For those tired of the same old Christmas tunes here are a few (very) different choices for the Holiday Season.
Wednesday, December 13, 2017
Monday, December 11, 2017
December brings our annual Holiday Horrors episode! This year my two co-hosts have chosen a tale told twice and adapted from a 1953 comic book story by the legendary Johnny Craig. The story is about a murderous wife who decides to off her husband on Christmas Eve but then has to deal with an escaped axe welding killer dressed in a Santa Claus costume. The best laid plans of mice and murderers often go awry and this short story shows us a fine example. 'And All Through the House' was first filmed as part of the Amicus anthology movie directed by Freddie Francis in 1972. This may or may not have been the first instance in cinema of a killer Santa but it certainly struck home for viewers as it is the story that most people recall with great clarity even years after a viewing. Creepy, chilling and sinister in tone it is a difficult effort to beat.
In 1989 director Robert Zemeckis retold the tale as one of the first episodes of HBO's wildly successful series Tales From The Crypt. Adapted by Fred Dekker and lengthened out to fill a half hour time slot this version throws in a few extra curves, amps up the dark humor and broadens the performances for a more comic effect. The results are still pretty darned good but - as with any remake - the debates will never rest. Listen in as Troy Guinn, John Hudson and I discuss all three tellings of this Holiday Horror. We break down the differences and consider the qualities that each film brings to the table. We dig into the alterations, the motivations and the relative skill each version imparts to the main character as well as the portrayal of the nearly silent killer Kringle.
Saturday, December 09, 2017
Friday, December 08, 2017
Here's a narrated version of the original EC Comics Evil Santa tale done as a very good motion comic. The fellow that crafts these videos of classic horror comic stories is very good at both the presentation of the panel layout and throwing some emotion into the voice-over. This is well done and a great way to 'read' the creepy Christmas story. Happy Holidays!
Thursday, December 07, 2017
Full confession - I have a major weakness for Christmas music. There are very few traditional carols that I don't enjoy hearing during the festive season and one of my great joys is seeking out the odder holiday hymns to mix in with the classics. Not all of these stranger tunes are going to be considered great but I find that after including them in my Christmas music rotation for a couple of years they eventually fit right in. Maybe this song's bizarre combination of growling monsters and cheerful joy will end up being part of your Holiday Playlist!
Tuesday, December 05, 2017
The film I chose was one that I haven't watched from beginning to end in a good long while. I saw this movie in the early 1990's as NIGHT OF THE HOWLING BEAST although the title you'll find it under on Blu-ray is THE WEREWOLF & THE YETI. I was really curious to see just how sharp a picture this Blu-ray would have considering that every version I've seen previous to this was (as you might expect) pretty soft and rather visually unexciting. The good news right off the bat is that the film looks absolutely fantastic on the new Scream Factory Blu-ray. I have very few complaints about the visuals of this Blu-ray. Although the film does have a couple of scenes inserted from a lesser quality print (in most cases from a VHS print as far as I can tell) the film is remarkable in it's clarity, sharpness and color. If I were to lodge one complaint against the Blu-ray it would be that several scenes that clearly should have been dimmed down to simulate nighttime have not been filtered so that the day for night shot look correctly dark. This is a little distracting especially when you have the eternal nocturnal beast of a werewolf running around in what is obviously broad daylight.
The most striking thing that is apparent from seeing the film in such a high quality presentation is that all of its better qualities are enhanced but all of its faults are also in stark relief. I've always loved this movie for its entertaining combination of yet another fresh take on the Waldemar Daninsky werewolf tale mixed with action adventure in the Himalayas. The setting and the episodic nature of things makes it somewhat like watching a Paul Naschy werewolf character invade a Republic serial. Indeed, the action sequences in the final 15 or 20 minutes of the film are absolutely a blast to watch and would fit in perfectly with anyone's sense of adventure movie excitement. Just the plain hand to hand combat thrills are amazing to watch even if the enthusiasm of someone coming to this straight from a classic Republic serial might be tempered by the fact that it's spiced up with some pretty graphic violence. I actually expected the special effects and gore to suffer a good bit from such as sharp clean and clear presentation but I have to admit that that did not happen. My appreciation and admiration for the practical special effects in this film has grown considerably with this viewing. There is some really good and quite detailed work here and it holds up very well.
