Asylum (1972)

ASYLUM (1972)
Article 3604 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 6-12-2011
Posting Date: 6-27-2011
Directed by Roy Ward Baker
Featuring Peter Cushing, Britt Ekland, Herbert Lom
Country: UK
What it is: Anthology horror

A psychiatrist who has come to an asylum to apply for a job is given a test; he is to interview the patients and figure out which one is actually the former director of the asylum.

This is the Amicus horror anthology that I was the most curious about, largely because it’s the only one I remember seeing ads for on TV. The first story is a “revenge of the dead” story which, though a bit on the obvious side, does have the advantage of taking the “crawling hand” horror gimmick to the next level. The second, which features Barry Morse and Peter Cushing, is the most offbeat; it’s about a down-on-his-luck tailor who is hired to make a suit from a mysterious material, and it’s easily the least predictable of the bunch. The third, which features Charlotte Rampling and Britt Ekland, is about a troubled woman and her friend named Lucy; this one works better if you don’t figure out the twist, but I was able to pick up the clues in the story. The fourth story (which features Herbert Lom and Patrick Magee) is tied to the framing story; it’s a bit perfunctory, but it does have some memorable moments and contains the scene that stuck in my mind from the original ads. Then there’s a final twist to the whole thing as well. All in all, it’s not bad; it’s more consistent than some of the other Amicus anthologies, but I’m afraid it doesn’t have a story that matches the high points of some of the other anthologies; for example, there’s nothing here that has the impact of the story about the Poe collector in TORTURE GARDEN.


The Alien Dead (1980)

Article 3599 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 6-7-2011
Posting Date: 6-22-2011
Directed by Fred Olen Ray
Featuring Buster Crabbe, Ray Roberts, Linda Lewis
Country: USA
What it is: Extreme low budget zombie flick

Flesh-eating zombies are loose in a swamp. A reporter and his girlfriend investigate.

So now we enter the cinematic world of Fred Olen Ray. Based on this movie, I’d have to say he’s a better director than either Jerry Warren or Larry Buchanan, which may be damning with faint praise. I will give him credit though; about halfway through the movie, there was one scare scene that actually made me jump, and that’s a lot more than some other directors have ever done for me. Also, if you take into account that this movie was reportedly made for about five thousand dollars (most of which went to Buster Crabbe), then I’d have to say he got quite a bit of bang for his buck. The movie is a cross between ATTACK OF THE GIANT LEECHES and NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD. No, it’s not good, but it keeps from getting overly dull, making it work well enough for bottom-of-the-bill drive-in fare. I’ve had to sit through far worse movies.

Los Astronautas (1964)

Article 3569 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 4-30-2011
Posting Date: 5-23-2011
Directed by Miguel Zacarias
Featuring Marco Antonio Campos, Gaspar Henaine, Gina Romand
Country: Mexico
What it is: Science fiction comedy

Two women from Venus hook up with two rather silly Earth men. Hilarity ensues.

I’m rather vague on the plot because my copy of the movie is in unsubtitled Spanish, but it’s the type of movie where you suspect the plot is of little importance. The two main characters were a comedians known as Viruta and Capulina, and the movie is mostly a vehicle for their slapstick antics. Along with the Venusian women, they have to contend with angry athletes and ugly Martians, and they get to play with freeze rays and amulets that give super-strength. Much of the humor is visual; most of it is also pretty obvious, even without the verbal setups that comprehension of the language would have given me. There’s not really a whole lot to this one; it just is what it is.

L’Abeille et la rose (1908)

aka The Bee and the Rose

Article 3564 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 4-25-2011
Posting Date: 5-18-2011
Directed by Segundo de Chomon
Cast unknown
Country: France
What it is: Early silent fantasy

A bee wanders away from the hive and is threatened by a spider.

I really should have covered this one when I had my Chomon-a-thon some time back, as it was on my hunt list at that time, but sometimes it takes a while for me to reconcile recent acquisitions with my hunt list, especially when the titles I find are only in foreign languages. There’s really not a lot to this one; the bees are played by ballerinas, and most of the emphasis is on the dancing, and it’s a bit of shame my copy of the movie has no music on it. The spider attack scene is short, and the foe is easily dispensed. It does have some enjoyable special effects, however.

