Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Fool's Views (5/31 – 6/6) (Part 2 - Birthdays and Beasts)

The first of our two horror triple features sprung from May's Kryptic Army assignment, which featured birthday boys Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee. These two titans of terror, oft-paired in Hammer and Amicus productions, were born on May 26 and 27, respectively (with Vincent Price also sharing his birth date with Lee). While the search for first time views with the stars was challenging at first, the results were quite satisfying. To join in the Kryptic fun for June (and the rest of the year), visit:

Our second film fest was inspired by the femalien and my recent two weeks on the road, camping out in the wilderness and hiking the back trails of the Southwest. You see, way back before the 80s slashers and Blair Witches invaded the woods, the onscreen forests provided hiding places for hordes of bloodthirsty creatures just waiting to sink their teeth and claws into yielding human flesh. Ah, it was a simpler time: Getting back to Nature, and then Nature getting you back...

As always, feel free to leave your two cents worth - we'll make sure you get some change back.


Corruption (1968)
(1st viewing) d. Hartford-Davis, Robert
St. Peter stars as a brilliant plastic surgeon who develops laser technology to assist him in his labors – good thing, too, since his beautiful and vain wife Sue Lloyd is soon the victim of a on-the-job accident (she’s a model, light stand falls on her). Unfortunately, the other element of the procedure involves acquiring the blood of young nubile women to keep his beloved’s features supple. Apparently, Cushing was not a fan of the film, but it’s solid enough thriller and as always, he gives his all. Hammer starlet Kate O’Mara co-stars as Lloyd’s sister.

Hercules in the Haunted World (1961) (1st viewing) d. Bava, Mario
Reg Park is the legendary mythical muscleman, venturing into the underworld to save the soul of his sweetheart. Christopher Lee co-stars as an evil mystic, seeking to overthrow the kingdom. It’s a fun, fantasy-filled romp, with awesome encounters with lakes of fire and huge stone monsters, all illuminated by Bava’s trademark colored lighting schemes.

Terror in the Crypt (1964) (1st viewing) d. Mastrocinque, Camillo
A spin on Sheridan Le Fanu’s classic story Carmilla, nobleman Christopher Lee worries that the mysterious deaths surrounding his beautiful niece Adriana Ambesi (billed as Audry Amber) are part of a legendary curse put upon the house by the vengeful spirit of Carmilla Karnstein. Moody black and white tale manages some decent atmosphere, though Lee does little except stand around and look surly.

Day of the Animals (1977)
(3rd viewing) d. Girdler, William
When the ozone layer grows especially weak due to overuse of fluorocarbons, the animals of the forest band together to wreak havoc on a motley group of hikers led by head guide macho man Christopher George. Among the critter bait are Richard Jaeckel, Andrew Stevens, Lynda Day (soon to be Lynda Day George after marrying her leading man), Michael Ansara, and future funnyman Leslie Nielsen, the latter cast as a slimy sadist who sets some kind of world record for repeated use of “hotshot” and “kemo sabe” in his dialogue. (For an advertising rep, one might think he would come up with a few more creative derogatory terms, right?) While George and Ansara are the ostensible heroes, it’s Nielsen who steals the show with his two-fisted, murdering, raping and bear-wrestling turn. With cougars, hawks, wolves, dogs and snakes leading the smackdown, there’s rarely a dull moment to be had amongst the hokum.

Grizzly (1976) (3rd viewing) d. Girdler, William
Billed as “Jaws with Paws,” there’s no denying the entertainment factor of unleashing a 15-foot ursa major upon the unwitting campers of the local state park, nor the fact that Girdler and screenwriters Harvey Flaxman and David Sheldon borrowed more than a little from Steven Spielberg’s 1975 blockbuster, right down to employing that film’s main head-in-the-sand bureaucrat, Joe Dorsey, and blowing its titular creature sky-high in the finale. You’ve also got a three man-team out going mano-a-paw with the big boy, in the form of Christopher George as the head park ranger, Richard Jaeckel as a wild man naturalist, and daredevil heliocopter pilot Andrew Prine who even delivers a riff on Robert Shaw’s “USS Indianapolis” speech. Shameless plagiarism be damned, the film was a huge hit in drive-ins and hard-tops alike in its time and is still a hoot to watch today. Followed by a Girdler-directed sequel of sorts, Day of the Animals.

