Postcards from Shadowland no. 16 Halloween edition 🎃

The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957) Directed by Jack Arnold adapted by Richard Matheson and starring Grant Williams
Five Million Years to Earth (1967) Directed by Roy Ward Baker, written by Nigel Kneale starring Barbara Shelley and Andrew Keir
The Manster (1959) Directed by George P. Breakston starring Peter Dyneley, Jane Hylton and Tetsu Nakamura
The Twilight People (1972) Directed by Eddie Romero
Bluebeard (1972) Directed by Edward Dmytryk. Starring Richard Burton, Raquel Welch, Virna Lisi, Natalie Delon, Agostina Belli, Karen Schubert, Sybil Danning, Joey Heatherton and Marilù Tolo
The Beast with Five Fingers (1946) Directed by Robert Florey with a screenplay by Curt Siodmak. Starring Robert Alda, Peter Lorre, Andrea King and J. Carrol Naish
Carnival of Souls (1962) Directed by Herk Harvey starring Candace Hilligoss
The Beast with Five Fingers (1946) Directed by Robert Florey Starring Robert Alda, Peter Lorre, Andrea King and J. Carrol Naish
Bedlam (1946) Directed by Mark Robson Starring Boris Karloff, Anna Lee, Ian Wolfe,Billy House, Richard Fraser, Glen Vernon and Elizabeth Russell. Produced by Val Lewton
Dracula (1931) Directed by Tod Browning adapted from the novel by Bram Stoker-Starring Bela Lugosi, Helen Chandler, David Manners, Dwight Frye, Frances Dade and Edward Van Sloane
Blood and Roses (1960) Directed by Roger Vadim. Adapted from the novel by Sheridan Le Fanu- Starring Mel Ferrer, Elsa Martinelli, Annette Stroyberg
Black Sunday (1960) La maschera del demonio-Directed by Mario Bava Starring Barbara Steele, John Richardson and Andrea Checci
The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939) Directed by William Dieterle Starring Charles Laughton, Maureen O’Hara and Cedric Hardwicke adapted from the novel by Victor Hugo
War of the Colossal Beast (1958) Directed by Bert I. Gordon Starring Sally Fraser and Roger Pace
It Conquered the World (1956) Directed by Roger Corman- Starring Beverly Garland, Peter Graves Lee Van Cleef and The Cucumber Monster
Curse of the Faceless Man (1958) Directed by Edward L. Cahn–Starring Richard Anderson, Elaine Edwards, Adele Mara and Luis Van Rooten
The Old Dark House 1932 directed by James Whale-Gloria Stuart and Boris Karloff
Dead of Night (1945) Directed by Alberto Cavalcanti, Charles Crichton, Basil Dearden, and Robert Hamer.–Starring Michael Redgrave, Mervyn Johns, Roland Culver, Googie Withers, Mary Merrall, Sally Ann Howes, Frederick Valk, Anthony Baird
Die! Die! My Darling! (1965) directed by Silvio Narizzano with a screenplay by Richard Matheson adapted from a novel by Anne Blaisdell–Starring Tallulah Bankhead, Stephanie Powers, Peter Vaughan, Donald Sutherland and Yootha Joyce
The Tenant (1976) Directed by Roman Polanski–Starring Roman Polanski, Isabelle Adjani, Melvyn Douglas, Jo Van Fleet, Bernard Fresson, Lila Kedrova, Claude Dauphin and Shelley Winters
House of Horrors (1946) Directed by Jean Yarborough starring “The Creeper” Rondo Hatton, Martin Kosleck and Virginia Gray
Spirits of the Dead (Italy/France 1968) aka Histoires extraordinaires
Segment: “William Wilson” Directed by Louis Malle
Shown from left: Brigitte Bardot, Alain Delon
Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors (1965) Directed by Freddie Francis–Screenplay by Milton Subotsky–Starring Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Neil McCallum, Ursula Howells, Peter Madden, Katy Wild, Alan Freeman, Ann Bell, Phoebe Nichols, Bernard Lee, Jeremy Kemp
Doctor X (1932) Directed by Michael Curtiz-Starring Lionel Atwill, Fay Wray, Lee Tracy, Preston Foster, John Wray, Harry Beresford
Frankenstein (1910) Produced by Thomas Edison Directed by J. Searle Dawley
Horror Hotel aka The City of the Dead (1960) Directed by John Llewellyn Moxey Starring Christopher Lee, Patricia Jessel, Dennis Lotis, Tom Naylor and Betta St. John. From a story by Milton Subotsky
House of Frankenstein (1944) Directed by Erle C. Kenton from a story by Curt Siodmak. Starring Boris Karloff, Lon Chaney Jr. J.Carrol Naish, John Carradine, Anne Gwynne, Peter Coe, Lionel Atwill and George Zucco
Island of Lost Souls (1932) Directed by Erle C. Kenton Starring Charles Laughton, Bela Lugosi, Richard Arlen, Leila Hyams and Kathleen Burke based on a story by H.G.Wells
Isle of the Dead (1945) directed by Mark Robson written by Ardel Wray-Starring Boris Karloff, Ellen Drew, Marc Cramer, Katherine Emery, Helene Thimig, Alan Napier, Jason Robards Sr.
Carl Theodor Dreyer Leaves from Satan’s Book (1921) starring Helge Nissen
Diabolique (1955) Directed by Henri-Georges Clouzot adapted by Pierre Boileau Starring Simone Signoret, Véra Clouzot and Paul Meurisse
The Wolf Man (1941) Directed by George Waggner Starring Lon Chaney Jr. Claude Rains, Warren William, Ralph Bellamy, Patric Knowles, Bela Lugosi, Maria Ouspenskaya, Evelyn Ankers and Fay Helm original screenplay by Curt Siodmak
Night Must Fall (1937)
Directed by Richard Thorpe
Shown from left: Robert Montgomery, Dame May Whitty
Phantom of the Opera (1925) Directed by Rupert Julian and Lon Chaney. Starring Lon Chaney and Mary Philbin story by Gaston Leroux
Strangler of the Swamp (1946) directed by Frank Wisbar-starring Rosemary La Planche, Robert Barrat with an original story by Leo J. McCarthy
Nosferatu (1922) directed by F.W.Murnau Starring Max Schreck
The Abominable Snowman (1957) Directed by Val Guest starring Forrest Tucker, Peter Cushing and Maureen Connell written by Nigel Kneale
The Bat Whispers (1930) Directed by Roland West-starring Chance Ward, Richard Tucker, Wilson Benge, DeWitt Jennings, Una Merkel Grace Hamptom, and Chester Morris
The Curse of the Cat People (1944) directed by Gunther von Fritsch- Starring Simone Simon, Kent Smith, Jane Randolph, Ann Carter, and Elizabeth Russell. Screenplay by DeWitt Bodeen
Mighty Joe Young (1949) Directed by Ernest B. Schoedsack
Young Frankenstein (1974) Directed by Mel Brooks Starring Gene Wilder, Peter Boyle, Marty Feldman, Madeline Kahn, Cloris Leachman, Teri Garr, Kenneth Mars and Liam Dunn.
The Devil Bat (1940) directed by Jean Yarborough Starring Bela Lugosi
The Fly (1958) directed by Kurt Neumann screenplay by James Clavell, Starring David Hedison, Patricia Owens and Vincent Price
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974) directed by Tobe Hooper. Starring Marilyn Burns, Edwin Neal, Allen Danziger and Gunnar Hansen as Leatherface
The Undead (1957) Directed by Roger Corman written by Charles B. Griffith and Mark Hanna Starring Pamela Duncan, Richard Garland, Allison Hayes, Val Dufour, Bruno VeSota, Mel Welles, Dorothy Neumann and Billy Barty
The Witches (1966) directed by Cyril Frankel Written by Nigel Kneale Starring Joan Fontaine, Kay Walsh and Alec McCowen
The Uninvited (1944) directed by Lewis Allen Starring Ray Milland, Ruth Hussey, Donald Crisp, Cornelia Otis Skinner and Gail Russell
THE NIGHT CALLER [BR 1965] aka BLOOD BEAST FROM OUTER SPACE MAURICE DENHAM, JOHN SAXON, JOHN CARSON Date: 1965
Poltergeist (1982) directed by Tobe Hooper written by Steven Spielberg. Starring JoBeth Williams, Beatrice Straight, Craig T. Nelson, Dominique Dunne Heather O’Rourke

