It Happened at Nightmare Inn (1973)

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.


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)

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)

(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)

(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)

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.

Corruption (1967)

Article #1752 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-31-2005
Posting Date: 5-30-2006
Directed by Robert Hartford-Davis
Featuring Peter Cushing, Sue Lloyd, Noel Trevarthen

When an accident scars the face of his fiancee, a noted doctor develops a way to restore her beauty with the help of the pituitary gland. However, the solution is only temporary, and the doctor takes to murder to get the needed glands.

I first became aware of this movie’s existence with the still picture in the Psychotronic Movie guide of Peter Cushing slicing up a topless woman; the scene from which this still comes was changed for release in this country to one in which the woman was clothed. My version of the movie features both versions in succession; the clothed one first and the topless one second. This gave me an opportunity to compare the two, and I’d have to say I opt for the clothed version. This isn’t so much because of my distrust for bald exploitation, but rather because the topless scene cuts out a key moment for Cushing’s character in which he works up the nerve to actually commit the murder.

This brings me to a question I had about the movie; it always struck me that the title was an odd choice for a horror movie, as I associate the term more with political intrigue rather than horror. Actually, the title was quite appropriate; though the movie has the basic hackneyed plot of a scientist killing women to recover the beauty of a loved one, it shows a much greater concern for the internal struggle of the doctor than these movies usually bother with. The movie explores the steps by which a respected doctor turns to murder and mutilation, which explains why an actor of the calibre of Cushing was necessary. It also explains why that missing moment in the above footage was essential, and why I miss it in the topless footage.

This intriguing approach does help the movie work for the most part; I found myself a lot more interested than I though I would be. Still, the movie fumbles the ball during the last fifteen minutes when a gang of sleazy robbers invade Cushing’s country home, an event which leads to a destructive sequence captured in the movie’s alternate title (LASER KILLER). This sequence wouldn’t be bad if it didn’t take the focus away from Cushing’s character changes, but that’s exactly what it does. And don’t get me started on the last two minutes of the movie, a winner of the DS Rubber Brick award if ever there was one.

Holocaust 2000 (1977)

HOLOCAUST 2000 (1977)
(a.k.a. THE CHOSEN)
Article #1751 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-30-2005
Posting Date: 5-29-2006
Directed by Alberto De Martino
Featuring Kirk Douglas, Simon Ward, Agostina Belli

An executive begins work on building a new type of nuclear power plant in the Middle East despite huge resistance to his plan. However, opponents of his project start dying in bizarre ways. He then discovers that there are clues in the situation that point to Biblical legends about the Antichrist…

This is one of those movies that is so clearly modeled off of a more successful and famous movie (namely, THE OMEN), that it’s hard not to miss the obvious duplication. This one tries to be a little bit mysterious about the identity of the Antichrist, but you should be able to see easily through the artifice and pick out the real Antichrist, especially after the first death. And like THE OMEN, we have another big-name star (Kirk Douglas) as the father of the “problem child”. Given its obvious pedigree and its almost total lack of surprises in the story, I still found this one a decent watch; in particular, I liked the moment where he discovers how the seven-headed demon of legend manifests itself in real life. Still, I would have liked the moment a lot better had the movie not dwelt on the discovery for far longer than was necessary; furthermore, the movie felt necessary to trot it out again and again later on in the movie. That is perhaps the movie’s worst problem – it’s tendency to keep repeating key moments and discoveries several times. It’s almost as if they didn’t think the viewer would get it. Some of the scenes are rather strange, but some of the moments are rather clever, such as the moment where the new head of the company decides to change the number of board members from 12 to 21. Still, if you’ve seen THE OMEN, there won’t really be much here to surprise you.

The Child (1977)

THE CHILD (1977)
Article #1750 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-29-2005
Posting Date: 5-28-2006
Directed by Robert Voskanian
Featuring Laurel Barnett, Rosalie Cole, Frank Janson

A woman takes on the job of housekeeper for a family which has recently suffered the loss of the mother. She discovers that the daughter blames the other members of the family for her mother’s death, and that she has strange powers to seek vengeance.

John Stanley’s guide describes the movie as an EXORCIST rip-off, but I don’t really see it. A better description is the one on the back of the DVD package, which describes it as a cross between CARRIE and NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD by way of THE BAD SEED, and I think that pretty much captures it. The child has the ability to make scarecrows walk and to resurrect flesh-eating zombies. The movie is cheap and badly-paced, but since it was doing a fair job of creating an eerie atmosphere of dread, I found myself setting aside these flaws and enjoying it. Nonetheless, the movie alienated me in the final reel, when the heroine goes into one of those horror-movie performances that annoys and infuriates me. You know the type; she spends the last twenty minutes of the movie in a non-stop display of screaming, shrieking, crying, mewling and moaning, being almost totally useless when it comes to doing anything useful, and places her hands over her ears (probably to drown out the annoying sound of her screaming, shrieking, crying, mewling and moaning). Yes, I know this is supposed to express sheer traumatizing horror, but anytime it goes on for more than a minute, it outstays its welcome and loses its effectiveness. However, the very ending did prove to be a bit of a surprise. Nonetheless, I’m not surprised that this is Robert Voskanian’s sole directorial credit.