Corruption (1967)

CORRUPTION (1967)
(a.k.a. LASER KILLER)
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.

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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.

Castle of the Monsters (1958)

CASTLE OF THE MONSTERS (1958)
(a.k.a. EL CASTILLO DE LOS MONSTRUOS)
Article #1749 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-28-2005
Posting Date: 5-27-2006
Directed by Julian Soler
Featuring Antonio Espino, Evangelina Elizondo, Carlos Orellano

A silly person tries to rescue the woman he loves when she is kidnapped by a mad scientist.

The above plot description is something of a guess, since this is another movie which I have only seen in unsubtitled Spanish. I’m pretty certain it’s a comedy, especially when the sound effects come into play. The first half of the movie takes place in the town, has lots of talk, and is fairly impenetrable to me. The second half takes place in the castle, and is fairly easy to follow; our hero meets a monster, runs away to escape it, and in the process meets another monster (repeat ad infinitum). What makes this amusing is the wealth of monsters he meets; Mexican versions of the Frankenstein monster, Dracula, the Wolf Man (two of them, I think), the Mummy and the Creature from the Black Lagoon all pop up. Then there’s the hunchback (who is missing the hunch but has the walk down pat) and the mad scientist to contend with. There’s also some dead body delivery, a few alligators, and one of those trap rooms where the walls close in to round out matters. This one gets by (in its present unsubtitled form) on novelty value and excess. That’s German Robles as (of course) the vampire.

Blood and Lace (1971)

BLOOD AND LACE (1971)
Article #1748 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-27-2005
Posting Date: 5-26-2006
Directed by Philip S. Gilbert
Featuring Gloria Grahame, Milton Selzer, Len Lesser

A girl whose mother was killed by a murderer using a hammer is sent to an orphanage. There she has to deal with her nightmares (about an ugly hammer-wielding maniac), her dictatorial headmistress (who keeps dead bodies in her cellar) and the brutal handyman.

“The Psychotronic Film Guide” says that this movie is one of the sickest to ever receive a PG rating (or GP, as it was known as the time). And when it lists the various sick elements of the movie, it has a definite point to make; this movie has a wealth of disturbing elements about it. So how did it end up with its mild rating? I can only attribute this to the fact that, despite all the horrible happenings, the movie seems to project an attitude that I can only describe as blase and slightly bored. It’s a bizarre attitude for a horror movie, and it might have worked if the movie had also aspired to being a comedy, but as far as I can tell, it’s supposed to be taken straight. This probably goes a ways towards explaining why this remains director Philip S. Gilbert’s sole credit. The performances of the adults aren’t bad (Gloria Grahame’s is quite interesting, as a matter of fact), and familiar faces abound; you’ll recognize Milton Selzer, Len Lesser and Vic Tayback. The performances of the juveniles are less so, but it’s really the listless direction that drags the movie down. Don’t confuse this one with a Mario Bava movie with a similar title.

Barn of the Naked Dead (1974)

BARN OF THE NAKED DEAD (1974)
(a.k.a. NIGHTMARE CIRCUS)
Article #1747 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-26-2005
Posting Date: 5-25-2006
Directed by Alan Rudolph
Featuring Andrew Prine, Manuela Thiess, Sherry Alberoni

Three women are stranded in the Nevada desert when their car breaks down. They are found by a man who offers them the use of his phone, but are instead chained up in his barn and made to perform like circus animals.

Let’s parse out this title before we start. First of all, we do have a barn. However, nobody in the barn is naked (not in my print, anyway, though I must point out that my print runs a few minutes short of the IMDB time, and there’s a jolting jump cut during a sequence with a snake which leads me to believe that the cut is there). And for most of the movie, the women in the barn are alive, but that’s before the mutant in the shed gets loose in the last five minutes. In conclusion, I would have to say that the title overplays the exploitation qualities of the movie somewhat.

As for the movie itself? When the main thing you can say about the opening of a movie is that it reminds you of MANOS: THE HANDS OF FATE, that’s not a good sign. Director Alan Rudolph has an interesting career; he served as second unit director on several of Robert Altman’s films, and his own oeuvre contains several art-house dramas, but he seemed to dabble quite a bit in horror at first, what with this movie and his work with Alice Cooper. Yes, the movie is a bit disturbing, but any movie about a man who kidnaps, enslaves and tortures women is bound to be. The question is whether it has any other purpose than to be disturbing on this level, and in this case, I’m not sure it does. The nature of the madman’s insanity is somewhat interesting; he sees his captives as trained animals and is training them to perform. Andrew Prine makes a decent madman, but it’s still a one-note character, and the movie really doesn’t transcend its sleazy cheapness. This one is for fans of no-budget regional horror only.

Atlantis, the Lost Continent (1961)

ATLANTIS, THE LOST CONTINENT (1961)
Article #1746 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-25-2005
Posting Date: 5-24-2006
Directed by George Pal
Featuring Sal Ponti, Joyce Taylor, John Dall

When a Greek fisherman rescues a princess from Atlantis and helps her to return home, he is rewarded by being turned into a slave and forced to work the mines. However, he befriends a priest who knows that the time of Atlantis is nearing its end…

This is perhaps George Pal’s weakest and most disappointing movie, though to some extent it was not his fault; he was given a weak script to begin with, a writer’s strike put the kibbosh on rewrites, and studio tampering further damaged the production. As a result, the movie is horribly uneven. There are clever and fun moments (I like the scene where the fisherman and the princess talk to each other aboard the boat and don’t see the submarine surfacing and diving in the background), but other moments are totally cliched. The special effects range from the excellent to the awful, especially during the somewhat sluggish climax of the movie. What I think is most disappointing is that, despite the presence of Pal, this is really nothing more than a typical Sword-and-Sandal movie with an everyman rather than a Hercules type as the hero. I did enjoy seeing a pre-“Get Smart” Edward Platt as the priest who doubts the power of the Atlantean gods, and you should be able to spot the voice of Paul Frees several times throughout the production. The addition of an “Island of Dr. Moreau” subplot is interesting, but it is not incorporated into the story very well at all. At any rate, the movie really lacks that special quality that Pal usually brought to his productions. He’d done better before, and would do better again.