A Trailer a Day Keeps the Boogeyman Away! 11 terrifying tidbits from 1980-1983

THE ATTIC 1980

“Louise’s life downstairs is a living hell… and upstairs lurks a haunting nightmare!- She’s Daddy’s Little Girl … FOREVER!” 

Carrie Snodgress has always been an actress possessed of great dimension, just watch her as Tina Balsar the persecuted down-trodden housewife in director Frank Perry’s Diary of a Mad Housewife 1970. In The Attic Snodgress is yet again a repressed character Louise Elmore, this time a Librarian who is caring for her cruel and ruthlessly controlling wheelchair-bound father Wendell portrayed by a particularly nasty Ray Milland.

Milland toward the end of his career had started appearing in some of these low budget horror/exploitation films like X, The Man with the X-Ray Eyes 1963, Daughter of the Mind 1969, Frogs 1972. The 80s started to really slide into a kaleidoscope of cheap themes and shock value moments. It doesn’t detract from Milland’s contribution to film history, nor does it malign either his or Snogress’ depth of acting. Director George Edwards  ( produced Frogs 1972 with Milland, Queen of Blood 1966, Games 1967, How Awful About Allan 1970, What’s the Matter with Helen? 1971, The Killing Kind 1973, Ruby 1977 – all these films with the exception of Frogs, Edwards worked with Curtis Harrington as the director.

