1977. Directed by John 'Bud' Cardos

A tame horror film with a script that goes through the motions and sees its main star bumble by with a quite lame script.  The few scares and 'Jaws-esque' mimicry offer slight salvation to an effort not delivering the big punch.

Way down in ye olde Arizona we are introduced to Dr Robert 'Rack' Hansen (William Shatner), a local vet in Verde Valley.  Resident Walter Colby (Woody Strode) contacts the doctor due to his calf being sick.  The calf dies, Hansen is clueless and sends samples of the calf's blood to a university lab.  Enter Diane Ashley (Tiffany Bolling), an arachnologist for the lab, who informs Hansen the calf was killed by spider venom.  From here more deaths ensue, a dog, a few people and then a Spider Hill is discovered by Colby.  A theory arises that the spiders are attacking and eating anything they can in order to survive as pesticides have eradicated their natural food supply.  The race now begins to destroy the plague of eight legged beasts although the local mayor is keen to interfere so as to save his local county fair.  Eventually a few survivors are trapped in a lodge and the fight is on - the question is who will survive and how will the creepy-crawly invasion be stopped.

This film has its moments but they are too few and far between to drag matters above average.  Shatner tries his best, the special effects are decent enough and the ending is neatly done but... the nuances and touches to create a classic are missing and we are left a trifle deflated come the final shock. 



1957. Directed by Nathan H. Juran   

A decent 'big bug' film with a storyline like that of many similar flicks, the scientist, hero and love lady all thrown in plus a few scientific exchanges to try and give the film a touch of reality and depth - it fails, as this movie is just one slab of delightful hokum.

After a volcano erupts in the south seas, ice bergs move in the North Pole and a frozen Giant Praying Mantis is brought back to life. Col. Joe Parkman (Craig Stevens) is soon in the mix, exploring a military station that fails to respond to any contact.  After a plane is attacked and a large hook-like object is found Parkman decides to call in Professor Anton Gunther (Florenz Ames), to examine the object.  Gunther recommends calling in Dr. Nedrick Jackson (William Hopper), a palaeontologist at the Museum of Natural History, who turns up with museum magazine editor Marge Blaine (Alix Talton).  It isn't long before Jackson susses out what is going on, we get a glimpse of the destructive beast and Blaine and Parkman fall for each other.  The film picks up pace, some effects of the Mantis are spot on but when in flight things leave a lot to be desired.  A high-flying chase, a final confrontation and a closing kiss makes for pure cornball going's-on but who cares, this is sci-fi escapism done in a typical 50's style, warts and all.

With films of this ilk, you get what you get.  Cheap plastic monsters, a typical storyline and a few token gesture characters added.  This is a good fun and one in an almost bottomless pit of creature features to indulge in - forget anything profound or ground-breaking, just disappear into a world of make-believe. 



1958. Directed by Paul Landres

An overlooked film featuring the infamous Count, this time done in a slow, simmering style and with the use of colour only thrown in for one brief moment of horror.

After fleeing from the clutches of Investigator John Meierman (John Wengraf) Count Dracula (Francis Lederer) boards a train, kills Czech artist Bellac Gordal and ends up with the dead man's family in the United States.  Here Bellac's widowed cousin Cora (Greta Granstedt) and her children Mickey (Jimmy Baird) and teenager Rachel (Norma Eberhart) all welcome the Count with open arms with Rachel slightly smitten by the swarthy and sophisticated European. The bloodsucker's behaviour is noted as rather odd, Mickey's pet cat is found mutilated in a nearby mineshaft (where Dracula keeps his coffin) and Rachels best friend Jennie (Virginia Vincent), mysteriously dies after a short illness. As the story unfolds Dracula takes a liking to Rachel, Meierman gets closer to catching his prey and the recently dead Jennie is seen to be still roaming in the night and is duly disposed of. Of course our lead deviant is destined to meet his downfall, how this comes about is all rather tame and leaves the viewer... dissatisfied.

A middling movie with one or two nice touches and some solid acting but with a lead vampire lacking in mystery, depth and terror-instilling impact. I would invest more time in this one, it is however a very sedate flick lacking in any spine-tingling chills, sometimes though this can be a good thing. 



1958. Directed by Bert I. Gordon

With a title that gets the jowls salivating I was expecting a great deal from this film with a story of overcoming the odds and defying the deviancy of a crazed scientist.  I ended up being palmed off with a flimsy tale, bad special effects and some astoundingly bad acting - I was not a happy man.

