MonsterGirl’s – Sunday Nite Surreal: Silent Night, Bloody Night (1972) “You can’t see me but I can see you”

“The mansion… the madness… the maniac… no escape.

Silent Night, Bloody Night (1972)

Alternative title “Night of the Dark Full Moon”


This is perhaps one of my favorite classic horror films of the 70s– A gloomy tale of incest, madness, depravity, and revenge. I’ve chosen not to give away any of the plot twists or uncover the secrets of the story. I will not spoil the ending for those who haven’t seen this obscurely surreal gem.

Though the film is considered a cult hit by many of us, it’s still obscure and deserves a first look for those who might be interested in seeing it, or because they are drawn to the newly discovered beautiful moments that occur in such a low-budget horror film.


Directed by Theodore Gershuny (Sugar Cookies 1973) Silent Night Bloody Night was actually filmed in 1970 but not released until ’72. Contrary to some people’s beliefs, SNBN predates Bob Clark’s Black Christmas by 4 years. Silent Night Bloody Night plays like an eerie and odd nightmare. I know It gets compared to Clark’s Black Christmas which is an undisputed masterpiece but SNBN was filmed in 1970 and came out two years before. And has its own very unique story to tell.

Woronov acts as a sort of tour guide/witness narrating the opening sequence, telling of Butler’s death on the day before Christmas 1950 to the gruesome story that unfolds surrounding the Butler house and its legacy.
“One last time I’ve got to see this ground one last time… it’s beautiful now as if nothing had happened here. {…}For twenty years that house lay empty, exactly as Wilfred had left it.”

Based on Jeffrey Konvitz’s story. Konvitz wrote yet another of my top favorite horror classics of the 70s The Sentinel starring the superb Burgess Meredith as a very cheeky devil. I read both books which were equally chilling as they were enthralling, back when reading the novel was as thrilling as then going to see it on the big screen. Silent Night, Bloody Night is being re-released on DVD on December 10th restored from 35mm. This excites me indeed! My copy has already been pre-ordered.

IMDb touts a remake to be released in the US in February. The film will be called Silent Night, Bloody Night: The Homecoming. This I am not so excited about. I love this particular original too much to want it re-envisioned with the current careless and gory lens. NOTE: There are exceptions to remakes… I won’t get into that here and now.


What made SNBN so richly evocative for me was its uniquely creepy un-selfconsciousness. Dealing with heavy themes, it managed to come across as a startling fairy tale ‘like’ bit of bloodletting with an authentic 70s flare. I don’t need a more hideous version of this movie with hacked body parts as a way to reintroduce this story. This does not frighten me, nor disturb me in a good way. I imagine it might become like every other violent blood show with effects and body violations that will detract from the moodiness of the original.

Patrick O’Neal opens the original film by playing a brief role as a big-shot realtor John Carter who gets axed to pieces in bed with his lover. Cult film star Mary Woronov plays Diane Adams daughter of the Mayor. Walter Klavun is the town Sheriff, Bill Mason.







John Carradine plays mute curmudgeon Charlie Towman who publishes the weekly newspaper. Apparently, his croaks and grunts were dubbed in afterward. Walter Abel (Fury 1936, Mr. Skeffington 1944) plays Mayor Adams. And Fran Stevens plays Tess Howard who operates the switchboard.

Plus, the film is back-dropped with an assortment from Andy Warhol’s acting “Factory.’ Mary Woronov was at one time married to director Theodore Gershuny), supporting players Ondine, Candy Darling, Kristen Steen, Tally Brown, Lewis Love, filmmaker Jack Smith, and artist Susan Rothenberg. And character actor Philip Bruns plays the patriarch of the estate now deceased, the eccentric Wilfred Butler.



James Patterson who plays Grandson Jeff Butler (Lillith 1964, In The Heat of The Night 1967) died of cancer shortly after the principal shooting was completed. They substituted Patterson’s voice with another actor. Grandson Jeff played by Patterson has a sort of veiled flirtation with Woronov who is the mayor’s daughter.





