Crypt of the Living Dead (1973)

CRYPT OF THE LIVING DEAD (1973)
aka La tumba de la isla maldita
Article 3335 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 8-15-2010
Posting Date: 10-1-2010
Directed by Julio Salvador and Ray Danton
Featuring Andrew Prine, Patty Shepard and Mark Damon
Country: USA / Spain
What it is: Vampire flick

A man visits an island to bury his archaeologist father whose body is trapped beneath an ancient tomb. In order to retrieve his father’s body, he removes the seal of the tomb and releases a vampire who has been trapped inside for 700 years.

One of the alternate titles of this movie is HANNAH, QUEEN OF THE VAMPIRES, which makes for a handy title if you want to have an Andrew Prine double feature along with SIMON, KING OF THE WITCHES. I’ve heard tell that this movie had new footage added for its American release, but I’ve also heard that it had footage cut for the Spanish release. I’ve also heard that it’s in color, but my copy happens to be in black and white for some reason. The movie has a poor reputation, and I can understand that; it’s occasionally campy, often slow, and the structure is rather confusing at times. Yet, I was rather taken with it; the atmosphere was nice, it has some interesting story touches, the location footage from Turkey is interesting, and the final battle with the vampire is striking to say the least. No, it’s not a great movie, but I thought it worked well enough.

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Criminally Insane (1975)

CRIMINALLY INSANE (1975)
Article 3334 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 8-14-2010
Posting Date: 9-30-2010
Directed by Nick Millard
Featuring Priscilla Alden, Michael Flood, Jane Lambert
Country: USA
What it is: Serial killer movie

An overweight woman named Ethel with rage issues is released from a hospital to the care of her grandmother. When the grandmother tries to follow the doctor’s instructions to force Ethel to lose weight, Ethel flips out and kills her. She then finds herself having to continue her murderous rampage in order to keep herself fed and cover up the crimes.

I’ve encountered Nick Millard before as the director and writer of the extreme-low-budget SATAN’S BLACK WEDDING. This may be his most famous movie; at least it was famous enough that he felt compelled to make a sequel. It’s awful, but also fascinating; the concept of using gluttony as motivation for a serial killer is tasteless but also darkly comic, and the white-trash characters (Ethel’s sister is a nymphomaniac/prostitute who brings men into the home every night and makes out with her abusive regular lover in front of her sister) give the movie an interesting context in which the story works. It’s also complicated by the fact that Ethel is simply none too bright, and her inability to figure out how to dispose of the growing pile of bodies combined with her sloppiness will prove her undoing. The special effects are atrocious, and it makes some ill-advised stabs at artiness, but these just add somewhat to the fascination. It’s like some freaky cross between REPULSION and CANNIBAL MAN, and the ending twist has the air of inevitability given the setup, though I do have to admit that I had suspicions the story would eventually go in that direction. I have to admit that, as awful as it is, the movie more or less works, and I’ve seen plenty of much bigger-budgeted movies that don’t.

The Cremators (1972)

THE CREMATORS (1972)
Article 3333 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 8-13-2010
Posting Date: 9-29-2010
Directed by Harry Essex
Featuring Maria De Aragon, Marvin Howard, Eric Allison
Country: USA
What it is: Alien invasion movie

People are being incinerated by a giant rolling ball of fire from outer space. A scientist tries to figure out what is going on.

The only name I recognized from the opening credits was for the original music; it’s none other than Bert I. Gordon favorite Albert Glasser. His music attempts to instill suspense and terror by blaring at you, and it’s not unlike having someone grab you by the shoulders and shake you while screaming “Be Scared! Be Scared!”, and your reaction is much the same; no fear, but a great amount of annoyance. But at least he’s out there trying to generate excitement when everyone else in the movie seems to be sleepwalking; the movie is unfocused, torpid, muddled, confusing and dull. It has a handful of nice effects (the wind blowing away the ashes of the incinerated people, the glowing rocks, the fireball rising from the water) which are then overused to the point where they too become boring. The movie was directed by Harry Essex, who worked on the scripts for IT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE and CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON, but this is much more similar to his previous directorial effort, OCTAMAN; in fact, it was probably the worst movie he ever worked on. Forgettable.