You can see Harrington’s influence on The Attic as it represents a small enclosed family environment creates psychological demons, mental disturbances or what I call director Harrington’s The Horror of Personality. With most of Harrington’s work the narrative is less centered around supernatural forces building it’s framework around the product of mental illness and the dysfunctional family trope acted out within closed in spaces, where relationships over time begin disintegrating, with acts of cruelty, despair, loneliness, fear and repression- the family then, becomes the monster…

The Attic is an angry, aggressive and psychologically sadistic film, where Snodgress is yet again persecuted and trapped in a dreadful life. The hapless Louise is jilted by her fiancé and left at the altar leaving psychic scars, where she begins to go in and out of reality. Calling the Missing Persons Bureau on a regular basis looking for her lost love. She begins to fantasize about rejecting her abusive father whom she must do everything for. After 19 years of being left alone, Louise doesn’t find much joy in life, accept for drinking and dreaming about trips she’ll never take, committing arson at the Library and spending time with her pet monkey Dicky the Chimp. She is befriended by a co-worker who tries to help bring Louise back into the real world again, but the shocking truth that lurks in that creepy attic won’t stay locked away forever!

The Attic also stars Rosemary Murphy who is usually scary in her own right, at least she scares me since You’ll Like My Mother 1972!

PROM NIGHT 1980

“…Some will be crowned, others will lose their heads”

This is one of the earliest masked killer slasher movies where sexually active teenagers are being stalked on the night of their prom because they were responsible for the death of their classmate years ago. Prom Night features Scream Queen Jamie Lee Curtis who set the trend for good girls or The Final Girl trope… you know- the one who survives because of their integrity, purity and smarts! Also starring one of my favorites Leslie Nielsen and Antoinette Bower.

SILENT SCREAM (1980) us release

“Quick! Scream! Too late! You’re dead”

During her first semester at college co-ed Scotty Parker (Rebecca Balding) is one of several college students who rents a room from Mrs. Engels, the Junoesque Yvonne De Carlo. But there is something very strange going on at this seaside mansion/boarding house–even murder! Mrs.Engels lives at the mansion with her weird neurotic son Mason (Brad Rearden) Scotty is joined by Steve Doubet (Jack Towne), Peter Ransom (John Widelock) and Doris Prichart (Juli Andelman). When Widelock is stabbed to death out on the beach, Police Lt. Sandy McGiver (Cameron Mitchell) investigates and uncovers the family secret. Silent Scream is more eerie and less typical 80s slasher flick, perhaps its due to the weight of the strong cast that inhabit their roles, in what might be a predictable script still possesses that ability to convey the dread in a quietly stylish manner. Co-Produced by Joan Harris

Silent Scream has a claustrophobic melancholic atmosphere instead of utilizing gore it relies more on it’s Gothic gloomy sensibility, a sense of creepy voyeuristic camera work that makes you feel uncomfortable.

Two names -All you need to know to see this eerie obscure 80s gem Yvonne De Carlo as Mrs. Engels and Barbara Steele as Victoria Engels.

DEADLY BLESSINGS 1981

“Pray you’re not blessed”

Director Wes Craven delves into American rural Gothic horror

After her husband Jim an ex-Hittite (Doug Barr) who has been shunned by his people for having moved away, and marrying an outside. One night after they’ve moved back near the neighboring sect, Jim goes outside to find the word Incubus painted on their barn, and then is mysteriously crushed to death by his tractor. A series of grisly murders ensues mostly in broad daylight, as Jim’s widow Martha Schmidt (Maren Jensen) feels increasingly threatened by the sinister neighboring religious community led by the enigmatic Isaiah Schmidt (Ernest Borgnine) who seems to be fanatically obsessed with the idea that Martha is an ‘incubus’ and must be dealt with fire and brimstone!

Deadly Blessing also plants a figure of a dated trope–the ambiguous gender & sexuality of one of the characters. That trope, stems from a time when gay or transgendered characters were represented as obsessive, neurotic & at times, dangerous. I don’t endorse this weak and disparaging area of the plot, yet I allow myself to experience Wes Craven’s provocative film as a slice of horror history from a decade that hadn’t gotten it quite right yet. Where the film could have taken a bold step in expanding on this subplot instead it is fueled by subversive incitement.

Craven’s film ultimately relies on the supernatural subtext that is fueling the horror and leaves the other theme to hang out there on it’s own to be (justifiably to some)- offensive. Too many films with gender fluid characters in past films, were represented by psychos, deviants and killers.

Deadly Blessings co-stars a young Sharon Stone, popular 70s actress (and one of my favorites) Lois Nettleton, Susan Buckner, Lisa Hartman and familiar Craven regular Michael Berryman. Directed by Wes Craven

Some IMDb Trivia

Sharon Stone’s first big speaking role in a theatrical feature.

The name of the isolated rural farm where the farmers and Hittites lived and worked was “Our Blessing”.

Wes Craven compared his work with actor Ernest Borgnine to John Carpenter’s work with Donald Pleasance in the original “Halloween”. He states that Borgnine was the first “big name actor” he had worked with and was at first intimidated by the actor.

