Archive for yvonne monlaur

CIRCUS OF HORRORS (1960) – The Dungeon Review!

Posted in horror, movies, UK with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 29, 2012 by goregirl

I’ve said it before and I will say it again; I am a huge sucker for a horror film with a carnival or circus theme! In Circus of Horrors a circus is merely a front for the demented Dr. Schuler. Dr. Schuler is a plastic surgeon and along with his two assistants is forced to flee when one of his surgeries goes horribly wrong. He meets a badly scarred child and he convinces her father who owns a broken down circus to let him operate on her. The child’s surgery is a success and in appreciation her father agrees to a partnership with Dr. Schuler. Immediately after their handshake the father has a drunken accident and Dr. Schuler becomes the sole owner. Schuler of course has a diabolical plan for the circus. All the performers will be badly scarred criminals whom he will operate on and make beautiful. If necessary he can blackmail the performers into staying by threatening to expose their criminal records. I realize this seems like a lot of information but we learn all this before we even get to the circus section which makes up the majority of the runtime. They stuff a lot of information in this introduction! When we get to the circus we just jump in head first.

We move ten years into the future and Dr. Schuler has clearly made the circus a huge success. But the circus Dr. Schuler dubbed “the circus of beauty” is now being dubbed by the media as the “jinx circus” on account of the number of “unfortunate accidents”. Circus of Horrors has all the familiar trappings one would expect; high-wire acts, acrobats, knife throwers, lion tamers, clowns. Circus of Horrors uses these accoutrements to their full effectiveness. I am going to give you a wee spoiler and tell you that the scarred girls father gets mauled to death by a bear. This bear scene is unintentionally hilarious! The death scenes otherwise are not graphic but are quite suspenseful and well-executed. I don’t want to spoil any more, but let’s just say the deaths have a circus theme. The performers scars pre-surgery are impressive and very believable. The excellent opening sequence where a hysterical woman smashes all the mirrors in her bedroom reveals to us the horror caused by Dr. Schuler. It’s not my fault baby; you shouldn’t have taken those bandages off so early. Dr. Schuler apologizes for nothing!

Dr. Schuler is a heartless, self-absorbed asswad that will stop at nothing in the name of self-preservation. His work means everything in that obsessive way that is required for any good mad movie scientist or doctor. He isn’t over-the-top with his antics playing it subdued but single-mindedly intense. Anton Diffring is perfect as the arrogant Dr. Schuler. He also completely looks the part. A young Donald Pleasance makes a brief appearance early in the film as the father of the scarred child. Pleasance is featured in the unfortunate bear scene but he is great just the same. His daughter Nicole grows up to be a beautiful woman with an equestrian act. Nicole is played by the lovely Yvonne Monlaur who is sweet and likable. Dr. Schuler’s assistant Martin is a bit of a sad sack. Martin assists in Schuler’s surgeries and is at the doctor’s beck and call for any number of other requests. Kenneth Griffith is decent enough in the role, and while I would not exactly say you feel sorry for the character there is the glimmer of hope that he will eventually grow a set. Martin’s sister Angela also assists in Dr. Schuler’s surgeries and also happens to be in love with Schuler. It is a mystery to me what she sees in this jerk. Angela is complicit in Dr. Schuler’s crimes but still manages to garner some sympathy. My favorite female character in the film is definitely the spicy and spirited Elissa Caro. Elissa is the show’s acrobat who ends her act each night with a noose around her neck as she frantically spins several dozen feet above the ground. Erika Remberg is top-notch as the confident Elissa Caro and it is a lot of fun seeing her give Dr. Schuler hell! Finally we have Inspector Arthur Ames. The circus is garnering some unwanted attention with its “accidents” and Inspector Ames is on the case. He is really “on”. The inspector is a real ladies man type who seduces the lovely performers for the answers he requires. Conrad Phillips who plays Inspector Ames is likable enough and he gets to have some fun whilst solving the crime.

Circus of Horrors’ story is rather on the crazy side. It really is a needlessly complicated plan this Dr. Schuler has concocted. The guy is a plastic surgeon and he is going to start a circus, find a bunch of criminals who will agree to be operated on, train them to be circus performers and oversee operations of said circus? Bloody hell that Dr. Schuler sure is ambitious! Great sets, lovely costumes, lush colors, a steady pace, strong performances and some well-executed moments of suspense make Circus of Horrors a very entertaining watch. Recommended!

Dungeon Rating: 4/5

Directed By: Sidney Hayers

Starring: Anton Diffring, Erika Remberg, Yvonne Monlaur, Donald Pleasence, Jane Hylton, Kenneth Griffith, Conrad Phillips, Jack Gwillim, Vanda Hudson, Yvonne Romain, Colette Wilde

THE BRIDES OF DRACULA (1960) – The Dungeon Review!

