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Oct 262016
 

If there’s one gimmick that helps make horror movies interesting, it’s a trilogy of separate short stories put together into one film. So for Halloween this year, I’ll be going over two horror trilogy movies from the early 1960s. The first one is Tales of Terror, which are all based on Edgar Allan Poe poems. This was what first got me interested in the concept of horror trilogies, next to the Simpsons Halloween specials. Each tale begins with narration by Vincent Price and ends with a quote from the actual Edgar Allan Poe poem that it was based on.

It starts with Morella, which is about Lenora Locke (Maggie Pierce) visiting her father in a mansion that has so many cobwebs it’s unreal. Where’s the feather duster when you need it? However, Mr. Locke (Vincent Price) is drunk and blames her for his wife Morella’s (Leona Gage) death since she died in childbirth. This certainly brings the term “dysfunctional family” to a whole new level. Especially when the ghost of Morella gets involved by switching bodies with Lenora in order to avenge herself.

The second tale is The Black Cat. Despite how angry drunk Montresor Herringbone (Peter Lorre) treats his wife Annabelle (Joyce Jameson), this horror tale is a bit lighter than the previous one. The biggest highlight is when Montresor goes to a wine tasting and meets Fortunato Luchresi (Vincent Price). The way Fortunato tastes wine is by sniffing it and squishing it around with quick breathing gestures, which I find hilarious. Montresor just takes a big gulp. To each his own. Of course the biggest plot point is how Montresor hate’s his wife’s cat. Not to spoil the ending, but the cat does get even.

Then the movie goes in a dark direction again with the third tale, The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar. M. Valdemar (Vincent Price) is a dying man that has a hypnotist, Mr. Carmichael (Basil Rathbone), use hypnosis to ease his pain. However, while under hypnosis, Valdemar dies but his spirit cannot move on until Carmichael releases him. When Carmichael refuses, things become really creepy. Even though the horror standards were different from what we have today, I believe the outcome of this story still has the potential to give people nightmares.

A year later, Boris Karloff starred in a horror trilogy movie of his own called Black Sabbath, which he also narrates. Just so you know, it has nothing to do with the rock band Black Sabbath, or any Edgar Allan Poe tales.

The first tale is called A Drop of Water. After an elderly medium passes away, Nurse Helen Chester (Jacqueline Pierreux) is summoned to the medium’s house to prepare the body for burial. However, Helen is warned not to touch any of her belongings or be cursed. Helen doesn’t listen and steals the ring off the medium’s finger. After getting home, Helen is haunted by dripping water and the creepy vengeful corpse coming after her. I guess that will teach Helen to heed a curse. Some mediums can be very sensitive when it comes to their belongings.

Tale number two is The Telephone. Long before the Scream franchise, as well as caller ID, this story is about call girl Rosy (Michele Mercier) getting frightening phone calls. They’re from someone that Rosy thought was long dead. He’s threatening her life and knows everything she’s doing to the last detail, which drives Rosy into hysteria. This story has horror, but on a much different level from the previous tale.

The final tale is The Wurdalak, which is a vampire story that takes place in Russia. When young nobleman Vladimir Durfe (Mark Damon) takes shelter in a cottage, he finds the owner Giorgio (Glauco Onorato) and his family. They tell him that Giorgio’s father Gorca (Boris Karloff) went to kill a wurdulak, which is a living cadaver that feeds on human blood, particularly the blood of loved ones. Soon Gorca returns and has become a wurdulak himself, slowly attacking his family. This story is an interesting one to end on. My only concern is that the pacing is very slow on at least several points.

I should also point out that even though Boris Karloff may be the star and narrator of Black Sabbath, he only appears in The Wurdulak in comparison to Vincent Price appearing in all three of Tales of Terror as well as being star and narrator.

These were both great trilogy movies of classic horror. Sometimes it’s nice to look back on old horror after so many years, especially on Halloween. As for remakes on old horror movies, well that’s another story.

Mar 302016
 

The classic comedy trio of horror stars from the 60s, Vincent Price, Peter Lorre, and Boris Karloff, unite once again in The Comedy Of Terrors. Unlike some of their earlier horror classics, this movie is not based on an Edgar Allan Poe poem.

Undertaker Waldo Trumbull (Vincent Price) struggles to keep his funeral parlor in business. In an effort to save money, Trumbull and his assistant Felix Gillie (Peter Lorre) reuse the same coffin after every funeral. That first scene uses that fast motion comedy like on The Munsters. It leaves me laughing every time I see it.

The original owner of the funeral parlor was Amos Hinchley (Boris Karloff). He’s now old, sick, and senile, not to mention deaf and gullible.

Hinchley also has a daughter, Amaryllis (Joyce Jameson). She is Trumbull’s wife and an aspiring opera singer. However, Amaryllis is miserable because Trumbull is often drunk and is always mean to her. As for Amaryllis’s singing, it’s okay at first. Then when she reaches the high notes, they cause hilarious results.

