Crypt of the Living Dead (1973)

CRYPT OF THE LIVING DEAD (1973)
aka La tumba de la isla maldita
Article 3335 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 8-15-2010
Posting Date: 10-1-2010
Directed by Julio Salvador and Ray Danton
Featuring Andrew Prine, Patty Shepard and Mark Damon
Country: USA / Spain
What it is: Vampire flick

A man visits an island to bury his archaeologist father whose body is trapped beneath an ancient tomb. In order to retrieve his father’s body, he removes the seal of the tomb and releases a vampire who has been trapped inside for 700 years.

One of the alternate titles of this movie is HANNAH, QUEEN OF THE VAMPIRES, which makes for a handy title if you want to have an Andrew Prine double feature along with SIMON, KING OF THE WITCHES. I’ve heard tell that this movie had new footage added for its American release, but I’ve also heard that it had footage cut for the Spanish release. I’ve also heard that it’s in color, but my copy happens to be in black and white for some reason. The movie has a poor reputation, and I can understand that; it’s occasionally campy, often slow, and the structure is rather confusing at times. Yet, I was rather taken with it; the atmosphere was nice, it has some interesting story touches, the location footage from Turkey is interesting, and the final battle with the vampire is striking to say the least. No, it’s not a great movie, but I thought it worked well enough.

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Criminally Insane (1975)

CRIMINALLY INSANE (1975)
Article 3334 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 8-14-2010
Posting Date: 9-30-2010
Directed by Nick Millard
Featuring Priscilla Alden, Michael Flood, Jane Lambert
Country: USA
What it is: Serial killer movie

An overweight woman named Ethel with rage issues is released from a hospital to the care of her grandmother. When the grandmother tries to follow the doctor’s instructions to force Ethel to lose weight, Ethel flips out and kills her. She then finds herself having to continue her murderous rampage in order to keep herself fed and cover up the crimes.

I’ve encountered Nick Millard before as the director and writer of the extreme-low-budget SATAN’S BLACK WEDDING. This may be his most famous movie; at least it was famous enough that he felt compelled to make a sequel. It’s awful, but also fascinating; the concept of using gluttony as motivation for a serial killer is tasteless but also darkly comic, and the white-trash characters (Ethel’s sister is a nymphomaniac/prostitute who brings men into the home every night and makes out with her abusive regular lover in front of her sister) give the movie an interesting context in which the story works. It’s also complicated by the fact that Ethel is simply none too bright, and her inability to figure out how to dispose of the growing pile of bodies combined with her sloppiness will prove her undoing. The special effects are atrocious, and it makes some ill-advised stabs at artiness, but these just add somewhat to the fascination. It’s like some freaky cross between REPULSION and CANNIBAL MAN, and the ending twist has the air of inevitability given the setup, though I do have to admit that I had suspicions the story would eventually go in that direction. I have to admit that, as awful as it is, the movie more or less works, and I’ve seen plenty of much bigger-budgeted movies that don’t.

The Cremators (1972)

THE CREMATORS (1972)
Article 3333 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 8-13-2010
Posting Date: 9-29-2010
Directed by Harry Essex
Featuring Maria De Aragon, Marvin Howard, Eric Allison
Country: USA
What it is: Alien invasion movie

People are being incinerated by a giant rolling ball of fire from outer space. A scientist tries to figure out what is going on.

The only name I recognized from the opening credits was for the original music; it’s none other than Bert I. Gordon favorite Albert Glasser. His music attempts to instill suspense and terror by blaring at you, and it’s not unlike having someone grab you by the shoulders and shake you while screaming “Be Scared! Be Scared!”, and your reaction is much the same; no fear, but a great amount of annoyance. But at least he’s out there trying to generate excitement when everyone else in the movie seems to be sleepwalking; the movie is unfocused, torpid, muddled, confusing and dull. It has a handful of nice effects (the wind blowing away the ashes of the incinerated people, the glowing rocks, the fireball rising from the water) which are then overused to the point where they too become boring. The movie was directed by Harry Essex, who worked on the scripts for IT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE and CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON, but this is much more similar to his previous directorial effort, OCTAMAN; in fact, it was probably the worst movie he ever worked on. Forgettable.

