Horror on TV: Thriller 1.8 “The Watcher” (dir by John Brahm)


For tonight’s televised horror, we have another episode of the Boris Karloff-hosted anthology series, Thriller!

In this episode, a religious fanatic in a named Freitag (Martin Gabel) lives in a resort community and targets young people who he believes have failed to live up to his standards.  His latest targets are played by Olive Sturgess and Richard Chamberlain.  This is actually a rather grisly little episode.  With its theme of religious hypocrisy, I can only imagine how people reacted when it was first aired on November 1st, 1960.

Enjoy!

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The TSL’s Horror Grindhouse: Scream Blacula Scream (dir by Bob Kelljan)


Am I correct in assuming that everyone knows who Blacula was?

Blacula is often described as being the black Dracula but actually, it’s a little bit more complicated than that.  In life, he was an African prince named Mamuwalde who, in 1780, went to Dracula’s castle and asked for the count’s help in suppressing the slave trade.  Dracula turned him into a vampire instead and, after declaring that Mamuwalde would forever be known as Blacula, he proceeded to lock Mamuwalde in a coffin.  That’s where Mamuwalde remained for 290 years, until he managed to escape.  By that point, his coffin had been relocated from Transylvania to Los Angeles.

All of that was revealed in the 1972 film, BlaculaBlacula, which starred a distinguished Shakespearean actor named William Marshall in the lead role, was a surprise hit so, of course, Mamuwalde (played again by Marshall) returned the following year in a sequel.  It didn’t matter that the first Blacula ended with Mamuwalde deliberately ending his existence by walking out into the sunlight.  Blacula would return!

It also didn’t matter if anyone in the audience for Scream, Blacula, Scream had somehow missed seeing the first movie.  Scream, Blacula, Scream features lengthy flashbacks to the first film.  It makes sense, really.  Why waste money on all new footage when you can just pad the sequel with scenes from its predecessor?

I’m disappointed to say that Scream, Blacula, Scream did not feature any disco action.  When I saw that this movie would be airing on TCM Underground, I decided to watch it specifically because I figured there would be at least one scene of Blacula dancing underneath a spinning disco ball.  I mean, it was a movie from the 70s, right?  Honestly, I think that if Scream, Blacula, Scream had been made later in the decade, it would have featured at least one disco dance scene.

What the film did have was a lot of voodoo.  Judging from this movie, Live and Let Die, and the House on Skull Mountain, it would appear that people in the early 70s were really obsessed with voodoo.  When the movie opens, a voodoo priestess named Mama Loa is dying and she’s just named her apprentice, Lisa (Pam Grier), as the new head of the cult.  Mama Loa’s son, Willis (Richard Lawson), isn’t happy about this decision so, for some reason, he decides that it would be a good idea to bring Blacula back to life.

Willis apparently thought that the revived Blacula would be his servant but it doesn’t work out like that.  First off, Blacula was perfectly happy being dead.  Secondly, he is no one’s servant.  Blacula promptly bites Willis on the neck and then proceeds to vampirize nearly everyone that he comes across.  Soon, Blacula has an army of vampires but all he wants is to be human again.

And who can help him reach that goal?

How about the city’s newest voodoo priestess, Lisa?

Now, I will say this about Scream, Blacula, Blacula.  The main character is named Lisa and that automatically makes it an above average movie.  The entire movie features people saying, “Lisa” over and over again and you know I loved listening to that.

Other than that, though, the movie was kind of a mess.  It was obviously written and filmed in a hurry and, as a result, a lot of the action felt like padding.  For a subplot that wasn’t that interesting to begin with, the voodoo cult power struggle got way too much screen time.  On the plus side, William Marshall and Pam Grier were both a hundred times better than the material that they had to work with.  Regardless of how ludicrous the dialogue was, Marshall delivered it with dignity and just the right hint of ennui.

Scream, Blacula, Scream is not a particularly good film but it’s worth seeing for Marshall and Grier.

 

A Horror Insomnia File #29: Day of the Animals (dir by William Girdler)


What’s an Insomnia File? You know how some times you just can’t get any sleep and, at about three in the morning, you’ll find yourself watching whatever you can find on cable? This feature is all about those insomnia-inspired discoveries!

Last night, if you were having trouble sleeping around 2:30 in the morning, you could have turned on your television, changed the station to Movies TV, and watched the 1977 nature-goes-crazy horror film, Day of the Animals!

Now, I should admit that I was not suffering from insomnia last night.  Jeff and I are currently up at beautiful Lake Texoma and we just happened to be up late last night and flipping through the stations.  I should also admit that, unlike most of the other movies reviewed for this feature, Day of the Animals was not one of “those insomnia-inspired discoveries.”

No, we had both seen Day of the Animals before.  The thing with Day of the Animals is that it’s one of those films that, if you see that it’s on TV, you simply have to stop what you’re doing and watch it.  Considering that the man had a long career in the movies and I haven’t seen every film that he made, I could be wrong on this but I am fairly certain that Day of the Animals is your only opportunity to see Leslie Nielsen wrestle a grizzly bear.

Leslie Nielsen plays Paul, a businessman who is part of a group of hikers.  Shortly before he wrestles with the bear, Paul stands, bare-chested, in the middle of a rainstorm and attempts to taunt God.  “Melville’s God, that’s the God I believe in!” Paul shouts, “You want something!?  YOU TAKE IT!”  Then he turns to one of the hikers and says, “I know what I want and I’m taking it!  I killed a man for you!”