Posted in horror, movies, UK with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on January 27, 2012 by goregirl

Terence Fisher directed several films for Hammer Film Productions. Most of the titles Fisher directed were during Hammer’s heyday in the 1950’s and 1960’s and are some of the studio’s best. Among his outstanding entries are The Curse of Frankenstein, Dracula, The Hound of the Baskervilles, The Mummy, The Curse of the Werewolf, The Gorgon and The Devil Rides Out. The Devil Rides Out is without a doubt, one of my favourite Hammer films of all time. I contributed a review for The Devil Rides Out to friend of the dungeon Basement Scream’s feature “Six Weeks of Satan” (to read the review click here). Terence Fisher directs The Brides of Dracula with stylish flare and a touch of sexy and the result is positively captivating!

Marianne Danielle has travelled a long distance by carriage to take a position as a teacher in an all girl’s boarding school. Along her travels the carriage driver stops at an inn and leaves Marianne to fend for herself. She is befriended by the Baroness Meinster who invites her to stay at the family estate. The Baroness’ it turns out has a son who she is keeping hidden from the townsfolk. The Baroness does not divulge to Marianne why she is imprisoning her own son only that there is a very good reason for doing so. When Marianne meets the Baron he appears to be ready to jump from the balcony to his death. She comes running to him only to discover he is in chains. The charming and handsome Baron paints a very different picture for Marianne of the reasons he is imprisoned in his own home. Falling for him instantly Marianne rushes to find the key that will unlock his chains. Marianne has no idea the evil she has unleashed, but she soon will.

Despite the lack of Dracula himself, The Brides of Dracula is a sequel of sorts. While Christopher Lee is absent the always excellent Peter Cushing is back as Dr J. Van Helsing. The performances are perfect by the entire cast. Our lovely Teacher Marianne is played by Yvonne Monlaur who is downright adorable. It is she who unleashes the naughty Baron Meinster played with devilish mischief by David Peel. Under the guise of a romantic gesture the Baron lures himself females to grow his vampire army. One of my favourite characters is Greta. Greta was charged to care for the Baron by his mother insuring he stay hidden, tethered and fed. Greta cackles madly at the discovery the Baron has been freed, and fulfills her duties as his human servant. Greta aids with such grim tasks as helping new vamps claw their way out of their coffins! Freda Jackson is fantastic as Greta creating a character that is both amusing and spooky. The icy Baroness Meinster is conflicted and realizes her decision to keep her son alive is a dangerous and foolish one. Marita Hunt plays the Baroness with sophistication and confidence and an air of self importance. There is no mistaking that she is indeed “the Baroness”. Last and certainly not least is the wonderful Peter Cushing. The serious and efficient Mr. Van Helsing can also show sensitivity and concern when necessary. Peter Cushing brings the perfect balance to the role creating a Van Helsing that is both very likable and credible. Cushing would reprise his role as Van Helsing for Hammer several more times after this.

Like most Hammer Films The Brides of Dracula is a high achiever when it comes to its visuals. The sets are just fantastic. The colors and lighting is extremely easy on the eyes and the always lingering red color scheme gives the film a blood soaked vibe. Much of the film takes place in the home of the Baroness and Baron Meinster. The property appears to be absolutely massive and the home and its interiors are divine. The scenes filmed from Marianne’s bedroom balcony are particularly impressive in displaying the enormity of the property. There isn’t much here for effects however and just a glimpse of blood; but The Brides of Dracula is certainly none the lesser for it.

Those crazy nightgowns women wore during the Victorian period were not the gear for running in. Of course all that flowing fabric makes for some pretty pictures. I wonder if any women broke bones falling down those Hammer stairway sets in that Victorian garb? In any case, the costumes are all lovely and impressive; they just are not very practical when you need to run for your life! The story is simple but engrossing and they even add a couple special touches that make this particular vampire tale unique. A steady pace and a thrilling finale seal the deal. Certainly these older Hammer films seem quite subdued and bloodless in comparison to the films that came after. Keeping in mind that color was still a relatively new concept in film; a beautiful gothic horror tale like The Brides of Dracula must have been that much more impressive to audiences.

I have seen The Brides of Dracula probably a half dozen times over the years and I never get tired of it. It is charming, beautifully shot, well acted and chocked full o’mood and atmosphere. An entertaining and well made gothic horror and one of Hammer Studio’s best in my opinion. Highly recommended!

Dungeon Rating: 4/5

Directed By: Terence Fisher

Starring: Peter Cushing, Martita Hunt, Yvonne Monlaur, Freda Jackson, David Peel, Miles Malleson, Henry Oscar, Mona Washbourne, Andree Melly