Ernest Borgnine had to be taken to the hospital to be treated for a head injury following a mishap involving a horse and buggy. Moreover, Borgnine returned to the set to continue acting in the film three days later.

Actor Ernest Borgnine, who had won a Best Actor Academy Award for Marty (1955), which also was Borgnine’s only ever Oscar nomination, was nominated for a Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Supporting Actor for Deadly Blessing (1981), but lost out on the Razzie to Steve Forrest for Mommie Dearest (1981).

THE INCUBUS 1981

“The dreams. The nightmares. The desires. The fears. The mystery. The revelation. The warning: He is the destroyer”

WARNING: Though not overtly graphic Incubus is suggestive of rape. For anyone who might be triggered by sexual violence in film, I would advise for you to skip this portion of the post and/or the film entirely!

Back in the day when I read a lot of horror fiction, I have a vague recollection of Ray Russell’s (Mr. Sardonicus 1961, Premature Burial 1962, X-The Man with The X-Ray Eyes 1963), novel knocking me out with it’s supernatural mythology and it’s brutality. Of course when it was adapted to the screen in 1982 directed by John Hough (The Legend of Hell House 1973, Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry 1974, The Watcher in the Woods 1980, American Gothic 1987) you know I was there with my milk duds, raisinets, popcorn and large icy cup of Pepsi expecting something powerful and Incubus collided with the accepted one-gendered fiend that I had grown up seeing within the constraints of a fairly “cultural conservative” as Carol Clover puts it, driven classical horror industry, stories like werewolves, vampires, mummies, phantoms and mad doctors turned into vile fiends.

As Carol Clover states in her Men, Women and Chainsaws: Gender in the Modern Horror Film-“stories that stem from the one-sex era, and for all their updating, they still carry with them, to a greater or lesser degree, a premodern sense of sexual difference…}…{and some people are impossible to tell apart (the figure in God Told Me To who is genitally ambiguous -the doctor did not know what sex to assign, the pubescent girl in Sleepaway Camp who turns out to be a boy, the rapist in The Incubus whose ejaculate consists of equal parts of semen and menstrual blood.”

Incubus is a supernatural film that sneaks into the 80s but carries with it the demonology sensibility of the early-mid 1970s, The Exorcist (1973), The Omen (1976). Adapted from Ray Russell’s disquieting novel about a demon with an dangerously sized phallus who can incarnate in human form, committing several savage sexual assaults and murders in the small California town of Galen. John Cassavetes plays Dr. Sam Cordell who examines the survivor of one of the assaults and is disturbed by the violence of the attack, learning that her uterus has been ruptured. When the local librarian is killed, John Ireland is his usual brackish self this time playing Sheriff Hank Walden and team up believing that these brutal attacks are the work of only one perpetrator and not a gang. Kerrie Keane plays a reporter Laura Kincaid who insinuates herself into the investigation and begins an affair with Sam. Erin Flannery plays Sam’s young teenage daughter Jenny who is dating Tim Galen (Duncan McIntosh) who has nightmarish visions of the attacks while he is in a sleeping state. His Grandmother Agatha (Helen Hughes -Storm of the Century 1999 tele-series) tries to convince her Grandson that he is not responsible for these horrible events, but she knows more than she is telling, about the arcane secret the town is hiding and the true history of the venerable family name of Galen.

NIGHT SCHOOL 1981

A is for Apple B is for Bed C is for Co-ed D is for Dead F is for Failing to keep your Head!

Aka known as Terror Eyes

Night School has an unnerving tone, an almost oppressive atmosphere that looms over the film. The 80s was fertile for the slasher films that were popping up in variations of the same narrative, using different methods of death as the centerpiece to highlight the story. In this film, a mysterious killer is decapitating students at a night school for women. I won’t reveal the killer, but I will say that there is misogyny afoot. Originally picked to direct was Alfred Sole, best known for his phenomenal psychological horror masterpiece Alice, Sweet Alice (1976) which would have most definitely improved on the depressing aura the film give off. Directed by Ken Hughes who wrote the screenplays for The Trials of Oscar Wilde 1960 and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang 1968. He direction was superior in the dark and dogged Wicked As They Come 1956 starring Arlene Dahl and Phillip Carey.

Night School stars Rachel Ward, Leonard Mann and Drew Snyder.

ALONE IN THE DARK 1982

“They’re out… for blood! Don’t let them find you!”

Along in the Dark is a highly charged psycho thriller that wants to be a black comedy. The inmates on let loose upon an unsuspecting town and mayhem ensues when they target the home of Pleasance’s (Dr. Leo Bain) therapist Dr. Dan Potter (Dwight Schultz) psychiatrist. During a statewide black out, a group of 3 particularly nasty homicidal maniacs get free from their maximum security ward at the mental Institution and set out on an adventure. Alone in the Dark opens with Donald Pleasance as a short order cook who has gone berserk and wielding a meat cleaver. Martin Landau is splendid as crazed Byron ‘Preacher’ Sutcliff who likes to set things on fire. Then there’s Erland Van Lidth (from The Wanderers 1979) as a sex maniac Ronald “fatty” Elster with a penchant for younger kids. The best psycho next to Landau, is Jack Palance. The Special Effects are by Tom Savini.

