Archive for freddie francis

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

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

Goregirl’s TOP 10 Favourite Christopher Lee Horror Films

Posted in horror, movies, UK with tags , , , , , , on September 23, 2010 by goregirl

Christopher Lee has more than 260 film and television credits and 60 + of those are horror flicks. I did a little blurb on Lee May 2009, so if you want to learn a little more about one of horror’s greatest icons click here. Picking just 10 films was a more daunting task than I expected! Sure, the top 5 were obvious enough but depending on my mood they might be ranked differently than you see below. Some of the honorable mentions that almost made the list are Katarsis, Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors, Rasputin: The Mad Monk, Scream and Scream Again, Taste the Blood of Dracula, Eugenie, The Gorgon, and Scars of Dracula. The great Christopher Lee is still working at the age of 87 and continues to pull off memorable performances! Bow before thy master!

#10 THE HOUSE THAT DRIPPED BLOOD (1971)
Directed By: Peter Duffell

Anthologies can be a lot of fun but there is usually a rotten egg or two in the collection. Not in The House That Dripped Blood. I actually found all four stories enjoyable in varying degrees. It is one of numerous films in which Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing both appear. There are a few Lee/Cushing flicks on this list but in this one they do not star opposite each other instead each is featured in their own unique story. Lee’s story Sweets To The Sweet is excellent and Lee does a stand out job in the role of the father of a young girl who may not be as sweet as she seems. My favourite story however is The Cloak, a story about a veteran horror actor who buys a cloak from a curious old shop. It also features the always-entertaining Ingrid Pitt. All four stories are creative, fun, creepy, well paced and well filmed with great performances all around. The only negative is the connecting story is a bit weak, but otherwise, The House That Dripped Blood is gold!

#9 HORROR HOTEL (1960)
Directed By: John Llewellyn Moxey

Horror Hotel is a really nice looking atmospheric black and white film that isn’t without a few clichés but still manages to be hauntingly effective. Horror Hotel also has a simply fantastic happy-unhappy ending that stayed in my head for days after. Lee’s role is definitely supporting but is an important part of the story and as always the man leaves an impression. The sets, atmosphere and overall mood of the film are certainly spooky but the film is just a bit quirky as well. There are some genuinely weird moments that I found wonderfully appealing. Horror Hotel is a nice looking film with decent acting, a little bit of wackiness and some serious intensity and scares that is entertaining as hell. Plus, I love a Witch theme! I happen to think it is a seriously underutilized horror sub-genre.

#8 DRACULA HAS RISEN FROM THE GRAVE (1968)
Directed By: Freddie Francis

There is always an argument as to which Dracula film is Lee’s best. Dracula Has Risen From The Grave is one of two Christopher Lee Dracula flicks that made the list but I like every last one of them in varying degrees. Lee’s Dracula is cold as ice and his emotionless intensity is effectively terrifying. I love how director Freddie Francis filmed Lee to appear even taller than he already is. The film style, of course, is pure Hammer-gothic and the atmosphere, sets and costumes are top-notch as always. The beautiful Veronica Carlson is one of my favourite of the innocent charming virgins in the Dracula
series and Barbara Ewing also stands out as the naughty Zena. I shouldn’t leave out Barry Andrews who also does a very nice job of playing the films hero. As a matter of fact, I think of the Dracula series this one might be the best-acted overall. Dracula Has Risen From The Grave is a great classic tale and a highly entertaining film.

#7 TASTE OF FEAR (aka Scream Of Fear) (1961)
Directed By: Seth Holt

When my dad switched over to DVD I adopted his entire VHS Hammer collection and this was among the gems. A young, neurotic, wheelchair bound woman begins seeing her dads corpse walking around and her family believes she is going crazy. Not the most original plot but it is well rolled out. There are clues throughout the story and twists and turns leading up to an excellent although not terribly surprising ending. Lee is quite young in Taste Of Fear and only has a supporting role as Doctor Pierre Gerrard but contributes nicely. The cast is excellent particularly Susan Strasberg who plays Penny Appleby.

#6 THE WHIP AND THE BODY (1963)
Directed By: Mario Bava

Mario Bava’s ‘The Whip and The Body’ is immensely entertaining! It is a hypnotic and haunting vision that should be a treat for Bava’s fans, lovers of gothic Horror and Lee fans alike. Christopher Lee is cold as ice as her brutal lover. Although he appears both vicious and callous, his character at times comes off slightly romantic and tragic. The stunning Daliah Lavi plays it like a storm is brewing between her legs that she cannot control. Her orgasms are practically a character
themselves! Lee and Lavi both have a strong presence and give outstanding performances. There is breath-taking scenery, incredible atmosphere, awesome sets, a haunting and effective score and the aforementioned excellent performances. But more than anything else it is strikingly beautiful. I greatly admire Bava’s cinematography but not being a technically minded sort, you’ll have to forgive me for my layman language. Simply put, nothing looks quite like a Bava film! Shadows and colour are overwhelmingly present in all his films although this one may be slightly more muted than others it is nonetheless a
sensual kaleidoscope. The Whip And The Body is an enthralling visual experience and a gothic masterpiece!

#5 HORROR EXPRESS (1972)
Directed By: Eugenio Martín

Lee and Cushing appeared in several films together and horror express was one of the last and in my opinion, one of the best. Most of the emphasis is on the two icons that make the most of the well-written dialog. The Trans-Siberian express is an excellent setting and director Eugenio Martin makes outstanding use of it. Horror Express is fast-paced fun with a great story, thrill, chills and a little humor and to top it all off, an exciting, and satisfying finale.