Mr Franz (John Hoyt) is a dollmaker who has a suspicious collection of lifelike dolls in glass containers as well as many regular creations.  Sally Reynolds (June Kenney) responds to a job advertisement and becomes Mr Franz' secretary and soon discovers a man far from mentally stable.  A traveling salesman known as Bob Wesley (John Agar) arrives on the scene and ends up wheedling his way into the life of Sally and becoming her beau.  A marriage proposal follows, Sally accepts and plans to leave her workplace but Mr Franz will not allow it and with some fantastical gizmo ends up shrinking down to size both Sally and Bob. The two miniaturised stars are added to the madman’s collection and are occasionally allowed free from their state of suspended animation to have some fun.  Of course, a plan of escape is soon borne and the small band of shrunken people set about getting back to normal size.  Many (not so) special effects are thrown in to the mix, the dialogue at times becomes cringe worthy and the finale is tame, somewhat rushed and in keeping with a film that lacks any real conviction.  

I watched this sci-fi snippet laden with hope, I was utterly deflated come the flimsy closure and felt that a golden opportunity to make a quirky classic had been lost.  During the flick I noted The Amazing Colossal Man was playing on the screen of a drive-thru cinema - now there's a film to enjoy.



1953. Directed by Felix E. Feist

A mad scientist, a living brain, a decent cohesion between all characters and a subtle hint of film noir and what we have here is a very solid film based upon the 1942 novel by Curt Siodmak, the man who wrote the screenplays for The Wolf Man, I Walked With A Zombie and The Beast With Five Fingers amongst others.  High pedigree stuff for sure.

The film follows the quest of Dr Patrick Corey (Lew Ayres) and his attempts to keep a monkey's brain alive after it has been removed.  When the private plane of brutal businessman Warren Donavon crashes nearby and Cory finds himself with a dead body on his hands the chance to try and keep a human brain alive is jumped at.  Eventually, of course, things go awry with the initial communications between man and brain leading to a situation where the throbbing organ takes charge and Cary is a mere zombie living out a mocking lifestyle of the former high-flyer.  Cory's partners Janice (Nancy Reagan) and Frank (Gene Evans) are worried about how things are transpiring and as Cory loses his free will he sets about making great financial gains due to the cunning influence of Donavan. A pesky reporter known as Herbie Yocum (Steve Brodie) soon tries to muscle in on matters and attempts to blackmail the doctor but is duly disposed of with the heat being turned up on the Doc and the end in sight.  The film winds down nicely and nothing too outlandish comes the viewers way - there is no reason to complain.

A more than satisfactory offering this with solid tension had throughout, a good supporting cast and the lead player more than holding his own.  The tale has a strong premise with the age-old dabbling scientist given a good lease of life here.  The camera work only adds to the quality of the film.  



1958. Directed by Edward L. Cahn

A more than adequate film in many respects but with too much blatant mimicry of the classical Universal Mummy pictures.  The dialogue and reasoning at times is outlandish but the monster is decent enough and the feel of the film is appealing to my desires of all things B-rated.

The film revolves around a discovery of a box of jewels and the calcified body of a roman gladiator (Bob Bryant) that are found by a workman during an archaeological dig in Pompeii.  Whilst the body is being transported to the Museo di Napoli the stone carcass comes to life and kills the driver, much to the bemusement of Museum Director Dr Carlo Fiorello (Louis Van Rooten) and Dr Paul Mallon (Richard Anderson).  After Dr Emanuel (Felix Locher) translates some writing on a bronze brooch that has been found in the box we learn that a 2, 000 year old curse is at work and the gladiator, Quintillus Aurelius is reliving the times when Mount Vesuvius erupted. Paul's fiancée Tina Enright (Elaine Edwards) has a series of dreams relating to Quintillus and soon realises the walking terror is coming for her.  A few more deaths, some typical lumbering monster chases and a finale that sees an evening trip to the Cove of the Blind Fisherman and we are done with all areas wrapped up and the lady at the focus of the stone-man's aims unable to remember a thing.

As said, this is a stable film and one blatantly aping more popular offerings.  The story lacks any tangible believability but for a low-budget effort the production values and general aspect works well.  This is one of those that will always be a ‘support’ film but it does have its own merits and is worth seeking out.



1942. Directed by Jacques Tourneur

Marine engineer Oliver Reed (Kent Smith) strikes up a relationship with Serbian-Born fashion illustrator Irena Dubrovna (Simone Simon) at Central Park Zoo in New York. Oliver soon learns that Simone believe she is a descendent from a race of Cat People and that if her passion is heightened she will turn into a wild panther.  After getting hitched, Oliver persuade Irena to see a psychiatrist, Dr Louis Judd (Tom Conway), who merely palms off Irena’s thoughts as the result of childhood traumas.  Irena's emotions are soon put to the test when her husband has divulged a few personal matters to his work colleague, and admirer, Alice Moore (Jane Randolph).  The results of the jealousy are several somewhat tense scenes that sees Alice stalked along a dark street and then given the fright of her life in a local swimming pool.  Suggestions are that a wildcat is on the loose, suggestions are also that Irena is as she believes - the viewer is neatly drawn in until the story culminates and leaves us mightily impressed and with many questions only half answered.

