The TSL’s Horror Grindhouse: Madhouse (dir by Jim Clark)

In this 1974 film, Vincent Price plays Paul Toombes, a talented actor who, despite his formal training and his distinguished background, is best-known for giving hammy performances in low-budget horror films.

Hmmm …. do you think Vincent Price possibly could have related to this character?  I mean, one thing that people often forget is that Vincent Price did not start his career in horror movies.  Price started his career as a romantic lead and then he eventually moved into character parts.  He was tested and apparently quite seriously considered for the role of Ashely Wilkes in Gone With The Wind.  Price was also considered for the role of Mr. Potter in It’s A Wonderful Life and rumor has it that he would have gotten the role of Addison DeWitt if George Sanders had turned down All About Eve.  Before he became an icon of horror, Price had roles in big-budget Oscar nominees like The Song of Bernadette and Wilson.  He even appeared in the classic film noir, Laura.

It wasn’t until the 50s that Price started to regularly appear in horror films and soon, that was what he was best known for.  Price’s naturally theatrical style made him a perfect fit for the genre and it won him a legion of adoring fans.  The same can be said of Paul Toombes.

Paul Toombes is best-known for playing the role of Dr. Death.  He appeared in five Dr. Death films, the majority of which were written by his friend, Herbert Flay (Peter Cushing).  Unfortunately, the murder of his fiancée put a temporary end to Toombes’s acting career.  Even though Toombes was acquitted of the crime, everyone seems to assume that he did it.  Apparently, having a nickname like Dr. Death doesn’t do much to convince people of your benevolence.

However, Toombes finally has a chance to rebuild his career!  The BBC wants to produce a Dr. Death TV series and they want Toombes to once again play his most famous role.  The only problem?  People involved with the production are getting murdered, one-by-one.  Is Dr. Death responsible or is he being set up?

Madhouse is kind of an early slasher film, though, with its gloved killer and its whodunit plot, it has more in common with an Italian giallo than an installment of Friday the 13th.  The deaths are bloody but not too bloody.  In fact, for a film that’s full of murder and betrayal, Madhouse is surprisingly good natured.  The main appeal of the film, of course, is to see Vincent Price and Peter Cushing acting opposite of each other.  Though they were both known for appearing in horror films, Price and Cushing were two very different actors and each brought his own individual approach to Madhouse.  Price is his usual flamboyant self while Cushing is considerably more reserved and the contrast of their styles actually creates an interesting dynamic between Toombes and Flay.

Madhouse is also full of footage from previous films that Vincent Price had made for AIP.  (Of course, these movies are presented as being Dr. Death films.)  Basil Rathbone and Boris Karloff both appear in archival footage, acting opposite Price.  It’s nice to see them, even if neither one of them was actually alive when Madhouse was filmed.  Paul Toombes actually gets a scene where he praises Bail Rathbone’s performance and one gets the feeling that the sentiments were being expresses as much by Price as by the character he was playing.

Madhouse is okay.  The plot’s not particularly challenging and the tone tends to go all over the place, as if the film can’t decide whether it wants to be a horror movie or a Hollywood satire.  However, the film works whenever Vincent Price is on-screen, which is often.  Price is just fun to watch, especially when he’s teamed up with an old pro like Peter Cushing.  For fans of Price and Cushing, Madhouse is an entertaining chance to watch two icons of horror go at it.


Horror on TV: Freakylinks 1.1 “Subject: Fearsum” (dir by Todd Holland)

Remember Freakylinks?

If you don’t, do not worry.  To be honest, I had totally forgotten about it until, six years ago, my friend Janeen mentioned it to me.  Freakylinks is a show that aired on Fox back in 2000.  It only lasted one season and it was about this guy (played by Ethan Embry) who ran a website called  To me, that sounds like a porn site but apparently, it was actually a site dedicated to investigating the paranormal.

