Category Archives: British Horror

The House That Dripped Blood-1971

The House That Dripped Blood-1971

Director Peter Duffell

Starring Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing

Scott’s Review #1,408

Reviewed October 31, 2023

Grade: B+

Any horror project including Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing is worth a watch and The House That Dripped Blood (1971) features both actors though sadly not in any scenes together.

The British horror anthology is spooky and perfect for the Halloween season. The action surrounds a hulking house where bad events occur regardless of who inhabits it.

The film is divided into four short stories explaining the circumstances surrounding the individual inhabitants.

The production is low budget which is perfect for a film like this but the title makes it seem bloodier and gorier than it is.

All of the stories were originally written, and subsequently scripted, by Robert Bloch.

Below is a summary, review, and rating of each vignette.

Framework: B+

Shortly after renting an old country house, a well-known film star Paul Henderson mysteriously disappears and Inspector Holloway (John Bennett) from Scotland Yard is called by a local Sergeant to investigate.

Inquiring at the local police station, he is told some of the house’s history.

He soon learns how four tenants met macabre fates.

The ‘Framework’ sequence goes between the vignettes and provides good context but is more or less just the interplay between Inspector and Sergeant.

This serves as an introduction to each chapter and ties the events together.

Method for Murder: A-

Charles Hillyer (Denholm Elliott) is a struggling writer who specializes in horror stories. He and his wife Alice (Joanna Dunham), move into the house thinking it will serve as inspiration. Charles creates a devious character named ‘Dominic’ after he ‘imagines’ seeing him outside a window.

Charles soon starts to see Dominic, who begins stalking and tormenting him.

My second favorite of the four chapters, I all but guessed the ‘twist’ from the get-go but was surprised at the ‘twist on top of a twist’ which pleased me.

It’s great when a villain thinks they’ve gotten away with murder only to be murdered themselves.

Waxworks: B+

Retired stockbroker Philip Grayson (Cushing) moves into the house with plans to read, garden, and relax. Though initially he occupies himself with his hobbies, he quickly becomes lonely. One day, while wandering around town, he happens upon a wax museum.

Grayson explores the museum and finds a sculpture of a dead woman he had been in love with. The museum’s proprietor explains that he based the likeness of the sculpture on his late wife, who had been executed after murdering his best friend.

Despite featuring Cushing, it’s a moderately good story but lacks the compelling nature of a couple of the other vignettes.

It’s less about the house itself and more about the wax museum and obsession is the subject matter.

While decent, Waxworks didn’t blow me away either.

Sweets to the Sweet: A

Widower John Reid (Lee) moves into the house next along with his odd young daughter Jane (Chloe Franks). John hires former teacher Ann Norton (Nyree Dawn Porter) to tutor Jane. Ann bonds with Jane, she helps Jane get over a fear of fire.

Ann suspects John of abusing Jane but is there more to the story? Why doesn’t he let Jane play with other children or toys and do his best to keep her isolated?

Is there something wrong with Jane?

This is the best installment and has a resemblance to The Innocents (1961) featuring a governess and a spooky child. Viewers will find themselves switching alliances with the characters as the story rapidly moves along.

The Cloak: B+

Finally, horror film actor Paul Henderson (Jon Pertwee) moves into the house while starring in a vampire film being shot nearby.

Irritated by the lack of maturity or talent from the cast and crew he decides to purchase a realistic cloak worn by his character (who happens to be a vampire). The shop he makes his purchase from is run by the enigmatic Theo von Hartmann (Geoffrey Bayldon) who eerily offers him a black cloak.

This one plays like a Hammer Horror Dracula installment and is good but not great. Less happens within the confines of the house than I’d like and Paul is an unlikable character.

The action on the movie set and in the shop are the best parts.

The Satanic Rites of Dracula-1973

The Satanic Rites of Dracula-1973

Director Alan Gibson

Starring Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Joanna Lumley

Scott’s Review #1,405

Reviewed October 16, 2023

Grade: B+

The Satanic Rites of Dracula (1973) is the eighth film in the Hammer Horror Dracula series, and the seventh and final one to feature Christopher Lee in the starring role. It also unites legendary horror actor Peter Cushing with Lee for the third time.

So, the territory and storyline are hardly unchartered and a film like this is for a targeted audience.

For those unclear, Hammer Horror films are a series of low-budget British films produced by the London-based company featuring gothic and fantasy-type films.

Their heyday was from the mid-1950s until the 1970s.

The Satanic Rites of Dracula comes at the end of the horror genre reign of terror but is enjoyable nonetheless. It’s redundant in a way because I’ve seen so many of them by now that there’s little intrigue anymore.

It’s not a surprise anymore what’s going to transpire in the film.

I love these films mostly because of the low budget and the creative and sophisticated sets and art design. But the main selling point is the Lee/Cushing pairing.

After a Secret Service agent barely escapes an English country estate where satanic rituals are being held and later dies Van Helsing (Cushing) is asked to investigate.

He seeks the seven hundred-year-old count (Lee), who is dead and living in London with his vampire bride and a breed of other undead women dressed in red robes.

Van Helsing’s granddaughter Jessica played by Joanna Lumley is introduced as well as another Secret Service agent, Murray (Michael Coles).

The team naturally winds up at the English estate where they discover shenanigans led by a female Chinese vampire (Barbara Yu Ling). They grapple with fire and brimstone as they determinedly attempt to take down Dracula once and for all (yeah right!).

The film is silly but in the best of ways. I enjoyed the very beginning and ending most of all. When the Secret Service agent runs down the vast estate driveway amid darkness the mysterious pursuing motorcycle men provide intrigue, and the plot is hatched.

As fans know well the finale will result in a fiery showdown between good and evil and the benevolent Van Helsing destroys the villainous Dracula with a strong stake to the heart.

This technique is used a few times during The Satanic Rites of Dracula and in comic fashion, a stake and hammer always seem to be at the ready.

But the fun is good besting evil after all and delightful is seeing a vampire’s fangs come into view as the unsuspecting victim gasps in shock or shrieks in terror.

By 1973 Cushing and Lee could probably deliver their dialogue in their sleep and the motivation doesn’t seem to be there. Lee barely appears until the final act.

The introduction of Lumley, well-known to Absolutely Fabulous fans is wise and breathes new life into the familiar characters. She brings a Nancy Drew-type appeal especially as she sneaks into the estate basement to investigate peculiar noises.

A hoot for Hammer Horror fans or fans of British horror but it’s not one of the best in the series. Enjoyable mostly for additional tidbits like howling wind, creepy noises, and lavish drapes, furniture, and various set pieces.

The Satanic Rites of Dracula (1973) is a nice watch in October around Halloween.

The Monster Club-1981

The Monster Club-1981

Director Roy Ward Baker

Starring Vincent Price, Donald Pleasence, John Carradine

Scott’s Review #1,378

Reviewed July 16, 2023

Grade: B

Any horror feast including Vincent Price and Donald Pleasence is worth a watch and The Monster Club (1981) features both actors though not in any scenes together.

The British horror anthology is uneven and a tad too silly with only two of the three chapters recommended. They are based on the works of the British horror author R. Chetwynd-Hayes.

The graphics and art direction are surprisingly superior for such a low-budget production.

In between chapters, there is a jarring and unnecessary musical performance by one of the creatures. While sort of fun, it takes away from the continuity and feels thrown in rather than serving any real purpose.

Below is a summary, review, and rating of each vignette.

Prologue: B

Author R. Chetwynd-Hayes (John Carradine) is approached on a city street by a strange man (Vincent Price) who turns out to be a starving vampire named Eramus.

He bites the writer and takes the confused man to an odd club. It’s a haven for supernatural creatures as they dance, drink, and carry on together.

Eramus introduces three stories about his fellow creatures of the night.

This chapter is relevant to tie the chapters together and any scene involving Price is good in my book. It also serves as a learning experience to explain the different types of creatures but little more.

The Shadmock: A-

Angela (Barbara Kellerman) is a financially struggling woman who takes a job at a secluded mansion owned by Raven (James Laurenson), a creature called a Shadmock.

Along with her greedy boyfriend (Simon Ward), they hatch a plot to steal Raven’s great wealth after he proposes to Angela. When she is caught unlocking Raven’s safe his demonic whistle comes into play at the expense of Angela and her boyfriend.

This chapter has a great setup and an unrequited love vibe. With a Beauty and the Beast comparison, the audience sympathizes with Raven. All he wants is love and the ultimate climax is heartbreaking with the knowledge that he is being duped.

I longed for Angela to come to her senses, dump her boyfriend, and be carried away by Raven but it’s horror after all, and not romance.

Starting slowly, the grotesquely exquisite gothic mansion and the fine luxuries contained are fun to feast one’s eyes on and the sinister conclusion is not to be missed.

The Vampires: B-

A shy young boy (Warren Saire) from a kind family of vampires lives a lonely life where he is bullied at school and his father (Richard Johnson) spends little time with him.

The father is hunted by a team of vampire killers led by Pickering (Donald Pleasance) who attempt to drive a stake through the father and kill him. But the tables are soon turned.

This chapter is cute but uninspired adding more humor than horror to the mix. Pleasance isn’t given a great role and neither is former ‘Bond girl’ Britt Eklund as the supportive mother.

It pales sharply against ‘The Shadmock’ and ‘The Ghouls.

The Ghouls: A

A movie director (Stuart Whitman) scouting locations for his next film pays a visit to an isolated village, Loughville, where the sinister residents refuse to let him leave.

While imprisoned by the ghouls, he meets Luna (Lesley Dunlop), the daughter of a ghoul father (Patrick Magee) who agrees to help him escape. But can Luna or the resident police be trusted?

The Ghouls is my favorite because it feels the most unpredictable and I love the early shots of a movie production studio. The ghostly-looking creatures are appealing because there is an ambiguity about their motives and the secrets beheld in the village.

It’s also fun balancing the sophisticated style of the movie producer against the drudgery of the villagers. Also, the inclusion of actor Magee from A Clockwork Orange (1971) is a win.

Epilogue: B 

At the end of the film, Eramus cheerfully tells the other club members all the imaginative ways that humans have of being horrible to each other and declares that humans are the most despicable monsters of all.

Thus Chetwynd-Hayes is made an honorary monster and member of the club.

The quick chapter is a clever wrap-up to the story and culminates as a bit of a ‘message’ about kindness and humanity.