Henry Shrady’s art direction was responsible for the wonderful sense of claustrophobic ambiance that becomes part of the pervasive madness he created later on with Jack Palance’s and Martin Landau’s hilariously frightening performances in Alone In The Dark in 1982. Shrady also did (Cry Uncle 1971 and Squirm 1976)

In a small rural New England town, (I recently lived in New England for two years and can tell you that writer Stephen King has his pulse on a very real provincial and closed society that keeps its secrets and its turmoil quietly buried underneath the pristine beauty of the landscape) Wilfred Butler, played by Philip Bruns, is the patriarch who reigns over his mansion secluded away from the small town and then dies on Christmas Eve 1950 as he runs from the place set on fire.


The film’s prologue shows Wilfred Butler running from the mansion enveloped by flames, Then we are dropped into the present day when realtor John Carter (O’Neal) arrives at the house with his gorgeous lover Ingrid (Astrid Heeren). Carter comes to finalize the sale of the house with the town elders. who are four sullen and strangely nervous bunch? The excellent casting and presence of these somewhat distressed characters add a nice layer to the creepiness that builds. Fran Stevens as Tess Howard is perfect. Abel as the Mayor, the ubiquitous Carradine as the mute Towman, and Walter Klavun as Sheriff Mason are equally well suited to play this strange and secretive quartet.




“Tess… I’ve come back” says the creepy whispering voice on the phone.


The Butler house once opulent, inhabited by Wilfred and his young daughter sits for years uninhabited and abandoned. The current horrible events unfold during the Christmas season twenty years later. Grandson Jeffrey inherits the creepy place, but someone deadly and deranged is lurking within the mansion and around town. As Christmas draws near, the four members of the town are lured to the old house and butchered.


Although the film has the appearance of that 70s ‘low budget’ feature, what has emerged for me as I revisit these films with a sense of nostalgia and the clarity of retrospection I find that many obscure films like this one can be considered classical masterpieces because of their sparsely framed environments, authentically offbeat characters and a realism that doesn’t get covered up by opulent set pieces and star billing.

The scratchy gritty low lighting that creates an eerie darkness, presents its own unease for us. It will be fantastic to sit and re-experience the film without some of the poor quality of the print hindering the scenes.

Still, SNBN is undoubtedly one of the most atmospheric horrors of the 70s. Like, Let’s Scare Jessica To Death. It’s a self-contained world of distorted truths, hysteria, and a claustrophobic bit of vintage nihilism and yet again a distorted tone of American values.

We aren’t thinking “will the characters survive?” as it is not a linear story in the sense that we follow along and grow frightened for the protagonists on their journey through the plot. Because every aspect of the story sort of lies within the looming darkness, we’re left to be frightened for ourselves. The question of escape doesn’t enter into it. The question of ‘what is really going on here?’ does…. and it becomes progressively disturbing.










This leads perhaps to one of the most memorable flashbacks of 70s horror films for me. Performed in murky sepia and wide angle lens to add to it a sickly decrepit tone of the archaic mournfulness of a disturbing past. As it shows us what happened long ago at the Butler Estate in the 1930s, it’s one grotesque fête. A creepy sequence that for me is unforgettable and for po-mo junkies, it’s filled with Warhol minions.

The one plot setback that I read by critics more often than not is that it takes a while for the excellent story to finally unfold. Well, I think there’s too much atmosphere for me to need constant movement or disclosure at every frame. It lends to the claustrophobic vibe.

Patrick O’Neal, who plays lawyer/real estate agent Jack Carter, comes to the small town of East Willard in order to sell the Butler house. He reeks of sophistication and arrogance as he carries on with his girlfriend while spending the night in the house, ultimately getting themselves hacked up. Grandson Jeffrey Butler comes to town as well to sell off the estate. The locals begin to appear agitated and to make the story a bit edgier there’s a nearby insane asylum inmate who has escaped and is on the prowl.




Gershuny and Adam Giffard frame the plot at times from the POV of the mysterious killer stalking the house and the town folk. Once again SNBN predates Bob Clark’s Black Christmas point-of-view of the killer, and the freakishly terrifying voice on the phone, and of course the grisly murders.

Patterson who plays the grandson Jeff Butler was dying of cancer at the time. He has an interesting defined face, like Tommy Lee Jones, partially sensuous and just a bit menacing.




The film possesses some truly effective grisly death scenes. Axe murders and uncomfortable themes. I won’t call this film a slasher flick, though it is referred to as such at times. This underrated film that was released before Black Christmas or Halloween is not a slasher film. What it is, is characteristic of 70s atmospheric horror stories that emerge more potent in retrospect than when they are initially viewed. I credit this to a sense of unselfconscious filmmaking. Some low-budget horror films gain a natural eeriness that is allowed to come to the surface. Thus forms an organic horrifying realism. or sense of surreal dread.