Freakylinks was produced by the same company that produced The Blair Witch Project.  A few months before the show premiered, in order to try to create some Blair Witch-style buzz for the production, the production company set up a website called and designed it to look like it was just some ghost hunter’s Geocities-style blog.  While the web site got some publicity, it didn’t translate into ratings and Freakylinks was canceled.   However, the entire series has been uploaded to YouTube and below you’ll find a pilot!

Prepare to take a trip into the past, to a time when the internet was still a mysterious and powerful thing and people apparently didn’t realize that anyone with time to kill could make a web site.

(I often wonder if the ruins of Geocities is haunted by the ghosts of dead blogs?)

(Let nothing get you down on Rex Manning Day!)

A Blast From The Past: The Sound of a Stone (dir by Herk Harvey)

In this short film from 1955, a high school teacher in Kansas is wrongly accused of being a communist.  Despite the fact that he’s a Methodist Sunday School teacher, he made the mistake of assigning a book that was included on a list of subversive literature and, as a result, the entire town is turning against him!  While this short film might not win any points for subtlety (or good acting), it is an effective look at paranoia and how rumors get started.  I especially liked the shot of the spinning phone.

So, why am I sharing this in October?  Because this film was directed by Herk Harvey.  In the 50s and 60s, Harvey directed a countless number of short films.  Some of them were educational.  Some of them were industrial.  Some of them, like this one, were specifically made to be shown to civic groups.  However, horror fans will always know Harvery as the director of one of the most important horror films ever made, Carnival of Souls!

I’ll be sharing Carnival of Souls later this week.  For now, enjoy The Sound of a Stone!


Horror Scenes That I Love: The End of The Original Invasion of the Body Snatchers

This is from the original 1956 Invasion of the Body Snatchers.  This is how director Don Siegel wanted the film to end, with Kevin McCarthy vainly warning drivers that they’re coming for them.  The studio, however, insisted that Siegel add a scene that suggested that the authorities might be able to stop the invasion.

Incidentally, Don Siegel was born 108 years ago, today!  He was one of the great American genre directors.  Unfortunately, he didn’t really do enough horror films for me to devote a 4 Shots from 4 Films post to him but, that being said, it’s impossible to keep track of how many subsequent horror films would be influenced by Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

4 Shots From 4 James Whale Films: Frankenstein, The Old Dark House, The Invisible Man, Bride of Frankenstein

4 Shots From 4 Films is just what it says it is, 4 shots from 4 of our favorite films. As opposed to the reviews and recaps that we usually post, 4 Shots From 4 Films lets the visuals do the talking.

This October, we’ve been using 4 Shots from 4 Films to pay tribute to some of our favorite horror filmmakers!  Today, we honor the one and only James Whale!

4 Shots For 4 James Whale Films

Frankenstein (1931, dir by James Whale)

The Old Dark House (1932, dir by James Whale)

The Invisible Man (1933, dir by James Whale)

Bride of Frankenstein (1935, dir by James Whale)

Horror On the Lens: Phantom From Space (dir by W. Lee Wilder)

Today’s horror film is one that we haven’t shown on the Lens before!  That’s right, it’s a premiere!  Yay!

First released in 1953, Phantom From Space is about an invisible alien who wears a diving helmet.  It’s a film that alternates between being extremely silly and occasionally effective, with the emphasis very much on “occasionally.”  Even though the alien causes some mayhem, it’s still definitely a more sympathetic character than some of the humans that it runs into.  This film is very much of the “humans screw everything up” genre of sci-fi films.  Phantom From Space was also directed by Billy Wilder’s brother!  I should, however, admit that there’s absolutely nothing about this film that will remind you of The Apartment, Double Indemnity, or the Lost Weekend.

(Well, I guess you could argue that they all are in black-and-white so there is that….)

Anyway, I watched this with my friends in the Late Night Movie Gang on Saturday and we enjoyed it.  Maybe you will too.  It’s a film that definitely rewards a certain attitude of snarkiness.  It’s only 72 minutes long so give it a try.