Posts Tagged ‘classic horror’

She’s a vampire I Yutte

Decades before Twilight’s vampires walked in the daylight there was Hammer Horror’s vampires. It’s 1830, at a finishing school in Styria, Mircalla arrives as a new student. As the young female students in the school begin to die the villagers suspect the Karnsteins located in their ominous castle are to blame.  A visiting author, Richard Lestrange, instantly falls in Mircalla but she is a vampire – Carmilla Karnstein – who has been resurrected by her vampiric family. 

Lust for a Vampire is a well produced Hammer film that arguably is only led astray by its reused footage of Christopher Lee’s blood shot eyes and “Strange Love,” a 1970’s song which plays over LeStrange and Mircalla’s saucy love scene.
The Jim Carrey look
Amongst the abundance of cleavage and boobs on display there is quiet a tight story, there’s the usual vampire cliches hardly surprising given the source material of Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu’s classic Camilla. Fog, horse-drawn carriages, mysterious cloaked figures and a castle on a hill. Theres some modest effects and interesting scenes, a throat is slit, a resurrected skeleton and a blood covered naked body.

I’m not Christopher Lee
I’m actually a lot cheaper
The school location gives it a fresh look and complements the authenticity of the costumes. Dancing autumn leaves around forests and a powerful score  synonymous with hammer are present. There’s the local Inn and obligatory village mob on a witch hunt.

Dimpled chin lead Yutte Stensgaard (replaces Ingrid Pitt who refused to return as she disliked the script) is on fine form. Nobly for me  is an apperance by Barbara Jeffordd seen more recently Polanski’s Ninth Gate. But the star of the show is the underused co-star (Honor Blackman and Elizabeth Montgomery alike) beautiful Suzanna Leigh as dance teacher Miss Playfair. 

Suzanna Leigh 1945 was a good year 
born in Belgrave, Leicester UK,
There is an array of sub characters from an inspector to a concerned father and headmistress to name a few. Dear John’s (UK TV hit) Ralph Bates plays the quirky but ill-fated character Giles Barton. Cheeky chappy Lestrange is played by Michael Johnson. Interestingly Johnson replaced Peter Cushing (as his wife was ill) but Peter clearly would have been unfittingly for the dashing love interest, as in the finished film. Lestrange’s character has quite an arch unusual for the standard vampire affair.

The adult themes give this an edge  over some Hammer outings even if it is light heartedly hammy in spots.The climax is effective with some nice effects although somewhat a little rushed. Overall, classic Hammer that is sexual charged and ghoulishly gory.
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For me it’s comparable to Al Pacino and Robert DeNiro meeting in Heat as horror stars Vincent Price and Peter Cushing converge in Madhouse. It’s a surreal and momentous moment in horror so I was compelled to share a few thoughts on the occasion.
An ageing horror star comes out of retirement only to find murder follows him everywhere he goes.
There’s nothing better than watching two stars, in this case horror stars grace the same screen. Very loosely based on Angus Hall’s novel Devil day (1969) Madhouse is certainly of time (1974) which is a good thing, making it contemporary of that time and different their older films. After parties, Cine films, film reels, film launches, tributes and the trappings of fame are on show indicative of film world at that time. Madhouse is wonderfully shot, rich in contrast, with excellent set design and locations. It exudes atmosphere in places and is genuinely creepy in spots, still it’s an odd film, almost surreal in places, especially the scenes in the cellar and the body on the boat.
With a striking looking supporting cast both Vincent Price and Peter Cushing are excellent. Even though in their fermenting ages which is a shame, it’s fitting to the story, and you can’t help feel that there’s irony baste over irony in Prices role of Paul Toombes, even maybe a hint of truth in the dialogue of his character. Mild-mannered Cushing as Herbert Flay unfortunately doesn’t get as much screen-time as you’d like. This is certainly Price’s show and he effortlessly captures the viewer with his immense presence and deep tones as much as he did 10 years earlier in The Last Man on Earth (1964).
Although reminiscent in feel of The House on Haunted Hill (1959) and The Satanic Rites of Dracula (1973) it’s my no means a ‘classic’ but there is enough killings, spiders, old horror clips, kooky cops and good performances to keep you watching veteran editor Jim Clark’s (Charade (1963), Memphis Belle (1990)) last and only horror directing contribution.
All in all, Madhouse an intriguing must see for its possible comparable look at how much real life Price was injected into Dr. Death by Ken Levison in his screenplay.

