Horror Scenes That I Love: Van Helsing and Dracula Meet in Dracula A.D. 1972


Even in the year 1972, Count Dracula (Christopher Lee) could not escape Prof. Van Helsing (Peter Cushing).  Of course, the Van Helsing here was a descendant of the Van Helsing who gave Dracula such a hard time in the 19th century but still, Dracula was not thrilled to see him.

This scene is from Hammer’s Dracula A.D. 1972.  It’s not generally considered to be one of the better Dracula films but I enjoy any chance to see Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee (who were the closest of friends off-screen) acting opposite each other.

Cone of Silence (1960, directed by Charles Frend)


Cone of Silence is a very British film about aviation.

George Sanders plays an investigator who is looking into a crash of a “Phoenix” jetliner.  The crash has been blamed on the pilot, Captain George Gort (Bernard Lee).  Because Gort was killed in the crash, he is not around to defend himself.  Gort had a previous crash on his record and had also been reprimanded for flying to low when he landed a flight in Calcutta.  To Phoenix Airlines, Gort is the perfect scapegoat but a series of flashbacks reveals that Gort was a good pilot and that the cowardly Captain Clive Judd (Peter Cushing) was responsible for the incident in Calcutta.  Captain Hugh Dallas (Michael Craig) tries to exonerate Gort’s name before another crash occurs.

Cone of Silence is named not for the famed listening device from Get Smart but instead for a key part of Gort’s certification process, where he has to fly a plane without being able to hear anyone or anything else around him.  That Gort manages to do so is one of the things that leads to Dallas believing the Gort couldn’t have been responsible for the later crash.  Bernard Lee is best-known for playing James Bond’s unflappable superior, M, and it’s interesting to see him playing a much more neurotic character in Cone of Silence.  Gort is a good pilot but he knows that, after his first crash, no one trusts his judgment and everyone is expecting him to fail and it gets to him.  It does not help that he has to deal with the weaselly Captain Judd, who is looking to blame anything that happens on Gort.  Cushing does a good job of playing Judd as someone who is outwardly friendly but who is ultimately only looking out for himself.

Cone of Silence was released at a time when jet travel was still considered to be a luxury and pilots were viewed as being the men who could do the impossible.  Not surprisingly, the film is full of lengthy scenes in which Captain Dallas and others explain every step that goes into flying a jet.  Great care was taken to get every detail right, even if it meant limiting the film’s dramatic potential.  This may have been fascinating to audiences in 1960, many of whom had never traveled on a plane, but today, Cone of Silence can feel dry and overly talky.  It’s good to see Sanders, Lee, and Cushing all in the same film but Cone of Silence is never as compelling as its cast.

Scene That I Love: Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing Play Pool In The Skull


100 years ago, on this date, Christopher Lee was born in London.  After serving in the secret service during World War II and reportedly inspiring his cousin, Ian Fleming, to create the character of James Bond, Christopher Lee went on to have a legendary acting career.  Though he was best known for playing Dracula, Lee appeared in almost every genre of film and he always gave a good performance.  Even when the film was bad, Lee was good.

Yesterday, for Peter Cushing’s birthday, I shared a scene of him and Lee in The Satanic Rites of Dracula.  Today, for Lee’s birthday, I’m sharing a scene between him and Cushing in 1965’s The Skull.  Though The Skull isn’t one of the strongest films that the pair made for Amicus, it’s worth watching for the performances of Cushing and Lee.  Often cast as rivals on screen, the two were, in reality, the best of friends and Lee often said that he never really emotionally recovered from Cushing’s death.

In the scene below, Lee and Cushing are obviously having a ball trying to outact one another while playing simple game of pool and discussing slightly esoteric concerns.

 

Scenes That I Love: Peter Cushing Confronts Christopher Lee in The Satanic Rites of Dracula


Today is Peter Cushing’s birthday.  Tomorrow is Christopher Lee’s.

What better way to celebrate than by sharing a scene that I love that features both of them?  1973’s The Satanic Rites of Dracula was one of Hammer’s final Dracula films and, with the action somewhat awkwardly moved to the modern day, it’s also one of the weaker entries.  But it does feature Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing, playing Dracula and the latest Van Helsing, and it’s worth watching for that reason.  

