web analytics
Feb 012017
 

Based on yet another Edgar Allan Poe poem, The Haunted Palace takes place in the town of Arkham in the 1700s. The townspeople accuse Joseph Curwen (Vincent Price) of being a warlock and burn him at the stake, but Curwen vowed revenge by coming back for the descendants of the people who killed him. Why must vengeful spirits always attack young people just because they share a bloodline?

One hundred and ten years later, Curwen’s great great grandson Charles Dexter Ward (Vincent Price) and his wife Anne (Debra Paget) inherit the palace Curwen lived in, completely unaware of the curse the town of Arkham has had since Curwen died. The townsfolk are unfriendly, except for Dr. Willet (Frank Maxwell) who shows them the way to the palace that looks real nice in the distance.

When Charles and Anne arrive, they explore the desolate palace. It has such a creepy ambiance that’s interesting and the portrait of Curwen adds a nice touch to the place. When Charles sees it he gets spooked and describes the palace as a mausoleum, as a joke of course.

Eventually, Charles and Anne meet Simon (Lon Chaney Jr.) the caretaker. He just happened to be preparing the palace for their arrival. Simon must not have gotten much done since the palace is still filed with cobwebs and a snake living in the oven. It’s also strange that Simon didn’t even greet them at the door, which was locked shut.

The next day, Charles and Anne discover that the townspeople are strangely becoming deformed. Mostly it’s their eyes disappearing, which is real horrific.

As more time goes by, Charles becomes more affected by the portrait of Curwen and later discovers that Curwen really was a warlock. Soon Curwen returns and takes control of Charles’s body, despite his resistance. As for Anne, she is unaware of the possession, but is suspicious about the changes.

It’s also revealed that Simon is involved with Curwen’s return as well as a guy named Jabez Hutchinson (Milton Parsons) who seemed to have popped out of nowhere.

Curwen also had a black magic book called the Necronomicon. Unlike the one from The Evil Dead franchise, this book was used to summon dark creatures so they would mate with mortal women to create a race of super humans. Now he plans to use it once again.

Curwen also takes revenge by killing the descendants of the people that burned him by burning them to death. Then he intends to bring his old lover Hester (Cathie Merchant) back from the dead. He succeeds but Hester doesn’t really talk much.

This is a good horror feature with mystery and suspense. Though I must admit that it doesn’t stand out as much as some of Vincent Price’s other Edgar Allan Poe based movies, but the whole idea of a haunted palace still keeps it interesting nonetheless.

Jan 112017
 

Based on the Edgar Allan Poe tale, The Pit and the Pendulum (Midnite Movies) stars Vincent Price as Nicholas Medina who lives in a castle near an ocean. As lovely as the castle looks in the scenery it contains a curse within the walls.

One day Nicholas’s brother-in-law Francis Barnard (John Kerr) heard that his sister Elizabeth (Barbara Steele) had died. So he pays Nicholas a visit and demands to know how it happened. Nicholas is so overwhelmed in despair by the loss of Elizabeth that he only gives vague answers.

Apparently, Francis insists on specific details. The way he demands answers is verbally brutal, if not rude. At least the family physician Dr. Leon (Antony Carbone) was able to help out some.

Also visiting Nicholas is his sister Catherine (Luana Anders). She tries to help her brother cope with his loss and seems to take a liking to Francis. I have no doubt that Francis feels the same way about Catherine.

Of course the biggest part of the story is the torture chamber down in the depths of the castle. It was invented by Nicholas’s father Sabastian Medina (Vincent Price) and was the source of the heavy atmosphere that corrupted Elizabeth, according to Nicholas, but things are not always as they seem.

When I first saw this movie, it was at this point when I realized that the biggest inspiration behind the story line from Elvira’s Haunted Hills came from here. That’s one of the main reasons I found the original Pit and the Pendulum film so interesting.

Overall, The Pit and the Pendulum does make for a good mystery/horror for its creepy exploration. It’s not comedic like The Raven, but Edgar Allan Poe horror tales were not known for their comedy.

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.

Aug 242016
 

Shortly after I became interested in Vincent Price movies like The Raven and The Comedy of Terrors, the next one I saw was The Fall of the House of Usher, which is a much darker drama in the ways of horror.

It’s about Philip Winthrop (Mark Damon) who travels to the House of Usher to see his fiancée Madeline (Myrna Fahey). This house is a desolate mansion near a murky swamp past a dark forest. As creepy as the scenery is, Philip intends to take Madeline away from all that.

The only problem is Madeline’s brother Roderick (Vincent Price), her only living relative. He believes that the entire Usher bloodline is tainted since every relative was an evildoer consumed by madness and it must not continue.

Roderick also has sensitive hearing, which is why even the tiniest loud noise is too much for him to handle. I can remember this being spoofed on Elvira’s Haunted Hills. Looking back now, I’m actually surprised that Roderick never put pillows over his ears, among other things.

Roderick tries to warn Philip and get him to leave for his own safety, but Philip refuses. Now throughout the rest of the movie, Phillip struggles to deal with the haunting disasters of the house and being able to get Madeline to go with him. That even includes making Philip think she’s dead, even though she’s really cataleptic.

The pacing slows down at this point. All that really stands out, other than the climax, is when Philip falls asleep and dreams that he’s in the lower level of the house that’s all foggy. Then enters a room filled with ghouls.

This was a good movie with an interestingly simple horror story. There was a remake but it was nothing like this one. The early 60’s certainly were a great time for Edgar Allan Poe based moves.

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.