Tag Archives: Christopher Lee

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 Return of the Musketeers-1989

The Return of the Musketeers-1989

Director George Lester

Starring Michael York, Oliver Reed, Kim Cattrall

Scott’s Review #1,401

Reviewed September 24, 2023

Grade: B

The Return of the Musketeers (1989) is the third Musketeers film directed by Richard Lester, following 1973’s The Three Musketeers and 1974’s The Four Musketeers.

George MacDonald Fraser wrote each screenplay.

This is key to mention because a strong continuity flow helps the film be fun and charming. The results of the same person directing and writing resonate on screen in several ways. The characters feel truthful and their motivations are clear.

A rich sense of the history of the characters is apparent making the film a pleasing adventure for fans of the franchise.

After ambitious Oliver Cromwell (Alan Howard) overthrows the king, Cardinal Mazarin (Philippe Noiret) enlists a down-and-out D’Artagnan (Michael York) to rally the Musketeers against him.

Porthos (Frank Finlay) accepts the mission at once, but Athos (Oliver Reed) and Aramis (Richard Chamberlain) hesitate at first. Eventually, the three reunite, but they are soon torn apart by infighting and a situation from their past.

They get a chance at redemption when they are sent to England to save the life of King Charles I (Bill Paterson).

There is some slapstick play to endure making The Return of the Musketeers feel juvenile at times when characters are bopped over the head or otherwise trip and fall in silly form.

For this type of adventure film, the plot is too complicated and veers in different directions a shade too often. I wondered more than once if I was in France or England.

This makes the minor characters difficult to keep track of and Christopher Lee’s character of Comte de Rochefort once again has little to do.

The costumes and the French setting are a major victory and the history lessons provided especially the British and French kings and queens are more than fulfilling. We delved into our history books to determine which King Louis reigned when and who was aligned with the film (it’s Louis the XIV during the 1600s).

The point of the film made fifteen years after the second film is to please fans and the result is a swimming success. I’m a sort of fan with my hubby being a big fan and we both enjoyed the resurfacing of familiar characters.

It feels like old-home week. The reunion of the musketeers feels like witnessing a family reunion. As D’Artagnan, Porthos, Athos, and Aramis embraced each other we felt the warmth along with them.

Since the characters played by Raquel Welch and Faye Dunaway (Milady) were dead a creative idea was to introduce her daughter to the story, Justine played by Kim Cattrall. Athos also has a son named Raoul, played by C. Thomas Howell.

This provides a further nod to history and introduces compelling lead characters who have a connection to familiar characters.

It is also an example of good writing and storytelling. Despite the characters being new to the audience we already care about them based on their tie to other beloved characters.

Making the film more sentimental, a sad occurrence happened while filming. Actor Roy Kinnear who plays lovable Planchet died following an on-camera accident in which he fell off a horse.

His role was completed by using a stand-in, filmed from the rear, and dubbed-in lines from a voice artist.

The film is dedicated to him.

Reuniting most of the original cast years later makes The Return of the Musketeers (1989) a warm experience. Beautiful costumes locales and history raise the film above expectations considering it’s a third installment.

Dark Shadows-2012

Dark Shadows-2012

Director Tim Burton

Starring Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, Helena Bonham Carter

Scott’s Review #1,203

Reviewed December 3, 2021

Grade: C+

Sometimes a great idea doesn’t pan out. On paper, relaunching the unique and gothic 1960s daytime television series Dark Shadows with a tribute on the big screen with even bigger stars sounds wonderful.

The endless possibilities and the inevitable nods to history are head-spinning.

Sadly, the film version of Dark Shadows (2012) directed by Tim Burton is miscategorized and misunderstood by all involved. It’s billed as a dark comedy rather than horror or even fantasy and comes across as more of a mockery than a real nod to the series.

It’s completely over-the-top and misses any of the wonder and the spookiness that made the long-ago black and white show a daily adventure.

I do not profess to have seen the entire series but I have watched much of the first season and understand the appeal. Fans will be disheartened by Burton’s botched attempts to recreate a great idea.

Depp, a frequent guest star in Burton’s film works, strikes out as the iconic character Barnabas Collins, the eighteenth-century vampire who awakens in the twentieth century though he’s not as bad as he was when he feebly stepped into the Willy Wonka character in 2005.

Yikes.

The only saving grace is the creative and magical visual effects and set design which provides enough imagination and macabre fascination to at least partly save this otherwise messy experience.

The plot gives a brief explanation of the history.

