The TSL’s Horror Grindhouse: Teenage Caveman (dir by Roger Corman)


Who is the Teenage Caveman?

Believe it or not, he’s Robert Vaughn.  Vaughn, who would later go on to appear in The Magnificent Seven, The Man From UNCLE, Bullitt, The Towering Inferno, and Hustle, was 26 years old when he played a nameless caveman in Roger Corman’s 1958 film, Teenage Caveman.  At the age of 26, Vaughn looked like he was closer to 35 and he certainly didn’t resemble a teenager.  Despite wearing a loin cloth, he also didn’t appear to be a caveman.  If he was a caveman than he was certainly a well-groomed caveman and perhaps the only caveman to understand how to use hairspray.  Seriously, his hair is perfect in this film.

As for the film itself, it’s about a primitive tribe of people who live in a rocky wasteland.  However, just across the river, there’s a land that’s full of plants and animals.  It would obviously be a much better place to live and Vaughn’s teenage caveman is totally annoyed that the older folks on the tribe refuse to cross the river.  They claim that a monster lives in the river and that it will kill anyone who tries to cross.  Being a rebellious teenager, Vaughn decides to cross the river anyway.  He convinces a group of friends to go with him.  When they reach the river, they meet and fight the monster and they also discover that the monster was doing more than just guarding the river.  It all leads to a plot twist that feels as if it was added at the last possible second.

In a later interview, Robert Vaughn referred to Teenage Caveman as being the worst film in which he ever appeared.  He went on to suggest that it was the worst film ever made.  Those are bold words coming from someone who appeared in as many bad films as Robert Vaughn did.  That said, I do think that Vaughn was being a bit too hard on Teenage Caveman.  For what it is — an extremely low-budget film that barely runs over an hour — Teenage Caveman is entertaining if you’re in the right mood for it.  It’s hard not to smile at the cavepeople, with their modern haircuts and their very American accents.  As well, the film features the same stock footage of dinosaurs fighting that appeared in countless other B-movies of the time and, again, it’s hard not to smile at the actors valiantly trying to pretend that there are dinosaurs fighting just a few feet away from them.  And while that final plot twist may come out of nowhere, it’s just random enough to be interesting.  Worst film of all time?  With all respect to the teenage caveman, I have to disagree.  It’s a B-movie and, if you enjoy B-movies, you’ll enjoy this one.  And let’s give some credit to Robert Vaughn.  He gives an earnest performance, even though he later said that he felt foolish every time he stepped out on the set.  Add to that, his hair is perfect.

Horror on the Lens: Dementia 13 (dir by Francis Ford Coppola)


(I originally shared this film back in 2011 and 2019 — can you believe we’ve been doing this for that long? — but the YouTube vid was taken down both times!  So, I’m resharing it today!)

For today’s excursion into the world of public domain horror, I offer up the film debut of Francis Ford Coppola.  Before Coppola directed the Godfather and Apocalypse Now, he directed a low-budget, black-and-white thriller that was called Dementia 13.  (Though, in a sign of things to come, producer Roger Corman and Coppola ended up disagreeing on the film’s final cut and Corman reportedly brought in director Jack Hill to film and, in some cases, re-film additional scenes.)

Regardless of whether the credit should go to Coppola, Corman, or Hill, Dementia 13 is a brutally effective little film that is full of moody photography and which clearly served as an influence on the slasher films that would follow it in the future.  Speaking of influence,Dementia 13 itself is obviously influenced by the Italian giallo films that, in 1963, were just now starting to make their way into the drive-ins and grindhouses of America.

In the cast, keep an eye out for Patrick Magee, who later appeared as Mr. Alexander in A Clockwork Orange as well as giving a memorable performance in Lucio Fulci’s The Black Cat.  Luana Anders, who plays the duplicitous wife in this film, showed up in just about every other exploitation film made in the 60s and yes, the scene where she’s swimming freaks me out to no end.

Horror on the Lens: The Terror (dir by Roger Corman, Francis Ford Coppola, Jack Hill, Monte Hellman, Dennis Jakob, and Jack Nicholson)


Have you ever woken up and thought to yourself, “I’d love to see a movie where a youngish Jack Nicholson played a French soldier who, while searching for a mysterious woman, comes across a castle that’s inhabited by both Dick Miller and Boris Karloff?”

