Friday, November 21, 2014
Dr. Phibes Rises Again (1972) d. Robert Fuest (USA)
After the surprise hit of the original Phibes, Fuest and Price returned for another go-round of mirthful murderous mayhem, this time with the mad doctor hoping to revive his lost love via a sacred papyrus scroll and the mythical “River of Life” in Egypt. Robert Quarry co-stars as a millionaire equally consumed with the river’s life-restoring properties, one not at all amused by Price’s propensity for knocking off his expedition members through varied outlandish means.
The Comedy of Terrors (1963) d. Jacques Tourneur (USA)
After the success of The Raven, AIP attempted to tap the comic vein a second time but with decidedly diminished returns, both artistically and financially. The premise of a funeral home recycling its one coffin and occasionally helping the town’s populace into them is an amusingly dark one, but despite its terrific veteran cast, the comedy feels much more forced and mean-spirited, with Price’s tyrannical drunken lout snarking at underling Lorre and wife Joyce Jameson (who had memorably appeared opposite the two stars in “The Black Cat” episode of that year’s Tales of Terror).
Thursday, November 20, 2014
The Raven (1963) d. Roger Corman (USA)
A childhood fave that continues to hold up half a century later, thanks to the game comic performances from screen scream veterans Boris Karloff, Vincent Price, and Peter Lorre. Concerned that they might be repeating themselves, Corman and screenwriter Richard Matheson opted to spin the dark and forlorn premise of Poe’s best-known poem into an extravagant slapstick romp involving quarreling wizards, magic spells, duplicitous wives, and warnings from beyond the grave.
Return of the Fly (1959) d. Edward Bernds (USA)
Philippe Delambre (Brett Halsey) follows in his father’s buzzy footsteps by resurrecting the transporter machine – much to the chagrin of Uncle Francois (Vincent Price) – only to be pitched into it alongside another winged traveler by his duplicitous business partner (David Frankham). Hilarity ensues.
Sunday, November 9, 2014
House on Haunted Hill (1959) d. William Castle (USA)
This classic fright-fest frivolity from producer/director Castle stars Vincent Price as eccentric millionaire Frederick Loren, offering $10,000 to five diverse guests if they can spend the entire night in the titular haunted house; thrills and chills ensue.
The Tomb of Ligeia (1964) d. Roger Corman (UK)
The last of Corman’s Poe adaptations is certainly one of the best-looking, due to terrific exteriors shot in the English countryside (the notoriously tight-fisted producer/director was looking to explore a different look from the previous studio-bound installments). Adapted from Poe’s slim story “Ligeia” by future Oscar-winning scribe Robert Towne, the film revels in its morbid gothic atmosphere and excellent performances. In the midst of a well-photographed foxhunt, the Lady Rowena (Elizabeth Shepherd) comes across grieving widower Verden Fell (Vincent Price) and his groovy period shades.
Saturday, November 8, 2014
The Last Man on Earth (1964) d. Ubaldo Ragona / Sidney Salkow (Italy/USA)
“Another day to live through. Better get started.” From its opening shots of barren city landscapes littered with lifeless corpses to its bleak conclusion, the first screen version of Richard Matheson’s novel I am Legend is a downer all the way. But considering the subject matter, this is no surprise, and director Ragona (with additional material inserted by Salkow for its U.S. run) is to be lauded for remaining true to Matheson’s apocalyptic spirit.
The Doctor and the Devils (1985) d. Freddie Francis (UK)
This not-bad dramatization of the notorious Burke and Hare murders (with the names changed to protect. . .I'm not sure who) covers little new ground and, more significantly, fails to capture the haunting immorality of the crimes and those complicit in them. As the Dr. Knox character (here called Dr. Rock), Timothy Dalton is righteously indignant at the priggish lawmakers thwarting scientific progress, but even a hint of moral quandary as he knowingly turns a blind eye – allowing thuggish grave robbers-cum-murderers Fallon and Broom (Jonathan Pryce and Stephen Rea) to keep providing illegal cadavers for dissection – would have gone a long way.
Friday, November 7, 2014
The Squad (2011) d. Jaime Osorio Marquez (Argentina/Spain/Colombia) 107 min
A premise with promise is nothing without proper execution. That’s the lesson to be learned from this exercise in military horror, one that covers nary an inch of fresh ground that GP 506, The Bunker, Deathwatch, The Objective, and any number of its cinematic band of brothers haven’t already explored with varying degrees of success. Here, the titular squadron of soldiers seizes a deserted Colombian guard-post only to discover that their former comrades have been brutally and mysteriously slain, the only survivor being a terrified woman, her tongue brutally cut out.
Exists (2014) d. Eduardo Sanchez (USA) 86 min.
“Since 1967, there have been over 3,000 Bigfoot encounters in the U.S. alone. Experts agree the creatures are only violent if provoked.”
So begins Exists, which marks Sanchez’s noteworthy return to the “found footage” format that he and co-director Daniel Myrick helped popularize in the summer of 1999 with their wildly successful indie venture The Blair Witch Project. But what a difference a decade and a half can make; in the age of the iPhone, the faux documentary style that was once a novelty has become a Hollywood-adopted subgenre, and the question of “Why would they keep filming?” has been answered a billion times over by countless YouTube video subjects far less interesting than mysterious dangling stick figures or hairy missing links.