The Damned (1963)

THE DAMNED (1963)
aka These Are the Damned
Article 1825 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-14-2006
Posting Date: 8-11-2006
Directed by Joseph Losey
Featuring Macdonald Carey, Shirley Ann Field, Oliver Reed

When an American on vacation falls afoul of a gang of Teddy Boys in London, he tries to escape by breaking into a top secret installation that is performing secret experiments on a group of children.

This is only the third of the movies of Joseph Losey that I’ve seen for this series, and though this by no means makes me an expert on his oeuvre, I suspect that children do not occupy an enviable position in his universe. In THE BOY WITH GREEN HAIR , the main child character is ostracized by his status as a war orphan; in M, they are preyed upon by a child killer, and here, they are the victims of an experiment sponsored by the government. This one is perhaps the bleakest of the lot, because once you know the nature of their situation, you know there is little chance of rescue, and that doom will follow in the footsteps of anyone who comes into contact with them. The movie itself is a fascinating experience, and I do rank it with Hammer’s best movies, though it certainly doesn’t fit in easily with the rest of their output. Excellent performances abound in this one, though I feel the need to take special notice of Oliver Reed, who manages to give a restrained (for him) performance without sacrificing that intensity that is his trademark. Also fine are Macdonald Carey as the hapless American caught up in the situation, and Viveca Lindfors as an artist who manages to discover something that means her end. This one is sad, powerful, tragic and unforgettable.

Advertisements

Devil Doll (1964)

DEVIL DOLL (1964)
Article 1824 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-13-2006
Posting Date: 8-10-2006
Directed by Lindsay Shonteff and Sidney J. Furie
Featuring Bryant Haliday, William Sylvester, Yvonne Romain

A reporter investigates the strange relationship between a ventriloquist and his almost human dummy, Hugo.

The concept of a ventriloquist and his evil dummy is a pretty clever idea; it is, however, one of those ideas that can only be used once before losing a lot of its impact. That’s how it is for me, anyway, and I generally have little use for ventriloquist-and-dummy tales after the idea was used in DEAD OF NIGHT . Fortunately, this movie is playing a somewhat different game, which becomes clear at about the halfway point when the dummy visits a reporter, asks for help and passes on vague information for the reporter to follow. From here on out, the details unfold in a very different way indeed. The movie also benefits from some extremely moody photography and some clever camerawork; notice how quite a few of the scenes seem to be shot with a low camera angle, giving us a subtle but inadvertent attachment to the only character who would see things from that angle – Hugo the dummy. I do wonder just how successful the Great Vorelli’s ventriloquist act would be; sure, it’s an amazing act, but it’s humorless and depressingly uncomfortable much of the time. The movie does have a couple of problems; the story isn’t quite long enough to fill up its running time, and the very serious and somber tone of the story only falters in the very last moments of the movie, giving the final scene just a twinge of campiness that undermines it a little. Still, for those who get caught up in the movie’s strengths, this last problem will serve as no real impediment.

Scream of Fear (1961)

SCREAM OF FEAR (1961)
aka Taste of Fear
Article 1823 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-12-2006
Posting Date: 8-9-2006
Directed by Seth Holt
Featuring Susan Strasberg, Ronald Lewis, Ann Todd

A young crippled woman returns to her father’s home in France, but her father is not around. After getting contradictory stories on where her father is, she begins to see his corpse popping up at odd times.

You should be able to figure out what some of the twists will be in this black-and-white Hammer thriller; in this way, a bit of this thriller is fairly predictable. However, the scares are so effectively staged and the movie’s use of sound is so stunning that you’ll probably get caught up in the story anyway. Furthermore, even if you do foresee some of the twists, there are others you won’t, and the whole story builds up to a truly satisfying ending. All in all, this is one of Hammer’s best thrillers; it’s only real problem is that it gets a little slow in the middle of the movie. There are some great scenes here, including one with a freezer, another with an out-of-control car, and a late-night dive into a swimming pool (and the Applebys really needed to clean that thing out!). Christopher Lee is on hand in a supporting role, and he even tries on a French accent. Director Seth Holt has only a handful of movies to his credit, but his oeuvre also includes another of my favorite Hammer thrillers, THE NANNY .

The Craving (1980)

THE CRAVING (1980)
Article 1822 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-11-2006
Posting Date: 8-8-2006
Directed by Jacinto Molina
Featuring Jacinto Molina, Silvia Aguilar, Azucena Hernandez

Countess Bathory and her werewolf assistant Waldemar Daminsky are revived in the twentieth century.

