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”

It Came from the ’50s: The Screaming Skull

What a boring, plodding, nonfrightening, trope-filled mess we have with The Screaming Skull, from 1958. There was a promising film in here, somewhere. After all, an uncountable mass of pulp fiction and comic books (especially EC Comics in their heyday) used the exact same plot, with the exact same ending. If they couldn’t be competent, then the least director Alex Nicol and company could have done was be enjoyably shitty, but they couldn’t even manage that.

At the beginning of this film, viewers are treated to an announcement from the film’s producers promising a free coffin should anyone die of fright while watching the movie. It’s not the worst marketing ploy of the time, and the producers could sleep easy about ever paying it out. This is amongst the least-frightening horror movies I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen a lot. Continue readingIt Came from the ’50s: The Screaming Skull”

It Came from the ’50s: It Conquered the World

It Conquered the WorldRoger Corman was a better director than Bert I. Gordon. That’s obvious, of course. Roger Corman is a Hollywood legend, while Gordon is known only to us poor souls who like trash cinema. Corman’s reputation has been burnished by all the successful filmmakers that came through his stable, but he could trash it up with the worst of them. I mention Corman and Gordon in the same breath because today’s It Came from the 1950s entry is almost indistinguishable from the crap Gordon used to turn out. The only major difference is that Corman knew how to end a scene before things got too boring.

It Conquered the World was released in 1956, and was directed and produced by Corman from a screenplay by Lou Rusoff, who penned the execrable Phantom from 10,000 Leagues. This flick is miles better than Phantom, and it still stinks.

It stars Peter Graves as Dr. Paul Nelson, who works on a project launching America’s first satellites into orbit. One of his friends is Dr. Tom Anderson (Lee Van Cleef), a scientist disillusioned with the state of mankind. How fortunate for Dr. Anderson that he finds a friend in an alien being from Venus, one of the last of his race. The alien communicates with Anderson through a radio set in Anderson’s house. The alien is giving Anderson instructions to help pave the way for a Venusian takeover of Earth. Continue readingIt Came from the ’50s: It Conquered the World”

October Horrorshow: The Legend of Boggy Creek

Joe Bob Briggs, drive-in movie reviewer and movie host extraordinaire, once referred to this strange film as a ‘horror documentary musical reality show’, and that pretty well sums things up. But, in the interest of being thorough, and to stretch out this review to over 600 words, a little more detail is in order.

The Legend of Boggy Creek comes to us from way back in 1972. The brainchild of local Arkansas TV personality Charles B. Pierce, Boggy Creek, to add to Joe Bob’s flowing description, is a docudrama. It consists of dramatic recreations of encounters the people of Fouke, Arkansas had with a bigfoot-like creature in 1971. These stories were taken seriously enough to be featured in newspapers and on television. Continue readingOctober Horrorshow: The Legend of Boggy Creek”

It Came from the ’50s: Creature from the Black Lagoon

This one is a classic. From 1954 comes Creature from the Black Lagoon. It’s the story of a newly-discovered species of humanoid fish and man’s efforts to hunt it down and kill it.

Directed by Jack Arnold from a screenplay by Harry Essex and Arthur A. Ross, Creature follows a small scientific expedition that sets off up the Amazon River in search of fossils.

The exhibition began at the behest of Dr. Carl Maia (Antonio Moreno), a geologist who discovered the fossilized remains of a hybrid fish/humanlike appendage. It’s a revolutionary scientific discovery. Maia needs support, however, to search for any further remains. He finds that support in Dr. Mark Williams (Richard Denning) and Dr. David Reed (Richard Carlson), a pair of ichthyologists. Joining them on the expedition are another scientist, Dr. Edwin Thompson (Whit Bissell); Reeds’ assistant/fiancé Kay Lawrence (Julie Adams); boat skipper Captain Lucas (Nestor Paiva); and a gaggle of fodder for the monster. Continue readingIt Came from the ’50s: Creature from the Black Lagoon”

It Came from the ’50s: Invaders from Mars (1953)

What a gloriously stupid movie. Invaders from Mars, from screenwriter Richard Blake and director William Cameron Menzies, is a rather prototypical example of the films featured in this month’s Horrorshow. It’s cheap from the first frame to the last, and lacks self-awareness. What do I mean by that? The filmmakers took a look at how the bad guys were costumed — in skin-tight green fleece onesies — and decided that was acceptable. Seriously, that is what passes for aliens in this flick. But that’s not all. They also have faces painted green to match, with gigantic prosthetic noses and snow goggles. Tall men were cast in the roles, and Menzies had them run around the set like toddlers with arms held unmoving at their sides. It’s so silly that it becomes part of what makes this film memorable. Continue readingIt Came from the ’50s: Invaders from Mars (1953)”

Empty Balcony: Walking Tall (1973)

Joe Don Baker is Buford Pusser, real-life Sheriff of McNairy County, Tennessee, in this violent drive-in classic from 1973. Directed by Phil Karlson, Walking Tall is the fictionalized account of one man’s war on crime in rural America.

After giving up his career as a wrestler and returning home with his wife, Pauline (Elizabeth Hartman), and kids to McNairy, Pusser finds that his home county has been invaded by organized crime. Gambling dens and houses of ill-repute have opened in the once-lazy locale, and Pusser doesn’t hold with any of that. After getting angry and trying to beat up an entire casino, Pusser is cut to ribbons and left for dead on the side of the road. But, the bad folks of McNairy underestimated Pusser’s resolve. Being almost murdered just made Pusser angrier, and he continues going after the criminal element. Continue readingEmpty Balcony: Walking Tall (1973)”

Giant Monstershow: King Kong Lives

What a gloriously stupid movie. Today’s movie is the movie I was looking forward to seeing the most for the October Horrorshow Giant Monstershow. It’s a movie of such shitty grandiosity that I was, in fact, giddy at the prospect. It’s not the easiest movie to find for viewing, either. As of this writing, none of the popular streaming services has it for rent or purchase. The only bootleg streams I could find were not in English, and even trying to find a torrent was fruitless. In the end, I had to buy a used DVD from eBay. It cost thirty-five bucks. That’s a lot of money for a shitty movie. Alas, it was worth every penny. Continue readingGiant Monstershow: King Kong Lives”

Giant Monstershow: King Kong (1976)

The 1976 remake of King Kong might be peak Dino De Laurentiis. The legendary Italian producer’s films whipsaw back and forth between the grandiose, the absurd, the exploitative, and the just plain shitty. King Kong is a prime example.

Clocking in at an interminable 134 minutes, this King Kong is meant to be an epic retelling of a cinema classic. Everything about this film, directed by John Guillermin, seems meant to showcase how film has improved and grown in the forty years since the original film was released. The original King Kong was severely limited by what was possible at the time, yes, but it never felt like a failing. Nor is this film an indictment of what came before. But this film does live and die on an implied promise that it will be a better technical film than that which came before. Other than making money, there really isn’t much more reason for this film to exist. Continue readingGiant Monstershow: King Kong (1976)”

Giant Monstershow: The Food of the Gods

This is an important day for the October Horrorshow Giant Monstershow. The featured auteur of this month of reviews has returned. For the seventh time this month, a review features a film by Bert I. Gordon. Yes, a filmmaker that showed mastery at failing to master the art of filmmaking is back. Today’s film, from 1976, also shows that although more than twenty years had passed since Gordon’s first movie, he stayed true to his unique abilities as a filmmaker. Continue readingGiant Monstershow: The Food of the Gods”