Incubus (1965)

INCUBUS (1965)
Article #1193 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 6-20-2004
Posting Date: 11-17-2004
Directed by Leslie Stevens
Featuring William Shatner, Milos Milos, Allyson Ames

A succubus tires of luring tainted souls to their deaths, and seeks a real prize for the prince of darkness; a good man. When her target (a man named Marc) proves the stronger of the two, she considers herself “defiled” by his love, and resurrects an incubus to exact revenge.

The idea of shooting a movie in the artificial language of Esperanto seems rather gimmicky at first. However, there’s something quite otherworldly about this allegorical fantasy that makes the decision seem appropriate; it makes the events feel as if they take place in a distant country, and it would feel that way everywhere (unless you happen to get a crowd together that actually speaks Esperanto). I found it quite engaging, poetic and eerie; it feels somewhat like a Bergman movie, though it was shot in the USA. The movie does tend to split people into two camps; those that like it and those that hate it; me, I found it unique and satisfying. Director Leslie Stevens had been the executive producer for “The Outer Limits” before he made this movie, and William Shatner would shortly go on to “Star Trek”.


I Married a Monster from Outer Space (1958)

Article #1192 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 6-19-2004
Posting Date: 11-16-2004
Directed by Gene Fowler Jr.
Featuring Tom Tryon, Gloria Talbott, Peter Baldwin

A woman slowly begins to suspect that the man she married is actually an alien from outer space.

Don’t let the schlocky title throw you off; there’s a lot more to this one than campiness. It’s one of those rare science fiction movies that relies on character. In fact, not only are the human characters given dimension, so are the aliens; unlike so many movies of its type, the aliens are not all of one mind. The movie is helped by fine acting, particularly from Gloria Talbott as the wife who is trying to cope with the situation, but from Tom Tryon and all the other actors as well. I hardly recognized him, but that’s Maxie Rosenbloom as the bartender, and he does a fine job as well. It’s not a perfect movie, as there are a few minor errors here and there; for example, if the aliens can see in the dark, why does the alien possessing Bill turn on the lights when he goes downstairs to deal with the dog? Nonetheless, it’s a unique and subtle movie, and one that even leaves you feeling a little sad about the fate of the aliens. Highly recommended.

The Outer Space Connection (1975)

Article #1191 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 6-18-2004
Posting Date: 11-15-2004
Directed by Fred Warshofsky
Narrated by Rod Serling

This documentary explores evidence that aliens landed on this planet many years ago.

It looks as if some of my genre movie books include documentaries of this sort, hence its coverage here. When it comes to theories like this, I tend to be on the skeptical side, but I’m quite willing to let those who propose the theories have their say. Usually, though, my conclusion is simply that there are many mysteries of the universe and of history that remain unsolved at this time. Yes, there are plenty of things in this world to provide grist for speculation, but speculation isn’t incontrovertible proof. Ultimately, I remain unconvinced, despite the fact that it is narrated by Rod Serling, has lots of outer space sounds in the soundtrack, and continually refers to one of its mystery sites as “Earth Base One”. It covers a lot of ground, though; UFO sightings, the Bermuda triangle, Kirlian photography, cloning, and communication with chimpanzees all come into play in this one. For the most part, I found this documentary to be on the dullish side, though the sequences on Kirlian photography, ancient brain operations and the sequence on chimpanzee communication all held my attention (more for themselves than for their relation to the main subject). Incidentally, the aliens are supposed to return in 2011. It’s nice to have a deadline.

Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte (1964)

Article #1190 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 6-17-2004
Posting Date: 11-14-2004
Directed by Robert Aldrich
Featuring Bette Davis, Olivia de Havilland, Joseph Cotten

Decades after a brutal axe murder was committed, the woman commonly believed to be guilty of the murder (the case was never solved) calls in her cousin to help prevent the demolition of the southern manor of her father. She then starts to have horrific visions tied to the old murder.

