Horror on the Lens: Attack of the Crab Monsters (dir by Roger Corman)


For today’s horror on the lens, we have the 1957 science fiction film, Attack of the Crab Monsters!

About a month ago, I watched this film along with Patrick Smith and all of our friends in the late night movie gang.   To be honest, everyone else seemed to enjoy it a lot more than I did.  It was a fun little movie but … well, maybe I was just having a bad night.

Here’s why you should take 62 minutes out of your Saturday and watch Attack of the Crab Monsters on the Shattered Lens.  First off, it’s a Roger Corman film and anything directed by Roger Corman automatically needs to be watched.  Secondly, it’s about giant crabs that communicate through telepathy.  And when was the last time you saw that!?

(“Last night,” someone in the audience shouts, “as the sun went down over the crab-covered beaches of Denmark!”  I pretend not to hear.)

Anyway!  Here, for your viewing pleasure, is Attack of the Crab Monsters!

Horror Scenes That I Love: Vincent Price’s monologue in Roger Corman’s Masque of the Red Death


This scene, from 1964’s Masque of the Red Death, was directed by Roger Corman, performed by Vincent Price, and shot by Nicolas Roeg.  It was based on a short story by Edgar Allan Poe.  That’s a lot of talent on display.

Enjoy!

4 Shots From 4 Roger Corman Films: It Conquered The World, Not Of This Earth, Masque of the Red Death, Frankenstein Unbound


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 lets the visuals do the talking.

This month, we’re using 4 Shots From 4 Films to pay tribute to some of our favorite filmmakers!  Today, we honor the life, career, and legacy of the great Roger Corman!

4 Shots From 4 Roger Corman Films

It Conquered The World (1956, dir by Roger Corman)

Not Of This Earth (1957, dir by Roger Corman)

The Masque of the Red Death (1964, dir by Roger Corman)

Frankenstein Unbound (1990, dir by Roger Corman)

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


(As some of you may have noticed, I shared this movie last year as well.  I figured I might as well post it again this year.  Plus, it’s Boris Karloff, Jack Nicholson, and Dick Miller!  Why not post it again?)

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 the 2nd!  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

Film Review: Avalanche (dir by Corey Allen)


The 1978 film Avalanche tells the story of a beautiful resort that’s been built in the mountains of Colorado.  Self-righteous photographer and activist Nick Thorne (Robert Forster) keeps insisting that it’s not environmentally safe to build a resort up in the mountains.  According to him, there’s too much snow building up and it’s inevitably going to lead to an avalanche.

The owner of the resort, David Shelby (Rock Hudson), insists that Nick doesn’t know what he’s talking about.  Sure, David may have had to cut a few ethical corners to get his resort built and he may currently be under criminal investigation but that doesn’t make David a bad guy.  All he wants is to have a nice and expensive resort located in the most beautiful and dangerous place on Earth.  Does that make him a bad guy?

Unfortunately, if David was watching the film with the rest of us, he would be aware of all the shots of snow ominously building up on the side of the mountain.  However, David would still probably be distracted by the presence of his ex-wife, Caroline (Mia Farrow).  David would love to get back together with Caroline but Caroline finds herself growing attracted to Nick.  When David isn’t chasing after Caroline, he’s trying to keep his mother, Florence (Jeanette Nolan), from drinking all of the liquor in the resort.  Good luck with that!  Florence is an eccentric old person in a disaster film so, of course, she’s going to be drunk off her ass for the majority of the run time.

There are other dramas occurring at the resort, of course.  TV personality Mark Elliott (Barry Primus) is upset because his ex, Tina (Cathey Paine), is hooking up with arrogant skier Bruce Scott (Rick Moses).  Bruce is upset because Tina expects him not to cheat on her.  Ice skater Cathy Jordan (Pat Egan) is hoping to conquer her insecurities.  Rival ice skater Annette River (Peggy Browne) is …. well, she’s there.  To be honest, I’m not really sure what the whole point of the ice skating rivalry was since they all end getting buried in snow regardless.  Then again, maybe that is the point.  An avalanche doesn’t care about your personal dramas.  All it cares about is destroying tacky resorts that overuse wood paneling.

Yes, the avalanche does come crashing down the mountain eventually.  It takes a while, though.  There’s almost an hour of Rock Hudson walking around with a pained look on his face before the snow finally comes crashing down.  For all of Nick’s talk about how the avalanche would probably be the result of too many people skiing, it actually happens because someone crashes a plane into one of the mountains.