Of course you have!  Who hasn’t?

Well, fortunately, it’s YouTube to the rescue.  In Roger Corman’s 1963 film The Terror, Jack Nicholson is the least believable 19th century French soldier ever.  However, it’s still interesting to watch him before he became a cinematic icon.  (Judging from his performance here and in Cry Baby Killer, Jack was not a natural-born actor.)  Boris Karloff is, as usual, great and familiar Corman actor Dick Miller gets a much larger role than usual.  Pay attention to the actress playing the mysterious woman.  That’s Sandra Knight who, at the time of filming, was married to Jack Nicholson.

Reportedly, The Terror was one of those films that Corman made because he still had the sets from his much more acclaimed film version of The Raven.  The script was never finished, the story was made up as filming moved alone, and no less than five directors shot different parts of this 81 minute movie.  Among the directors: Roger Corman, Jack Hill, Monte Hellman, Francis Ford Coppola, and even Jack Nicholson himself!  Perhaps not surprisingly, the final film is a total mess but it does have some historical value.

(In typical Corman fashion, scenes from The Terror were later used in the 1968 film, Targets.)

Check out The Terror below!

Horror on the Lens: The Little Shop of Horrors (dir by Roger Corman)


(It’s tradition here at the Lens that, every October, we watch the original Little Shop of Horrors.  And always, I start things off by telling this story…)

Enter singing.

Little Shop…Little Shop of Horrors…Little Shop…Little Shop of Terrors…

Hi!  Good morning and Happy October 24th!  For today’s plunge into the world of public domain horror films, I’d like to present you with a true classic.  From 1960, it’s the original Little Shop of Horrors!

When I was 19 years old, I was in a community theater production of the musical Little Shop of Horrors.  Though I think I would have made the perfect Audrey, everybody always snickered whenever I sang so I ended up as a part of “the ensemble.”  Being in the ensemble basically meant that I spent a lot of time dancing and showing off lots of cleavage.  And you know what?  The girl who did play Audrey was screechy, off-key, and annoying and after every show, all the old people in the audience always came back stage and ignored her and went straight over to me.  So there.

Anyway, during rehearsals, our director thought it would be so funny if we all watched the original film.  Now, I’m sorry to say, much like just about everyone else in the cast, this was my first exposure to the original and I even had to be told that the masochistic dentist patient was being played by Jack Nicholson.  However, I’m also very proud to say that — out of that entire cast — I’m the only one who understood that the zero-budget film I was watching was actually better than the big spectacle we were attempting to perform on stage.  Certainly, I understood the film better than that screechy little thing that was playing Audrey.

The first Little Shop of Horrors certainly isn’t scary and there’s nobody singing about somewhere that’s green (I always tear up when I hear that song, by the way).  However, it is a very, very funny film with the just the right amount of a dark streak to make it perfect Halloween viewing.

So, if you have 72 minutes to kill, check out the original and the best Little Shop of Horrors

TSL’s Horror Grindhouse: Queen of Blood (dir by Curtis Harrington)


Queen of Blood (1966, dir by Curtis Harrington, DP: Vilis Lapenieks)

Here’s a question: what happens when Roger Corman buys the rights to two Russian science fiction films, decides to jettison basically everything but the special effects footage, and then hires experimental filmmaker Curtis Harrington to shoot an entirely new film around that footage?

You end up with the 1966 film, Queen of Blood!

Not that that’s a bad thing, mind you. Queen of Blood is actually pretty good and director Harrington manages to smoothly integrate the Russian footage with the new footage. Basically, it works out so that you’ll see a Russian shot of the spaceship taking off or landing and then you’ll see a shot of John Saxon, Dennis Hopper, or Basil Rathbone sitting on a set and pretending like they’re in space.

The film opens with Dr. Faraday (Basil Rathbone) discovering that aliens have been transmitting a message to Earth. They’re sending an ambassador to meet with the Earthlings but the aliens’ spaceship ends up crash landing on Mars! Faraday arranges for an Earth spaceship, the Oceano, to go to Mars and rescue the ambassador.

