My Brother has Bad Dreams (1972)

MY BROTHER HAS BAD DREAMS (1972)
aka Scream Bloody Murder
Article 2791 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-28-2008
Posting Date: 4-4-2009
Directed by Robert J. Emery
Featuring Paul Vincent, Marlena Lustik, Paul Ecenia
Country: USA

A man, traumatized and disturbed by having witnessed his mother’s murder by his father when he was a child, is under the care of his older sister. When he brings home a motorcyclist he’s befriended, his sister strikes up a romance with his new friend. However, this leads to the brother’s disturbance bubbling to the surface…

First of all, let’s clear up a bit of confusion. This movie entered my hunt list under the title SCREAM BLOODY MURDER. The plot description my source gives involves a boy who becomes a killer after losing his hand when he ran over his father with a tractor. Now, this movie certainly exists (I have a copy of it), but my source then lists the cast for THIS movie rather than for that one, and since I use the cast credits to help decide which movie to pick when there’s some confusion, it is this one I added to my list. I just wish to point out that there are two movies from the early seventies that carry this title.

As for this movie… well, it’s one of those movies that you can see where it’s going fairly early on, and then takes far too long to get there. So unless you’re really fascinated by some lame nightmare footage, or find the incestuous desire for his sister or his fetishistic fascination with mannequins or his desire to keep his mother’s wheelchair around or his relationship with the mailman to make for compelling cinema, you’re in for a long, tiresome stretch ahead. And once the event you know is going to happen happens, the movie doesn’t have anywhere to go and it takes a good stretch of time getting there, thanks to a gratuitous and dull police chase and a head-scratching ending. There’s a plot twist about the murder of the mother as well, but it’s hardly an earth-shaker. All in all, this is a fairly lame psycho killer movie.

Nothing But the Night (1973)

NOTHING BUT THE NIGHT (1973)
Article 2790 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-27-2008
Posting Date: 4-3-2009
Directed by Peter Sasdy
Featuring Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Diana Dors
Country: UK

Trustees for a fund that benefits an orphanage are being killed off one by one. When a botched attempt to kill three of them results in the hospitalization of some of the children from the orphanage, it is discovered that one of the girls is suffering from vivid nightmares about an event she couldn’t have lived through. Meanwhile, the mother of the girl (who was in prison for murder when her daughter was taken away) vows to get her back.

This movie was the sole release from Christopher Lee’s Charlemagne production company. The movie has a very low reputation, and for about the first half of the movie, I felt that its reputation wasn’t justified. However, that feeling dissipated as the movie progressed. Basically, most of the movie is a smokescreen covering up the central plot mechanism (which, incidentally, is given away in practically every reference book I’ve read on the movie), but it’s one of those plot mechanisms that needs better care than it is given to make it believable, and the rushed ending and ill preparation it is given here makes for a finale that just falls apart. Had the movie spent less time bothering with the subplot with the girl’s mother, it would have easily had the time to work on the real story. Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing do the best they can under the circumstances, though it seems to me that the movie bends over backwards at times to keep Cushing central to the plot. It’s a shame; this could have been an interesting movie. Incidentally, the fantastic content is the final revelation which I won’t give away here, but it moves the movie into science fiction and horror directions. As a clue, I can only say that when a doctor describes the nightmares of the little girl as seeming to be those of a different person entirely, he’s onto more than he suspects.

Twinsanity (1970)

TWINSANITY (1970)
aka Goodbye Gemini
Article 2789 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-26-2008
Posting Date: 4-2-2009
Directed by Alan Gibson
Featuring Judy Geeson, Martin Potter, Michael Redgrave
Country: UK

A pair of twins (one male and one female) live in a world of their own. When they move to London, they become embroiled with a lowlife who attempts to drive a wedge between them. However, he isn’t aware that the twins aren’t quite sane…

Though I’m not sure it can strictly be described as a horror movie, there’s no doubt that the theme of insanity is here very strongly. Furthermore, the central murder in the story is definitely the stuff of horror. Overall, it’s a curious, bizarre, and not quite satisfying movie; it gives us a glimpse of some of the seedier sides of London counterculture, but somehow the characters never quite become engaging. It was based on a novel by Jenni Hall called “Ask Agamemnon”; Agamemnon is the name of the black teddy bear that plays a central role in the games of the twins.

Ghosts – Italian Style (1968)

GHOSTS – ITALIAN STYLE (1968)
aka Questi fantasmi
Article 2788 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-25-2008
Posting Date: 4-1-2009
Directed by Renato Castellani
Featuring Sophia Loren, Vittorio Gassman, Maria Adorf
Country: Italy / France

A couple whose marriage is suffering is offered a chance to stay at a castle rent-free. The drawback is that the castle appears to be haunted.

