The Locket (1946)

Article 3039 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 9-2-2009
Posting Date: 12-9-2009
Directed by John Brahm
Featuring Laraine Day, Brian Aherne, Robert Mitchum
Country: USA
What it is: Psychodrama thriller with very slight horror element

On the day that a rich gentleman is about to be married to a seemingly perfect woman, he is visited by a psychiatrist who claims to be the woman’s former husband. The psychiatrist claims that the woman is a thief and a murderer, but is he telling the truth…?

John Stanley’s CREATURE FEATURES MOVIE GUIDE STRIKES AGAIN, in which this was listed, makes it sound like more of a horror movie than it really is. Though there’s no doubt that madness plays a role in the proceeding, the woman in question is never played with that evil veneer that would give the movie that horror edge; instead, she’s played as a perpetually misunderstood victim, an approach which makes me feel that she genuinely believes her lies, which in itself is an unsettling form of madness. If the horror content is slight, that doesn’t mean it’s not a good movie; it’s excellent, and it features a memorable performance by Robert Mitchum, whose final scene here is one of the high points in the movie. It’s directed by John Brahm, who gave us THE LODGER and HANGOVER SQUARE, and though I don’t think this movie is quite as consistent as either of these, he does give us a great ending scene in which one character’s guilt overtakes them. The structure itself is interesting; most of the story is told in flashback, which itself contains further flashbacks, and they get nested three deep at one point. The locket of the title plays both a role in the deepest flashback, serves as a key element in the psychological description of the woman, and returns as an element of the story in the final scenes.


Lady Possessed (1952)

Article 3029 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 8-23-2009
Posting Date: 11-29-2009
Directed by William Spier
Featuring James Mason, June Havoc, Stephen Dunne
Country: USA

A pianist takes his ailing wife out of a London hospital at the same time that another female patient there has suffered a miscarriage. Afterwards, the second woman feels empty and withdrawn, and, thinking that getting her away from London will help, her husband takes her to live at a country estate, which turns out to be the former residence of the pianist who left after his wife died. The woman begins to get visions of the wife and her final days; is she becoming possessed by the dead wife of the pianist?

James Mason not only starred in this one, but he produced it and wrote the screenplay. It’s interesting in some ways, but uneven and not really satisfying in the final analysis. Part of the problem is that it seems rather muddled; it’s really hard to say whether what is happening is supernatural or psychological, and the movie doesn’t really make that ambiguity compelling. It does give Mason some good dramatic moments, especially at the climax when he plays the piano with the words of his dead wife’s last letter running through his head. Ultimately, though, it’s hard to feel anything about most of the other characters, and this drags the movie down. Still, this one has been sitting on my list for quite a while, and I thought it might be destined to go on my “ones that got away” list; I’m glad to have had a chance to see it.

Lady Dracula (1978)

Article 3022 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 8-16-2009
Posting Date: 11-22-2009
Directed by Franz Josef Gottlieb
Featuirng Evelyne Kraft, Brad Harris, Theo Lingen
Country: West Germany

A former female victim of Dracula is revived in modern times. A policeman investigates the resulting vampire killings, unaware that his new girlfriend is the Lady Dracula.

Here we have, as a follow-up to OLD DRACULA, another comic take on the Dracula legend. Unfortunately, this one is in German, and the subtitles appear to be in Dutch, so my hopes of following the story are gone. Still, if the movie’s 3.6 rating on IMDB is any indication, it’s only a hair better than yesterday’s movie (which came in at 3.0). There’s some comic bits with undertakers, costume parties, midgets and blood banks. The story is by Brad Harris, who appeared in several sword-and-sandal movies as well as the Kommissar X series; he also plays the policeman in charge of the investigation, whose boss has one of the silliest widow’s peaks I’ve seen in a movie. The movie also features the last performance of Stephen Boyd, who appears as Dracula at the beginning of the movie. Only a handful of the gags are visual; the ones with the undertakers look somewhat amusing. Still, until I see an English language version, I’m going to reserve judgment.

The Last Wave (1977)

Article 3012 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 8-6-2009
Posting Date: 11-12-2009
Directed by Peter Weir
Featuring Richard Chamberlain, Olivia Hamnett, David Gulpilil
Country: Australia

A lawyer takes on a case where he defends a group of aboriginals on a murder charge. However, he finds that one of the aboriginals has been appearing in his dreams, and that his dreams may portend a future event…

From the opening scene where a small desert village in Australia is hit by a hailstorm despite a cloudless sky, to the final apocalyptic visions, this is one movie that leaves you in a constant sense of dread. Though I’m not a particular fan of premonition movies, the powerful use of symbolic images, and the addition of the theme of the clash of cultures (in this case, that of the Australian tribal aboriginals and the currently dominant white settlers) adds a power and a depth to the movie that makes it a fascinating watch. The mysticism makes the movie rather difficult at times (though the concept of dreamtime being a separate and equally “real” reality as the more mundane waking time is fascinating), and the movie does run a bit too long, but its use of water symbolism is truly unsettling, and the challenge of working out some of the details means that I will most likely be revisiting this fascinating film again. I’d been looking forward to seeing this movie for years after having heard about it and having seen director Peter Weir’s earlier film, PICNIC ON HANGING ROCK, and I’m glad to say that it didn’t disappoint.

