Our Mother’s House (1967)

OUR MOTHER’S HOUSE (1967)
Article 2421 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 11-12-2007
Posting Date: 3-29-2008
Directed by Jack Clayton
Featuring Dirk Bogarde, Margaret Brooks, Pamela Franklin

When a religious invalid woman dies, her seven children, fearing that they will be sent to an orphanage, keep her death a secret and learn to fend for themselves. They have sessions (known as Mothertime) where they commune with their mother’s soul and make decisions. Then, one day, their world is turned upside down by the appearance of their estranged father…

Though it’s not really a horror film, it’s easy to see the similarity between this movie and the better-known THE LITTLE GIRL WHO LIVES DOWN THE LANE . It does have some fairly creepy moments, though; the Mothertime sessions are truly unsettling, as we see that there is some distinct unhealthiness in their obsession with their saintly mother, and the scene where the little girl is punished by having her long hair shorn is rather traumatic. Had the movie continued in this vein, it might well have turned into a full horror movie, but the arrival of the father shifts the movie in another direction, as it splits the solidarity of the group of children apart as they deal with the new presence. In the process, they learn more than they bargained for, especially in respect to their beloved mother. It’s a powerful and very sad movie. Director Jack Clayton had a very interesting career as a director and producer; he gave us both THE INNOCENTS and SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES, and between these three movies, it shows he had a clear affinity for working with children.

 

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Night of the Lepus (1972)

NIGHT OF THE LEPUS (1972)
Article 2420 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 11-11-2007
Posting Date: 2-28-2008
Directed by William F. Claxton
Featuring Stuart Whitman, Janet Leigh, Rory Calhoun

An experiment to control the population of rabbits goes awry when one of the test rabbits gets loose, and ends up producing a herd of giant rabbits intent on destruction and death.

Well, I’ll give the movie some credit; it does try. It has some decent miniature model work, the acting is quite good, and it tries to spice up the proceedings with copious amounts of gore. But it’s a lost cause; the moment you see the bobbing and bouncing bevy of bucktoothed behemoth bunnies, you’ll be more inclined to shriek with delight as you run to the pet store rather than scream with fear and run for the theater exit. Quite frankly, it should have been played for laughs, and, if my memory is correct, I recall hearing that the original novel on which it was based (Russell Braddon’s “The Year of the Angry Rabbit”) was comic; if this is true, then this is the second movie in a row I’ve seen which took a comic effort and tried to make a straight movie out of it. I vividly remember the ads for this movie that played on TV after I got home from school in the early seventies; it looked rather scary then, but it never once made explicit that the monsters were rabbits. Somebody came to their senses. The movie also features DeForest Kelley in a fashionable seventies haircut.

 

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.

 

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.