The Phantom of the Opera-1962

The Phantom of the Opera-1962

Director Terence Fisher

Starring Herbert Lom, Michael Gough, Heather Sears

Scott’s Review #1,254

Reviewed May 12, 2022

Grade: B+

Probably not the best-known film adaptation of the famous 1910 French novel written by Gaston Leroux, but likely the most horrific. Hammer Horror Productions getting their hands on this is a significant win since the story is perfectly suited for the horror genre.

I’ve not yet seen the 1925 silent film version of The Phantom of the Opera starring Lon Chaney which I hear is wonderful so I cannot compare that to this.

The possibilities for a macabre telling are endless and director Terence Fisher, a familiar director in Hammer films, is back at the helm to mix the dreariness of a musty London theater with the creepy face mask of its lonely and wounded inhabitant.

I’ve said it before but it bears repeating in this review. It’s impressive to notice the astounding achievements the Horror films obtained by making lemonade out of lemons from a budget perspective. The limited funds necessitated creativity which can be seen in every series frame, especially the colorful sets and costumes.

The Phantom of the Opera (1962) is no different and is even better than some others in the brilliant mix of mood and sympathy for its main victim, specifically the luminous and disfigured ‘phantom’ played by Herbert Lom.

Dastardly Composer Lord Ambrose D’Arcy, wonderfully played by Michael Gough, and his bullied backer, Harry Hunter (Edward De Souza), struggle to find a replacement for the female lead in their new opera after she quits and flees town in the wake of a gruesome theater murder.

When a new prospect, the virginal Christine Charles (Heather Sears), disappears after the advances of Ambrose, Harry cautiously investigates unaware that there is a lonely figure inhabiting the theater.

Meanwhile, a mysterious masked man (Lom) who is eerily familiar with the opera holds Christine captive and offers to groom her to play the part.

He is a mix of crazy and passionate and his plight is sympathetic when what he’s been through is finally explained.

But the atmosphere is what sets The Phantom of the Opera apart from other similar films of the 1960s, even Hammer films.

This is never more evident in an early scene when the camera follows the characters on the misty streets of London, the darkness and shadows becoming prominent as they walk through streets and dark alleys.

Fisher, now five years into his association with the production company has hit his stride. A limited budget might reduce another director to a fretting basket case but the result and ease that he parlays to The Phantom of the Opera are quite beautiful.

Many scenes take place in the theater itself adding a foreboding element to the events. Dusty yet brimming with musicianship and artistic pizzazz, it’s fun to watch the characters sneak around and scheme within the confines of this structure.

Therefore, the mood and trimmings are exquisite without actually being so.

The music sequences are impressive without going on for too long, and despite the locale being switched from Paris to London for obvious reasons, the main being that the actors are British, this doesn’t hamper the overall experience.

The best, and most gruesome scene, occurs when a poor chap swings across the theater stage in a neck rope, dead as a doornail. The creaking sound of the rope as the man swings back and forth is chilling and dubious.

Lom is my favorite actor in the film and his character’s backstory reveal is humanistic and impressive. Who can’t relate to at least once being swindled or cheated out of work that is rightfully theirs?

Gough, also familiar to Hammer Horror fans, is tremendous as the treacherous main villain.

Sears is okay but perhaps not the greatest actress nor the best choice for the role. She’s rather bland and unmemorable.

The Phantom of the Opera (1962) falters a bit when it ends too suddenly, though many Hammer films suffer the same fate.

This film is not for those expecting a grandiose Andrew Lloyd Webber-style musical but for fans of down-and-dirty horror it’s just what the doctor ordered.

The Curse of the Werewolf-1961

The Curse of the Werewolf-1961

Director Terence Fisher

Starring Oliver Reed, Clifford Evans

Scott’s Review #1,219

Reviewed January 15, 2022

Grade: B

Oliver Reed, later famous for films like Oliver! (1968) and Women in Love (1969) made his first starring role in the low-budget Hammer Horror film, The Curse of the Werewolf (1961). He carries the latter third of the film simply because it takes that long for his character to appear.

The film is sectioned into parts and though only a little over one hour and thirty minutes feels quite long. The finale is the best chapter and the others, while good, move too slowly considering the brief running time.

This is the first werewolf film to be colorized and the film was heavily censored upon release.

Hammer horror regular director Terence Fisher is at the helm so there is a soothing and secure feeling for the viewer. We know the quality will persevere and I adored the setting of Spain with its gothic steeples and flavorful culture.

The Curse of the Werewolf is above average but not one of the best in the Hammer series.

Reed plays Leon Corledo, a man with brutal and macabre origins. He is adopted and raised in the home of a kind and respectable Don Alfredo Corledo (Clifford Evans). When he leaves Don Alfredo to find work, Leon discovers that he has increasingly violent urges.

Although these fits are somewhat calmed by Leon’s love for the beautiful Cristina (Catherine Feller), he regularly transforms into a werewolf, terrorizing the Spanish countryside.

Before the central part of the story, Leon’s mother is imprisoned and raped by a homeless beggar gone mad. Unfortunately for her, she gives birth on Christmas when the werewolf curse is started. She soon dies and little Leon is taken in by Don and his motherly housekeeper, Teresa.

The middle sequence explains how Leon as a little boy escapes out his bedroom window to kill animals thinking it’s all just a dream. Don and others try to hide Leon’s secret.

The curse doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. Why does the Christmas holiday make an unwanted newborn “unlucky” and a vicious werewolf? Why is Leon the only werewolf around? Surely, others are born on Christmas day.

Reed is the main draw as the handsome Leon and he makes a lovely mate for Cristina though too few scenes of them exist. It’s not explained why they fall in love other than they are both beautiful and Cristina’s current intended mate is boorish.

But, then again, The Curse of the Werewolf is not a love story so we accept some details with a grain of salt.

Any fan of Hammer horror films wants blood and mayhem and there is a good smattering of each. The dastardly Marquis Siniestro who humiliates the beggar and nearly rapes the servant girl (Leon’s mother) gets it in the back from her with a jagged mirror and the death is bloody and satisfying.

Later, a slutty girl with designs on Leon is ravaged to death by him after he turns into a werewolf on a night with a full moon.

The finale is bittersweet and almost tender when Don must make a horrible decision to kill his son with a silver bullet made with a crucifix to prevent the tortured Leon from killing anymore and suffering a life of misery and regret.

The Curse of the Werewolf (1961) is not as satisfying as the Hammer horror films featuring Dracula or containing Christopher Lee or Peter Cushing.

Nobody will ever usurp Lon Chainey Jr.’s frightening portrayal of the wolfman decades earlier but it’s fun seeing Reed take center stage in the film.

There’s also enough to keep Hammer fans entertained.

The Brides of Dracula-1960

The Brides of Dracula-1960

Director Terence Fisher

Starring Peter Cushing, Yvonne Monlaur

Scott’s Review #1,218

Reviewed January 9, 2022

Grade: B+

It’s always impressive to me what Hammer Film Productions do with such a limited budget mostly from a set and art direction perspective. With small funds, they can create gloomy yet beautiful set structures that are highly creative and appear lavish.

To the savvy viewer, this tidbit can make each film a treasure trove of enjoyment if only to look beyond the central activity and notice the style.

The Brides of Dracula (1960) is no exception.

The film is a sequel to the 1958 film Dracula (also known as Horror of Dracula), though the character of Count Dracula does not appear, and is instead mentioned only twice. As fans of these films know Christopher Lee portrays Dracula. Instead, the vicious vampire at the film’s center is Baron Meinster, a disciple of Dracula played by David Peel.

The villain even bites his mother played by Martita Hunt making her undead and terrifying to the residents of a Spanish village.

Van Helsing (Peter Cushing) is the hero and must drive a stake through the heart of the vampire baron before he deviously makes innocent Marianne (Yvonne Monlaur) his bride.

Cushing is a familiar part of Hammer horror film lore leading the charge as the film’s hero. I love the character because he is heroic and unflinching, always calm, cool, and collected in the face of sheer horror.

The sets are gothic and brilliant, especially the gloomy castle owned by the Baroness and her son. When she invites Marianne to spend the night the girl is treated to a stylish room and a ravishing dinner served by a threatening servant named Greta.

The exteriors are as good as the interiors and portray the village within Transylvania as cozy and homespun. Outside the prominent inn run by the locals is inviting as much as it feels forbidden and haunted.

When Marianne is abandoned in the village by her terrified coach driver we know that secrets or living creatures are waiting to be unearthed.

These atmospheric additions will compel audiences to tune in and enjoy the horrific moments.

Speaking of horror, The Brides of Dracula feels enough like camp and not scary, and comic elements exist throughout. No better example of this is the bumbling and boozy Doctor Tobler played by character actor Miles Malleson.

While many moments are over the top especially when a vampire character bares their fangs in the best hammy way, the film never feels foolish or amateurish.

A huge misstep is naming the film The Brides of Dracula when no Dracula is ever to be found. I incorrectly assumed that the Baron was Dracula until after the final credits had rolled. It’s a sneaky way to capitalize on the name recognition of Dracula.

There are too many fun moments in the film to harbor much resentment. Of the brides, my favorite is Gina, played by Andree Melly who looks the most frightening.

The Brides of Dracula (1960) is an entertaining and pleasing chapter in the Hammer horror catalog. The expected elements include a crucifix and a healthy dose of holy water.

Tales from the Crypt-1972

Tales from the Crypt-1972

Director Freddie Francis

Starring Joan Collins, Ian Hendry, Robin Phillips

Scott’s Review #1,200

Reviewed November 25, 2021

Grade: A-

Tales from the Crypt (1972) is a delicious British anthology based on stories from the EC Comics series. Each of the five chapters is eerie storytelling that offers horror fans glimpses into the minds of depraved and devilish characters with sinister motivations.

The sheer joy is witnessing their comeuppance.

This film is the predecessor to Vault of Horror from 1973 and can easily be watched as a companion piece.

Below is a summary, review, and rating of each vignette.

Intro

Five strangers are suddenly compelled to go with a tourist group to view old catacombs.

Separated from the main group, the strangers find themselves in a room with the mysterious Crypt Keeper (Ralph Richardson), who details how each of them may die.

…And All Through The House- A

Joanne Clayton (Joan Collins) brutally kills her husband Richard (Martin Boddey) on Christmas Eve to get her hands on their insurance money.

She prepares to hide his body but hears a radio announcement of a homicidal maniac (Oliver MacGreevy) on the loose.

