October Hammershow: The Evil of Frankenstein

Hammer had a good thing going with its Frankenstein films. Because Universal Pictures were being stingy with their trademarks, Hammer had been forced to deviate from Universal’s Frankenstein flicks in setting and characterizations. This freed Hammer’s creative teams to come up with some pretty imaginative stuff, and also allowed the films’ star, Peter Cushing, to make the character of Victor Frankenstein his own. But, Hammer and Universal ironed out their differences in the form of a distribution deal, and Hammer wasted no time bringing their Frankenstein into line with Universal’s. That’s too bad. Continue readingOctober Hammershow: The Evil of Frankenstein”

October Hammershow: The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb

This is a first for the Hammershow — a Hammer horror film that does not feature either Anthony Hinds, Terrence Fisher, Jimmy Sangster, Peter Cushing, or Christopher Lee in the credits. What sacrilege is this? Not to worry. That august group of filmmakers and actors is not required to make a good Hammer flick, although it helps. Continue readingOctober Hammershow: The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb”

Empty Balcony: A Fistful of Dollars

I’ve been picking on Italian movies of late over in the Shitty Movie Sundays department. I can’t help it. I discovered Enzo G. Castellari recently and that opened the floodgates. Just about every week I find myself searching streaming services for another glorious train wreck from that most interesting of old world countries. It’s cinema devoid of shame, unapologetically opportunistic, and, to borrow a phrase from Tom Wolfe, gloriously low rent. Today’s film is not a cheap Italian knockoff designed to trick audiences into buying a ticket, though. Today’s film is a classic, even though its producers did find themselves on the wrong end of a plagiarism lawsuit. Continue readingEmpty Balcony: A Fistful of Dollars”

Empty Balcony: Seven Days in May

This may have been the wrong film for me to watch while there’s a lunatic in the White House. Seven Days in May, the classic political thriller from 1964, tells the story of a Marine Colonel who stumbles upon a military plot to overthrow the president. It’s a gripping story, full of the opposing ideologies of the Atomic Age, and of deterministic governance. Its ideas are grand, and yet simple. The nuance of true politics is lacking, as are the skeletons in every president’s closet that make declarations about fairness and the will of the people awkward to hear, but that doesn’t matter. The story is amazing. Continue readingEmpty Balcony: Seven Days in May”

The Empty Balcony: Becket & The Lion in Winter

In 1998 Peter O’Toole played Dr. Timothy Flyte in Phantoms alongside Ben Affleck, Liev Schreiber and Rose McGowan. I love it when fine actors slum it. One can read just how closely their patience is being tested on their faces. Oh? Filming my part is going to stretch longer than a week? My apologies, but I must be on a flight back to England by Friday. What’s that? You have more money? I would be delighted to stay! Continue readingThe Empty Balcony: Becket & The Lion in Winter”

The Empty Balcony: The Train

One day into filming of 1964’s The Train, director Arthur Penn was fired at the urging of star Burt Lancaster and replaced with John Frankenheimer. Penn had apparently conceived the film as largely a cerebral examination of the effect and importance of art to the French national consciousness during the Nazi occupation. A not unworthy aspiration, and one that could someday make a fine film. In hiring Frankenheimer, who had such films as Seven Days in May and The Manchurian Candidate under his belt, the decision was made that the plot of The Train should be driven by tension and action. Continue readingThe Empty Balcony: The Train”

October Horrorshow, Retroactive: The Last Man on Earth, The Omega Man, I Am Legend

The Omega ManThe three films adapted from Richard Matheson’s 1954 novel I Am Legend vary widely in scope, story, and distance from the original source material. They are all shaky and mostly forgettable, but The Omega Man maintains a special place in cinema as one of star Charlton Heston’s many 1970s forays into post-apocalyptic science fiction. For that, it is the most interesting of the three adaptations, if not the best, edging The Last Man on Earth by a close margin.

The Last Man on Earth was the first of the adaptations, released in 1964. It was an Italian production following the spaghetti western model, and was credited with two directors, Ubaldo Ragona and Sidney Salkow. The film stars Vincent Price, at his Priciest, as it were. Price’s acting style takes some getting used to. He was a consummate professional who was more than capable in most of his roles. In Theatre of Blood, he was excellent. But he was victimized not just by type casting, but his own insistence on becoming a caricature of himself at times. The Last Man on Earth is b-cinema, and unfortunately, Price, playing protagonist Robert Morgan, fits right in. His many solitary scenes all seem to play like the boat deck scene in King Kong, where Robert Armstrong screen tests Fay Wray, giving audible directions for her first off camera encounter with a wild beast, finally yelling for her to “scream, Ann, scream for your life!” Continue readingOctober Horrorshow, Retroactive: The Last Man on Earth, The Omega Man, I Am Legend”