The Cold-Blooded Beast (1971)

THE COLD-BLOODED BEAST (1971)
aka Slaughter Hotel, La Bestia uccide a sangue freddo, Asylum Erotica
Article 2649 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 7-7-2008
Posting Date: 11-13-2008
Directed by Fernando Di Leo
Featuring Klaus Kinski, Margaret Lee, Rosalba Neri
Country: Italy

Women at a luxurious mental clinic are being murdered by a psycho.

Some mental clinic; it’s in a luxurious mansion laden with easily accessible offensive weapons (axe, crossbow, sword, etc), and even has a working iron maiden in the lobby for anyone to use. Of course, one of the patients is a nymphomaniac (who gets an inordinate amount of screen time), but there’s a lesbian nurse and her favorite patient as well, and a woman with sudden homicidal cravings, too. The movie tries to be stylish, but since every scene goes on too long (especially the scenes in which it tries to establish mood and suspense) it just becomes dull. If there’s a real plot here, it’s given short shrift so they can have the requisite scenes of sex and nudity. I wouldn’t doubt that there’s probably a subtext to all of this, but I find little more here than a compendium of its own excesses. It comes across like a cross between DON’T LOOK IN THE BASEMENT, any given slasher film, and a foreign soft-core porno movie.

 

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The Charlatan (1929)

THE CHARLATAN (1929)
Article 2633 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 6-20-2008
Posting Date: 10-28-2008
Directed by George Melford
Featuring Holmes Herbert, Margaret Livingston, Rockliffe Fellowes
Country: USA

A one-time circus performer disguises himself as a spiritualist in order to track down his wife, who ran off with another man and took his daughter with her. When he finds her, he plans to get his daughter back and get revenge.

This one is basically your “old dark house” horror mystery movie, though it does lack some of the more common elements of that type of movie. This one seems a cut above most of the others, though, and I think this is largely due to an excellent performance by Holmes Herbert as the former husband turned spiritualist; despite the fact that he may be the villain of the piece, he somehow makes us feel for him and his situation. It’s amazing that I’ve probably seen this actor almost two dozen times in various movies for this series (including a whole slew of Universal and Sherlock Holmes movies), but it’s only here that I noticed how good an actor he was. This movie was apparently shot with a sound sequence, but my print was entirely silent. Director George Melford is probably best known among horror fans for having helmed the Spanish language version of the 1931 DRACULA. All in all, this is one of the better movies of its particular subgenre.

 

The Color of Love (1975)

THE COLOR OF LOVE (1975)
aka Lord Shango
Article 2595 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-13-2008
Posting Date: 9-20-208
Directed by Ray Marsh
Featuring Marlene Clark, Lawrence Cook, Wally Taylor
Country: USA

The baptism of the daughter of an unwed mother is interrupted by her boyfriend attempting to prevent the ceremony. In the resulting struggle, the boyfriend is drowned, though it is not sure whether it was intentional or accidental. When the daughter runs away, the mother turns her back on the church and turns to a voodoo cult to get her daughter back. But there are prices to pay…

I had the worst time coming up with a decent plot description for this movie with an all-black cast, because it was difficult to come up with one that gave a real feel for what this movie is like. Anyone going into this hoping for the usual blaxploitation horror movie will emerge frustrated and feel cheated. If, however, you go in expecting a complex, almost Lewtonian horror movie in which the lines between good and evil aren’t quite as clearly defined as they usually are, you’ll be better prepared. It’s more of a drama with subtle horror elements than a full-blown horror movie, and the movie features at least one great performance; as the drummer-turned-drinker who serves as a commentator on the action, Lawrence Cook is fascinating and complex. The movie does a fascinating job of using music to set off the traditional Christian culture with the voodoo culture, and I suspect that devout Christians will not find this one to their liking. Myself, I found it offbeat, subtle, intelligent and compelling, but it will definitely not be to everyone’s taste.

 

Children of the Full Moon / Visitors from the Grave (1980)

CHILDREN OF THE FULL MOON/VISITOR FROM THE GRAVE (1980)
Article 2554 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 4-2-2008
Posting Date: 8-9-2008
Directed by Tom Clegg and Peter Sasdy
Featuring Christopher Cazenove, Celia Gregory, Diana Dors
Country: UK

Two tales of terror; in the first, a young couple find themselves stranded at an isolated manor that is menaced by a werewolf; in the second, a woman kills an attempted rapist and is then haunted by his vengeful spirit.

Sometimes I don’t know if I’m stretching the rules or not; the John Stanley book lists the first title, which is an episode of the TV series “Hammer House of Horror”, and mentions that it was released on a tape hosted by Elvira that also includes another episode, “Visitor from the Grave”. Whether the two episodes were edited together to appear to be a single feature, I don’t know, and I was unable to locate the tape release in question. So, to emulate the experience, I watched the two episodes back to back from the recent “Hammer House of Horrors” series release, and experienced them that way. If I’m stretching the rules here…well, that’s my prerogative.