Atmospheric, simmering and with some very believable roles played out this is a somewhat sophisticated and involving film.  The fact that the running time is short helps matters and detracts from the rather slow tempo of the film.  This isn't a classic but it is a quite waterproof offering.



1971. Directed by Viktors Ritelis

A real off-the-cuff episode of the bizarre here with a tale involving control, dominance and routine bullying.  The whole escapade is laden with a sinister brutality and a heart-wrenching submission with a tension held throughout and a certain discomfort never far away.  It is one of those films it is a pleasure to not enjoy.

The family at the centre of the movie are led by the cruel and controlling Walter Eastwood (Michael Gough), a man of misogynistic leanings and a man of wealth. Walter's son Rupert (Simon Gough) shares his father's disreputable nuances and at the brunt of it all is the artist’s wife Edith (Yvonne Mitchell) and the downtrodden daughter with lowly but rebellious ambitions Jane (Sharon Gurney).  Edith and Jane get utterly ground down and plan to kill Walter, which they seemingly do when Walter goes on a hunting trip to a remote cottage.  The ladies try and make the death look like an overdose and after positioning the body return home laden with nervous anxiety.  Awaiting the discovery of Walter's body news arrives from the cleaner that Walter is not at the cottage.  Edith and Jane return, Walter's body is not there but found in a crate outside.  The crate is duly taken to an abandoned factory by the horrified women and pushed into a nearby pond.  That seems to be that but Walter pops up again and then the film goes full loop and the two supposed murderesses are back to where they were with the full terror of the situation hammered home.  We are left filled with an unsettling chill and a immovable despondency.

A subdued classic, a real psychological mover that creeps, invades and holds on tight.  There is something 'too real' about this offering, something that perhaps is a glimpse behind 'many closed doors' which leaves one totally on edge. The oppressive and foreboding nature of the whole piece is a genuine lesson of 'discomfort'.



1963. Directed by Roger Corman

Corman and Price team up again in a quite splendid tale combining the essences of Poe and Lovecraft in a tale of mystical meddling and long-term revenge.  Several nameless but familiar faces pop up, the ambience is as one would expect and the quality of acting spot on the mark.

A suspected warlock known as Joseph Curwen is burned at the stake in 1765.  Upon being set ablaze the man under suspicion utters a curse, promising take his revenge on the townsfolk of Arkham, Massachusetts.  110 years later Curwen's great-great-grandson, Charles Dexter Ward (Vincent Price), and his wife Anne (Debra Paget), arrive in Arkham and take up residence in the old warlock’s palace.  They are duly treated with hostility for reasons which are more than obvious.  It isn't long before Charles becomes obsessed with Curwen’s portrait and begins to lead a schizophrenic existence.  It transpires that the disfigured inhabitants of Arkham blame matters on Curwens use of the Necronomicon and his desires to raise elder Gods.  It was planned that the Gods would mate with local women and begin a race of super-people - of course things went awry.  Dexter Ward is soon under the control of Curwen, revenge is exacted and plans to carry on the wicked work are made.  As expected, there is a storming of the palace and the finalising flames are called upon.  A typical ending of a typical offering, but still enjoyable enough.

Price holds centre stage as ever, Lon Chaney JR is a nice addition to the mix and the typical Cormanised values shine through and donate to a quite reliable offering.  The psychological torment of Price is delivered with usual touching panache



1974. Directed by Dan Curtis

Another remake of the Stoker classic, this time a TV Movie with an obvious avoidance of the gratuitous and lacking any big-budget flair. This version was written by the renowned Richard Mattheson but still mostly adheres to the original story.

Solicitor Jonathan Harker (Murray Brown) is visiting Count Dracula (Jack Palance) in "Bistritz, Hungary to try and settle plans for his client to buy a new residence in England. The deal is done but Harker is left by the impatient Count to the mercy of his three fanged brides. Dracula soon arrives in England and has his eyes set on Lucy Westenra (Fiona Lewis) who bears an uncanny resemblance to the counts long dead wife Maria. Abraham Van Helsing (Nigel Davenport) and Arthur Holmwood (Simon Ward) enter the mix and after Lucy is used and abused, Mina Murray (Penelope Horner) becomes the next target for the anguished bloodsucker. The usual route follows with stakes and crucifixes brandished, fangs bared and the caped one finally getting impaled after what seems to be many years of suffering. The film stays sober throughout but has its own subdued feel which in many ways gives it its own identity.

This is a budget offering with nothing outrageous to attract the Dracula fans attention but Palance does look the part, has a certain well-worn and yet sinister look and is backed by a supporting cast who hold their own. This picture falls into the shadows of many better versions but without comparisons made, this would hold its own as a stand-alone feature.


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