The Night Visitor (1971)

THE NIGHT VISITOR (1971)
Article 2724 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 10-21-2008
Posting Date: 1-27-2009
Directed by Laslo Benedek
Featuring Max von Sydow, Trevor Howard, Liv Ullmann
Country: USA/Sweden

A lunatic devises a way to escape out of and return to an asylum with the intention of taking revenge on those that put him there.

Though the elements are there, this is really more of a crime thriller than a horror movie; the lunatic may not really be a lunatic, and the movie doesn’t so much milk the tension of what he’s going to do as it make us wonder how he’s doing it; we know he’s able to get out of the asylum, but the question is how he does it. Actually, people may expect too much from this movie, given its impressive cast, many of which were Ingmar Bergman regulars. The script is a little too convenient at times (everyone seems to be just where they need to be for the frame-up that is being planned to work), but its quite entertaining, and the scenes involving the escape from the asylum are great fun. Max von Sydow is wonderful as Salem, the lunatic bent on revenge, and the other principals (Liv Ullmann, Trevor Howard and Per Oscarsson) are also very good. We also have Andrew Keir on hand as the head of the asylum, and Arthur Hewlett is memorable as a chess-playing prison guard. The movie also has a great ending as well. Recommended.

 

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Nightmare (1972)

NIGHTMARE (1972)
aka Voices
Article 2681 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 8-30-2008
Posting Date: 12-15-2008
Directed by Kevin Billington
Featuring David Hemmings, Gayle Hunnicutt, Lynn Farleigh
Country: UK

A couple, traumatized by the death of their son when they left him by himself momentarily, spend the night in an abandoned house the woman has inherited. As they struggle with their demons, they begin to suspect that the house is haunted.

John Stanley rightly praises this obscure British movie for its twist ending, and well he should. Unfortunately, to get to that ending, you have to go through the rest of the movie, and therein lies the problem. It starts out well enough, but once the couple enters the house, it turns into one of those movies where two unlikable people flaunt their dysfunctional relationship (with yelling, accusations, manipulation, shaming, hysteria, etc., etc.,) in front of you for about an hour with hardly anyone else on hand to divert your attention from the ugly, depressing scene. Had there been a modicum of wit in the script (along the lines of “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf”, say), it might have been bearable. It also would have helped if the hauntings had somehow been indelibly tied to the characters and their situation, but, outside of the fact that the wife thinks one of the ghostly visions might be her dead son, it doesn’t. So, in the final analysis, I would have to say that the twist really wasn’t worth the unpleasantness of getting to it. Chalk it up as another one that would have made a for a good half hour segment on an anthology show rather than as a full-length movie.

 

Nude… si muore (1968)

NUDE… SI MUORE (1968)
aka Naked You Die, The Young, the Evil & the Savage
Article 2617 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 6-4-2008
Posting Date: 10-12-2008
Directed by Antonio Margheriti
Featuring Mark Damon, Eleonora Brown, Michael Rennie
Country: Italy

A murderer is killing people at a girl’s boarding school.

You know, when I see a foreign movie that doesn’t impress me, I wonder how much my reaction is affected by poor dubbing and/or poor letterboxing. This one has neither excuse to fall back on. Despite the title, there’s not a whole lot of nudity, and, despite the fact that it’s a giallo, it’s surprisingly light on the gore. These things don’t really bother me that much. What does is the fact that the dialogue is lame and obvious (if the subtitles are accurate, that is), and the schoolgirls are truly annoying (especially the cute-as-a-button detective novelist wannabe with the walkie-talkie). I didn’t care much for the score, either; it sounded to me like the work of a first-year film score student with an addiction to the theme music of the Adam West “Batman” series. Still, the score was one of the big clues to me that the movie is at least partially a comedy, but the fact that it is singularly short of laughs (or real scares, for that matter) is another problem. For me, however, the biggest problem was the mystery itself; I spotted the killer the minute he (or she) opened his (or her) mouth, and you probably will, too. Amazingly enough, I think dubbing into English would have fixed this problem, if done with a little thought. It’s actually quite disappointing; in general, I like Antonio Margheriti’s forays into horror a lot more than his science fiction epics, but this one is an exception. Maybe he should have stayed away from comedies as well.

 

Nightmare Classics: The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde / The Turn of the Screw (1989)

NIGHTMARE CLASSICS: THE STRANGE CASE OF DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE/THE TURN OF THE SCREW (1989)
Article 2609 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-27-2008
Posting Date: 10-4-2008
Directed by Michael Lindsay-Hogg and Graeme Clifford
Featuring Anthony Andrews, Nicholas Guest, George Murdock, Amy Irving, David Hemmings, Micole Mercurio
Country: East Germany

Two stories are presented. In the first, a man uses drugs to bring out his evil nature. In the second, a governess encounters possessed children and ghosts.

