Night of the Lepus (1972)

Article 2420 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 11-11-2007
Posting Date: 2-28-2008
Directed by William F. Claxton
Featuring Stuart Whitman, Janet Leigh, Rory Calhoun

An experiment to control the population of rabbits goes awry when one of the test rabbits gets loose, and ends up producing a herd of giant rabbits intent on destruction and death.

Well, I’ll give the movie some credit; it does try. It has some decent miniature model work, the acting is quite good, and it tries to spice up the proceedings with copious amounts of gore. But it’s a lost cause; the moment you see the bobbing and bouncing bevy of bucktoothed behemoth bunnies, you’ll be more inclined to shriek with delight as you run to the pet store rather than scream with fear and run for the theater exit. Quite frankly, it should have been played for laughs, and, if my memory is correct, I recall hearing that the original novel on which it was based (Russell Braddon’s “The Year of the Angry Rabbit”) was comic; if this is true, then this is the second movie in a row I’ve seen which took a comic effort and tried to make a straight movie out of it. I vividly remember the ads for this movie that played on TV after I got home from school in the early seventies; it looked rather scary then, but it never once made explicit that the monsters were rabbits. Somebody came to their senses. The movie also features DeForest Kelley in a fashionable seventies haircut.



Night Fright (1968)

Article 2418 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 11-9-2007
Posting Date: 3-26-2008
Directed by James A. Sullivan
Featuring John Agar, Carol Gilley, Ralph Baker Jr.

A monster from a downed spacecraft is loose in Satan’s Canyon and the law investigates.

Whatever you do, don’t confuse this movie with FRIGHT NIGHT; that one is good. If you do, you’ll know you made a dreadful mistake, especially if you put down good money on it. This movie is so dull and inept that it almost makes me want to revise the old motion picture code from the Hays office. How about a motion picture code that monitors tedium rather than morality? For example, you would only be allowed so much time per movie to have characters wandering in the woods. Quite frankly, this movie would have blown out the maximum allotted time for such footage before it even hits the opening credits. It would also monitor scenes of teens dancing and people standing around waiting, both of which are represented here as well. Heck, if you took all of the dull scenes out of this movie, you just might have enough footage for a trailer. All in all, this movie reminded me of a Larry Buchanan movie, but that’s no surprise; director James A. Sullivan worked with Buchanan on several of his movies. The only problem is that Larry Buchanan would have made a better movie than this one, and you can’t say that very often. But then, what can you say about a movie in which John Agar (while wandering in the woods) is startled by some boars; think of the homonym for that last word, and you’ll know you’ve been warned.


Nocturna (1979)

Article 2394 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 10-16-2007
Posting Date: 3-2-2008
Directed by Harry Hurwitz
Featuring Yvonne De Carlo, John Carradine, Nai Bonet

Dracula’s granddaughter Nocturna falls in love with a guitarist (who plays disco music) whom she meets in her grandfather’s castle-turned-nightclub (which features disco music) in Transylvania. She follows him to New York (where they have disco music) and attempts to deny her vampire heritage (by dancing to disco music). Dracula comes to New York to find her dancing to disco music.

If anyone out there cringed when they saw John Carradine reprising his role of Dracula in BILLY THE KID VS. DRACULA , then just wait until you see him reprising it here in what can only be described as a vampire disco sex comedy. Here are some of the things you can see in this movie.

1) John Carradine saying a line where he mentions a walrus; it’s probably the best line in the movie.

2) John Carradine and Yvonne De Carlo shacking up together in the same coffin.

3) Yvonne De Carlo, looking every one of her fifty-seven years of age, playing a vampiress named Jugula.

4) A scene of the granddaughter walking down a street in New York saying how much she loves the place while disco music plays.

5) The granddaughter dancing while disco music plays.

6) The granddaughter making love to her new boyfriend while disco music plays.

7) The granddaughter seeing herself in a mirror for the first time while disco music plays.

8) The granddaughter visiting a disco while – you guess.

9) Vampire transformation performed through the magic of very low budget animation.

10) John Carradine putting in his fang dentures.

Fortunately, here are some things you won’t see.

1) Any love scenes between De Carlo and Carradine.

2) De Carlo and Carradine boogieing on the dance floor while disco music plays (though it comes awful close).

Outside of the walrus line, the best moments in this movie have to do with a meeting of the BSA (Blood Suckers Association) in which several New York vampires talk about the problems of being vampires in the big city. The worst moments occur whenever the third-billed Nai Bonet (who plays the title character) opens her mouth; she is one of the lousiest actresses I’ve ever seen. And as for her dancing, she’s upstaged by her own costumes.

Oh, and did I mention the disco music? Did I mention it so much you got sick of it? Did I mention how much I got sick of it during the movie? I only plan to watch this movie again when I’m at my most masochistic.


