Sunday, October 25, 2015
OCTOBER HORROR MOVIE CHALLENGE (10/22 - 10/23)
Challenge Totals to Date:
Movies Watched: 3
Total Movies Watched: 69
Total First Time Views: 33
Scare-A-Thon Donations: $1952.70
Remember, if you would like to make a pledge toward Scare-A-Thon 2015 (benefiting PLANNED PARENTHOOD and GREENHOUSE SHELTER) at any time, drop me an email at email@example.com to say how much you would like to pledge. Your donation is tax deductible and, seriously, even a penny per film helps.
The Terror (1963) d. Corman, Roger (USA) 79 min
A legendary curiosity item from producer/director Corman, more famous for its origin than the finished product. When Corman wrapped shooting on The Raven ahead of schedule, he took advantage of Boris Karloff’s two extra contracted days to slap together this tale of a reclusive baron with a dark secret. With the sets from the previous film being torn down around the actors’ ears, Corman shot all of Karloff’s scenes back to back, then composed the rest of the movie to fit. Belying his Oscar-winning career to come, Jack Nicholson turns in a blank-faced performance as a Napoleonic officer separated from his regiment. A beachside encounter with a peculiar young woman (Nicholson’s then-wife Sandra Knight) leads him to reclusive Karloff’s castle sanctuary and the ghostly haunts that lie within. Leo Gordon and Jack Hill’s flat and clunky storyline never manages to be particularly captivating, even with a few last-minute plot twists. On the other hand, veteran Karloff is terrific with his underwritten role, fully committing to goofy bits of business (i.e. repeatedly opening the crypt gate, obviously disconnected from its pull chain) and descending endless staircases. There are a few haphazard moments of drippy goo, and Corman regulars Dick Miller and Jonathan Haze enliven their supporting roles. Fans of Corman, Karloff, and Nicholson will find things to enjoy here – for less dedicated viewers, it’s a messy drag. To add to the mayhem, Nicholson, Hill, associate producer Francis Coppola, and Monte Helleman are rumored to have taken uncredited stints behind the camera for various scenes.
The Giant Gila Monster (1959) d. Kellogg, Ray (USA) (2nd viewing) 74 min
Good guy teen Chase (Don Sullivan) just wants to sing his songs, strum his mini-banjo, and soup up his hot rod, but when the titular lizard menace starts stomping around New Mexico’s deserted desert roads, he’s consistently pressed into duty by his small burg’s ineffectual sheriff (Fred Graham). Director Kellogg and producer Ken Curtis fared better dressing up dogs in the same year’s Killer Shrews; their “special effects” consist almost entirely of vacant shots of the cold-blooded scaly one crawling past the camera and flicking its tongue completely removed from the onscreen action. (Only once in a great while do they even bother using a miniature set or vehicle to create a sense of scale.) Subplots abound, all to elevate Chase to sainthood status: he loves little crippled girls, dates foreign exchange students, stops high profile DJs from driving drunk, sings songs about the Good Lord, and keeps a couple quarts of nitroglycerin handy just in case anyone might need to blow up a rapacious reptile.
Dead Men Walk (1943) d. Newfield, Sam (USA) (1st viewing) 62 min
The poor man’s Boris Karloff, George Zucco, gets a chance to strut his stuff, playing the dual roles of a respected doctor and his scoundrel brother, the latter of which returns from the grave as a vampire to wreak further havoc on the locals. Of course, the fact that he’s supposed to be dead places suspicion on his more esteemed sibling, and the race is on to keep the bloodsucker away from innocent and lovely Mary Carlisle. Memorable wackadoo character actor Dwight Frye (Dracula, Frankenstein) trots out a variation on his Renfield shtick as the undead Zucco’s familiar. Hardly original, but a decent programmer swift of pace and entertaining in spirit.