Rage In The “Cage!”

Trash Film Guru


Obviously, Luke Cage is the man of the hour at Marvel right now thanks to the tremendous success, both critical and commercial, of the Netflix series bearing his name, so it’s only logical that their editorial brain trust would be ready in advance to capitalize on his small-screen superstardom with a solo series featuring the Hero for Hire on the printed page, as well. Unfortunately for us all, David Walker and Sanford Greene’s usually-awesome Power Man And Iron Fist monthly has been hijacked, like so many other titles at the moment, into the dull and derivative Civil War II fold, but fear not — while we’re all anxiously waiting for that crossover debacle to mercifully limp to its conclusion so that we can finally have our books back, the latest  (and fourth, by my count) Marvel Now! initiative has kicked off with Cage!, a new four-parter from the mind…

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Horror On TV: Tales From The Crypt 3.8 “Easel Kill” (dir by John Harrison)

For tonight’s excursion into televised horror, we have the 8th episode of the 3rd season of HBO’s Tales From The Crypt!

Easel Kill feels a bit like a remake of Color Me Blood Red.  Tim Roth plays a painter who appears to have lost his talent.  Apparently, he has recently stopped drinking and he’s just not that inspired when he’s sober.  (However, he’s just as angry as he’s always been.  He’s the type of neighbor who will push someone off of a fire escape if they’re playing their music too loud.)  Fortunately, once he starts painting with blood, people are suddenly interested in his paintings.

The only problem is getting the blood…

This episode originally aired on July 17th, 1991.


The TSL’s Daily Horror Grindhouse: Scalps (dir by Fred Olen Ray)

The 1983 film Scalps answers the following question:

What happens when these grad students…


…dig up a sacred Native American burial ground and consider stealing some of the artifacts for themselves?

These grad students right here!

These grad students right here!

Well, they upset this lion…


…and this woman…


…and this guy, as well!


Needless to say, things don’t end well for anyone involved.

As for why those students were out digging for artifacts in the first place, the blame rests with Prof. Machen.  At first, Machen didn’t go with the students.  He had to take care of stuff back at the university.  When he finally did show up, it was a little bit too late.  Prof. Machen is played by an actor named Kirk Alyn, who was the first actor to play Superman back in the 1940s.

In the picture below, you can tell Prof. Machen is an explorer because of the pith helmet that he’s carrying:


Scalps is about 80 minutes long.  Most fans of low-budget horror will not be shocked to learn that Scalps is about 60 minutes of filler and 20 minutes of actual action.  Seriously, it takes forever for those grad students to actually reach the site of the dig and then, once they start digging, it seems to take even longer for anything to actually happen.  Occasionally, we get a quick flash forward of someone getting scalped or an insert of either the lion, the witch, or the warrior looking upset.

The grad students themselves are pretty much interchangeable.  As far as the men go, two of them have beards and another likes to drink beer.  As far as the women are concerned, two of them are blonde and one of them is slightly less blonde.  D.J. (Jo-Ann Robinson) is kind of a hippie and she has a bad feeling about everything.

(Stupid hippies!  Bleh!)

What’s odd is that, in the end, the film’s glacial pace actually works to its advantage.  Combined with an 80s synthesizer-of-doom score and some ragged but still effectively desolate shots of the desert, the slow pace actually gives Scalps something of a dream-like feel.  Like a filmed nightmare, the film is suffused with a feeling of impending doom.  Once the killings start, Scalps also makes good use of the slo-mo of doom.  Even the most rudimentary of scenes can be scary when they’re filmed in slow motion.

Scalps has been described as being one of the most censored films in cinematic history.  If you listen to Fred Olen Ray’s director’s commentary (more on that below), you’ll learn that it was largely censored due to the behavior of an unethical producer.  That said, it is a remarkably gory little film.  It may take a while for the blood to start flowing but once it starts, it doesn’t stop.  Admittedly, some of the gore effects worked better than others.  The arrow to the eye didn’t seem authentic.  The scalping, on the other hand, seemed far too authentic.  As for the decapitation …. well, I’d put that somewhere in the middle.

Scalps is something of a historical oddity, because it was one of the first films to be directed by the incredibly prolific Fred Olen Ray.  If you’re lucky enough to find the out-of-print Retromedia DVD, you can listen to a commentary track from Fred.  He’s remarkably honest about the film’s flaws and also discusses how he feels that the film’s producers ruined the film by adding random insert shots and flash forwards.  (“That’s not us doing that!” Fred says during one insert of the lion.)  Fred also points out that he made the mistake of actually shooting some of the night scenes at night.  It’s always interesting listening to a veteran director talk about his first film.  Since they have nothing to lose by openly discussing the mistakes that they made, their commentaries become a sort of a mini-film school.

