A Trailer a Day Keeps the Boogeyman Away! Halloween A-Z

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Kronos 1957

“We have half of the equation; we can turn matter into energy. But up there, they have the second half; they can turn energy into matter.”

Kronos is a film I’ll be talking about with more gusto for my series Keep Watching the Skies: The Year is 1957. Stay tuned! 🚀

Kronos is a 1957 is an above average, intelligent American science fiction film directed by Kurt Neumann with a script by Irving Block and Lawrence L. Goldman. In a decade strewn with unrelenting hogwash, Kronos’s heroical special effects should stand for something. The movie centers on a giant extraterrestrial energy accumulator, essentially it’s a machine that consumes power – called Kronos that arrives on Earth with a mission to drain the planet of its energy resources. I remember this movie really making an impression on me as a kid, with Kronos stomping its way through the desert, its electrical currents snapping and crackling between its antennae as it pounded the earth.

A colossal flying saucer mistaken for an asteroid crashes fo the coast of Western Mexico. Scientist Leslie Gaskell has been tracking an asteroid, with missiles sent to intercept it, its path is only altered slightly off course, nearly hitting New York. It finally plunges into the ocean off Mexico. Les, his fiancee and associate Vera (Barbara Lawrence), and fellow scientist Arnie (George O’Hanlon) travel to Mexico waiting to see what develops, certain that this asteroid has been thoughtfully guided by an intelligence.

Soon, a domed-like crown rises to the ocean’s surface, and it emerges from the bubbling Pacific as a monolith metallic cube with multiple tiers. Its purpose is to voraciously siphon off the Earth’s energy, and bring it back to its own distant planet. As it greedily absorbs energy the cube undergoes a mesmerizing transformation as this extraterrestrial machine over a hundred feet tall continues to grow larger in scale. It also has the power to influence unwitting people to serve it.

Scientists and military personnel are perplexed by its presence and its relentless energy-absorbing capabilities. Dr. Leslie Gaskell (played by Jeff Morrow) takes charge of the investigation, and he and his team work tirelessly to find a way to stop the alien machine before it depletes Earth’s energy and devastates the planet.

As the story unfolds, Dr. Gaskell and his colleagues develop a daring plan to confront Kronos and prevent the impending catastrophe. The film blends elements of classic 1950s science fiction with Cold War-era anxieties about the potential threat of unknown forces from outer space.

Kronos is notable for its portrayal of an enigmatic and seemingly invincible alien entity and the efforts of humanity to overcome this existential threat. It is a classic example of the science fiction films of its era and is remembered for its imaginative premise and special effects. It also stars Barbara Lawrence as Vera Hunter, and John Emery as Dr. Hubbell Eliot who is taken over by Kronos – apparent by his menacing stare and the crackling ball of electricity that enters his body at the time he needs to pull the strings and make the Dr. do his bidding. Then there is good ‘ole Morris Ankrum as Dr. Albert Stern, and George O’Hanlon as Dr. Arnold Culver.

The Killer Shrews 1959

The Killer Shrews is a 1959 low-budget science fiction horror film directed by Ray Kellogg. The story is set on a remote island, where a group of people becomes trapped by a hurricane. The island is infested with giant (small dog-sized giant), mutated shrews that are both aggressive and venomous due to a failed scientific experiment.

Captain Thorne Sherman (played by James Best) a scientist named Dr. Marlowe Craigis (played by Baruch Lumet) Dr. Radford Baines (Gordon McLendon) and Craigis’s daughter Ann (Ingrid Goude) must band together to survive the nightmarish ordeal. As the group struggles to defend themselves against the ravenous shrews, tensions rise, and they must find a way to escape the island before they fall victim to the deadly creatures who are running out of food.

“The Killer Shrews” is known for its low-budget production values, including the use of dogs dressed in shaggy costumes to portray the oversized shrews. Despite its limited resources, the film has achieved cult status for its campy charm. Close-ups of the giant shrews were filmed using hand puppets. The wider shots used dogs made up as the shrews.

Actor / co-producer Ken Curtis once commented that he had to force himself not to laugh during filming when the shrews attacked because they were basically just “dogs 
covered in shag carpet.”
The man playing Dr. Baines is Gordon McLendon He was the uncredited executive producer and financier of this and its companion feature The Giant Gila Monster 1959. He owned radio stations and a chain of theaters in Texas.