In eighteenth-century Maine, Barnabas Collins (Depp) presides over the town of Collinsport. A rich and powerful playboy, Barnabas breaks the heart of a witch named Angelique (Eva Green) who deviously makes him pay.

Angelique turns Barnabas into a vampire and buries him alive.

Two centuries later, Barnabas escapes from his tomb when builders are erecting a Mcdonald’s and finds the current 1970s Collinsport a very different place. His once-grand estate has fallen into ruin, and the dysfunctional remnants of his family have fared no better.

His resurrection creates complications and drama for the entire family.

Burton knocks it out of the park with the visuals.

The gothic mansion, in particular, is right up his alley and he embraces the possibilities with gusto. Every creak or wind sound heard within the mansion co-aligns with the dark and dreary purples and brown colors.

Frequent candles mark the proper mood and investigating the vast number of rooms was something to look forward to.

Since the rest of the film sucked I had nothing better to do than fully embrace and focus on the art and set designs.

Heavyweights like Michelle Pfeiffer, Helena Bonham Carter, and Depp do their best but oddly overact in nearly every scene. Their direction must have been skewed toward comedy instead of adding any meat or emotional relevance to the characters.

The original series created something strangely dramatic and compelling on a shoestring budget. There was a delicious haunting and grabbing nature that made you anticipate the next episode and who might fall victim to the vampire.

The film veers into a vastly different territory.

Burton and Depp’s Barnabas struts around emitting one-liners for intended giggles. The other characters appear to be dressed for Halloween and are dumb and morose.

The feeling I got was that of a retread to a situation comedy like The Addams Family rather than a horror soap to be taken seriously.

The sexual references and the occasional bloody vampire effects are okay but seem peppered in to justify the dark comedy.

Even an uninspired cameo by shock rocker Alice Cooper is perceived as a weak attempt to add something frightening or dangerous.

Unsurprisingly, Dark Shadows (2012) performed poorly at the box office and was derided by true fans of the series and almost every other film critic.

This caused Barnabas and his family to slink back into their coffins possibly for good.

What a shame.

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.

Airport ’77-1977

Airport ’77-1977

Director Jerry Jameson

Starring Jack Lemmon, James Stewart, Olivia de Havilland

Scott’s Review #1,072

Reviewed October 20, 2020

Grade: B+

The word that springs to mind following a viewing of the disaster flick Airport ’77 (1977) is entertaining. Whether this is positive or negative depends on the viewer and what that viewer wants out of a film.

As a huge fan of the disaster genre, I was one satisfied customer though there is little to distinguish the film from other efforts. It is a more cohesive and professional-feeling effort than its predecessor, Airport ’75.

The fun is watching the cast, the grandiose list of who’s who of Hollywood heavyweights gracing the opening credits.

We wonder who will survive and who will not.

The star is the airplane. Showcased by way of both interiors and exteriors, the luxurious privately-owned Boeing 747-100 is a great highlight of the picture.

Owned by wealthy philanthropist Philip Stevens (James Stewart), the plane is packed with VIPs and priceless art traveling to his Florida estate for a party.

The wealthy travelers are drugged, and the aircraft is subsequently hijacked before crashing into the ocean in the Bermuda Triangle and sinking 100 feet, prompting the survivors to undertake a desperate struggle to live.

The airplane set is a feast for the eyes. A double-deck plane (naturally!) the plush green carpets and the spiral staircase complete with a robust bar stocked with every type of liquor imaginable are wonderful trimming.

It allows the viewer to forget all about the typical in-flight treats like their seat being kicked, a screaming baby, or a fat man snoring, and escape to the pleasures of champagne, caviar, and slippers.

Seriously, the sets are tremendous and worthy of their accolades.

Jerry Jameson, primarily a television director, sticks to a formulaic approach that makes the film look like a long television series. Think Murder, She Wrote, Dallas, or Dynasty at 30,000 feet.

I say this because the melodrama is sky-high (no pun intended) and situations arise between flight crew and passengers to create more tension than the crash itself.

The juiciest drama exists between husband and wife Martin (Christopher Lee) and Karen Wallace (Lee Grant). He flirts with women at the bar, drinks too much, and gets jealous. They squabble. You get the idea.

What a joy it is to see some of the stars on-screen together, specifically Stewart, Olivia de Havilland, and Joseph Cotten. As Nicholas, Cotten is a romantic match for de Havilland’s Emily Livingston, and they appear to be old friends.

