Archive for the pit and the pendulum

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…


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

House of usher

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.



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


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.


The Wild Angels (1966)

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


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.



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


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.



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


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 1991

Posted in horror, movies with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 6, 2013 by goregirl

There was a tremendous amount of truly awful films from 1991. I seen sixty-eight films from the year and gave twenty-five of them a failing mark. That left me only 43 films to choose from, and twenty of those received just a pass (2.5/5). I have compiled these top ten lists for every year of the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s and have never failed that many films in a single year. Sitting through some of these films was like stabbing myself repeatedly with a blunt object. In any case, this is what I came up with; I rated the film in the number one spot 5/5, the film in the two spot was rated 4.5/5, films three, four and five were rated 4/5 and films six through ten were rated 3.5/5. I rated just one other film 3.5/5 and that was Bloodsucking Pharaohs of Pittsburgh.

*Have you entered my Grunge Cinema Criterion Contest to win a $50 Criterion gift certificate? You still can here.

*Only feature-length films will be included on the top ten lists for the decade; I do not include shorts, documentaries or made for television movies.


Directed By: James Cummins

The Boneyard is a little oddity that I missed out on in the 90s and only discovered a few years back. Two cops attempt to enlist the aid of a psychic who has helped them solve cases in the past. This exchange is quite bizarre and strangely serious considering what occurs later in the film. The case they need her assistance with involves a man who has been arrested for keeping children locked in his basement. The accused claims he had no choice due to a family curse that must be fulfilled. The two cops and the psychic end up at the morgue which is where the majority of the film’s action takes place. This film is far more fun than it is frightening. It obviously doesn’t want to be taken too seriously. The effects are cheesy and over the top and quite wonderful! The little zombie children had delightfully nasty looking makeup and the creatures were ridiculous but definitely a blast. There is a 50 foot tall zombie poodle for god’s sake! Most of the comedy comes from the visuals and not the dialogue. This is a wee bit of a shame since they cast Phyllis Diller as a cranky night clerk named Miss Poopinplatz and Norman Fell as coroner Shepard. More effective verbal humour would have gotten this one even higher marks. However, the visual humour is impressive and really is a hoot! Have I mentioned there is a 50 foot tall zombie poodle?!! If you are a fan of the horror-comedy genre and you like it cheesy I think The Boneyard is a must see!



Directed By: Shin’ya Tsukamoto

I am definitely a fan of Shin’ya Tsukamoto’s films and particularly his outrageously creative visuals. The man knows how to make the most of camera angles, lights and color and while Hiruko the Goblin is definitely a more light-hearted affair than some of his other entries like Tetsuo, Tetsuo II: Body Hammer and Tokyo Fist it certainly screams of his visuals. Professor Yabe and a young female student discover a creature in a cave nearby the school and are quickly attacked after which all hell breaks loose. Soon a nasty little goblin named Hiruko who was buried under the local high school that is closed for summer holidays is suddenly lively and stealing heads. Hiruko the Goblin has a spirited enough pace and a decent body count and features a possessed Janitor, human heads on mechanical spider bodies, gore, strange crustacean/insect creatures, and a character with a penchant for creating bizarre Macgyver-esque gadgets from kitchen implements. Hiruko the Goblin is a horror comedy with outrageously fun albeit cheesy effects. The effects are really as amusing as they are creepy. While I would not say Hiruko the Goblin is a film for children it does have a child-like joy about it full of silliness and crazy creature effects. Hiruko the Goblin’s story is a bit needlessly complicated and characters could have been better developed but it was pretty damn fun despite that and well worth a look.