Alone in the Dark is a frenetic ride and you must watch out for the scene when Preacher insists he wants the mailman’s on the bicycle’s hat!

CREEPSHOW 1982

“The Most Fun You’ll Ever Have… BEING SCARED!”

An anthology which tells five terrifying tales based on the E.C. horror comic books of the 1950s. Directed by George A. Romero, with the original screenplay by Stephen King. Stars include Hal Holbrook, Adrienne Barbeau, Fritz Weaver, Leslie Nielsen, Carrie Nye, E.G. Marshall, Viveca Lindfors, Ed Harris, Ted Danson, Stephen King,

HALLOWEEN 3: SEASON OF THE WITCH 1983

After the failure of Halloween II (1978) to excite people at the box office, John Carpenter decided to put a different twist on the creepy goings on for Halloween III (1983) and adapt a script from Nigel Kneale who wrote the Quartermass series, who removed his name from the credits, leaving Tommy Lee Wallace as the writer. I do not hate this film in the way that other fans do. I rather like the odd and malevolent tone of the film, like a dark Halloween fairy tale journey. The idea, children all over America can not wait to get their hands on 3 frightfully popular offerings of rubber masks for Halloween. The jingle for the TV ad alone is enough to send suspicious shivers up a more discerning eye. There is a plot run by an old Druid toy-maker (Dan O’Herlihy) who is perfectly menacing and wants to actually harm the children once they wear the deadly masks, in order to bring back the olden days of black witchcraft and magic. There’s also a sense of a vengeful bitter spirit in Conal Cochran (O’Herlihy) toward consumerism and the misguided exploitation of Halloween.

Halloween III: Season of the Witch also stars Tom Atkins and Stacey Nelkin.

THE SENDER 1982

“Your dreams will never be the same.”

This is British director Roger Christian’s first feature film he had worked as assistant art director on the tense thriller And Soon the Darkness (1970)

The Sender works on so many levels, first of all it stars an impressive cast of accomplished actors, Shirley Knight, Kathryn Harrold and Zelijko Ivanek. 

From Kim Newman’s Nightmare Movies talks about the trend that began with Brian DePalma’s Carrie (1976) “created a briefly popular horror movie sub-genre, the ‘Psichopath’ film. Damien Thorn and Carrie White, like Jim Hutton in Psychic Killer (1975), Alan Bates in The Shout (1978), Lisa Pelikan in Jennifer (1978) Robert Thompson in Patrick (1979) and Robert Powell in Harlequin (1979) are ‘Psichopaths’, seemingly ordinary individuals with hidden, awesome paranormal powers. The wish fulfillment fantasy element of the Psichopath film is obvious.The usual formula finds the Psichopath humiliated, abused and pushed beyond endurance, whereupon immense mental powers are unleashed in an orgy of mass destruction.”

I would also include Brian DePalma’sThe Fury (1978) featuring Amy Irving who possesses the psycho-kinetic powers.

When The Sender (Ivanek) is sent to an Institution after a public suicide attempt, psychiatrist Kathryn Harrold as Gail Farmer realizes that he possesses the ability to channel his frightening and often volatile visions to receptive people on the psyche ward. There are truly enigmatic hallucinatory segments of the film which creates real apprehension and shivers. One particular scene where they are juicing Ivanek with electro shock therapy, his mental waves send a storm of havoc through his personal pain. In the midst of this theme there lies an even dark more disturbing element to the story. There are ghostly visitations from his creepy mother played by the amazing Shirley Knight as Jerolyn.

I have followed Shirley Knight’s underrated and outstanding career from her divine performance as Polly in Sidney Lumet’s The Group (1966), tv series Naked City 1962, The Eleventh Hour 1963, as the gently Noelle Anderson in The Outer Limits 1963 episode The Man Who Was Never Born co-starring Martin Landau. The Defenders 1964, The Fugitive 1964-66, Petulia 1968, The Rain People 1969, The Bold Ones, Circle of Fear, Streets of San Fransisco 1973, Medical Center, Marcus Welby, M.D, Murder, She Wrote, Law & Order 1991 and more… The gravity with each of Knight’s performances has a quality that draws you into her orbit –experiencing her as genuine and engaging. Even as the wraith like mother figure who comes calling on her son- The Sender, Knight makes you believe in the low-key, spine-chilling moments on screen. She is the catalyst to The Sender’s secret dilemma.

At times The Sender sends it’s universe into mayhem, at other times it’s a very creepy, restrained atmospheric horror story that is perhaps one of the best films of the 1980s.

CURTAINS 1983

The one impression I took away from Curtains is the iconic sinister hag mask that the killer wears and the scythe or sickle they wield as they creepily skated across the small pond. It’s the kind of moment from a moment that stays in the brain forever!

