The Haunted Castle (1897)

THE HAUNTED CASTLE (1897)
aka Le Chateau hante
Article 2556 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 4-4-2008
Posting Date: 8-11-2008
Directed by Georges Melies
Featuring Georges Melies

Country: France

A visitor to a castle is frightened by moving furniture and strange visitations.

By all rights, I should have covered this one with the Melies-a-thon. However, since I’m a little too dependent on listings from IMDB to organize my watching, I missed this one because there is no listing for it on IMDB. Usually, if a movie is not listed on IMDB, I rightfully suspect that my chances of finding and seeing the movie are next to impossible. However, I suspect that the reason this one isn’t listed is that someone at IMDB believes this is the same movie as LE MANOIR DU DIABLE, and, given that both movies use THE HAUNTED CASTLE as alternate titles and are only a year apart, I can understand the confusion.

At any rate, the movie is like THE BEWITCHED INN, except that in place of vanishing furniture, we have appearing and disappearing characters, including a ghost, a knight, and a skeleton. Plotwise, there’s little here; it’s just one character (who looks like it’s Melies himself) reacting to the various apparitions. It’s extremely short (probably around thirty seconds) and has some hand-coloring as well. Fun, but it’ll be over before you know it.

Postscript: In the interim since I first wrote this review, IMDB has indeed added a separate entry for this one

 

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Hollywood Horror House (1969)

HOLLYWOOD HORROR HOUSE (1969)
aka Savage Intruder
Article 2526 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-4-2008
Posting Date: 7-12-2008
Directed by Donald Wolfe
Featuring Miriam Hopkins, David Garfield, Gale Sondergaard
Country: USA

An aging alcoholic Hollywood actress takes on a young man as a nurse after she breaks her leg. However, the young man is a psycho killer responsible for several murders in the area…

I love it when I can easily sum up a movie; this is SUNSET BLVD. crossed with NIGHT MUST FALL sprinkled with gore, drugs and psychedelic visuals. It opens with a several close-up shots of the famous “Hollywood” sign, where we can see how deteriorated and decayed it has become, and I do have to admire how it makes a brilliant visual metaphor for the story of an aging film actress. Unfortunately, it also makes an inadvertent metaphor for how ugly and sleazy the movie itself is. There are a few good moments and interesting elements, of course, and there are certain mysteries it’s fun to work out; see if you can figure out what has happened to the egg timer before the movie shows you. Ultimately, though, it never finds anything it really wants to say about all the various elements at play here; once the psycho starts on his predictable rampage, the movie simply does nothing more than let him go on with it until he can’t anymore, and it does so with increasingly less suspense, point or purpose. In the final analysis, I found the movie vastly disappointing. Still, there is one element here that truly reminds me of old Hollywood, and that is that the great character actress Gale Sondergaard once again steals the movie, as she almost always did whenever she was cast. And for those keeping an eye out for older actors, see if you can spot Joe Besser.

 

House of the Damned (1974)

HOUSE OF THE DAMNED (1974)
aka La Loba y la Paloma
Article 2467 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 1-3-2008
Posting Date: 5-14-2008
Directed by Gonzalo Suarez
Featuring Carmen Sevilla, Donald Pleasence, Michael Dunn
Country: Spain/Liechtenstein

An ex-convict arrives at the house of the man he murdered. He finds relatives of the murdered man living there. He informs them that the daughter of the man he killed has knowledge of the whereabouts of a gold statuette that could make them all rich. They have the daughter released from the asylum where she has been committed, and they try to persuade her to reveal the location of the statuette. However, she hasn’t talked since the night her father was killed.

This movie has a rating of 2.3 on IMDB, so when I say I really liked this movie, bear in mind that it may be a serious lapse of taste on my part. And I will confess that the movie may be pretentious and arty; much of the dialogue is truly strange, and there is an enormous potential that the movie can alienate the viewer. I was enthralled, however; it’s one of those movies that I found rather unpredictable, and the fact that each of the four characters searching to find the location of the statuette have vastly different methods and surprising secondary intentions held my interest throughout the movie. Still, those expecting a horror movie will definitely be frustrated; despite the plot element of insanity, a scary storm sequence, and the presence of a dwarf (Michael Dunn, of course, who gives perhaps the strangest performance here), it’s more like a bizarre melodrama than a horror movie. In fact, it reminds me somewhat of the old Tod Browning/Lon Chaney silents, at least on a certain level. The whole cast does an excellent job, and the dubbing is very good (though Pleasence and Dunn keep their own voices). I’m almost tempted to recommend this one, but bear in mind that low IMDB rating and the possibility that it may just happened to fall in the range of my own quirks.

 

Histoires extraordinaires a faire peur ou a faire rire (1949)

HISTOIRES EXTRAORDINAIRES A FAIRE PEUR OU A FAIRE RIRE (1949)
aka Unusual Tales
Article 2460 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-27-2007
Posting Date: 5-7-2008
Directed by Jean Faurez
Featuring Fernand Ledoux, Suzy Carrier, Jules Berry
Country: France

Gendarmes trade horror stories with each other.

