The Slumber Party Massacre (1982)

THE SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE (1982)
Article 2419 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 11-10-2007
Posting Date: 3-27-2008
Directed by Amy Holden Jones
Featuring Michelle Michaels, Robin Stille, Michael Villella

Teenage girls throw a slumber party. It’s crashed by a homicidal maniac with a power drill. Mayhem ensues.

This movie was written as a parody by feminist Rita Mae Brown, but she was only responsible for the first draft; it was filmed as a straight horror movie. Still, one can find hints of the intended humor, and even certain elements which may have been intended as feminist statements, but within this context, with all the usual nudity and gore inherent to the slasher genre, they’re ludicrous. Perhaps the most surprising thing about this one is how utterly it fails to generate any real suspense; the scare scenes are telegraphed and devoid of surprises, and there is a an overabundance of fake scare scenes. I have to admit that this movie made me appreciate the way that FRIDAY THE THIRTEENTH at least manages to generate a few scares along the way. This one is utterly routine at best.

 

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Night Fright (1968)

NIGHT FRIGHT (1968)
Article 2418 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 11-9-2007
Posting Date: 3-26-2008
Directed by James A. Sullivan
Featuring John Agar, Carol Gilley, Ralph Baker Jr.

A monster from a downed spacecraft is loose in Satan’s Canyon and the law investigates.

Whatever you do, don’t confuse this movie with FRIGHT NIGHT; that one is good. If you do, you’ll know you made a dreadful mistake, especially if you put down good money on it. This movie is so dull and inept that it almost makes me want to revise the old motion picture code from the Hays office. How about a motion picture code that monitors tedium rather than morality? For example, you would only be allowed so much time per movie to have characters wandering in the woods. Quite frankly, this movie would have blown out the maximum allotted time for such footage before it even hits the opening credits. It would also monitor scenes of teens dancing and people standing around waiting, both of which are represented here as well. Heck, if you took all of the dull scenes out of this movie, you just might have enough footage for a trailer. All in all, this movie reminded me of a Larry Buchanan movie, but that’s no surprise; director James A. Sullivan worked with Buchanan on several of his movies. The only problem is that Larry Buchanan would have made a better movie than this one, and you can’t say that very often. But then, what can you say about a movie in which John Agar (while wandering in the woods) is startled by some boars; think of the homonym for that last word, and you’ll know you’ve been warned.

 

Mystery of Marie Roget (1942)

MYSTERY OF MARIE ROGET (1942)
Article 2417 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 11-8-2007
Posting Date: 3-25-2008
Directed by Phil Rosen
Featuring Patric Knowles, Maria Montez, Maria Ouspenskaya

When the body of a woman with a mutilated face is found, the victim is believed to be a missing actress. Then the actress shows up. Then she disappears again, and another body is found; this time it is really hers. Dupin investigates with the help of the local prefect.

If there is any Poe story that I would expect to undergo major revision before it was turned into a motion picture, this would be the one; it isn’t so much a story as speculation on the solution of a real-life murder case. This one has a story, though it’s not a particularly good one, but the cast is interesting, though it’s really hard to buy that Maria Montez (with a French accent) is the granddaughter of Maria Ouspenskaya (with a Maria Ouspenskaya accent). The latter is a suspect largely because she keeps a pet leopard (but, then, who doesn’t?), and, for that matter, the daughter is also a suspect (that is, until she becomes a victim). The horror elements are the fact that it comes from a Poe story, the presence of the leopard, and the gruesomeness of the murders. For me, most of the enjoyment of the movie is just watching Maria Ouspenskaya act, even in a strange-looking wig. Keep your eyes open for Charles Middleton as a curator of a zoo that gets a new addition to its menagerie.

 

Mystery of Marie Roget (1942)

MYSTERY OF MARIE ROGET (1942)
Article 2417 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 11-8-2007
Posting Date: 3-25-2008
Directed by Phil Rosen
Featuring Patric Knowles, Maria Montez, Maria Ouspenskaya

When the body of a woman with a mutilated face is found, the victim is believed to be a missing actress. Then the actress shows up. Then she disappears again, and another body is found; this time it is really hers. Dupin investigates with the help of the local prefect.

