Archive for the UK Category

THE EARTH DIES SCREAMING (1964) – The Dungeon Review!

Posted in horror, movies, UK with tags , , , , , , , on November 6, 2012 by goregirl

The sci-fi horror flood of the 1950s was just a dribble by 1964. The paranoia-oriented sub-genre was starting to peter out. Personally, I am always up for some scientific insanity! I absolutely love the mad scientists, monster mayhem and alien action of these entertaining gems. Okay, they may not all be gems, but there are certainly gems among them! The Thing from Another World, Village of the Damned, Them!, The Day the Earth Stood Still, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and Godzilla just to name a few. I had never even heard of The Earth Dies Screaming until I compiled my list for 1964. It appealed to me on name alone! The Earth Dies Screaming…that is pretty heavy man! The Earth Dies Screaming is certainly a late comer amongst its ilk, and it did occur to me that the film might not have much fresh to offer. Seeing as Terence Fisher’s name was attached as director I wasn’t too worried though. Fisher directed many outstanding titles for Hammer Films including Dracula, The Mummy, The Devil Rides Out, The Gorgon, The Curse of Frankenstein, and The Curse of the Werewolf. How could I not trust Fisher after those titles? While there are certain familiar aspects to the plotting, it does introduce at least one very unique concept. The Earth Dies Screaming, while not a perfect film by any means, definitely did some things very well.

The Earth Dies Screaming has a delightfully grim opening where we get samples of what the earth looked like when it died screaming. Trains, cars and planes crashing and people just literally dropping dead where they stand! It is a short little montage but it is well done. The film has a great atmosphere with a few very nicely executed moments. It doesn’t always maintain its mood however, for that I blame the robots. The robots are a smidge hokey in appearance (especially in the face area) but they looked robboty enough to pass; it was the way they moved that really gave me a chuckle. Bloody hell these are some slow moving bastards! In one scene towards the finale it takes forever for the robots to move across a warehouse floor to a room where two characters wait in fear. They wait and wait and wait! It was hard to find these clunky ass robots intimidating especially considering they had to literally make contact with you to kill you. It might have helped if they had lasers or something. As clunky as they were, I can not say I didn’t find them entertaining! What The Earth Dies Screaming lost with its robots is made up with its zombies! Okay, these are not brain-eating zombies, but they are mind-controlled reanimated corpses with dead white eyes! The bits featuring the dead are great! It certainly upped the ante on the danger quota. There are a ton of bodies all over the streets that could be mind-controlled reanimated armies!

Jeff Nolan, drives through the eerie aftermath of body-littered streets. Jeff investigates the town, finds a radio and takes shelter in a seemingly abandoned home. Here he meets Peggy and Quinn. Quinn in fact holds Jeff at gunpoint, but lays off when he realizes Jeff is not an enemy. Two more join the group; Edgar and Violet. They discuss what could have happened to cause this catastrophic event and why they survived. The group run into their first encounter with one of the robots at this point. Soon after a young couple, Mel and his very pregnant wife Lorna join the group. They are a diverse bunch ripe for inevitable conflict. The most intriguing of the characters is Quinn. It is strongly hinted at that he has a criminal past (he expertly picks a lock among other clues). Quinn is the loose screw in the works, and he wants to do things his way. He does indeed cause problems for the survivors. Dennis Price was perfectly cast as Quinn. Virginia Field is strong and likable enough as Peggy but the rest of the cast is pretty forgettable. Jeff Nolan takes lead of the group and is the story’s hero. Nolan played by Willard Parker is focused on regularly and he is incredibly dry.

The Earth Dies Screaming is only an hour long. Considering its rather rushed ending, I think the film could have benefitted from the addition of another five or even ten minutes. We never know for certain what happened or who was responsible as we only have the survivor’s theories to go on. Their theory of a gas attack and aliens as the responsible party makes as much sense as any I suppose. Despite some hokey elements, a dull lead performance and a rushed ending I did not dislike The Earth Dies Screaming. I actually enjoy hokey details a lot! This film however seemed intent on being a serious affair and I thought the hokiness did mess with the mood. I certainly appreciated what was done well like those awesome re-animated corpses. Fisher knows his way around a camera and certainly makes the most of the tight budget. Opting with black and white was a good decision here. The Earth Dies Screaming has a steady pace throughout its short runtime and was an easy and pretty fun watch. Lightly recommended.

