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Favourite Five Series: ROGER CORMAN

Posted in Favourite Five Series, movies, USA with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 25, 2013 by goregirl

Way back in November 2011 I did a feature called Eisenhower and the Horror Movies which covered the horror films made during Eisenhower’s presidency (1953 – 1961). Roger Corman’s film career began during the Eisenhower years. in 1954 Corman produced Monster Maker and co-produced Highway Dragnet. In 1955 he made his directorial debut with Five Guns West. Roger Corman made several creature features during the decade including Not of This Earth, Attack of the Crab Monsters, The Wasp Woman and the hilarious and incredibly corny Creature from the Haunted Sea. That is just a sampling of some of my favourites from the period. I had no idea I was a fan of so many of Roger Corman’s films until I did my top ten lists for each year of the 1960s. Corman ruled the early part of the sixties. I could easily make this list nothing but Corman’s Vincent Price/Edgar Allan Poe collaborations. Corman also made a few pretty great non-horror flicks I’m also fond of. Roger Corman has 56 Director credits and 404 Producer credits! By George that is a resume! I have seen most of Corman’s directorial efforts but one I have not seen is the 1962 film The Intruder. The Intruder came highly recommended to me, so I will definitely check it out in the near future. I think a part two for Roger Corman is a strong possibility for the future. These are my favourite five…

HOUSE OF USHER (1960)

Starring: Vincent Price, Mark Damon, Myrna Fahey, Harry Ellerbe

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Philip Winthrop intends to marry Madeline Usher but her brother Roderick adamantly opposes. Roderick believes their family’s bloodline is cursed; a curse that has caused his relations to go mad. Philip is anxious to take Madeline away from the house of Usher but the affliction of which she suffers prevents their departure. House of Usher was the first of several Roger Corman directed films based on the work of Edgar Allan Poe and starring horror legend Vincent Price. The Fall of the House of Usher is one of my favourite Poe short stories. Corman’s version is not an entirely faithful adaptation of Poe’s short story but the elements that make it great are included. Great performances compliment the solid script with Vincent Price perfectly cast in the central role of Roderick Usher. Myrna Fahey is strong as Madeline Usher. Harry Ellerbe gives a particularly memorable performance as Bristol the loyal family butler. Mark Damon as Philip Winthrop is a touch dry but he does have a great dream sequence which is one of the film’s best highlights. The visuals are first class all the way. House of Usher’s great costumes, fantastic sets, superb performances, well-paced plotting, Les Baxter’s neat score and Richard Matheson’s well-written script assures entertainment.

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TALES OF TERROR (1962)

Starring: Vincent Price, Maggie Pierce, Leona Gage, Peter Lorre, Joyce Jameson, Basil Rathbone, Debra Paget

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I said I could make this favourite five nothing but Roger Corman/Vincent Price/Edgar Allan Poe collaborations! I really could. Tales of Terror is a trilogy of Poe tales based on his stories The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar, Morella and The Black Cat. All three star Vincent Price. The first story is the sombre Morella. A daughter comes back to see her father and tell him she is dying. A father who blames her for the death of her mother and sent her away to a boarding school when she was a little girl. Morella is a haunting and bleak story with great performances from Leona Gage, Maggie Pierce and Vincent Price. My favourite of the three is The Black Cat. It is darkly hilarious! Peter Lorre plays Montresor; an obnoxious arrogant drunk and an abusive husband. One evening while stumbling about drunk Montresor walks into a wine tasting and challenges sommelier Fortunato Lechresi to a taste off. I absolutely love the taste off! Vincent Price plays Lechresi with flamboyant verve and his interaction with Lorre is absolutely priceless! Lorre and Price are both just terrific and they are given great material to work with. The final film is The Case of M. Valdemar. Ernest Valdemar is dying and has turned to hypnotism to ease his pain. Valdemar’s creepy hypnotist Carmichael gives his wife Helene the willies and his physician does not approve of Carmichael’s methods. In return for easing Valdemar’s pain Carmichael is asking for a favor that will cost more than Valdemar could have possibly imagined. Vincent Price as Ernest Valdemar and Basil Rathbone as Carmichael are particular stand outs in this moody and mildly trippy tale. I enjoyed all three segments of Tales of Terror. The trio is visually pleasing and the performances are beautiful, even the supporting roles I did not mention. Tales of Terror has atmosphere, chills and laughs with three horror legends that pleases me immensely.