I’m tempted to describe this movie as overlong, since it runs two hours and thirteen minutes. However, I have to admit that it holds my attention throughout. The story itself is quite complex; and there are many questions to ask along the way; who killed John Mayhew? Is Charlotte actually going crazy, or is someone trying to drive her insane, and if so, who? Who sends the nasty letters to Charlotte? This follow-up to WHATEVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE? was supposed to reunite Bette Davis and Joan Crawford, but Crawford ended up being replaced by Olivia de Havilland, much to Davis’ delight at not having to work with her old rival. Davis does a fine job in a role that is somewhat similar to her role in BABY JANE, but the similarities are really only on the surface. De Havilland also does fine work, as do Joseph Cotten, Victor Buono, Cecil Kellaway, Mary Astor, Bruce Dern and William Campbell. However, they’re all upstaged by the hilarious and truly memorable performance given by Agnes Moorehead; as Charlotte’s sassy, sarcastic maid, she steals every scene she’s in with an almost wicked glee. The opening murder, by the way, may be one of the most graphic depicted in a major Hollywood movie up to that point.

House of Usher (1960)

Article #1189 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 6-16-2004
Posting Date: 11-13-2004
Directed by Roger Corman
Featuring Vincent Price, Mark Damon, Myrna Fahey

Philip Winthrop arrives at the home of Roderick Usher to talk with Usher’s sister to whom he is engaged. He discovers that Roderick wishes to keep his sister from leaving the home as they live under a curse of hereditary madness.

After having watched one movie about necrophilia and another about cannibalism, it’s a bit of a relief to watch something a little less controversial (though it does have a subtext of incest in it). I’ve been a little bit hard on Corman’s Poe movies up to this point, but that’s because they largely came across to me as attempts to recycle this movie. As this was the movie that set the mold, however, it feels much more of an organic whole. It’s somewhat faithful to the source story; its primary change is to make the visitor a fiance of Madeline Usher rather than an old friend of Roderick’s. This was a wise move, in that it gives rise to a number of new conflicts that help to keep the movie interesting until the big finish; as written, the story doesn’t really lend itself to expansion to a full-length movie. Vincent Price is somewhat restrained here, and this is due to the role itself; as Roderick Usher’s supersensitive hearing requires him to keep his voice in a somewhat hushed tone throughout. Price is wonderful here, but the rest of the cast also performs well. The use of sound is very effective; the creaking, crumbling house makes its presence known consistently, and hearing these noises is more unnerving than the more obvious horrors that pop up on occasion (coffins falling over and skeletons falling out). It was a gamble for Roger Corman, but it paid off beautifully, and remains one of Corman’s best Poe movies, even if the 1928 French version of the story remains my favorite adaptation of this work.

Frightmare (1974)

Article #1188 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 6-15-2004
Posting Date: 11-12-2004
Directed by Pete Walker
Featuring Rupert Davies, Sheila Keith, Deborah Fairfax

A woman tries to bring up her younger sister without telling her of her parents, who were committed to an asylum many years ago for acts of cannibalism. Unfortunately, her parents have been recently released…

The seventies were not a time for the meek horror fan; the permissiveness of the sixties combined with a disturbing nihilism to produce some truly unpleasant horror movies. During 1974, audiences in the States would contend with Tobe Hooper’s THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE while British audiences were given FRIGHTMARE, both movies about families of cannibals. In a sense, the movies would make interesting companions. TTCM was a low-budget independent film which places us among the victims in their attempt to deal with a family of ferocious monsters. This one is much more professionally made, and it unsettles you by allowing you to spend a lot of time with the cannibalistic family itself, and these are people you don’t want to spend a great deal of time with. It’s not quite as effective as the Tobe Hooper movie; it’s a lot more predictable, for one thing, and some of the shocking revelations aren’t exactly surprising, as the shocks are somewhat telegraphed. Still, it has its moments, though it’s definitely not for the faint of heart. Incidentally, when this movie was released on video, it had to contend with the fact that another movie had been made in 1980 with the title FRIGHTMARE. Their solution? They released this one as FRIGHTMARE II. Talk about a confusing way to avoid confusion.

Horrors of the Black Museum (1959)

Article #1187 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 6-14-2004
Posting Date: 11-11-2004
Directed by Arthur Crabtree
Featuring Michael Gough, June Cunningham, Graham Curnow

A series of gruesome murders baffles Scotland Yard while a writer makes a big profit from his coverage of the murders.