Dungeon Rating: 3/5

Directed By: Terence Fisher

Starring: Willard Parker, Virginia Field, Dennis Price, Thorley Walters, Vanda Godsell, David Spenser, Anna Palk

THE DAY OF THE TRIFFIDS (1962) – The Dungeon Review!

Posted in horror, movies, UK with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 5, 2012 by goregirl

I am amazed at the incredible number of 1960s horror films hailing from the UK. In fact, I would bet they are on par with the amount of American-made films from the decade. I should probably check on that. In any case, there was certainly a significant quantity of films that came out of the UK during the decade! Freddie Francis (The Evil of Frankenstein, Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors, The Skull, Torture Garden, Mumsy, Nanny, Sonny & Girly etc) is actually un-credited as co-director. Francis directed films for both Amicus and Hammer Films amoung others. Yep, yet another Hammer connection. Finding all sorts of them in this 60s thrill ride. I watched The Day of the Triffids for the first time since I was a kid last year and watched it again a few days ago just for kicks. I loved this movie so freaking much when I was a kid! I assumed I wouldn’t feel as warmly about it but I still love this coo-coo film! It is pure delicious 100% campy goodness!

Bill Masen awakes in an eye institute where he has been for the past ten days after having surgery. This was the day he was going to have the bandages removed. He buzzes for a nurse and gets no response. He calls out and still no response. He eventually takes the bandages off himself to find the institute turned upside-down and deserted. He meets his surgeon who relays to him that he and most of the population have gone blind after watching the meteor shower from the previous evening. Bill goes outside and makes his way to the train station hoping to get out of Dodge. A train comes crashing into the station and blind people come stumbling and falling out of its doors. Someone catches wind of a little girl who can see. A man grabs up the child and Bill seeing the interaction yanks the girl away from the creep. The little girl named Susan will spend the rest of the film travelling with Bill. There is a second story revolving around biologists Tom and Karen Goodwin who live in a lighthouse accessible only by boat. Tom has some serious cabin fever and the couple have decided to take the weekly ferry back to the mainland in the morning. The next morning however the ferry does not come. We move back and forth between Bill and Susan and Tom and Karen Goodwin and both stories offer a different perspective on the events. Bill and Susan are travelling and seeing the chaos and destruction first hand where Tom and Susan are trapped in a remote location with only a radio to keep them updated. Not only did the meteor shower leave most of the earth’s population blinded, it also brought alien spores in the form of giant killer Triffids! Of course both aforementioned parties will have to deal with the killer Triffids!

The performances are fair to good. I thought Susan was a fairly endearing little girl. She doesn’t whine or fuss and is actually quite helpful. Janina Faye as Susan is a cheek pinching little doll. Howard Keel is a likable good guy as Bill Masen. Kieron Moore who plays Tom is required to be a jerk. Tom is a mean, cranky alcoholic who is suffering from some serious cabin fever. There is no point I can say I liked the character; his relationship with his wife was abusive. That said, I thought Kieron Moore actually did a pretty good job. I would have liked Karen to have had more backbone but the lovely Janette Scott who plays Karen is at very least sweet and empathetic. Even the supporting characters do a decent enough job.

I love killer flowers! How can you not like killer flowers? These are some very ugly and very large flowers. Hundreds of them lined up in a field look pretty great from a distance. Downright intimidating even! I love how they pull their roots from the ground and walk about! They are delightfully campy and crazy looking up close. A truly craptacular spectacle! It doesn’t take Tom and Karen Goodwin long to run into the killer Triffids. When they are attacked they manage to destroy one (at least a piece of it any way). They need to figure out what can destroy the nefarious flowers! They try many different things in many different quantities to no avail. It is quite the pickle! There are endless armies of these Triffids and they have no way to get rid of them! Someone get these people some weed killer stat!!

