October Horrorshow: Terror-Creatures from the Grave

Pacemaker Pictures, the English-language distributors of Terror-Creatures from the Grave, the 1965 Italian gothic horror flick, sure went all in on the title. Perhaps they had a shortlist and couldn’t decide between Terror from the Grave and Creatures from the Grave so, like some parents, decided to burden their charge with a hyphenated name. It’s a mouthful, but has loads of kitsch to it.

Directed by Massimo Pupillo, from a screenplay by Romano Migliorini and Roberto Natale, Terror-Creatures is plays like a pageant in honor of horror cinema. Shot in stark black and white by Carlo Di Palma, the film relies heavily on early horror film styles and storytelling, while combining it with contemporary trends in Italian cinema. There’s the dark and stormy night, overlayered with endless theremin music, combined with dramatic closeups and the multinational cast mouthing their lines in different languages. It’s like watching an old Universal horror film, and everyone is poorly dubbed. Unfortunately, that dubbing can be somewhat distracting, but Pupillo and company nevertheless made a decent horror film. Continue readingOctober Horrorshow: Terror-Creatures from the Grave”

October Horrorshow: The Dungeon of Harrow

The Information Age is a wonderful thing. As long as it keeps its filthy hands off of democracy, anyway. What I mean is, all a person needs to make a movie these days is a smartphone and an idea. That’s pretty much all Nigel Bach has, and that guy just made his seventh horror flick in three years. Besides that, countless people have been shooting small moving snapshots of daily life that are creating a pastiche of culture to pass down to the ages that is unrivaled in human history. But that doesn’t mean that the world of film was completely closed off to everyone outside of Hollywood or New York in the days of analog. Sometimes, someone on the fringes of the entertainment biz — someone along the lines of Herk Harvey or Harold P. Warren — would get it into their heads to make a movie, and, despite all the obstacles of a time when one couldn’t carry a film crew in their back pocket, managed to make it happen. Such was the case with The Dungeon of Harrow, the 1962 gothic horror flick from writer/director Pat Boyette. Continue readingOctober Horrorshow: The Dungeon of Harrow”

October Horrorshow: Vampire Circus

Vampire Circus didn’t make the cut two years ago for the October Hammershow, but now I wish it had. I watched some real stinkers that month, and Vampire Circus would have been a worthy replacement.

Hammer released Vampire Circus in 1972, placing it at the tail end of Hammer’s run. The cracks in Hammer were apparent by then. The formula they had been using for over a decade was showing less and less return at the box office, so Hammer turned to gratuitous nudity and more gore to try and boost sales. It didn’t work. But, even though it seems Hammer was turning somewhat desperate, they were still capable of releasing good horror flicks. Continue readingOctober Horrorshow: Vampire Circus”

October Horrorshow: The Blood Beast Terror

Hammer wasn’t the only production company making gothic horror films in England in the mid-20th century. Amicus productions dipped a few toes into the waters, as did Tigon, the company behind The Blood Beast Terror.

Released in 1968, Terror is all-but indistinguishable from contemporary Hammer productions, all the way up to its star, Peter Cushing. The only thing I could find that really separates this film from a Hammer production is that this film had a lower production quality. Hammer didn’t exactly break the bank when it came to financing their pictures, and one has to have a strong suspension of disbelief to watch them. Those familiar with Hammer films will know to what I’m referring. For everyone else, this film’s production issues are apparent in the questionable quality of the film stock, the poor sound quality of the rerecorded dialogue, and the plainness of the set decoration. It never feels as if this film inhabits the distant past, especially in moments when horse-drawn carriages trundle over asphalt pavement. Continue readingOctober Horrorshow: The Blood Beast Terror”

October Horrorshow: The House of Seven Corpses

By 1974, gothic horror films were falling out of fashion. The year saw the last gasps from the major franchises of Hammer Film Productions, with the releases of Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell and The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires. The genre had come a long way, but by the time this film, The House of the Seven Corpses, was released, seriously bloody slasher horror was making its presence felt. If a filmmaker was going to do gothic horror, it needed to have a twist. Continue readingOctober Horrorshow: The House of Seven Corpses”

October Hammershow: The Kiss of the Vampire

Hammer saw much success with its version of Dracula in 1958. Of course they wanted to cash in further. For reasons beyond the scope of this review, they couldn’t nail down Christopher Lee for a sequel until 1965. But that didn’t stop Hammer. In 1960 they released The Brides of Dracula, which featured neither Dracula nor any vampire that appeared with him in the previous film. It was misrepresentation, plain and simple. In watching it, it becomes clear Brides was meant to be a Dracula film, with Lee in it, but the script had been reworked to put a different baddie in the lead. The Kiss of the Vampire has similar origins, although with this film Hammer had the decency to release it without a false pedigree. Continue readingOctober Hammershow: The Kiss of the Vampire”

October Hammershow: Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell

This is somewhat of a melancholy review for Missile Test. Not only is this the last film of this year’s Horrorshow to be directed by Terence Fisher, it is also the last film he directed, period. He directed films for a quarter of a century, sometimes putting out three or four in a year. Before I began this Horrorshow, I had never heard of Terence Fisher, but what I discovered was a workaday director who could be counted on to helm a film with care, attention to detail, and strong pace. He was in no way innovative, and his films display the difference between craft and art. Terence Fisher was a craftsman, and his trade was directing movies to make his producers money. He was very good at that, and he was very good at keeping me entertained. Continue readingOctober Hammershow: Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell”

October Hammershow: Dracula A.D. 1972

There aren’t very many Hammer horror flicks that take place in contemporary times. For this month, only six of the films I’ve watched up to this point take place around the time in which they were filmed. Only one film from the franchise flicks, Blood from the Mummy’s Tomb, breaks away from its gothic setting. Until now. Continue readingOctober Hammershow: Dracula A.D. 1972″

October Hammershow: The Phantom of the Opera (1962)

Hammer’s version of The Phantom of the Opera may not look it at first, but it is a very significant film in the history of cinema. There have been many, many adaptations of Gaston Leroux’s Le Fantôme de l’Opéra — the most famous being the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical from 1986. But this film, from two and a half decades earlier, was the first Phantom adaptation to feature the phantom playing Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D minor. That simple decision on the part of the filmmakers to have the phantom banging away on an organ in one scene was the birth of a trope that has crept up in movies, television, and even videogames on a regular basis. Whenever a viewer sees a shadowy figure hunched over an organ and it spits out Bach, it’s all because of this movie. Continue readingOctober Hammershow: The Phantom of the Opera (1962)”

October Hammershow: The Horror of Frankenstein

So long, Peter Cushing! After five films over 12 years, Hammer decided to go in a different direction with 1970’s The Horror of Frankenstein, replacing the iconic, and aging, Cushing with Ralph Bates, who was an entire generation younger. Hammer also decided not to continue the jumbled and confused continuity of the previous films, going for a complete reboot of the franchise. That phrase, ‘reboot of the franchise,’ is decidedly anachronistic when applied to a film from almost fifty years ago, but it is an accurate description of what Hammer did. It’s just a new term for a practice as old as film itself. Continue readingOctober Hammershow: The Horror of Frankenstein”