Being a fan of Naschy films and European horror cinema of this period in general means that you're always willing to overlook the particular failings that these films will usually display. Two of these failings are in stark relief in THE WEREWOLF & THE YETI and can be generally attributed to either budgetary constraints or the director's choices. First is the rather jarring and often sloppy transitions from one sequence of the film to the next. Often I've wished for just a little bit of smoothing to make the narrative flow a little easier - a shot of the darkening sky, the mountainside or really anything to demarcate the point where the story is moving from one group of characters to another. Another problem is that often while watching this movie I feel that certain sequences could have been shot just a little bit differently for much better effect. Usually it's just that I think that everything within the scene is fine but it's framed poorly or it's framed a little indifferently. Of course, as with most of these genre films from this period of time, I always feel that there could have been just a few more inserts shots of characters having reactions to certain things or close-ups of them delivering specific lines just to underline the emotional content within the story. That's true here, especially when you have a group of characters standing around one of their colleagues who's been torn apart in the night by a werewolf and all of the dialogue is done in a single group master shot. Just a few inserts of those actors delivering a couple of those lines could have made the entire sequence much better.
Sunday, December 03, 2017
For the annual Holiday Horrors episode of The Bloody Pit my co-hosts have chosen the creepy Christmas story first published in Vault Of Horror #35 way back in 1950. There have been two adaptations of the tale and we're going to take a look at both of them. I also hope to wedge in some discussion of the original comic version. Above is the second version of the story done for the HBO series Tales From the Crypt, just in case you've never seen it. Look for the new podcast in a week or so.
Thursday, November 30, 2017
Hopefully one day we will get a digital release of this great little film. At that point we can all stop watching those crappy versions ripped from the old VHS.
Tuesday, November 28, 2017
Long time readers of this blog will know that I have a fascination for the various mystery movie series of the 1930s and 1940s. It started out as a love for the Charlie Chan films and grew almost out of control as I stumbled across The Saint, The Falcon, The Crime Doctor, etc. This love is pretty indiscriminate and even the weakest entry in the weakest series can bring me great joy and entertainment for it's 60 to 70 minute run time. It's rare I get to sit down and plow through one of these series with any real plan. I'd really like to go through them continuously in chronological order over the course of a week or two but it can be difficult just to locate many of these films. In general I just catch them as they are broadcast on Turner Classic Movies and therefore I have the suspicion that there are some I'll just never see. Occasionally it turns out that I'll have the DVR grab an entry in one of these series, watch the first 10 minutes and realize I've already seen it. Of course, sometimes having seen it already doesn't mean I won't rewatch it. As I say, I have a great love of these movies.
I caught up with a Boston Blackie entry the other night (CONFESSIONS OF BOSTON BLACKIE) and while it is far from one of the best of the run of these fun little movies it had enough to rate it midrange as far as movies in general are concerned and, in fact, mid-range for the Boston Blackie series. For the uninformed, Boston Blackie is an ex-thief who, although reformed, is always suspected whenever a robbery or, indeed, any criminal activity happens anywhere in the city. Blackie uses his knowledge of the criminal mind and methodology to help the police solve these crimes and keep himself out of prison. Although the first Boston Blackie film was produced in 1918 (!) it's always Chester Morris' performance as the character in the much later
film series that defines what most fans think of when they hear the name. Morris
starred as Blackie in 14 movies from 1941 to 1949 and was only dethroned as
'most recent' by Kent Taylor for a 58 episode television series in 1951. One
year versus eight means Chester Morris remains the longest running Boston
Blackie - he even played the character for five years on the radio!
Monday, November 27, 2017
I had read friend's copies of Justice League comics before but this is the run of issues that as a kid I bought with my own money. I've been a huge fan every since! Looking back it's amazing just how many character were introduced to me in these comics - The New Gods, The Justice Society, Martian Manhunter as well as appearances by Firestorm, Black Lightening and the story in which Green Arrow leaves the team. I need to re-read this stuff.
Saturday, November 25, 2017
A recent upheaval in my living arrangements (I had a flood!) caused me to have to restructure my grand piles of stuff. Part of this required my repackaging sections of my collection including my near complete run of the mighty Video Watchdog magazine. The demise of that venerable periodical was the cause of much unhappiness for me (and many others) but this was the first time in years I had set down to take stock of the back issues for more than a specific bit of research for a podcast or commentary. So much information, so many interviews and so many well informed reviews! Damn, how I miss VW.