As promised I won’t give away the story, I will say that the town folk has a secret. They are not the upstanding citizens they pretend to be. They want to purchase the house so they can rid themselves of the history of the place. The various grisly scenes of murder are frighteningly tense and creepy. Tess Howard is summoned to the house by the eerie caller. John Carradine’s character Towman who constantly rings a bell and although doesn’t utter a word exudes a cantankerousness. It’s all gruesome and opaque in a way that makes this film a uniquely satisfying chiller.


Merry Bloody Christmas from your EverLovin’ 70s MonsterGirl!

Sunday Nite Surreal: The Last Man on Earth (1964): “Another day to live through. Better get started”

They want my blood. Their lives are mine. I still get squeamish.”


Directed by Ubaldo Ragona and Sidney Salkow The Last Man on Earth is based on the best-selling sci-fi/horror novel I Am Legend by Richard Matheson who unhappy with the script, used the pseudonym Logan Swanson for the screenplay. The film remains pretty close to the book, and keep in mind that Last Man on Earth predates Night of The Living Dead (1968) by 4 years.

Piero Mecacci ( Suspiria 1977, Hatchet For A Honeymoon 1970, The Young, The Evil and The Savage 1968, was responsible for the film’s make-up.

Matheson’s story is perhaps the first involving vampire-like beings whose origin is not rooted in the supernatural but stems from a scientific, biological nature, an actual medical condition. It is also the first of three adaptations of Matheson’s book, and stands alone as the most striking, although I will always have a special kind of 70s love for director Boris Sagal’s version of The Omega Man 1971

Heston as Neville and Rosalind Cash as Lisa in The Omega Man (1971) The 2nd adaptation of Matheson’s book. An even more modern reworking of a timeless story.
A victim of the plague in 1971.

Starring Vincent Price as Dr. Robert Morgan, Franca Bettoia as Ruth Collins, Emma Danieli as Virginia Morgan, Umberto Raho as Dr. Mercer, and Giacomo Rossi-Stuart as Ben Cortman. In 1971 it is the wonderful Anthony Zerbe as Matthias who reprises the role of the vengeful cult leader of ‘the family’ who craves Heston’s (Neville) lifeblood.

“Alive among the lifeless… alone among the crawling creatures of evil that make the night hideous with their inhuman craving!”


“December 1965. Is that all it has been since I inherited the world? Only three years. Seems like 100 million.”

The year is 1968, Vincent Price in a somber fashion plays Dr. Robert Morgan who like Sisyphus is condemned to repeat his daily tasks of replenishing his stock of garlic and mirrors (the undead hate both), adding gasoline to his generators, collecting the dead bodies that lay strewn around his dismal and cluttered house, and throwing them into the enormous pit where he burns the remains while wearing a gas mask, which is effectively creepy on its own.

“I need more mirrors and this garlic has lost its pungency.”

For much of the film’s beginning, Morgan narrates his story for us as an inner dialogue, “An empty dead…silent world.”

“There was a time when eating was pleasurable now it bores me. just a fuel for survival, I’ll settle for coffee and orange juice this morning. But first, there’s my life to consider, I better replace that garlic I’ll need more lots more, better stop off and get ’em”

Morgan is the seemingly sole survivor in a global outbreak of an unknown bacterium. By day, he collects his needed supplies, tries to make contact by radio with any other survivors, makes repairs to his house, from the onslaught of undead who attack by night, and basically tries to maintain his sanity in the bleak environment of apocalyptic ruin.

Each day he wakes up, checks off the date on his primitively scrawled calendars, sharpens his wooden stakes, the weapons he uses to defend himself against a surviving race of Vampiric like undead that roams the night air calling out his name ‘Morgan, come out!’ pounding at his door. “Morgan! We’re going to kill you!,” they taunt him endlessly, led by his old colleague Ben Cortman.

Former colleague Ben Cortman taunts his old friend Morgan on a nightly basis…

Living Ben Cortman: There are stories being told, Bob.
Robert Morgan: By people who are out of their minds with fear.
Living Ben Cortman: Maybe. But there are too many to be just coincidental. Stories about people who have died and have come back.
Robert Morgan: They’re stories Ben, stories.

