Horror On TV: Darkroom Season 1 Episode 1&2 “Closed Circuit/Stay Tuned, We’ll Be Right Back” (dir by Rick Rosenthal and Paul Lynch)


While I was looking through YouTube for TV shows to use for this year’s horrorthon, I came across something called Darkroom.  Apparently, Darkroom was a horror anthology series that aired for a few months in 1981.

So, I figured, why not share!

(Apparently, each episode of Darkroom was made up of two thirty-minute stories.  For syndication purposes, it appears that the each 30 minute segment was considered to be a separate episode.)

Below is the first episode of Darkroom!  It originally aired on Nov. 27th, 1981.  In Closed Circuit, an aging anchorman discovers that he’s about to be replaced by a computer.  In Stay Turned, We’ll Be Right Back, a man discovers that his radio can be used to contact the past and must decide whether or not to change history.  The show is introduced and hosted by James Coburn.

Closed Circuit was directed by Rick Rosenthal, who directed Jamie Lee Curtis in Halloween II.  Stay Tuned is directed by Paul Lynch, who directed Jamie Lee Curtis in Prom Night.

Enjoy!

 

The TSL’s Daily Horror Grindhouse: The Dark (dir by John “Bud” Cardos)


Some of y’all may have noticed that, whenever I don’t have much to say about a movie, I’ll usually start things about be praising either the film’s title or its poster art.

With that in mind, the 1979 film The Dark has got a great title.  I mean, what self-respecting horror film could actually resist a movie called The Dark?  It’s a title that promises horror and blood and no holds barred morbidity!  And really, the title is so brilliant that it almost doesn’t matter that the film itself come no where close to delivering.

And finally, just check out the poster art!

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Seriously, that’s a great poster!  If I had been alive in 1979, I totally would have wanted to see this movie just because of the poster.  Not only is the film called The Dark but the poster literally promises that this movie is going to be — and I quote — “A chilling tale of alien terror!”

Woo hoo!

Of course, The Dark didn’t start out as a chilling tale of alien terror.  The Dark is one of those films where what happened behind the camera is far more interesting than what was actually filmed.  The story behind The Dark is a classic tale of low-budget, exploitation filmmaking:

Originally, The Dark was going to be a story about a zombie decapitating people in Los Angeles.  The zombie had once been a Confederate soldier who ended up resorting to cannibalism.  As originally envisioned, the Dark would feature numerous scenes of that dead Confederate wandering around with a big axe that it would use to chop off heads.

Tobe Hooper, who was hot as a result of having directed The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, was brought in to direct.  However, after just a few days of shooting, he was replaced.  Depending on which version you read, Hooper was either fired or he walked off the set.  Either way, all accounts seem to agree that Hooper didn’t see eye-to-eye with the film’s producers.  (One of those producers was Dick Clark, the same guy who always used to host ABC’s New Year’s special.)

With Hooper gone, a new director was brought in.  That director was John “Bud” Cardos, who had previously had a drive-in hit with Kingdom of the Spiders.  Cardos finished the film but he had no emotional investment in it and that’s obvious when you watch The Dark today.  Visually, The Dark looks and feels like an old cop show, the type that you might expect to turn up on a cable station that is specifically programmed to appeal to the elderly.

The film that Cardos completed featured a Confederate zombie with an axe.  However, the producers showed that film to a preview audience and quickly discovered that nobody cared about a Confederate with an axe.

So, they made some changes.

At the time, Alien was the most popular film at the box office so the producers thought, “Why not add some special effects, redub some dialogue, and make our Confederate zombie into an alien?”  Sure, why not?

Hastily, The Dark was reedited.  All shots featuring the zombie with an axe were removed from the film.  Instead, whenever the monster attacked, the film now featured a freeze frame of the monster’s face with some hastily added laser beams shooting out of his eyes.  This would be followed by a freeze frame of the victim and stock footage of an explosion….

(That said, there’s still plenty of references to the alien removing people’s heads…)

Interestingly, there’s still a scene in the film in which a police detective suggests that the creature might be a zombie.  “Zom-bies!?” his superior yells, “I don’t want to hear those two words again!”  Well, don’t worry.  It’s not a zombie!  It’s an alien!

(You do have to wonder why an alien would be wearing jeans and flannel shirt but, then again, why would a Confederate zombie be wearing jeans and a flannel shirt?  It’s a strange world.)

As you’ve probably already guessed, The Dark is a bit of a mess.  The alien is going around Los Angeles and blowing people up.  (Though a few times, he also rips off their heads because … well, we already went into that.)  The father of one of the victims is a burned out writer and he’s played by William Devane.  (This is the same William Devane who has played the President in nearly every movie and TV show ever made.  Words cannot begin to express how bored Devane appears to be in this movie.  Oddly, with his hair long and graying, Devane bears an uncanny resemblance to Law & Order SVU‘s Richard Belzer.)  The father is investigating, even though the lead detective (played by Richard Jaeckel) tells him not to.  A reporter (Cathy Lee Crosby) is also investigating.  And then there’s a psychic (Jacquelyne Hyde) and the psychic somehow knows what the monster is and who is going to die next.

