Horror on TV: One Step Beyond 2.27 “The Clown” (dir by John Newland)


For tonight’s excursion into televised horror, I want to change things up.  Tales From The Crypt will return on Monday but, for the next three days, I want to take a look at some different show.

Like One Step Beyond, for example!

Now, I have to admit that I don’t know much about One Step Beyond.  I came across several episodes on YouTube while I was searching for any Twilight Zone episodes.  Apparently, One Step Beyond was an anthology series that aired from 1957 to 1960.  (It actually predated the Twilight Zone.)  One Step Beyond often claimed that its stories were meant to be dramatizations of actual events.

The episode below is from the 2nd season.  It originally aired on March 22nd, 1960.  The title of this episode?

The Clown.

Scared yet?

You should be.  Clowns are creepy!

Watch the episode below and find out just how creepy!

Enjoy!

 

A Special Bonus TSL’s Daily Horror Grindhouse Review: Hitcher In The Dark (dir by Umberto Lenzi)


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So, I just reviewed a thriller called Road Games, which is about something bad that happens to hitchhikers.  And, as I was finishing up that review, I suddenly realized that I now had the perfect excuse to say a few words about Umberto Lenzi’s 1989 horror/thriller, Hitcher In The Dark!

The Hitcher In The Dark is a film that I specifically bought earlier this year so that I could review it in October.  I thought that Hitcher In The Dark was a great title.  Plus, I haven’t reviewed that many Umberto Lenzi films, despite the fact that he is one of the most prolific directors in the history of Italian cinema.  Hitcher in the Dark? I thought, Hell yeah, I’ll review that!

But then I watched the movie and I discovered that there’s really not that much to say about it.  There’s a reason why this is one of Lenzi’s more obscure films.  (He directed it around the same time that he made the infamous Black Demons.)  Not that much happens in Hitcher In The Dark.  It tells the story of a psycho rich boy, who is played by Joe Balogh.  Joe Balogh was also the lead in Black Demons.  In that film, his character was named Dick.  All through Black Demons, the other actors were always wandering around and yelling, “Dick!  Dick!  We need Dick!  I need Dick!  Please, show me Dick!”  Hitcher In The Dark is never that much fun.

Instead, Balogh’s character is named Mitch.  He’s obsessed with his dead mother, so he drives around Florida and kills people.  Because she resembles a framed stock photo that he keeps on him at all times, Mitch kidnaps Daniela (Josie Bissett) and tries to turn her into his mother.  The rest of the film is pretty much made up of Daniela escaping and then getting captured again.  Her boyfriend (Jason Saucier) is also searching for her.  He goes up into random gas stations and says, “Have you seen a blonde girl?”  Eventually, he stumbles across both her and Mitch.  Why not?  Florida’s not that big!

Anyway, there are three things that set Hitcher In The Dark apart.  First off, there’s the fact that Mitch spends almost the entire movie driving the most awkward vehicle imaginable, a gigantic RV.  Somehow, Mitch manages to kidnap and kill undetected while driving the most conspicuous thing possible.  Seriously, check this monster out:

And there are two lines of dialogue that are so weird that they deserve to be enshrined in some sort of Hall of Fame.

When the police pull Mitch over and notice that he has a cut on his hand (from where Daniela earlier stabbed him with a fork), Mitch smoothly explains, “It’s just a scratch.  I was cleaning my spear.”

AND THE POLICE NOD AND LET HIM GO!

The other line comes early in the film.  When Mitch ignores a girl who has been hitting on him, she snaps, “Hey!  Who do you think you are!?  Mickey Rourke!?”

Seriously, Hitcher In The Dark may not be very memorable or good but those three things made it all worthwhile!

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The TSL’s Daily Horror Grindhouse: Road Games (dir by Abner Pastoll)


Road Games is an odd film.  On the one hand, it’s such a slow-moving film that there’s really not a whole lot of plot to describe.  On the other hand, what little plot that does exist all hinges on a big twist that I really can’t reveal.  Considering how offended some people get when I reveal the end of a Lifetime film on this site, I can only imagine the reaction if I spoiled this film.

Jack (Andrew Simpson) is a depressed British guy who is stranded in France.  He’s been hitchhiking across the country, hoping to make his way to Calais so that he can catch a ferry back to the UK.  Oddly, he’s traveling with no bags.  When we first meet Jack, he’s frustrated because nobody is willing to stop and pick him up.

Jack does eventually meet another hitchhiker, Veronique (Josephine de la Baume).  Despite the fact that Jack speaks little French and Veronique speaks little English, they have an immediate chemistry.  Veronique even lets Jack know why nobody wants to pick him up.  Apparently, there’s a serial killer in the area!