Now, at this point, I should probably make it clear that Day of the Animals is not a comedy, though it’s always inspired a lot of laughter whenever I’ve watched it.  Day of the Animals attempts to be a very serious horror movie.  It even has an environmental message.  Because of the hole in the ozone layer, solar radiation is driving all of the mountain animals crazy.  Mountain lions attack campers.  A grizzly bear wrestles Leslie Nielsen.  A group of rats attempt to kill a policeman.  German shepherds tear a man apart.  And it’s not just the wild animals that are being affected.  Leslie Nielsen goes crazy too.

Of course, Leslie Nielsen isn’t the only hiker.  Genre vet Christopher George plays the leader of the tour and Lynda Day George is along for the ride as well.  If you’ve seen the movie Pieces, you’ll remember Christopher George as the tough cop and Lynda Day George as the tennis pro who, at one point, dramatically screams “BASTARD!” into the wind.  Susan Backlinie, who was the first victim in Jaws, also has a role in this film and that seems appropriate.  Director William Girdler found quite a bit of success in ripping off Jaws.  Before Day of the Animals, he directed Grizzly.

But good ole Leslie Nielsen is pretty much the entire show here.  He tries really, really hard to give an intense and frightening performance.  In fact, he tries so hard that you almost feel guilty for laughing at times.  But then you see that head of perfect silver hair and you hear that deadpan voice saying, “Come here, you little punk!” and you just can’t help yourself.

Anyway, Day of the Animals may be bad but I defy anyone not to watch it.

Previous Insomnia Files:

  1. Story of Mankind
  2. Stag
  3. Love Is A Gun
  4. Nina Takes A Lover
  5. Black Ice
  6. Frogs For Snakes
  7. Fair Game
  8. From The Hip
  9. Born Killers
  10. Eye For An Eye
  11. Summer Catch
  12. Beyond the Law
  13. Spring Broke
  14. Promise
  15. George Wallace
  16. Kill The Messenger
  17. The Suburbans
  18. Only The Strong
  19. Great Expectations
  20. Casual Sex?
  21. Truth
  22. Insomina
  23. Death Do Us Part
  24. A Star is Born
  25. The Winning Season
  26. Rabbit Run
  27. Remember My Name
  28. The Arrangement

A Movie A Day #282: Jack’s Back (1988, directed by Rowdy Herrington)


When med student Rick Westford (James Spader) is found hung at the free clinic where he worked, the police say that he committed suicide.  Rick’s estranged twin brother, John (James Spader), does not agree and launches an investigation of his own.  With the help of Rick’s co-worker, Chris (Cynthia Gibb), John discovers that Rick may have learned the identity of a serial killer who has been copying the crimes of Jack the Ripper and murdering prostitutes in Los Angeles.  However, the killer knows that John is getting close to discovering his identity so the killer sets out to frame John not only for the prostitute murders but for the murder of his brother as well.

Jack’s Back is a movie that deserves to be better known than it is.  James Spader gives two great performances, as both Rick and John.  He and Cynthia Gibb make a good team and Jack’s Back actually does some unexpected things with their relationship.  Jack’s Back was directed by Rowdy Herrington, who is best known for Roadhouse and Gladiator.  Jack’s Back is part murder mystery, part action thriller, and part horror movie and Herrington does a good job of switching back and forth through Jack’s Back constantly shifting tone.  Because this is a low-budget movie with a small cast, there really are not enough suspects to make the murderer’s identity a surprise but Spader, Herrington, and Gibb always keep things interesting.

This is a film that really does deserve to be better known.

Horror Scenes That I Love: The Chase Sequence from Jean Rollin’s La Vampire Nue


Today’s horror scene that I love comes from 1970’s La Vampire Nue.  This film was directed by the brilliant French surrealist, Jean Rollin.

What is this scene about?  To be honest, what it’s about is less important than how it looks and how it makes you feel.  As a director, Jean Rollin specialized in bringing dreams and nightmare to cinematic life.  (That said, as surreal as this scene may be, it’s actually one of the more straight forward moments to be found in Rollin’s filmography.)

4 Shots From 4 Films: The Special Lucio Fulci Edition!


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 is all about letting the visuals do the talking.

This October, I am going to be using our 4 Shots From 4 Films feature to pay tribute to some of my favorite horror directors, in alphabetical order!  That’s right, we’re going from Argento to Zombie in one month!

Today’s director?  The master of Italian horror himself, Lucio Fulci!

4 Shots From 4 Films

Zombi 2 (1979, dir by Lucio Fulci)

The City of the Living Dead (1980, dir by Lucio Fulci)

The Beyond (1981, dir by Lucio Fulci)

The House By The Cemetery (1981, dir Lucio Fulci)

Horror on the Lens: Frankenstein Meets The Space Monster (dir


For today’s selection of horror on the lens, we offer up the odd 1965 horror/sci-fi/beach movie hybrid, Frankenstein Meets The Space Monster.  Despite the movie’s title, it’s not about Frankenstein.  Instead, it’s about an astronaut named Frank who is actually an android.  When his latest mission into space goes wrong, Frank ends up crashing in Puerto Rico.  Now malfunctioning, Frank causes some major chaos.  Can his creator, Dr. Adam Steele (played by character actor James Karen, who years later would appear in Return of the Living Dead), track Frank down and put an end to his reign of terror?

And what about the Martians?  Android Frank isn’t the only threat in Puerto Rico.  A group of Martians have landed and are determined to kidnap any girl wearing a bikini so that they can use them to repopulate their race.  We’re told that every woman on Mars — with the apparent exception of Princess Marcuzan, played with evil haughtiness by Marilyn Hanold — has been killed as the result of an atomic war.  Assisting Princess Marcuzan is Dr. Nadir (Lou Cutell), a short, bald Martian with pointy ears.

One of the oddest things about Frankenstein Meets The Space Monster is that, despite being a standard — if wonderfully nonsensical — low-budget B-movie, it features a great soundtrack!

Enjoy!