With the landlord Mr. Black (Basil Rathbone) demanding the rent, Trumbull gets an idea. He and Gillie go to Mr. Black’s house to kill him and make him a customer. However, the plan is in jeopardy when it’s revealed that Mr. Black has a condition that he goes into a deathlike sleep and wakes right up unexpectedly. It’s so funny when that keeps happening, as though nothing can kill Mr. Black.

Throughout the movie, Amaryllis’s pet cat Cleopatra is in the thick of things with reactions that are hilarious like when the cat can’t stand Amaryllis’s singing. It certainly was an interesting use of cat humor.

This was a good horror film for its time. It’s really the level of comedy that makes it a classic, especially after how great The Raven was in the same manner.

Jan 132016
 

One of Edgar Allan Poe’s most famous poems is The Raven. I first heard about it as a segment on the very first Simpsons Halloween Special. Then shortly after I discovered that back in the 60s there was a full-length movie about The Raven based on that old poem, but with many new additions.

Dr. Erasmus Craven (Vincent Price) is a sorcerer mourning the loss of his wife Lenore (Hazel Court). Then it’s revealed that Dr. Craven has a daughter, Estelle (Olive Sturgess), and that’s just the first of many added elements to the movie that were not in the original poem.

The raven that comes to Dr. Craven through his window is actually another sorcerer under an enchantment and can say a lot more than just “nevermore”.

This sorcerer is Dr. Bedlo (Peter Lorre). He loves wine and has hilarious antics. The chemistry between Peter Lorre and Vincent Price is so great that I can always tell that whenever they team up, it’s easy to see that the movie will be a hilarious horror feature.

Dr. Beldo also has a son named Rexford (Jack Nicholson). Even though The Raven was one of Jack Nicholson’s earlier films, I can’t get over how amazing it is to see how young he looked back then.

The main villain is master sorcerer Dr. Scarabus (Boris Karloff). It was he who transformed Dr. Bedlo in an unfair duel and took his magic equipment. Now Dr. Bedlo wants revenge. Dr. Craven joins him after realizing how powerful Dr. Scarabus has become and that Lenore’s spirit is also involved.

First when Dr. Bedlo takes him on, Dr. Scarabus stops him easily. He actually melts Dr. Bedlo’s wand by blowing on it. That’s a funny highlight when Dr. Beldo reacts to it by saying, “You dirty old man.”

The real display of power is shown when Dr. Craven and Dr. Scarabus battle in a magic duel to the death. The effects may appear cartoonish compared to today’s standards, but are still just as exciting.

This is a real horror classic and it’s so poetic how Vincent Price narrates as he recites part of the original poem. He’s such an amazing actor. In fact it was this movie, The Raven, that first got me interested in other Vincent Price horror films of that era. I’ll be blogging about some of those in the future.

Apr 132012
 

From the creators of the classic Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer Christmas special is a stop motion animated film called Mad Monster Party. Every classic movie monster is featured in this adventurous comedy from the 60s.

Dr. Boris Von Frankenstein (voice of Boris Karloff) holds a monster convention at his private island, the Isle of Evil, to announce his retirement as a mad scientist. No, it’s not a convention like Spooky Empire, but there are famous monster guests of many sorts.

The Bride of Frankenstein, known in this movie as the Monster’s Mate, is voiced by Phyllis Diller. I recognize her brand of humor from when I saw her on The Muppet Show.

Another interesting character is Yetch. He’s a zombie that tends to fall apart, literally, and has a voice like Igor. It’s especially noticeable when Yetch shows his obsession for Dr. Frankenstein’s secretary Francesca (voice of Gale Garnett). As pretty as she is, who wouldn’t be obsessed?

I recognize Gale Garnett as a singer on this movie because I used to have one of her old records, which had some great folk songs on it.

Dr. Frankenstein confides in Francesca that his successor is his nephew Felix Flanken. Francesca becomes jealous and tells Count Dracula. The two of them plot to get rid of Felix and keep Dr. Frankenstein’s secret formulas for themselves. Luckily, Felix isn’t intimidated because he’s mostly in the dark about the monsters and his uncle’s business.

After a wild dinner party, the monsters have an unusual restless night. The Creature from the Black Lagoon sprays water as he sleeps. The Wolfman howls in his sleep because of the full moon. The Mummy snores when he’s not sleeping in his tomb. Even the Monster’s Mate snores, which causes Fang (Frankenstein’s monster) to sit in his electric chair just to get some peace and quiet. I guess Dr. Frankenstein had yet to invent a formula for monster sized snoring.

Once Felix realizes what he’s a successor of, he has serious doubts about accepting the offer. Meanwhile, the other monsters double-cross Francesca and she ends up in the mote, which is filled with crocodiles. Felix rescues her, then suddenly Francesca falls in love with him. It’s amazing how she had that sudden change of heart.

It soon becomes more exciting as Felix and Francesca try to escape the island with all of the monsters in pursuit, which even includes a giant ape. Is that what they call “It”?

This was a very interesting movie. I admit, it’s not exactly Van Helsing, but has a creative way of featuring all of those old movie monsters together. I even read in the booklet, which comes with the DVD, that this film inspired The Nightmare Before Christmas. Personally, I think it’s more along the lines of Coraline.