Though they often played enemies onscreen, Cushing and Lee were best friends offscreen.  Lee often said that he never really recovered from Cushing’s death in 1994.  Cushing may have spent his career playing villains and obsessive monster hunters but he was said to actually be a kind and rather shy man, an old-fashioned gentlemen who unexpectedly found his fame in horror.  Whereas Lee was a serious student of the esoteric, Cushing preferred to spend his time gardening.

In the scene below, Cushing’s Van Helsing confronts Lee’s Dracula and it’s just fun to watch these two old friends go at each other.  One gets the feeling that Cushing and Lee had a few laughs after the cameras stopped rolling.

Scenes that I Love: Peter Cushing In Shock Waves


Shock Waves (1977, dir by Ken Wiederhorn)

Today’s scene that I love comes from one of the most underrated zombie films of the 70s, Shock Waves.

In this film, Nazi zombies have emerged off the coast of an island. When a group of stranded tourists explore the island, they come across Peter Cushing, who explains to them just what exactly is going on. Cushing totally steals this scene. It’s always interesting to me that Cushing could convincingly play such depraved characters when, in real life, he was supposedly a very gentle and somewhat shy man. In fact, if you listen to the commentary track that was recorded for Shock Waves’s video release, everyone who worked on the film talks about what a joy Peter Cushing was off-screen.

Here is Peter Cushing in Shock Waves:

6 Shots From 6 Pete Cushing Films


4 or more Shots from 4 or more 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!

Today, the Shattered Lens pays tribute to Peter Cushing, one of the great actors and horror stars of the previous century.  By most accounts, an old-fashioned gentleman who enjoyed gardening and a little painting, Peter Cushing went from the stage to films to television and back again and, along the way, appeared in some of the most popular and beloved films ever made.  He was often cast as a rival to Christopher Lee.  In real life, the two men were the closest of friends.

Here are….

6 Shots From 6 Peter Cushing Films

Hamlet (1948, dir by Laurence Olivier, DP: Desmond Dickinson)

The Curse of Frankenstein (1957, dir by Terence Fisher, DP: Jack Asher)

Horror of Dracula (1958, dir by Terence Fisher, DP: Jack Asher)

Dr. Who and the Daleks (1965, dir by Gordon Flemyng, DP: Jack Wilcox)

Shock Waves (1977, dir by Ken Weiderhorn, DP: Reuben Trane)

Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope (1977, dir by George Lucas, DP: Gilbert Talyor)

Lisa Marie’s Grindhouse Trailers: 6 Trailers For The 3rd Thursday in October


Well, here we are! It’s the third Thursday in October and that means that it’s time for another edition of Lisa Marie’s Favorite Grindhouse and Exploitation Film Trailers!

Since today is Boris Karloff’s birthday, I thought I would devote this edition to everyone’s favorite reanimated corpse, Frankenstein’s Monster! Over the years, there’s been a lot of movies about the Monster. Here are the trailers for six of them!

  1. The Curse of Frankenstein (1957)

Believe it or not, there was a time when it was felt that the story of Frankenstein and his Monster has been played out. With the Universal films bringing in less and less money, many felt that the Monster’s days were behind it. Then, Hammer, Peter Cushing, and Christopher Lee came along and said, “No! This is what Frankenstein is all about!”

At least, I assume that’s what they said. I hope they did.

2. Jesse James Meets Frankenstein’s Daughter (1965)

You can’t keep a good Frankenstein down as Jesse James discovered in this 1965 western.

3. Lady Frankenstein (1971)

In this Italian film, the Baron’s daughter continues her father’s scientific experiments! I guess Jesse James wasn’t the only one to meet Frankenstein’s Daughter!

4. Flesh for Frankenstein (a.k.a. Andy Warhol’s Frankenstein) (1973)

Udo Kier is the Baron and Andy Warhol may have been the producer of this film. Or he may have just lended his name out for the money. It depends on who you ask.

