Creature Double Feature 5: THE MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH (AIP 1964) and THE TOMB OF LIGEIA (AIP 1965)


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Boston’s WLVI-TV 56 ran it’s ‘Creature Double Feature’ series from 1972 to 1983. Though fans remember it mostly for those fabulous giant monster movies starring Godzilla and friends, CDF occasionally featured some monsters of a different kind… 

Roger Corman and Vincent Price had teamed to make five successful Edgar Allan Poe adaptations for American-International Pictures, beginning with 1960’s HOUSE OF USHER (there was a sixth, THE PREMATURE BURIAL, that starred Ray Milland rather than Price). Studio execs James Nicholson and Sam Arkoff, always on the lookout for ways to cut costs, joined forces with Britain’s Anglo-Amalgamated Productions (makers of the CARRY ON comedies) and shipped Corman and company to jolly ol’ England for the final two, THE MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH and THE TOMB OF LIGEIA. Both turned out to be high points in the Corman/Price/Poe series.

1964’s MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH is a sadistic, psychedelic nightmare of…

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Halloween Havoc!: THE RAVEN (AIP 1963)


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Let’s kick off the third annual “Halloween Havoc” with Vincent Price, Peter Lorre, Boris Karloff, Hazel Court, young Jack Nicholson , director Roger Corman , screenwriter Richard Matheson , and an “idea” by Edgar Allan Poe. How’s that for an all-star horror crew? The film is THE RAVEN, Corman’s spoof of all those Price/Poe movies he was famous for, a go-for-the-throat comedy guaranteed to make you spill your guts with laughter!

Sorcerer Erasmus Craven (Price ), still pining for his late, lost Lenore, hears someone gently rapping on his chamber door… er, window. It’s a raven, a talking raven, in reality Adolpho Bedlo (Lorre ), who’s been put under a spell by the Grand Master of magicians, Dr. Scarabus (Karloff ), who like Craven is adept at “magic by gesture”. After Craven mixes up a potion to reverse the spell, Bedlo tells him he’s seen Lenore alive at Scarabus’s castle.

The…

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Gods of the Hammer Films: Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, and THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1957)


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When Britain’s Hammer Films began in the early 1930’s they were just another movie production company. After finding some success with the 1955 sci-fi adaptation THE QUARTERMASS EXPERIMENT, they chose to make a Gothic horror based on Mary Shelley’s classic 1818 novel about a man obsessed with creating artificial life. FRANKENSTEIN had been filmed many times before, most notably Universal’s 1931 version that brought eternal fame to Boris Karloff. This time however, the producers shot in vibrant color, with blood and body parts on gory display. Tame stuff compared to today’s anything goes horrors, but in the fifties it was considered quite shocking.

Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee had appeared in two films before, Lawrence Olivier’s 1948 HAMLET and John Huston’s 1952 MOULIN ROUGE, though not as a team. Once CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN was unleashed upon the public, they were paired another nineteen times, making Cushing and Lee terror’s all-time tandem. HORROR OF DRACULA came next, with…

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Horror Film Review: Omen III: The Final Conflict (dir by Graham Baker)


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Originally, it had been planned that the Omen franchise would be made up of six or seven films and that each movie would check in on another year in the life of Damien Thorn, a bit like an apocalyptic version of Boyhood.  However, after Damien: Omen II failed to perform up to expectations, plans were changed.

Instead of continuing the story of Damien’s adolescence, the 1981 film Omen III: The Final Conflict jumps straight into Damien’s adulthood.  Now 32 years old and played by a very young (and handsome) Sam Neill, Damien Thorn is now the CEO of Thorn Enterprises.  With the help of his loyal assistant Harvey Dean (Don Gordon), Damien has become one of the most popular and powerful men on the planet.  Thorn Enterprises, having followed Paul Buhler’s scheme from the second film, is now responsible for feeding a good deal of the world.  Damien is seen as being a humanitarian and a future President.  When the U.S. Ambassador to the United Kingdom reacts to spotting a black dog in the park by committing suicide, Damien is appointed to the position.

(Needless to say, everyone in London is happy to see Damien.  Nobody says, “I just hope you don’t end up going crazy and dying a violent death, like everyone else in your family and immediate circle of acquaintances.”  But they’re probably thinking it…)

Now in London (and also appointed to be head of the United Nations Youth Organization, which just goes to show that your crazy uncle is right and the United Nations is a conspiracy), Damien pursues a rather creepy romance with journalist Kate Reynolds (Lisa Harrow) and makes plans to prevent the Second Coming by killing every single baby born on the morning of March 24th.  (But Harvey’s son was born on March 24th — wow, could this lead to some sort of conflict?)

Meanwhile, a group of priests (led by an embarrassed-looking Rossanno Brazzi) have recovered these damn daggers of Megiddo and are now all attempting to assassinate Damien.  Unfortunately, none of them are very good at their job.  (“You had one job, Father!  One job!”)

Bleh.

The Final Conflict is not that good.  It’s boring.  The plot is full of holes.  For instance — and yes, these are SPOILERS — why have we sat through two movies listening to characters insist that Damien has to be stabbed by all seven of the daggers when apparently, just one dagger will do the job?  Why, after being told that Jesus is going to be reborn as a child, does he then appear as an adult at the end of the film?  And finally, why does nobody ever seem to find it strange that everyone that Damien knows end up suffering a freak accident?

I will say that there are two good things about The Final Conflict.

First off, Sam Neill gives a good performance as Damien Thorn.  He’s handsome, he’s charismatic, and he’s not afraid to be evil.  But, unfortunately, Damien’s just not that interesting of a character anymore.  In the first Omen, he was interesting because he was an evil five year old.  In the second Omen, he was at least occasionally conflicted about his role.  In the third Omen, Damien is just evil and evil without nuance is boring.

Secondly, there’s that sequence where Damien’s followers go after the babies born on March 24th.  Oh my God, that was so disturbing and it was one of the few moments when The Final Conflict actually became horrific.

Otherwise, The Final Conflict is a thoroughly forgettable sequel to a memorable film.

Horror on The Lens: The Masque of the Red Death (dir by Roger Corman)


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So here we are, 24 days into October, and I have yet to share an old Vincent Price film!  It’s not October without at least a little contribution from Vincent.  Well, allow me to correct that with today’s horror on the lens, the 1964 Roger Corman film The Masque of the Red Death.

Based on the classic story by Edgar Allan Poe, this film features Vincent Price giving one of his best performances as the doomed and decadent Satanist Prince Prospero.  The film’s cinematographer was future director Nicolas Roeg and The Masque of the Red Death is probably one of the most visually impressive of all of Corman’s films.

Enjoy!