This is another movie that I’ve only seen in an undubbed unsubtitled version, this time in French. Since this anthology features tales by Thomas De Quincey and Edgar Allan Poe, I had at least some chance of following it; I wasn’t familiar with the De Quincey story, but the Poe stories are fairly common ones – “The Tell-Tale Heart” and “A Cask of Amontillado”. I was glad to see that the old man of the former story wasn’t portrayed as a fiendish villain as he usually is, but as a pleasant old man. Unfortunately, this version of the story is fairly timid, and, in fact, the whole movie gave me the sense that it was aiming more for humor than horror. That’s all right for “Amontillado”, but it leaves “The Tell-Tale Heart” a shadow of its former self. I wasn’t able to follow the De Quincey story (“Ecce Homo”) very well, but it does have one shocker moment when a crate is opened. The framing segment with the gendarmes doesn’t seem to go anywhere, and it ends with them singing along to an organ grinder. It will probably take a dubbed or subtitled version of this one for me to really appreciate it.

 

House of Mystery (1961)

HOUSE OF MYSTERY (1961)
Article 2457 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-24-2007
Posting Date: 5-4-2008
Directed by Vernon Sewell
Featuring Peter Dyneley, Jane Hylton, Nanette Newman
Country: UK

A young couple is startled to find that a big, comfortable house has such a small selling price on it. The woman who shows them the house tells them that the house is haunted, and tells the tale of the previous residents.

I’m really tempted to overpraise this modest, unassuming little horror movie, if for no other reason than that the ending blew me away. It’s not really that the ending is brilliant or original; it’s simply that the movie does such a fine job of setting up that ending that I marveled at how effectively I was manipulated by the movie. Yet I don’t want to talk the movie up too much because I don’t want people to go in with high expectations, because that just might kill the movie. Furthermore, the reason the ending was so effective for me was that it was timed perfectly with the way my thoughts were thinking at that point, and that may be something of an accident; it may not work near as well for someone else. As for the rest of the movie, it’s mostly the usual ghost story, with the most interesting aspect being how the ghost manifestations are tied to electricity. In fact, electricity plays a huge part in the story; all of the deaths in the story are the cause of electricity as well. Also, the structure of the story is rather odd (it has flashbacks within flashbacks), but, if the ending works for you, you’ll know why.

 

The Horror of Party Beach (1964)

THE HORROR OF PARTY BEACH (1964)
Article 2380 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 10-1-2007
Posting Date: 2-17-2008
Directed by Del Tenney
Featuring John Scott, Alice Lyon, Allan Laurel

Underwater radioactive waste reactivates human skeletons, turning them into bloodthirsty sea beasts who come on land and murder people. Scientist try to figure out how to destroy them. The Del-Aires swing out six big beat songs. Eulabelle swears it’s the voodoo.

With its poor cliche-ridden script, dumb characters and uneven acting, it’s tempting to dismiss the movie completely. But let’s give credit where credit is due. For a group that is largely known for their appearance in a movie, the Del-Aires aren’t bad at all as far as these things go. Some of the attack scenes also have a certain savage effectiveness. Granted, one of the reasons these scenes are effective is that they’re so dark that you can’t really see what’s going on clearly, and that means you can’t see the monsters very well, and, with their googly eyes, hot dog-filled mouths, and bad posture (they walk like they’ve all just undergone a painful wedgie), the less clearly you can see them, the better. The movie is at its worst when it’s trying to be funny; much of the early humor seems to be lifted from a bad joke book, and Eulabelle is an unfunny throwback to the black comic stereotypes from two decades previous. The humor is further enhanced by dumb blondes and drunks. The movie has its advocates, but I’m afraid that I think this is Del Tenney’s weakest movie.

 

The Hunchback of the Morgue (1973)

THE HUNCHBACK OF THE MORGUE (1973)
aka El Jorobado de la Morgue
Article 2352 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 9-3-2007
Posting Date: 1-20-2008
Directed by Javier Aguirre
Featuring Paul Naschy, Rosanna Yanni, Victor Barrera

A hunchback who supplies cadavers for doctors finds himself grief-stricken at the death of a woman who was his only friend when he was young. He puts her body in hiding and approaches a doctor whom he thinks will bring her back to life. The doctor agrees, but he has plans of his own…

I’m really beginning to see the appeal of some of these Paul Naschy movies. He obviously has a real affection for the characters he plays, and he builds the scripts around making the character both the monster and the hero. As a result, the plots go through some fascinating mutations to bring about this theme. The plots are often unpredictable; once you reach a point where you think you have an idea of how the rest of the movie is going to go, he throws in new characters and new plot developments to push the movie in a different direction, and the only thing you know for sure is, at the end of the movie, the monster Naschy has been playing will turn out to be the hero, though one who, of course, must die. It does make the movies interesting, though it can often dissolve into mere silliness. I quite like this one myself; it manages to stop short of the silliness, and it gets Naschy away from the overfamiliar combination of vampires and werewolves. Which is not to say it doesn’t have problems; the dubbing is quite bad, and there are some real logic flaws. One of the latter is that so many characters make comments about the hunchback’s ugly face that it’s surprising that Naschy uses very little face makeup, and though he’s not the most handsome man in the world, he isn’t ugly. I suspect that he doesn’t use ugly makeup because that would put the kibbosh on his love scene with Rosanna Yanni; it’s a case of Naschy trying to have it both ways. Another problem is that it’s really hard to believe at any point in the proceedings that the hunchback “wouldn’t hurt a fly”, as one character claims, but there seem to be quite a few characters here who consider him harmless. Nevertheless, these are minor quibbles, and this is one of Naschy’s most entertaining movies.