Directed By: Todd Haynes

Poison is a weird but interesting collection of three intertwined stories, each shot in a unique way. One story is about a boy named Richie who allegedly shot his father to death who than, according to his mother flew out the window. The segment is done in a documentary style and is a collection of interviews with various people who knew Richie including classmates, teachers, his family doctor and his mother. Another story is filmed in black and white seemingly intended to mimic the sci-fi horror from the fifties. A scientist succeeds in isolating the elixir of human sexuality. When visited by a fellow female scientist and a great admirer of his work he becomes distracted and accidently drinks the elixir. The elixir transforms the scientist into a murderous leper. The third story is about a gay inmate named John Broom. Broom becomes attracted to a fellow prisoner who he recalls in flashbacks was taunted and tortured as a youth when they were both in an institution for juvenile delinquents. In the early part of Poison I thought perhaps the stories were connected in some way, but really the only thing that connects them is a theme of sexuality. The sexuality in the science fiction and prison stories is obvious from my summary. The story of the boy Richie also has its sexuality as the young boy witnesses his mother having sex with another man. In two of the interviews a doctor comments on Richie’s genitals and a student claims Richie exposed himself. To say the film is ambiguous is an understatement. I enjoy an ambiguous story but Poison leaves behind a little more mystery than I cared for. I can’t say I found it unappealing though. The visuals throughout were intriguing, alluring, disturbing and at times mesmerizing. I especially enjoyed the black and white sci-fi segment. Although Poison does contain some horror elements I would not classify it as a horror film. It is more art house fare than anything.



Directed By: Ted Nicolaou

The good people at Fullmoon contributed a few gems to the 90s and Subspecies is the first of two to make the list for 1991 (the second is in the three hole). The film opens with the return of Radu an evil vampire and the estranged son of King Vladislav. Radu has come to claim the bloodstone an ancient vessel that contains the blood of saints. Radu craves power and believes it is his birthright as the eldest son. The king isn’t having any of it and attempts to cage Radu, but Radu easily escapes and kills his father. We are than transported to a train station where we meet three young college students. The lovely ladies are the only guests staying in a historic stone building with the exception of a handsome zoologist who only studies at night. The women intend on studying the customs of the small superstitious village. The handsome zoologist Stefan as it turns out is the half brother of Radu and the two vampire brothers engage in a battle of good versus evil. Subspecies is filmed in Romania and the location and its amazing old architecture is absolutely beautiful. The effects are slim and not particularly well executed but I got a kick out of them nonetheless. As sketchy as they were I enjoyed Radu’s little demon helpers! And Radu himself is an absolute delight. He is one ugly freaking vampire. Radu is in desperate need of a manicure, drools like a leaky faucet and has a voice as smooth as sandpaper. Radu is evil to the core and is a crapload of fun! The acting in the film was tolerable enough but some of the minor characters were horribly flat. Angus Scrimm’s name is featured prominently but has only the brief appearance in the films opening scene as King Vladislav. Seems a shame they didn’t use him more, at least in some flashback scenes or something. More concentration on the vampire family and less on the women would have been most welcomed. There is a little bit of gore and nudity but overall it just barely warrants its R Rating. Subspecies is all about Radu who is one of the most entertaining vampires to grace the subgenre.



Directed By: Michele Soavi

La Setta or The Sect if the name didn’t tip you off is a satanic worship/cult sort of thing. It is a rather convoluted one at that, although not unenjoyable. La Setta begins with a flashback to 70s California but the balance of the film takes place in present day (present day 1991 that is) Frankfurt Germany. We begin with a man who kills and takes the heart of a woman who “disobeyed” and later shoots himself in the head when he is caught by police. We than meet a well meaning school teacher named Miriam Kreisl who nearly hits a man with her car and offers to take him to the hospital. The man, Moebius Kelly ends up resting on Miriam’s couch where he uses the opportunity to slip some sort of insect into her nasal passage while she is sleeping. Miriam unwillingly becomes involved with the cult who has chosen her as the mother of their unholy leader’s baby. That is probably a bit of a spoiler but I think it is blazingly clear quite early that this is the direction it is going. Soavi’s visuals are fantastic. One particular dream sequence is very trippy-terrific and the downright bizarre ritual towards the films finale that incorporates a birdman and a birthing well is still firmly imprinted on my brain. Kelly Curtis is a likable protagonist and the great Herbert Lom is solid as Moebius Kelly. La Setta has a good atmosphere and an appropriate pace that builds some decent tension. My biggest bones to pick were Pino Donaggio’s disappointing score that at times was just plain awful. I actually thought the ending was great prior to the twoish minutes they tacked on prior to the credits but this final revelation left a bit of bad taste in my mouth. I do enjoy me some devilish hi-jinx and despite its flaws I found La Setta entertaining.