This stylish Canadian horror film is directed by cinematographer Richard Ciupka (Atlantic City 1980) Curtains stars John Vernon as the typically caustic alpha male Jonathan Stryker director and British Scream Queen Samantha Eggar  (The Collector 1965, Doctor Doolittle 1967, The Dead Are Alive 1972, A Name For Evil 1973, All The Kind Strangers 1974, The Seven Per-Cent Solution 1976, The Brood 1979) who plays Samantha Sherwood an actress who has always gotten top billing in Stryker’s works and in his bed. Samantha believes she is getting the role of a lifetime, the chance to play ‘Audra’ in his next film. Stryker insists that Samantha inhabit the role, to bring out the realism of Audra’s character by having herself committed to an asylum as background research. (It seems Audra was a psychiatric patient.) Stryker is a sadist and leaves Samantha in the hospital for an indeterminate amount of time, while he auditions other young actresses- each who have their own motivations for desperately wanting the part.

Samantha escapes her confinement and goes back to the menacing old mountain cabin during a snow storm, where Stryker is putting the various women through their acting trials.

Interesting that the character of Samantha in studying the mindset of a mentally ill woman, becomes too well aware of insanity during her own ordeal. The film does a particularly effective job of projecting the intensity that actors experience when trying to lose themselves in a role, keeping their footing in reality.

At the center of this interesting chamber piece is the psychopath in a nightmarish old hag mask who begins killing off the women!

Curtains also stars Linda Thorson (Tara King in The Avengers 1968-69), Anne Ditchburn, Lynne Griffin (Black Christmas 1974) Sandee Currie, Lesleh Donaldson, and Deborah Burgess. 

According to Mark Allan Gunnells in his essay in Hidden Horror edited by Aaron Christensen-Curtains took 3 years to make it to it’s release due to reshoots and rewrites. “It is suggested that a lot of the problems stemmed from producer Peter Simpson who, having produced the Jamie Lee Curtis vehicle Prom Night, wanted another straight forward horror flick. Director Richard Ciupka, on the other hand, chose to go against the established slasher grain, bringing more European sensibility to the production. The original screenplay even had a supernatural element, with a creature designed (but never used) by makeup legend Greg Cannom (…) As Gunnells points out about the films many chilling scenes, a few that stand out are the dream sequence with a creepy life size doll and the chase scene that involves a hiding place that winds up becoming a “deathtrap.”

 

This is Your EverLovin’ MonsterGirl sayin’ See ya round the snack bar! Save me a big box of Raisinets!

A Trailer a Day Keeps the Boogeyman Away! Terror Creatures From The Grave (1965)

“They rise from dank coffins in the dead of night, murdering their victims in an orgy of slaughter!”

TERROR CREATURES FROM THE GRAVE (1965)

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Walter Brandi  (The Playgirls and The Vampire 1960,Bloody Pit of Horror 1965) plays Albert Kovac an attorney who arrives at a strange desolate castle to settle the estate of the recently deceased Dr. Hauff. Starring the magnificent icon Barbara Steele who plays Cleo Hauff, the young widow who is having an affair. Riccardo Garrone plays Joseph Morgan and Mirella Maravidi plays Hauff’s daughter Corinne. Alfredo Rizzo  plays Dr Nemek, and Luciano Pigozzi is the trusted servant Kurt. The history of the castle has been haunted by a curse, furthermore Dr Hauff used to dabble in the black arts and claimed to be able to summon the spirits of the dead victims of the plague to wreak vengeance on those he felt betrayed him.“The water will save you.”

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‘Go back to the dead!!!’

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In this atmospheric Gothic Italian horror film from the 60s, there are several creepy and classical effective moments of morbidity and gruesome death scenes. And disembodied hands are always sort of yucky.

Beautiful Barbara
just magnificent in her Barbara Steele-ness

Truthfully, I could watch anything that Barbara Steele was in, she has such a splendid kind of sensuality that just oozes off the screen, and those darkly fervent eyes that mesmerize. (wow didn’t really mean to rhyme there)and while this isn’t really a stand out vehicle for her in any way as compared to her other work, the film is not a bad little romp through some vintage Euro chills for it’s 87 minutes, even without the Italian version’s brief gratuitous breast shot. Directed by Massimo Pupillo (Bloody Pit of Horror 1965 with Mickey Hargitay, La Vendetta di Lady Morgan 1965 with Erica Blanc and Barbara Nelli as Lady Susan Morgan and Django Kills Softly 1967) Cinematography by Carlo Di Palmi who worked on Michelangelo Antonioni’s 1966’s masterpiece Blow Up.

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See ya round the snack bar, no butter on mine thanks-MonsterGirl

The Film Score Freak recognizes Mario Bava’s ‘Black Sunday’ and Jo Gabriel’s ‘Waking The Dark’

Black Sunday 1960 ‘La maschera del demonio’ & Jo Gabriel’s ‘Waking the Dark’

Here is a music/film mash up tribute to Bava and Steele, using edited clips from the classic film and a song off my neo-classical lo fi album The Last Drive In!

Mario Bava’s masterpiece of Gothic horror starring the legendary Barbara Steele is the vengeful witch Katia Vajda / Princess Asa Vajda who rises from the tomb to possess the body of her descendant!