Curse of the Demon / Night of the DemonRichard Gladman presents a classic horror double bill. The man and his team have gone to the trouble not just to show what great films, stories and plots are out there, but to demonstrate that these classic film should be shown, to excite and stimulate. Er, um, and this is why the BBC should show these classics again.

There’s a big difference between watching a classic horror film with an audience to viewing it on TV. The red curtains, a darkened auditorium and an excitment in the air. It’s great that people chose to go out and see a film. They haven’t ordered a VHS or DVD, even a blu-ray, it’s not just for an individual to enjoy. The individual choses the showing, to watch something as a collective and enjoy a cinematic experience.

Possibly though it’s unlikely a person would seek these classics out unless they already have an interest. What was good about horror being shown on terrestrial TV is that you may settle down to watch something accidentally. The BBC exposed viewers to these horrors, broadening horizons indirectly igniting the imagination.

The Ninth Gate [Blu-ray] Nostalgia aside a lot can be experienced and discovered with classic movies, not just horror. Although it’s surprising how much a seed of and idea can create a tree… Watching Night of the Demon (1957) arguably there are so many elements that are reminiscent of Arturo Peres-Reverte paperback ‘Club DumasEl Club Dumas / Club Dumas (Spanish Edition)‘ which inspired, and was source material for Roman Polanski’s ‘The Ninth Gate’… My sibling was so surprised.

I’m partial to a great horror movie, especially because it’s the darker side of us, the unimaginable. The Classic Horror Campaigns aim is to bring classic horror back, to viewers new and old… So why not sign the petition?

Anyone that has listened my interviews over the years will know that I’m a fan of Hammer Horror films, but if I may add it’s in the oddest sense, they are not the greatest productions ever made but they have a Gothic, eerie, charm of their own with some fine performances, setting, sets, theatrical scores and things that go bump in the night.
I discussed this with the outlandish Scream Queen Ingrid Pitt, it became all to clear to me, having children of my own that Universal classics like ‘Dracula’, ‘The Wolfman’ and ‘Frankenstein’ may never be seen not just by British youngsters but US and  the rest of worlds teens. That is unless they have some kind of horror influence in their lives and find stories, books , posters, of this genre of films intriguing to find out more.  Young people haven’t or don’t get the opportunity to see the older horror movies or Hammer films that inspired me and others like The Reptile (1966), The Gorgon (1964) and Plague of the Zombies (1966) to others such as From Beyond the Grave, Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors and The House That Dripped Blood. So when I heard about @cyberschizoid’s campaign (on Twitter) to bring back classic horror to BBC 2,  I had to do my bit in joining in by telling you about my fantasy horror double bill.
Now while I could tell you about an array of UK productions from The Ghoul (1933) to Vampire Lovers(1970) and likes of 1957’s The Curse of Frankenstein. Personally I’d love to see Dead People (1974) or Let’s Scare Jessica to Death (1971) on the BBC 2 but I’ve chosen titles a possibly less obvious to most and not British. I believe they would make great first viewing and have the drawing power to intrigue, inspire and capture the imagination of new comers of the genre.  So in true tradition of those BBC 2 days gone by here are my thoughts on an oldie black and white, followed by a colour film just like they were aired way back when…
BBC take note, I’d be happy to sit in a large leather chair in front of a log fire, in a drawing room and introduce these… And I’m a lot cheaper than Terry Wogan or Jonathan Ross. So turn that tuner, wait for the TV to heat up, this is my horror double bill…
Okay first up is Carnival of Souls (1962) and not a surprise to old school fans. A true horror classic Director Herk Harvey and writer John Clifford both waived their earnings in order to get the film made. Upon release in 1962 the film was a failure in the box office, thankfully its subsequent airings on late night television helped to gain it a strong cult following so Clifford and Herks work was not all in vain.
The delightful Candace Hilligoss is perfectly cast as the troubled woman that after surviving a traumatic car accident, that kills her two friends, becomes haunted by a frightening ghoul and drawn to a mysterious abandoned carnival. It’s a shame that Hilligoss only acted in two features as she gives an impressive performance as Mary Henry.
The music is very creepy and a little too intrusive in places, however, for it’s time and budget it is a well crafted film. Carnival of Souls many not be as sleek and stylish as the Haunting (1963) but it is far more eerie. The zombies are not as imposing as in Night of the Living Dead, however, they are vastly creepier and macabre.
Oozing atmosphere it’s a creative and unnerving film that concludes with a common place twist but back in ’62 it was ahead of it’s time, a true cult classic.
And onto the next…
Non si deve profanare il sonno dei morti”  (original title) I know its Spanish/ Italian production but it’s set in England and feel very Brit.A crop dusting machine from the agricultural pest-control is emitting ultra-sonic waves that are re-animating corpses… 


