Horror Rises from the Tomb (1973)

HORROR RISES FROM THE TOMB (1973)
aka El espanto surge la tumba

Article 3644 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 7-22-2011
Posting Date: 8-6-2011
Directed by Carlos Aured
Featuring Paul Naschy, Emma Cohen, Victor Alcazar
Country: Spain
What it is: Witches and vampires and walking dead

A practitioner of the black arts puts a curse on his executioners. Years later when his descendants set out to find his remains, he begins acting out his vengeance.

Paul Naschy was such a fan of the classic monsters that I often wish I liked his movies better than I do. Granted, I’m usually catching poorly-dubbed cut prints of varying condition when I watch them, and they’re simply not going to work as well because of the sense of cheapness they project. Like many of his movies that I’ve seen, this one just doesn’t pick up much in the way of horror momentum; there’s lots of scary scenes, but there’s no decent story flow and there’s a tiresome sameness to a lot of the scenes in the movie. His movies would be really hard to follow if they weren’t built on such familiar elements; the witch/warlock cursing his executioners storyline is fairly common, the idea of matching up the head of the sorcerer to his body has popped up before (specifically, in THE THING THAT COULDN’T DIE), and the living dead sequence is just another nod to a certain George Romero movie. There are a couple of special effects sequences that work fairly well, but, as in many Naschy movies, certain individual moments work although the movie as a whole doesn’t. Still, I’m willing to bet a good complete print with subtitles would improve things.

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The Hearse (1980)

THE HEARSE (1980)
Article 3642 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 7-20-2011
Posting Date: 8-4-2011
Directed by George Bowers
Featuring Trish Van Devere, Joseph Cotten, David Gautreaux
Country: USA
What it is: Spooky house story

After a stressful year, a recently divorced woman moves into a country house in the hopes of getting away from it all… only to discover that the house is haunted and that she’s being terrorized at night by a big black hearse.

Woman has a spooky experience. Woman convinces herself it was her imagination or that she was dreaming. Woman has another spooky experience. Woman convinces herself it was her imagination or that she was dreaming. Woman has another spooky experience. Woman convinces herself it was her imagination or that she was dreaming. Woman has another…. repeat until you feel like you actually need to have something happen in the story. That’s the movie in a nutshell. You have a mysterious man in a black hearse, a ghost, some devil worship, a couple of unnecessary side characters so you can have someone die near the end of the movie, a bunch of hostile townspeople, and a little exorcism thrown into the mix… well, I suppose if you’re in the right mood, this might be a little creepy, but I found it slow, obvious, rather dull, not particularly scary, and loaded with filler. A little old-fashioned star power with Joseph Cotten doesn’t help much.

Hangar 18 (1980)

HANGAR 18 (1980)
Article 3641 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 7-19-2011
Posting Date: 8-3-2011
Directed by James L. Conway
Featuring Gary Collins, Robert Vaughn, James Hampton
Country: USA
What it is: Science fiction conspiracy thriller

A UFO lands in Arizona after colliding with a satellite just put into orbit by NASA, an accident that results in the death of an astronaut. The government tries to keep the discovery of the UFO under wraps while investigating the craft, but the other two astronauts (blamed unfairly for the death of the third) can only clear their names by finding the evidence that the UFO exists.

The scenes in the movie can roughly be split into two sections; there are those that deal with the investigation of the alien spacecraft, and there are those that deal with the government conspiracy. I find the investigation of the spacecraft to be a potentially interesting concept, and the best moments of the movie revolve around these sections. However, the other half of the movie deals with one of the most dunderheaded cinematic government conspiracies I’ve ever encountered; every action the conspirators take just seems to make the chances of keeping this thing under wraps more unlikely, and had they simply taken the other two astronauts into their confidence (after all, there’s nothing illegal about investigating a UFO) rather than trying to cover up everything and placing the blame for the death on their heads (thus simply encouraging them to investigate on their own), the whole action-conspiracy-thriller section of the movie could have been dispensed with. As it is, it’s what Roger Ebert called an “idiot plot”; a conflict that could have been easily resolved if the characters hadn’t been idiots. And, unfortunately, the conspiracy eventually spirals out of control and takes the UFO investigation sequence with it, leaving a series of unresolved plot points and a dumb ending in its wake. But then, what do you expect from a movie produced by that purveyor of documentaries like THE OUTER SPACE CONNECTION and IN SEARCH OF NOAH’S ARK – Sunn Classics.

Host to a Ghost (1947)

HOST TO A GHOST (1947)
Short

Article 3639 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 7-17-2011
Posting Date: 8-1-2011
Directed by Hal Yates
Featuring Edgar Kennedy, Florence Lake, Dot Farley
Country: USA
What it is: Comedy short

When an in-law sells the house out from under him, a harried husband opts to rent a spooky old house rather than buy one that is offered to him. But the spooky old house may be haunted….

I almost watched this short a couple of weeks ago, but it turns out I didn’t have it; there’s an identically named short starring Andy Clyde. I rather wish I was covering that one; it was no great shakes, but I think it was more creative than this fairly obvious take on the subject. Most of the humor comes from Edgar’s family being scared by spooky events while Edgar crankily insists it’s not haunted. We know early on that Edgar is right and that someone is just trying to scare them out of the house, but I’ll give the short some credit for not having the plot involve Nazis or counterfeiters. The gags are shopworn, and Edgar’s family are more annoying than funny. Though I like Edgar Kennedy, I don’t think this short does him justice.

