Thursday, November 22, 2018


Before we dive into the reviews proper, we pause now for a little background information, courtesy of Phil Hardy’s Overlook Film Encyclopedia: Science Fiction:

“Just before his death in 1969, Karloff acted in scenes for four films by Mexican producer Enrique Vergara. According to Jack Hill, the production circumstances of these pictures were disastrous. Karloff had rejected the four scripts sent to him by Vergara, and Hill, who shared the services of Karloff’s lawyer, was asked to rewrite them. Karloff then agreed to do them provided all scenes involving him would be shot in Hollywood because it was exceedingly painful for him to move about. The scenes were shot [by Hill] in 1968. Shortly afterwards, Karloff died, but so did Vergara.

“All the remaining scenes were shot later in Mexico without Hill’s knowledge and the finished products, released in 1971, bore little relation to the scripts Hill had used to do the Karloff scenes. Apparently American International tried to buy the shots with Karloff in order to make other films with them, but the legal and copyright problems due to Vergara’s death made this impracticable. This Mexican episode put a sad end on Karloff’s long and distinguished career. Some credits list Juan Ibañez as being responsible for the scenes added after Karloff’s death, but since many of these credits contain pseudonyms, it may be an injustice to include his name as director.”

So, there you go.

"That was very well said, young man..."

The easiest way to tell these apart is by what facial hair the horror icon is wearing, so I’ve listed those as well as the basic plotlines. The fun comes from watching Karloff “interact” with his off-camera scene partners, many of whom he would never actually be in the same room with or meet in person. Working your way through the pack, you’ll start to see familiar faces from the previous films, which is also quite enjoyable.

I recommend watching them in the order listed below:

Alien Terror (aka Incredible Invasion) (1971) d. Juan Ibañez / Jack Hill (Mexico)

In the European village of Gudenberg in 1890, Prof Mayer (Karloff, trimmed mustache) and his assistant Isabel (Maura Monti) create a powerful ray machine that attracts the attention of a flying saucer, the pilot of which decides the ray poses too great a threat to the universe and must be destroyed. He occupies the body of a local sex murderer (Yerye Beirute) to infiltrate the doc’s office and sabotage the experiments, and then enlists one of his co-pilots to occupy Mayer’s body because, well, good help is hard to find.

Isle of the Snake People (aka Cult of the Dead) (1971) d. Juan Ibañez / Jack Hill (Mexico)

On the island of Kulabai, a mysterious satanic priest dubbed “Damballah” holds sway over the natives who occasionally practice cannibalistic rites, and it’s up to the local badges, Professor von Molder (Karloff, bushier mustache), and his teetotaling niece (Julissa) to stop the evil forces. Yolanda Montes (aka exotic dancer Tongolele) is a standout as a servant in von Molder’s household while moonlighting as our high priestess shaking her groove thing in the service of Damballah.

Dance of Death (aka House of Evil) (1971) d. Juan Ibañez / Jack Hill (Mexico) 

Relatives of the ailing Matthias Morteval (Karloff, mustache and sideburns) meet at his eerie castle for the reading of the will. It turns out the droll dude is a toy maker whose creations are endowed with a homicidal spirit. One by one, in clink-clank-clunky fashion, they all meet their maker. Slow, with only a few eccentric performances to lighten the tedium.

Fear Chamber (aka Torture Zone) (1971) d. Juan Ibañez / Jack Hill (Mexico)

Frequently bedridden due to his precarious health, Dr. Mantell (Karloff, clean-shaven) notices strange frequencies coming from within the Earth and sends his assistants to discover a living rock underneath a volcano. They bring their discovery back to the lab and learn that, to survive, it needs the hormones produced by young women in a state of absolute fear. In the interest of science (and under the telepathic spell of the now-tentacled rock-monster), they begin to kidnap ladies of questionable morals (you know, those DANCERS) to feed the beast. Loaded with goofy special effects and a smattering of nudity, this is probably the most lively, sordid, and entertaining of the bunch.

The Boris Karloff Collection is available now (with no supplemental materials) on a two-DVD set from VCI and MVD Entertainment and can be ordered HERE:


No comments:

Post a Comment