la setta


Directed By: Wes Craven

I hadn’t seen The People Under the Stairs in several years before this recent viewing and remembered very little about it. I was slightly scared off by the fact a child was at the centre of the action as this can often result is a ball-less affair but The People Under the Stairs has a little something for everyone. Fool and his family have been evicted from their home by their landlords the Robesons. It is decided that they should rob the Robeson’s home. What they don’t know however is that the Robesons and their huge labyrinth-like residence are full of nasty surprises. The psychotic and incestuous brother and sister are ruthless killers that have a basement full of cannibals who were once children of the Robesons who disobeyed them. Fans of Twin Peaks will remember the delightfully coo-coo eye patch wearing Nadine Hurley and her brow-beaten hubby Ed who are both just spectacularly nuts as the Robesons in The People Under the Stairs. The performances are pretty strong across the board. The film has a spirited pace and tons of action. While gore is somewhat limited there are some nasty tidbits here and there and the effects included are very good. The house is simply magnificent with its endless labyrinth of passageways and its aging and crumbling bricks and plaster. You can practically smell the dust and decay in your living room. For me the Robeson’s and their sick twisted history was a major highlight. They throw in a kidnapped girl, a vicious dog and a little S&M for good measure. The People Under the Stairs is a fun-filled, nasty, thrilling, action-packed adventure.

the people under the stairs


Directed By: Shozin Fukui

964 Pinocchio is a lobotomized cyborg sex slave who is sold to a couple of rich eccentric women. When their sex slave is unable to maintain an erection they throw him out on the street. A young woman named Himiko befriends Pinocchio after he flops down and puts his head in her lap. Himiko tries to help Pinocchio adapt and teaches him how to speak. Eventually Pinocchio begins to question who he is and both himself and Himiko take one bizarre, insane, dizzying journey through hell. I think most of us are familiar with the story of Pinocchio; the little wooden doll who wants to become a real boy. To say 964 Pinocchio is a unique interpretation of the story is probably a grand understatement! There are several, long dizzying POV shots, insane angles, quick cuts, stop motion animation not to mention one of the longest vomiting scenes of all time. A scene where Pinocchio’s skin melts off looked like they used paint for the effects judging by the thickness and bold coloring of the ooze. Pinocchio running at breakneck speed down a busy pedestrian littered street with huge clamps around his neck chained to a concrete block he is pulling behind him is really something else! The film’s effects are definitely creative! 964 Pinocchio is not always an easy film to follow with its lack of dialog, tweaked-out visuals, abrasive sound effects and the screaming. Flashback scenes are shot at you like a machine gun and you would miss something if you blinked. Obviously the film relies heavily on its visuals. The ending mystified me, but it was nonetheless a trip. 964 Pinocchio was a fascinating, bizarre and creative bit of insanity! To read the full review click here.

964 pinocchio


Directed By: Stuart Gordon

The Pit and the Pendulum is not a remake of Roger Corman’s 1961 film and it also has very little to do with Edgar Allan Poe’s story with the exception of its titular device. Set in 1400s Spain the Grand Inquisitor Torquemada reigns with bloody supremacy enacting torture on the populace in the name of religion. A woman named Maria airs her grievances during a public torture and is herself accused of being a witch. The evil Torquemada is perplexed and disoriented by his desire for the beautiful Maria and throws her in the prison where she befriends Esmerelda a confessed witch. Meanwhile Maria’s husband Antonio makes a failed attempt to free his innocent wife and is sent to the torture chambers. Lance Henrikson is absolutely top notch evil as Torquemada. He enacts his torture in the name of god with such utterly nasty conviction! He tortures and kills a shitload of people without blinking an eye. Rona De Ricci is a lovely and likable choice as the innocent Maria who challenges Torquemada’s vows. Jeffrey Combs is fun as Francisco and is really the only character that doesn’t seem to get a thrill from the unsavory duties he enacts. He is pretty kooky looking with that hair and those giant horn-rimmed glasses though. And Oliver Reed has a brief but memorable cameo as the Cardinal. There is a little humour throughout the film which seemed a bit unnecessary but is occasionally effective. There is not a moment of downtime from The Pit and the Pendulum’s brutal opening to its action packed and crazy finale! It is bad fecking news to be accused of witchcraft; confess or don’t confess either way you are tortured. There is more violence than you can shake a stick at! The visuals are solid and the sets and costumes are fantastic. Stuart Gordon’s The Pit and the Pendulum is a thrilling and unsavory bit of nasty wonderfulness not to be missed!