Kiss of the Vampire 1963

Kiss of the Vampire, a 1963 British horror masterpiece by Hammer that unfolds under the masterful direction of Don Sharp, with Anthony Hinds at the quill. While not part of the legendary Dracula series, this cinematic gem bears the indelible mark of Hammer’s signature Gothic horror.

The narrative elegantly trails a newlywed couple, the dashing Gerald Harcourt (Edward de Souza), and his enchanting bride, Marianne Harcourt (portrayed by the captivating Jennifer Daniel), as they embark on a European trip. Their idyllic journey takes an unexpected detour when their car breaks down near a remote Bavarian village, leaving them stranded.

Fortune intervenes as they are graciously invited to take refuge within a nearby chateau, an architectural marvel shrouded in both splendor and sinister secrets. The chateau’s enigmatic resident, Dr. Ravna (Noel Willman), reigns as the formidable leader of a clandestine cult of vampires. With beguiling allure, he ensnares the couple in his nefarious designs, with Marianne poised to join his unholy family.

As Gerald’s realization of their dire predicament dawns, he endeavors to rescue his beloved wife from the clutches of these ravenous vampires. In his quest for salvation, he seeks the wisdom of a local vampire scholar, Professor Zimmer ( Clifford Evans), forging a desperate alliance to rescue Marianne from Ravna.

Kingdom of the Spiders 1977

Kingdom of the Spiders is a 1977 American horror film directed by John “Bud” Cardos. The movie is set in a small rural town in Arizona and centers around the terrifying invasion of the town by an enormous army of aggressive and deadly tarantulas.

The story follows veterinarian Dr. Robert ‘Rack’ Hansen (played by the intrepid William Shatner) and entomologist Diane Ashley (played by Tiffany Bolling) as they investigate a series of unusual livestock deaths in the area. Hansen lives in Verde Valley an Arizona desert town, who is baffled by the death of Walter Colby’s (Woody Strode) prize calf. After he sends samples of blood to Arizona State University, entomologist Diane Ashley arrives with information about the calf’s death. It had been poisoned by a massive dose of tarantula venom.

As they dig deeper, they discover that there is a mammoth hill on Colby’s farm which is housing thousands of deadly spiders and his property is the epicenter of a colossal tarantula population explosion. As the creeping terror escalates, the townsfolk are thrust into a nightmarish world. Ashley is puzzled by the behavior as tarantulas usually don’t attack as a militarized group and are not usually aggressive to creatures that aren’t their usual prey. But these spiders are driven by a monstrous bloodlust.

They find themselves under siege as thousands of venomous tarantulas begin to overrun the town, attacking livestock, pets, and even humans. With the situation escalating into a life-and-death struggle, Dr. Hansen and Diane work together to find a way to combat the arachnid invasion and save the town from being consumed by the “kingdom of the spiders.”

Kingdom of the Spiders is a classic creature feature that capitalizes on our primal fear of arachnids and the idea of nature striking back against human encroachment. It’s known for its suspenseful and creepy atmosphere, as well as its memorable scenes of tarantulas swarming en masse. William Shatner’s portrayal of the determined hero adds to the film’s B-movie appeal among fans of a slightly above-schlocky 1970s horror cinema.

The Kindred 1987

Directed by Stephen Carpenter, Jeffrey Obrow, and Joseph Stefano (Psycho 1960 and The Outer Limits)The Kindred is a 1987 science fiction horror film that revolves around a series of dark and disturbing genetic experiments.

