Archive for john llewellyn moxey

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

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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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).