Aboard the Oceano is a cast made up of a few familiar faces. John Saxon plays Allan, who is the de facto leader of the expedition and also engaged to marry Dr. Faraday’s assistant, Laura (Judi Meredith). A young-looking Dennis Hopper is Paul Grant, an astronaut. Don’t get too excited about Hopper being in the cast. Queen of Blood was made when Hopper was still trying to pursue mainstream film stardom so he gives a rather bland performance here. There’s a few scenes where you can tells that Hopper is on the verge of smirking at some of his dialogue but, for the most part, he plays the role extremely straight. Rounding out the crew is Anders (Robert Boon) and Tony (Don Eitner), neither one of whom would go on to star in Easy Rider, Blue Velvet, or Nightmare on Elm Street.

It’s a difficult journey. The Oceano keeps running into Russian-filmed turbulence on the way to Mars. When they do land, they discover that the ambassador (Florence Marly) is waiting for them to rescue her. She doesn’t talk much nor does she have any interest in eating Earth food. She does seem to like every member of the crew except for Laura. Of course, the ambassador’s defining trait is that she likes to drink blood….

All things considered, Queen of Blood works pretty well. While none of the performances are particularly memorable (though Basil Rathbone does bring some old school class to what is essentially a cameo role), Curtis Harrington does a great job creating and maintaining a properly ominous atmosphere. It takes a while for the crew to finally find the Queen of Blood but, when they do, Harrington gets every bit of creepiness that he can out of the character. The film even ends on an appropriately dark note, suggesting that the human race may be just too stupid to survive.

Queen of Blood is an entertaining B-movie. Watch it the next time you’re in the mood for some intergalactic blood-sucking fun!

8 Shots From 8 Horror Films: 1990 — 1993


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!

This October, I’m going to be doing something a little bit different with my contribution to 4 (or more) Shots From 4 (or more) Films.  I’m going to be taking a little chronological tour of the history of horror cinema, moving from decade to decade.

Today, we take a look at 1990, 1991, 1992, and 1993!

8 Shots From 8 Horror Films: 1990 — 1993

Troll 2 (1990, dir by Claudio Fragasso, DP: Giancarlo Ferrando)

It (1990, dir by Tommy Lee Wallace, DP: Richard Lieterman)

Frankenstein Unbound (1990, dir by Roger Corman, DP: Armando Nannuzzi)

The People Under The Stairs (1991, dir by Wes Craven, DP: Sandi Sissel)

Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (1992, dir by David Lynch, DP: Ron Garcia)

Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992, dir by Francis Ford Coppola, DP: Michael Ballhaus)

Witchboard 2: The Devil’s Doorway (1993, dir by Kevin S. Tenney, DP: David Lewis)

Cronos (1993, dir by Guillermo Del Toro, DP: Guillermo Navarro)

Horror Film Review: The Wasp Woman (dir by Roger Corman)


Aging sucks!

I mean, let’s just be honest about that. No one wants to get older. No one wakes up in the morning and thinks to themselves, “Yay! I’m one day closer to death!” People do not celebrate the appearance of a wrinkle or a laugh line. No one is happy when their vision gets blurrier or when they start to ache more and more frequently. No one wants to get old! That’s a simple truth and it’s the truth that is at the heart of the 1958 film, The Wasp Woman.

Directed by B-movie maestro Roger Corman, The Wasp Woman tells the story of Janice Starlin (Susan Cabot). Janice owns a cosmetic company. She’s made a fortune helping people defy their age. Unfortunately, the company’s sales are down because Janice herself cannot defy the passage of time. She’s looking older and apparently, people across the world are saying, “Why would I buy makeup for a mortal? I only buy my makeup from ageless mythological goddesses, who never age.”

So, Janice does what anyone would do. She tries to find a way to stop herself from getting old. When she discovers that a scientist is experimenting with using the enzymes from the royal jelly of a queen wasp to reverse the aging process, she agrees to fund his work. However, she has one condition. She has to be the test subject …. which, now that I think about it, makes absolutely no sense. Surely Janice could hire someone else to be the test subject before undergoing a highly experimental and unproven scientific process herself. I mean, Janice is extremely wealthy! Or maybe Janice could just hire a model to be the new face of her company. Or she could retire and take her millions to Europe and spend the rest of her life living in luxury. My point is that it seems like Janice is acting a bit impulsively here.