#4 THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES (1959)
Directed By: Terence Fisher

Peter Cushing owns The Hound Of The Baskervilles and is just brilliant as Sherlock Holmes but Christopher Lee who plays Sir Henry also puts in a most admirable performance and gets to play one of his rare good guy horror roles. Sherlock attempts to save Sir Henry from the curse of the Hound of the Baskervilles and wastes no time getting down to business. The pace is energetic and the atmosphere is top notch. In fact, this may be one of the most atmospheric of all the Hammer films. The film and story are completely mesmerizing and as mentioned the performances are awesome. Mystery, intrigue, horror, romance and a
classic pairing of two horror icons.

#3 DRACULA: PRINCE OF DARKNESS (1966)
Directed By: Terence Fisher

My favourite of Lee’s vampire roles is definitely Dracula: Prince Of Darkness. The film picks up ten years after the death of Dracula, and let me tell you, his resurrection is definitely one of the films highlights! Lee has no dialog but manages to captivate regardless. The cast are strong, particularly Suzan Farmer who has a great seduction scene with Lee. The film has a great gothic presentation and an amazing mood and atmosphere. The ending isn’t quite as exciting as some of the others in the series, but it does win points for originality. While there might be an argument as to which Lee vampire role is the best I don’t think anyone can deny that he makes one mighty fine, menacing vampire.

#2 THE WICKER MAN (1973)
Directed By: Robin Hardy

Love it or hate it, you must admit The Wicker Man is original! The steadily building sense of dread is impressive and the finale is unforgettable. Most of the film takes place in the daylight and the sets, costumes and general look of the film is superb. Lee of course is excellent as Lord Summerisle but I have to commend Edward Woodward who is awesome in the role of the uptight Sergeant Howie. Howie’s faith is challenged more than once while investigating the town of pagans. The dancing, singing and costume wearing all sounds a little jubilant for a horror film, but these elements really add a special twisted creepiness. The Wicker Man, without a doubt, is one of the most unique horror films out there. It is a surreal treat that is clever, funny and macabre.

#1 THE DEVIL RIDES OUT (1968)
Directed By: Terence Fisher

The Devil Rides Out is my earliest memories of Satan-themed theatrics in film. It was also the first time I seen Christopher Lee play a good guy. Lee gives an inspired performance as the Duc de Richleau. The entire cast are excellent, particularly Charles Gray who plays the evil Mocata with devilish gusto and Sarah Lawson who plays the strong and intelligent Marie Eaton with casual confidence. Terence Fisher directs The Devil Rides Out with plenty of style and thrills and its perfect pace keeps the action moving along beautifully. A great story, fabulous set pieces, amazing atmosphere and an outstanding cast are the ingredients that make The Devil Rides Out an enduring classic. (I contributed a guest review to Basement Screams for The Devil Rides Out, to read it click here).

THE CREEPING FLESH – The Dungeon Review!

Posted in horror, movies, UK with tags , , , on September 11, 2009 by goregirl

creeping flesh dvd cover“A terrifying journey through the nightmare worlds of evil, insanity and terrible revenge.”

I am a big fan of both Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing. They have done numerous films together, many of them for Hammer Productions. I haven’t missed many of these collaborations but ‘The Creeping Flesh’ was one I had not seen. This one was made by another UK film company called Tigon. Lee and Cushing are in top form here and their performances alone make the film a classic worth watching.

A scientist arrives from New Guinea with an ancient skeleton he believes can aid him in his research. He learns that water renews flesh to the bone of the creature and develops a serum from the blood. His hope is to cure evil. The inspiration from which he derived from his wives commitment to a mental hospital several years previous. A truth he has kept secret from his daughter, who believed her mother died when she was young. When she finds out the truth about her mother, his worst fears are realized and she begins to duplicate his wife’s behavior. In response, he injects the untested serum with horrific results.
peter cushing creeping flesh still
The performances are definitely the highlight of ‘The Creeping Flesh’. Cushing’s anxious, determined, yet frail and empathetic character is very effective. He is nicely complimented by the strong performance of Lorna Heilbron, who plays the sweet and innocent daughter who descends into madness and Christopher Lee who plays the stern and cold as ice relative who runs the local mental asylum. The Victorian sets and costumes are a visual treat. Gore is pretty much non-existent as it tends to be in films of this ilk, but there are some very impressive effects, particularly the skeletal remains from New Guinea. The renewing of skin to the creatures bones is done quite well. ‘The Creeping Flesh’ has an intriguing story, but it is also the films crutch. In addition to what is mentioned in the plot summary, there is an interesting subplot involving Lee’s character who is conducting experiments of his own, and has a great deal of unexplained animosity towards Cushing’s character. Although the two are on different paths their research is looking for the same conclusions. The creature also has its part in it all, beyond the lending of its blood. In the end, the story comes together, and there is a great twist ending that I loved. But the story is a bit overambitious, and tackles too many issues and leaves some loose ends still dangling. By no means will this detail hurt your enjoyment of this film. ‘The Creeping Flesh’ is definitely entertaining and the excellent performances make it well worth a look. Recommended!

Dungeon Rating: 3.5/5

Directed By: Freddie Francis

Starring: Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Lorna Heilbron, George Benson, Kenneth J. Warren and Jenny Runacre

For the next two weeks I will be reviewing ONLY foreign Horror Films! Have a great weekend!