At one point, while placing the 'zines in numerical order, I spotted the cover of issue 66 from the year 2000 and was shocked by the image. That's El Hombre Lobo, Paul Naschy his own bad self glaring out at me. Or it's the other fella put in the werewolf makeup for FURY OF THE WOLFMAN (1972). Either way, it's a Naschy cover and beneath his picture is promised coverage LET SLEEPING CORPSES LIE (1974) and other Spanish Horror films! How have I not dragged this issue out before? It's clearly perfect as a resource and reference when discussing Naschy and the Golden Age of Spanish Horror. What an oversight on my part.
So I read back through the magazine and was thrilled to find that Richard Harland Smith penned a long look at both cuts of FURY OF THE WOLFMAN, THE PEOPLE WHO OWN THE DARK (1975), THE VAMPIRES' NIGHT ORGY (1972) and CANNIBAL MAN (1971) while editor Tim Lucas contributed reviews of DR. JEKYLL AND THE WEREWOLF (1972), the aforementioned LET SLEEPING CORPSES LIE and THE BLOOD SPATTERED BRIDE (1972). Shane M. Dallmann adds a fantastic look at three Naschy classics - CURSE OF THE DEVIL (1973), BLUE EYES OF THE BROKEN DOLL (1973) and NIGHT OF THE HOWLING BEAST (1975) a.k.a. THE WEREWOLF & THE YETI. Dallmann examines alternate versions of the latter two films and really does an amazing job of digging into their history on video.
Even without all this Spanish Horror coverage the issue would be worth getting for the excellent interview with director Jorge Grau. He's the man responsible for the finest European zombie film ever (yeah, I said it) LET SLEEPING CORPSES LIE a.k.a. THE LIVING DEAD AT MANCHESTER MORGUE (1974) as well as the Erezabet Bathroy tale THE LEGEND OF BLOOD CASTLE (1973). This lengthy, career spanning talk is wonderful for fans of the genre and paints Grau as a careful, smart filmmaker capable of true brilliance which is a position I agree with wholeheartedly.
Topping off this wealth of Spanish genre coverage is Tim Lucas' review of Paul Naschy's autobiography Memoirs of a Wolfman. Lucas praises the book as well worth seeking out but cautions readers that the book is very often a bitter look at his life and career. He describes it as 'an illuminating account of Naschy's self-expression through the fantastic cinema' and an 'intensive and compelling read'. I wonder if it was this review that pushed me to find and purchase Memoirs of a Wolfman? It's very possible this is one of the first steps down the road that lead to the Naschycast! Glad I found Video Watchdog #66 again.
Print Edition of VW #66 LINK
Digital Edition LINK
Wednesday, November 22, 2017
Monday, November 20, 2017
While editing the most recent episode of The Bloody Pit I was reminded of how much I love the soundtrack music composed by the great Jerry Goldsmith. In the show I mentioned his amazing PLANET OF THE APES (1968) score and his award winning music for THE OMEN (1976) but he wrote so many incredible pieces of music I forgot about his work on ALIEN (1979). I really don't think that film would have had it's massive cinema altering influence without his score. Goldsmith was so talented that I often find that his music was the only thing I liked about some movies. The man was a genius!
Saturday, November 18, 2017
This might be the episode of the show recorded in the strangest fashion. This past summer Mark Maddox and I attended G-Fest in Chicago. Because Mark totes his work to such events this required a road trip in which hours of time would be spent in each other's company. The fear that we might visit violence upon each other meant that I thought it might be a good idea to record what occurred in the car just in case the police became involved. Luckily, all went smoothly, probably because I kept feeding Mark donuts laced with Xanex. Don't tell him!
So, if you've ever wondered what it might be like to be trapped in a moving car with me and Mark this podcast will answer your questions. (Why anyone would be curious about this is beyond me.) Showing just how strange we are, the topic of conversation ranges from the music of Akira Ifakube, 1960's Irwin Allen television series, Dean Martin, Dr. Phibes, Day of the Triffids and our puzzlement about the MPAA's film rating standards. I include a few music cues from the shows and movies we discuss to add some texture beyond just hearing the car beep and the GPS tell us about traffic problems. And, near the end, you will hear Mark admit that the two of agree on so many things that the episode might not be very interesting to listeners who want us to yell at each other. I'll leave that judgment up to you.
The show can be reached at email@example.com or over on the podcast's FaceBook page. If you have any comments or questions please drop us a line. We'll be glad to hear from you. Thank you for downloading an listening.
