It Happened at Nightmare Inn (1973)

IT HAPPENED AT NIGHTMARE INN (1973)
(a.k.a. NIGHTMARE HOTEL / UNA VELA PARA EL DIABLO)
Article #1759 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 1-7-2006
Posting Date: 6-6-2006
Directed by Eugenio Martin
Featuring Judy Geeson, Lone Fleming, Blanca Estrada

When a woman goes to an inn in a small Spanish town to visit her sister, she is told by the two sisters that run the inn that the woman left the previous day. In truth, she has been murdered by the two sisters, who kill anyone who stays there that does not live up to their moral standards.

My copy of this movie is the TV print that runs only sixty-eight minutes; IMDB lists the running time at a solid two hours. I can only conclude that I’m missing quite a lot of the movie here. Still, this version of it is efficient, to say the least. Actually, it may be worth the effort to hunt up the longer version; the acting is quite good (even if the dubbing is substandard), there are character touches that add more dimension than you might expect, and there is a decent amount of suspense during the final scenes. I rather enjoyed this one, though I do wonder if its appeal might wear thin during the longer version.

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The Oblong Box (1969)

THE OBLONG BOX (1969)
Article #1758 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 1-6-2006
Posting Date: 6-5-2006
Directed by Gordon Hessler
Featuring Vincent Price, Christopher Lee, Rupert Davies

An aristocrat keeps his brother locked in an attic after his face is mutilated in a voodoo ritual. An attempt to release the brother from his captivity misfires when he is buried alive, but he is saved when body snatchers exhume him. He then seeks revenge on those that abandoned him to his fate.

Though I like this one better than MURDERS OF THE RUE MORGUE or CRY OF THE BANSHEE, I must admit that (with the exception of his having directed one of the best episodes of “Kolchak: The Night Stalker”) I just don’t enjoy Gordon Hessler’s forays into horror. Outside of the presence of a coffin at one point, this has precious little to do with Poe’s story, though I must admit that the original story is tame even by Poe’s standards. It starts out well enough; the voodoo ceremony is extremely effective, and the early scenes work well enough. Nonetheless, I start having problems as the movie progresses. I find the pace just a little slower than necessary, and the movie really doesn’t make very good use of his cast; in particular, most of Vincent Price’s scenes don’t really give him much to work with from an acting standpoint. I also find the big scenes in the movie singularly disappointing. For example, when a movie features two horror stars such as Price and Christopher Lee, you look forward to any scenes they have together, but the one they have here is too brief to satisfy. Furthermore, our long-awaited chance to see how the brother looks is really a letdown, and the final twist is nothing special. All in all, I find that Hessler’s horror movies lack the sense of fun I get from, say, Roger Corman.

Night of Bloody Horror (1969)

NIGHT OF BLOODY HORROR (1969)
Article #1757 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 1-5-2006
Posting Date: 6-4-2006
Directed by Joy N. Houck Jr.
Featuring Gerald McRaney, Gay Yellen, Michael Anthony

A man who suffers blackouts (as portrayed by a psychedelic blue spiral) finds that his sexual partners are murdered during these blackouts.

I just can’t tell you how glad I was to watch another movie about a psycho sex killer with an incestuous undertone right on the heels of watching THE HOUSE THAT VANISHED. (Please be aware that the preceding sentence contains a palpable amount of sarcasm.) As a rule, I tend to distrust horror movies whose titles seem to consist of nothing but horror movie buzzwords, and this movie does little to convince me that I’m wrong in this regard. The marketing campaign claimed that it was “Filmed in Violent Vision”, and theater patrons were insured for one thousand dollars against death by fright while watching the movie. It’s a measure of the movie’s derivitiveness when even its marketing campaign was lifted from another film, and Joy N. Houck Jr. has none of the fun directorial qualities of William Castle. The first murder is the best; the rest of them are fairly substandard ax murders, and though Gerald McRaney (who would later gain in the TV series “Simon & Simon” and “Major Dad”) tries his best in the lead role, but the script can’t decide whether his character is sympathetic or repellent, and so you end not caring one way or another. Anybody who has seen PSYCHO won’t be surprised by the revelations at the end of the movie.

The House That Vanished (1973)

THE HOUSE THAT VANISHED (1973)
(a.k.a. SCREAM…AND DIE!)
Article #1756 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 1-4-2006
Posting Date: 6-3-2006
Directed by Jose Ramon Larraz
Featuring Andrea Allan, Karl Lanchbury, Maggie Walker

When a model follows her burglar boyfriend into an old house in the country, she inadvertently becomes a witness to a murder by a psycho killer. Though she escapes from the killer (whose face she doesn’t see), her boyfriend vanishes, and when she discovers a photo of herself missing from the portfolio she left in the car abandoned near the property, she knows that the killer knows who she is.