She sees the killer (who is dressed in a Santa Claus costume) outside her house, but cannot call the police without exposing her crime.

Her daughter is upstairs in her bedroom, unaware.

This is my favorite chapter and is non-stop action. Collins is terrific as the greedy English woman put in peril. The audience will cheer for her to get her just desserts especially after she callously disregards a lovely Christmas gift her husband bought for her.

Reflection of Death- B+

Carl Maitland (Ian Hendry) abandons his family to be with his secretary, Susan Blake (Angela Grant). After they drive off together, they are involved in a car accident. He wakes up, having been thrown clear of the burned car. He tries to hitchhike home, but everyone he meets screams with horror when they see him.

This vignette is slightly confusing as far as the timeline of the events but compelling as we wait to see what Carl’s face looks like and what has happened to Susan and his wife.

Poetic Justice- A

James Elliott (Robin Phillips) lives with his father Edward (David Markham) across from the home of elderly dustman Arthur Edward Grimsdyke (Peter Cushing), who owns several dogs and entertains children in his house.

James hates Arthur’s ramshackle lawn and embarks on a scheme to rid the neighborhood of the old man.

I love seeing Cushing play against type as a kindly grandfatherly character and this chapter is the ultimate revenge fantasy and quite satisfying to see what happens to James.

It’s also a perfect watch on Valentine’s Day since the holiday comes into play.

Wish You Were Here- A-

Businessman Ralph Jason (Richard Greene) is on the verge of financial collapse. His wife Enid (Barbara Murray) notices the inscription on a Chinese statue the couple owns.

They are granted three wishes. Enid decides to wish for a fortune and, surprisingly, the wish comes true, but with dire results.

This one wonderfully cascades a chain of events that leaves the characters in peril. The theme is once again about greed specifically surrounding insurance money. The fast-paced nature is appealing and the ancient Chinese wishes leave one character into eternal suffering.

Blind Alleys- A-

Major William Rogers (Nigel Patrick) becomes the new director of a home for the blind and exploits his position to live in luxury with his dog Shane, while his drastic financial cuts on food and heating lessen the residents’ living conditions.

Led by George Carter (Patrick Magee) the residents revolt after a fellow resident dies of hypothermia. Rogers and Shane are locked in the basement where Rogers must navigate through a maze of razor blades and a now ravenous wild dog who will hungrily eat his owner.

Though far-fetched, Blind Alleys is delicious fun and contains my most hated character. This is all the more satisfying as he ‘gets it’ in the end!

Finale

After completing the final tale, the Crypt Keeper reveals that he was not warning them of what would happen, but telling them what has already happened: they have all “died without repentance.

The conclusion does nothing more than put a satisfying cap for the viewer as each character once again pays for their shenanigans.

The Witches-1967

The Witches-1967

Director Cyril Frankel

Starring Joan Fontaine, Kay Walsh

Scott’s Review #1,096

Reviewed December 29, 2020

Grade: B

Legendary film actress Joan Fontaine chose a Hammer horror film as her final role. While not high-brow art, these films are an entertaining treat for horror fans.

They are frequently macabre, clever, and make the most of a small budget.

In The Witches (1967), Fontaine leads the way adding class and huge star quality. The film is good, but not great, with an unfulfilling ending. The cinematography and Fontaine’s involvement are the best aspects.

Also worthy of mention in the acting department is Kay Walsh, a talented British actress, who is terrific as the seemingly kind woman turned crazed witch. She adds professionalism to a pivotal role. The other supporting actors play their parts well to ensure that the craft of acting is respected.

I adore the British flair that Hammer films always have.

Fontaine plays Gwen Mayfield, an English schoolteacher who accepts a new job as the headmistress of the local school in the quaint village of Heddaby. The quiet town is exactly what Gwen needs after suffering a nervous breakdown while residing in Africa.

She experiences a small flirtation with the Reverend Alan Bax (Alec McCowen), who confesses that he is not overly religious. Stephanie is his sister, played by Walsh.

Before long, Gwen becomes immersed in the worlds of two of her students, Ronnie (Martin Stephens) and Linda (Ingrid Brett). Ronnie insists that Linda is being abused, which prompts Gwen to investigate. Meanwhile, Gwen discovers a voodoo doll and sleuths to find out what is going on in the village.

Events lead her to a sanitarium, and finally to a coven of witches, intent on human sacrifice.

The Witches has a late 1960’s look and feel which gives some sophistication. Gwen is draped in stylish clothes and jewelry and wears a cute, trendy bob haircut.

The set design is cool with groovy, colorful furniture that enhances the tight budget to full advantage.  Alan and Stephanie’s estate is particularly impressive with modern furniture, drapes, and various trimmings.

Another positive is the hefty amount of exterior sequences offered.

Director, Cyril Frankel, who directed many episodes of the popular British television series, The Avengers, provides a similar production so The Witches feels like a long episodic series. The luxurious English village is sunny, calming, and atmospheric brightening the atmosphere of the film.

This counterbalances the themes of demons, voodoo, and witches, well.

Frankel builds the story momentum throughout The Witches at a good pace, but this is lost in the final act, which is way too abrupt. During the first three-quarters of the production, we are led to believe that Gwen is either crazy, imagining the strange events, or that one of the townspeople is gaslighting her.

It’s easy to deduce the latter is what is going on, and the fun is figuring out who or who is doing the dirty deeds.

When the culprit is revealed (and it’s displayed on the cover art!), the conclusion is underwhelming. An attempted cemetery human ritual to remove life from Linda and infuse it into Stephanie so that she can live forever is weak.

After an odd sequence of the townspeople dancing and writhing around like nutcases in an unintentionally laugh-out-loud example of overacting, Gwen foils Stephanie’s plan. The witch succumbs to death, a victim of her heinous plan backfiring.

It is hinted that Gwen and Alan (who are revealed to be good) will forge a romance in the future, but I would have liked it if we had gotten more of a taste of their budding attraction during the film. Still, it is likely the two will ride off into the sunset together in safety.

While not as gory as other Hammer films, The Witches (1967) instead casts exceptionally well and tells a decent story, interesting until the low-key finale.

I expected a bit more from the ending, which simmers out instead of electrifying.

Psychomania-1973

Psychomania-1973

Director Don Sharp

Starring Nicky Henson, Mary Larkin, George Sanders

Scott’s Review #1,084

Reviewed November 19, 2020

Grade: B-

Psychomania (1973) is a film that has an intriguing premise turned messy and confusing by aspects not coming together.

A motorcycle gang wreaking havoc on their English small town decides to kill themselves and come back from the dead to live forever. They intend to do so with the aid of witchcraft and a sinister cult.

Unfortunately, neither the gang comes back to everlasting life nor does the premise provide an adequate payoff. The film meanders along without much intrigue or interest except for an above-average finale.

But even that is too little, too late.

Renowned film and television actor, George Sanders, famous for powerful roles in classics like Rebecca (1940) and All About Eve (1950), in which he won an Academy Award, and numerous other roles, co-stars as a butler.

His role in Psychomania is barely more than a throwaway part since he does not have much to do. Hardly the crowning achievement of his long career, he committed suicide soon after the shooting wrapped.

Star, Nicky Henson joked that Sanders saw the finished film and overdosed on pills, realizing how far his career had descended. Hopefully, that’s an urban legend.

Beryl Reid, wonderfully bitchy in The Killing of Sister George (1968) as a lesbian soap opera star is similarly downgraded, playing a glamorous matron who gets her kicks by holding seances for her neighbors.

She is the mother of the psychopathic leader of a violent teen gang.

Tom Latham (Henson) is the handsome leader of “The Living Dead”, said motorcycle gang, who enjoy driving around town intimidating folks. He is joined by his pretty girlfriend, Abby (Mary Larkin), who is good-natured and not as rebellious as the others.

Tom has time to flirt with other girls and uses his good looks to his advantage. He is in cahoots with his mother (Reid), and they have a penchant for frogs and black magic.

The gang decides, through Tom’s encouragement, to commit suicide and if they believe in it, they will return as one of the “undead”.

Each follows suit, except for Abby, and engages in ritualistic activities at their hangout, “The Seven Witches”, which is a poor man’s Stonehenge. They decide to kill Abby because of her defiance.

The DVD quality (mine anyway) was atrocious and did the film no favors. My enjoyment would have increased if the luscious English landscape and its vibrant colors could have been capitalized on.

Mrs. Latham’s home, filled with creative antiques and oddities, would have been enhanced with better quality.

The story never comes together. I like the main character Tom and find his sneering and posturing appealing in a light-hearted way. Henson is way too good-looking to be believable as a foreboding and crazy guy, but he sure is easy on the eyes.

No chemistry is to be found between him and Larkin, but they are cast well for this type of film- looks over acting talent. Neither is terrible in the acting department nor great either.

The supporting characters look very British and of the 1970s, which is to be expected. This isn’t an annoyance as much as an astute observance. From the doctors who perform the autopsies to the constables, to the chief inspector, everyone looks their part.

Psychomania has a 1970s look and feel, so it ultimately feels like a dated film because there is not much else to distinguish it from others.

It’s adequate, but not much more.

On the positive, some of the music is chirpy and hip, which adds a bit of an upbeat, contemporary vibe. The numerous motorcycle scenes make me wonder if a motorcycle company has stock in the film but surprisingly works.

The film, targeted as a horror film, is a strange one to categorize. The cult and witchcraft elements give off that vibe. The title of Psychomania (1973) creates a motorcycle/horror effect.

I’m not sure what to make of this film other than a sleazy, greasy, devil-worshipping mess. Poor Don Sharp, well-known for directing many Hammer horror films, seems not to know what to do with the silly script he is handed.

Is it a goofy comedy or straight-ahead horror?

Horror of Dracula-1958

Horror of Dracula-1958

Director Terence Fisher

Starring Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee

Scott’s Review #1,083

Reviewed November 17, 2020

Grade: B+

The first colorized retelling of the classic vampire film starring Bela Lugosi from 1931, Horror of Dracula (1958) infuses style and a modern feel into the production making it a formidable entry compared to the original.

The film launched the popular and delightful British Hammer Horror film series, which included eight Dracula sequels.

British horror films nearly always add macabre elements and a British sophistication that merge class with gothic, and the film is a perfect late-night watch during the Halloween season for maximum effect.

The atmospheric tone is key and will leave horror fans in bliss. The addition of horror stalwarts Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee only increases the pleasures.

