4 Shots From 4 Peter Cushing Films: Corruption, Scream and Scream Again, Asylum, Shock Waves


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 pay tribute to one of the greatest British film stars with….

4 Shots From 4 Peter Cushing Films

Corruption (1968, dir by Robert Hartford-Davis)

Scream and Scream Again (1970, dir by Gordon Hessler)

Asylum (1972, dir by Roy Ward Baker)

Shock Waves (1977, dir by Ken Wiederhorn)

4 Shots From 4 Marilyn Monroe Films: All About Eve, Don’t Bother To Knock, Bus Stop, The Misfits


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!

If only she hadn’t been destroyed by the Kennedys, Marilyn Monroe would be 92 years old today.  Though Marilyn died in 1962, her performances will live forever.  This is…

4 Shots From 4 Marilyn Monroe Films

All About Eve (1950, dir by Joseph L. Mankiewicz)

Don’t Bother To Knock (1952, dir by Roy Ward Baker)

Bus Stop (1956, dir by Joshua Logan)

The Misfits (1961, dir by John Huston)

4 Shots From 4 Films: Special Roy Ward Baker 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 is Roy Ward Baker, one of the masters of Hammer and Amicus horror!

4 Shots From 4 Films

Quatermass and the Pit (1967, dir by Roy Ward Baker)

The Vampires Lovers (1970, dir by Roy Ward Baker)

Asylum (1972, dir by Roy Ward Baker)

The Monster Club (1981, dir by Roy Ward Baker)

Lisa Cleans Out Her DVR: Don’t Bother To Knock (dir by Roy Ward Baker)


(I am currently attempting to clean out my DVR.  I recorded the 1952 film Don’t Bother To Knock off of FXM on April 3rd.)

Welcome to the McKinley Hotel in New York City!  The McKinley is a nice place, though it’s no Grand Budapest Hotel.  Presumably, the McKinley was named after the late President William McKinley.  While I’m sure that McKinley would have appreciated the gesture, I don’t know how he would feel about all the melodrama that’s occurring behind closed doors.

For instance, there’s Lyn Lesley (Anne Bancroft, making her screen debut).  Lyn sings in the hotel bar and, though she might seem to be cynical and tough, she actually has a big heart.  In fact, she cares so much about humanity that she broke up with her longtime boyfriend, Jed Towers (Richard Widmark), because he doesn’t seem to have a heart at all.  Of course, she broke up with Jed by sending him a letter.  When Jed checks into the hotel and tracks her down in the bar, he has questions about their breakup and he wants answers that won’t require any reading.  She tells him that he’s not capable of caring about anyone so why should she waste her time on him?  Then she sings a love song because that’s her job.

As for Jed, he’s kind of a jerk in the way that most men tend to be in movies from the 1950s.  He’s an airline pilot who served overseas during World War II and spent a year living in England.  He’s tough and he’s cynical and now, he’s single.  He’s also got a room in a hotel for the night.

And then there’s Peter and Ruth Jones (Jim Backus and Lurene Tuttle), who have a function to attend in the hotel ballroom but who don’t have anyone to look after their ten year-old daughter, Bunny (Donna Corcoran).  Fortunately, the hotel’s elevator operator, Eddie (Elisha Cook, Jr.), has a niece named Nell (Marilyn Monroe).  Nell is quiet and shy and needs the money.  She’ll be more than willing to babysit!

Of course, the only problem with Nell is that she’s a little unstable.  This becomes obvious when she’s left alone with Bunny and promptly says that, if Bunny isn’t careful, something bad might happen to one of her toys.  Inside the apartment, Nell is impressed by all the pretty things owned by Ruth.  She tries on her jewelry.  She sprays her perfume in the air.  She puts on Nell’s negligee and looks at herself in the mirror.  Eddie is not amused when he discovers what Nell’s been doing.  If she wants all of this stuff, he tells her, she needs to marry someone rich.  That’s not bad advice but the only problem is that Nell is currently single.  She’s been single ever since her boyfriend died in a plane crash.  In fact, Nell was so upset by his death that she even tried to commit suicide afterward.