This movie should not be confused with FANTASMI A ROMA (GHOSTS IN ROME); that movie has a gaggle of real ghosts and an unusual plot, or at least as much as I can make out of one since I’ve only seen it in unsubtitled Italian. This one has a plot that looks quite familiar indeed; people moving into haunted houses is a setup as old as the hills. To its credit, this movie takes it in a different direction that moves it more into the area of bedroom farce, in which the wife’s prospective lover is mistaken for a ghost by the husband, a situation that results in a series of amusing complications. The movie has a lukewarm reputation, but I found it quite hilarious at times; my favorite gags revolve around the name of the orphanage and the arrival of a huge group of nuns at the castle. As you might suspect, the main plot involves no real ghost, but, like a number of comedies that revolve around hauntings that really aren’t hauntings, it can’t resist slipping in a real ghost in the final reel, which involves cameos by both Francis De Wolff and an uncredited Marcello Mastroianni. I found this one quite enjoyable.

The Secret Killer (1975)

THE SECRET KILLER (1975)
aka Eyeball, Gatti rossi in un labirinto di vetro
Article 2787 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-24-2008
Posting Date: 3-31-2009
Directed by Umberto Lenzi
Featuring Martine Brochard, John Richardson, Ines Pellegrini
Country: Spain / Italy

A killer who gouges out eyeballs is loose in Barcelona. The killer is somehow attached to a group of tourists, some of whom end up victims of the killer.

The best thing about this giallo is the mystery surrounding the modus operandi of the murder; mainly, why is the killer gouging out eyeballs and what is being done with them? The answer is a far-fetched doozy that I’m willing to accept in the context of a giallo; in short, I don’t have a major problem with it. It’s the rest of the movie that gives me problems; for some reason, this one just falls flat. Maybe it’s because the movie never really becomes stylistically engaging; there are some touches, but they don’t sustain interest. Maybe it’s the overuse of certain musical themes that just scream “travelogue”; given that it’s about tourists in Barcelona, it’s appropriate enough, but travelogue music is counter-suspenseful. Maybe it’s because most of the characters are either undeveloped, underdeveloped, or obvious, from the strange priest to the overly-protective Texan father to the lesbian photographer and her model/partner. Use the basic rule that the murderer is the only major character on whom no suspicion falls, and you should have no trouble spotting the killer. At any rate, the movie lacks tension, and even the murders are only marginally interesting. There are much better giallos out there.

Deathsport (1978)

DEATHSPORT (1978)
Article 2786 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-23-2008
Posting Date: 3-30-2009
Directed by Allan Arkush, Nicholas Niciphor, Roger Corman
Featuring David Carradine, Claudia Jennings, Richard Lynch
Country: USA

It’s after the apocalypse, and the evil empire kidnaps several mystical warriors known as Ranger Guides in order to have them do battle with their new death machines.

For the record, I find movies that borrow heavily from various movies a little more entertaining than those that borrow heavily from just one movie. What we have here is basically a STAR WARS clone minus the space travel fleshed out with ROLLERBALL and DEATH RACE 2000 trappings. The death machines are just motorcycles with zappers and their own special overdrive sound effect. Being that it’s from Roger Corman and New World, you can expect it to be heavy on exploitation. There’s nudity (Claudia Jennings and an uncredited Linnea Quigley), lots of stunts, and a overplenteous assortment of slow-motion explosions. In the final assessment, what it really becomes is a competition as to which of three things will end up annoying you the most; is it the overabundance of explosions, the dumb mystical dialogue of the ranger guides, or that annoying sound effect of the death machines? It’s no real competition; that sound effect will really get to you before the movie is over. It ends with a battle between good and evil. What did you expect, surprises?

Nightmares in a Damaged Brain (1981)

NIGHTMARES IN A DAMAGED BRAIN (1981)
aka Nightmare
Article 2785 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-22-2008
Posting Date: 3-29-2009
Directed by Romano Scavolini
Featuring Baird Stafford, Sharon Smith, C.J. Cooke
Country: USA

A homicidal maniac is released from a mental hospital when it is believed that new techniques have cured him of his problems. However, he goes on a killing spree, and sets his sights on a family in Florida.

The DVD case I have for this movie proudly describes it as “the most disturbing movie ever made”. That’s a pretty tall order to fill. It does attempt to give the murdering psycho more in the way of character than you usually get in a slasher film. It’s also incredibly gory, far more than is usual for the slasher films of the era. But, when all is said and done, a slasher film it is; during his attack on the household at the end, he dons a mask and becomes almost as indestructible as the usual slasher villain, though, to its credit, I was able to use the word “almost”. But you know the only reason they saved the elaborate flashback of the murder at the end of the movie was so they could have the big gory scene at that point. And the Oedipal themes aren’t really that fascinating or disturbing. Nor will you be surprised by the revelations at the end of the movie, such as his real relationship with the family in question. In short, it’s hardly the most disturbing movie ever made; it’s just a slightly better-than-average slasher film. Incidentally, Tom Savini is credited with the special effects, but only served as a consultant, and he threatened to sue when the promotional materials tried to credit him with the former.