On a gloomy night in 1885, a librarian named Jonathan Harker (John Van Eyssen) arrives at Count Dracula’s castle in Romania to begin his new assignment.

Secretly a vampire hunter, he is bitten by a desperate woman, really a vampire, begging for help. Jonathan manages to kill the woman but is then killed by Dracula (Lee). Doctor Van Helsing (Cushing) arrives at the castle to investigate, but Dracula already has designs on Jonathan’s fiancée, Lucy (Carol Marsh).

A battle of good versus evil ensues.

Lee brings sexuality to Dracula that Lugosi lacks, though Lugosi is the creepier of the two. I love the close-up scenes where Dracula bears his enormous fangs and his eyes turn red in good close-up style.

The casting of Lee is perfect as he becomes identifiable even in the first installment. I also love how Lee is tall, giving the character a menacing, foreboding, distinguished look.

Many might secretly welcome him nibbling on their necks!

Cushing, later to be cast as the villain, is wonderful as the empathetic Van Helsing. Lee and Cushing play well against each other. Van Helsing is stoic and confident as he smoothly leads the charge against Dracula and guides Jonathan’s loved ones into unchartered and unimaginable territory. It’s almost as if he has been through this before.

A great scene occurs when Van Helsing arrives in town for a brandy and a drink at the local pub, its inhabitants suspicious and frightened, draping garlic over the entryway and hoping he will leave soon.

The best part of House of Dracula is the atmosphere we are treated to and the color razzles dazzle. The story is good, but the texture powerfully shines through.

Careful not to be too showy, director Terence Fisher, soon to be a Hammer horror main fixture, uses his limited budget to his advantage in clever form.

Fisher realized his project was a colorized version and created a polished-looking, colorful, stained glass window, prevalent in several scenes. Dracula’s castle, especially the bedroom where Jonathan stayed, is part cozy and homespun, part gothic and chilling. The cellar crypt is equally vast yet confining, as the open coffins provide wonders of who lies in them.

The plethora of books elicits a cerebral feeling.

The finale is well done, but not as spectacular as expected. Other parts are better. Van Helsing chases Dracula in a race against the sunrise, ripping curtains down to provide harsh light, and turning Dracula to dust.

I was expecting a little more and more blood or a good stake through the heart. Fortunately, that entertainment was provided earlier in the film.

Having never read the 1897 Gothic horror novel by Bram Stroker (it’s on my list!), the film is pretty on target.

The film bestows creepy elements and sexuality with great color, lighting, and set design. The lesson learned is that a hefty budget and CGI can’t replicate the creative design and good effects.

The Blood on Satan’s Claw-1971

The Blood on Satan’s Claw-1971

Director Piers Haggard

Starring Patrick Wymark, Linda Hayden

Scott’s Review #1,050

Reviewed August 7, 2020

Grade: B

I am always up for a good British horror film, with a creepy musical score, satanic elements, and eclectic, good actors. Especially embraceable are offerings from the late 1960s and early 1970s.

The Blood on Satan’s Claw (1971), also released as Satan’s Skin, is very reminiscent of both Witchfinder General (1968) and The Wicker Man (1973), the three often lumped together in a small, brief sub-genre termed folk horror.

The film is not high art nor is it intended to be. Taking itself too seriously would ruin the experience.

Instead, a gruesome low-budget offering is just what the doctor ordered for late-night sipping cocktails or doing your preferred enlightenment or sedative.

The elements are all there- thunder and lightning, a perfect score, and English countryside.

The Blood on Satan’s Claw would have been dynamite if the choice to cast horror legend Peter Cushing or Christopher Lee came to fruition, but Cushing’s wife was dying of cancer and Lee wanted too high a salary, or so the story goes.

Anyway, Patrick Wymark was awarded the lead role of a village judge. The actor had a penchant for booze and had to be watched closely.

Sadly, he died soon after filming wrapped.

Those expecting a concise plot will be disappointed. Reportedly, the script was changed and changed and changed in a dizzying fashion before filming commenced. Some plot points and characters are introduced only to be unceremoniously dropped or forgotten.

Little wonder why the story confused me to no end.

Many characters have strange reaction shots as if they are reacting to different scenes. No matter though, the film is a good time despite the inconsistencies.

In a nutshell, a cute plowman Ralph (Barry Andrews) uncovers a hideously deformed skull with one gouging eye and strange fur. When he reports his finding to the local judge (Wymark), the skeptical man is disbelieving especially when the skull disappears before he lays eyes on it.

The village and its inhabitants quickly succumb to a group of teenage devil-worshipers led by beautiful but fiendish Angel Blake (Linda Hayden) who begins to perform blood sacrifices to bring the skull back to life.

Director, Piers Haggard, who also did some scriptwriting along with Robert Wynne-Simmons, does a great job with adding the appropriate elements to create a satisfactory mood.

The ancient setting of early-eighteenth-century England is always a juicy horror add-on since the unfamiliar time adds mystique.

The cinematography is gorgeous with lavish fields and stone buildings. I could have done without the laughably bad wigs the male actors were forced to wear, though.

Hayden is the standout for me.

A dead ringer for The Brady Bunch’s Maureen McCormick, only British, mixes deadly with beautiful in an underappreciated role. The actress was at that time a sex symbol appearing in other horror film treats such as Taste the Blood of Dracula (1970) and Vampira (1974).

As the teenage ringleader, her best scene is when she serves as a temptress to the local Reverend (Anthony Ainley). She seductively disrobes and confidently walks over to the intimidated man offering full-frontal nudity and the obvious daydreams of schoolboys everywhere.

Those not turned off by witch hunts, devil fur shavings, or characters sawing off their limbs will find The Blood on Satan’s Claw (1971) a real treat.

The film will please those classic horror fans expecting what the expected is in British horror which is a good thing. The demonic and religious trimmings mix well with a cast that is classically trained with most appearing in similarly themed horror films.

The story is weak and haphazard but the film is recommended to just enjoy the moment with.

Vault of Horror-1973

Vault of Horror-1973

Director Roy Ward Baker

Starring Curd Jurgens, Daniel Massey

Scott’s Review #1,038

Reviewed June 26, 2020

Grade: A-

Horror anthologies are usually a vast treat and a reminiscent memory of childhood afternoons watching Twilight Zone re-runs on television.

This is hardly much of a stretch since Vault of Horror (1973) is a British anthology based on Tales from the Crypt (1972), which in turn was based on stories EC Comics series.

Each chapter is superior storytelling providing bloodthirsty horror viewers with suspense, adventure, and surprise endings.

Below is a summary, review, and rating of each vignette.

Framing Story- A

Events get off to an intriguing start as one-by-one five businessmen enter an elevator in a corporate office in downtown London. They are taken to the basement level though none of them has pressed that floor and emerge to find a gentlemen’s club.

With no way to get back onto the elevator, they begin to drink, each discussing a reoccurring nightmare.

This segment immediately grasps the viewer as we ponder questions. Is someone holding the men there for a reason, who is behind it, and why? Are the men’s nightmares only nightmares or are they revealing deeper secrets?

Midnight Mess- A

Harold Rodgers (Daniel Massey) is a suave, well-dressed man who tracks down his missing sister Donna (real-life sister, Anna Massey!) in a peculiar village. He fiendishly kills her to acquire her share of their father’s inheritance.

Working up an appetite he dines at a local restaurant that serves blood soup and blood clots as the main course. The village is inhabited by sophisticated vampires and his sister is one of them!

This vignette is my favorite as the restaurant decor is warm and toasty, the village provides a stylish ambiance, and clever writing exists throughout. The bloody feast the eatery serves is a devilish delight in macabre humor.

And the fangs are great.

The Neat Job- A

Arthur Critchit (Terry-Thomas) is an elegant man suffering from obsessive-compulsive disorder. He is married to Eleanor (Glynis Johns), a trophy wife, who despite wanting to please her husband, is a lousy housekeeper.

Constantly criticized for being incompetent, Eleanor loses it and kills Arthur with a hammer. She proudly cuts him to bits and stores his remains in glass jars, all neatly labeled.

This story is simply delicious, offering elegant British furniture to salivate over and macabre, witty comedy as the viewer eagerly anticipates what Eleanor will do when she finally snaps, and we just know she will snap.

Bravo!

The Trick’ll Kill You- A-

Sebastian (Curd Jurgens) is a magician on holiday in India, where he and his wife Inez (Dawn Addams) are searching for new tricks for their act.

Frustrated, they encounter a girl charming a rope out of a basket with a flute. The couple persuades her to come to their hotel room where they murder her and steal the enchanted rope. They gleefully plot how to incorporate the rope into their act assuring them of riches.

Inez experiments with climbing the rope only to disappear with a scream. An ominous patch of blood appears on the ceiling, and the rope coils around Sebastian’s neck and hangs him. Their smirking victim reappears alive in the bazaar.

This vignette provides a good glimpse of the Far East and is culturally outstanding. The story is compelling though a letdown from the earlier entries.

Bargain in Death- B+

Maitland (Michael Craig) is buried alive as part of an insurance scam concocted with his friend Alex (Edward Judd). They each plan to double-cross and kill the other to get the money.

Two trainee doctors bribe a gravedigger to dig up a corpse to help with their studies. When Maitland’s coffin is opened, he jumps up gasping for air, and the gravedigger kills him. At the same time, Alex’s car crashes into a tree and he dies.

In humorous comedy, when trying to close the sale of the corpse the gravedigger apologizes to the doctors for the damage to the head.

This segment is more comical than the others and a nice aside is that the trainee doctors are named Tom and Jerry. The plot is a bit convoluted and doesn’t succeed as much as the other stories.

Drawn and Quartered- A

Moore (Tom Baker) is a struggling painter living in Haiti. When he learns that his paintings have been sold for high prices by art dealers after being praised by a critic, he goes to a voodoo priest for help exacting revenge.

He is instructed that whatever he paints or draws can be harmed by damaging its image.

Returning to London, Moore paints portraits of the three men who cheated him and mutilates the paintings to exact his revenge. After the displays, his portrait, each one, including Moore, suffers an agonizing experience.

This story is top-notch, and the loss of the eyes and the hands are the highlights of fun.

As the film wraps, we learn the mysterious puzzle involving the five men in a satisfying form.

Vault of Horror (1973) is a horror anthology that hardly disappoints. I am eager to watch this one again which is a major achievement for a cinematic offering to have on a viewer.