If there is any Poe story that I would expect to undergo major revision before it was turned into a motion picture, this would be the one; it isn’t so much a story as speculation on the solution of a real-life murder case. This one has a story, though it’s not a particularly good one, but the cast is interesting, though it’s really hard to buy that Maria Montez (with a French accent) is the granddaughter of Maria Ouspenskaya (with a Maria Ouspenskaya accent). The latter is a suspect largely because she keeps a pet leopard (but, then, who doesn’t?), and, for that matter, the daughter is also a suspect (that is, until she becomes a victim). The horror elements are the fact that it comes from a Poe story, the presence of the leopard, and the gruesomeness of the murders. For me, most of the enjoyment of the movie is just watching Maria Ouspenskaya act, even in a strange-looking wig. Keep your eyes open for Charles Middleton as a curator of a zoo that gets a new addition to its menagerie.

 

Murder Mansion (1972)

MURDER MANSION (1972)
aka La Mansion de la niebla
Article 2416 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 11-7-2007
Posting Date: 3-24-2008
Directed by Francisco Loro Polop and Pedro Lazaga
Featuring Ida Galli, Analia Gade, Annalisa Nardi

Various travelers end up at a spooky mansion near a cemetery. There are rumors that the cemetery is haunted by vampires. Strange things happen.

The title on my copy of this movie certainly doesn’t make it sound much like a horror movie. In some ways, this is fitting; the movie itself seems to forget it’s a horror movie for most of its running time. This in itself isn’t necessarily a bad thing; the trouble is, it doesn’t have much of anything really interesting going on for most of its running time either, as it seems more interested in the love lives of various poorly-differentiated characters. There are some twists at the end, but I saw them coming a mile away; I’ve always held that plot twists are only interesting if the plot itself is interesting, and this one bored me. A little gore and one interesting murder was about all that caught my attention. Not recommended.

 

The Legend of Hillbilly John (1974)

THE LEGEND OF HILLBILLY JOHN (1974)
Article 2415 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 11-6-2007
Posting Date: 3-23-2008
Directed by John Newland
Featuring Hedges Capers, Denver Pyle, Susan Strasberg

A ballad singer from Appalachia becomes a defier; he battles evil with the help of his silver-stringed guitar.

This unusual and interesting fantasy is based on stories by Manly Wade Wellman, and to some extent, the movie feels a bit like an anthology with the same basic setting and several repeating characters. There’s something truly engaging about the concept, the setting, and the characters, with Denver Pyle and Severn Darden both quite memorable as the grandfather and the mysterious dowser who help the main character. I just wish it was better; the movie is quite confusing at times, especially in the early scenes, and Hedges Capers (as the title character) seems a little too seventies-leading-mannish to really make his character feel authentic. The music is a mixed bag; on a song by song basis, the music works best in proportion to how close it sounds to real folk ballad music and to how far it sounds from seventies singer-songwriter fare. The song that plays over the credits comes off best. The special effects are low-budget, but have a real charm, especially the “ugly bird”. If anything, it makes me want to seek out the Wellman stories and check them out myself; I sense a really great movie could be made from them, and could succeed where this one (a noble effort nonetheless) falls short.

 

See No Evil (1971)

SEE NO EVIL (1971)
aka Blind Terror
Article 2414 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 11-5-2007
Posting Date: 3-22-2008
Directed by Richard Fleischer
Featuring Mia Farrow, Dorothy Alison, Robin Bailey

A blind woman is staying with relatives in a home in the English countryside. She returns there one day, unaware that the whole family has been murdered. Unfortunately, the murderer left a piece of evidence in the home, and he returns to get it…

Through no fault of its own, this movie started out on the wrong step with me; I mistakenly believed that Mia Farrow had played the lead in WAIT UNTIL DARK (it was Audrey Hepburn), and I found myself believing that Mia Farrow was just recycling a past success. This is patently unfair; not only was my assumption wrong, but this movie is really trying to be something else than a recycling of WAIT UNTIL DARK. Still, it started me on the wrong foot, and I was prepared to dislike this movie from the get-go. The opening moments of the movie annoyed me with what seemed to me fairly heavy-handed scenes about violence and sex in modern society (the exploitative double feature at the theater, the toy gun in the store window, etc.). As the movie progressed, I kept finding other things to annoy me; the general slickness of the production, at least one impossible-to-swallow plot element (just how long was that guy wandering around with a bullet in him?), the strident unpleasantness of Mia Farrow’s performance when she’s being terrorized (her voice takes on a shrill, grating quality in these scenes), and the movie’s almost non-stop attempts to make her situation go from bad to worse. Nevertheless, I now find myself wondering whether I might not have liked this one more if I hadn’t gone into it with the assumption I did. Somehow, I suspect I’ll never know, but as it sits now, this one left a bad taste in my mouth.