Thursday, October 22, 2015


Challenge Totals to Date:

Movies Watched: 3
Total Movies Watched: 66
Total First Time Views: 32
Scare-A-Thon Donations: $1867.80

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 to say how much you would like to pledge. Your donation is tax deductible and, seriously, even a penny per film helps.

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1920) d. Robertson, John S. (USA) (2nd viewing) 82 min

Seizing the opportunity to play against his matinee idol status as “The Great Profile,” John Barrymore threw himself into this, famous silent version of Robert Louis Stevenson’s tale of the struggle of good and evil within man. Noble Dr. Jekyll works tirelessly with the poor, is engaged to the lovely Millicent (Martha Mansfield), and is respected and admired by friends and colleagues alike. When Millicent’s father jokingly takes him to a music hall, Jekyll’s inner passions are awakened, and he resolves to develop a potion which will give his evil side corporeal form. Barrymore’s initial metamorphosis into Jekyll’s sinister alter ego, Edward Hyde, remains one of early onscreen horror’s finest moments, accomplished primarily through facial expression and gesture (though makeup appliances, including extended fingers, a pointed head, and long stringy hair, are employed throughout the remainder of the film). Leering and hedonistic, Barrymore’s Hyde is dark as pitch, committing every sin denied the upright Jekyll, even murdering children in the street without a backward glance. Jekyll soon discovers that the transformations occur without the potion, and his desperate struggle to maintain control stands toe-to-toe with the celebrated 1932 or 1941 sound versions. Robertson’s direction is has a few nice flourishes (including an ingeniously realized full-body spider puppet), but Barrymore’s performance cements the film’s classic status. The finale also features a notable, precedent-setting horror convention: the monster’s reversion to normalcy at death.

Attack of the Giant Leeches (1959) d. Kowalski, Bernard L. USA (3rd viewing) 62 min

From producer Gene Corman (brother Roger exec-produced) comes this steamy tale of oversized bloodsucking annelids terrorizing the local swamp-rat population, with a dash of moonshine, adultery, and gator poaching tossed in for good measure. Hotter than any cat on any tin roof, Yvette Vickers (Attack of the 50-Foot Woman’s inimitable homewrecker) oozes trampy sex appeal as an adulterous baby-doll wife, fanning the flames of tubby husband Bruno VeSota’s jealous rage. For the ladies, well-chiseled Ken Clark frequently answers the door shirtless and models his sculpted frame in swimming trunks and scuba gear. His heroic game warden looks carved out of wood, which is aptly consistent with his thespian efforts. As for the creatures themselves (their gigantism accounted for in a throwaway reference to Cape Canaveral’s radioactive fallout), watching the unfortunate “actors” lurch about within their shiny, black, banana-shaped trash-bag costumes is as traumatizing as any fiction portrayed onscreen. Still, the subterranean scenes of the leeches feeding upon their stored victims do manage a perverse creepiness, as do the drained bodies floating eerily to the surface. Vintage drive-in schlock, scribbled by frequent Corman scribe/character actor Leo Gordon.

The Screaming Skull (1958) d. Nicol, Alex (USA) (1st viewing) 63 min

Newly re-married widower Eric Whitlock (John Hudson) returns to his country estate, still haunted by the ghost of his former bride Marion, or is it merely a gambit whipped up by his half-wit gardener Mickey (played by director Nicol), who carries a flame for the deceased? The new Mrs. Whitlock, Jenni (Peggy Webber) seems to be the target of the haunting, and you’ll probably have guessed the plot of John Kneubuhl’s script by the time someone mentions what a rich family she has, and the fact that she spent a little time in the local nuthouse. But if you’re willing to just go along for the ride and enjoy a good old fashioned haunted house flick (and one barely an hour in length at that) filled with AIP’s go-to DP Floyd Crosby and lots of eerie peacock screeches, you could certainly do worse. Plus, anyone who’s seen Bride of the Monster (or the infamous scene of Bela Lugosi “wrestling” the rubber octopus as recreated in Ed Wood) will certainly appreciate the zany swimming pool climax. Free funeral services “for anyone who dies of fright” offered in the pre-credits preamble.


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