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Apr 192017
 

Old school horror star Vincent Price has done it again with yet another classic, Theater of Blood. In this feature, Vincent Price stars as Edward Lionheart, a Shakespearean actor that was humiliated at an awards ceremony after being passed over for an award to an actor whom he felt didn’t deserve to win.

Lionheart decides to take revenge on a group of critics by murdering them one by one, based on the murder scenes of various Shakespeare plays, like getting stabbed to death from Julius Caesar, or drowning in wine from Richard the Third, etc. It’s very creative since Lionheart also dresses in different disguises and recites passages from the Shakespeare plays as he kills each of the critics.

Of course, such a task cannot be done alone. Lionheart ends up finding beggars and drug addicts in the streets that help him out. Why they agreed to help is anyone’s guess.

Inspector Boot (Milo O’Shea) leads the investigation behind the murders. Even with head critic Devlin (Ian Hendry) knowing the pattern and who is responsible, Boot finds it hard to believe since Lionheart committed suicide long ago, or did he.

Inspector Boot’s main suspect is Lionheart’s daughter Edwina (Diana Rigg). However, she doesn’t believe her father is still alive either. You’d think Edwina would be off the hook, but Boot refuses to think that she wasn’t somehow involved. This only adds to the mystery.

This was a good horror film, especially with the level of horror being campy, which made it more interesting. However, some of the murders were a bit too gruesome to watch. Most particularly the one where pie is stuffed down a critic’s throat from Titus Andronicus. Aside from that, I’ve got to hand it to Theater of Blood for providing a great amount of knowledge about Shakespeare, which makes for a helpful source for those unfamiliar with his many plays.

Mar 292017
 

Before starring in the various Edgar Allan Poe based movies, Vincent Price has starred in many other horror features. One such film was the original version of House of Wax (1953). Unlike the House of Wax remake about college teens in the woods, this movie takes place in 1890s New York. Professor Henry Jarrod (Vincent Price) is a talented wax figure sculptor that specializes in historical figures like John Wilkes Booth, Joan of Arc, Marie Antoinette, and Marc Antony for his museum. Jarrod also talks to them like they were real people.

Although Jarrod prefers the beauty and artistic integrity, his business partner Matthew Burke (Roy Roberts) is more focused on the profits and demands more sensational exhibits. Jarrod provides an opportunity for an art critic, Sidney Wallace (Paul Cavanagh), to buy Burke out, but Burke decides to burn the museum down to claim the insurance money. What a shame, those were such nice wax figures destroyed by corruption.

Shortly after, a cloaked and disfigured killer is on the loose killing people and even stealing their bodies. The killer looks a lot like Jarrod, but is it really him? That leaves some mystery.

Apparently, Jarrod did survive the fire, but his hands are disfigured and he’s confined to a wheelchair. He reopens his museum but focuses on historical crimes and recent murders, though it seems out of character. The part that stands out most is when Jarrod provides smelling salts for the women who pass out during the tour. That’s so funny.

Here’s something interesting. This movie has an intermission in the middle. In the old days they had those, even when the movies were on home video. No movies have had that in years and that’s a good thing since it’s so annoying.

House of Wax was also in 3-D, but the only 3-D moment I could find here was when a greeter (Reggie Rymal) uses his paddleballs while announcing the exhibits in the museum out front to get customers to come inside.

Jarrod also reveals that he uses models to create the faces of his wax figures like the face of recent murder victim Cathy Gray (Carolyn Jones). I liked her perky persona.

The only one that’s suspicious is Cathy’s friend Sue Allen (Phyllis Kirk). Part of it could include how the killer keeps coming after her, or maybe it’s something more, despite Jarrod’s thorough explanations about how the art is done.

This was a good movie. Sometimes it’s nice to look back on the original version of a movie after seeing the remake, though I must point out that the two versions are hardly alike at all. Which do you prefer?

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.