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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.

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.

Jan 112012

Mystery Inc. is usually known for unmasking fake ghosts and monsters, but The 13 Ghosts of Scooby Doo: The Complete Series (1985-1986) goes in a different direction. First off, the Scooby gang only features Scooby, Shaggy, Daphne, and Scrappy-Doo. Secondly, the Mystery Machine is a plane that’s designed differently from the original van.

The gang arrives in Tibet by accident one day and bumbling ghosts, Bogel and Weerd trick them into opening the legendary chest of demons. Inside the chest are 13 of the most evil ghosts in the world. Now Mystery Inc. has to find and recapture them all before they cause any real damage.

Assisting the team are new Mystery Inc. members, Flim-Flam a young magician/con-artist and Vincent Van Ghoul a warlock who is very knowledgeable about these monsters. Vincent Price voices the role of Vincent Van Ghoul, which is appropriate since he is a classic horror icon.

One by one, the Scooby gang encounters the ghosts and use all of their wits to get them back into the chest. Bogel and Weerd also help out the evil spirits as bumbling henchmen, but they never get caught even after their “boss” does.

Scooby and Shaggy are well known for using disguises to comedically outwit the ghosts, but this time Daphne actually goes along with it as well as Scrappy and Flim-Flam. She never has before. Isn’t that peculiar?

Although the series only lasted 13 episodes, it was very consistent when it came to completing the long-term goal, unlike some shows that drag it out and end up cancelled without closure. Then again, there were supposed to be a total of 13 ghosts to recapture and I only counted 11. (Twelve, if you include the creature that came out of the chest in the episode Ship of Ghouls.)

This was a good Scooby-Doo series that’s both funny and adventurous. Mystery Inc. has never faced so many evil spirits before, so where were Fred and Velma during all this?

Jul 112011

The classic Batman series (1966-1968) has featured many different villains the caped crusaders had to face while defending Gotham City from crime and corruption. Of course there are the well-known villains like Joker, Penguin, Riddler, Cat Woman, Mr. Freeze, and Mad Hatter. However, there are other criminal foes that weren’t featured in later versions of the Batman franchise, but are still just as colorful.

Bookworm (Roddy McDowall): This criminal is brilliant with the ability to read a large novel in seconds just by touching every page. However, he over plots, like a frustrated novelist, accurate to the chapter, page, and paragraph. Like the Riddler, the Bookworm leaves clues based on various novels. You have to be brilliant to keep up with this guy, even if he’s not much of a fighter.

False Face (Malachi Throne): This trickster is a master of disguise, but never requires a mask because his face can blend easily like a rubber mask, which I find a little creepy. His thefts always feature a false quote, which is his trademark. You never know where False Face will pop in, disguised as anyone. He can change very quickly and so can his getaway vehicles. That makes him very hard to catch, like a chameleon.

King Tut (Victor Buono): It’s very seldom when a villain reveals his or her background on this show. King Tut has a very interesting one. He was a professor at Yale University, who taught Egyptology. Then something falls on the good professor’s head and suddenly he thinks he’s the reincarnation of the historical Pharaoh King Tut. Tut’s main objective is to conquer Gotham City as he had conquered ancient Thebes. After Batman defeats him, Tut returns to normal after another blow to the head. What really makes this interesting is that the professor’s situation has happened more than once. How do these heavy objects keep falling on his head so frequently?

The Minstrel (Van Johnson): Don’t underestimate this criminal. He’s a wandering minstrel that’s also an electronic genius. Minstrel is both tricky and cunning. Even when Batman tries to outsmart him, Minstrel always catches on quickly. Minstrel may be a frustrating adversary to go up against, but at least his singing isn’t irritating.

The Sandman (Michael Rennie): In case you were wondering, this is not the same Sandman from the Spiderman franchise. He’s a much different type of criminal. Under the guise of Dr. Somnambula, Sandman uses the art of putting people to sleep as a way to rob them, particularly rich insomniacs. His sleepy sand also has the power to turn people into his slaves as if they were sleepwalkers, but it doesn’t last long. Just be glad he doesn’t sing lullabies.

Chandell (Liberace): This musical maestro is both clever and deceptive.

Chandell uses his piano playing to lure a trio of lovely ladies posing as phantoms named Doe (Marilyn Hanold), Rae (Edy Williams), and Mimi (Sivi Aberg) to rob places. Chandell plays victim to keep anyone from suspecting him as the charmer he is.

Shame (Cliff Robertson): The colorful criminals of Gotham City come in many types, even western cowboys like this one. Shame sticks out from other western criminals from yesteryear because his crimes have a certain flare to them. He’s never modest and prefers platinum bullets in his pistol for it’s his calling card. Of course platinum is scarce, so Shame just paints lead bullets with platinum colored paint. He also has a thing for metaphors with double standards. Ones like “…Talking pig Latin to a donkey” or “…Slower than a turtle with arthritis.” How does he come up with those?

Louie the Lilac (Milton Berle): He’s a notorious gangster with a huge thing for flowers. Very little is known about Louie, except that he intends to control the flower market of the world as well as anything related to it.

On a side note: Milton Berle is well known for his comedy, but this character is just the opposite, even for a guy obsessed with flowers. So don’t take Louie lightly as a criminal.

Egghead (Vincent Price): This clever and crafty villain’s trademark speaks for itself. His bald head is as smooth as an egg and he has a thing for eggs of all sorts, especially egg treasures. Even as mischievous of a criminal Egghead is, he’s often treated as an underling by his partner in crime Olga (Anne Baxter) the Queen of the Cossacks. Olga drives him crazy because the power has totally gone to her head. However, Olga wouldn’t be queen of anything without Egghead.

The Archer (Art Carney): Not to be confused with Green Arrow, this villain is a modern day Robin Hood who has arrows that pack heat like explosions, gas, blinding flashes, etc. Archer robs from the rich to give to the poor merely to become more famous as Gotham City’s savior over Batman and Robin. Can you believe that he keeps a tape player to playback a crowd cheer? It can convince a crowd, like a laugh track. Archer’s ego is helpless without it.

The Puzzler (Maurice Evans): At first I thought he was just a cheap knockoff of the Riddler, but his riddling tactics are much different. The clues he provides for Batman are items that you would spell backwards. For example, he leaves a rooster at the scene of the crime, which means he’s going to go after someone named Retsoor. How clever is that? Puzzler also often likes to quote lines from Shakespeare plays whenever he speaks and his most common weapon is invisible paralyzing gas that’s contained in balloons.

There are more classic Batman villains to come in Part 2.