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

MonsterGirl (Jo Gabriel)

Danza Macabra / Castle of Blood (1964) “I Was Prepared To Spend The Night With Horrible Ghosts Instead I Find You!”

Castle of Blood / Danza Macabra 1964

This is one of those films that as a little MonsterGirl, it left a lasting impression on me.

I can remember when I’d first watched this as a child in my room late one weekend night. There was an early spring breeze blowing the curtains in and out in the precious darkness of my bedroom. I had my own little black and white television set. The cool and fragrant air puffling from outside kept wafting in. I felt sensations of chills and excitement.

I hadn’t  yet seen anything quite as hauntingly mysterious as the of Gothic dark beauty of Barbara Steele and the ball room scene that almost transported me into the television set, right into the ballroom itself. Feeling part of the ghostly ball.

It remained in my psyche for days. For years now actually, as it was one of my first experiences with Gothic romantic horror. The sensations of longing, death and shadow overtook me. Back in the 60s when they used to run this film late at night, I vaguely remember seeing it in total, not having cut out the scene with Julia kissing Elisabeth, so the lesbian overtones that remained in the earlier version of Castle of Blood aired in its entirety. Though this is my memory of the experience and not necessarily a fact.

I had purchased a copy of the film from Sinister Cinema  (who really do have an impressive Catalogue) which lost some of the film’s continuity because it cuts out certain portions, perhaps because of the language inconsistency in places or the dubbing. Recently I obtained the film as it had been original released.

In particular the segment where Julia tries to convince Elisabeth that they belong together, and she makes very overt sexual advances toward Elisabeth after defending her from being killed by her lover Herbert. The edited version only alludes to the fact that Julia has an attraction toward Elisabeth which could be perceived as merely jealous rivalry. It’s the same with the newly released DVD version of Narciso Ibanez Serrador’s masterpiece,  The House That Screamed 1969 with Lili Palmer, where the lesbianism was rampant at the boarding school but a lot of the scenes have been hacked to pieces. Thank god I’ve saved all my original VHS factory releases and have a version that is closest to the one I remember from the actual movie I saw in the theaters during it’s official theatrical release here in the U.S. Mary Maude is way too hot with that whip, to hack that segment apart. And Lili Palmer kissing Christina Galbo’s back after she makes Irene (Maude) whip  Teresa mercilessly needs to come to it’s visual fruition in order to show Sra. Fourneau’s sexual repression.


Along with Castle of Blood/Danse Macabre there were a few other films that effected me so profoundly when I was really young.

Such is the case with Let’s Scare Jessica To Death (1971), Lemora-A Child’s Tale of The Supernatural(1973), The Haunting (1963), The House That Screamed (1969) Rosemary’s Baby of course. Silent Night Bloody Night (1974), Night of The Living Dead (1968), Curse of The Demon (1957) The Devil Commands (1941) and The Uninvited (1944) and Horror Hotel

 

With Castle of Blood, It’s more about the imagery rather than the coherent story telling. Truth be told on recent viewing I found many a plot hole and unanswered questions, yet it really doesn’t matter. Antonio Margheriti has created a lasting atmosphere of yes, the macabre. A haunting shadow place, where phantoms waltz to an otherworldly melody.

The device of using Edgar Allan Poe as an active character in the play adds an interesting element to the story yet the origin of  Danse Macabre comes from French composer Camille Saint-Saëns who wrote his “tone poem” in 1874 as an art song for voice and piano and then reconfigured it for violin. It is based on a French superstition that claims that Death comes at Midnight on every Halloween night, and calls forth the dead to rise from their graves and dance for him while he plays the fiddle.

Directed by Antonio Margheriti who adopted the American name Anthony Dawson after realizing that the translation of his name was actually Anthony Daisies, thinking that it was too effeminate for his persona. The prolific Italian director, Margheriti started out in the 50s Italian film industry as a scriptwriter, but went on to direct science fiction, horror, and spaghetti westerns and cult Giallo films. Just to name a few, he directed Steele in The Long Hair of Death 1964 and Christopher Lee in Horror Castle (The Virgin of Nuremberg) 1963 Claude Rains in Battle of The Worlds 1961, Web of the Spider 1971 and the awful Cannibal Apocalypse 1980. Most of his films were directed under the pseudonym Anthony Dawson. Margheriti was the only Italian film maker that worked directly with American production companies like MGM, United Artists, 20th Century Fox and Columbia Pictures, to name a few.

Of interesting note:

Director Richard Morrissey denied for years that Margheriti had anything to do with directing Andy Warhol’s Frankenstein. Morrissey claims that Margheriti mostly worked as a technical adviser on that film only actually directing a very brief segment of the film.