A Haunting We Will Go (1939)

A HAUNTING WE WILL GO (1939)
Cartoon

Article 3619 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 6-27-2011
Posting Date: 7-12-2011
Directed by Burt Gillett
Featuring the voices of Mel Blanc and Bernice Hansen
Country: USA
What it is: A Walter Lantz Cartune

A baby ghost sets out to scare a young boy named Li’l Eightball who doesn’t believe in ghosts.

You probably won’t be seeing this one pop up on television anytime soon; the character of Li’l Eightball is a little black boy designed in typical stereotype fashion of the time. However, at least the character is played a little against stereotypes; he is initially not scared by the ghosts or their antics, and they have to work extra hard on him. The animation is pretty good and the ghosts are handled with some creativity. Still, it’s only mildly funny.

The Haunted House (1921)

THE HAUNTED HOUSE (1921)
Article 3598 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 6-6-2011
Posting Date: 6-21-2011
Directed by Edward F. Cline and Buster Keaton
Featuring Buster Keaton, Virginia Fox, Joe Roberts
Country: USA
What it is: Silent comedy short

When a bank clerk is mistaken for a bank robber, he hides out in a mansion that is supposed to be haunted…. but is actually the hideout for counterfeiters.

There’s actually quite a few movies called THE HAUNTED HOUSE, and at least seven or eight of them are on my hunt list; this is the only one so far that I’ve been able to find. As you can tell from the above plot description, the hauntings are faked, but there is at least one gag (in which an artificial man is built by two skeletons) that goes beyond the usual faked scares, and there’s a dream sequence where Buster visits heaven and hell to add to the fantastic content. The idea of a comedian having adventures in a haunted house is hardly a novel concept, but given that Buster was such an inventive physical comic during the silent era along with the fact that his stone-facedness prevents the short from descending into nothing more than a series of “Buster is scared” scenes, it’s one of the more clever of the genre. The first half of the movie gets most of its mileage with a running gag involving the fact that Buster accidentally dips his hand into a jar of glue; the second half concentrates on the haunted house, which, on top of being occupied by counterfeiters imitating ghosts and skeletons, is also the hiding place of the cast of a cut-rate production of “Faust” that are on the run from an irate audience. There’s a running gag about a trick stairwell, some of the best skeleton outfits I’ve ever seen, and a bizarre gag involving an old man and a turntable in the floor. It’s not one of Buster’s best, but it’s still very good and a lot of fun.

Hansel and Gretel (1954)

HANSEL AND GRETEL (1954)
aka Hansel und Gretel

Article 3578 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-12-2011
Posting Date: 6-1-2011
Directed by Walter Janssen
Featuring Jurgen Micksch, Maren Bielenberg, Barbara Gallauner
Country: West Germany
What it is: Fairy tale

A poor family is in danger of being thrown out of their house by a wicked landlord. In order to save them, the two children seek out a gingerbread house rumored to have a large cache of gold hidden within. However, there’s a witch in the house… and the witch has a taste for little children…

Here are ten thoughts on this adaptation of everyone’s favorite children’s story about cannibalism.

1) The family seems to live on subsistence rations despite the fact that there are rabbits and deer hanging around outside of their rented home in the woods. Methinks the development of rudimentary hunting skills might have benefited them mightily.

2) I was originally going to make a joke here about how the mother and children do all the work (gathering the sticks in the forest and selling baskets in the village) while the father does little more than smoke cheap tobacco. Then I remembered that the father actually weaves the baskets from the sticks, thus contributing his share to the household and undercutting my joke about a dysfunctional family. Still, that doesn’t give him the right to blow tobacco smoke in his own son’s face. Remember, the second-hand smoke is just as bad.

3) There’s a magic snowman in the movie. He hits the landlord with his broom, plays pranks on the family by knocking on the window, and then climbs a tree when winter is over. Really, couldn’t you have done more with the character than this?

4) This is the second movie in a row I’ve seen with an evil landlord. He even threatens to sic the dogs on the family. He also has the goofiest moustache I’ve seen in ages.

5) In their first foray into the forest to find the gingerbread house, Hansel decides to mark the way by using rocks in his pocket, which seems to be an improvement over the old “bread crumbs” idea of the story. Then we see a big bear wandering around. I can’t tell you how much I was expecting the movie to change the story so it involved a rock-eating bear. No such luck.

6) Hint – if the old woman has a pet raven named Satan, she is more likely to be a witch than a kindly old lady.

7) Another hint – if she is able to make food appear out of nowhere by magic, she is more likely to be a witch than a kindly old lady.

8) Another hint – If, despite the fact that she can make food appear out of nowhere, she prefers to eat a stew made up of arsenic, poison mushrooms and toadstool stems, she is probably a witch rather than a kindly old woman. I would also be reluctant to eat anything she offered me.

9) When the witch is shoved into the oven, the whole house breaks apart and falls to pieces. Either her abode was maintained by a witchcraft that disintegrated upon her death, or putting a witch into an oven is somewhat similar to putting something metal in a microwave. Consider this a useful household tip.

10) Okay, I’m having some fun with this movie, and though I usually do my “ten thoughts” lists on movies that are prime stinkers, let’s consider it a compliment in this case. After having seen THE SHOEMAKER AND THE ELVES (a movie which mostly consisted of footage of children dressed as elves building shoes), I was expecting an exercise in tedium of the worst kind. This one was actually efficient, creative and a bit of fun. No, it’s not great, but I know that I was more entertained than I expected to be, and that’s always a plus.