A lot have said this is underrated, granted it’s overlooked. It is Atmospheric with an ominous feel. It has great locations and is at times genuinely creepy. However, it’s shares more with Fulci than Romero. The acting is not aided by the bad dubbing. To its credit it has an eerie musical score by Giuliano Sorgini and a number of suspenseful sequences but it borrows many of its best sequences from Night of the Living Dead. 


I watched director Jorge Grau’s offering under the title of ‘Let Sleeping Corpse Lie’ but whichever name you see the film under don’t be mistaken or mislead, it’s a solid zombie horror movie and of its time with fine cinematography from Francisco Sempere. It’s a lot better than the low budget DTV zombie films that there’s no shortage of at the moment.

For more information about the campaign visit cyberschizoid blog

and check out fellow supporter Amanda Norman’s blog

The beauty of black and white photography aside, today’s black and white motion film is usually used as a nostalgic gimmick, with exceptions of the likes of Tim Burton’s Ed Wood (1994). Apart from the obvious monster classics of the 30’s and 40’s there are countless black white (b/w) films regarded as ‘classic’. Purists and b/w  fans would probably have me locked up and flogged but I must admit I really do not think b/w adds to the aesthetics of a film. I would argue that the feel and atmosphere can stir the same emotions in colour pallet. To sum it up in a sentence, we don’t see life through our eyes in black and white.
 
Nevertheless many great films were made in black and white and some of those were very influential horrors which I’ve commented on below. I hope you enjoy and possibly seek out if you not seen them already…
 
 
House on Haunted Hill (1959)

Allegedly rousing Alfred Hitchcock to make the horror film – Psycho (1960), and while the setting is not as lavish as The Haunting (1963) the House on Haunted Hill is an entertaining 50’s movie.


Eccentric millionaire Fredrick Loren played wonderfully by Vincent Price invites 5 people to the house on Haunted Hill for a “haunted House” party and they’ll get $10,000 if they survive the night. The quirky house owner, Mr. Pritchard is played entertainingly by Elisha Cook Jr. and the rest of the cast are good enough.

Vincent Price is without a doubt the best thing about the film oozing charm, wit and panache. What is interesting and worthy of note is Robb White’s writing of the adultery plot that build the tension and interaction between Price and Ohmart. They are reminiscent intensified versions of the characters in Hitchcock’s Dial M for Murder (1954).

While the stories ‘twist’ is well developed the large modern 50’s house story is not. There are some creepy moments that include the striking Carol Ohmart as Annabelle Loren but the lighting and sets are so crisp it fails to create any real brooding atmosphere and sadly a movie of its time, the women shriek a lot.

Should the house itself has been more traditional this may have been a near on perfect black and white chiller. Still, it’s good fun and worth checking out on a quiet dark night if even just to hear Price’s deep tones.
 


The Haunting (1963/I)

Dr. Markway is undertaking research to prove the existence of ghosts and decides to investigate Hill House. He is accompanied by a sceptic, a clairvoyant and an insecure attuned psychic. Even though made in 1963 it is still very enjoyable even if a product of its time.