Andalusian Superstition (1912)

aka Superstition andalouse
Article 3475 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 1-13-2011
Posting Date: 2-18-2011
Directed by Segundo de Chomon
Cast unknown
Country: France / Spain
What it is: Drama with fantastic elements

A woman drives away a gypsy that is trying to beg coins off of her lover. She then envisions the gypsy’s revenge.

This short movie saves most of its special effects for the end, when the woman’s lover is trapped in a strange room with bottles containing various nightmarish demons. Yet there is one special effect early on that is particularly striking. When the woman begins to envision the gypsy’s revenge in her mind, it opens with the woman’s face as she ponders, and then her face moves nearer to us while the background remains static. This is not a new trick; I’m willing to bet it’s similar to the one used by Melies in THE MAN WITH THE RUBBER HEAD. What makes it striking here is that the purpose of the trick is to give us a sense of her mental state, and I don’t recall a movie from before this date that used special effects for that purpose before. The story is also pretty good, and this is another of Chomon’s shorts that is really worth seeing.

Axe (1977)

AXE (1977)
aka Lisa, Lisa
Article 3440 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-6-2010
Posting Date: 1-14-11
Directed by Frederick R. Friedel
Featuring Leslie Lee, Jack Canon, Ray Green
Country: USA
What it is: Sadists and disturbed girls

Three criminals decide to lay low in the country when they rough up a victim so badly they kill him. They choose as their hideout a remote farmhouse only populated by a young woman and her paralyzed grandfather. They decide to molest the young woman, unaware that she’s not quite sane… and knows how to use farm tools.

This gory but extremely low budget movie actually comes across better than I thought it would, thanks in part by some creative film editing and sharp use of music and sound. It also taps into that sleazy, nasty atmosphere that is probably its primary appeal to some. Unfortunately, the movie drags, and for a movie that runs only 68 minutes, that’s bad; several of the scenes run on far longer than they should, and any movie which stretches out about thirty seconds worth of closing credits to five minutes is a movie desperately trying to pad itself. The movie has its roots in the works of Herschell Gordon Lewis (Producer J.G. Patterson Jr. worked with Lewis on occasion and helmed the Lewis-inspired THE BODY SHOP), but in terms of the gore, this one is much tamer. And it doesn’t quite live up to its “At Last, Total Terror” tagline.

An American Werewolf in London (1981)

Article 3439 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-5-2010
Posting Date: 1-13-2011
Directed by John Landis
Featuring David Naughton, Jenny Agutter, Griffin Dunne
Country: UK / USA
What it is: Werewolf movie

Two young American men are attacked by a werewolf while walking the moors in northern England. One dies and finds his soul trapped in limbo; the other survives and carries the curse of the werewolf.

I first saw this movie on commercial TV, and now having seen the theatrical version, I’m definitely classifying this one as one of those movies that can’t survive the bowdlerization necessary to make it palatable on commercial TV. Still, I don’t find myself quite as taken with this movie as some others, mostly because John Landis’s comic style blows hot and cold for me, and though I smile sometimes at the humor in this movie, I never laugh. However, I’m really taken with some of the other aspects of the movie. The transformation sequence is a truly amazing piece of work. The modifications to the werewolf myth are very interesting; I particularly like the fact that the werewolf is haunted by the limbo-consigned spirits of his victims. I think the movie also shows real cleverness in handling cliches; though the ominous villagers in the pub cliche is here in all its glory, they’re given more dimension and variety than I usual find, making them more than a hoary old plot device. And I have to admit to a taking a certain satisfaction at Landis’s decision to turn one standard movie setpiece on its ear; many movies tend to glorify the multiple-car-crash cliche by unrealistically having no pedestrians hurt in the process, but this movie offers no such easy out. By the way, that’s Muppet wrangler Frank Oz as the ambassador, and SEE YOU NEXT WEDNESDAY is a porno film.