The Man Who Could Cheat Death (1959)

THE MAN WHO COULD CHEAT DEATH (1959)
Article 2784 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-21-2008
Posting Date: 3-28-2009
Directed by Terence Fisher
Featuring Anton Diffring, Hazel Court, Christopher Lee
Country: UK

A doctor who also is a sculptor has a secret; he’s more than a hundred years old thanks to operations on his glands. Unfortunately, he has to kill others to get the glands. However, he’s due for another operation, and the surgeon who performed has suffered from a stroke and can no longer operate. He must find another doctor to operate or face certain death…

It seems an odd choice on Hammer’s part to do a remake of THE MAN ON HALF MOON STREET, but you can rest assured of one thing; they were quite willing to take this talky story and give it the the horror elements they wanted for their movies. Therefore, we get a new twist involving a fluid that can extend his life for four weeks but also turns him into a homicidal maniac, and the subplot about the missing women and the art pieces. I suppose it passes muster all right, but when I found out that Peter Cushing was originally slated for the title role, I couldn’t help but feel disappointed at Anton Diffring’s performance; his Teutonic intensity gets tiresome, and causes him to emphasize phrases and situations that would be best underplayed, and I would just love to see how Cushing would have handled the cliched scene in which the doctor/sculptor has a final confrontation with his former surgeon (it’s one of those doctor-talks-to-another-character-that-serves-as-his-conscience scenes). Hazel Court is lovely as always, and Christopher Lee somehow makes the best job he can with a rather thankless role. Hammer did better before, and they would do better again.

The Survivor (1981)

THE SURVIVOR (1981)
Article 2783 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-20-2008
Posting Date: 3-27-2009
Directed by David Hemmings
Featuring Robert Powell, Jenny Agutter, Joseph Cotten
County: Australia

The only survivor of the crash of a 747 is a pilot who can’t remember what happened. He ends up meeting a psychic who says she can help him sort out what happened. Meanwhile, those investigating the crash are being killed off.

This movie’s at its best at the very beginning with the crash of the plane, an effective and memorable scene. It also has some interesting touches here and there, including a vision of young girls playing a game (one of those where you sneak up on someone but stop when they turn around). It also makes some good use of a wrecked 747 as an atmospheric location. Unfortunately, the movie quickly loses steam, spending less time investigating the mystery of the crash and more time just being mysterious, with the scenes in which various people are killed off seeming rather out of place. It’s not until the last twenty minutes of the movie that it begins to investigate what happened, and the revelation is… well, disappointing, given what went on before, with a final twist that I saw coming halfway through the movie. The performances by Robert Powell (as the pilot) and Jenny Agutter (as the psychic) are good, but Joseph Cotten is given little more to do than give the pilot a Bible at one point. Still, the movie did win several awards from the Australian Film Institute, but I suspect that’s for its sense of style, which is much stronger than any story it tells.

The Horror of Frankenstein (1970)

THE HORROR OF FRANKENSTEIN (1970)
Article 2782 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-19-2008
Posting Date: 3-26-2009
Directed by Jimmy Sangster
Featuring Ralph Bates, Kate O’Mara, Veronica Carlson
Country: UK

Baron Frankenstein leaves the university in order to pursue his own research, in which he plans to assemble a man from body parts and bring him to life.

This completes my coverage of the Hammer Frankenstein movies, and I definitely did not save the best for last. This is the only one in the series that did not feature Peter Cushing, but that’s perfectly understandable, as it concentrates on his early years. Actually, I didn’t quite know what to make of this one until I read in one of my sources that the movie was a comic rendering of the tale. Knowing that now, I can see it; Frankenstein’s habit of making light of everything in his path, his use of a chart with numbered body parts to keep track of what he has and what he needs, the extreme stupidity of all of those he ends up killing, etc. – they all hint that this movie isn’t something that should be taken too seriously. Unfortunately, only one actor in the cast seems to know it’s a comedy, and he (Dennis Price) steals the show as the grave robber who is overly ambitious in supplying Frankenstein with his bodies. Ralph Bates seems to grasp the idea, but he never really fully commits to a comic performance, and everyone else in the cast seems to be performing as if it’s anything but a comedy. That’s a major problem; comedy requires a certain clearness of purpose, an awareness that one is doing a comedy, and good timing to work, and, for the most part, those qualities are not present here. Even the score thinks it’s a straightforward horror movie. It’s a pity, because as a straightforward horror movie, it’s a washout; the story doesn’t really go anywhere new, the monster is a nonentity (David Prowse would do much better in FRANKENSTEIN AND THE MONSTER FROM HELL), and the ending is just plain bad. This is far and away the weakest of the Hammer Frankenstein movies.