Thursday, November 16, 2017
BLADE RUNNER 2049 is one of my favorite movies of the year. Of course, I'm pretty clearly the target audience for it as I've loved the original for more than thirty years and have watched various versions of that 1982 film more than 50 times. Strangely, I must admit, I might like this sequel better than the first film. I'm not sure if that is because, having been so familiar with the earlier movie, it's much easier to let this film wash over me and tell it's story without skewed expectations for what it will be but it's likely. For me, BR2049 feels like a perfect tonal and thematic continuation of the original, shifting the larger question asked from 'What is Human' to 'Do memories make us Human'. It even asks the question of what it means to know our past is a lie but to have nothing else to hold on to give us a sense of self. And it does all this within the context of a mystery tied to both the past and an uncertain future.
I've come to the realization that if Matthew Vaughn makes a film I'm going to probably love it. Because KINGSMEN: THE GOLDEN CIRCLE is a sequel I fully expected it to be the least of his six films as director but it was just as unexpectedly brilliant and outrageous as the first film. It's only crimes were a lack of freshness that is somewhat unavoidable in a follow up and the pretty silly resurrection of a key character offed in the original. Both crimes are forgiven! I had a goofy smile plastered on my face for the duration of this funny, dirty, hyperkinetic spy adventure. These movies are exactly the kind of film Bond fans dreamed up in their kinkiest, most over the top imaginings. If you liked the first film you'll get a lot of joy out of this one too.
What do you get when you cross the comedy GROUNDHOG DAY (1993) with the film noir D.O.A. (1949)? HAPPY DEATH DAY! In this comedic horror film we meet a college student suffering through a birthday so bad that it ends in her being brutally murdered. The twist is that she keeps reliving this crappy day over and over with each new variation ending in her demise no matter what she does to prevent it. She goes from puzzled to disbelieving to angry to disheartened to defiant as she attempts to discover who the masked person is that hates her enough to hunt her down repeatedly. This isn't a great movie but it is very well done, quite funny and very well played by Jessica Rothe in the lead role. She is onscreen for 95% of the running time and has to make us believe that this spoiled, unlikable sorority girl can become a better person as she travels through her painful adventure. She does an admirable job and I liked the eventual answer to the mystery as well. This is a fun horror film!
THE WITCH'S CURSE (1962) - 6 (Maciste in Scotland and Hell)
ONE DARK NIGHT (1982)- 6 (rewatch of a better print)
SWEET HOME (2015) - 6 (Spanish horror film)
KISS OF THE TARANTULA (1976)- 5 (not bad low budget shocker)
THE HOWLING (1981) - 9 (rewatch)
ONE MYSTERIOUS NIGHT (1944) - 5 (OK Boston Blackie film)
KINGSMEN: THE GOLDEN CIRCLE (2017) - 8
THE MUTILATOR (1984) - 3 (low budget slasher)
SCREAM OF THE BANSHEE (2011) - 3 (lame supernatural horror)
HOUSE OF DRACULA (1945)- 6 (rewatch)
BLADE RUNNER 2049 (2017) - 9
MILL OF THE STONE WOMEN (1960) - 8 (rewatch)
SON OF DRACULA (1943) - 6 (rewatch)
BODY BAGS (1993) - 7 (rewatch)
THE WITCH (2016)- 8 (rewatch)
THE COMPANY OF WOLVES (1984) - 8 (rewatch)
THE MARK OF THE WEREWOLF (1968) - 6 (rewatch of the Spanish version)
THE MAN WHO CHANGED HIS MIND (1936)- 6 (rewatch)
THE CURSE (1987)- 3
CURSE OF THE DEVIL (1973)- 6 (rewatch)
HACK-O-LANTERN (1988) - 3 (terrible slasher/satanist tale)
HAPPY DEATH DAY (2017) - 7
RED CLOVER (2012) - 4 (Leprechaun monster horror tale)
MARK OF THE DEVIL (1970)- 6 (rewatch)
HALLOWEEN (1978)- 10 (rewatch)
DRACULA'S DAUGHTER (1936) - 7 (rewatch)
MIDNIGHT OFFERINGS (1981) - 6 (TV movie about high school witches)
HALLOWEEN III: SEASON OF THE WITCH (1982) - 8 (rewatch)
Tuesday, November 14, 2017
I'm not sure how I missed this amazing parody until now but this is hysterical! It really had me fooled for a couple of minutes simply because Universal screwed up the release of this film so badly I could easily imagine them creating a toy line. After all, there were toys for the similarly R rated and grotesque ALIEN (1979) so why not for this? Well done.