Shortly afterwards, a car actually does stop.  The owner of the car, Grizard (Frederic Pierrot), offers them a ride.  Jack quickly gets in the car but Veronique is weary of the rough-spoken Grizard and only reluctantly gets in the back seat.  They drive.  Grizard asks way too many personal questions.  He stops to pick a dead rabbit off of the road.  He gets mad when Jack tries to turn on the radio.  He also mentions that, because of a strike that neither Jack nor Veronique had heard about, there are no ferries from Calais.  He offers to let Jack and Veronique stay at his home for the night.  Though Veronique is reluctant, Jack readily agrees.

Grizard’s wife is Mary (Barbara Crampton).  Grizard insists that Mary is British but Mary tells Jack that she’s actually from the States.  Veronique doesn’t trust either Grizard or Mary but Jack says that they’re probably just lonely.  Veronique is offended that she and Jack are given separate rooms.  Jack replies that they’re probably just old-fashioned…

And that’s all I can tell you about the plot!  There’s a really big twist and it’s actually fairly clever.  But, my God, it takes forever to get there.  Road Games is a very slow film.  I know some of that was to build up suspense and the film is certainly not a failure but it’s still hard not to feel that Road Games was basically a terrifically effective 20-minute short film that was unnecessarily padded out to 95 minutes.

Road Games did the festival circuit in 2015 and got a release earlier this year.  It’s currently on Netflix and I guess I would give it a partial recommendation, especially if you’re a fan of the horror road genre.  There was a lot I did like about the movie: the cinematography is gorgeous and the original score is evocative of the best of giallo.   The acting is okay, though Barbara Crampton is really the only stand-out in the cast. Throughout the film, the characters speak in a combination of French and English and Road Games makes good use of the language barrier to keep us off-balance.  (How much is Jack understanding? we constantly wonder.)  But the film itself is just so slow!  I’ll be curious to see what director Abner Pastoll does next.  I just hope his next film has a steadier pace.

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Halloween Havoc!: Fredric March in DR. JEKYLL & MR. HYDE (Paramount 1931)


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Robert Louis Stevenson’s DR. JEKYLL & MR. HYDE was first published in 1886, causing quite a stir in its day. The tale of man’s dark side was a huge hit, and over the years has been adapted on stage, radio, and numerous film and TV versions. John Barrymore (in the 1920 silent), Spencer Tracy (a lush 1941 MGM production), Boris Karloff (Meeting Abbott & Costello), Paul Massie (Hammer’s 1960 shocker), Jack Palance (Dan Curtis’ 1968 TV movie), and Kirk Douglas (a 1973 TV musical) are just a few actors who’ve sunk their teeth into the dual role. The best known is probably this 1931 horror film with Fredric March in an Oscar-winning turn as good Dr. Henry Jekyll and his evil counterpart, the snarling Mr. Hyde.

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Unless you’ve been living in a cave the past 130 years, you’re familiar with the story, so let’s look at the performances of Fredric March and Miriam…

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Horror On The Lens: Son of Frankenstein (dir by Rowland V. Lee)


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For those who might have a hard time keeping their Universal monster films straight, 1939’s Son of Frankenstein is the third Frankenstein film, following the original and Bride of Frankenstein.  It’s the first one to have been directed by someone other than James Whale.  It’s the one that features the one-armed policeman.  It’s the one that features Bela Lugosi as a vengeful grave robber named Ygor.  It’s also the final film in which Boris Karloff would play the monster.

And, on top of all that, it’s also a pretty good movie, one that holds up as both a sequel and stand-alone work!

Son of Frankenstein opens decades after the end of Bride of Frankenstein.  (How many decades is open for debate.  I’ve read that the film is supposed to be taking place in 1901 but there’s a scene featuring a 1930s-style car.  Let’s just compromise and say that the film is taking place in 1901 but someone in the village owns a time machine.  I think that’s the most logical solution.)  Henry Frankenstein is long dead, but his name continues to strike fear in the heart of Germans everywhere.  Someone has even tagged his crypt with: “Heinrich von Frankenstein: Maker of Monsters.”

Needless to say, everyone in the old village is a little uneasy when Henry’s son, Wolf von Frankenstein (Basil Rathbone) shows up at the castle.  In fact, they’re so uneasy that the local constable, Krogh (Lionel Atwill), pays Wolf and his family a visit.  Krogh explains that, when he was a child, the Monster ripped his arm out “by the roots.”  AGCK!

