Nightmare Castle (1965)

NIGHTMARE CASTLE (1965)
(a.k.a. AMANTI D’OLTRETOMBA)
Article #613 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing date: 11-18-2002
Posting date: 4-14-2003

A scientist tortures and murders his wife and her lover, uses the blood to restore the youth of his lover, and then marries his former wife’s sister in order to get the inheritance.

One of the aspects of Italian horror movies that made me feel somewhat ambivalent about trying them out was their obsession with sadism; they seem to linger on long sequences of torture (especially against women) with emphasis on pain, and these tend to make their movies very unpleasant. In the hands of someone like Bava, it has its uses (quite frankly, he does an amazing job with the theme in THE WHIP AND THE BODY), but it’s movies like this one that generally drive me away. I feel the need to point out that my print of the movie is none too good, and the dubbing on it is even worse than usual for this type of movie, so this may color my feelings about it, but there’s not much here to make me feel that a subtitled print would raise it to the level of a movie that I would like. The story feels overly familiar, as if there’s nothing I’ve seen here that I haven’t seen in other (better) movies, and the unpleasant first ten minutes just makes the whole thing a rather nasty affair. Most likely, I won’t bother with this one again unless I’m given reason to believe that a subtitled version is clearly several times superior.

Advertisements

The Night Stalker (1972)

THE NIGHT STALKER (1972)
Article #612 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing date: 11-17-2002
Posting date: 4-13-2003

A vampire is loose in Las Vegas, and an ambitious reporter attempts to get the authorities to realize what they are dealing with.

The first time I had a chance to see this in its entirety was long after I had been familiar with the Kolchak character throught the TV series, and I found certain aspects of the original TV-Movie to be somewhat jarring, particularly the fact that Kolchak had a girlfriend; this has more to do with the nature of a TV series (where you gain a certain intimacy with a character who you see week after week) versus that of a movie (in which your total experience with a character is most likely for the length of that movie). Produced by Dan Curtis, and with an excellent script by Richard Matheson, this movie took an unusual approach to the vampire story, putting special emphasis on the aspects of how the police and the government would handle a series of murders that belong more to the world of legend rather than the more mundane criminals they usually deal with. Still, it is Darren McGavin who steals the whole movie, with a character who is something of a modern version of the wise-cracking reporters so common in the thirties, but updated and given dimension to flesh him out; he is unforgettable. The movie also establishes Kolchak’s perpetual boss/antagonist, Simon Oakland as Tony Vincenzo, his editor, who, though something of a minor character here, would be the only character in the movie that would follow Kolchak through his later investigations. The vampire is played by Barry Atwater, and I couldn’t help but note that one of the many aliases of the vampire was Bela Blasko, the true name of Bela Lugosi.

Night of the Blood Beast (1958)

NIGHT OF THE BLOOD BEAST (1958)
Article #611 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing date: 11-16-2002
Posting date: 4-12-2003

A man comes down from outer space carrying the embryos of an alien life form.

This American International cheapie has some interesting ideas, and the story seems somewhat like a cross between two pictures from Executive Producer Roger Corman, notably, ATTACK OF THE CRAB MONSTERS and IT CONQUERED THE WORLD. Unfortunately, both of those movies have better acting and a more solidly realized script; this movie suffers from poor exposition, lackluster direction, and uninspired performances, all of which contribute to making the movie a lot duller than it should have been. Certainly, the idea of a man being made the host for the fetuses of aliens would get better use in ALIEN twenty years later, but this is probably the first time the idea was used. It’s a little sad; with a little more work on the script, more care and a better cast, this one could have been a winner rather than a disappointment. This was not AIP’s finest hour.

Shadow of the Eagle (1932)

SHADOW OF THE EAGLE (1932)
(Serial)
Article #610 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing date: 11-15-2002
Posting date: 4-11-2003

The board of directors of a corporation is being threatened by a shadowy form known as the Eagle, who they believe is an ex-World War I pilot who was also known as the Eagle in his day but who crashed and was believed dead but turned out not to be and who had also created an invention which the corporation had stolen from him but is now supporting himself by running a carnival. His stunt-fighter tries to solve the mystery with the aid of the carnival owner’s daughter, a midget, a strong man and a ventriloquist with uncanny abilities of voice imitation.