the pit and the pendulum


Directed By: Jonathan Demme

I don’t really consider The Silence of the Lambs a horror film. It also did not come up on the IMDB horror search for 1991. I felt somewhat obligated to include it since I included Misery which also did not come up on the IMDB horror search. It does in fact feature not one, but two serial killers even if it is more interested in the hunt to track down a serial killer than the serial killer’s dirty deeds. Frankly, it was a weak year and The Silence of the Lambs is a solid film, so here it is nonetheless. FBI agent in-training Clarice Starling is tasked with enlisting the aid of imprisoned psycho psychiatrist Hannibal “the cannibal” Lecter. The FBI believe Lecter may have information that could lead them to a serial killer coined Buffalo Bill who has abducted a prominent Senator’s daughter. Starling wins Lecter’s confidence but the cannibal psychiatrist makes the fledgling FBI agent work for her answers while the life of the Senator’s daughter hangs in the balance. The Silence of the Lambs heavily focuses on the relationship between Starling and Lecter which is good because it is the film’s best asset. Outside of Starling and Lecter’s back and forth and the outstanding performances from Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins The Silence of the Lambs is a fairly standard thriller. It is definitely the performances that elevate this film to a higher tier. Lecter is one of celluloid’s most intriguing killers; intelligent, charismatic and well-spoken as well as a master manipulator and mind fucker who hungers for human flesh. Hopkins is truly chilling and fascinating as the brilliant albeit psychotic cannibal psychiatrist. Starling when forced into a quid pro quo lays her soul bare and it is not impossible to understand how Lecter might find her honesty and frankness alluring. I would certainly question the wisdom of sending a student FBI agent to deal with such a foe but Foster is a great actress who brings strength to the Starling character that makes it work beautifully. The Silence of the Lambs is an outstanding character-driven crime thriller to be enjoyed with some liver, fava beans and a nice Chianti.

silence of the lambs


Directed By: David Cronenberg

Like The Silence of the Lambs, I have never really considered Naked Lunch a horror film, but it actually did show up on the IMBD horror search, so it instantly qualifies. Also, I fucking love this film! Naked Lunch is only loosely based on William S. Burroughs’ novel Naked Lunch. Cronenberg turns the story into more of a semi-autobiographical account of Burroughs life. Characters are based on real life acquaintances Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, Joan Vollmer and Paul and Jane Bowles. Bill Lee is an exterminator whose wife Joan is addicted to the insecticide he uses to kill bugs. Bill too is affected by the substance which causes him to have severe hallucinations. So severe are his hallucinations that he believes he is a secret agent for an organization called Interzone and is assigned tasks by a giant insect! Naked Lunch is an epic film that can not and should not be summed up in a short paragraph. I intend on doing a detailed review later in the month so I shall not dwell on its wonderfully bizarre story. I can’t think of a single director who could capture Burroughs vibe better than David Cronenberg! This film is such a trip! The visuals are mind-bendingly phenomenal and the perfect casting of Peter Weller as Bill Lee and Judy Davis in her dual roles as Joan Lee and her doppelganger Joan Frost are spot on. Weller and Davis get perfect support from the likes of Roy Scheider, Ian Holm, Julian Sands and Canadian mainstay Nicholas Campbell (who also made appearances in Cronenberg’s Fast Company, The Brood and The Dead Zone). Naked Lunch is a film that has withstood countless viewings and always leaves me awestruck; it is a brilliant mind twist with unforgettable images and fantastic performances that is truly a one of a kind experience.