From these two episodes, I get the sense that the TV show was pretty ordinary; neither episode did much for me. Still, when I do a ratings comparison on IMDB, I notice that these two episodes hover near the bottom of the list, so I should probably reserve judgment. The first episode manages to dredge up a couple of twists to the werewolf myths, but it doesn’t really save it from being rather predictable; nor do I understand why the husband was left alive and allowed to return home half-way through the story; wouldn’t it have been a lot safer for the werewolves to finish him off on the spot? Still, it’s better than the other episode; the minute I noticed that the “wife” (I’m not sure the couple were married, hence the quotes) was a rich basket-case given to hysterics and the “husband” was a bit of an insensitive jerk, I knew (and didn’t care for) exactly where it was going, and sure enough, I was right, and the addition of a second twist at the end only made it dumber.

Once again, I don’t appear to have caught the show at its best. Maybe other episodes will give me a better impression of this series.

 

Count Dracula (1970)

COUNT DRACULA (1970)
aka Nachts, wenn Dracula erwacht, Les Nuits de Dracula
Article 2530 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-8-2008
Posting Date: 7-16-2008
Directed by Jesus Franco
Featuring Christopher Lee, Herbert Lom, Klaus Kinski
Country: Spain/West Germany/Italy/Liechtenstein

Dracula moves from Transylvania to London, and terrorizes Londoners.

This is often trotted forth as the truest cinematic version of the Bram Stoker novel, and there’s no reason to doubt the assertion. Most of the changes make sense in terms of keeping the movie to a manageable length; the combination of two of Lucy’s suitors into one is the most noticeable. I do miss my favorite part of the story (the voyage to England aboard the ship), but I can understand why it’s gone. Franco keeps his excesses in check here and manages to deliver a moody, coherent movie. Still, I find it detached and uninvolving; Franco’s style does make me feel like I’m watching the story from a distance, and this does little to build anything in the way of suspense. The characters only come across as interesting when I find the actors themselves familiar and interesting; consequently, the three most familiar names in the three most familiar roles (Christopher Lee as Dracula, Herbert Lom as Van Helsing and Klaus Kinski as Renfield) emerge as the most memorable characters. Even at that, I’m still a little disappointed; Kinski does little more than act silently crazy in a cell, which he does well, but which is only mildly interesting, and there’s never a really good face-off between Van Helsing and Dracula; in fact, omitting Van Helsing from the final scenes of the movie is just a plain question mark to me. All in all, this is an acceptable movie (both as a Franco movie and as an adaptation of the novel), but not a particularly great one on either level.

 

The Clown and the Alchemist (1900)

THE CLOWN AND THE ALCHEMIST (1900)
Article 2529 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-7-2008
Posting Date: 4-15-2008
Directed Unknown
Cast Unknown
Country: USA

A clown’s antics annoy an alchemist, who tries to use his magic powers to get rid of him.

Ahh, there’s nothing like the epic struggle between good and evil, is there? The only question here is – which side is good and which side is evil? Well, let’s set out a balance sheet.

Clown

Good qualities
Projects the life-affirming qualities of humor.

Evil qualities
He’s a clown.

 

Alchemist

Evil Qualities
He delves in unholy mystical powers.

Good Qualities
He’s trying to rid the world of a clown.

You can figure up the balance any way you want to. All I know is that when the clown emerges victorious, my heart sinks and the sense of imminent doom manifests itself. I do prefer happy endings.

 

The Christmas that Almost Wasn’t (1966)

THE CHRISTMAS THAT ALMOST WASN’T (1966)
Article 2517 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 2-24-2008
Posting Date: 7-3-2008
Directed by Rossano Brazzi
Featuring Rossano Brazzi, Paul Tripp, Mischa Auer
Country: Italy/USA

Santa Claus is in peril of being unable to deliver presents for Christmas when a bitter man who hates children buys the land on which Santa’s shop is located, and demands that Santa pay the rent by Christmas Eve or have all of his toys seized. Santa enlists the aid of a lawyer, and they try to find a way to pay the rent.

I was unable to watch this whole movie in a single sitting due to my schedule, and I had to stop about two-thirds of the way through the movie. Had I written my review at that point, I would have said that even if I forgave the movie some of its more glaring flaws (such as the fact that the songs aren’t particularly strong), there was one flaw I couldn’t overlook, and that was that the movie was entirely too glum; despite a few moments of good humor and Christmas spirit, the perpetual sight of a depressed and frustrated Santa Claus just started to get to me. I didn’t expect much when I got back to watching it, but it was at this point that the movie started hitting all the right Christmas buttons; there was something truly gratifying at the way the problem is solved, and the events and revelations that lead up to the redemption of the villain are quite moving in their way. Overall, it’s kind of a variation on HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS with dollops of A CHRISTMAS CAROL and MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET in the mix. The songs are still weak, and it remains too glum for most of its running time, but the villain is fun, and his butler (played by John Karlsen) almost steals the movie with his face alone. It’s also fun to see Mischa Auer in one of his last film roles as the bookkeeper of the elves. Director/star Rossano Brazzi gained fame as the star of SOUTH PACIFIC, but would eventually descend to appearing in movies like FRANKENSTEIN’S CASTLE OF FREAKS. The movie is uneven, and I can equally understand why someone might dislike the movie while another would consider it a classic.