No, it’s not a movie; by the time I realized I was dealing with two episodes of a TV show that had been grouped together on a videotape, I’d already added it to my hunt list, and (being too lazy to remove it), I decided to cover the two episodes anyway. I don’t know a whole lot about the Showtime TV series in question, but I assume it was an attempt by Shelley Duvall to follow up her “Faerie Tale Theatre” and “Tall Tales and Legends” series with one adapting famous horror stories. Given that the series has an overall rating of 3.1 on IMDB, I can only assume that it was a failure, and it appears only four episodes were made. In the case of the two I’ve seen here, I’m certainly not impressed; both stories have been somewhat sexed-up (no doubt due to their presence on a pay cable station), and THE TURN OF THE SCREW is stripped of its subtlety and ambiguity to leave us a conventional and over-melodramatic rendering of the story; we’re miles away from THE INNOCENTS here. The Jekyll and Hyde story fares somewhat better, largely thanks to the fact that Anthony Andrews comes up with a very interesting take on the character of Jekyll; I found it very interesting to find the character nervous, inhibited, shy and rather meek, as these character traits make us understand his desire to be Mr. Hyde all the more. His performance of Mr. Hyde is also quite different, but not near as satisfying; it doesn’t dovetail well with the Jekyll character, and he’s less creepy/scary than repellent/repulsive. All in all, neither story worked as a straight retelling of its source, nor is either one particularly scary; in fact, I’d call them both misfires.

 

984: Prisoner of the Future (1982)

984: PRISONER OF THE FUTURE (1982)
TV-Movie
Article 2591 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-9-2008
Posting Date: 9-16-2008
Directed by Tibor Takacs
Featuring Stephen Markle, Michele Chicoine, David Clement
Country: Canada

An executive finds himself a prisoner when a new political regime comes into power, and he is being tortured to confess to crimes he didn’t commit.

One of my books describes this movie as being Kafkaesque, but I think it lacks the maddening ambiguity of Kafka’s work; I’d say it’s a lot more Orwellian dystopic. From a distance, I rather admire the movie; it’s always a bit interesting to see a science fiction movie from the period that wasn’t flaunting a STAR WARS influence. Nevertheless, I have to admit that, despite all the brooding nihilism and darkness here, I watched the movie with only mild interest. I attribute this to the fact that the movie simply isn’t very convincing. It’s not the weak special effects; though the roller-skating enforcer robots are pretty silly, they aren’t show-stoppers, if you know what I mean. No, it’s more the confused script, the dull characters (Don Francks’ attempts to make his Warden character more eccentric is more distracting than effective), and a general lack of conviction. In short, I never really believe what’s happening, or that it really matters; even the final twist is more of a shrug than a shock. It’s a nice try, but not really a success.

 

La notte dei dannati (1971)

LA NOTTE DEI DANNATI (1971)
aka Night of the Damned
Article 2590 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-8-2008
Posting Date: 9-15-2008
Directed by Filippo Walter Ratti
Featuring Pierre Brice, Mario Carra, Daniela D’Agostino
Country: Italy

A journalist who specializes in unsolved mysteries visits an ailing friend who is actually under the spell of a 200 year old witch.

At heart, I believe it’s patently unfair to make critical judgments about a movie that you’ve only seen in a language you don’t understand. Nevertheless, since I’m writing up every movie on my list, I’ve got to put something down, and I always try to point out when I’m watching something under these circumstances. Therefore, since I’m seeing this one in unsubtitled Italian, you can take it with a grain of salt when I say that I suspect the movie is a bore. I could be wrong; if the dialogue is sparkling and fascinating, this might be a really enjoyable movie. Seen in this state where I can barely comprehend what’s going on (I borrowed heavily from comments on IMDB to get a plot description together), I can’t appreciate it on that level, and, despite the fact that there’s a few moody scenes, a fair amount of nudity, a witch that likes leaving scratch marks on women’s breasts, and other odd touches, my primary impression is that this movie is somewhat static and talks your ears off. Also, Patrizia Viotti (who plays the female journalist) has one of the lousiest screams I’ve ever heard in a movie, and we get treated to it far too often. Still, until I get to see it in a form where I can really understand it, this is only speculation – except for the bit about the scream.

 

New York Ripper (1982)

NEW YORK RIPPER (1982)
aka Los Squartatore di New York
Article 2589 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-7-2008
Posting Date: 9-14-2008
Directed by Lucio Fulci
Featuring Jack Hedley, Almanta Suska, Howard Ross
Country: Italy

A vicious serial killer is loose in New York. A policeman teams up with a psychoanalyst to catch him. Their main clue is that the killer talks like a duck when he’s killing.

There are landmark moments in my progress through this whole series of movies I’m covering, and this is one of them. This is not to say that it’s the first Lucio Fulci movie I’ve seen, but it’s the first one I’ve seen in which he’s in his full-throttle gore mode. There is something of a split in critical views of Fulci’s work; some find his movies fascinating and stylistically rich, others find them sickeningly repellant. There’s no doubt about it – the gory violence in this movie is intense and nasty; in fact, it shows up most of the slasher flicks of the era for the cartoons which they (in one sense) are. The violence is so nasty that it allows the movie to get away with its bizarrest touch; having the killer talk like a duck would be laughable if the killings weren’t so stomach-churning. I’m less impressed with the cliched plot (with the killer taunting a cop, a comic relief doctor performing the autopsies, the cop hooking up with a younger man to help solve the murders, etc.), and I guessed who the killer was long before anyone in the movie does. I also don’t find the movie particularly interesting in a stylistic sense, and the attempts at pathos near the end of the movie feel forced and ineffectual. This pretty much leaves the gore and the nastiness as the primary appeal, and these will certainly not be to everyone’s taste. Me, I recognize the power of what he’s doing, but I’m not sure the nastiness ever really becomes more than just that. Still, I’ll have other opportunities to deal with it, I’m sure.