“I can’t afford the luxury of anger, anger can make me vulnerable. it can destroy my reason and reason is the only advantage I have over them. I’ve gotta find where they hide during the day. Uncover every one of them.”

Morgan tests the sharp point of his newly crafted wooden stake, a primitive weapon in the modern world.

“And how many more of these will I have to make before they’re all destroyed”

“More of them for the pit. tonight there’ll be more of them, they live off the weak ones., leave them for the pit.”

The use of the gas mask has a chilling effect visually

Less like a Gothic Hammer vampire epic or prior decades features from Universal and Bela Lugosi featuring swarthy eastern Europeans, The Last Man on Earth is set in a modern urban landscape and acts like a hybrid horror/science fiction morality play, as Morgan drudges on to persevere against the army of soulless humans that haunt his existence.

They have become inhuman things to hunt, and he has been transformed into a veritable Adam living in a post-nuclear anti-paradise with no companionship. It’s merely the primal need to survive that drives him. In this way, he has been reduced to a scavenging animal, living on instinct, with an inescapable mission to hunt and kill people who were once human like himself.

“I can’t live a heartbeat away from hell’

Morgan inhabits a world, where everyone else has been infected by the plague, they cannot tolerate sunlight, hate to see their own image in mirrors, and more likened to the ancient folklore of Vampires are repelled by garlic.

At night these undead civilians, try to get into Morgan’s house, they have a desire to kill him as much as he has to destroy every one of them.

Each day he gets in his large automobile in search of more lifeless bodies scattered around the city and seeks out those in hiding to use his wooden stakes to impale and then throw on the mass grave, fumes rising from the gasoline-soaked funeral pyre.

He finds a dead girl outside his house, and picks her up as she flops like a rag doll. He finds another one in his driveway. He loads them into the trunk of his car. He realizes that he’s out of gas. Dead bodies line the road.

Notice the legs and feet dangling out the back of the station wagon like rubbish being taken out to the dump…

“I can get rid of them later, right now I’m out of gas.”

As he drives over scattered bodies like human road kill he thinks to himself.

“They can wait too, I’ve got my life to worry about, those mirrors will have to be replaced before dark.”

The cinematography by Franck Delli Colli is stunning as it is stark. He paints an apocalyptic wasteland, with the addition of the mass graves and gas masks which to me, evoke the specter of war-torn Europe after WWII.

In flashback we see Morgan as a happily married man, with a beautiful wife and daughter. As the memory unfolds, we see that his wife and daughter have been effected by the plague. While his daughter is taken away to the public burning pit after she succumbs, Morgan secretly buries his wife, not knowing that the dead are coming back to life.

Once he returns home and is attacked by his dead wife, he realizes that he must dispose of all the plague victims before they reanimate themselves into zombies who can spread the plague. Morgan has a theory that his immunity to the bacteria is due to an infected bite he received from a vampire bat, while stationed in Panama. This prior exposure to the plague allowed his blood and immune system to build up a tolerance over time.

One day he finds a dog wandering and takes him home, joyous for the company the little guy will be, unfortunately he too has fallen ill from the plague and sadly, Morgan has to kill him too. Just to let you dog lovers know what to expect…

During one of his daylight excursions, he notices a woman moving around in the distance. It is Ruth Collins, who is terrified of Morgan when she first sees him, but he convinces her to come home with him. When Ruth becomes sickened by a string of garlic waved in her face, she claims she is just weak, but Morgan becomes suspicious of her.

Morgan catches Ruth trying to inject herself with the vaccine that he’s been working on, which seems to stave off the effects of the disease. At first, she attempts to point a gun at Morgan but eventually admits that she was sent to spy on him and that she is part of a secret group of people like her, who are infected by the plague but are using a treatment that restores their health while still in the bloodstream but wears off after a time only to be reinfected again.

Ruth tells Morgan that her group is trying to rebuild their wiped-out civilization, while destroying the remaining infected walking dead, also telling Morgan that many of the people he has killed were technical ‘still alive’

Morgan- “Your new society sounds charming.”

Ruth Collins: You can’t join us. You’re a monster to them. Why do you think I ran when I saw you, even though I was assigned to spy on you? Because I was so terrified, what I’d heard about you. You’re a legend in the city. Moving by day, instead of night, leaving as evidence of your existence bloodless corpses. Many of the people you destroyed were still alive! Many of them were loved ones of the people in my group.