Fans of classic cinema will undoubtedly associate him with Shadow of a Doubt (1943) and her with Gone with the Wind (1939) and to see the legendary stars side by side is darling, nearly worth the price of admission.

Stewart is perfectly cast as the rich and distinguished man eager to see the impending arrival of his estranged daughter and her son, hopeful of a happy reunion.

These delights are why I love this genre.

The actors teeter back and forth between phoning in their lines and enthusiastically having a ball with their respective roles. Sometimes it’s hard to tell which is which. I’ll bet the set was tension-free as everyone was earning a bundle of cash.

And why not? The budget is plentiful and filled with overabundance.

The plot is generally ludicrous as is to be expected. The thought that anyone, let alone nearly everyone, could survive a crash into the ocean and remain unscathed as it sinks to the depths of the water is beyond silly.

Suddenly, when all passengers conveniently emerge from their drug-induced stupor simultaneously, hysterics erupt which is quite humorous. As the water slowly begins to seep into the plane a frenzied effort to find a way out commences.

The last portion of the film involving a rescue crew coming to save the passengers is a disappointment, lacking much captivation.

Airport ’77 (1977) has all the elements its target viewer expects it to have. If the well-known cast were instead unknowns the crash peril and its following adventure were not danger personified, and the dramatic and romantic tensions left out, the film would be a disappointment.

The film is like sinking your teeth into a fattening, highly caloric Whopper from your favorite Burger King. It’s a guilty pleasure that you wouldn’t necessarily tell your health-conscious friends you get so much enjoyment from.

But, it’s fun, so why not indulge from time to time?

Oscar Nominations: Best Art Direction, Best Costume Design

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.

The Man with the Golden Gun-1974

The Man with the Golden Gun-1974

Director Guy Hamilton

Starring Roger Moore, Christopher Lee, Britt Ekland

Top 100 Films #77

Scott’s Review #346

28370063

Reviewed January 9, 2016

Grade: A

Though not typically regarded as one of the more appealing of James Bond films, and the second chapter to feature Roger Moore, Sean Connery’s replacement, The Man with the Golden Gun (1974) is one of my favorites, firmly placed in my top 5 of 007 offerings.

This could be the result of the film being one of my first introductions to the world of 007 as a child.

Moore seems more comfortable in the role than he did in the uneven Live and Let Die, released in 1973.

Qualities that make The Man with the Golden Gun a success include the wonderful casting of Christopher Lee, a famed horror film icon, in the central role of Francisco Scaramanga, the title character, and nemesis of Bond.

Who cannot think of Count Dracula while watching Lee act- his dark, swarthy looks, angular face, and his deep baritone voice make for a perfect villain.

Known in large part for participation in Hammer Horror films opposite another legend, Peter Cushing, this is casting at its finest and a true high point of the film.

To summarize the story, MI6 receives a golden bullet with “007” sketched on the side, a clear threat to the life of James Bond. It is assumed to have been sent by the famed assassin, Scaramanga, whose trademark is a deadly golden gun.

Bond is ordered to remove himself from his current mission, but he pays no mind and sets out to find Scaramanga on his own, leading him into a mystery involving a stolen solar energy weapon feared to destroy the world.

The adventure takes Bond to a bevy of gorgeous locales such as Hong Kong, Thailand, Macau, and the South China Sea where our villain resides on a private island reached only by helicopter.

I found the main locale of the sunny deserted island and Scaramanga’s dwarf sidekick, Nick Nack, great aspects of the film. Majestic caves, sandy beaches, and a gorgeous array of water set the tone with gorgeous fantasy elements.

Servant Nick Nack is sinister, but with a sweet smile, one almost trusts him as he serves lunch or expensive champagne to guests sure to be killed afterward.

The secret maze of mirrors that Bond finds himself in is made perfect by Nick Nack’s taunting and cackling. And the flying car that Scaramanga and Nick Nack drive-in, though gimmicky, is a real hoot.

A demerit to The Man with the Golden Gun that I have always been able to look past since other factors usurp her importance is the miscasting of Britt Eklund as Bond’s assistant, Mary Goodnight.

The writer’s pen Goodnight as simpering, silly, and a big goof. An attempt at comic relief falls flat as the character epitomizes a blonde bubblehead- constantly screwing up everything.

Scaramanga’s girlfriend and co-Bond girl, Andrea Anders, played by Maud Adams is much better, though we do not get to know the character very well before she is offed.

Fortunately, Adams would return to star in Octopussy in 1983.