Night of the Demon-1957

Night of the Demon-1957

Director Jacques Tourneur 

Starring Dana Andrews, Peggy Cummins

Scott’s Review #1,037

Reviewed June 25, 2020

Grade: B+

There is something very soothing about 1950’s British horror films. Whether it’s the intelligence, the accents, or the elements, they differ from American horror films of the decade.

Arguably, they are just better. The horror genre, which has existed in cinema for decades, creates a clever story about a curse.

Night of the Demon (1957) provides great visual effects within its effective black-and-white cinematography that make the look work well. That said, the hype surrounding this film as one of the greatest horror films is unwarranted.

When I think of the greatest of all horror films, selections such as Halloween (1978), The Shining (1980), and Rosemary’s Baby (1968) come to the forefront on the American front while Peeping Tom (1960) and Frenzy (1972) must be mentioned as for British films.

Night of the Demon, while above-average and has risen to prominence and rediscovery as a cult classic doesn’t completely deliver the goods.

To provide a bit of contextual background, the film was plagued with issues and differences of opinion that are plausible proof of messiness upon dissection.

The original ninety-five-minute British feature was trimmed down to eighty-three minutes and re-titled Curse of the Demon for the United States market, playing there in 1958 as the second half of a double feature.

Additionally, there was a dispute between the director and producer about whether to show the creature on-screen. The producer edited footage before release which resulted in continuity issues.

Night of the Demon is the pure British version.

Dana Andrews, best known for The Best Years of Our Lives in 1946, stars as Doctor John Holden, an American psychology professor who visits Britain to attend a conference led by the deceased Professor Harrington.

Harrington is killed by electrocution after seeing a creature emerge from the trees. His niece Joanna (Peggy Cummins) also arrives to attend her uncle’s funeral and teams with Holden to determine a connection between Harrington and satanic cultist, Dr. Julian Karswell (Niall MacGinnis). The cultist lives with his mother in a lavish stately manner. 

Let’s outline what works best in Night of the Demon.

The visual aspects are superb and deserving of accolades. During a party at the Karswell home, the cultist wills a swirling windstorm to develop that is as frightening as it is realistic.

Of curiosity is whether Alfred Hitchcock studied this scene to a similar one in The Birds (1963) where the female star shuffles a group of children at a party in danger. The scene is professional and authentic.

The climax, amid a dark train track, is one of the best. The ambiance is frightful and well-paced, just what a finale to a film is supposed to be. Karswell, eventually followed by a piece of parchment with runic writing on it, supposedly part of an ancient curse, is terrifying.

It’s like he is being chased and pursued. Holden can pass the curse (meant for him) back to Karswell, who is inevitably ripped to ribbons by a speeding train. Why is a scene of peril amid a train always so compelling? The sense of adventure, dread, horror, and the macabre, all reconvene in this important scene.

Naturally, the creature reappears.

The romance between Holden and Joanna is mediocre at best and unnecessary to the main plot. It’s as if someone decided a romance was needed between the male and female principles and Holden and Joanna were it.

There is little chemistry nor does the duo need to be romantically intertwined- it serves little purpose other than providing a reason to sleuth together. The decision seems more like a measure of the cinematic tradition of that time than any real story purpose. It’s not an irritant, nor is it a positive.

The creature is not scary, and the film would have been better leaving it out. Sometimes, especially in horror, what is not seen is more terrifying than what is seen. The creature is preliminary and amateurish at best and provides no fright value. It appears to be made of clay or plastic.

Night of the Demon (1957) is a horror film I would like to see again and perhaps study deeper. It contains rich special effects and wonderful black-and-white cinematography that enrich the visual treats.

The story of an ancient curse and a riveting speeding train climax that would make Hitchcock take notice are praiseworthy. But I still do not understand the greatest of the horror greats categorization.

Torture Garden-1968

Torture Garden-1968

Director Freddie Francis

Starring Burgess Meredith, Jack Palance, Peter Cushing

Scott’s Review #1,027

Reviewed May 28, 2020

Grade: B

A horror offering made up of multiple vignettes is a treat as we get numerous stories, especially with some late 1960s British sophistication peppered in.

Torture Garden (1968) contains four stories- Enoch, Terror over Hollywood, Mr. Steinway, and The Man Who Collected Poe, each with some intrigue. The structure may be most comparable to The Twilight Zone television series but in a British way.

The Terror over Hollywood is my personal favorite.

Burgess Meredith (yes, that Burgess Meredith of the Batman television series) stars as Doctor Diabolo, a sinister con artist who runs an attraction at a fairground sideshow.

Having shown them a handful of tepid haunted house-style gimmicks to whet their appetites, he promises them a frightening experience if they pay extra.

Of course, they are immediately taken, and when they follow him behind a curtain, one by one they view their fates through a transfixed female deity Atropos (Clytie Jessop).

The stories commence through a hallucinogenic method.

Below is a summary and review of each vignette.

In Enoch, Colin Williams (Michael Bryant) a greedy playboy with money troubles, takes advantage of his elderly uncle (Maurice Denham), by causing his death and falling under the spell of a man-eating cat.

Colin is determined to find his uncle’s riches, leading him to desperation. The plot is far-fetched but the black cat with glowing green eyes is memorable as are the be-headings of a homeless man, a nurse, and finally, the playboy himself.

When the cat finally puts another person under the spell the conclusion is satisfying.

Terror over Hollywood travels across the pond to the United States and introduces a tale of jealousy, schemes, and intrigue in La La Land.

The vignette most resembles Invasion of the Body Snatchers in theme and is quite compelling.

Carla Hayes (Beverley Adams) is a beautiful, aspiring actress intent on clawing her way to the top by any necessary means. After she ruins her roommate’s dress and steals her date, she embarks on a strange journey that leads her to a role in a film, but there is a price to pay.

Adams is a stellar star who brings life and energy to the story.

Providing the most bizarre of all the vignettes Mr. Steinway involves a possessed grand piano by the name of Euterpe who becomes jealous of its owner Leo’s (John Standing) new lover Dorothy (Barbara Ewing) and goes on the attack seeking revenge.

The story is about Dorothy, who is one of the sideshow patrons, so the events are shown from her perspective.

The story contains plenty of loopholes, but it’s fascinating to see the enormous and gorgeous piano come to life as a character and push Dorothy out the window plummeting to her death.

Finally, in The Man Who Collected Poe, a Poe collector (Jack Palance) murders another collector (Peter Cushing) over collectibles he refuses to show him, only to find that the keepsake is the real Edgar Allan Poe (Hedger Wallace).

Seeing both the esteemed real-life figure and horror legend Cushing makes this chapter enjoyable even though it is the least compelling of the bunch. Knowing that Torture Garden was originally meant to star Cushing and Christopher Lee detracts from the film just a bit.

One can only imagine the possibilities.

In the epilogue, which proves to be a clever twist, the mysterious fifth patron (Michael Ripper) scares the others into fleeing for their lives before revealing that he is a conspirator of Doctor Diabolos.

The group is proven to be merely gullible rubes, left with the belief that a murder has occurred and their fates will come true.

The film espouses black magic and the occult in a fun way but not a frightening way. This is both a positive and a negative since witchcraft never felt so family-friendly.

Torture Garden (1968) is not the best horror anthology ever created, nor is it the worst. The plots are uneven but entertaining and never dull.

The creative additions of a killer piano, a killer cat, and famed storyteller Edgar Allen Poe are worth the price of admission as is the centerpiece villain played by the great actor Burgess Meredith, who helps keep the plot moving along.

The Reptile-1966

The Reptile-1966

Director John Gilling

Starring Ray Barrett, Jennifer Daniel

Scott’s Review #978

Reviewed January 10, 2020

Grade: B

While watching a Hammer horror film production, there are always little treats offered and enjoyed. The budgets are always small which only adds to the mystique and the fun and the wonderment of what can be done.

Impressive is how creative they get with a shoestring budget.

The Reptile (1966) is a nice offering with enough murder and intrigue to mildly satisfy, though many plot holes and illogical sequences occur.

The British class and murky locales are fantastic.

Set in Cornwall, England, events begin in a macabre way when a middle-aged bachelor hears noises coming from a nearby estate. When he investigates, he is bitten by a demonic figure and rapidly develops the “Black Death” which kills him.

Many locals succumb to a similar fate. The bachelor’s brother, Harry Spalding (Ray Barrett), inherits his brother’s cottage and moves in despite the warnings of the resident tavern owner, Tom (Michael Ripper), the only one of the townspeople to befriend Harry and his wife, Valerie (Jennifer Daniel).

Meanwhile, the sinister Dr. Franklyn (Noel Willman), the owner of the nearby estate, is the only resident near the cottage and he lives with his daughter Anna (Jacqueline Pearce). The Doctor treats his daughter with contempt as she is attended to by a silent servant (Marne Maitland).

When Anna asks Valerie for help, this leads Valerie and Harry to the estate where dire events occur, but could this be a trap?

The setting of the coastal town is well created and scenes in cemeteries, par for the course with Hammer productions, add a good vibe. The cottage and the estate are well-manicured, and the film simply feels like a British gem.

Since the sets are low-budget, the exterior sequences add a great deal to The Reptile. Assumed is that the film was shot with a “day for night” technique, a trick used to simulate a night scene while filming in daylight. This makes for positive cinematography.

The final thirty minutes or so is the best part of the film when Harry and Valerie are invited to dinner at the doctor’s estate. Banished to her bedroom for most of the evening, Anna emerges looking ravishing in an evening dress but is soon revealed to have been met with a curse and sheds her skin and becomes a frightening reptile.

The servant has a hold over Anna and her father, while a sweet black kitten comes into play.

The characters are interesting. Benevolent Harry and Valerie mix well with the dark and cynical Dr. Franklyn and the servant. Franklyn is irritable and the servant, though he does not speak, is devious and riddled with mystery.

Ignoring warnings to flee the town, never to return, the newlyweds refuse, blissful in their new cottage and filled with the promise of fresh life. Their spirit counterbalances their neighbors and when the characters intersect the real fun begins.

The creature is a tad on the corny side and is hardly scary. The makeup, reportedly difficult for actress Jacqueline Pearce to wear looks amateurish. The cover art makes the creature look much better than in the film, but again, the budgetary limitations made things tight.

Kudos for the idea for the creature to be a female. It was tough to either root for her or against her though since we know little about why she turns from gorgeous to evil.