Robert Morgan: I didn’t know.

Morgan transfuses his own blood into Ruth’s while she is asleep, and she is immediately cured.

This encourages Morgan as he sees hope that he can now cure the remainder of Ruth’s people, the surviving yet suffering group of humans between the living dead and Morgan, the last completely healthy survivor of the human race.

In the climatic ending, the hand of irony strikes Morgan’s triumph down, as Ruth’s people begin to attack, forcing Morgan to flee, leaving the band of Ruth’s survivors to kill off the rest of the undead who are aimlessly threatening, and menacing, and of course stalking Morgan’s house.

Ruth’s people see Morgan and begin chasing him, as he picks up tear gas and grenades from a police station arsenal, they exchange gunfire and Morgan is wounded.

He finds his way into a church, with Ruth begging her people to let Morgan live.

They finally impale him on the altar with a spear. Of course, a very Christ-like image the symbolism is not lost here, he has been sufficiently sacrificed, the only man who could truly save them.

Morgan’s last dying words are “You’re freaks, all of you! All of you, freaks, mutations!” and declares that he is “the last true man on earth.”

This is truly not the end my friends… -MonsterGirl

MonsterGirl’s Sunday Nite Surreal: Black Sunday/La Mashera del Demonio 1960


Directed by Mario Bava & starring the immortal otherworldly – Barbara Steele!


This timeless Gothic masterpiece is also known as The Demon’s Mask, Revenge of the Vampire, and House of Fright. It is the Maestro Bava’s first film as a solo director, since first working as a cameraman with another auteur of the dark Riccardo Freda, Bava co-directed I Vampiri (1956)

With the presence of the enchanting & luscious beauty of Steele– the film becomes a romantic exercise in the Gothic style of European horror. Her eyes alone could mesmerize an audience with an effervescence that few possess with their gaze.

Bava also controlled the prowling camera style and Nedo Azzini’s sets are emblematic of the netherworld the story is steeped in.

Like a malefic allegory shown with gruesome keenness, Black Sunday is loosely based on Nikolai Gogol’s The Vij.

Barbara Steele manifests two characters the mirror image of each other–Princess Asa Vajda is tortured and burned as a witch. This is how the film opens with a ferocity that propels the film to a whole other level of classical horror. It is the stuff that dark fairy tales are made of… and nightmares.

The iconic spiked Devil Mask that is pounded into Asa’s face for the crime of adultery, or what was considered to be an act of ‘witchery’ Women’s wiles have always been considered powerful, tempting, and dangerous to men.

The local Inquisitor calling Asa a witch, and condemning her to such a brutal death bears ironing for he is Asa’s own brother. Once Asa returns to claim her revenge she vampirizes Katia in order to rejuvenate her life force.

It is now 200 years later, and Katia Vajda the descendent of the persecuted Princess Asa, is the spitting image of the beautiful ‘witch.’ Asa and her lover Javuto (Arturo Dominici) rise up from the tomb, cobwebs, scorpions, and spiders to wreak revenge on the legacy of the Vajda family curse.

One of the most memorable scenes in horror film history is the resurrection of Javuto from the crumbling ground, the smoky dark clouds surround his devil-masked rotting visage underneath–as he claws his way out of his grave and lurches off into the ghostly night.

The special effects, masks, faces, matte painting, etc. were done by Bava himself with his brother Eugenio Bava. The face of Asa which bears the marks of the spike holes from the devil mask adds a chilling effect to the film. It also creates the image of the monstrous feminine that strives to conquer and drain the life of those she’s fixated on. The two characters that Steele plays are contradictory figures, one virginal and innocent, the other bloodthirsty and evil. Asa was unholy because of her sexual desires.


Black Sunday’s expressive influence and its grand sense of classical horror are rooted in the idea that a woman’s sexuality cannot be destroyed, and will always inevitably return by its own primacy enduring the scars of the violence inflicted upon her. That which the world order, particularly religious zealotry and patriarchal law attempt to oppress come back twofold just to shake up the order of things.

The ultimate threat appears as the merger of the two Vajda’s women Asa & Katia… the virgin and the whore. Bava continued to make films where men desperately tried to destroy the lure of women’s desire and their desirability…







STARE INTO THESE EYES… discover deep within them the unspeakable terrifying secret of BLACK SUNDAY… it will paralyze you with fright!