Obviously, the avalanche is the main reason why anyone would want to watch a movie called Avalanche.  Anyone with any knowledge of the disaster genre knows that no one watches these movies for the human drama.  They watch them because they want to see at least 10 minutes of solid destruction.  A disaster movie can get away with almost anything as long as the disaster itself looks good.

The disaster in Avalanche does not look particularly good.  This film was directed by Roger Corman and, despite being one of the most expensive films that Corman ever produced, the avalanche effects are definitely a bit cut-rate.  At the same time, the cheapness of the special effects does provide the film with its own odd charm.  Just consider the scene where one of the ice skaters gets covered in snow while spinning around with a triumphant smile on her face.  (Sure, she might be dead and she’ll certainly never make it to the Olympics but at least she finally mastered a fairly basic skating move.)  The avalanche effects are super imposed over the image of the skater spinning but it’s obvious that it didn’t occur to anyone to tell the skater, “Hey, act like there’s a gigantic amount of snow crashing down on you!”  It’s so inept as to be charming, like when a child draws a really ugly picture but it’s cute because at least they tried and, as a result, you wait until the child leaves your house before you throw it away.

The thing I love about Avalanche is how everyone is even more ineffectual after the avalanche than they were before it.  Usually, in a movie like this, the disaster leads to unexpected heroism and the villains getting the comeuppance.  In this one, the avalanche just inspires more stupidity.  Fire trucks and ambulances literally collide with each other while heading for the resort.  At one point, a group of fireman set up a net directly underneath someone falling out of a ski ramp chair just for the person to somehow land a few inches to the left of them.  Though the film sets David Shelby up to be the villain, it’s hard not to feel that everyone at the resort is just an idiot.

Listen, I love Avalanche.  It’s terrible but it’s a lot of fun and the less-than special effects go along perfectly with the overheated (or, in some cases, underheated) performances.  Rock Hudson wanders through the movie with a strained smile on his face that has to be seen to be believed while Mia Farrow and Robert Forster both try so hard to make their underwritten characters credible that you can’t help but kind of appreciate their devotion to a lost cause.  If nothing else, the shots extras reacting to superimposed shots of the avalanche makes this film worth a look.  This is a cheap and silly movie and if you don’t enjoy it, I don’t know what’s wrong with you.

Cinemax Friday: Not Of This Earth (1988, directed by Jim Wynorski)


Since today is director Jim Wynorski’s birthday, I want to review one of his early films.

A remake of the Roger Corman classic, Wynorksi’s Not Of This Earth stars Traci Lords as Nadine Story, a nurse who works in the office of Dr. Rochelle (Ace Mask) and who has a boyfriend named Harry (Roger Lodge) who is also a cop.  (The leads to jokes like, “Harry called.  He said he left his nightstick with you last night.”)  Dr. Rochelle’s main patient is the mysterious Mr. Johnson (Arthur Roberts), who dresses in all black, always wears sunglasses, and who needs frequent blood transfusions.  When Dr. Rochelle takes a look at Mr. Johnson’s blood, he sees that Mr. Johnson has a strange blood disease that has apparently never been discovered before.  Dr. Rochelle sends Nadine over to work at Mr. Johnson’s home as his private nurse.  Of course, Mr. Johnson is not of this Earth.  His planet is dying and, as Nadine discovers, he is on Earth to search for a new supply of blood.

Wynorski’s version of Not Of This Earth follows the exact same plot of the Corman original, right down to having a door-to-door vacuum cleaner salesman fall victim to the alien’s bloodlust.  (In the original, the salesman was played by Dick Miller.  In the remake, he’s played by Michael Delano.  Miller does not even get a cameo in the remake of Not of this Earth, which is surprising considering it was still a Corman production and Wynorski previously cast Miller in Chopping Mall.)  They’re both enjoyable movies, especially if you’re in the mood for something that won’t require much thought.  The main difference between the the two versions of Not of this Earth is that the Wynorski version features a lot more nudity and that it makes no pretense towards being anything other than a comedy.

This was Traci Lords’s first role in a non-adult film and she knocks it out of the park.  The scandal surrounding her adult film career has always overshadowed the fact that, for all of her notoriety, Traci Lords was actually a pretty good actress who could handle comedy.  While the deliberately campy humor in Not of this Earth is no one’s definition of subtle, Lords shows good comedic timing and, most importantly, she delivers her lines with a straight face and without winking at the audience.