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The Wild Angels (1966)

Starring: Peter Fonda, Nancy Sinatra, Bruce Dern, Diane Ladd, Buck Taylor, Norman Alden, Michael J. Pollard

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Blues leads a group of bikers who travel to Mecca California in search of a member’s stolen bike. The excursion ends badly for member Loser who is shot in the back by police and taken to the hospital. Blues and company bust Loser out of the hospital who dies shortly after inspiring the mother of all biker funerals. I like biker flicks and i am particularly fond of Roger Corman’s The Wild Angels. It wasn’t the first biker flick but it is one of the better known entries thanks in part to the appearances of Peter Fonda and Nancy Sinatra. The Wild Angels also seemed to motivate a greater volume of considerably harsher outlaw biker flicks. Since watching Kenneth Anger’s Scorpio Rising a few months back I have been hankering to check out more biker flicks. I would love to do a big feature on biker flicks, but I feel there are a few more key titles I still need to see. Definitely a project for the future. Peter Fonda is completely at ease playing Blues and is a convincing leader. Bruce Dern also slips comfortably into the biker mold playing Loser. They get sweet support from Nancy Sinatra who plays Mike, Blues’ woman and Diane Ladd who plays Gaysh, Losers squeeze. The Wild Angels is one of the best looking biker films I’ve seen. I love the opening shot of the little boy on the tricycle and the imagery of the bikers walking through the small town with Losers’ casket. The Wild Angels is full of “Hell-Raising Trouble Makers”, sex, drugs, humor, violence, rape and Harleys, lots and lots of Harleys. It has everything that makes biker flicks so appealing to me with the added bonus of being well-filmed and acted.

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THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM (1961)

Starring: Vincent Price, John Kerr, Barbara Steele, Luana Anders, Antony Carbone, Patrick Westwood, Lynette Bernay

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After learning of his sister Elizabeth’s death Francis Barnard travels to the isolated Medina Castle in Spain. Elizabeth was married to Don Medina; the son of a notoriously barbaric Spanish inquisitor. Barnard is suspicious of Medina’s explanation that Elizabeth died of a blood disease and insists on staying in the castle until he uncovers the truth. Much is indeed afoot in the Medina Castle of deceit and death. The Pit and the Pendulum’s best asset is its well written story. I was fully engaged from the first scene to the awesome finale. Another outstanding screenplay by Richard Matheson. The film has a steady pace and maintains an ominous and moody atmosphere throughout. The sets and costumes are fantastic especially the neato titular pendulum device. The Pit and the Pendulum is a visually pleasing delight with a great story and strong performances. The only real blemish is John Kerr who plays Francis Barnard; he is pretty dull. The supporting cast really shine with the fabulous Barbara Steele and Corman regulars Antony Carbone and Luana Anders. Vincent Price of course is just terrific as Don Medina. A neat little score from Les Baxter too! The Pit and the Pendulum is gold.

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A BUCKET OF BLOOD (1959)

Starring: Dick Miller, Barboura Morris, Antony Carbone, Julian Burton, Ed Nelson, John Brinkley, John Herman Shaner, Judy Bamber, Myrtle Vail, Bert Convy

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I saved the best for last! My favourite of all Roger Corman films; A Bucket of Blood. Socially awkward Walter Paisley is a busboy at a Bohemian joint called The Yellow Door Cafe. Misguided Walter desperately wants to be accepted by the artsy fartsy types who frequent the establishment; particularly the lovely Carla. He decides to buy some molding clay and try his hand at sculpting, but quickly becomes frustrated. It seems acceptance is out of his grasp until he accidentally kills his landlady’s cat and decides to cover it in clay. Quicker than you can say dead cat, Walter becomes a minor star of the local art scene. In the art world however you are only as good as your next piece and staying on top can really be murder! This plot summary came from my review of A Bucket of Blood; there isn’t much I can add that I didn’t cover; I love A Bucket of Blood! To read my review click here.

A BUCKET OF BLOOD (1959) – The Dungeon Review!

Posted in horror, movies, USA with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 7, 2012 by goregirl

I reviewed quite a few Roger Corman creature flicks for a feature I did last year called Eisenhower & the Horror Movies. You can not avoid Corman whilst covering horror films from the Eisenhower era, he directed a ton and produced a ton more. I’ve enjoyed every last directorial effort Corman made through the 50s and 60s. Granted some I have enjoyed because they are campy and ridiculous beyond belief like Creature from the Haunted Sea and Attack of the Giant Leeches. Corman’s directorial masterpieces were certainly his 60s Vincent Price/Edgar Allan Poe entries. There is however one other masterpiece in his resume I think also deserves special attention; the 1959 horror-comedy A Bucket of Blood. Made on the cheap, this riff on Beatnik culture tickles me every time I watch it. A Bucket of Blood is one of those films you find in dump bins for $1.99. In fact, that is exactly where I scored my copy of this immensely entertaining film. But wait! You can watch A Bucket of Blood on IMDB for free! It is definitely worth the price of admission! If you haven’t seen A Bucket of Blood go watch it right now here!