From his room, Jed has a direct view of Nell trying on Ruth’s clothes.  When he and Nell spot each other, Nell invites him over.  She tells Jed that she’s a guest at the hotel and that Bunny is her daughter.  Jed can immediately tell that there’s something strange about Nell.  Nell, meanwhile, thinks that Jed is her dead boyfriend.  Meanwhile, Bunny is helpless in her room…

Clocking in at a brisk 72 minutes, Don’t Bother To Knock feels less like a movie and more like a one-act play or maybe even an adaptation of an old television production.  (After watching the movie, I was shocked to discover that it was based on neither.)  Seen today, it’s mostly memorable for featuring Marilyn Monroe’s first true starring role.  After appearing in small roles in several films (including All About Eve), Don’t Bother To Knock was not only Marilyn’s shot at stardom but also her first dramatic performance.  Reportedly basing her performance on her troubled mother, Marilyn is sympathetic and almost painfully vulnerable.  Her scenes with Elisha Cook, Jr. are especially charged, full of a subtext that will probably be easier for modern audiences to spot than it was for audiences in 1952.  Marilyn gave an incredibly poignant performance and she is the main reason to watch Don’t Bother To Knock.

A Movie A Day #59: Moon Zero Two (1969, directed by Roy Ward Baker)


moon_zero_two

Earlier today, I was reading a now-deleted tweet from Congressional candidate Brianna Wu, in which she speculated that private companies would militarize the moon and use it as a place to launch rocks at the Earth.  According to Wu, “Rocks dropped from there (the moon) have power of 100s of nuclear bombs.”

This, of course, immediately brought to mind Moon Zero Two, a “space western” that Hammer Films produced in the wake of 2001: A Space Odyssey.

The year is 2021 and the moon is being colonized by private companies.  The Americans and the Russians have made peace and now jointly run the Moon Hilton.  Bill Kemp (James Olson) was one of the first men in the moon but, having grown disillusioned with working for heartless corporations, Kemp is now an independent operator, salvaging meteorites with his Russian partner, Korminski (Ori Levy).  With his flight license about to be revoked by his enemies in the Corporation, Kemp has been grounded by his own girlfriend, Sheriff Elizabeth Murphy (Adrienne Corri).

Possible financial salvation comes when Kemp is hired by J. J. Hubbard (Warren Mitchell) to help him illegally salvage a sapphire asteroid that is orbiting the far side of the moon.  At the same time, a young woman named Clementine (Catherine Schell, who later starred in another science fiction epic about the moon, Space: 1999) wants Kemp to help her search for her brother, who went missing while also working on the far side of the moon.

Moon Zero Two starts with some Schoolhouse Rock-style animation that shows how the U.S. and the Russians originally landed on the moon:

Though the animated opening seems more appropriate for an Ealing comedy, the rest of Moon Zero Two is a fairly straight western, with claim jumpers, shootouts, and a few moments of comedy coming from the story being set on the moon instead of Arizona.  For instance, there’s a barroom brawl that takes place in zero gravity.  Even while paying homage to old westerns, Moon Zero Two also tries to predict the future, which looks a lot like 1969.  This means psychedelic costumes and a Vegas style dance revue at the Moon Hilton, one that is reminiscent of the USO show in Apocalypse Now.  The mix of styles is enjoyably absurd and everyone seems to be having fun playing cowboy.

vlcsnap-00005

James Olson is the token American in the cast but, for fans of British comedy, the most interesting thing about Moon Zero Two will be seeing Warren Mitchell, who played Alf Garnett in Til Death Do Us Part and inspired All In The Family‘s Archie Bunker, playing ruthless claim jumper, J. J. Hubbard.  Hubbard’s main henchman is played by Bernard Bresslaw, who some viewers may recognize from the Carry On films.  Also, Monty Python fans will want to keep an eye out for Carol Cleveland, who has a very small role as a stewardess.

Years after it was first released, Moon Zero Two was one of the first movies to be featured on Mystery Science Theater 3000.  This was one of the earliest episodes, from before even TV’s Frank joined the show.  I have not seen the MST 3K version but it is available both on YouTube and as a part of Shout Factory’s 25th Anniversary Box Set.