Perhaps middling at times and suffering from some negative characteristics, The Man with the Golden Gun (1974) is a love of mine, a trip down memory lane to a time as a child when I was first discovering my love and zest for James Bond films.

This offering cemented my love of Roger Moore in the central role and I still adore watching this film.

Horror Express-1974

Horror Express-1974

Director Eugenio Martin

Starring Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing

Scott’s Review #311

7780013

Reviewed December 30, 2015

Grade: B

Horror Express (1974) is a fun 1970s Spanish/British horror film starring legendary horror actors Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing.

A horror version of Agatha Christie’s Murder On The Orient Express with a bit of camp thrown in, it is an entertaining late-night experience, on a low-budget level.

It is the early 1900’s, and while traveling from Shanghai to Moscow, via the Trans-Siberian Express, a British anthropologist named Professor Alexander Saxton (Lee) brings an enormous,  mysterious crate on board that contains a creature he discovered in a cave.

What we know is it has something to do with human evolution.

A fellow passenger, Doctor Wells (Cushing), and various other passengers become suspicious of the crate and demand to have it opened.

Things go awry and victims begin to be murdered by the creature (an ape-like monster) and left with eyes completely white with missing pupils and irises.

The best part of Horror Express is the setting. The cozy train is a perfect backdrop for the events taking place and it makes the film exciting as the different cars are set-decorated nicely.

This lends itself to a sense of entrapment and being unable to escape the creature as it roams freely from car to car.

For being a low-budget film,  the train sets are quite believable, as are the sounds of the train. It feels like the actors are on a real train as the tooting horns and the sounds of the tracks are authentic.

Having actors as big as Lee and Cushing gives the film respect in horror circles and both actors do believable work.

This film would not have been as good without the talents (and name recognition) of both.

There are also interesting supporting characters and I didn’t find the acting to be too over-the-top as is known to occur in similar types of horror films.

Specifically, the countess’s role and the appearance of Telly Savalas as a Cossack officer investigating events are interesting.

Fans of this genre of horror will understand that suspension of disbelief is necessary as the plot gets a bit goofy- something about the creature taking the information from the victim’s brain and the victims subsequently turning into zombies- it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.

Especially towards the end, as some drunken Russians and some weird resurrections happen, but that is somehow okay.

For a late-night viewing with some spirits, you can’t ask too many questions and Horror Express (1974) is a decent flick.

The Wicker Man-1973

The Wicker Man-1973

Director Robin Hardy

Starring Edward Woodward, Christopher Lee

Scott’s Review #245

60021185

Reviewed May 31, 2015

Grade: B+

The Wicker Man is a cult horror film from 1973 that is considered one of the finest by horror critics.

While the film does not enamor me quite as much as some other favorites in the horror genre (Halloween, Rosemary’s Baby, The Shining, Dressed to Kill, and Suspiria) immediately spring to mind while thinking of 1970s-style horror gems, I cannot help but admire The Wicker Man’s creativity and religious overtones.

Despite not awarding the film a solid “A” rating, I look forward to viewing this film again and, perhaps over time, as some films do, it will see an adjustment in scoring.

Set on an island in the Scottish Hebrides, named Summerisle, a devout Christian (Edward Woodward) named Sergeant Howie travels to the island in search of a missing young girl named Rowan Morrison, thought to have disappeared under mysterious circumstances.

The inhabitants are vague, aloof, or hostile towards the policeman. He immediately is disturbed to notice the group worships Celtic gods and notices other strange acts of worship and sexual behavior (a naked dance), which he resists and disapproves of.

He is tempted by a gorgeous seductress, Willow, played by Britt Ekland- most notably known as a Bond girl in The Man with the Golden Gun, and butts heads with the island leader, Lord Summerisle, played by horror legend Christopher Lee.

As he attempts to locate the missing girl, he uncovers some very dark goings-on around the island as the annual Mayday harvest celebration is about to occur. He deduces that Rowan is slated to be the sacrifice at the celebration and he races to find her before it is too late.

But is there more to the island than meets the eye?

The Wicker Man is not mainstream fare and that is what I admire most about it, as well as its British flare. It strives to challenge the norm in horror and question who is right and who is wrong and who the audience should champion.

Religion and the occult have been portrayed in horror films for eons, but rarely given a normal face. Typically, the villains are scary, horrid, or even cartoonish, clearly defined as bad.