BRIDES OF HORROR – Scream Queens of the 1960s! 🎃 Part 4: The Dark Goddess-This Dark Mirror

MonsterGirl’s Sunday Nite Surreal: Spider Baby 1968-“This has gone well beyond the boundaries of prudence and good taste.”

Spider Baby or The Maddest Story Ever Told -1968

Virginia “I caught a big fat bug right in my spider web and now the spider gets to give the bug a big sting. Sting, Sting, Sting, Sting, Sting!”

Spider Baby is one of the most original psychological horror gems that is as queerly frightening as it is endearing. It opens with Bruno the Chauffeur played by Lon Chaney Jr. singing a little nursery song about werewolves and vampires and it’s quite effectively eerie as the opening hymn. Chaney’s character delivers one of my favorite lines–it’s a childish hymn that tributes oddballs in the world who struggle to find their place in the world.

Bruno, The Chauffeur: “Just because something isn’t good doesn’t mean it’s bad.”

The film is special partly due to the presence of Lon Chaney Jr. as Bruno who looks after the Merrye children with undying devotion. Living in the decrepit and crumbling old family mansion, they are the last generation of surviving Merryes occupying the odd space like a whimsical little fun-house.

Because of inbreeding the family has been cursed with a type of mental regression, and arrested development. Bruno sort of cleans up any of the messes or homicidal fatalities that happen due to the Merryes being like wild unchecked gremlins.

Including the postman (Mantan Moreland busy actor in the 40s who often took off on black caricatures for the all-white films he played all jittery or stereotyped buffoonery Hollywood made a brand out of his name and his ebullient persona. Anyway, he should have known better than to try and leave a package any further than the steps, instead of poking his head inside the window and being trapped in Virginia’s theoretical web and being sliced up with a large pair of knives, losing an ear that will be kept in a little box as a token. He was a big bug caught in her net after all.


Directed by Jack Hill (Blood Bath 1966, The Big Doll House 1971, Coffy 1973 and F0xy Brown 1974) who brilliantly populates this queer little world with the perfect characters, all on a budget of $65,000.

Lon Chaney was only paid a flat fee of $2,500 for his role and it was a little poignant to watch his performance with bits of his alcoholism seeping through the character, he had been drinking pretty heavily at that point.

Ronald Stein’s music is often lyrical & offbeat (Attack of the 50 Ft Woman (1958), Dementia 13 (1963), It Conquered the World & She Creature (1956) Not of this Earth, Attack of the Crab Monsters, The Undead, Dragstrip Girl (1957) The Girl in Lovers Lane (1960) The Haunted Palace (1963).

The film’s alternative titles are The Liver Eaters–be assured no livers are eaten, at least not on screen. Cannibal Orgy-I assure you there is no orgy, there isn’t even any cannibalism. While I say there is no cannibalism, there is a book that explains how exclusive Merrye Syndrome effects only that family, where the disease: causes its victims to regress mentally to a pre-infantile state of savagery and cannibalism. The three surviving children of Titus Merrye are Elizabeth who dresses like a little girl (creepy) and Virginia who thinks she’s a giant spider.

The Merrye sisters Virginia (Jill Banner) and Elizabeth (Beverley Washburn) are suited as the demented girls, and then there’s Ralph, adorable feral little Ralph manifested by the quirky Sid Haig who would later take on grittier roles as screen heavies in exploitation films.

Carol Ohmart (House on Haunted Hill 1959) comes into the picture as Cousin Emily Howe who is after the family fortune not expecting to uncover the house of Merrye madness.

House on Haunted Hill (1959) “Only the ghosts in this house are glad we’re here”


The film has been compared to the work of iconoclast Luis Buñuel. who was considered a moralist director who definitely populated his films with the sense that revolution was necessary to change the stagnant ways people conform to their lives.

I can see the dinner scene as a nod to his The Exterminating Angel, as the table is set where everyone but the guests are vegetarians. Ralph has caught a Rabbit. Unfortunately, it’s the neighborhood cat. When Ralph grabs the ‘rabbit’ and starts tearing into it, Cousin Peter (Quinn Redeker)  is confused because he thought he was a vegetarian. Bruno tells him “But Ralph is allowed to eat anything he catches!”