Here’s an artist’s rendering of Crow and Tom Servo having a Moon Zero Two-style shootout.

moonzero2dvd

Tomorrow’s movie a day will be another space western, Peter Hyams’s Outland.

c5vlntuu4aariuy

Cleaning Out the DVR Pt 7: Film Noir Festival


Now that Lisa’s finished cleaning out her DVR, it’s time once again for me to clean mine, featuring five fabulous films noir:

cracked rear viewer

prev

I first got my DVR service from DirecTV just in time for last year’s TCM Summer of Darkness series, and there’s still a ton of films I haven’t gotten around to viewing… until now! So without further ado, let’s dive right into the fog-shrouded world of film noir:

dvr7.1

RAW DEAL (Eagle-Lion 1948, D: Anthony Mann)

This tough-talking film seems to cram every film noir trope in the book into its 79 minutes. Gangster Dennis O’Keefe busts out of prison with the help of his moll ( Claire Trevor ), kidnaps social worker Marsha Hunt, and goes after the sadistic crime boss (Raymond Burr) who owes him fifty grand. Director Mann and DP John Alton make this flawed but effective ultra-low budget film work, with help from a great cast. Burr’s nasty, fire-obsessed kingpin is scary, and John Ireland as his torpedo has a great fight scene with O’Keefe. The flaming finale is well staged…

View original post 614 more words

Horror Film Review: The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires (dir by Roy Ward Baker)


The-Legend-of-the-Seven-Golden-Vampires-poster

As some of our more frequent readers may remember, I shared the 1974 Dracula-martial arts hybrid The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires as one of our horrors on the lens last October.  Judging from the comments that I got last year, this was apparently one of the more popular films that we featured.

And why not?  The film is one of those rather ludicrous movies that really could have only been made in the early 1970s.  It combines two genres that really should not go together — martial arts and the Hammer Dracula series — and somehow, it all works.  Don’t get me wrong.  The film doesn’t make a bit of sense.  I’ve seen it a few times and I still have a hard time following just what exactly is going on.  But you don’t watch a film called The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires for the plot.  This is one of those movies that you watch for the style.  Fortunately, The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires is all about style.

The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires is the final entry in Hammer’s Dracula series.  Or, at least, it might be.  It all depends on whether or not you consider 7 Golden Vampires to actually be a part of the series.  I do but quite a few people don’t.

Why the controversy?

Well, first off, Christopher Lee does not appear in this film.  Much as he did with Brides of Dracula, Lee read the script and announced that he would not be returning to play Dracula.  Of course, when Lee refused to appear in Brides of Dracula, Hammer responded by creating an entirely new vampire for Prof. Van Helsing to battle.  This time, however, they simply recast the role.  An actor by the name of John Forbes-Robertson took on the role of Dracula and, unfortunately, he gave a rather bland and unmemorable performance.  If Lee’s Dracula seemed to be motivated by rage, Forbes-Robertson is merely petulant.

The other issue that purists have with the film is that it violates the continuity of the previous Dracula films.  The film opens in 1805 and features Dracula leaving his castle for China, where he will spend the next 100 years as the leader of the infamous 7 Golden Vampires.  The problem with this, of course, is that there had already been 7 other films that established that Dracula spent the 19th Century going between England and Eastern Europe.

It would be easy to declare that 7 Golden Vampires has nothing to do with the other Hammer Films except for the fact that Peter Cushing returns of Prof. Van Helsing.  When the film opens, Van Helsing is in China, lecturing to skeptical students about the legend of the 7 Golden Vampires.  After one lecture, Van Helsing is approached by a man (David Chiang), who explains that the 7 Golden Vampires have been attacking his village.  Van Helsing agrees to help the man vanquish the 7 Golden Vampires and, along the way to the village, he even tells some stories about his previous battles with Dracula.

So, here’s my theory.  The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires does take place in the same continuity as the Christopher Lee Dracula films but I do not believe that the vampire played by Forbes-Robertson is actually Dracula.  I think he’s just an upstart who has claimed the infamous name while the actual Dracula is inconvenienced.

As for the film itself, it works far better than you might expect.  At the time 7 Golden Vampires went into production, Hammer was struggling to survive with their once racy products now seen as being rather tame when compared to what other studios were releasing.  7 Golden Vampires was a co-production between Hammer and the Shaw Brothers, which means that the film was full all of the gothic trappings that I love about Hammer while also featuring all of the martial arts action that fans of the Shaw Brothers would have expected.  It’s an odd combination that works exactly because it is so unexpected.

Finally, one word about the 7 Golden Vampires.  Not only are they far more desiccated than the average Hammer vampire but whenever they ride up on their horses, they’re filmed in slow motion, just like the zombies from Amando De Ossorio’s Blind Dead films.  As a result, those 7 Golden Vampires are pure nightmare fuel.

The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires may have been the final entry in Hammer’s Dracula franchise but at least the series went out on a memorable note.