple of viewings.  This is a unique film and I reckon despite the ridiculous slant on the film Peter Cushing had a whale of a time making this.
We begin with Count Dracula (John Forbes-Robertson) disguised as a Chinese warlord making his way to assist six vampires regain power after losing one of their members.  Dr Van Helsing (Peter Cushing) is also in the area doing a series of lectures and is persuaded by a martial art family to fight the vampiric curse that has plagued their village every year at the time of the 7th moon.  You can guess the rest but expect to see a lot of action that at first seems out of place but eventually makes for a fair spectacle.
I really shouldn't recommend this but it is a jolly jaunt and hey it  has Mr Cushing in full swing.  The action is incessant and a bit of blood and guts are thrown in to tickle the fans of gore.  Go on have a toot at this and witness a film that really does have its own character.


1960. Directed by Roger Corman
A cracking watch seeped with atmosphere and some darn convincing acting.  The tortured mind of the accursed wretch Roderick Usher (Vincent Price) is portrayed just wonderfully and really gets beneath the onlookers skin and adds a sense of utter discomfort.
The story involves Philip Winthrop (Mark Damon) arriving at the Usher Mansion to meet up, and take away to marry, his adored Madeline Usher (Myrna Fahey).  He is initially greeted by Bristol the butler (Harry Ellerbe) who asks him to remove his shoes (strange indeed).  Immediately a feeling of unease is created and as soon as Roderick Usher enters the plot we are thrown into a maelstrom of misery and damnation.  We are told a tale of a family cursed with insanity and premature death and as the story unfolds a grim reality comes to pass.
With a baroque and sinister backdrop the 4 sole characters thrive in a film on a low budget but which meets all the criteria regarding atmospheric horror.  One of Prices' best performances and a film to relish.  Poe I am sure would have been proud of this effort and it is a fine accomplishment for the director.



1972. Directed by Douglas Turnbull

Obviously a sci-fi movie but for me the horror lies in the fact that the earth is a desolate wasteland of greenery and animals. At a consistent 75 degrees the forests and creatures therein are saved by pods sent into space which can hopefully return when the home planet cools and allows for the species to survive. Humanity is trapped within a processed life and it seems the only one capable of saving the natural world is our hero Freeman Lowell (Bruce Dern).

Lowell is part of a 4 man team who are deep in space in charge of the pods when suddenly they are told to blow the pods up and return home. 3 members are happy but Lowell is distraught and goes to drastic extremes to rescue at least one of the enclosed forests.

A film with an apt soundtrack, some cute robots and a thoroughly memorable performance by Dern who gives a fine portrayal of belief and utter zeal. I have a soft spot for this film which perhaps may be down to the fact that it is a minor classic with a definitive ecological message that is a bitter sweet tale to savour.



1960. Directed by Edward G. Ulmer

Cheap, flawed and with few effects this B-movie romp is still highly watchable and the short running time is perfect as anything longer would start to become tedious. Titles like this fascinate me and I am sure will do so with many others so with eager eyes did I feast upon this low budget effort.

Ex-Major and current crackpot Paul Krenner (James Griffith) springs from jail the renowned safecracker Joey Faust (Douglas Kennedy) with the plan of turning him invisible so as to carry out more robberies and line the pockets of all involved. Under Krenners guidance are a small party of people who are being tricked/blackmailed in one way or another thus submitting to Krenner's every whim. One of these is scientist Dr Peter Ulof (Ivan Triesault), a man who has invented an invisibility ray and whose daughter is imprisoned by Krenner. Although the ray is not fully tested Faust has no choice but to go under and carry out certain misdemeanours. However, Krenner’s woman Laura Matson (Marguerite Chapman) is soon charmed by Faust and plans are afoot for a double cross.

OK I agree, films like this can be regarded as throwaway trash and become overly criticised as a result. Personally if you love this kind of simple cinema then go for it and just enjoy it for what it is. These films were never meant to break barriers or carry some high intellectual message - they are just bog standard escapism where all the viewer has to do is switch off and appreciate. I suggest you do so!


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