Archive for house of usher

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.

Goregirl’s TOP 10 Favourite Horror Films From 1960

Posted in horror, movies with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 31, 2012 by goregirl

IMDB listed 139 titles for 1960, but once I dug into the list I discovered only 61 were actually full-length feature films. As is my modus operandi when doing these features, I do not include shorts, documentaries, made for TV movies or TV series. IMDB lists every individual episode of the television shows which accounted for a goodly number of the 139 titles. There were several episodes of the excellent Twilight Zone series along with two shows I had never heard of Thriller and The Unforeseen. I saw 47 of the 61 films from 1960. Ranking these was practically impossible. For starters my entire top five are films I ranked 5/5. How do you rank films you rated identically? Numbers 6 and 7 were films I rated 4.5/5 so they were easy enough to place. The bigger problem came when trying to decide which 3 films would round out the list when I had 8 films I ranked 4/5! What a colossal headache! The films I left off are all well worth a viewing; The Brides of Dracula, Circus of Horrors, The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll and The Secret of the Telgian.

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#10 THE FLESH AND THE FIENDS

Directed By: John Gilling

The Flesh and the Fiends is the story of infamous corpse peddlers William Burke and William Hare and their business transactions with Professor Dr. Robert Knox. The lead performances are absolutely top notch; Peter Cushing as Dr. Knox, Donald Pleasence as Hare and George Rose as Burke are perfectly cast. Some of the supporting character subplots felt redundant but it’s a small complaint in an otherwise outstanding film. The Flesh and the Fiends beautifully captures the dark shadows of 19th Century Edinburgh. It’s a fantastic looking film with an excellent grim and eerie vibe. The deaths are not graphic but they are cold-hearted, well-executed and effectively chilling. I foolishly assumed being a 1960 British film starring Peter Cushing and directed by John Gilling (who directed the fantastic Hammer film Plague of the Zombies) that this was a Hammer film. It was in fact made at Shepperton Studios and was produced by Triad Productions. I was particularly torn between Circus of Horrors and The Flesh and the Fiends. In the end John Gilling’s excellent The Flesh and the Fiends won out in a large part thanks to the performances of Cushing, Pleasance and Rose.

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#9 MILL OF THE STONE WOMEN

Directed By: Giorgio Ferroni

Mill of the Stone Women is about a reporter writing a story on a reclusive sculptor who lives in an old mill. The mill houses a strange tourist attraction created by the sculptor; a carousel-esque contraption that features statues of historical women including some famous murderesses. The sculptor is hiding a secret in the form of a beautiful daughter suffering from some mysterious illness. Add to the mix an eccentric doctor and you’ve got one entertaining story. They give away too much information too soon yet the finale is none the lesser for it. The film’s finale is an absolute utter treat! Mill of the Stone Women is an imaginatively filmed lush affair with some seriously trippy scenes. The performances are good; particularly strong are Herbert Boehme as Professor Gregorius Wahl and Wolfgang Preiss as Dr. Loren Bohlem. It is a slow-moving but hypnotic watch with utterly fantastic set pieces, especially that lady carousel; that thing was freaking awesome! Giorgio Ferroni’s Mill of the Stone Women is a stylish, atmospheric horror film that comes highly recommended.

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#8 JIGOKU (aka THE SINNERS OF HELL)

Directed By: Nobuo Nakagawa

Jigoku or The Sinners of Hell is a bit of a bitch to give a short summary for. It is a story about a student named Shiro who is engaged to his professor’s daughter Yukiko. Shiro is the passenger in a hit and run, but there is a witness who wants revenge, Yukiko dies in a car accident, and Shiro is called home to see his dying mother. Shiro’s father runs a shoddy retirement home and openly flaunts his mistress and his mother’s caretaker is a dead ringer for his recently deceased fiancé. For reasons I will not divulge everyone ends up in hell. Hell! Rivers of blood, endless tortures, and demons await you! Jigoku is one of the earliest films to feature graphic gore. There is a flaying and a decapitation among other goodies. Jigoku is an exceptional film visually that is as beautiful as it is bizarre. To check out my photo review for Jigoku click here. Jigoku is an exceptionally unique Japanese horror film…and it has gore!

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#7 HOUSE OF USHER

Directed By: Roger Corman

Roger Corman directed several films based on the work of Edgar Allan Poe starring horror legend Vincent Price. Expect to see more of these on the top ten lists as they are some of the best the decade has to offer! Vincent Price plays Roderick Usher who opposes the marriage of his sister Madeline due to their cursed family bloodline. Price, of course is brilliant as Roderick Usher and he gets strong support from Myrna Fahey who plays Madeline Usher, Harry Ellerbe as Bristol and Mark Damon as Philip Winthrop; Madeline’s intended. The visuals are first class all the way. House of Usher’s great costumes, fantastic sets, superb performances and well-paced plotting assures you are entertained every single second of its 80ish minute runtime.

