Wednesday, October 17, 2018

31 Days of Halloween - Day 17 - Movie

John Agar started with a promising acting career which he derailed with a drinking problem. Amiable in his 1950s Universal monster movies, he eventually ended up in a number of less than stellar science fiction and horror films, including Night Fright (1967), which has to be one of the worst.

Surly teens ignore Agar, as the sheriff, when he tells them to stay away from an area where a double murder has occurred, possibly by a large animal. Benevolent teens assist him. In the meantime Agar is also having trouble from Federal officials keeping him away from a rocket crash site. Could the murders, the animal, and the rocket all be connected? In a movie this simple they have to be, and we learn that the creature responsible for the deaths is an alligator muted by cosmic rays from the rocket into a ape-like creature with a spiky purple head that looks something like a Klingon, though it's hard to see exactly, since the print I watched was really murky, and is apparently the same one this screen grab I found online was from. Anyway, it doesn't really matter what the thing is, because you should never attempt to view this unwatchable mess.

31 Days of Halloween - Day 17

I've always been fascinated by "All Is Vanity" by Charles Allan Gilbert, and other versions of skull illusion art. You can learn about them and see a wide variety of examples here, here, and here.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

31 Days of Halloween - Day 16 - Movie 2

In Frankenstein 1970 (1958) Boris Karloff plays a descendent of the original Dr. Frankenstein. Disfigured for nazis for not cooperating with them he still lives in the family castle, but has been selling off the family heirlooms in order to buy laboratory equipment. His latest scheme is paying for a nuclear reactor by allowing a tv movie crew to film a Frankenstein movie in his castle. He also picks off the cast and crew, one by one, in order to manufacture the latest in his family's line of monsters.

This film is a real mixed bag. While I like the concept, Baron Frankenstein is pretty inept. After making his victims disappear, he keeps claiming they left, which is easily checked and found not to be true. He also activates his monster before giving it eyes, necessitating a second batch of invasive surgery to install them later. The laboratory scenes, and their pseudo medical gibberish are a bit of a chore to sit through, and the monster itself, as shown above, may be imposing in size, but is hardly enough to cause someone to die of fright (as happens with one victim). The catty banter amongst the film crew is mildly entertaining, but the bulk of this movie, sadly, is not.

31 Days of Halloween - Day 16 - Movie 1

There are many films in which Boris Karloff plays a kindly doctor, or social reformer, with good intentions, who ends up being turned into a murdering fiend. The Haunted Strangler (1958) is one of the better ones. Here he plays a novelist investigating a case in which a one armed man was hanged for a series of murders that were half strangulations, half slashings. He's convinced the wrong man was hanged and instead believes that the doctor who performed the autopsy on the hanged man was actually guilty of the crimes, especially since he suffered from left arm paralysis. Seeking the doctor's missing surgical knife, he finds it in the coffin of the convicted man. A exhumation is refused, so Karloff's character dig it up himself. He finds the knife, and once it's in his grasp he finds his left arm paralyzed and his facial features grotesquely contorted. He also finds himself compelled to murder. Once he returns to normal, he finds that no one will believe his story when he tries turning himself in, and the weird compulsion comes over him again, and again...

This film was very enjoyable, even though it starts off following the formula of many other films with a similar plot/theme. The film really takes on life during Karloff's desperate attempts to convince everyone of his own horrible crimes. Karloff puts in a great performance.

31 Days of Halloween - Day 16

Do you want to know what comic books scared the crap out of me as a kid? The one above probably would have had I owned it, but the one's found here and here certainly did.

Monday, October 15, 2018

31 Days of Halloween - Day 15 - Movie

A murderous priest learns that his cellmate in prison committed a robbery in which the money was never found. When he is released from prison he sets out to find the robber's widow, and her two children, and to get his hands on the money. Soon, the children who have it on their possession, find themselves on the run from the never tiring patient pursuit of the evil man.

If John Carpenter's Halloween (1978) counts as a horror movie, then Charles Laughton's Night of the Hunter (1955) is most certainly one. Filled with gorgeous, haunting, and dreamlike imagery, the story is told from the perspective of the two children as they are pursued by this sinister, seemingly unstoppable, bogeyman in the form a very disturbing Robert Mitchum. Mitchum's character has all of the adults believing he is a generous, kind-hearted, man of God, while only the children know better. The film has a real fairytale quality to it.

This is a gorgeous masterpiece and it's a shame that Laughton never directed another movie after this.

31 Days of Halloween - Day 15

Halloween is the perfect time to read the works of Edgar Allan Poe. While doing so, take a look at this gallery of art illustrating Poe's works by Harry Clarke.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

31 Days of Halloween - Day 14 - movie

The Evil of Dracula rounds out Toho's Hammer inspired trilogy of vampire movies and is a direct sequel to Lake of Dracula. This time, like Hammer's Brides of Dracula, the action takes place at a girls' school, where the headmaster's wife has recently died. The new psychology professor finds himself having dreams of the dead woman, and is soon caught up in the middle of a mystery where the students are beginning to fall ill with strange puncture marks on their breasts and pallid skin.