The Loves of Count Iorga: Vampire (1970)

aka Count Yorga, Vampire
Article 2917 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-3-2009
Posting Date: 8-8-2009
Directed by Bob Kelljan
Featuring Robert Quarry, Roger Perry, Michael Murphy
Country: USA

When a woman who took part in a seance begins to show symptoms of vampire attack, suspicion falls on a Count from Yugoslavia who lives in a spooky old castle and is never seen during the daytime.

The trivia section for this movie on IMDB has two entries that contradict each other. One claims that the movie was originally intended to be a soft-core porno movie called THE LOVES OF COUNT IORGA, VAMPIRE that turned out better than expected and was then changed to a straight horror movie. The other claims that it was never intended as a porno movie and was called COUNT YORGA, VAMPIRE from the outset. All I know is this; my copy of the movie has the title THE LOVES OF COUNT IORGA, VAMPIRE, and there are definite moments here that look like the movie could well have been intended for porn. For example, there’s a moment during the seance where a man grabs his girlfriend’s breast, there’s the introduction of a sexy nurse who later turns up in bed with the doctor, and, most strikingly, there’s a moment which looks like the beginning of a lesbian love scene being watched by Count Iorga (or Yorga). Though none of these scenes ever develop into anything explicit, they certainly look like they were intended for such a purpose at one time. At any rate, if the first story is true, than we can thank an excellent performance by Robert Quarry for the movie making the switch to straight horror.

According to one of my sources, this movie was shot for $64,000. If so, then my hat is off to Bob Kelljan, who makes it look a lot more expensive than it was. The script itself is uneven and a little too conventional to redeem the movie completely, but Quarry’s performance lifts it tremendously; he presents us with a unique vampire, one who looks like he could easily pass as an ordinary human being, thus making him more deadly. The rest of the cast is not as inspired, but they manage to hold their own; there are no actors embarrassing themselves here. All in all, it’s not bad, especially for its extreme low budget.

Locura de terror (1961)

aka Madness from Terror
Article 2849 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 2-24-2009
Posting Date: 6-1-2009
Directed by Julian Soler
Featuring German Valdes, Manuel ‘Loco’ Valdes, Sonio Furio
Country: Mexico

Driven insane by his mother-in-law, a man is committed to a sanitarium and is helped by a doctor who is as crazy as he is. However, the sanitarium is also the home to a mad scientist engaged in experiments with dead bodies.

The opening credit sequence, in which ominous music plays while we see a shadowy figure approaching us in the streets, certainly tries to make this look like it’s going to be a scary movie. However, the mood is broken in seconds by dint of seeing who is in the cast; when the first two credits are for German (‘Tin-Tan’) Valdes and his brother, Manuel ‘Loco’ Valdes, you immediately know it’s a comedy. Well, maybe so, but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad comedy. Nor does it mean that it doesn’t give us some fun scares along the way. Sure, my viewing is somewhat compromised by the fact that my copy is in unsubtitled Spanish, but this one is pretty easy to figure out, and many of the gags are visual. It starts out as an extended mother-in-law gag, turns into a politically incorrect view of insanity, and finally turns into a mad scientist flick. During the course of this movie, you will see Tin-Tan walk on the walls and the ceiling, Tin-Tan and Loco Valdes sing a Spanish version of ‘Lucille’ to a pretty nurse, the flesh melted off a body to leave a skeleton, the flesh melting back on (thanks to the use of backwards photography) to create a monster, Tin-Tan and ‘Loco’ Valdes doing ‘Othello’ playing Othello and Desdemona respectively, and Tin-Tan doing a full-frontal flashing of his mother-in-law without running the risk of giving the movie anything worse than a PG rating. The mad scientist is so evil he even throws his pet cat into an acid bath and kidnaps paperboys. Somehow, commentary seems pointless in the face of all this.

La llorona (1960)

aka The Crying Woman
Article 2833 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 2-8-2009
Posting Date: 5-16-2009
Directed by Rene Cardona
Featuring Maria Elena Marques, Eduardo Fajardo, Luz Maria Aguilar
Country: Mexico

A man and a woman marry and have a child. Unfortunately, this brings on a curse known by the woman’s father; he tells his son-in-law the story of a female ancestor who, when her husband left her for another woman, killed her children. When a nanny shows up to care for the children, she has an uncanny resemblance to the female ancestor…

Once again, I’m doing a little guessing here; my copy of the movie is in unsubtitled Spanish. Still, I think I pretty much got the gist of it, though it required a bit of patience; I was quite a ways into the movie before I was able to pick up the threads of what was going on, and the nanny doesn’t show up until two-thirds of the way through the movie. However, I don’t think this is one of the better Mexican horror movies; in fact, some of the attempts the nanny makes on the life of the child have a comic touch about them that I suspect wasn’t intentional; I don’t feel this was supposed to be a comedy in any way. The story was based on a legend, and was adapted from a play version. My usual source for plot details of some of these Mexican movies, Robert Cotter’s “The Mexican Masked Wrestler and Monster Filmography” didn’t have a plot description, but it has a quote from the pressbook which I suspect would prove to be a translation of the opening narration, and this is rather entertaining in itself.