Prophecy (1979) (3rd viewing) d. Frankenheimer, John
How this film went so wrong is anyone’s guess. With solid director John Frankenheimer, Omen screenwriter David Seltzer, and a capable cast in place one might expect competence if not brilliance. Alas, after a promising opening, the film descends rapidly into a cloud of painful social sermonizing (slumlords bad, big business bad, mistreating environment bad) and laughable special effects. The film takes itself so seriously that there is little fun to be had in this misguided tale of a murderous mutant creature lurking in the Maine forests, killing off lumber company employees, Native Americans, and unsuspecting campers alike. Robert Foxworth is the socially aware doctor/scientist, Talia Shire his overly emotional wife, Richard Dysart the stock big-business villain, and Armand Assante, of all people, as a Native American activist. Advice to filmmakers everywhere: When your creature looks like a cross between a mutant bear and an exploded hot dog from the microwave, you might not want to give it this much screen time, especially when it is obviously an unfortunate actor in a suit for some scenes and a big hand puppet in others. However… The cloud-of-feathers sleeping bag kill? Classic.

In the Cut (2003)
(1st viewing) d. Campion, Jane
More famous for its racy nude scenes with stars Meg Ryan and Mark Ruffalo, there are some worthy moments to be found in Campion’s oft-clunky adaptation of Susanna Moore’s novel (the two shared screenwriting duties), most of which involve Ruffalo’s enigmatic, coarse-talking cop. Plot-wise, things are pretty standard fare, but the sexually frank dialogue feels honest rather than sensational.

Singin' in the Rain (1952) (6th viewing) d. Donen, Stanley/Kelly, Gene
Greatest. Movie. Musical. Ever.

2010 Totals to date: 137 films, 102 1st time views, 81 horrors, 12 cinema

Twilight Zone: 5 episodes (74 total for 2010)


  1. Wow, I can't believe you've seen Prophecy three times. I can't even imagine sitting through it once, and I'm a huge Frankenheimer fan.

    And I didn't see 17 movies that week, either. Here's my more modest tally (first-timers marked with an asterisk):

    RoboCop (Paul Verhoeven, 1987)
    Cat Chaser* (Abel Ferrara, 1989)
    Splice* (Vincenzo Natali, 2010)
    A Lizard in a Woman's Skin* (Lucio Fulci, 1971)
    The Beast of the Yellow Night* (Eddie Romero, 1971)
    Track of the Moon Beast (Dick Ashe, 1976)
    Friends With Money* (Nicole Holofcener, 2006)
    The Host* (Bong Joon-ho, 2006)

  2. I've still not seen TRACK OF THE MOON BEAST - I keep saving it for November's turkey month and then lacking the courage to go through with it. Is it fun? Awful? Awful fun?

    I was just reading an old HorrorHound from 2007 that had an article on THE HOST in it and thought, "I really need to see that again." I liked it a lot, although there were a few moments that had me going, "HUH?"

    LIZARD is great. I'm assuming that was for Kitley's Army this month. I'm having a hard time laying my hands on Fulci/Lewis horror flicks I haven't seen already. Who would have guessed this would be a problem? Darn my accursed completist mindset!

  3. Track of the Moon Beast is bad, just bad. There's a reason why it was done on MST3K (which was where I had seen it before). That said, it does have its moments of pure goofiness and the title creature was made (and performed) by Joe Blasco in between assignments for David Cronenberg.

    And you're absolutely right about Lizard being for the Kitley's Army mission. I have to admit, I kind of wimped out on that, though. (Wait until you see what I picked for my second film.)