Spider Baby creates its own little universe of characters who move in their own orbit with a sense of unorthodoxy. Virginia with that large bow in her hair is ridiculous as it is uncomfortably creepy for an obviously grown young woman to sport a child’s ribbon like a doll, where she evolves into a monstrous assassin with her two sharp knives in her anxious hands elevating her to a truly gruesome character and not just a childish simpleton.

It’s this teetering irony of the film that takes us from darkly whimsical to suddenly going for the jugular that creates the uneasy feeling surrounding the Merrye family.

It’s one of THE definitive Cult films for sure, as it’s witty, macabre, quirky, irreverent, and a bit of film noir in its use of shadows and devious figures doomed from the beginning. Spider Baby is an adult fairy tale with dark corners and speculative questions about madness and responsibility and who gets to make those decisions. And Carol Ohmart just looks damn sexy in her black lingerie as she runs around amidst the ‘old dark house’ trope as the woman in peril.


Savage hunger of a BLACK WIDOW.


IMDb Fun Fact:

The film was shot in August and September of 1964 with the title “Cannibal Orgy, or The Maddest Story Ever Told”, but its release was held up for years because the producers went bankrupt, which tied up the film in legal limbo. Independent producer David L. Hewitt acquired it for distribution in 1968 and changed the title to “Spider Baby” and “The Liver Eaters.”

Sunday Nite Surreal: The Mask (1961) “I tried to stop, I can’t, I don’t want to”

The Mask (1961)Canadian director Julian Roffman only made 2 films. The Bloody Brood, starring one of my favorite actors Peter Falk about a gang of psychotic beatniks, and dope dealers who actually feed a delivery boy ground-up glass so they can watch him die!

Then there’s Roffman’s The Mask which is a oneiric trippy experience. The Mask which looks like a tribal bejeweled skull, enables the wearer to see his own Psyche, much like The Cheaters television episode of Boris Karloff’s Thriller. The dream sequences are surreal and quite disturbing for it’s day, just for extra fun, it was originally released in 3D.



And the film’s titles have gone through several incarnations with alternative titles like Face of Fire, Eyes of Hell, and the ridiculous The Spooky Movie Show.

The Mask was scripted by Frank Taubes and Sandy Habner. the film cast is Paul Stevens, Claudette Nevins(another busy television actress), Bill Walker, Anne Collings, and Martin Lavut.

Paul Stevens (soap opera star from Another World and television shows such as The Streets Of San Fransisco and The Rockford Files) plays psychiatrist Allan Barnes who has primal hallucinations whenever he wears the mask, which becomes like an addiction for him. The mask represents a hunger, to wear the mask and indulge in the hallucinations that create a rapturous psycho-sexual urge that lies buried deep in the subconscious part of our minds. Whenever these hallucinations occur, the film utilizes the gimmick of 3D to enhance the visual experience for us. The Mask came out after the 50s craze was over when 3D was causing a stir at movie theaters. The suits in Hollywood realized that 3D was not a powerful enough draw to get people away from the advent of television, so they quickly abandoned its novelty.

Psychiatrist Allan Barnes has a patient that is a challenge for him. Michael Radin is an archeologist played by Martin Lavut, who works for the Museum of Ancient History. Michael is struggling with horrible nightmares in which he is on a murderous rampage killing women. Radin doesn’t believe that these are nightmares he’s having, He thinks that he is being taken over while actually committing these crimes, and has no power to stop.

In addition to this notion, archeologist Radin thinks that it’s an ancient South American mask that belongs to the Museum that is holding sway over his consciousness. Radin’s theory is that wearing the mask puts the person in a deep trance-like state, then causes their most repressed subconscious urges, usually evil ones to become externalized.


As usually is the case in films of the 50s and 60’s the idea of an ancient religious artifact representing a primitive and savage culture was very common in various genre films. To portray another culture as “other” was an ethnocentric ritual of Hollywood. The dark deeds of a people other than white America, with no value system in place, and bizarre rituals were expected. And it’s only because a white American donned the evil foreign mask which was a)taboo, and b)made the wearer completely unaccountable for their heinous actions. The characterization of the savage inside us all, being invaded from without, by a foreign influence or idea. A place where dark gods and goddesses reign.