It may be my imagination, but I’m beginning to notice that there’s something utterly cheesy about any serial I’ve seen so far that came from Mascot. Despite having a fairly complex story (the above plot description blurb gives you a feel for just how convoluted the backstory is), it still spends a good amount of its running time spinning its wheels. On the plus side, it has a young John Wayne in the role of the hero/stunt pilot, and he’s a name that hasn’t popped up yet in this series of reviews. It also doesn’t suffer from cheating cliff-hangers; unfortunately, the cliff-hangers themselves aren’t particularly good. Still, the odd milieu adds a bit of fun to the proceedings, and it’s always fun to watch John Wayne.

Some serial rules:

1) If you are a criminal trying to convince the hero to do something that will cause him to fall into a trap, and he questions you on certain suspicious behaviors of yours, the best way to answer these questions is with these three magic words, “Never mind that.”

2) If crooks and heroes are fighting in a room, and the cops come in, and the crooks claim the heroes are the crooks, they will always be believed.

3) The quickest way to commit suicide in this movie is to say, “Okay, I’ll confess. I know who the Eagle is. He is …” and wait for the bang.

The Nanny (1965)

THE NANNY (1965)
Article #609 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing date: 11-14-2002
Posting date: 4-10-2003

A boy just returned home from a mental hospital is hostile to his family and especially his nanny, who he believes is trying to kill him.

The whole story in this film hinges upon a backstory involving the death of the boy’s sister, and the movie is almost two-thirds of the way through before we make our way to the two crucial flashbacks which explain the story. This stretch could have been tedious, but the strong acting throughout, interesting characters, and a stunning performance by Bette Davis in the title role hold the viewer’s attention until then. Though I’d seen several Davis movies before this one, this is the one that convinced me she was a truly great actress; playing a character who must keep her true feelings hidden while keeping a loving, caring surface on display inspires her to give a powerful, subtle performance, one where a simple shifting of the eyes is enough to speak volumes; I’ve never seen her more restrained nor more effective. The flashbacks themselves are unexpectedly powerful, telling a nightmarish but devastatingly sad tale that fleshes out the movie immensely. There is also some superb editing at work, particularly in the second flashback and the climactic scene of the movie. It’s not perfect; the child is a little too petulant and blase for the situation that he is in, and the very last scene is a little too neat, easy and contrived, but all in all, this remains perhaps the most compelling Hammer movie I’ve seen, one that owes more to Val Lewton than to their other horror movies.

Master of the World (1961)

MASTER OF THE WORLD (1961)
Article #608 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing date: 11-13-2002
Posting date: 4-9-2003

In the nineteenth century, several balloonists become prisoners of a madman who is determined to end war in the world by destroying warships with his flying air fortress.

American International Pictures didn’t quite have the financial wherewithal to really pull off a Vernian epic; the special effects sequences are less than convincing. The story itself is largely a rehash of 20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA, only taking place in the skies instead of in the ocean. Nonetheless, it is a sturdy story that bears repeating, and the script by Richard Matheson is solid, and avoids the cutenesses that made the Disney movie a bit of a trial at times; there’s nary a cute animal nor a cute song to be found. Though Henry Hull’s performance as the armaments manufacturer is too one-dimensional, there are strong performances by both Vincent Price (as Robur) and Charles Bronson (as Strock). In fact, the Strock character is one of the most interesting in the story; though he serves the function as the main hero of the story, he is a pragmatic strategist who abjures noble cant in favor of quiet logic, and who is not afraid to look like a villain if it should increase the chances of making a more effective move later on. He is in his own way as strong a character as Robur, and Robur rightly recognizes him as the only one of the characters who is a real threat to him, and Bronson (whose silence can speak volumes) is well cast in the role. If anything, this movie may actually do a better job of giving us a complex array of characters, and bringing out many of the moral dilemmas inherent to the situation. Though not a completely successful movie, this one is worth a watch.

Another Job for the Undertaker (1901)

ANOTHER JOB FOR THE UNDERTAKER (1901)
Article #607 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing date: 11-12-2002
Posting date: 4-8-2003

An immigrant has strange experiences in a hotel room.

This is probably the shortest film I’ve done (it runs roughly thirty seconds), though it may be just a clip; however, since its length in feet is roughly sixty percent of that of THE MAN WITH THE RUBBER HEAD, I’ll settle. It’s Edwin S. Porter doing a Melies bit again with a disappearing tumbling bellboy, vanishing luggage, instant clothes changes, and one man’s horrible miscalculation on the nature of the lighting technology in use in the hotel (of which a more detailed explanation would not only explain the title but would also give away the ending). And God forbid you should have me ruin this thirty seconds for you by indulging in spoilers.