Socially awkward Walter Paisley is a busboy at a Bohemian joint called The Yellow Door Cafe. Misguided Walter desperately wants to be accepted by the artsy fartsy types who frequent the establishment; particularly the lovely Carla. He decides to buy some molding clay and try his hand at sculpting, but quickly becomes frustrated. It seems acceptance is out of his grasp until he accidently kills his landlady’s cat and decides to cover it in clay. Quicker than you can say dead cat, Walter becomes a minor star of the local art scene. In the art world however you are only as good as your next piece and staying on top can really be murder!

The goofy bunch of characters in A Bucket of Blood are all a riot! Beatnik poet Maxwell H. Brock recites some of the most hilariously outrageous nonsense! “Life in an obscure hobo bumming a ride on the omnibus of art. Burn Gas Buggies and whip your sour cream of circumstance and hope. Go ahead and sleep your bloody head off. Creation is, and all else is not. What is not creation is graham cracker. Let it all crumble to feed the creators.” Great stuff! There is a charming love interest named Carla, an art groupie named Naolia, a duo of dopey beatnik hangers-about, a nosy landlady and a couple of undercover cops. My favourite character by far (besides Walter of course!) is Leonard de Santis owner of The Yellow Door Cafe. Leonard de Santis is played by Corman regular Antony Carbone. I love this guy! His expressions are fucking priceless! Leonard figures out Walter’s deception when he discovers some fur sticking out of his dead cat sculpture. His initial reaction is to rat out Walter but after he is offered $500 he gets over it. Leonard’s reaction when he sees Walter’s first human project really slays me! The seriously underappreciated Dick Miller is superb as Walter Paisley. He is certainly not the sharpest pencil and you can’t help but feel sorry for the guy. He is painfully awkward and a little bit sad but it makes the whole scenario that much more plausible. Well, as plausible as you are going to get in a film about a busboy turned murdering pseudo-sculptor. It probably should have been questioned more seriously when the busboy produces a full sized human sculpture in a period of mere hours. But what fun would that have been?

Besides the initial (and amusing) accidental cat death early in the film A Bucket of Blood’s intentions are clear. It is no surprise that Walter’s next project takes human form. The basic idea behind the film had been explored in 1933’s Mystery of the Wax Museum and 1953’s House of Wax but Roger Corman makes this completely and utterly his own! A Bucket of Blood is comedy of the first order, but it does have a mild grotesqueness about it also. The “sculptures” Walter creates are actually pretty morbid. Especially his first human form…love the cracked skull! His first human form, like dead cat, could also be considered an accident, but nonetheless each death gets progressively grimmer.

Maxwell H. Brock says “I refuse to say anything twice. Repetition is death”, but I think telling you A Bucket of Blood is an immensely entertaining film warrants repeating. A Bucket of Blood is only an hour-ish long and just flies by; it has a jazzy soundtrack that fits perfectly, crazy beatnik poetry, outrageous characters, tons of laughs and a touch of grim that makes it the perfect re-watchable horror-comedy classic! Highest of Recommendations!

Dungeon Rating: 5/5

Directed By: Roger Corman

Starring: Dick Miller, Barboura Morris, Antony Carbone, Julian Burton, Ed Nelson, John Brinkley, John Herman Shaner, Judy Bamber, Myrtle Vail, Bert Convy, Jhean Burton, Bruno VeSota, Lynn Storey

TRAIL OF THE SCREAMING FOREHEAD (2007) – The Dungeon Review

Posted in movies, USA with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 18, 2012 by goregirl


I loved Larry Blamire’s The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra and The Lost Skeleton Returns Again. I should give both films the proper respect and actually review them! But in the meantime, I highly recommend both! I have recently joined Netflix Canada which has been a massive disappointment! They have no horror films I haven’t seen. Zilch. I found Trail of the Screaming Forehead in their comedy section and looked it up on IMDB. I was thrilled when I seen Larry Blamire’s name attached as director! This was a must watch! Blamire mocks with the greatest of respect the Eisenhower-era Sci-Fi/Horror monster movies. Intentionally stiff dialog, ridiculous character names and an even more ridiculous premise. Trail of the Screaming Forehead is presented in Cranioscope and is literally about renegade foreheads out to take over earth! Obviously being heavy on the comedy, your taste in humour will highly influence your feelings about this film, and in fact all of Blamire’s films. The humour is definitely of the PG variety and is often pretty damn corny. Considering the source material from which it borrows, anything but a PG sense of humour would make the whole package fall very flat. In other words, it perfectly suits the material, and I find it absolutely charming!