From a plot perspective, the viewer is encouraged not to try too hard to figure out how circumstances relate to one another. Why and how did Anna become cursed? Did the servant curse her and why is he there? Is the group of caged animal creatures that Anna eats?

It is mentioned that Anna needs a hot environment- is the hot molten in the basement to keep her human? These and many other inquiries could be made, but it roesn’t matter too much.

The Reptile (1966) is worth a watch, especially for fans of classic, Gothic horror. With an unfamiliar cast, the project would have been assisted by the additions of Peter Cushing or Christopher Lee, mainstays of Hammer films in either of the central male roles.

Still, the film succeeds with unpredictability and the low budget creates a fabulous texture. The main appeal is that it is a good, fun horror film with little expectations.

Witchfinder General-1968

Witchfinder General-1968

Director Michael Reeves

Starring Vincent Price, Ian Ogilvy, Hilary Dwyer

Scott’s Review #904

Reviewed May 31, 2019

Grade: B+

Witchfinder General (1968) is a macabre horror film that provides an enormous atmosphere amid a gruesome story centering around the theme of witch-hunting.

By the late 1960’s violence and bloodletting in cinema had become more lenient and acceptable so the film takes full advantage of the timing with an unusual amount of torture, cruelty, and brutality.

The mid-seventeenth-century English period is highly effective as is the ghastly religious angle, making for effective film making.

Vincent Price is delicious in any film he appears in, having amassed over one-hundred cinematic credits alone, to say nothing of his television appearances.

Practically trademarking his over-the-top comic wittiness and campy performances, his role in Witchfinder General may be his best yet as he plays the character straight and deadly serious.

This succeeds in making his character chilling and maybe the best role of his career despite numerous disputes with the director, Michael Reeves, over motivation.

During the English Civil War, Mathew Hopkins (Price) took advantage of the unrest in the land, profiting from witch-hunting. He travels from town to town accusing the unfortunate of witchcraft until they are mercilessly executed after which he is paid handsomely.

Matthew is assisted in the accusations and torments by John Stearne (Robert Russell) a man his equal in brutality. The knowledge that these two men were real-life historical figures makes the action even more difficult to watch.

When he arrests and tortures Father Lowes (Rupert Davies), Lowes’s niece’s fiancé (Ian Ogilvy) decides to put an end to Hopkins’s sleazy practices and goes on a quest to seek vengeance.

The mixture of a romantic love story as Richard Marshall (Ogilvy) and Sara (Hilary Dwyer) marry and a revenge tale as Marshall vows to destroy Hopkins is a nice combination as are the numerous outdoor scenes.

Witchfinder General has much going on and the pieces all come together.

The most horrific moments of the film come during the death scenes as the victims, who logical viewers can ascertain are innocent. The characters are merely perceived as peculiar, therefore deemed to be up to witchcraft, and do not stand much of a chance despite their endless pleas and cries.

Before they are murdered they are typically tortured until they ultimately confess to crimes out of desperation and perceived relief. The common mode of death is either hanging or burning to death.

In one sickening scene, victims are assumed to be witches if they can swim and then are subsequently burned at the stake; if they drown they are innocent, but of course die anyway.

One unfortunate victim has her hands and legs bound and drowns, followed by one of the witch hunters professing how her death was unfortunate because she was innocent all along.

In horror films, the most frightening situations are the ones that can conceivably occur in real-life whether it be a home-invasion, a psycho with a knife, or burning at the stake in the 1600s.

The fact that witch-hunting did happen is shocking and resoundingly makes Witchfinder General creepier especially given that most scenes take place in the daytime. Anyone can create a studio monster, but the realism of the events is the key to the film’s power.

As an aside, while watching the film I was keen to keep in mind how many countries still treat certain classes and groups of people differently, or even oppress them in the name of God.

Food for thought and an additional component that makes Witchfinder General relevant.

The story and the screenplay are not brilliant, nor do they necessarily need to be given the treasures existing among the elements. The writing is your basic villains getting their comeuppance with a love story thrown in- standard fare and adequate.

While pointing out some negatives is “Witchfinder General” the best title that Reeves could come up with, or anyone else for that matter? The title does not exactly roll off the tongue nor does the renamed United States release, The Conqueror Worm sound much better.

Witchfinder General (1968) is not an easy watch and the faint of heart may want to avoid this one, but the realism and the rich atmosphere make it a success.

The lit candles, an old castle, potent red and blue costumes, and one of the greatest horror legends of all time make this a must-watch among horror fans.

Taste of Fear-1961

Taste of Fear-1961

Director Seth Holt

Starring Susan Strasberg, Ronald Lewis

Scott’s Review #901

Reviewed May 21, 2019

Grade: A-

Though Taste of Fear (1961) is a Hammer Production, a British film company known for hefty offerings in the horror genre, the film plays more like an intense and chilling thriller with a Gothic, ghostly feel rather than a full-throttled horror display.

The title was changed for US marketing purposes to Scream of Fear and neither the US nor the UK title quite works, both lacking the appropriate pizzazz that the film warrants. The result is a razor edge spellbinder with marvelous cinematography and more than a few surprise twists.

The action gets off to an exciting start as a female body is suddenly discovered in the waters of coastal Italy; a young woman has taken her own life by drowning.

Soon after a wheelchair-bound heiress, Penny Appleby (Susan Strasberg) arrives at her father’s estate in the lavish French Riviera to bond with her new stepmother, Jane (Ann Todd), and await her father’s return from vacation.

It is explained that the deceased woman was a close friend of Penny’s.

Penny distrusts her stepmother immensely but is not sure why since the woman is more than accommodating during her stay.

Immediately, strange events begin to occur at a rapid rate, most notably seeing her father’s corpse in odd places around the house and the grounds. The body disappears when Penny calls for help leaving the members of the household questioning her sanity and Penny starting to agree.

She befriends the handsome family chauffeur, Robert (Ronald Lewis), and the pair become determined to figure out what is going on.

Cleverly, the audience knows that something is amiss but not what the entire puzzle will add up to, which is a great part of the viewing pleasure. Director Seth Holt enjoys toying with his viewers, keeping them guessing at every dark turn.

The biggest questions are these: If Penny’s father is dead where is the body being hidden? Who is responsible and why? Why does Jane leave the house for drives every night? What does the family doctor (Christopher Lee) have to do with the story?

The best visual aspect of Taste of Fear is the black-and-white cinematography.  This quality adds foreboding and brooding elements during the entire short running time of eighty minutes.

The grand estate with its creepy nooks and crannies provides plenty of prop potential. A grand piano that seems to play by itself is pivotal to the story as is a murky pool, shockingly deep and unkempt for such a residence. Finally, the mansion boathouse that may or may not contain lit candles takes center stage during the film.

The storytelling is quick-paced and robust, never dragging. Layers unfold as the story progresses, but instead of overkill, the developments are necessary as the conclusion comes into view.

Assumptions as to which character’s motivations are devious begin to unravel. The illustrious dialogue crackles with spunk so that by the time we figure out what is going on we scratch our heads in disbelief finally surrendering to the film’s manipulations.

Where Taste of Fear falters slightly is only when an attempt to make the story completely add up is pondered. Liberties must be taken, happily so, as what could be deemed silly or superfluous instead results in thrilling fun.

Only once or twice I thought the setup was too contrived, but just as quickly tabled the inquisition instead of choosing to revel in the story.

The more than adequate cast performs their roles with professionalism and energy, always careful to make the unbelievable believable. Any film starring the legendary Christopher Lee is worthy of praise despite the actor only has a supporting role.

Justice is eventually served though as his character becomes central to the plot.

A fun fact is that Lee was quoted as saying: “Taste of Fear was the best film that I was in that Hammer ever made. It had the best director, the best cast, and the best story.” This is not to be easily dismissed given the actor’s catalog of treasures.

A forgotten delight, Taste of Fear (1961) is a prime example of a film that does everything correctly.

An excellent story, Gothic gloominess, and a foray for Hammer Production company into the then-new genre of the psychological thriller. The piece is never over-the-top and is a production sure to make Hitchcock himself quite impressed.

Never Take Sweets from a Stranger-1960

Never Take Sweets from a Stranger-1960

Director Cyril Frankel

Starring Patrick Allen, Gwen Watford

Scott’s Review #900

Reviewed May 17, 2019

Grade: A

Never Take Sweets from a Stranger (modified to Never Take Candy from a Stranger in the US for marketing purposes) is a 1960 British film, directed by Cyril Frankel and released by Hammer Film Productions.

The film contains brilliant cinematography, and a cerebral quality, and is quite daring for the time made. It combines a story of pedophilia with manipulations of the legal system allowing those to get away with this most heinous crime because of their status.

Despite the production company name and marketed as horror, the film is more left of center than the traditional genre film.

The locale is a small, sleepy lakefront Canadian town, seemingly like an everyday US town. The Carter family (Peter, Sally, and 9-year-old daughter Jean) have just moved to allow Peter a fantastic job opportunity as the school principal.

Jean confides to her parents that while playing in the woods, she and her friend, Lucille, went into the house of an elderly man who asked them to remove their clothes and dance naked for him in return for some candy, which they did.

Peter and Sally are appalled and decide to file a complaint. The elderly man is one of the wealthiest and most influential in the town, the respected Clarence Olderberry, Sr.

Surprisingly, Jean’s experience is downplayed, and the Carter family is largely shunned by the town. As a trial against Olderberry commences, Jean is ridiculed on the stand and her story ripped to shreds by attorneys.

After Olderberry is acquitted he pursues Jean and Lucille in the woods eventually catching the girls during a harrowing lakefront chase and murdering Lucille. Jean escapes and the truth is revealed to the shocked and devastated town.

The cast of Never Take Sweets from a Stranger are not household names, but each gives a fine performance.

Patrick Allen and Gwen Watford as the parents are well-cast and believable. They are upstanding people but strangers in the town, wanting to protect their daughter without smothering.

Felix Aylmer as old-man Olderberry plays the role not as dastardly or menacing but by providing glimpses of pain and sympathy. The audience is unclear whether the man suffers from dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, perhaps not even knowing what he has done.

The black-and-white cinematography is gorgeous, surreal, and tremendously effective.

With ghostly tones, the film gets off to a mysterious and prominent start as we see Jean and Lucille casually playing in the woods, startled to glance up at a menacing mansion (perfect for a Hammer production) to see elderly Olderberry leering at them with binoculars.