Everyone being struck blind suddenly would naturally cause plenty of chaos! Imagine how frightening it would be to suddenly go blind? People are panicking, falling down, running into inanimate objects and each other. Cat and dogs are making love…chaos!! The blind aspect is certainly more frightening than the flowers although obviously not nearly as much fun! I thoroughly enjoyed every last scene featuring the bad ass Triffids. This is not the first or only ferocious fauna to be caught on film. Off the top of my head there is a killer plant in Little Shop of Horrors that is begging to be fed. Stephen King’s Jordy character gets all mossy and gross after being attacked by alien spores in Creepshow. In Gojira vs. Biorante they splice Godzilla’s genes with a rose. I guess I am in the pro-killer fauna camp. If you think killer flowers are just stupid my question to you is when did the weight of the world completely crush your soul? At the end of the day Day of the Triffids is all about the killer flowers!

The Day of the Triffids is well-paced, action-packed and has a charmingly energetic campiness, thrills, chills, and laughs. It’s just a shitload of fun! Have I mentioned it has killer flowers? Recommended! People with allergies may want to avoid The Day of the Triffids.

Dungeon Rating: 4/5

Directed By: Steve Sekely & Freddie Francis

Starring: Howard Keel, Nicole Maurey, Janette Scott, Kieron Moore, Mervyn Johns, Ewan Roberts, Alison Leggatt, Geoffrey Matthews, Janina Faye, Gilgi Hauser, John Tate, Carol Ann Ford

CIRCUS OF FEAR (1966) – The Dungeon Review!

Posted in horror, movies, UK with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 1, 2012 by goregirl

Not all circus and carnival fare is created equally. I figured I was in pretty good hands with John Llewellyn Moxey who directed City of the Dead. Add the appearance of Christopher Lee and Klaus Kinski’s names in the credits and that always alluring circus theme and I was ready to be wowed! Are you familiar with the term Krimi? I was not until recently; although I had seen some films that are in fact “Krimi Classics” I was not familiar with the term. The Krimi film movement began during the silent era and was particularly active in the sixties thanks to Rialto Films. The Krimi film movement are German made films based on the work of crime writer Edgar Wallace. Circus of Fear is in fact a UK film but it is also based on the writing of Edgar Wallace. Circus of Fear certainly seemed to have a lot going for it, but sadly it is pretty mediocre.

Circus of Fear opens with a robbery sequence where a guard is shot and a lot of money goes missing. Clues lead Scotland Yard to investigate a travelling circus. The Barberini Circus provides a host of suspicious and eccentric characters. The sack-wearing lion tamer, a jealous knife-thrower and a ringmaster out for revenge are just a few of the suspects. Circus of Fear is messy and convoluted. Somewhere under the rubble is an interesting story that just did not quite materialize. The film is rather horror-less and seemed more like an Agatha Christie sort of thing. Some of the visuals were sloppy. You can tell at times when stock footage is used and the scenes shot in the dark are very difficult to see. Christopher Lee wears an awful, cheap, crappy looking sack for most of the film that irritated the hell out of me. The sack was ill-fitted and the mouth and eyeholes were all wrong! I really hated that damn sack! Is the sack hiding a horribly disfiguring scar or simply his real identity? You will have to watch the film to find out, but don’t expect anything terribly surprising here. Sound was also a problem; it was a challenge at times to make out what the characters were saying.

Circus of Fear does have some fun characters and the performances are good. I particularly enjoyed Margaret Lee who plays the circus’ naughty beauty Gina, Leo Genn is strong as Scotland Yard inspector Elliot, Klaus Kinski has a minor role and doesn’t speak much but still manages to leave an impression, Skip Martin is most amusing in his role as Mr. Big and despite that stupid bloody sack, Christopher Lee is great.

Circus of Fear is not without its entertaining moments. The robbery scene that opens the film is energetic and well-executed. It made for an intriguing introduction. There are also a couple of scenes that are effectively suspenseful; but since there are so few I will not divulge. There is also some humour in Circus of Fear that works quite well. Circus of Fear is rather messy to put it plainly, but it has enjoyable bits scattered throughout to make it watchable enough. Circus of Fear is lightly recommended.