Who is the killer? Is it the creepy new boyfriend with the incestuous relationship with his aunt whose theme song is “Fur Elise”? Is it the weird man who has moved into the same building as her who raises pigeons? Is it – er – is it – hmm, we seem to have run out of suspects. Hint: the one who is not the psycho killer is an undercover cop.

Chances are, you’ll have no trouble figuring out who the killer is. For that matter, you’ll have no trouble figuring out what’s going to happen for the length of this utterly predictable movie. There’s gratuitous nudity and sex to spice up the proceedings, but I certainly didn’t see any houses vanishing (and the model’s inability to find the house isn’t the same thing). And for those interested in logical errors, try figuring out (given an approximate timeline of events), just what kind of condition a human killed at the beginning of this movie would be at the end of it.

The Haunting of Julia (1977)

THE HAUNTING OF JULIA (1977)
(a.k.a. FULL CIRCLE)
Article #1755 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 1-3-2006
Posting Date: 6-2-2006
Directed by Richard Loncraine
Featuring Mia Farrow, Keir Dullea, Tom Conti

A woman who feels guilty about the death of her daughter leaves her husband and moves into an old house. However, the house seems to be haunted by a the spirit of a malevolent little girl.

This movie is based on a novel by Peter Straub, and if anything, the movie makes me interested in the novel. This is not to say that I found the movie itself satisfactory; it’s more to say that it hints at a more complete and intriguing story than the movie itself delivers. Though I can appreciate the attempt of the movie to take a leisurely, thoughtful pace in telling its eerie story, all too often in this case there are scenes which just drag out the running time without really adding much to character development or plot. For example, we know the mother is grieving about the death of her daughter; we don’t need to have her break into tears three times to establish this. There are also scenes that just seem to pad out the running time; the scene of Julia building a house of cards and the one where she traces designs in the carpet don’t really help me to connect with her psyche as much as make me check my watch to see how long it will be before we get back to the story. The second half of the movie is better, largely because the plot finally starts moving at this point. In short, this movie is just too slow-moving to be really effective.

Dracula A.D. 1972 (1972)

DRACULA A.D. 1972 (1972)
Article #1754 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 1-2-2006
Posting Date: 6-1-2006
Directed by Alan Gibson
Featuring Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Stephanie Beacham

Dracula is resurrected by a disciple in 1972, and decides to take vengeance on his old enemy Van Helsing by destroying the daughter of one of his descendants.

There’s something about the way this movie is marketed that might lead you to believe that Hammer had started playing the series for laughs. Certainly, the tag line on the cover of the DVD about Dracula having an eye for London’s hot pants seems more comic than horrific, and the first still I recall seeing from the movie had Christopher Lee as Dracula looking like he had a headache while being surrounded by scantily clad women. Fortunately, the movie itself decides to play it straight; as a matter of fact, the movie could have easily been put in the period setting. All in all, it’s not a bad entry in the series; though I don’t care for the jazzy/funky music that pops up in the soundtrack, I will admit that’s more of a personal quibble than an artistic one. Actually, if there’s any element of this one that does border on camp for me, it’s the over-elaborate series of circumstances that have to occur to kill the vampires; when one vampire stumbles into a bathroom to get away from the sunlight shining through the window, he inadvertently pulls the curtain that opens up the overhead skylight, which makes him scream and fall into a bathtub, inadvertently hitting the tap mechanism, so now he has to deal with running water as well. This is the type of thing I’d expect from a Jerry Lewis vampire. I’m also really tired of the use of the “Alucard” name; it was clever in SON OF DRACULA, but it’s popped up way too often since then.

Crimes of the Future (1970)

CRIMES OF THE FUTURE (1970)
Article #1753 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 1-1-2006
Posting Date: 5-31-2006
Directed by David Cronenberg
Featuring Ronald Mlodzik, Jon Lidolt, Tnai Zolty

In the future when a disease is killing off women who have reached puberty, a researcher who moves from occupation to occupation finds himself haunted by the memory of his former mentor, for whom the disease is named.

Heaven only knows what I would have thought of this bizarre art film if David Cronenberg were not now a well-known director whose various areas of obsession and interest were not well-documented. I think it would have been tempting to dismiss the film in that case, but there’s no doubt that it’s a lot more fascinating precisely because one sees so much of the thematic interests of later Cronenberg in the movie. It might take a few viewings to figure out the details of the storyline, though it is obvious that there is a unity holding it all together. The bio for Cronenberg on the DVD of this movie claims that he is trying to find the right balance between the intellectual and the visceral in his movies, and that certainly applies here; it is interesting to work out the details, while at the same time, I do find myself somewhat repelled by some of the subject matter, in particular the theme of pedophilia that pops up in the second half of the movie. According to the bio, Cronenberg himself saw that this type of art film led him to a creative dead end; he would eventually turn to the horror genre to help him flesh out his visions.