Wynorski later said that the movie was so popular on video that he was able to buy a house with his share of the profits.  Not of this Earth is a classic Wynorski production, featuring everything that made Jim Wynorski a late-night cable and direct-to-video favorite in the 90s.

An Offer You Can’t Refuse #18: The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre (dir by Roger Corman)


On February 14th, 1929, seven men were murdered in a garage in Chicago, Illinois.  Five of the seven men were known to be associates of gangster George “Bugs” Moran.  The other two men were considered to be innocent bystanders, a mechanic and a dry cleaner who just happened to enjoy hanging out with gangsters.  Though no one was ever convicted of the crime, it was well-known that the murders were carried out on the orders of Al Capone.

In many ways, the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre was a turning point in America’s relationship with organized crime.  Before the massacre, Capone had become a bit of a folk hero.  He knew how to talk to the press and he was viewed as merely breaking a law (in this case, prohibition) that most people opposed in the first place.  However, after the murders, public opinion soured on Capone.

Some of it was the brutality of the crime.  It’s been said that over five hundred bullets were fired in that garage, all to kill seven defenseless men who were lined up against a wall.  Grisly pictures of the victims were released to the press.  Perhaps if the seven men had been carrying weapons and had been involved in a shootout with their murderers, the public’s reaction would have been different.  But this was a cold-blooded execution.

Personally, I think the fact that the killers disguised themselves as cops also played a role in the public’s outrage.  It was a very calculated move on the part of the killers and it highlighted just how much planning went into the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre.  As well, it undoubtedly made people paranoid.  If a bunch of killer could dress up like cops, who knew who else they could dress up as?

Finally, I think that Capone’s biggest mistake was carrying out the crime on Valentine’s Day.  You don’t murder people on a holiday.  Anyone should know that.  If Capone had waited until February 20th, he probably could have gotten away with it.

The 1967 film, The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, details the rivalry between Capone and Moran, starting with them fighting for control over the Chicago rackets and ending with the title event.  Moran is played by Ralph Meeker while Jason Robards plays Capone.

Now I know what you’re probably thinking.  Perennial WASP Jason Robards as Al Capone?  That may sound like odd casting and, let’s just be honest here, it is.  However, it actually kind of works.  Robards may not be convincingly Italian but he is convincingly ruthless.  Add to that, one of the major subplots of the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre is that, even as the head of the Chicago Outfit, Capone still feels like an outsider in the world of organized crime because, while he is Italian, he isn’t Sicilian.  Capone feels as if Lucky Luciano and all of the major New York crime bosses look down on him and one reason why he’s so ruthless about taking over Chicago is that wants to show Luciano that he can be just as effective a crime lord as any Sicilian.  Capone feeling out of place in the Mafia is reflected by Robards initially seeming to be out of place in a gangster film.  By the end of the movie, of course, Capone has proven himself and so has Jason Robards.

Robards isn’t the only familiar face to be found in The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre.  Though this film was released by 20th Century Fox, it was directed by Roger Corman and Corman fills the production with members of his stock company.  Dick Miller, Jonathan Haze, and Jack Nicholson all have small roles as gunmen.  Bruce Dern plays the unlucky mechanic who enjoys hanging out with gangsters.  Buck Taylor, Leo Gordon, and Joe Turkel all have small roles.  John Agar plays Dion O’Bannon and is gunned down in his flower store.  Though not members of the Corman stock company, George Segal and David Canary plays brothers who work for Moran.  There’s a lot of characters wandering through this film but Corman makes sure that everyone gets a chance to make an impression.

It’s a good gangster film.  Though he was working with a larger budget than usual, Corman still brought his exploitation film aesthetic to the material and the end result is a violent, melodramatic gangster film that looks really impressive.  The film’s recreation of 1920s Chicago is a visual delight and looking at the well-dressed and stylish gangsters walking and driving down the vibrant city streets, you can understand why organized crime would have such a draw for some people.

The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre is a classic gangster film and a classic Corman film.  It’s an offer you can’t refuse.

