It Came from the ’50s: The Tingler

Gimmicks present unique problems when it comes to film, or art, or anything. Gimmicks may be useful for an initial draw, but people tire of them. Gimmicks are also used to disguise, or make up for, a lack of funds or competence. That is why William Castle, despite throwing some interesting gimmicks into his films, is remembered for being a shitty movie director as much as an innovator.

The Tingler, from 1959, was Castle’s most ambitious foray into gimmickry. Besides producing, Castle directed, from a screenplay by Robb White. Continue readingIt Came from the ’50s: The Tingler”

October Horrorshow: Slugs

What a putrid mess of a movie. Slugs is one of those shitty movies New World Pictures banged out that had little to no regard for the intelligence or attention spans of its audience. It looks rushed, feels rushed, and even sounds rushed. But, it’s got a lot of blood, so it has that going for it.

From 1988, Slugs is an American/Spanish collaboration. At the time, shitty Spanish cinema was mimicking shitty Italian cinema, making this production feel like an amalgamation of bad American and Italian horror. Continue readingOctober Horrorshow: Slugs”

October Horrorshow: Frogs

Frogs, the 1972 environmental horror flick from screenwriters Robert Hutchison and Robert Blees, and director George McCowan, has a misleading title. There are indeed frogs in Frogs, and they do indeed pose a menace to the characters in the film, but there are also plenty of toads, snakes, geckos, iguanas, tarantulas, scorpions, and other creepy-crawlies lurking about. The title Frogs gives short shrift to all the other swamp beasties that make an effort to murder the film’s protagonists.

Sam Elliott, in an early role, stars as Pickett Smith, a freelance photographer taking pictures of the effects of pollution and littering in a swampland environment. It’s not pretty, as Smith finds civilizational detritus everywhere he looks. Continue readingOctober Horrorshow: Frogs”

October Horrorshow: Ticks

Ah, the early 1990s. It was a time of transition. The neon styles of the ’80s were losing their cool, and the plaid drabness that supplanted it was crossing over into movies and television. In the cities, violent crime reached its peak, and gentrification was an idea that had yet to find its execution. The ’90s as a whole were a time when the rough edges still existed, but the polishing was underway.

I bring this up because one would be hard pressed to find a movie that looks more 1990s than Ticks. Released in 1993, Ticks comes to viewers via director Tony Randel and screenwriter Brent V. Friedman. Continue readingOctober Horrorshow: Ticks”

Giant Monstershow: Empire of the Ants

It’s a melancholy day for the October Horrorshow Giant Monstershow, for this is the last film of the month from giant monster auteur Bert I. Gordon. His peak days as a filmmaker were in the 1950s, but while Gordon’s pace of work slowed, he never went more than a few years without directing something. In 1977, that something was Empire of the Ants, also written by Gordon, loosely adapting the H.G. Wells story of the same name. Something of a follow-up to Gordon’s Food of the Gods, Empire of the Ants tells the story of a Florida real estate pitch gone wrong. Continue readingGiant Monstershow: Empire of the Ants”

Giant Monstershow: Earth vs. the Spider, aka The Spider

The October Horrorshow Giant Monstershow carries on! Today’s film is the sixth this month featuring b-cinema auteur extraordinaire Bert I. Gordon. The man made giant monster flicks his own cottage industry. That’s not too far off of the mark, considering Gordon would shoot effects in his own garage.

Today’s film is Earth vs. The Spider, also released as just The Spider. Released just a few months after War of the Colossal Beast, Earth vs. The Spider switches up the formula for giant monster flicks. Most of the films featured this past month have featured scientists and doctors as the main protagonists, or maybe a military man or two. This film does have those characters, but they’ve been relegated to supporting roles. In this flick, the heroes are teenagers. That’s right. By 1958, shitty filmmakers recognized that it was teenagers that were pumping large amounts of dollars into their coffers, and someone came up with the bright idea to make movies featuring teenagers in the leads. Continue readingGiant Monstershow: Earth vs. the Spider, aka The Spider”

Giant Monstershow: The Deadly Mantis

The October Horrorshow Giant Monstershow returns to the land of giant insects with today’s flick. From 1957, The Deadly Mantis is an early directorial effort from Nathan Juran, who had an Oscar-winning career as an art director before becoming a director. It was written by Martin Berkeley, who also had a screenwriting credit for the execrable Tarantula. Continue readingGiant Monstershow: The Deadly Mantis”

Giant Monstershow: Tarantula

For a giant monster flick, there isn’t a whole lot of giant monster in 1955’s Tarantula, the film from director Jack Arnold and screenwriters Robert M. Fresco and Martin Berkeley. An adaptation of a Fresco teleplay for Science Fiction Theatre, the main action in the original plot surrounded the efforts of scientists to develop a synthetic nutrient. Not happy with the progress of the experiments, the scientists tested the nutrient on themselves, with horrific results. I’m not sure of the process involved, but at some point in the mid-1950s, someone involved in the production thought, “Hey, what if we took that TV episode we made a couple of months back, and added a giant tarantula?” Continue readingGiant Monstershow: Tarantula”

Giant Monstershow: Them!

The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms may have established the formula by which 1950s American giant monster flicks operated (nuclear test + ordinary creature = giant monster), but it was 1954’s Them! that first did it well.

Directed by Gordon Douglas from a screenplay by Ted Sherdeman and Russell Hughes and a story by George Worthing Yates, Them! tells a tale of nature run amok. Continue readingGiant Monstershow: Them!”

October Horrorshow: Eight Legged Freaks

Sometimes horror films can be a downer. In preparing for this month of reviews, I watch a lot of horror. For every film that makes it to the Horrorshow, I probably watch two others that didn’t interest me enough to write about. That means I spend a lot of evenings listening to young women scream in terror, watching grievous bodily injury, and living in a state of general anxiety brought about by all that scary stuff on the screen. Sleep is no respite, as we tend to dream about things that are on our minds. It’s not uncommon for me to watch yet another gory horror film followed up by a night of dreaming about the zombie apocalypse or a demonic presence in my home. Good grief. Continue readingOctober Horrorshow: Eight Legged Freaks”