Nelson Gidding screenplay is based on novel “The Haunting of Hill House” by Shirley Jackson. The Haunting is an archetype haunted mansion film, superbly directed by Robert Wise. Excellent, painstakingly designed sets, amazing use of sound effects bringing to life the things that go bump in the night, which all add to the eerie and spooky atmosphere.

Richard Johnson plays the perfect English gentleman, Dr. John Markway. Russ Tamblyn as the cheeky chap is amusing, Claire Bloom as ‘Theo’ the lesbian, at the time a risky role for mainstream cinema. The supporting cast of quirky characters are all fantastic.

My only complaints are is that the movie, for effect only, was unnecessary filmed in black and white. In addition, Julie Harris’ superfluous voice-overs are distracting.

It’s exceedingly atmospheric, foreboding, creepy and while the scares and terror are not as frightening to today’s audience, it remains a classic, psychological, genuine and suspenseful horror.


Night of the Living Dead (1968)

George A. Romero has readily admitted that Herk Harvey’s Carnival of Souls influenced in his making of Night Of The Living Dead (NOTLD). For me, they’re both low budget, both filmed in black and white and both are chilling creepy in places.

Both went onto be get ‘lost’ but unlike Carnival of Souls, NOTLD was haled by critics abroad, who saw it not just as another horror movie, but a film that reflects society. Romero has gone on to define a genre, a feat that very few have accomplished. Many films have been influenced and have imitated George’s creation but few successfully.

NOLD is seeped in history and has become as intriguing as the chiller its self. There’s really not too much to comment on that hasn’t already been said before. The dead are played mindlessly well. Duane Jones is a fantastic lead actor and stands out, an actor ahead of his time but the others are less convincing.

The stock music is bold, and the sound is an adequate mix but all these things with their faults add to the charm of this little horror classic.

It’s dark, gloomy and entertaining but more importantly it was a turning point in horror history.


Carnival of Souls (1962)

A true horror classic Director Herk Harvey and writer John Clifford both waived their earnings in order to get the film made. Upon release in 1962 the film was a failure in the box office, thankfully its subsequent airings on late night television helped to gain it a strong cult following so Clifford and Herks work was not all in vain.
The delightful Candace Hilligoss is perfectly cast as the troubled woman that after surviving a traumatic car accident, that kills her two friends, becomes haunted by a frightening ghoul and drawn to a mysterious abandoned carnival. It’s a shame that Hilligoss only acted in two features as she gives an impressive performance as Mary Henry.

The music is very creepy and a little too intrusive in places, however, for it’s time and budget it is a well crafted film. Carnival of Souls many not be as sleek and stylish as the Haunting (1963) but it is far more eerie. The zombies are not as imposing as in Night of the Living Dead, however, they are vastly creepier and macabre.
Oozing atmosphere it’s a creative and unnerving film that concludes with a common place twist but back in ’62 it was ahead of it’s time, a true cult classic.
 

The Last Man on Earth (1964)

The tag-line read ‘By night they leave their graves, crawling, shambling, through empty streets, whimpering, pleading, begging for his blood’ if that doesn’t grab you as a horror fan, nothing will. Remade many times since as The Omega Man (1971), I am Legend (2007) to name a few, Richard Matheson novel I am Legend has been a wealthy piece of source material.


Despite Matheson feeling that Vincent Price was miscast in the lead role, Price gives a sterling performance as Dr. Robert Morgan who is the survivor of a devastating world-wide plague. Morgan is tortured by his dreams and his solitary existence trying to find another human still alive. Price’s distinguished voice and acting really gets the viewer hooked and caring for his character who is harassed by vampire zombies seeking his blood every night.

While not a faithful version of the novel it is well crafted by Ubaldo Ragona, who incidentally only directed a handful of films. Ragona’s work clearly influenced Romero’s set up of the horror classic Night of the living Dead (1968).

Admittedly The Last Man on Earth is slow in places and the music by Paul Sawtell and Bert Shefter is bland and of it’s time. Nevertheless, the locations are great featuring, bleak backdrops and curious architecture which leaves the viewer disconcerted.

What this unsung black and white chiller gem demonstrates best is that The Last Man on Earth shows what a fascinating and captivating actor Vincent Price was.