Yes, it’s another Paul Naschy film, and either the eighth or ninth of his Waldemar Daminsky series (depending on whether you think the 1968 NIGHT OF THE WOLFMAN was actually made or not), though it’s only the second of that series that I’ve covered. Once again, some horrendous dubbing gets in the way of giving the movie a fair shake, though I do think it is much better than FURY OF THE WOLFMAN . At this point, I’m not sure how interrelated all the movies in this series are; this one certainly doesn’t appear to be related to FOTW. Naschy had what was no doubt a sympathetic director for this one – himself. In truth, he’s one of the better directors he’s worked with, though. The story is fairly straightforward, if somewhat repetitive. Still, I have to make a few observations. One is that vampiresses really need handkerchiefs; Countess Bathory seems to always have a trickle of blood running down the left edge of her mouth; I mean, would it really kill her to wipe it off? Also, this movie gives us a new way to kill a vampiress; have her throat torn out by a werewolf. Now, if only the werewolf had torn out the throat of whoever it was who added that horrendous early eighties rock music that plays over the title and end credits, I’d be really happy. And one final note about bad dubbing; throwing in really bad cussing only makes it worse (though I do admit that one line involving garlic was rather amusing).

Psychic Killer (1975)

PSYCHIC KILLER (1975)
Article 1821 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-10-2006
Posting Date: 8-7-2006
Directed by Ray Danton
Featuring Paul Burke, Jim Hutton, Julie Adams

A man who has been unjustly sent to a mental institution for murder discovers the secret of astral projection. When he is released, he uses the power to cause the deaths of those who wronged him.

This movie has an promising premise (murder by astral projection), an interesting cast (which features Jim Hutton, Julie Adams, Neville Brand, Rod Cameron and Whit Bissell), and poses an intriguing question; even if the police know who is guilty of the bizarre and seemingly accidental deaths that have occurred, how can they prove it? The first part of the movie at the mental institution is the best part; unfortunately, once the inmate is released and the deaths begin, the movie takes a nosedive. Its main problem is the way it handles the murders. Though I understand the reasoning behind making each of the victims an unpleasant character so that the viewer is glad to see them offed, this movie makes them so over-the-top in their unpleasantness that the movie turns inadvertently comic during the scary scenes, and since the rest of the movie is taking itself rather seriously, it undermines the movie’s impact. Some of the dialogue is quite bad as well, and the police figure out the culprit far too easily. Ultimately, it’s a failure, but not an uninteresting one.

The Neptune Factor (1973)

THE NEPTUNE FACTOR (1973)
Article 1820 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-9-2006
Posting Date: 8-6-2006
Directed by Daniel Petrie
Featuring Ben Gazzara, Walter Pidgeon, Ernest Borgnine

When an earthquake causes an underwater lab to drop into an abyss, a small submarine sets out to rescue the people inside.

Those who have seen my MOTDs for VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA and AROUND THE WORLD UNDER THE SEA may well conclude that I just don’t like underwater submarine epics. And they may well be right. However, I must say that both of the above movies look awfully good in comparison with this one; at least those movies aspired to have interesting things happen, whereas this one seemed merely content to fill running time. At any rate, this movie has inspired me to speculate on what possibly might have been the most and least frequently used quotes on the set of the making of this movie would be. Remember, this is all purely speculative.

THE 5 MOST FREQUENT COMMENTS MADE ON THE SET OF THIS MOVIE.

1) “I need another shot of you standing there, saying nothing, and looking concerned.”

2) “I think we need another scene involving coffee.”

3) “My, that diving suit takes almost fifty pounds off of you, Mr. Borgnine.”

4) “Remember, don’t overfeed the monsters, or else they’ll end up belly-up at the top of the tank.”

5) “Sure, I can make an underwater movie. Just give me a toy submarine and a fishtank…”

THE 5 LEAST FREQUENT COMMENTS MADE ON THE SET OF THIS MOVIE.

1) “Let’s try for some suspense in this scene!”

2) “I want you all to do this next scene with feeling!”

3) “Hey, let’s lighten the proceedings with a little bit of humor here!”

4) “This is the movie I’ve been waiting to make for years!”

5) “A sequel? Count me in!”

And for those still interested, the fantastic content is that the movie has some really big fish.

The Evil (1976)

THE EVIL (1976)
Article 1819 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-8-2006
Posting Date: 8-5-2006
Directed by Gus Trikonis
Featuring Richard Crenna, Joanna Pettet, Andrew Prine

A psychologist buys a mansion unaware that it is possessed by a malevolent force.

There are a few decent scares in this “house-possessed-by-malevolent-force” tale, and the acting is certainly acceptable. The cliche-ridden script is pretty weak, however. It’s one of those scripts where most of the dialogue consists of variations of the line “What is going on?”, and where character development only exists in little snippets that have so little bearing on the ultimate story that they feel like they’re there only to pad out the running time. And when the horrors start, they’re trotted out so mechanically that it almost becomes laughably predictable. As a result, the movie never really comes to life; it feels more like an exercise in formula than a fully realized movie; even the title is about as generic as they come. Watchable, but utterly uninspired, despite the presence of Victor Buono in the finale.