Night of the Devils (1972)

aka La Notte dei divaoli
Article 2393 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 10-15-2007
Posting Date: 3-1-2008
Directed by Giorgio Ferroni
Featuring Gianni Garko, Agostina Belli, Maria Monti

A man in an insane asylum thinks back on the events that brought him there; his car broke down in the woods, and he was stranded in the home of a family that is under a curse – they are plagued by Vurdalaks.

If this movie seems similar to the Vurdalak segment of BLACK SABBATH, that’s no coincidence; it was based on the same Tolstoy story as that one was. Though BLACK SABBATH is certainly the better known version, this one is strong in its own right; it’s moody and suspenseful, the special effects (by Carlo Rambaldi) are memorable and grotesque, and it holds the attention throughout. The movie is so effective that I easily forgive some of the things I don’t like, such as the ineffective timpani “Boinnng!” sound that is more comic than scary, and one of those twist endings that feels more like a manipulative cheat than a revelation. Furthermore, the movie is excellently dubbed. This one is recommended, especially for fans of the shorter version of the story in the Bava movie.


Noita palaa elamaan (1952)

aka The Witch
Article 2355 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 9-6-2007
Posting Date: 1-23-2008
Directed by Roland af Hallstrom
Featuring Mirja Mane, Toivo Makela, Hillevi Lagerstam

An archaeologist pulls a stake out of a grave that is believed to harbor a witch. Later, a naked woman mysteriously appears in the grave. The villagers believe she is a witch, but the archaeologist believes this is just superstition. Then strange things start happening…

Is she a witch or isn’t she? Only a Finnish translator knows for sure, and there weren’t any around for my viewing of this undubbed, unsubtitled Finnish horror movie. Most of the plot above I got from other sources after watching the movie, because it was a little difficult to piece together while watching it. However, I did enjoy it as much as I could despite the language barrier; this is the first Finnish horror movie I’ve seen, and it’s certainly different. At moments it recalls silent cinema and early talkies; certain music cues in particular gave me the feeling of the latter type of film. However, none of the early talkies would have a naked woman romping around as much as we have here; I don’t know how much nudity there was in the cinema of other countries at the time, but I was quite surprised to see this much skin in a movie from the early fifties. A lot of the details are quite vague, but I do know that the witch sows discord into the archaeologist’s marriage, she causes violent rivalry to break out among men for her charms, and the villagers like to chase her around with any handy farm implements. There are moments in the second half of the movie where I even began to wonder whether this might have been a comedy; it certainly doesn’t appear to be played for scares. At any rate, I’m glad this one finally showed up; it’s been on my hunt list for years.


Neither the Sea nor the Sand (1972)

Article 2337 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 8-19-2007
Posting Date: 1-5-2008
Directed by Fred Burnley
Featuring Susan Hampshire, Frank Finlay, Michael Petrovitch

A woman on vacation has an affair with a young man. She is devastated when he dies. But then he appears at her door, seemingly alive, the next day…

If you sat through the first forty minutes of this movie, you probably wouldn’t think there was any fantastic content to it, and the title certainly doesn’t give it away. It’s only with the lover’s return from the dead that the fantastic content manifests itself. I’ve seen him alternately described as a ghost and a zombie; I do know that he doesn’t eat, he has trouble motivating his movements (though not always), and he speaks without opening his mouth. IMDB classifies it as Fantasy, Horror and Romance, all of which fit, but none of which quite encapsulates this rather curious movie. In particular, I’m not sure whether it works well as either a romance or a horror story; the more overtly horrific the movie becomes, the more it feels forced. In particular, I’m not sure whether the character of the lover’s brother really is necessary, though he’s an interesting character. And the scene where she kisses the zombie/ghost and ends up revolted by the taste of death on him isn’t going to endear itself to romance fans. Still, the basic premise about love outlasting death is a fairly old idea that has popped up many times, and this is largely a rather odd take on the same subject. All in all, it’s interesting, but not quite satisfying, and could easily bore those expecting something more horrific.


Night School (1981)

Article 2238 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-2-2007
Posting Date: 9-28-2007
Directed by Ken Hughes
Featuring Leonard Mann, Rachel Ward, Drew Snyder

A murderer is decapitating women attending night classes at a local night school. Police investigate. Potential suspects appear. More murders occur. Police investigate. We meet the suspects again. Still more murders occur. Police investigate, etc. etc.

If the plot description above didn’t clue you in, this is a fairly repetitive slasher film from the early eighties. The most interesting aspects about it are the appearance of Rachel Ward (and she has a nude scene as well), and the fact that it was directed by the man who directed CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG . It won’t take you much in the way of head-scratching to figure out who the killer is. Still, it does have one amusing scene involving beef stew. It makes up for the stupid final fake-out. And though I’m no fan of the Friday the 13th series, at least Jason has more creative tricks up his sleeve than anything we see here.