Previous Offers You Can’t (or Can) Refuse:

  1. The Public Enemy
  2. Scarface
  3. The Purple Gang
  4. The Gang That Could’t Shoot Straight
  5. The Happening
  6. King of the Roaring Twenties: The Story of Arnold Rothstein 
  7. The Roaring Twenties
  8. Force of Evil
  9. Rob the Mob
  10. Gambling House
  11. Race Street
  12. Racket Girls
  13. Hoffa
  14. Contraband
  15. Bugsy Malone
  16. Love Me or Leave Me
  17. Murder, Inc.

 

4 Shots From 4 Roger Corman Films: Not of this Earth, Masque of the Red Death, The Wild Angels, The Trip


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 lets the visuals do the talking!

Today, we wish a happy birthday to the one and only Roger Corman!  The godfather of indie cinema is 94 years old today.  It’s hard to know what’s left to be said about Roger Corman.  Corman was the producer who discovered some of the most important filmmakers in the history of American cinema.  He’s also the director who had the guts to tackle the important issues that the major Hollywood studios were afraid to acknowledge.  When all is said and done, Roger Corman is one of the most important figures in film history.  He’s also one of our favorite filmmakers, here at the Shattered Lens.

It’s impossible to do justice to this man’s career with just 4 shots from 4 films but it’s a start.

4 Shots From 4 Films

Not Of This Earth (1957, dir by Roger Corman)

The Masque of the Red Death (1964, dir by Roger Corman)

The Wild Angels (1966, dir by Roger Corman)

The Trip (1967, dir by Roger Corman)

I Escaped From Devil’s Island (1973, directed by William Whitney)


The year is 1918 and the French penal colony, Devil’s Island, is renowned as the world’s most brutal prison.  Hidden away from mainland Europe, it is populated by the worst of the worst.  The prisoners have been sentenced to either spend their life on the island or to die at the blade of guillotine and the guards are all sadists.  Le Bras (Jim Brown) has been sentenced to die but he impresses his fellow inmates by putting up a fight on his way to have his head chopped off.  He doesn’t succeed in escaping but, fortunately for him, the death penalty is abolished mere moments before the blade falls.

Le Bras is alive but he’s still been condemned to spend the rest of his life on Devil’s Island, under the sadistic eye of the head guard, Maj. Marteau (Paul Richards).  However, Le Bras has no intention of being anyone’s prisoner.  He teams up with two other prisoners, a pacifist named Davert (Christopher George) and Jo-Jo (Richard Ely), who, because he is gay, is abused by both the guards and the other prisoners.  The three of them manage to escape from the prison but they still have to make their way through the jungle.  Along the way, they visit a leper colony and Le Bras takes some time to get busy with a native woman.  Meanwhile, Marteau remains hot behind them, determined to capture them and send them back to the prison.

If I Escaped From Devil’s Island sounds familiar, that may be because you’ve seen Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffman in Papillon.  Papillon was a major studio production with big stars, a huge budget, and an epic running time.  I Escaped From Devil’s Island was a low-budget film starring B-movie stars and with a 90-minute running time that was the exact opposite of epic.  Roger Corman produced I Escaped From Devil’s Island to capitalize on the expected success of Papillon and he started production early enough that I Escaped From Devil’s Island actually beat Papillon to theaters by a matter of weeks.  Corman originally tried to hire Martin Scorsese to direct I Escaped From Devil’s Island.  When Scorsese decided to follow John Cassavetes’s advice and do a personal film instead, Corman ended up hiring William Whitney to direct.  (Scorsese’s personal film turned out to be Mean Streets, so he probably made the right decision.)

I Escaped From Devil’s Island is an entertaining B-movie.  It doesn’t have the epic sweep of Papillon but it does have a fun cast and all the action that you would expect from a 70s Corman production.  Jim Brown was never a great actor but he never claimed to be.  What Brown had was a tremendous physical presence and a confident movie star charisma and both of those are put to good use in I Escaped From Devil’s Island.  Whether he was playing football or beating up bad guys, Jim Brown was always the epitome of cool and that’s especially true in this film.  Christopher George has some good scenes as a pacifist who believes in non-violent resistance and Paul Richards is a great villain but this is a movie that you watch for Jim Brown and he doesn’t disappoint.

As of today, Jim Brown is 84 years old.  As anyone who has seen him interviewed recently can tell you, Jim Brown is still the epitome of cool.  When Jim Brown speaks, whether people agree with him or not, they still shut up and listen.  Happy birthday, Jim Brown!