I remember having seen this one on my local Creature Feature as a kid, and whatever flaws I may perceive in it nowadays, I would be selling the movie short if I didn’t recognize that three of the murder scenes had a tremendous impact. The night I first watched it, I checked very carefully above my bed before I laid my head down on the pillow, and to this day I always look through binoculars from a safe distance before I put them up to my eyes; fortunately, I’ve never run into anyone carrrying ice tongs. Nonetheless, I do have problems with the movie. It’s crudely obvious at times when I think it would benefit from subtlety, I think Michael Gough’s performance would have been more effective if he had underplayed more, and at times I find myself appalled at the stupidity of some of the characters; just as an example, if you’re going to blackmail someone you believe to be a murderer, you should do so at a time when you haven’t just handed your intended blackmail victim a potentially lethal murder weapon. Still, I did find myself musing on the presence of some of the themes that are common to the works of Herman Cohen; the presence of a younger male who is under the control of an older (and quite misogynistic) authority figure is very prominent here. I also found it quite interesting that Cohen managed to adapt that theme to many of the classic movie monsters; werewolves, (I WAS A TEENAGE WEREWOLF), the Frankenstein monster (I WAS A TEENAGE FRANKENSTEIN), vampires (BLOOD OF DRACULA), King Kong (KONGA), and here, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. It certainly makes his entire oeuvre more interesting as a whole.

The Sea Hound (1947)

Article #1186 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 6-13-2004
Posting Date: 11-10-2004
Directed by W. B. Eason and Mack V. Wright
Featuring Buster Crabbe, Jimmy Lloyd, Pamela Blake

Captain Silver of the Sea Hound tries to help a woman find her father, who disappeared on a distant island while hunting for treasure.

Given the choice between the Columbia serials that emphasize action and those that emphasize plot, I tend to opt for the latter. Fortunately for me, this is one of the latter. It’s nice to see Buster Crabbe again; he really was the most memorable of the serial actors and always gave a matter-of-fact conviction to his performances. In terms of fantastic content, the serial itself is rather marginal; mainly, it involves some of the gadgets that were created by Captain Silver’s oriental crewman named Kukai (pronounced “Cookie”) to help defend the ship, including a bizarre gun that shoots fireballs.

The Horrible Dr. Hichcock (1962)

Article #1185 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 6-12-2004
Posting Date: 11-9-2004
Directed by Riccardo Freda
Featuring Robert Flemyng, Barbara Steele, Harriet Medin

A necrophiliac doctor’s first wife dies from an overdose of an anasthetic that the doctor used on her to simulate death. 12 years later, the doctor returns to his ancestral home with a new wife. However, strange things are happening…

How horrible is he? There’s certainly no doubt that the doctor’s main fetish being necrophilia adds a truly perverse and unsettling touch to the proceedings. Oddly enough, the theme of necrophilia isn’t really used as mere exploitation. It’s not only essential to the plot (in particular as it plays a part in the death of the first wife), but it’s also the factor that gives Dr. Hichcock a more complex character than he might otherwise have. Without that element, this movie would largely be just another example of the standard Italian horror plot; newly married wife returns home with new husband and is terrorized for the length of the movie. As it is, I find this movie a lot more interesting than NIGHTMARE CASTLE, for example.

Son of Hercules in the Land of Darkness (1963)

Article #1184 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 6-11-2004
Posting Date: 11-8-2004
Directed by Alvaro Mancori and Lewis Mann
Featuring Dan Vadis, Spela Rozin, Carla Calo

A son of Hercules named Argolese must rescue villagers who have been kidnapped by the denizens of an evil underground empire.

This movie appears to have been adapted for television for “The Sons of Hercules” series; it has a part one and part two, breaks for commercials, and it opens and closes with the rousing but hilarious “Sons of Hercules” theme song. Plotwise, it hits every cliche in the book; Argolese fights a lion, a dragon and a bear, pulls up a tree by the roots, catches the eye of an evil queen, falls in love with the daughter of a good king, throws a big rock, bends the bars back, etc.etc. He also has an annoying comic relief sidekick who is clumsy, cowardly and gluttonous, but still manages to help save the day. In some ways, it’s such a quintessential example of this sort of thing that I can’t help but like it. Besides, the ‘Son of Hercules” theme is worth the price of admission by itself.