This one has some striking visuals, nice plot elements and Shin Kishida as a complex vampire who is cooly suave when in his non-predatory mode and completely feral when on the attack.

31 Days of Halloween - Day 14

Does your interior, or exterior need something to make it feel more Halloween-like? Try adding some ghosts. they are cheap to make, fast to make, and just require three ingredients. Take a look at the most popular post ever from my blog to learn how.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

31 Days of Halloween - Day 13 - Movie

When a large box, which happens to be a coffin, is delivered to a lakeside residence, all manner of menacing and strange phenomena begin to torment poor Akiko. To her boyfriend it appears that her grip on sanity is eroding, due to some childhood trauma she experienced on that Lake,which she believes never actually happened. How could it have? It was too horrible. But, Akiko soon discovers that her childhood visit to a hidden European styled mansion which contained a dead woman, and a vampire was very real. Now the vampire is back to claim her.

Lake of Dracula (1971) was the second of Toho's Western inspired vampire movies. This one, even with it's Japanese sensibility, and dream-like narrative, is clearly patterned on Hammer's Horror of Dracula (1958). The vampire is very much in the Christopher Lee mold; tall, noble, but with an animal-like ferocity when on the offensive. The vampire here, actually comes of as even more feral than Lee's Dracula. The ending is directly lifted from Horror of Dracula. These movies are oddities in that they are visually stylish, and fairly mesmerizing to watch, but there's not much going on beneath the superficial veneer. They're a very entertaining viewing experience, but that experience seems to dissipate rather quickly when they are over.

31 Days of Halloween - Day 13

I watch a lot of horror movies during the month of October. With the exception of 2016, and 2017, during which I rewetted old favorites, I've blogged about each of them here during Countdown's past and present. Here's a list of everything I've watched during the Countdown beginning with 2006 and ending with 2014. If you're stumped for something to watch, or something to avoid watching, give it a look.

Friday, October 12, 2018

31 Days of Halloween - Day 12 - Movie

When Keiko's brother fails to return from a visit to his girlfriend, Yuko, she takes her fiancé, Hiroshi to find out what happened to him. Yuko's mother claims he left after he found out that Yuko had been killed in a car accident just a few weeks ago. But, something isn't right. Keiko spots Yuko. Hiroshi investigates strange sounds, but is halted in his investigation by Yuko's mother, and attacked by her mute manservant, Genzo. After investigating in town, Keiko is more certain that Yuko is alive and that her brother is somewhere in that house. Hiroshi turns up something strange at Yuko's grave, leading to two deaths. What Yuko discovers is even worse.

The Vampire Doll (1970) is the first film in a trilogy of Western style vampire movies made by Toho Studios in the 1970s. The feel is very much as if Toho made Hammer movies, but with a Japanese sensibility fused onto it. Visually it's striking, and it has a very dreamlike feel to it as the plot unfolds. The cast is quite good, though these aren't any actors I recognize from anything else. I'm finally seeing this for the first time on glorious bluray, but it feels like a movie that I would have caught at 11:30 at night on a UHF channel way back when, and that's a complement. In a month of viewing more misses than hits, so far, this one's a win.

31 Days of Halloween - Day 12

Nothing beats werewolves drawn by the great Bernie Wrightson. Here are a bunch of them.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

31 Days of Halloween - Day 11 - Movie

Three teenage girls use a ouija board in an attempt to contact Verónica's deceased father during a solar eclipse. They contact something, and whatever it is it's malignant and has no intention of leaving Verónica.

Verónica (2017) has a really nice build up and anchors itself in the mundane world of a high school girl almost single-handedly raising her three young siblings while their mostly absentee mother works an exhausting job late into the night. This ads a layer of vulnerability as we begin to question Verónica's mental state and whether or not the supernatural threat might be all in her mind. The children she's trying to keep safe may be in increasing danger just by her presence. In the end, though, Verónica doesn't quite get where it needs to. The build up, as I mentioned, works quite well, but the supernantural assaults, if that's what they are, aren't presented with much suspense, or real cohesion. It's often hard to tell what's going on.  There's also a bit of a distance between viewer and the the onscreen characters which keeps us from getting too involved with them when we need to most. The climax itself falls short of being a real payoff either. Based, loosely, on a real life incident which included the first time a police officer claimed to have witnessed paranormal events in their official paperwork, the end may have suffered from a perceived need to keep things close to actual events.

31 Days of Halloween - Day 11

The inside of our house gets decorated for Halloween in varying degrees of extravagance depending on time and the house we're in. This year things have pretty much been contained to the living room. Some of the decorations that can be found in our house, though not always all of these every year, can be found here and here.