Dr. Sheila Bexter is working on a theory that it is the forehead not the brain that is the source of all human thought. Her biggest cheerleader is co-worker Dr. Philip Latham who blindly supports her theory. Meanwhile a tiny spaceship has fallen to earth carrying a forehead. The forehead comes from a planet where the race was eliminated by nuclear war, leaving nothing but foreheads in its wake. The forehead affixes itself to the owner of the local bed and breakfast. Two “salty” seamen, Big Dan Frater and Dutch “the swede” Annacrombie come ashore for a much needed rest and stay at said bed and breakfast. The two seamen notice something is not right in the town. Indeed, the evil foreheads quickly multiply and attach themselves to the patrons of the tiny town. The two seamen along with Millie the local librarian find a forehead crawling in the dirt and realize what has gripped the populace. They attempt to relay the peculiar story to the local chief of police who only laughs at their tale. Unaware of the forehead infestation Dr. Bexter convinces Dr. Latham to take her concoction she is calling Foreheadazine. The Foreheadazine horribly mutates Dr. Latham’s head and the forehead possessed patrons believe he is one of them. As the foreheads take over the minds of everyone in town Dan, Dutch and Millie race against time to find a way to deal with the forehead infestation.

What an utterly ridiculous premise for a film! Trail of the Screaming Forehead is pure silliness from beginning to end! Everything from the dialog, to the character names to the delightful stop motion animated foreheads insists you never for a second take this film seriously. I particularly loved the animated foreheads! The way the foreheads pulled themselves along was an endless source of amusement for me. At one point they even have eyes and a mouth and start speaking. The local gangster Nick Vassidine (played by the film’s director Larry Blamire) ends up being taken over by a forehead which speaks to his moll Droxy Chappelle. Droxy exclaims (loosely quoted) “Your all messed up…like modern art!” Trail of the Screaming Forehead even has its own theme song sung by Droxy. Droxy uses the song to seduce Big Dan Frater and convince him to show her his cargo of frozen corpses! But the real scene stealer here is Dr. Philip Latham and his big gross head! Dr. Latham’s horribly mutated face looks like a whole bunch of foreheads glued together! He gets many of the best lines and is brilliantly played by Blamire regular Andrew Parks. The entire cast are all quite a bit of fun! The film also features some great classic men of horror like James Karen (The Return of the Living Dead) who plays Reverend Beaks, Dick Miller (It Conquered the World, Premature Burial, Piranha, The Howling, Night of the Creeps) who plays Eddie the bartender, and Kevin McCarthy (Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Piranha, The Howling, Twilight Zone: The Movie) who apparently arrived late for shooting and has a brief cameo where he asks Eddie the bartender where he can get a forehead. Unfortunately the film is not without its issues, and this one is a bit of a doozy. The jokes felt a bit redundant after a while. Around mid-point of the film it started to feel like Blamire ran out of fresh material. The intentionally stiff dialog uses such shtick as “in conclusion we must conclude”, and it did get a bit tiresome after a while. I also had mixed feeling about the ending. There are still some laughs to be had in the second half but it just felt a little too repetitive.

Trail of the Screaming Forehead has been my least favourite of the Blamire films I’ve seen, but it nonetheless gave me some laughs. It is a shame the jokes felt repetitious after a while because the outrageous premise, the wacky performances and the wonderful stop motion animation was an absolute hoot! That said, Blamire is pretty awesome, and I sure look forward to discovering the rest of his films! Gee whiz the guy is pretty neato! Trail of the Screaming Forehead is recommended with warning.

Dungeon Rating: 3/5

Directed By: Larry Blamire

Starring: Daniel Roebuck, Susan McConnell, Fay Masterson, Andrew Parks, H.M. Wynant, Brian Howe, Dan Conroy, Alison Martin, Trish Geiger, Jennifer Blaire, Larry Blamire, Dick Miller, Robert Deveau