naked lunch1


Goregirl’s TOP 10 Favourite Horror Films From 1961

Posted in horror, movies with tags , , , , , , , , , on November 4, 2012 by goregirl

IMDB listed 149 titles for 1961; 48 of those were full length feature films. I do not include shorts, documentaries, made for TV movies or TV series on these lists. Like 1960 there were several television shows and their individual episodes listed that included Twilight Zone, Thriller, Way Out, and Great Ghost Tales. I seen just 26 of the 48 films from this year. Not only did I see fewer films from 1961 than any other year of the decade, but it has decidedly been my least favourite year. Only one film received a coveted perfect 5/5 rating. One film received a 4.5/5, four films received a 4/5 and the rest of the top ten are films I rated 3.5/5! I really had to reach to come up with a top ten. Granted a 3.5/5 (7/10) isn’t a bad rating. I certainly liked a film I rated 3.5/5 and would recommend it, but it also means I found it to be flawed. There were four other films that received consideration for 1961; Gorgo, What a Carve Up!, Santo Vs. The Infernal Men and Ghost of Oiwa.



Directed By: Alfred Vohrer

I mentioned the Krimi film movement in my review for Circus of Fear. Although Circus of Fear hails from the UK I mentioned Krimi because it was based on the writing of Edgar Wallace. The Krimi film movement is German made films based on the work of crime writer Edgar Wallace. There were quite a few Krimi films made through the sixties and I think The Dead Eyes of London is one of the best. Wealthy men are being murdered and a home for the blind may be behind the killings. Blind men? Crazy! The story is pretty wild and it serves up more than its share of fast-paced thrills not to mention some rather impressive violence for 1961. The Dead Eyes of London is chocked full of atmosphere and there are moments that are quite chilling. There are some lulls here and there but overall the film keeps a steady pace. From its excellent opening scene to its exciting finale the film kept me intrigued. There are plenty of bizarre and eccentric characters particularly notable was Reverend Paul Dearborn played by Dieter Borsche. The Dead Eyes of London is solid entertainment and is a violent and exciting horror crime thriller.



Directed By: William Castle

Despite Homicidal’s similarities to Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, the film is pure William Castle. Like all his films previously, Castle includes his trademark gimmick. Castle offered a money back guarantee for those too frightened to see Homicidal’s shocking climax. Just before the climax a clock appears on the screen. If you leave before the clock runs out, you will get your money back. BUT, you’ll have to stand in the “Coward’s Corner” until the other patrons are let out of the theatre. This is particularly hilarious since “the twist” is so frightfully obvious! Despite the painfully obvious twist the film kept me engaged throughout. An attractive blond woman checks into a hotel under the name Miriam Webster, offers a bellhop $2000 to marry her and ends up stabbing a justice of the peace! We learn the woman’s real name is Emily and she is the caretaker for a mute wheelchair bound woman named Helga. Miriam Webster is in fact the name of the half-sister of Emily’s employer Warren. The plot thickens when we learn Warren is about to come into a large fortune. The film has a lively pace and is even surprisingly dark at times with its themes of child abuse and sexuality. Joan Marshall is fascinating to watch as the callous Emily who slowly unravels during the course of the film. Emily is not particularly likable with her hissy fits, erratic spats of anger not to mention a few rather weird and awkward moments but her theatrics are a great deal of fun to watch! Homicidal is an entertaining thriller that despite the obvious “twist”, still has a few surprises and Joan Marshall’s deliciously over-the-top performance as Emily is worth the price of admission!