The mask requires blood sacrifices and the person wearing it is forced to commit these murderous rituals. Again, the other underlying theme of the film is the idea of addiction. The person wearing the mask becomes compelled to wear it, it becomes a compulsion. “I’m like an addict,” Radin tells Barnes.

Barnes tries to convince Radin that the mask has no power over him and that the truth lies in his own mind. Radin becomes infuriated with Barnes and storms out of his office. That night Radin kills himself, but not before he sends the mask to Barnes first.

Barnes is obviously disturbed by the news that his patient has committed suicide, but once he receives the mask he starts to develop a fixation on it. During these times of preoccupation, he/we hear a voice that tells him to “Put the mask on now” and so Dr Barnes does it.

Once Barnes wears the mask, the film begins its journey into the realm of the three-dimensional world. During its theatrical release the audience was actually given cardboard copies of the mask with built-in 3-D glasses, and when Barnes was told to wear the mask, that was our cue to put the mask on as well.

During the 3-D segments, we are taken to a visually nightmarish landscape, complete with sacrificial altars, ritualistic figures who look like macabre Greek choruses in tattered black robes or players from the theater of the absurd., post-modern architecture that mimics ancient Aztec structures or perhaps visions of Hell. Snakes and fireballs would come hurling out of the movie screen at us. Snakes have often represented the sexual, fire often meaning purification which most cultures who’s use of human sacrifices were meant to purify the soul along with being an offering. Does the mask even take us beyond the Id, where women dress in silken black tatters just waiting to embrace us?

In the dream world, there is a man who looks like Barnes in a shredded suit, and Radin who comes in and out of sequence, with one eye horrifically dangling down by his cheek. These segments were very surreal, without much context to them, but were meant to be hallucinatory and primal excursions for the mask wearer and us viewers.

After putting the mask on the first time Barnes is convinced that the mask holds deep secrets into the Human Psyche, “Even deeper than the subconscious” Barnes tells us, just like Timothy Leary and Ram Dass taking an LSD acid trip during the 60’s. Perhaps Roffman, Taubes, and Habner felt that everyone wears a mask in society, and that only by going deeper into the subconscious can we be free to be who we truly are. A bunch of maniacal blood-lusting savages. Or maybe it was just darn fun to hurl fireballs at us from the movie screen. Or both are true. It’s definitely a cautionary tale about the dangers of addiction. When Barnes says ” I tried to stop, I can’t, I don’t want to,” his girlfriend Pam says, “Do you have to take the drug again, Allan?

Barne’s girlfriend Pam Albright played by Claudette Nevins, doesn’t approve of him messing around with something so unnatural, so taboo. But it’s too late because Barnes has fallen under the spell of the mask and is now compelled to wear it as Radin was. Barnes tells Pam that it orders him to pick it up, so Pam grabs it and plans on returning it to the museum. So that it can remain a relic and not a substance that can be abused.

Barnes steals it back, and the urges become even greater, ultimately he gets the craving to kill his secretary Jill Goodrich played by Anne Collings. This scares Barnes and forces him to confront what’s happening to him, so he calls a colleague of his, Dr Quincy,(Norman Ettlinger). Unfortunately, Quincy’s reaction is the same as when Radin came to Barnes. That the mask has no power, that it’s all in Barne’s head. But his friend Dr. Quincy is concerned and tells Pam that he’s worried Barnes is headed for a total breakdown.

Barnes wearing the mask once again, starts to pursue his secretary “I must experience the greatest act of the human mind, to take another human life” But girlfriend Pam gets the cops involved and they wind up arresting Barnes and putting him away.

The last sequence of the film shows us that the mask is back at the museum, and of course, there is another man gazing at it with fascination like Radin, and Barnes. That the evil events are destined to repeat themselves because curiosity is the damnation of human nature.

The Mask was certainly original for its time. The otherworldly dream sequences had disturbing images that weren’t usual for American-made horror films, in particular dealing with drug abuse and repressed sexuality.

Not until later on with the counterculture of the 60s and early 70s with LSD “trip” films like

The Angry Breed 1968 The Trip 1967, Angel Angel Down We Go 1969, and Go Ask Alice 1973

Even back in the days of George Melies with his 1902 classic A Trip to the Moon an iconic piece of film work that blends science fiction with psychedelic aspects that were very ahead of its time.

I’m a big fan of The Mask because it really creates a nightmarish experience for its actors and us, and is an original contribution to the genre of cult horror films.