Two mostly good weeks and now into the third, last of the 60s films.
Oct. 14th-The Ghost from 1963 (Director: Riccardo Freda as Robert Hampton, Writers: Oreste Biancoli and Story by Riccardo Freda and Oreste Biancoli, Stars: Barbara Steele and Peter Baldwin, Runtime: 100 mins)
Sequel to the worst movie I watched is… a lot like the first movie in some regards. Gothic castle, Barbara Steele being terrified, similar villain. And yet… slightly better. Though the first film had more going in story (slim as it was) I think this one edges it out. That said, it’s not like it was good and I’m already tired of talking about it. The next few films should be much more interesting.
Oct. 15th-Dementia 13 from 1963 (Writer/Director: Francis Coppola, Stars: William Campbell, Patrick Magee and Luana Anders, Runtime: 80 mins)
This gothic looking, proto-slasher is about an Irish family. There’s three brothers, one wife and fiance, and a matriarch. Then there is the dead sister they all talk about. This is not a good film. Looks like, Coppola tries to build some suspense with atmosphere but this is just post Psycho nonsense. Though one scene made me think Texas Chainsaw Massacre which would show up a decade later. Anyway, two clunkers in a row. This was surprisingly less interesting than the two Riccardo Freda films. Not going to waste my time. If you want to watch a Coppola horror flick just watch his Dracula.
Oct. 16th-The Witches aka The Devils Own from 1966 (Director: Cyril Frankel, Writers: Nigel Kneale and Based on The Devil’s Own by Norah Lofts, Stars: Joan Fontaine, Alec McCowen, Kay Walsh, Ann Bell, Ingrid Boulting and Gwen Frangcon Davies, Runtime: 97 mins)
“At the moment of sacrifice let no blood be spilled.” The famous line from this film. It shows up in Thrill Kill Kult song On the Rack. This was Joan Fontaine’s last feature film role and I don’t blame her, this movie is fucking boring. It looks bland. What is it about witch films that make them hard to do. I mean, I’ve seen dozens but only a handful are good, or in the very least, not boring. Its because a lot of them are about the build but the jourey can easily lose the viewer and rarely these films have a climax worth the trip. This one is about some school teacher who had a bad experience on a mission in Africa. Gets a job in a small town in England. Bad shit happens. This is the third clunker in a row. Worst film because at least the others were visually interesting, had some sort of atmosphere to them.
Oct. 17th-Kill, Baby, Kill from 1966 (Director: Mario Bava, Writers: Romano Migliorini, Roberto Natale and Mario Bava and Story by Romano Migliorini and Roberto Natale, Stars: Giacomo Rossi-Stuart and Erika Blanc, Runtime: 83 mins)
A doctor comes to a small town to perform an autopsy on a recently deceased woman, much to the fear of the locals. Turns out there is a malevolent spirit preying on people. Okay, up front-the last three movies were rather fucking dull so I did not engage as I should. From what I was paying attention it looked good. A nice gothic look, in color. Mario Bava directed the gothic horror classic Black Sunday which I remember liking but can’t tell you what it was about outside Barbara Steele’s wild eyes. Bava is credited with kickstarting giallo films, a type of horror style popular in Italy. The last ten, twenty minutes have some cool sequences in it. I like when the doctor is looking for the character of Monica and it seems looping one scene but in a nightmarish way with a cool twist. The spirit, an evil little girl so yeah-classic horror. In trivia, this film was an inspiration for certain moments, visuals and moments for a number of more famous filmmakers including Scorcese. He apparently really liked this film, seems to like gothic horror. Can’t blame him. I should give this a rewatch but I’ll probably not, still, check it if you like gothic horror.
Oct. 18th-Spider Baby from 1967 (Writer/Director: Jack Hill, Stars: Lon Chaney Jr., Carol Ohmart, Quinn Redeker, Beverly Washburn, Jill Banner, Sid Haig, Mary Mitchel, Karl Schanzer and Mantan Moreland, Runtime: 86 mins)
The story of the Merrye family inflicted who have a genetic condition that makes them regress mentally, socially and physically. The two girls and boy are watched over by the family chauffeur but things get tricky when distant family come to take possession of the home. This is Lon Chaney Jr.’s final role, and features another horror icon Sid Haig as well as Carol Ohmart and Mary Mitchell who have important ties to horror. This was also the final movie of Mantan Moreland, famed black actor and comedian from the 30s and 40s. Also the debut feature of exploitattion director Jack Hill who made the cult classic Foxy Brown. Lots of history in this low budget horror film that went mostly obscure until the 80s. But what about the film? It’s good. It’s not great, it’s just good. It’s a well executed horror comedy. The performances are all really good, with everyone super committed. The sisters Virgina and Elizabeth, played by Jill Banner and Beverly Washburn, have such great chemistry with one another. Lon Chaney is so good, and this is the only film I’ve ever seen with him. There are some great scenes, a like a jump scare with an owl that was delightful. The opening intro is a blast. A twisted, but very cool film. Best of the week.
Oct. 19th-Targets from 1968 (Writer/Director: Peter Bogdanovich, Story by Polly Platt and Peter Bogdanovich, Stars: Boris Karloff, Tim O’Kelly and Peter Bogdanovich, Runtime: 90 mins)
Speaking of final performances, this is one of Boris Karloff’s final roles though several films would be released later after her had passed. Boris Karloff stars in this thriller as an aging horror icon who wants to retire. That’s the first story, the second is about Bobby, a Vietnam vet who is disturb and murders his family before going on a killing spree. The two stories meet up at a drive thru where Karloff’s character, Byron Orlock, is to make an appearance. This thriller is good if… I don’t know… Feels like something is missing. It looks good and the performances are all good, especially Tim O’Kelly as Bobby. Clean cut, incredibly deceptive, I was really taken by his performance and am quite sad this is really his only known work. The fuck? It pisses me off to see such a great performance from an actor who does basically nothing else. This was a nice little film, and helps to continue the streak of good films after the movies on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. Knowing whats up tomorrow, it’ll be a great recovery for the week.
Oct. 20th-Night of the Living Dead from 1968 (Director: George Romero, Writers: John Russo and George Romero, Stars: Duane Jones and Judith O’Dea, Runtime: 96 mins)
Would you be surprised I never seen this? I’ve seen parts-hell! I seen the remake with Tony Todd which I actually did like. This classic zombie film is about a group of people trapped in a house surrounded by flash eating ghouls. Simple enough premise that is executed practically flawlessly. The ghouls, aka zombies, are not as rotten as you’d expect but they also aren’t as slow and dumb either. Almost like modern video game villains. AI programmed baddies becoming more active when the player’s character is on the scene. Me and my brother joked about the gore “controversy” from the 60s as we watched until it actually got more brutal in the last half. The cast is strong and much has been written about Duane Jones, the sole character of color-a black man, being the main lead in the film. This was a time with few black leads, let alone in horror films. This was made in the shadow of the civil rights movement happening, MLK being assassinated months prior to the films release. This makes the twist ending even more nihilistic. I’m actually glad I saw this so much later, makes me appreciate everything about it more. Amazing way to close out week 3.
The week started out horribly with three of the worst films this month but then turned around slightly with the good Kill, Baby, Kill followed by the three better movies. Two of which are hard recommendations. The sixties are done, now onto the seventies until the end of the month.
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
Night of the Living Dead
Murders in the Rue Morgue
The Spiral Staircase
The House of Usher
Island of Lost Souls
Kill, Baby, Kill
The Horrible Dr. Hichcock