The characters do eventually cross paths.  When the detective meets the reporter, the detective announces that he’s going to kill the killer.  “38 caliber justice?” the reporter replies.  “If he’s dead, he can’t kill again!” the detective explains and he kind of has a point.

(Making it even stranger is that, while the detective and the reporter talk, there’s a political protest gong on behind them.  The protest consists of people jumping up and down.)

It’s all really messy because, while watching the movie, you get the feeling that none of the actors knew what anyone else was filming.  It’s like six different films with six different tones and they’ve all been smashed together.  It’s also not particularly scary because ultimately, the zombie alien is just a freeze frame with some hastily added laser beams.  (It doesn’t help that the lasers occasionally go “pew pew” when they’re fired.)

But still, The Dark is a great title for a movie.

Halloween Havoc!: THE NEANDERTHAL MAN (United Artists 1953)


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I’ve seen a lot of horror movies. All the Universal classics, Hammer horrors, big budget, low budget, no-budget, you name it. THE NEANDERTHAL MAN is without a doubt one of the worst I’ve ever laid eyes on. It’s not even so-bad-it’s-good. It’s just so-bad-it’s-bad.

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This totally unlikeable turkey involves a mad scientist whose experiments in evolution lead him to create a serum that devolves species. After success with turning a cat into a saber-toothed tiger (via stock footage and some really bad fake tusks), Professor Groves injects himself with the stuff and becomes Neanderthal Man. The prof goes on a pretty tame killing spree before getting his inevitable comeuppance. In a part that begs for John Carradine (or better yet, Bela Lugosi!), we get Robert Shayne of TV’s THE ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN  fame. The erstwhile Inspector Henderson is all over the place, overacting in some spots, underacting in others. Whereas a…

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Horror Film Review: Frankenstein Meets The Wolf Man (dir by Roy William Neill)


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Long before Batman v. Superman, there was Frankenstein Meets The Wolf Man!

Released in 1943, Frankenstein Meets The Wolf Man was the first of the Universal horror movies to feature the monsters meeting.  (Dracula would join both Frankenstein’s Monster and the Wolf Man in later films.)  In our current age of the MCU and Zack Snyder super hero movies, that might not seem like a big deal but I’m sure it was huge in 1943.  Were the Universal Monster Movies the first example of a shared cinematic universe?  To be honest, I have no idea but it sounds good so let’s go with it.

Frankenstein Meets The Wolf Man starts, as so many Frankenstein films have, with a little bit of grave robbing.  Except, this time, the grave robbers aren’t looking for body parts.  Instead, they break into the Talbot family crypt because they’ve heard that Larry Talbot was buried with a lot of jewelry and money.  As the grave robbers wander around the crypt, they recap for us everything that happened in The Wolf Man.  Finally, they open up Larry’s coffin and are confronted with the dead body of Larry Talbot himself!  (Larry is, once again, played by Lon Chaney, Jr.)

Unfortunately for our grave robbing friends, there’s a full moon out.  As soon as the moonlight shines on Larry, he comes back to life and promptly transforms into … THE WOLF MAN!

After killing one of the robbers, the Wolf Man runs out of the tomb.  The next morning, once again human and alive, Larry Talbot wakes up in some bushes.  He’s arrested by the police.  He’s sent to a mental hospital.  He transforms a few more times and kills a few more stock characters.  And during all of this, Larry tells anyone who will listen that he just wants to be cured of his condition so that he can die and stay dead.

It was at this point that it occurred to me that Larry Talbot is perhaps the whiniest werewolf in film history.

Eventually, Larry decides that maybe the famous Dr. Ludwig Frankenstein could help him!  So, he breaks out of the hospital and travels to Germany (though, since the film was made during World War II, we’re never specifically told that he’s in Germany).  Accompanying him is Malena (Maria Ouspenkaya), the gypsy woman from the first Wolf Man.

In Germany a generic Eastern European country, Larry finds out that Dr. Frankenstein is dead and his research is missing.  Larry does, however, discover the frozen body of Frankenstein’s Monster (now played by Bela Lugosi).  After reviving the monster, Larry is upset to discover that the Monster not only doesn’t know where to find Frankenstein’s research but that, after dealing with their crap for four movies, the Monster doesn’t really seem to care about doing anything other than harassing the local villagers.

Fortunately, Larry does get to meet Ludwig’s widow (Illona Massey) and get a chance to tell her about how much he wishes he was dead.  Probably just to get him to shut up about how terrible his existence is, the widow agrees to help Larry.  She gives him Ludwig’s research and Larry believes that he’s finally found a way to end both his life and the Monster’s!