The lakefront sequences and the chase through the woods are among the best at providing superior camera angles.

As it’s Lucille who talks Jean into entering Oldberry’s house we presume she has done this type of thing before. She knows Oldberry will provide the girls with candy, but does she understand this comes at a price?

Immediately there is a shred of doubt placed on the children’s innocence- ever so quickly. This decision by the film along with the representation of Oldberry is pivotal to casting even the slightest doubt on the motivations or decisions of the main characters.

Comparisons to the brilliant The Night of the Hunter (1955) must be made. Themes of child abuse, young children in front and center roles, a creepy lake with a prominent boat, and macabre adults are prevalent, at least to some degree, in both films.

Additionally, both films were shunned at the time of release, misunderstood, and later rediscovered, subsequently seen as treasures of brilliant film making.  Measuring both films as tragedies is also obvious; each results in pain and sadness for the children involved.

Never Take Sweets from a Stranger (1960) is a film released decades ahead of its time that has taken years for its brilliance to be recognized and appreciated, adding nuances that are admirable and thought-provoking to the viewer.

The subtle qualities make this film a world of its own. Sadly, the very best of films are often overlooked, marinating the flavorful juices rather than a sudden bombastic reaction.

In 1960 the world was not ready for this film but is now poised to be remembered as a brave, disturbing, and relevant film offering.

Scream and Scream Again-1969

Scream and Scream Again-1969

Director Gordon Hessler

Starring Vincent Price, Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing

Scott’s Review #899

Reviewed May 16, 2019

Grade: B+

Any film that features horror heavyweights and great actors like Vincent Price, Christopher Lee, and Peter Cushing is well worth the price of admission for the name status alone. Each is a mainstay attraction in his own right and combined, results in an orgy of riches.

Scream and Scream Again (1969) sputters by limiting the on-screen interaction between the actors but after a reflective pause, I realize the picture is to be revered for its creativity and use of intersecting plotlines into a thrashing crescendo of a surprise ending.

The audience is offered three segments of the story, each periodically revisited as stand-alone segments that culminate into overlapping components.

An athletic runner trots along the streets of London suddenly suffering from an attack only to awaken in the hospital with no legs.

Elsewhere, a deadly intelligence operative reports back to his repressed Eastern European country only to murder his commanding officer with a deadly paralyzing hold.

Finally, a London detective investigates the brutal deaths of several young women in metropolitan nightclubs.

Cushing, reduced to merely a cameo-sized role as the ill-fated officer, is barely worth mentioning and adds little to the film besides appearing in it.

Lee, like Fremont, the head of Britain’s intelligence agency, plays a straight role with not much zest.

Price, with the meatiest role as a mysterious doctor specializing in limb replacement, can give anyone the creeps with his scowling and eerie mannerisms, but the film strikes out by wasting the talents of the other legendary actors.

The film is not at all what a fan of Hammer horror would expect especially based on the horror familiar cast and the gory-sounding title.

Heaping buckets of blood or ghoulish vampires are what was on the anticipated menu but that does not mean the film fails to deliver. It may not please a fan of traditional horror films since the genres of political espionage and science-fiction come heavily into play.

However, the fantastic and peculiar nightclub serial killer storyline will satisfy fans eager for a good kill or two.

My initial reaction to Scream and Scream Again was that of over-complicated writing and too much going on simultaneously, especially for a film of the said horror genre.

After the film concludes and the surprise ending is revealed I realized that the numerous tidbits are necessary to achieve the desired result and events will make the viewer ponder when the film ends.

Not to ruin the big reveal but the filmmakers borrow a healthy dose of Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) in a more macabre way, naturally.

Fans of the 1960s British television series The Avengers will be pleased with Scream and Scream Again as a similar tone exists with both.

The distinctive musical soundtrack, trendy for the 1960s period works well, and the nightclub sequences and some of the detectives feel reminiscent of the show.

The feel of the film is not limited to an episodic television story but contains a similar style.

High British 1960s fashion is also prevalent and pleasing to the eye.

A couple of supporting characters strike a fascination in small and almost entirely non-verbal performances.

A sexy red-headed hospital nurse with superhuman powers and a penchant for removing limbs, combined with a brooding and mysterious serial killer provides dubious intrigue as to who the true characters are.

What is their motivation? Do they work for someone or something sinister? Questions like these will keep the viewer occupied and thirsty for an explanation.

Bizarrely, British film and television director Gordon Hessler crafts an implausible yet fascinating story that keeps the viewer guessing.

Featuring horror superstars Price, Cushing, and Lee would seem like an assured horror masterpiece but the star’s limited time on-screen brings the overall project down a notch.

Scream and Scream Again (1969) still achieves a good measure of worthy entertainment.

Village of the Damned-1960

Village of the Damned-1960

Director Wolf Rilla

Starring George Sanders, Barbara Shelley

Scott’s Review #701

Reviewed November 30, 2017

Grade: B

Village of the Damned is a 1960 black and white horror film, released during a spectacular year for the film genre- and specifically for the horror genre.

With legendary films such as Hitchcock’s Psycho and Michael Powell’s British Peeping Tom making their debuts at the same time, what a coincidence that Village of the Damned (also British) shares the same year.

The film is a satisfying treat- certainly not on par with the aforementioned duo of masterpieces, but on its terms is a fine film, with just enough suspense and intrigue to make it a memorable affair.

Anything in movie horror involving children is downright creepy, so German director Wolf Rilla is wise to adopt a film based on a 1957 novel entitled The Midwich Cuckoos, by John Wyndham.

The title is one that I simply adore and wish Rilla had kept for the film. Alas, he did not, but the story is well written and almost like a long episode of The Twilight Zone or a similar television chapter from the 1960s.- it just seems like more of an episodic experience.

No disrespect, of course, but the film simply does not contain the bombast expected from a feature film, but rather a compartmentalized, small tale.

In the sleepy little town of Midwich, England, a polarizing force suddenly, and without warning, overtakes the town, causing all of the inhabitants to fall unconscious and into a state of inactivity. Attempts by the military to enter the town fail, even as an airplane crashes to the ground after attempting to cross into Midwich.

As quickly as these events occur, the townspeople “wake up” and resume normalcy. When two months later all women of childbearing years suddenly become pregnant, gossip and intrigue ensue. As the years go by all of the children look similar, with platinum blonde hair, piercing eyes, and rapid growth spurts.

Furthermore, they all are telepathic and communicate with each other in this manner.

The central characters include a prominent professor, Gordon Zellaby (George Sanders), and his wife Anthea (Barbara Shelley), who are the parents of one of the children, named David, who appears to be the leader of the other children.

As the children become increasingly menacing and intelligent as they grow older, sometimes hurting or killing other townspeople by somehow “possessing” their thoughts, Gordon must race to find a way to trap and stop the children from more dastardly deeds.

The use of black and white cinematography and the small-town setting successfully give Village of the Damned an eerie and mysterious vibe, yet it is little or no bloodshed nor the traditional horror-themed elements- hence the above Twilight Zone reference.

The film does not need these to succeed as the psychological mystique is effective enough. We wonder to ourselves, “What is wrong with these kids?” and “Why do they act so strangely?” “Are they possessed?” and  “Is this some kind of weird experiment?”

The answers are never really explained in detail.

Slight negatives to the film are the only limited character development among any of the prominent characters such as Gordon or Anthea, and in this way these roles are one-dimensional- the children are the stars of the show.

Sanders and Shelley are adequately cast, but I can think of numerous other actors who could have played these parts well or even better.

The conclusion to Village of the Damned is unspectacular and I was left with an unsatisfied feeling, especially as related to other more satisfying aspects of the film as a whole.

I felt like a bit of potential was not reached.

Gordon merely orchestrates a big event, thereby sacrificing himself to destroy the children, and the film ends.

Village of the Damned was followed by a 1963 sequel entitled, Children of the Damned, which was not deemed a critical nor a commercial success.

Years later, in 1995, the film was remade and directed by John Carpenter and was also met with poor reviews.

Don’t Look Now-1973

Don’t Look Now-1973

Director Nicolas Roeg

Starring Julie Christie, Donald Sutherland

Scott’s Review #693

Reviewed October 22, 2017

Grade: A

Don’t Look Now is an exceptional 1973 supernatural horror film that is as thought-provoking as it is intelligently written and directed.

Combined with riveting acting by famous Hollywood stars of the day, the film is simply an anomaly and must be seen to be appreciated. It is also the type of film that can be watched again and again for better clarity and exhibits the age-old “it gets better with age” comparison.

The film is rich with story, atmosphere, and cerebral elements, as well as being highly influential to horror films that followed.

An affluent married couple, John and Laura Baxter (Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie), live happily together in their English country home, raising their two children, Johnny and Christine.

After a tragic drowning incident, resulting in the death of Christine, the devastated couple relocates to Venice, after John accepts a position restoring an ancient church. Soon, Laura meets a pair of elderly sisters, one of whom is blind and claims to be clairvoyant, warning her of imminent danger and that Christine is attempting to contact her from beyond.

Don’t Look Now is hardly your standard horror film, which is the main part of its appeal- psychological in nature, the film holds only one gruesome death- not including the death of Christina, which is a terrible accident- not malicious.

Rather, director Nicolas Roeg quietly builds the suspense to a startling final sequence by using a chilling musical score to elicit a reaction from the audience. We know not what will happen, only that something sinister is bound to.

Due to the successful chemistry between Sutherland and Christie, in 1973, both cream of the crop in terms of film success and marketability, the actors deserve much credit for making Don’t Look Now both believable and empathetic.

John and Laura, each give their character a likable nature and immeasurable chemistry, which makes the audience care for them.

Despite the supernatural elements in the film, at its core, the story is quite humanistic. John and Laura have tragically lost a child and we see them deal with the painful grief associated with this loss.

The famous sex scene between the pair is shocking given the time, but also tastefully done, as Roeg uses a fragmented filming style that mixes the nudity with the couple dressing for dinner.

Visually, Don’t Look Now is a pure treat. The viewer is catapulted to the cultural and wonderful world of watery Venice, where scene after scene features gondola rides, exterior treats of the city, and filming locations such as the famous Hotel Gabrielli Sandworth and the San Nicolo dei Mendicoli church, wisely chosen as shooting locations giving the film an effective realism.

