A Movie A Day #278: The Power (1968, directed by Byron Haskin)

Who is Adam Hart?

That is the mystery that Professors Jim Tanner (George Hamilton) and Margery Lansing (Suzanne Pleshette) have to solve.  Someone is using psychic powers to kill their co-workers in a research laboratory.  The police think that Tanner is guilty but Tanner knows that one of his colleagues is actually a super human named Adam Hart.  Hart is planning on using his super powers to control the world and, because Tanner is the only person who has proof of his existence, Hart is methodically framing Tanner for every murder that he commits.

The Power is underrated by entertaining movie, a mix of mystery and science fiction with a pop art twist.  It was also one of the first attempts to portray telekinesis on film.  Similar films, like Scanners, may be better known but all of them are directly descended from The Power.  George Hamilton may seem like an unlikely research scientist but he and Suzanne Pleshette are a good team and The Power makes good use of Pleshette’s way with a one liner.  Also keep an eye out for familiar faces like Arthur O’Connell, Nehemiah Persoff, Michael Rennie, Gary Merrill, Yvonne DeCarlo, Vaughn Taylor, Aldo Ray, and even Forrest J. Ackerman as a hotel clerk.



The TSL’s Horror Grindhouse: Terror Night, aka Bloody Movie (dir by Nick Marino)


Okay, so this is kind of a weird one.

The movie known as Bloody Movie was originally filmed in 1987, under the title Terror Night.  However, it was never released.  There are plenty of rumors about why it wasn’t released.  Some people say that it was because the film was produced with Mafia money.  Some people say it was because it used a lot of footage that was lifted from other movies and the producers apparently didn’t bother to clear the rights.  Of course, it’s also totally possible that the film wasn’t released because it wasn’t very good.  I mean, that does happen.

Regardless of why, the film apparently sat on the shelf for 20 years.  It was finally released by Fred Olen Ray’s Retromedia and retitled Bloody Movie.  That said, the DVD that I own (and watched for this review) was released by Legacy Entertainment and still had the Terror Night title.  The transfer on the Legacy DVD was notably bad.  From what I’ve been told, the Retromedia release looks a lot better.

Now, there’s a lot bad things that can be said about Terror Night.  It’s low-budget, which is one of those things that can be overcome by a clever director but, in this case, it just results in Terror Night looking cheap.  It’s poorly written, full of one-dimensional characters who were shallow even by the standards of a late 80s slasher.  This is also one of those movies where formerly respectable actors pop up for five minutes cameos.  Whenever one of those actors shows up, all the action stops so that they can earn their paycheck.  Aldo Ray is homeless and doomed.  Cameron Mitchell is a cynical cop and doomed.  Alan Hale, Jr. is an affable security guard and apparently not doomed.  There’s no real reason for any of them to be there but there they are!  There’s also a biker couple who show up for no particular reason, along with the typical collection of teenage victims.

But yet, there are moments when Terror Night goes from being bland to being almost transcendently odd..  There are moments of comedy mixed in with some surprisingly mean-spirited death scenes.  Necks are snapped.  Heads are chopped off.  Bodies are split in half.  It all gets rather messy and the presence of all those old time actors makes the sudden gore scenes feel all the more strange.

However, the main thing that distinguishes Terror Night from the other slashers of the era is the identity of the killer.  (And, before anyone yells at me, this is not a spoiler.  There is never any mystery about who the killer is.)  Lance Hayward is not a zombie like Jason Voorhees or a silent symbol of evil like Michael Myers.  He’s not seeking vengeance for some crime in the past.  Instead, he’s a former silent screen star.  (It seems like Hayward would have been close to 90 years old at the time of Terror Night.  He’s still surprisingly spry.)  Hayward commits his murders while wearing costumes from his old movies.  Adding to the strangeness of the whole scenario is that actual silent footage is spliced into the murder scenes.  Most of the footage comes from movies like The Thief of Baghdad, The Black Pirate, and the Gaucho.  You have to wonder if Douglas Fairbanks cheated the director’s father or something.

(Since Hayward spends most of the movie in costume, I’m assuming that he was mostly played by stuntmen.  When Hayward actually shows his face, he’s played by one-time Oscar nominee, John Ireland.  At the height of his career, Ireland co-starred in films like All The King’s Men.)

As to why a silent scream star would be murdering teenagers … well, your guess is as good as mine.  It’s a strange film, a mix of gore and nostalgia.  I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it but I still always appreciate anything this strange.

Film Review: Welcome to Hard Times (1967, directed by Burt Kennedy)

220px-WelcomehardtimesWelcome to Hard Times is a western that used to frequently turn up on TV when I was a kid.  I remembered that I had always enjoyed it but otherwise, I had largely forgotten about it when I saw that it was airing on TCM earlier today.  I rewatched it to see if I would still enjoy it.  Welcome To Hard Times has its flaws but it is still an above average addition to the genre.

Based on a novel by E.L. Doctorow, Welcome to Hard Times takes place in the small western settlement of Hard Times, Nevada.  When the mysterious Man From Bodie (Aldo Ray) shows up, he terrorizes everyone in the town.  When the town founder, Mr. Fee (Paul Birch), attempts to stand up to him, the Man from Bodie shoots him dead.  When the local undertaker, Mr. Hansen (Elisha Cook, Jr.) tries to stop the Man from stealing one of his horses, the Man silently guns him down.  As the town’s mayor, Will Blue (Henry Fonda), stands by and helplessly watches, The Man rapes and murders Fee’s girlfriend and also kills the local saloonkeeper, Avery (Lon Chaney, Jr.).  The Man burns down the town and finally leaves.

Thought most of the surviving townspeople abandon Hard Times, Will Blue stays behind and tries to rebuild.  He adopts Fee’s son, Jimmy (Michael Shea).  Also staying behind is Jimmy’s mother, Molly Riordan (Janice Rule), a former saloon girl who was also raped by the Man and who constantly taunts Will for not being able to stand up to him.  New settlers arrive and the town starts to rebuild.  Zar (Kennan Wynn) and his four girls reopen the saloon and serve the workers at a nearby mine.  Isaac Maple (John Anderson) reopens the general store.  Under Will’s leadership, Hard Times starts to thrive.

A drifter named Leo Jenks (the great Warren Oates) also moves in.  When Molly discovers that Leo is a crack shot, she gets him to teach Jimmy how to handle a shotgun.  Both she and Will know that the Man is going to return in the spring.  Molly is obsessed with vengeance and Will fears that Jimmy is going to be consumed by her hatred.

Aldo Ray  Welcome to Hard Times (1967)Of course, the Man does eventually return.

Welcome to Hard Times works best at the beginning and the end, when Aldo Ray is on-screen.  As the sadistic Man from Bodie, Ray gives a classic western bad guy performance.  He’s intimidating, he’s violent, and he guns down the citizens of Hard Times with even more casual arrogance than Lee Marvin, Jack Palance, and Lee Van Cleef combined!  The middle section of the film drags and it is hard to ignore Jane Rule’s shaky Irish accent.  It is obvious that Welcome to Hard Times is trying to say something about Will Blue’s humanistic approach but it does not seem to know what.

Director Burt Kennedy was best known for directing comedic westerns.  Welcome to Hard Times was a rare dramatic film for him.  It’s not a great western but, thanks to Aldo Ray’s performance and the excellent work of cinematography Harry Stradling, Jr., it’s still a worthy addition to the genre.


Aldo Ray