Anyway, Dr. Eric Zinthrop (Michael Mark) reluctantly agrees to Janice’s demands. He really needs the money, I guess. And if Janice dies, it’ll just means that he’ll probably go to prison for life. He certainly won’t ever be allowed to experiment with any more wasps. Is anyone in this movie capable of thinking ahead?

At first, the experiments seem to work. After one weekend, Janice looks 20 years younger! However, there is an unfortunate side effect. Janice occasionally transforms into a wasp/human hybrid! Uh-oh! That’s not good….

Clocking in at barely 70 minutes, The Wasp Woman is an entertainingly daft movie. As I’ve already pointed out, this is one of those movies where so much drama could be avoided if people would just consider the possible consequences of their actions. That said, the pace is fast and Susan Cabot is enjoyably bitchy in the role of Janice. The Wasp Woman costume manages to be both ludicrous and effective at the same time. Laugh? Scream? Why not do both!?

In the end, this is a silly but entertaining movie. If nothing else, it proves that sometimes it’s best just to accept that no one stays young forever.

One final note: This film has a great poster, even if it is totally misleading.

8 Shots From 8 Horror Films: The Mid 60s


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!

This October, I’m going to be doing something a little bit different with my contribution to 4 (or more) Shots From 4 (or more) Films.  I’m going to be taking a little chronological tour of the history of horror cinema, moving from decade to decade.

Today, we take a look at the mid-60s!

8 Shots From 8 Horror Films: The Mid 60s

Black Sabbath (1963, dir by Mario Bava DP: Mario Bava)

The Birds (1963, dir by Alfred Hitchcock, DP: Robert Burks)

The Raven (1963, dir by Roger Corman, DP: Floyd Crosby)

The Evil of Frankenstein (1963, dir by Freddie Francis, DP: John Wilcox)

The Masque of the Red Death (1964, dir by Roger Corman, DP: Nicolas Roeg)

Blood and Black Lace (1964, dir by Mario Bava, DP: Mario Bava)

Planet of the Vampires (1965, dir by Mario Bava, DP: Antonio Rinaldi)

Rasputin The Mad Monk (1966, dir by Don Sharp, DP: Michael Reed)

6 Shots From 6 Horror Films: The Early 60s


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!

This October, I’m going to be doing something a little bit different with my contribution to 4 (or more) Shots From 4 (or more) Films.  I’m going to be taking a little chronological tour of the history of horror cinema, moving from decade to decade.

Today, we take a look at the early 60s!

6 Shots From 6 Horror Films: The Early 60s

Psycho (1960, dir by Alfred Hitchcock, DP: John L. Russell)


Black Sunday (1960, dir by Mario Bava)


Peeping Tom (1960, dir by Michael Powell, DP: Otto Heller)


Pit and the Pendulum (1961, dir by Roger Corman, DP: Floyd Crosby)


The Best of Yucca Flats (1961, dir by Coleman Francis, DP: John Cagle and Leo Strosnider)


The Awful Dr. Orloff (1962, dir by Jess Franco, DP: Godofredo Pacheco)

8 Shots From 8 Horror Films: The Late 50s


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!

This October, I’m going to be doing something a little bit different with my contribution to 4 (or more) Shots From 4 (or more) Films.  I’m going to be taking a little chronological tour of the history of horror cinema, moving from decade to decade.

Today, we take a look at the late 50s!

8 Shots From 8 Horror Films: The Late 50s

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

Plan 9 From Outer Space (1957, dir by Edward D. Wood, Jr., DP: William C. Thompson)

Not Of This Earth (1957, dir by Roger Corman DP: John J. Mescall)

Horror of Dracula (1958, starring Christopher Lee as the Count, Dir by Terence Fisher, DP: Jack Asher)

Night of the Ghouls (1959, dir by Edward D Wood, Jr. DP: William C. Thompson)

War of the Colossal Beast (1958, dir by Bert I. Gordon, DP: Jack A. Marta)

House on Haunted Hill (1959, dir by William Castle, DP: Carl E. Guthrie)

The Mummy (1959, dir by Terence Fisher, DP: Jack Asher)