5. Blackenstein (1973)

Of course, following the success of Blacula, there was a blaxploitation take on Frankenstein.

6. Frankenhooker (1990)

And, of course, who can forget Frankenhooker?

I hope that your Halloween is full of the type of creativity and scientific curiosity that made the Frankenstein family legendary!

The Shattered Lens Honors The Birth of Three Icons


Today, the Shattered Lens honors the birth of three cinematic icons!

Vincent Price was born on May 27th, 1911 in St. Louis, Missouri.

Peter Cushing was born on May 26th, 1913 in Kenley, Surrey, England.

Christopher Lee was born on May 27th, 1922 in London, England!

These three gentlemen went on to not only become very good actors but also horror icons! Each, in their own way, is responsible for my own love of cinema. You could argue that, without them, there would be a lot less horror fans in the world. Just as Lee and Cushing introduced a new generation to Dracula and Frankenstein, Price helped to introduce a new generation to the works of Edgar Allan Poe.

On top of all the work they did in the movies, the three of them were apparently good friends off-screen as well!

So, today, take a minute or two to remember three great actors! And, if you want to watch a movie with all three of them at their best, might I suggest Scream and Scream Again? It’s my favorite!

Spring Breakdown: Top Secret! (dir by Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, and Jerry Zucker)


“How silly can you get?” Val Kilmer sings in the 1984 film Top Secret! and the answer would appear to be very silly.  Extremely silly.  Nonsensically silly.  Unbelievable silly.  So silly that it transcends all formerly known types of silliness.  In other words, this is a very silly film but that’s okay because it’s meant to be silly.

Some people, I know, would probably argue that Top Secret! doesn’t really qualify as a Spring Break film but I have to disagree.  Like any good Spring Break film, a good deal of Top Secret! takes place on the beach and Val Kilmer plays Nick Rivers, a singer who is obviously meant to be a parody of the type of singers who used to regularly appear in the beach party movies of the 60s.  Nick’s number one hit song is Skeet Surfin, which celebrates the sport of skeet shooting while on a surf board.  The movie opens with hundreds of handsome young men jumping on surf boards while holding rifles.  I honestly don’t know whether skeet surfing was every an actual sport but I certainly hope that it was because it looks like it would have been a lot of fun.  Certainly, it would perk up the Olympics.

Of course, Nick is not the only person in the film whose life is connected to the beach.  Hillary Flammond (Lucy Gutteridge) spent much of her youth shipwrecked on a beach with Nigel (Christopher Villiers).  Unfortunately, one day, Nigel went out to sea to search for help and he never returned.  Hillary was eventually rescued.  That’s certainly a sadder trip to the beach than Nick’s but still, a beach is a beach.

Hillary and Nick’s paths cross when Nick is invited to perform at a cultural festival in what, in 1984, was known was East Germany.  Hillary is a member of the Resistance while her father, Dr. Paul Flammond (Michael Gough), is being held prisoner by the government and is being forced to design the type of secret weapons that are always at the heart of espionage adventures like this one.  When Nick and Hillary meet, it’s love at first sight.  Nick gets involved in the plan to save Hillary’s father and to thwart the insidious plans of the East German government.  He also finds the time to sing a lot of songs.

The plot of Top Secret! isn’t really easy to describe.  That’s largely because there really isn’t a plot in a conventional sense.  Instead, there’s just one joke after another.  The dialogue is purposefully nonsensical.  The visuals are full of odd details.  The jokes are frequently hilarious and, because they’re so fast and relentless, they’re also next to impossible to adequately describe.  Much of the visual humor simply has to be seen to be understood and appreciated.  For instance, it may sound slightly humorous to say that a scene features a stern-looking army officer answering a giant phone but you have to actually see the film to truly understand just how brilliantly Top Secret! pulls off the gag.

Of course, what really makes the film is work is Val Kilmer, who is young, handsome, and incredibly likable in the role of Nick.  Kilmer delivers every bizarre line with a straight face and an enthusiastic earnestness that makes him the perfect center for all the craziness raging around him.

How silly can you get?  Watch Top Secret! and find out!

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.