Countess Dracula (1975)

COUNTESS DRACULA (1975)
Article 3332 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 8-12-2010
Posting Date: 9-28-2010
Directed by Peter Sasdy
Featuring Ingrid Pitt, Nigel Green, Sandor Eles
Country: UK
What it is: Hammer’s version of the Countess Bathory story

When an aging countess discovers that the blood of a chambermaid restores her youth, she has her own daughter kidnapped and proceeds to impersonate her, and she romances a young horseman. But she discovers that the youth she has regained is temporary, and so she must kill again…

This movie seems to be mostly famous as a vehicle for the beautiful Ingrid Pitt, and that is perhaps what it should be remembered for; it’s pretty difficult to take your eyes off of her or her costumes. Beyond that, I like the period flavor of the movie as well as the fact that it addresses the theme of class distinction at least marginally. Beyond these elements, though, I find this one of Hammer’s most forgettable movies, more interested in palace intrigue and soap opera than in horror. The plot is pretty predictable; I was in particular not surprised to discover who the final sacrifice victim was going to be. I’d have to rank this overall as one of Hammer’s most disappointing movies.

Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (1972)

CONQUEST OF THE PLANET OF THE APES (1972)
Article 3324 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 8-4-2010
Posting Date: 9-20-2010
Directed by J. Lee Thompson
Featuring Roddy McDowall, Don Murray, Ricardo Montalban
Country: USA
What it is: Fourth in the PLANET OF THE APES movie series

After having been raised secretly by a circus owner, the son of Cornelius and Zira is appalled to discover that during his life at the circus, apes have been enslaved by humans and forced to perform menial tasks. However, he becomes a fugitive when he is heard to speak in reaction to abuse given to a fellow ape, and when his owner dies trying to protect him, he vows to lead his ape brothers in revolution against their tyrannic masters.

When PLANET OF THE APES spawned a whole series of movies, this one seemed inevitable; eventually, a movie would have to made about the ape revolution, and here it is. It’s really a tribute to Roddy McDowall’s acting abilities, and once again he delivers despite having to emote through elaborate make-up. I’m less impressed with the story as a whole; it’s a little too one-dimensional and repetitive, and the ending features way too many speeches. It’s also a little short of humor, though it does have a few stray moments, especially when Caesar starts his revolution by having the apes start performing certain small but amusing acts of rebellion. In the end, the movie ends up being a little too ordinary. Granted, from the sound of it, the movie was compromised for its initial release; its original ending was considered too dark, and the final speech was amended to be less so. This is a shame; they could have come up with a better fifth movie if the ending of this one hadn’t been compromised.

A Cold Night’s Death (1973)

A COLD NIGHT’S DEATH (1973)
TV-Movie
Article 3323 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 8-3-2010
Posting Date: 9-19-2010
Directed by Jerrold Freedman
Featuring Robert Culp, Eli Wallach, Michael C. Gwynne
Country: USA
What it is: Science fiction thriller

When a scientist performing experiments on apes at an isolated polar research statement becomes erratic, a relief team is sent out to relieve him for fear that he is neglecting the test subjects. They find the subjects freezing, and the scientist dead. They take over the research, but it soon becomes apparent that they aren’t alone there…

Thanks to a pair of very strong performances from Robert Culp and Eli Wallach, a perplexing mystery surrounding the circumstances of the scientist’s death, and the freezing isolation of the setting, this is one very effective TV-movie thriller. The constant howling of the winds, the shrieking of the apes, and the gradual deterioration of trust between the two men all work together to put you on edge, and it manages to keep the mystery elements a puzzle until the end. I can imagine someone figuring out what was going on if they picked up the clues, but I have to admit that the final revelation was both surprising and satisfying. The only problem I had with the movie has to do with the fact that it takes so long for one man who gets locked out of the research station to find his way back in; his final solution is the very first thing that popped up in my mind. Nevertheless, that is a minor problem, and this one is highly recommended.

Curse of the Voodoo (1965)

CURSE OF THE VOODOO (1965)
Article 3310 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 7-21-2010
Posting Date: 9-6-2010
Directed by Lindsay Shonteff
Featuring Bryant Haliday, Dennis Price, Janet Stacey
Country: USA / UK
What it is: Voodoo curse movie

A big game hunter kills a lion in a territory inhabited by a tribe that worships lions. The witch doctor places a curse on the hunter.

The first twenty minutes of this movie work well enough; the story is told crisply, moodily and efficiently. Once the action leaves Africa, though, the movie loses steam. This is probably because there really isn’t much of a story at this point, so we get distracted with several side issues (such as the marital problems with the hunter and his wife) and repeated displays of the curse at work, though I find little variety in the way it manifests itself. Eventually, the action shifts back to Africa, but by this time the tension built up in the opening scenes has dissipated, and the movie’s ending doesn’t really satisfy. This is ultimately a disappointing follow-up to the previous collaboration between Haliday and Shonteff (DEVIL DOLL).