(That said, that really doesn’t sound like the Frankenstein Monster that we all know and love, does it?  I suspect there’s more to the story than Krogh is letting on…)

Wolf explains that he has no plans to bring the Monster back to life.  He then sets out to do just that.  Wolf wants to redeem Henry’s reputation and the only way to do that is to prove that Henry was not misguided in his quest to play God.  Helping Wolf out is Ygor (Bela Lugosi).  Ygor is a former blacksmith who was due to be hanged but, because of a malfunction with the gallows, he just ended up with a disfigured neck.

It turns out that Ygor happens to know where the Monster’s body is being hidden.  When Wolf brings the Monster back to life, he quickly discovers that Ygor’s motives weren’t quite as altruistic as Wolf originally assumed.  It turns out that Ygor wants revenge on the jury that sentenced him to death and now, he can use the Monster to get that revenge.

As for the Monster, he no longer speaks.  Instead, he just angrily grunts and he kills.  Whatever kindness he developed during the previous film was obviously blown up with Elsa Lanchester at the end of Bride of Frankenstein.  On the one hand, it’s fun to see Karloff as the monster.  On the other hand, it’s impossible not to regret that he doesn’t get to do much other than stumble around, grunt, and strangle people.  There are only two scenes where Karloff gets to show any real emotion and, in both cases, he does such a great job that you can’t help but regret that the monster is such a one-dimensional character in Son of Frankenstein.

But no matter!  Regardless of how the film uses (or misuses) the Monster, it’s still an entertaining 1930s monster film.  Basil Rathbone does a great job as the imperious but ultimately kindly Wolf von Frankenstein.  And Bela Lugosi’s natural theatricality makes him the perfect choice for Ygor.  To be honest, I actually think Lugosi does a better job as Ygor than he did as Dracula.  I know that’s blasphemy to some but watch the two films side-by-side.  Lugosi is clearly more invested in the role of Ygor.  Considering that Lugosi reportedly felt that he was mistreated in Hollywood, it’s tempting to wonder if some of his own anger informed his performance as the perennially mistreated and bitter Ygor.

Son of Frankenstein closed out the Karloff Frankenstein trilogy.  When Frankenstein’s Monster made his next appearance, he would be played by the same actor who later took over the role of Dracula from Lugosi, Lon Chaney, Jr.

(And interestingly enough, Lugosi would subsequently take over the role of the Monster from Chaney.  But that’ll have to wait for a future review…)

4 Shots From Horror History: Night of the Demon, Curse of Frankenstein, Horror of Dracula, The Mummy


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 reach the end of the 50s and the rise of British horror.

4 Shots From 4 Films

Night of the Demon (1957, dir by Jacques Tourneur)

Night of the Demon (1957, dir by Jacques Tourneur)

The Curse of Frankenstein (1957, dir by Terence Fisher)

The Curse of Frankenstein (1957, dir by Terence Fisher)

 Horror of Dracula (1958, dir by Terence Fisher)

Horror of Dracula (1958, dir by Terence Fisher)

The Mummy (1959, dir by Terence Fisher)

The Mummy (1959, dir by Terence Fisher)

Horror on the Lens: 13 Ghosts (dir by William Castle)


Since I reviewed the remake yesterday, today’s Horror on the Lens is the 1960 original, William Castle’s 13 Ghosts!

Now, William Castle was famous for his gimmicks.  For instance, theaters showing The Tingler were wired to give electrical shocks to random patrons.  He had a special gimmick for 13 Ghosts, a film about a house haunted by ghosts that you can only see while wearing special goggles.  Since I’m a lazy film blogger, I’m going to quote the film’s Wikipedia article on this particular gimmick:

“For 13 Ghosts, audience members were given a choice: the “brave” ones could watch the movie and see the ghosts, while the apprehensive among them would be able to opt out of the horror and watch without the stress of having to see the ghosts. The choice came via the special viewer, supposedly “left by Dr. Zorba.”

In the theatres, most scenes were black and white, but scenes involving ghosts were shown in a “process” dubbed Illusion-O: the filmed elements of the actors and the sets — everything except the ghosts — had a blue filter applied to the footage, while the ghost elements had a red filter and were superimposed over the frame. Audiences received viewers with red and blue cellophane filters. Unlike early 3D glasses where one eye is red and the other is cyan or blue, the Illusion-O viewer required people to look through a single color with both eyes. Choosing to look through the red filter intensified the images of the ghosts, while the blue filter “removed” them. Despite Castle’s claims to the contrary, not many heart failures or nervous breakdowns were averted by the Illusion-O process; although the blue filter did screen out the ghostly images, the ghosts were visible with the naked eye, without the red filter.”

Personally, if I had been alive in 1960, I totally would have watched the whole movie through the red filter.  Go ghosts go!

Anyway, 13 Ghosts is actually a lot of fun in a low-budget, 1960s drive-in sort of way.  Watch it below and, as always, enjoy!