Sunday, November 12, 2017
A young man is driving in the French countryside at night when he spots a beautiful woman (Brigitte Lahaie), dressed only in a nightgown, standing in the road. She tells the driver her name is Elisabeth but seems confused and frightened. She insists someone is pursuing her but can't say whom. She begs the fellow to take her with him, so he places her in his car and somehow misses seeing a nude redheaded woman just off the road calling out to Elisabeth for help. He carries the girl to his flat in
Paris and after questioning her learns that
she seems incapable of retaining memories for any length of time. He tells her
his name is Robert but she even has trouble remembering that only a few minutes
later. She asks him to please not leave her alone because she knows she'll
forget him as soon as he isn't there to remind her of what she has experienced.
Magnetically drawn to each other, the pair makes love in a tender scene, during
which Robert tells Elisabeth to watch his face so she'll always remember this
time together. But the next morning after Robert goes to work, Dr. Francis
breaks into the flat and convinces Elisabeth to return with him to his
high-rise clinic where he is treating dozens of people with her memory
deficiency. Once in the clinic she finds the redheaded girl from the night
before and learns that they can remember each other's names but little else
about their relationship. The two friends attempt another escape and manage to
contact Robert but are quickly recaptured. A frantic and lovesick Robert
locates the clinic and is told by Dr. Francis that his patients are suffering
from a disease that slowly robs them of all their mental functions. The doctor
has been trying to treat them but has had no success. He explains that,
ultimately, all the afflicted become like the walking dead with no cognitive
abilities. But Robert refuses to believe him and is determined to rescue his
The films of Jean Rollin are unusual in ways that many find off-putting. They usually meander around colorfully surreal or absurd images and morbid situations for long stretches so that it becomes unclear where the (sometimes thin) narrative is going. They always have a dreamlike tone that can drive some viewers mad with the desire to hit the fast forward (or stop) button. But for those who share Rollin's sensibilities, these films are gorgeous and evocative pieces that seem lifted out of a fascinating other world. The stories are a mixture of quaint old pulp conventions and wild sexual excitement that, at its best, blends into something no one else in cinema really tries. There are points of similarity between Rollin and Jess Franco, but where Franco seems more interested in pumping out as many films as possible, I feel Rollin has a stronger body of work. Rollin always seems to have a central idea around which he's gathering images in the same way a poet will collage words. He layers quiet, moody shots of beautiful, melancholy women walking through gorgeous locations with horrific images of bloody violence in what seems to be an effort to get beyond the shock of the juxtaposition and question the feelings that are provoked. Since the violence is often linked with sexuality there is a reoccurring idea in his films that sex is both the beginning and ending of life. Indeed, in The Night of the Hunted sex is the only thing the poor afflicted souls can experience and remember.
This isn't the sex-equals-death concept of so many American slasher films but a more European view of sex as a transformative and healing act even when it's linked with danger. Rollin's parade of undead creatures are almost always beautiful but tortured. Unhappy in life they are just as unfulfilled in death —but are now robbed of the choices life afforded. Joy is always in the past for Rollin's characters and tears are their only response. In Night of the Hunted the diseased people aren't zombies or vampires but are rendered "dead" all the same. Their tragedy is made all the more touching by its gradual, degenerative nature putting me in mind of the victims of Alzheimer's or Parkinson's.
The Night of the Hunted (La Nuit Des Traquées) is often cited as one of Rollin's weakest films but I don't feel that way. It's famous for its small budget and two-week shooting schedule, but even though its extremely low budget is occasionally evident I think the director stages his story well enough to hide most of its financial shortcomings. The performances are not exceptional by any means but get the job done effectively and the frequent nudity is a plus that distracts me from a few of the more wooden actors. In all honesty, the film could be much worse than it is and I would still champion it simply because of its inspired final shot. The image of two defeated and desolate characters walking away from the camera into the distance becomes the antithesis of riding off into the sunset. It's a haunting and deeply effecting image that stays with me for weeks after every viewing. As cheaply produced as this film is, I enjoy it a great deal more than some of Rollin's more expensive works, with The Demoniacs being my perfect example of more being much less. I wouldn't start a newcomer to Rollin's movies here since it lacks his usual vampires and phantasms, but it might be a good second feature to try.