The characters of the elderly sisters, Heather and Wendy, are wonderfully cast. Hilary Mason and Clelia Matania are fantastic and believable as the mysterious duo. Seemingly kindly and eager to help, I was never really sure what the character’s true motives were.

Was Laura paying them for their assistance?

The film never reveals this information, but Heather especially contains a sinister look that shrouds her motivations in uncertainty. Fabulous actress Mason shines in her important role.

As John begins to “see things”, the use of the color red becomes very important. Christine died wearing a red coat and John sees a child wearing a red coat walking around the city, but cannot make out her face.

When he sees Laura and the sisters at a funeral, we begin to question his sanity. But are the sisters up to something and attempting to trick him or is his mind playing tricks on him?

The terrific conclusion will only lead the viewer to more questions.

Don’t Look Now (1973) is a unique, classic horror film, with incredible thematic elements, an eerie psychological story, fine acting, and location sequences that will astound.

Mixing the occult with an unpredictable climax, the film is influenced by Alfred Hitchcock and succeeds in achieving a blood-curdling affair sure to be discussed upon the chilling conclusion.

The film is non-linear in storytelling, which only makes it more challenging to watch and appreciate.

The Innocents-1961

The Innocents-1961

Director Jack Clayton

Starring Deborah Kerr

Top 100 Films #98        Top 20 Horror Films #19

Scott’s Review #639

Reviewed April 29, 2017

Grade: A

The Innocents is a 1961 British, psychological horror film, that is a ghost story, of sorts, and based on the novella, The Turn of the Screw, by Henry James.

The film, though clearly horror, contains few of the traditional horror elements, such as contrived frights, jumps, and blood. Rather, the film succeeds by using lighting and magnificent cinematography by Freddie Francis.

And, of course, wonderful storytelling and direction from Jack Clayton.

Deborah Kerr gives a wonderful turn as a beleaguered governess hired by a wealthy bachelor (Michael Redgrave) to tend to his young niece and nephew- Flora and Miles.

The setting is a lavish, yet creepy, mansion somewhere outside of London. As the Uncle goes away to India on business, Miss Giddens, with no previous experience, is left to tend to Flora and Miles, who both begin acting strangely.

To complicate matters, Miss Giddens begins to see sinister ghosts lurking around the property. The ghosts are former servants of the household, who have died, whom Miss Giddens has never met before.

Miss Giddens is assisted only by the kindly housekeeper, Mrs. Grose, who fills her in on the servant’s tragic deaths.

The Innocents, shot in black and white, a very wise decision in my book, uses sound to its advantage and combined with the interesting camera angles and focus shots- mostly of the ghosts Miss Giddens sees, makes the film unique and downright scary.

As she begins by hearing strange voices, she becomes convinced that Miles and Flora are playing tricks on her, engaging in mischievous games. The sounds of the whispers are quite haunting and do wonders for the effects and chill it will undoubtedly give the viewer as the film moves along.

The question throughout the film is whether Miss Giddens is imagining the voices and visions, or if this is a true reality. Could the children be sinister and be playing a vicious prank on her? Could Mrs. Grose be evil?

Certainly, nobody else within the household sees or hears anything amiss- or admits to it.

Kerr, a treasured actress, plays the part with emotional facial expressions and true fear, so much so that she will win the audience over, as we side and empathize with her character. Still, is she a woman on the verge of a mental breakdown? Does she have past mental problems?

Like the uncle, we know nothing of her past, only that she claims to be a minister’s daughter. How then does she have stylish, expensive clothes? Could she only be pretending to be a governess? Has she run away from her past?

The Turn of the Screw is a true ghost story, but The Innocents is a bit different- it relies upon, successfully, as more of a character-driven story.

As Miss Giddens becomes convinced that both children have become possessed by the spirits of the servants, she makes it her mission to rescue the children from the spirits. We have an ominous feeling that events will not end well and they most certainly do not.

Several scenes will frighten the viewer- as Miss Giddens sees a haggard ghost (the female servant) quietly standing in the distance near a lake as Flora dances chirpily, the image of the faraway ghost figure is eerie and well-shot.

The film draws comparisons to the classic Hitchcock film, Rebecca, as each is British, takes place in large mansions, and features dead characters as complex villains. Also, in each film, the sanity of the main character is in question.

With a compelling story and the nuts and bolts surrounding the story to add clever effects and a chilling conclusion to the film, the film succeeds as a wonderful and smart horror film.

With great acting all around, including great performances by the child actors, The Innocents (1961) scares the daylights out of any horror fan and uses exterior and interior scenes to make the film an all-around marvel.

Repulsion-1965

Repulsion-1965

Director Roman Polanski

Starring Catherine Deneuve

Scott’s Review #554

Reviewed December 21, 2016

Grade: A

Repulsion is an excellent British film, and an early film of the great director, Roman Polanski- made in 1965. The film was shot on a low budget, and the action mainly takes place inside a small London apartment.

Repulsion is part of Polanski’s “Apartment trio”, along with Rosemary’s Baby and The Tenant- all set inside apartments.

The film tells the story of Carol (Catherine Deneuve), a beautiful, young, woman who slowly goes insane throughout a weekend, while left alone by her vacationing sister.

Carol is a beauty parlor worker who seemingly is sweet and shy but gradually becomes violent, volatile, and unbalanced. She experiences hallucinations and it is alluded to that she may have been sexually abused as a child.

She loathes men.

The film is shot in black and white with eerie camera shots background noises and very little music. This film has a claustrophobic entity that makes it all the more disturbing.

All of these characteristics make the film a difficult experience to watch, but that is to its credit.

We see Carol unravel and are mystified by the aspects that make her this way. The bathtub scene and the scene with Carol’s landlord are highlights of their brutality.

Repulsion (1965) is difficult to watch, but a wonderful piece of cinema. An in-depth character study of an already unhinged woman reaching her psychological breaking point.

28 Days Later-2002

28 Days Later-2002

Director Danny Boyle

Starring Cillian Murphy, Noah Huntley

Scott’s Review #507

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Reviewed November 2, 2016

Grade: B+

Before the influx of zombie-related horror films and television shows filled the land- arguably offset by the success of The Walking Dead series, a little film came along- now almost teetering on its influence being forgotten- that presented this genre with fresh insight and creative storytelling posing questions amid the mayhem.

28 Days Later (2002) rejuvenated this largely dormant film category with a gritty story of peril among a group of survivors spared from a deadly virus.

The film is smart as it explores morality issues and the needs of society to continue.

We initially are immersed in confusion as chaos immediately ensues. After a brief prologue of a group of laboratory chimpanzees gone mad, inflicted with rage, being let loose by animal liberators, and killing all present as well as inflicting the humans, we meet a lone man named Joe- the timing is relevant as it is “28 days later” from the incident.

The young man awakens in a hospital to find himself alone amid downtown London- not a soul in sight.  Fortunately, he has been in a coma and missed the crumbling of society due to an outbreak- somehow Joe has been spared.

Gradually, Joe meets others uninfected by the virus and they forge through the country in search of a military base rumored to be a haven.

The infected humans are not zombies, but rather, violent creatures who destroy anyone in their path. The film not only presents the grotesque creatures but also challenges the audience to think in a political sense- how will the survivors forge a new society?

How will women be treated differently from and by their male counterparts in a world that now lacks any police force or government?

My initial reaction to watching 28 Days Later- years after its initial release- is that it now seems slightly dated, but that has more to do with the legions of copycat films that have come after it and have been exposed to.

We have become more encompassed by this type of film, both in genre and in style. Appreciation is warranted for its gritty, fast-paced camera-work, extreme violence, and the use of “infected” who turn from human beings to vicious beings.

A fantastic part of this film is that it is not simply a horror film, it is more layered than that. There are moments of great beauty and tender moments among Joe and Selena- the sole surviving female other than the young, waif-like, Hannah, whose world has been shattered by the death of her loved ones.

In one sad scene, a couple has peacefully committed suicide, rather than face what would surely become of them.

There is a sense of a human story in 28 Days Later, which made me find the film heartfelt and almost sweet. Even the military soldiers- their motivations questionable- are relatable based on the world being turned upside down. A layered, complex, zombie film with some character-driven elements.

Burn Witch Burn (Night of the Eagle)-1962

Burn Witch Burn (Night of the Eagle)- 1962

Director Sidney Hayers

Starring Peter Wyngarde, Janet Blair

Scott’s Review #316

220px-Night-of-the-eagle-poster

Reviewed January 1, 2016

Grade: B

Burn Witch Burn- re-titled for U.S. release from the original British title of Night of the Eagle, is a 1962 black and white horror film.

It is based on a 1943 novel entitled Conjure Wife.

The film is quite decent and delves into the interesting, and arguably unusual, subject of witchcraft, but is careful not to be too dark a film and resembles more of a long episode of the Twilight Zone- a very good episode.

I enjoyed how the film had a wit and a charm to it never taking itself too seriously, instead adding humor and lightness.

Norman, a psychology professor at the local university, is intelligent, successful, and well-adjusted. He has a blonde, pretty, sophisticated wife named Tansy.

The perfect housewife, she coordinates Friday night bridge parties with fellow professors and staff and is a Mrs. Cleaver type- the mother character from the famous 1950s television series, Leave it to Beaver.

When Norman discovers Tansy is practicing witchcraft and possesses various charms, dolls, and weird things, he forces her to destroy all of them.

This leads to a series of bad events.

Norman is accused of rape by a student and other dire circumstances occur. This is assumed by Tansy to be the result of the destruction of her witchcraft.

Burn Witch Burn is a fun film- it does not take itself too seriously, despite the heavy subject matter. Tansy certainly does not look like the stereotypical witch. She looks more like a PTA mom. We almost cheer for her.

At the same time, the film is not so over-the-top that it becomes ridiculous either. I found the film to be entertaining, but certainly not a masterpiece or at all scary.

As the film progresses, I found the action to be a bit confusing from a story-line perspective, but that was admittedly okay. I simply went with it and enjoyed it.

For instance, the plot thickens when some enormous eagle affixed on the front of the university building comes into play. Or the sinister university secretary’s motives are revealed.

Worth mentioning are the thunderstorm’s special effects and ambiance. I found the heavy storm to be crucial in making Burn Witch Burn an effective horror film. It gave a heavy dose of spookiness to events and the atmosphere was spot on.

Burn Witch Burn is a fun, late-night horror flick that does not take itself too seriously but is a worthy film for horror fans to partake in and enjoy.

An underappreciated British horror flick.