Unfortunately, it doesn’t quite work that way.  For one thing, Larry is working with a scientist (played by Patric Knowles) who doesn’t think that the Monster needs to be destroyed.  Secondly, Larry keeps forgetting to keep track of the lunar cycles.  That full moon is continually taking him by surprise.

It all leads to a final battle between Frankenstein’s Monster and the Wolf Man.  It only lasts for a little less than 10 minutes so it’s hard not to be a bit disappointed but at least no one talks about having a mother named Martha.

(Can you imagine that conversation?

“Growl growl growl growl”

“Why you say Martha?”

“Growl growl.”

“But Monster’s mother named Martha!”

“Growl!”

“Friends!”

“growl…”)

(It’s been seven months since that damn movie came out and, here at the Shattered Lens, we’re still getting mileage out of “But my mother was named Martha!” jokes.)

Frankenstein Meets The Wolf Man isn’t necessarily a good movie but it is a lot of fun to watch.  It helps, of course, if you’ve seen the other Universal horror films.  Part of the fun is spotting members of the Universal stock company, like Lionel Atwill and Dwight Frye, and seeing who they’ll be playing this time around.  One thing that I did legitimately appreciate is that the film made at least some sort of an effort to maintain a continuity with both The Wolf Man and Ghost of Frankenstein.  It appears that some actual thought was put into explaining how both the Wolf Man and the Monster were still around after the events of the last two films.  That shows more respect for the audience that you’ll find in most modern films.

4 Shots From Horror History: Blood and Black Lace, 2000 Maniacs, Repulsion, Kill Baby Kill


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 the 1960s!

4 Shots From 4 Films

Blood and Black Lace (1964, dir by Mario Bava)

Blood and Black Lace (1964, dir by Mario Bava)

2,000 Maniacs (1964, dir by Herschell Gordon Lewis)

2,000 Maniacs (1964, dir by Herschell Gordon Lewis)

Repulsion (1965, dir by Roman Polanski)

Repulsion (1965, dir by Roman Polanski)

Kill, Baby, Kill (1966, dir by Mario Bava)

Kill, Baby, Kill (1966, dir by Mario Bava)

Horror on the Lens: The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (dir by Robert Wiene)


The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari is a film that I’ve shared three times previously on the Shattered Lens.  The first time was in 2011 and then I shared it again in both 2014 and 2015.  Well, you know what?  I’m sharing it again because it’s a classic, it’s Halloween, and everyone should see it!

Released in 1920, the German film The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari is one of those films that we’ve all heard about but far too few of us have actually seen.  Like most silent films, it requires some patience and a willingess to adapt to the narrative convictions of an earlier time.  However, for those of us who love horror cinema, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari remains required viewing.  Not only did it introduce the concept of the twist ending (M. Night Shyamalan owes his career to this film) but it also helped to introduce German expressionism to the cinematic world.

My initial reaction to The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari was that it simply wasn’t that scary.  It was certainly interesting to watch and I was happy that I was finally experiencing this film that I had previously only read about.  However, the film itself was obviously primitive and it was difficult for my mind (which takes CGI for granted) to adjust to watching a silent film.  I didn’t regret watching the film but I’d be lying (much like a first-year film student) if I said that I truly appreciated it after my first viewing.

But you know what?  Despite my dismissive initial reaction, the film stayed with me.  Whereas most modern films fade from the memory about 30 minutes after the end credits,The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari has stuck with me and the night after I watched it, I even had a nightmare in which Dr. Caligari was trying to break into my apartment.  Yes, Dr. Caligari looked a little bit silly staring through my bedroom window but it still caused me to wake up with my heart about to explode out of my chest.

In short, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari passes the most important test that a horror film can pass.  It sticks with you even after it’s over.

For the curious who have 74 minutes to spare and an open mind to watch with, here is Robert Wiene’s The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari…

Halloween Havoc! Extra: SCREAMING JAY HAWKINS, the Original “Shock Rocker”


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Before Alice Cooper brought his theatrical “shock rock” to audiences, before Black Sabbath sang hymns to Satan, there was Screaming Jay Hawkins! A blues belting maniac from Cleveland, Hawkins incorporated horror into his stage shows, the likes of which had never been seen. Crowds ate it up as Screaming Jay popped out of his coffin, dressed as a voodoo priest complete with cape, top hat, and a smoking skull named ‘Henry’ atop his staff, performing his best known hit, “I Put a Spell On You”:

The story goes Hawkins and his band originally planned “I Put a Spell On You” as a slow blues ballad, but they all got roaring drunk at the session, resulting in Hawkins guttural screaming, and turning the song into a frenzied rock classic. The tune has been covered by dozens of artists, from Creedence Clearwater Revival to Annie Lennox and beyond. Screaming Jay recorded many other horror-themed hits like…

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