Directed By: John Gilling

The Shadow of the Cat is noted as being made by BHP Productions, but was made at Hammer Film’s Bray Studios. It also used several of Hammer’s film crew, including director John Gilling (Plague of the Zombies). I have no idea if this was a joint venture between the two, but it certainly has those classic Hammer attributes. Beautiful sets, great costumes, a pitch-perfect mood and great performances make The Shadow of the Cat very watchable. Although not noted in the writing credits The Shadow of the Cat is clearly a Poe-inspired tale. The Shadow of the Cat even begins with the reading of a passage from Poe’s The Raven. Walter Venable with the help of the maid and butler knocks off his wife Ella for her inheritance. The only witness is Ella’s beloved cat Tabitha. But Tabitha is no ordinary house cat and does her part to insure the guilty pay for their crimes. We know right from the start who committed the crime and who is exacting the revenge but there are still some surprises in the plot.  Tabitha is an adorable girl that looks like a pretty happy well-fed feline. She could not possibly strike fear in someone’s heart! Unless of course that someone is guilty of a crime. The relentless Tabitha terrorizes the guilty and freaks the hell out of them! The police and Beth (Ella’s favourite niece) are completely perplexed by the household’s unreasonable fear of Tabitha. The Shadow of the Cat is a well-paced, esthetically pleasing, charming film with strong performances and a most enjoyable story.



Directed By: Benito Alazraki

I’ve seen quite a few horror films hailing from Mexico during this journey through the 60s. Mexico had quite an active film industry through the decade. Unfortunately just about every last one of these films is dubbed, and quite badly I might add. I could not help but chuckle at some of the really over-the-top voice work in Curse of the Doll People. Nonetheless the film looks good and has an effective atmosphere with some unforgettable moments. The film is about a group of men who are cursed by a voodoo priest after stealing a ritual idol. The killers are dolls with needles! Well, not dolls so much as midgets wearing masks that look like their victims! What a trip. It was actually quite creepy! The film is reasonably paced, although it does have a wee bit of unnecessary filler but man there are some spectacular moments that easily makes Curse of the Doll People worth a watch.



Directed By: Curtis Harrington

Besides featuring a very young Dennis Hopper I knew absolutely nothing about Night Tide. Night Tide turned out to be a delightful surprise! It is a lovely, sad, haunting film. The film is heavily character-driven and slow paced but drenched in atmosphere. I adored the film’s crumbling beach-side carnival backdrop and its eerie use of the sea it overlooks. The beautiful old carousel, the tacky attractions, Captain Murdock’s amazing collection of trinkets and an appealing score that compliments it all perfectly. Hopper plays Johnny Drake a sailor on leave who falls in love with a mysterious young woman named Mora who performs as a mermaid in the local carnival. Possibly Hopper’s most subtle performance and he is likable and empathetic as Johnny. Equally endearing is Linda Lawson who plays Mora. Night Tide is a beautiful, mysterious and enthralling film I found very appealing.



Directed By: Seth Holt

You can bet there will be plenty more Hammer Films to make these sixties lists! Hell there is even one more on this list. Hammer Films ruled the 1960s! Taste of Fear is a lesser known film for the studio that is a well-executed horror-mystery-thriller. A wheel-chair bound Penny Appleby comes to live with her estranged father and step-mother only to find her father away on business. The young woman believes she seen her father’s corpse in a storage shed, but when they go to investigate there is nothing there. When the appearances continue to occur she begins questioning the possibility of foul play. An overly friendly stepmom, a suspicious doctor who makes daily house calls, an eager to help chauffeur and of course the neurotic wheelchair-bound Penny are all part of the mystery. There are clues throughout Taste of Fear’s story which twists and turns leading up to an excellent finale. Admittedly, not all the revelations are a surprise, but there is one in particular I did not see coming. Just the same, it is a well-rolled out plot and they keep things interesting. Christopher 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 especially Susan Strasberg who plays Penny Appleby. Taste of Fear has beautiful black and white photography, a great mood, strong performances and is a pretty great little mystery.