Despite all of the townspeople being in on the sacrifice, they are seemingly ordinary appearing. They raise their kids, farm, run stores, and teach the kids in a classroom setting.

On the surface, they appear wholesome and that is part of what makes The Wicker Man so scary. Rosemary’s Baby did the same thing.

Typically, any sort of satanic overtones or human/animal sacrifices, frighten audiences, especially if the culprits could be their neighbors, friends, or even loved ones. The realness is unnerving.

Differing, controversial, religious beliefs are a prevalent theme throughout The Wicker Man as are elements of good vs. evil.

The film is not predictable. It delves into questions of morals and beliefs- for example, Howie is a virgin- saving himself for marriage and trying to be a good, decent person.

He is the moral center of the film and, in his belief, everyone on the island is either perverted, crazy or a sinner.

By this logic, Howie looks down on others who are dissimilar to him and comes across as preachy. I do not get the impression that the film wants the audience to love Howie- or hate him.

The balance between the old gods (Christianity) and new gods (Celtic paganism) makes the film interesting.

The shocking conclusion involving an enormous, life-sized burning wicker man is terrifying beyond belief and by far the best part of the film, as the hero must come to terms with his fate.

The final thirty minutes are quite spectacular from the final twist through the ending.

My lack of an exceptional grade for The Wicker Man stems from it being a tad too slow-moving. Perhaps a few additional jumps or frights along the way would have been beneficial, but, on the other hand, it is not a scary film, nor does it try to be.

It is, however, quite intelligent and, I suspect will increase my enjoyment with each subsequent viewing.

A fine addition to the relics of classic horror, The Wicker Man (1973) is a creative, mysterious, and left-of-the-center film.

Madhouse-1974

Madhouse-1974

Director Jim Clark

Starring Vincent Price, Peter Cushing

Scott’s Review #233

220px-Madhouseposter[1]

Reviewed April 3, 2015

Grade: B-

Madhouse, a 1974 British horror film, stars horror icon Vincent Price who portrays a sympathetic Hollywood actor who is unsure of his sanity after the grisly murder of his trophy fiancé whom he may or may not have been responsible for murdering.

Mainly set in London, Madhouse also stars famed British actors in the latter stages of their careers, such as Peter Cushing, and is a treat for classic British horror fans.

The look of the film is stylistic and effective in the mood- the story, while silly, is also fun.

Paul Toombes (Price) is a famed actor notorious for his character of Dr. Death in a successful film franchise. He seemingly has it all and is the envy of his contemporaries- wealth, notoriety, and a glamorous blonde fiancé named Ellen.

After Ellen is murdered by someone dressed as Dr. Death, Paul is unable to remember the circumstances or his whereabouts during the murder.

After spending years in a mental institution in a confused state he is summoned to London to mount an acting comeback of sorts, reprising his Dr. Death alter-ego.

As the bodies begin to pile up, a whodunit commences- is Paul Toombes the killer, or is someone impersonating him?

The film itself is quite pleasing to a horror fan like me. The deaths, while silly, are fun and campy.

Mostly all female victims, a comical aspect is how the victims, when cornered by the killer, simply scream and stand there waiting to be sliced.

Wouldn’t they fight back in real life?

This film is certainly not realism at its finest but is a fun horror film. It is a bit exaggerated and over-the-top in a campy way but is also true to the 1970s style with the point of view scenes from the killer’s perspective.

A wonderful aspect of this film is real clips of old Vincent Price films (The Raven, The Pit and the Pendulum, and House of Usher) to name a few, featuring deceased horror god Boris Karloff and Basil Rathbone.

Since the plot involves Price’s character being a former horror actor this is a wonderful opportunity to showcase long-ago classic horror films and it works perfectly.

I enjoyed the television scenes within the film plot as Paul revives his career and shoots a series for the BBC- the film chooses interesting, haunting sets and Cushing’s character of Herbert Flay and his zany wife reside in a spooky, vast mansion with eerie spiders that the wife is obsessed with.

The set pieces are great and very Halloween-like. And the spider-eating-flesh scene is excellent!

The tag team of Price and Cushing is fun to watch- both horror stalwarts connect well and both actors play off of each other successfully.

They had a ball while making this film.

Towards the end of the film, the plot becomes confusing and the big reveal as to the killer’s identity and the motivations surrounding is a disappointment.

The conclusion to the film is silly and makes little sense, although that is secondary to a film of this genre that borders on camp.

Madhouse (1974) is an enjoyable midnight flick starring two of the top classic horror icons.