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#6 CITY OF THE DEAD

Directed By: John Llewellyn Moxey

City of the Dead was on my list of favourite witchcraft films I posted last week and it easily qualified as one of the best of 1960. City of the Dead is about a college student prompted by her professor to do research in the tiny village of Whitewood where much to her horror she discovers she is a target for a coven of witches. The performances are good particularly from Patricia Jessel who plays dual roles and Christopher Lee who has a memorable supporting turn. City of the Dead is a great atmospheric horror films with excellent suspense, beautifully gothic visuals and an engrossing story with one hell of a finale.

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#5 VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED

Directed By: Wolf Rilla

Village of the Damned has been a favourite since I was a kid. An entire town rendered unconscious and protected by an invisible force field even the military can not breach. After a while the force field disappears and the townsfolk begin waking up seemingly unharmed. A few weeks later however the women of child-bearing age discover they are pregnant and all deliver on the same day. The children grow at an alarming rate and bare a striking resemblance to one another. The creepy, emotionless blonde haired children also possess supernatural powers! Filmed in beautiful black and white with a perfect sense of paranoia and an eerie menacing vibe that is completely engrossing. Village of the Damned is well-written and the performances are perfect; especially excellent is George Sanders as the affable Gordon Zellaby, and the talented Barbara Shelley as his charming wife Anthea. Beware the glowing eyes of the children! Why haven’t you seen this film? Village of the Damned is one of the great classics of sci-fi horror.

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#4 BLACK SUNDAY

Directed By: Mario Bava

I warned you it would not be the last time you would see Mario Bava’s Black Sunday on a list! There is no movie on this list I have seen more than Black Sunday! My childhood viewing of Black Sunday terrified me! These days I appreciate it more for its beautiful, gothic, hypnotizing cinematography. But that scene of the mask of Satan being pounded into Barbara Steele’s face still has some sting! It is the story of a witch put to death by her own brother who returns 200 years later to seek revenge on her descendants. Black Sunday is beautiful, eerie and hypnotic and Barbara Steele simply stuns in her dual roles. Black Sunday is one of the greatest gothic horror films ever made!

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#3 PEEPING TOM

Directed By: Michael Powell

Peeping Tom has a particularly racy story for 1960. Peeping Tom is the story of Mark Lewis who murders women so he can capture on film their terrified expressions before death. Its voyeuristic nature is heavily emphasized and the film is as much psychological as it is horrifying. Carl Boehm plays it quiet and brooding and is outstanding as the awkward and unstable titular Peeping Tom Mark Lewis. This isn’t simply a film about a serial killer it is an in-depth character study and an intelligently written story that explores deeper issues than one would expect of the sub-genre. The film is a slow-burn but an extremely effective one. Peeping Tom is a dark, edgy, well-made film that was ahead of its time. Absolutely brilliant.

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#2 EYES WITHOUT A FACE

Directed By: Georges Franju

Eyes Without a Face is about Christiane who lives hidden from the world, shrouded by a white featureless mask that hides her horribly disfigured face. Her father is guilt-ridden plastic surgeon, Dr. Genessier. With the help of his assistant Louise, they lure young women in and surgically remove their faces in hope of successfully grafting the skin to his daughter. But one failed graft after another leaves a pile of bodies and little hope. Eyes without a Face is about vanity, guilt, obsession, depression and redemption. It is a tale that is as bizarre and bleak as it is beautiful. Eyes Without a Face is a visually stunning film; its sterile brightly lit surgeries, shadowy corridors, endless rooms and impressive set pieces. The “face removal” was very graphic for the time and still impresses. A strange and wonderful score compliments beautifully. Eyes Without a Face is a flawless, strikingly original, bleak and beautiful contribution to the horror genre.

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#1 PSYCHO

Directed By: Alfred Hitchcock

Truthfully, I don’t enjoy Psycho any more than the other films in this top five. As I mentioned in my introduction I gave all five of these films an identical perfect rating. Alas one of the films had to hold this spot and technically speaking Psycho is a flawless masterpiece. I am sure there is nothing I can add that hasn’t been said about Psycho before. If you are unfamiliar with Psycho’s story it revolves around a woman named Marion Crane who decides to leave town to start a new life with money she stole from her employer. Inevitably she must stop to rest and chooses the Bates Motel run by a socially awkward momma’s boy named Norman Bates. This does not end well for Ms. Crane whose disappearance does not go unnoticed. Psycho is a stunning film with a pitch perfect mood and atmosphere. Psycho’s real attraction for me is Norman Bates. Anthony Perkins gives a truly epic and iconic performance as cinema’s most infamous momma’s boy. Hitchcock constructed a truly beautiful, chilling, ground-breaking film that has a firm place in horror history.

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