Directed By: Jerzy Kawalerowicz

Mother Joan of the Angels is loosely based on the 1634 case in Loudun, France of alleged devil possession of the Ursuline nuns. Aldous Huxley wrote his book The Devils of Loudun in the 1950’s also based on this story; which Ken Russell based his 1971 film The Devils. Mother Joan of the Angels just barely qualifies as horror, and isn’t remotely exploitative, so don’t come here expecting naughty Nunsploitation. Father Suryn is sent to replace a denounced priest who was burned at the stake and deal with a convent of allegedly devil-possessed nuns. Father Suryn soon meets Mother Joan and her demons and to save her he will ultimately question his lifetime of faith. Mother Joan of the Angels is above all else a character study. Lucyna Winnicka is stunning as Mother Joan. Her possession scenes are inspired! Winnicka gives a realistic performance never going over the top. Mieczyslaw Voit is both empathetic and intense as Father Suryn. Visually, Mother Joan of the Angels is utterly stunning. Its symmetrical and strikingly stark style is a feast for the eyes. Lacking any special effects the story is relayed by the visuals and the strong performances from the two leads. Mother Joan of the Angels is a gorgeously filmed, well-acted character study though barely qualifying as a horror film it is nonetheless a compelling watch.



Directed By: Roger Corman

The Pit and the Pendulum is another Roger Corman/Vincent Price outing based on the work of Edgar Allan Poe. According to IMDB Roger Corman produced an insane 401 films and directed 56 of those titles. Although Corman has producer credits right up to 2012, it was his 50s and 60s directorial efforts for which he will always have a fond place in my heart. Francis Barnard travels to Spain after learning his sister Elizabeth has died. Elizabeth’s husband Don Medina is the son of a notoriously barbaric Spanish inquisitor and lives in the family’s isolated castle. Francis is suspicious of Don Medina’s story that Elizabeth has died of a blood disease and much to Don Medina’s chagrin insists on staying at the castle until he uncovers the truth. The Francis Barnard character is probably my only real bone to pick. John Kerr is incredibly dull in this role. The rest of the cast however is brilliant; Vincent Price, Antony Carbone, Luana Anders and Barbara Steele are all top notch! The Pit and the Pendulum has a well-written suspenseful story that climbs steadily to its fantastic climax. The superb sets and props (especially that pendulum device!), the lush colors, its gorgeous gothic vibe, strong performances and an enthralling story all make for an entertaining watch.



Directed By: Terence Fisher

This is the second (3rd if you want to include Shadow of the Cat) Hammer Film to make the list for 1961. This is The Curse of the Werewolf’s second appearance on a dungeon list, formerly appearing in the number five spot of my ten favourite werewolf films. We begin our tale with a most interesting origin for our werewolf (which I will leave for you to discover on your own). Leon’s mother died in childbirth and Leon is adopted by the kindly Don Alfredo Corledo. Leon’s lycanthropy is discovered when he is young and on the advice of a priest the boy is showered with love and attention. Love indeed seems to be the answer as Leon becomes a grown man ready to head out in to the world. All goes swimmingly well for Leon who finds true love with Cristina the daughter of the owner of the wine cellar where he works. That is until he is denied the love of Cristina and he starts to get that taste for blood. The Curse of the Werewolf is a unique entry in the werewolf sub-genre. It employs some of the classic werewolf film elements you would expect but adds many of its own interesting touches that make it stand out. It is typical Hammer with its always impressive sets, props and costumes. Beautifully and inventively filmed by Terence Fisher and perfectly acted particularly by the excellent Oliver Reed. I loved the werewolf makeup they give Reed who is incredibly likable and empathetic as Leon. The Curse of the Werewolf is a beautiful, mesmerizing and mysterious treat!



Directed By: Jack Clayton

The Innocents is based on Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw. Miss Giddens is hired as a governess for two orphaned children living in an isolated estate in the country. She comes to believe the estate is haunted by the former governess and her lover whom are intent on possessing the children. The Innocents is as much a psychological trip as it is a ghost story. Its story is meticulously written and its seemingly simple plot is richly layered. The ending literally left me silent. Bloody hell is that an ending! Miss Giddens is a young, naive and inexperienced governess. She is a proper lady, seemingly reasonable with a gentle disposition who loves children. Miss Giddens personality traits are what make the events of the film such a mind blow. Deborah Kerr is outstanding as Miss Gibbons and gives a sublime performance that left me in awe. The Innocents is an intelligent, intriguing, brilliantly acted, beautifully filmed, dark and haunting masterpiece.