Castle of Blood stars the inimitable, the iconic doe eyed Barbara Steele as Elisabeth Blackwood. Georges Rivièreas Alan Foster, Margarete Robsahm as Julia Alert. Arturo Dominici ( Henry Kruger) as Doctor Carmus. Silvano Tranquilli ( Montgomery Gleen ) as Poe and Umberto Raho (Raul H.Newman) as Lord Thomas Blackwood and Giovanni Cianfriglia as Herbert although IMDb has him listed as Killer? He did do the killing in terms of stabbing, choking, neck breaking and blood drinking.  Sylvia Sorent is the bride.

When the film’s credits roll they say Story by Jean Grimaud and Gordon Wilson Jr. From Edgar’s “Dance Macabre” screenplay by Grimaud and Wilson. Yet I am unaware of any of Poe’s short stories that this would have been based on. This is why I refer to Saint-Saëns tone poem of the same name which seems to be the preeminent and prevailing origin of this theme.

Here is the closest poem I can think of that Margheriti might have been envisioning the correlation to Poe. Here’s an excerpt.


SPIRITS OF THE DEAD by Edgar Allan Poe

  • Thy soul shall find itself alone
  • ‘Mid dark thoughts of the gray tombstone
  • Not one, of all the crowd, to pry
  • Into thine hour of secrecy.
  • Be silent in that solitude
  • Which is not loneliness, for then,
  • The spirits of the dead who stood
  • In life are before thee, are again.
  • In death around thee, and their will
  • Shall overshadow thee: be still.

The wonderful Music composed by Ritz Ortolani  later on he must have shortened his name to Riz. Margheriti used Ortolani for so many of his various genre films. He’s known for so many earlier scores, for films such as The Yellow Rolls -Royce, One on Top of The Other 1969 Woman Times Seven 1967 with Shirley MacLaineThe Vilachi Papers with Charles Bronson 1972 and most recently for Kill Bill Vol 2 and Inglorious Bastards 2009

The short synopsis goes as follows. A young English journalist Alan Foster shows up at the 4 Devils pub to try and get an interview with Edgar Allan Poe. He finds Poe telling a ghost story to another man seated at a table inside the pub. He winds up making a wager for ten pounds with Lord Thomas Blackwood that he cannot survive the infamous “night of the dead”, which is the first midnight in November. Each year Lord Blackwood does this, with unsuspecting victims who wind up falling prey to the phantoms who dwell there in his ancestral castle. Lord Blackwood’s grandfather was The Hanging Judge of London. Alan decides to take the bet, and the 3 men take Blackwood’s carriage to the castle. Once at Castle Blackwood, Alan meets the beautiful Elisabeth and both instantly form an attraction. Lord Blackwood sends people to the castle each year so Elisabeth might walk one more year.

Also lurking in the castle is the mutually exquisite Julia whose portrait hangs in the great hall, and seems to come alive when ever Alan looks at it. Julia seems possessive of Elisabeth and warns her not to befriend Alan, but Elisabeth has fallen for the handsome young man who will “bring her life.” What Alan soon finds out after making love to Elisabeth only to find no heart beat, is that she is truly dead, a ghost, who has come forth on this night with the other inhabitants of the castle who must drink the blood of the one who has wagered their life away, in order that they might dance again the following November.

Eventually Alan succumbs and is reunited in death with his beloved Elisabeth, who not only has a ghost husband William but a lover, the gardener and stable beefcake, Herbert. Along the way, Alan is guided down a slippery path of self destruction by scientist/doctor Carmus who warns him of how the senses live on after death. Each year the dead relive their destinies, and re enact the way they each met their deaths. In the end, Alan escapes the inner sanctum of the castle’s vampiric ghosts with the help of Elisabeth only to have the great iron gate spike impale him through the neck.

I do have several questions of my own, such as, why Elisabeth Blackwood being the sister of Lord Thomas would have her grave randomly placed on the outside grounds instead of the family tomb, and if so who’s corpse was it inside the crypt, that materializes and which ghost did they become in the flesh?

Elisabeth’s husband William? Or the newlyweds, which were the last people to take the wager or Carmus? None of these people, would be buried in the underground crypt as they only chose the castle as a wager or a quiet place for Carmus to do his experiments away from doubting colleagues. It certainly wouldn’t have been Herbert the gardeners’ tomb inside. So this creates a rift in the continuity and coherency for me as a contextual spectator, although the visual narrative makes up for this confusion, at least for me it does.

Also If the last couple to die came back this night of Alan’s destiny, how,  if they hadn’t had any blood yet did they manage to materialize?

Continue reading “Danza Macabra / Castle of Blood (1964) “I Was Prepared To Spend The Night With Horrible Ghosts Instead I Find You!””

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

BLACK SUNDAY/LA MASCHERA DEL DEMONIO Directed by Mario Bava & starring the immortal iconic otherworldly —Barbara Steele

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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 into 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, 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 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 from those she’s fixated on. The two characters that Steele plays are contradictory figures, one virginal and innocent, the other blood thirsty and evil. Asa was unholy because of her sexual desires.

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Black Sunday’s expressive influence and it’s grande sense of classical horror is rooted in the idea that a woman’s sexuality cannot be destroyed, and will always inevitably return by it’s 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 with 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…

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