Dungeon Rating: 3/5

Directed By: John Llewellyn Moxey

Starring: Christopher Lee, Leo Genn, Anthony Newlands, Heinz Drache, Eddi Arent, Klaus Kinski, Margaret Lee, Suzy Kendall, Cecil Parker, Victor Maddern, Maurice Kaufmann, Lawrence James, Tom Bowman, Skip Martin, Fred Powell

THE SKULL (1965) – The Dungeon Review!

Posted in horror, movies, UK with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 30, 2012 by goregirl

Amicus Production’s The Skull directed by the great Freddie Francis is based on Robert Bloch’s (he of Psycho fame) The Skull of the Marquis de Sade. The film is quite literally about the skull of the Marquis de Sade. I have seen my share of cinema interpretations of the life and work of the Marquis de Sade;  Jesus Franco’s sex-fuelled Justine, Henri Xhonneux’s animated film Marquis, Peter Brook’s Marat/Sade, Philip Kaufman’s Quills and Pier Paolo Pasolini’s positively vile Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom to name a few. If I can say one thing about films based on the Marquis and his work, it is that you never know what the hell you are going to get. The Skull is really quite unlike any of the aforementioned titles. Than again, the film is actually based on Robert Bloch’s fictional story not the actual writing and/or life of the Marquis.

Demonologist Dr. Christopher Maitland, purchases a flesh-bound book allegedly written by Marquis de Sade from shady dealer Anthony Marco. Marco promises to bring the doctor an even grander treasure. The next evening he arrives with the skull of the infamous Marquis de Sade. Cynical of its authenticity Dr. Maitalnd consults with his friend Sir Mathew Phillips who informs him that the skull was stolen from his collection and is indeed authentic. He also warns Maitland of the evil power the skull possesses and strongly urges Maitland not to make the purchase. The warning only serves to intrigue the good doctor who procures the curio for his collection.

The usual depravity, torture and weird sex of most of the Marquis-related stuff are non-existent in The Skull. The premise is that the Marquis de Sade was possessed by some manner of demon or perhaps Satan himself. The skull is prone to glowing green, bewitching its owner to do its bidding and hosting random satanic rituals. It goes without saying that the skull causes all manner of trouble for its newest owner Dr. Christopher Maitland. The effects are limited but there are some nice trippy psychedelic scenes that involve the skull doing things a skull just shouldn’t be able to do. These scenes are admittedly a touch on the hokey side but are nonetheless hugely entertaining! The Skull has a particularly lively and exciting opening scene where we are given a little background on how the skull became unattached from the Marquis’ body. The best scene in the film is one particularly effective nightmare sequence; it alone is worth checking this film out for! The Skull looks extremely well with its immense shadows, fabulous set pieces and tremendously fun POV shots.

Peter Cushing plays Dr. Christopher Maitland and brings the charm, class and talent he brings to everything he graces with his presence. This is definitely Peter Cushing’s film and he is pretty much on screen constantly after the opening bit. It goes without saying that this is a very good thing. The two major supporting roles are also strong with Christopher Lee who plays fellow collector Sir Matthew Phillips and Patrick Wymark as the shady (but not quite sleazy) peddler of art and antiquities.

Keeping in mind that The Skull is about a possessed skull the story is quite coherent and well-written. Freddie Francis’ The Skull is a well acted, great looking trippy film that is solid entertainment! Recommended.

Dungeon Rating: 3.5/5

Directed By: Freddie Francis

Starring: Peter Cushing, Patrick Wymark, Jill Bennett, Nigel Green, Patrick Magee, Christopher Lee, Peter Woodthorpe, Michael Gough, George Coulouris, April Olrich, Maurice Good, Anna Palk, Frank Forsyth

CIRCUS OF HORRORS (1960) – The Dungeon Review!