Scalps is not a lost masterpiece but it is oddly watchable.  Somehow, it manages to be both silly and surprisingly effective at the same time.


Halloween Havoc!: THE FLY (20th Century Fox 1958)

cracked rear viewer


THE FLY is one of those films you’re probably familiar with if you’re a horror/sci-fi fan. I’ve seen it many times, but was under the impression it was a black & white movie (probably due to early viewings as a young’un, deprived of color TV). So when I rewatched it again in glorious Technicolor, I was pleasantly surprised. This tale of science gone wrong has held up well, and its iconic scene of The Fly’s unmasking still manages to jolt the viewer (even if you know it’s coming!).


The film’s framing device finds us witnessing Helene Delombre murdering her husband Andre by squishing his head and arm under a huge hydraulic press (and it’s a pretty gruesome demise), then calling her brother-in-law Francois to tell him. Francois is stunned, to say the least, and gets ahold of his friend Inspector Charas. They drive over to the Delombre Freres (the movie’s set in Montreal)…

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Horror Film Review: Son of Dracula (dir by Robert Siodmak)


Did you know that Count Dracula had a son?

Well, maybe he did or maybe he didn’t.  It all depends on how you interpret the 1943 film, Son of Dracula.  In Son of Dracula, Lon Chaney, Jr. plays a vampire named Count Alucard.  I get the feeling that it’s supposed to be a shocking moment when it’s pointed out that Alucard is Dracula spelled backwards but, since the movie is called Son of Dracula, I would think that most people would have already figured out the connection.

That said, when Alucard reveals that his true name is Dracula, he seems to be suggesting that he is the original Count Dracula.  And yet the name of the film is Son of Dracula.  At one point, two characters speculate that Alucard is a descendant of the original, just to be corrected by his bride.  “He is Dracula!” she announces.  Then again, she could just be bragging.  If you’re going to marry a Dracula, wouldn’t you rather marry the original than a descendant?

If he is the original Dracula, you do have to wonder why he’s still alive.  Since the film is a part of the Universal Dracula series, you have to wonder how he managed to survive being both staked by Van Helsing and having his body cremated by his daughter in Dracula’s Daughter.  You also can’t help but notice that Alucard doesn’t bear much of a resemblance to Bela Lugosi. nor does he have a European accent.  Instead, Alucard looks a lot like Lon Chaney, Jr.  Chaney does not make for the most convincing vampire.  As an actor, Chaney tended to project a certain “likable but dumb lug” quality that worked well for The Wolf Man and as Lenny in Of Mice and Men but it doesn’t quite work when he’s cast as a suave, Hungarian vampire.

Anyway, Son of Dracula finds Count Alucard in New Orleans at the turn of the century.  He has specifically moved to the Deep South so that he can be with Katherine Caldwell (Louise Allbritton), a young woman who is obsessed with the occult.  Katherine secretly marries Alucard.  When her former boyfriend, Frank (Robert Paige), finds out about the marriage he decides that the best way to handle way things would be to get drunk and shoot the count.  Unfortunately, since the Count is a vampire, the bullet passes through him and kills Katherine instead.

Or does it!?

Probably the most interesting thing about Son of Dracula is that it presents Alucard as being manipulated by a mortal.  Usually, Dracula is the one doing the manipulating but in Son of Dracula, it’s suggested that a clever mortal can manipulate the undead jut as easily.  GO KATHERINE!

Anyway, Son of Dracula is okay.  It has some steamy deep south atmosphere and it’s fun in a campy, Universal sort of way.  It has some historical significance because it was apparently the first film to actually feature a vampire transforming into a bat onscreen.  For the most part, though, it’s a film that will best be appreciated by Universal horror completists.

That said, I kind of like the fact that nobody in the film could figure out that Alucard is Dracula spelled backwards.  That was cute.

4 Shots From Horror History: House of Frankenstein, The Uninvited, House of Dracula, The Picture of Dorian Gray

This October, I’m going to be doing something a little bit different with my contribution to 4 Shots From 4 Films.  I’m going to be taking a little chronological tour of the history of horror cinema, moving from decade to decade.

Today, we continue our look at the 1940s.

4 Shots From 4 Films

House of Frankenstein (1944, dir by Erle C. Kenton)

House of Frankenstein (1944, dir by Erle C. Kenton)

The Uninvited (1944, dir by Lewis Allen)

The Uninvited (1944, dir by Lewis Allen)

House of Dracula (1945, dir by Erle C. Kenton)

House of Dracula (1945, dir by Erle C. Kenton)

The Picture of Dorian Gray (1945, dir by Albert Lewin)

The Picture of Dorian Gray (1945, dir by Albert Lewin)