Countess Dracula (1975)

COUNTESS DRACULA (1975)
Article 3332 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 8-12-2010
Posting Date: 9-28-2010
Directed by Peter Sasdy
Featuring Ingrid Pitt, Nigel Green, Sandor Eles
Country: UK
What it is: Hammer’s version of the Countess Bathory story

When an aging countess discovers that the blood of a chambermaid restores her youth, she has her own daughter kidnapped and proceeds to impersonate her, and she romances a young horseman. But she discovers that the youth she has regained is temporary, and so she must kill again…

This movie seems to be mostly famous as a vehicle for the beautiful Ingrid Pitt, and that is perhaps what it should be remembered for; it’s pretty difficult to take your eyes off of her or her costumes. Beyond that, I like the period flavor of the movie as well as the fact that it addresses the theme of class distinction at least marginally. Beyond these elements, though, I find this one of Hammer’s most forgettable movies, more interested in palace intrigue and soap opera than in horror. The plot is pretty predictable; I was in particular not surprised to discover who the final sacrifice victim was going to be. I’d have to rank this overall as one of Hammer’s most disappointing movies.

Bug (1975)

BUG (1975)
Article 3331 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 8-11-2010
Posting Date: 9-27-2010
Directed by Jeannot Szwarc
Featuring Bradford Dillman, Joanna Miles and Richard Gililand
Country: USA
What it is: Killer bug movie

A small community is hit by an earthquake which opens a fissure from which emerge insects capable of lighting fires. A scientist from a local college investigates their nature.

This was William Castle’s last movie, though he did not direct; he produced and helped with the script. The movie doesn’t have a very high reputation, and I suspect that’s because the movie starts off in one direction and ends up going in another. The first half of the movie sets up the usual killer bug scenario, and at certain points it looks like it’s going to explore just how this community is effected by the arrival of the bugs in an interesting way. However, once it has been established that the insects in question carry the seeds of their own destruction (they are sluggish and unable to breed due to having come from an environment from much greater pressure), the movie veers off in a different direction when the scientist, driven to madness by the death of his wife at the hands (or is it legs) of the insects, becomes inexplicably obsessed with finding a solution to the insects’s breeding problem. The problem here is that you spend the last half of the movie watching the scientist behaving with truly reckless stupidity. Throw in some bizarre PHASE IV style plot elements (Ken Middleham served as insect director on both movies, as well as THE HELLSTROM CHRONICLE), and a somewhat head-scratching ending with possible mystical overtones, and you end up with a movie that strains credibility. Still, I like that the movie pays a little more attention to details about the insects, which I suspect is from the original source novel; I also hear that the source novel doesn’t end at the same point as the movie does. Apparently, William Castle’s intended gimmick was to have it seem as if the bugs had invaded the theater, but I’m glad that he passed on the idea; I’m sure it would have backfired.

The X-Ray Fiend (1897)

THE X-RAY FIEND (1897)
Article 3330 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 8-10-2010
Posting Date: 9-26-2010
Directed by George Albert Smith
Cast unknown

A man gets fresh with a woman, but they’re both unaware they’re being viewed through x-rays by a passerby with an x-ray machine.

Pretty simple trick film; while the man and the woman interact, the fiend of the title points his x-ray camera at them, and suddenly we see skeletons in their place. The skeletons are played by people in skeleton suits. They appear to be unaware how they look, and I don’t know if the x-ray part of the short has anything to do with the eventual result of the man’s attempt at seduction, but given that the movie is only one minute long, I see no reason to pursue it that much further. It’s a very early trick film by someone other than Melies, and that gives it a certain novelty value in itself.

Baron Blood (1972)

BARON BLOOD (1972)
aka Gli orrori del castello di Norimberga
Article 3329 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 8-9-2010
Posting Date: 9-25-2010
Directed by Mario Bava
Featuring Joseph Cotten, Elke Sommer, Massimo Girotti
Country: West Germany / Italy
What it is: Evil comes back from the grave

An American arrives in Austria to learn about his heritage, especially concerning an evil ancestor who tortured the local villagers. He ends up reviving the evil Baron, but finds him easier to conjure up than to get rid of…

It’s seems as if it’s been quite a while since I’ve covered a Mario Bava movie. I remember seeing this one as a kid, and it really didn’t do much for me back then. Having seen it again, I’m afraid I still feel the same way. Bava is a creative director, all right, and there are moments where the wonderful cinematography and the exquisite use of light bring the movie to life, especially in a scene where the Baron chases a woman (Elke Sommer) through the streets of the town. Unfortunately, I’m just not impressed with the script, which is by turns cliched, banal and muddled. The performances also do not impress me, though I’m sure in some cases that may be due to the dubbing. I’m particularly disappointed with Joseph Cotten’s performance as the mysterious man who buys the castle; it seems self-consciously eccentric, and not in a fun way. In the end, the movie just doesn’t make much impact on me. It’s not awful, mind you, but I think it’s far from Bava’s best.