Posted in horror, movies, UK with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 29, 2012 by goregirl

I’ve said it before and I will say it again; I am a huge sucker for a horror film with a carnival or circus theme! In Circus of Horrors a circus is merely a front for the demented Dr. Schuler. Dr. Schuler is a plastic surgeon and along with his two assistants is forced to flee when one of his surgeries goes horribly wrong. He meets a badly scarred child and he convinces her father who owns a broken down circus to let him operate on her. The child’s surgery is a success and in appreciation her father agrees to a partnership with Dr. Schuler. Immediately after their handshake the father has a drunken accident and Dr. Schuler becomes the sole owner. Schuler of course has a diabolical plan for the circus. All the performers will be badly scarred criminals whom he will operate on and make beautiful. If necessary he can blackmail the performers into staying by threatening to expose their criminal records. I realize this seems like a lot of information but we learn all this before we even get to the circus section which makes up the majority of the runtime. They stuff a lot of information in this introduction! When we get to the circus we just jump in head first.

We move ten years into the future and Dr. Schuler has clearly made the circus a huge success. But the circus Dr. Schuler dubbed “the circus of beauty” is now being dubbed by the media as the “jinx circus” on account of the number of “unfortunate accidents”. Circus of Horrors has all the familiar trappings one would expect; high-wire acts, acrobats, knife throwers, lion tamers, clowns. Circus of Horrors uses these accoutrements to their full effectiveness. I am going to give you a wee spoiler and tell you that the scarred girls father gets mauled to death by a bear. This bear scene is unintentionally hilarious! The death scenes otherwise are not graphic but are quite suspenseful and well-executed. I don’t want to spoil any more, but let’s just say the deaths have a circus theme. The performers scars pre-surgery are impressive and very believable. The excellent opening sequence where a hysterical woman smashes all the mirrors in her bedroom reveals to us the horror caused by Dr. Schuler. It’s not my fault baby; you shouldn’t have taken those bandages off so early. Dr. Schuler apologizes for nothing!

Dr. Schuler is a heartless, self-absorbed asswad that will stop at nothing in the name of self-preservation. His work means everything in that obsessive way that is required for any good mad movie scientist or doctor. He isn’t over-the-top with his antics playing it subdued but single-mindedly intense. Anton Diffring is perfect as the arrogant Dr. Schuler. He also completely looks the part. A young Donald Pleasance makes a brief appearance early in the film as the father of the scarred child. Pleasance is featured in the unfortunate bear scene but he is great just the same. His daughter Nicole grows up to be a beautiful woman with an equestrian act. Nicole is played by the lovely Yvonne Monlaur who is sweet and likable. Dr. Schuler’s assistant Martin is a bit of a sad sack. Martin assists in Schuler’s surgeries and is at the doctor’s beck and call for any number of other requests. Kenneth Griffith is decent enough in the role, and while I would not exactly say you feel sorry for the character there is the glimmer of hope that he will eventually grow a set. Martin’s sister Angela also assists in Dr. Schuler’s surgeries and also happens to be in love with Schuler. It is a mystery to me what she sees in this jerk. Angela is complicit in Dr. Schuler’s crimes but still manages to garner some sympathy. My favorite female character in the film is definitely the spicy and spirited Elissa Caro. Elissa is the show’s acrobat who ends her act each night with a noose around her neck as she frantically spins several dozen feet above the ground. Erika Remberg is top-notch as the confident Elissa Caro and it is a lot of fun seeing her give Dr. Schuler hell! Finally we have Inspector Arthur Ames. The circus is garnering some unwanted attention with its “accidents” and Inspector Ames is on the case. He is really “on”. The inspector is a real ladies man type who seduces the lovely performers for the answers he requires. Conrad Phillips who plays Inspector Ames is likable enough and he gets to have some fun whilst solving the crime.

Circus of Horrors’ story is rather on the crazy side. It really is a needlessly complicated plan this Dr. Schuler has concocted. The guy is a plastic surgeon and he is going to start a circus, find a bunch of criminals who will agree to be operated on, train them to be circus performers and oversee operations of said circus? Bloody hell that Dr. Schuler sure is ambitious! Great sets, lovely costumes, lush colors, a steady pace, strong performances and some well-executed moments of suspense make Circus of Horrors a very entertaining watch. Recommended!

Dungeon Rating: 4/5

Directed By: Sidney Hayers

Starring: Anton Diffring, Erika Remberg, Yvonne Monlaur, Donald Pleasence, Jane Hylton, Kenneth Griffith, Conrad Phillips, Jack Gwillim, Vanda Hudson, Yvonne Romain, Colette Wilde