Genetic scientist Amanda Hollins (Kim Hunter) awakens after three years in a coma. Her son John Hollins (David Allen Brooks) is summoned to her bedside at the hospital where she urges him to destroy all her journals and anything that remains of her research and the mysterious endeavor that involved a long-lost brother of John’s she named Anthony.
John and company arrive at the abandoned country house with his girlfriend Sharon (Talia Balsam) and a few colleagues including the mysterious Melissa Leftridge (Amanda Pays). There at Shelter Cove, they discover his mother’s secret genetically engineered creation, a hybridization that still exists. Working against Dr. Hollins is the profoundly unhinged Dr. Phillip Lloyd (Rod Steiger) a competing geneticist who wants control of Anthony himself. Dr. Lloyd has planted Melissa as a spy and seeks her help to stop the destruction of Hollins’s work.
As they delve deeper into the labyrinthine mysteries of her work, they unwittingly awaken a monstrosity that lurks in the shadows—an abominable creature – a hybrid human a deep sea creature with tentacles that has a taste for human flesh. Anthony has emerged from the very cells taken from John’s tissues. This grotesque, aquatic entity, referred to as “John’s brother” stands as a testament to the macabre nature of his mother’s experiments. A battle takes place between the ethical scientists, the mad scientist, Melissa who in fact also shares some marine life DNA, and Anthony’s little squid-like buddies who can latch onto people. In one squishy gory scene, an angry gooey fetus leaps out of a clogged drain and attaches itself to someone’s face. And then there’s the little horrible beastie that springs out of a ripe watermelon and wraps its tentacles around a shocked grad student while she’s driving.

With a cinematic nod to the 1950s sci-fi genre, the scene with the creature inside the watermelon in the backseat of the car – and she is attacked with its tentacles is a bit of nostalgia.

Creative horror screenwriter Joseph Stefano (Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho”) contributed to the screenplay, most notably the sequence involving the creature hiding inside of a watermelon.

Rod Steiger performed his own stunts in a scene that involved him being doused with a 55 gallon drum of methyl cellulose “slime.

Killer Klowns from Outer Space 1988

Killer Klowns from Outer Space 1988 (Photo courtesy: Trans World Entertainment)

Curtis Mooney “They took your wife away in a balloon? Well you don’t need the police, pal, you need a psychiatrist!”

Killer Klowns from Outer Space is a 1988 cult science-fiction horror-comedy film directed by the Chiodo Brothers. The movie is known for its quirky offbeat and often comical premise. Not to mention as a society our collective primal, morbid fear of clowns!

The story begins when a small town is invaded by extraterrestrial beings who resemble creepy, colorful circus clowns from outer space. Even the spaceship has the appearance of a circus tent. These alien clowns, however, are not here to spread laughter and joy but instead to harvest humans as a source of sustenance. They capture people by trapping them in cotton candy cocoons and use outlandish, clown-themed weaponry to cause havoc. Killer Klowns is seriously outrageous, demented, and hilarious!

Debbie Stone -We were up at “the top of the world” and we saw this shooting star and we decided to go look for it. But instead of finding the shooting star we saw this… this circus tent. And that’s when we went inside, and that is when we saw those people in those… those pink, cotton candy cocoons. Dave, it was not a circus tent. It was something else.

Dave Hanson What? What?

Mike Tobacco It was a space ship. And there was these things, these killer clowns, and they shot popcorn at us! We barely got away!

Curtis Mooney Killer clowns, from outer space. Holy shit!

A group of young people, including Mike Tobacco (played by Grant Cramer) and Debbie Stone (played by Suzanne Snyder), discover the bizarre and deadly threat and take it upon themselves to stop the Killer Klowns. As they face off against these colorful, goofy yet terrifying otherworldly foes, they must find a way to save their town from being completely devoured by the extraterrestrial circus. Busy character actors Royal Dano as Farmer Gene Green and John Vernon make appearances in the film. Both actors appeared in The Outlaw Josey Wales together in 1976.

Killer Klowns from Outer Space is known for its dark humor, imaginative and campy special effects, and the sheer absurdity of its premise. It has become a beloved cult classic, appealing to fans of both horror and comedy for its unique blend of genres.

Tidbits:

The scene in which a car is thrown over a cliff was initially intended to be far more spectacular – the car was to fly over the cliff and crash down to the ground. Unfortunately, the sling rope snapped because effects crew members neglected to remove the stoppers from underneath the car’s wheels. The result was what is seen in the final film, the car slowly tumbles over the edge and becomes caught on a tree.

The iconic Killer Klowns March was originally written by John Massair for his high school rock band, Crisis. The band members did not like it because the notes of the song spelled out an F major 7th chord which they felt sounded too much like Jazz.

Around the same time, MGM began production of two low-budget horror films, one of them being “Killer Clowns from Outer Space” and the other “Clownshouse” by Victor Salva. Both films are very different but with the concept of Killer Clowns. Salva creator of the controversial “Clownhouse” expressed that there was a certain rivalry between both productions to know who copied whom, but in the end the films were very different from each other.

Mooney’s (John Vernon) fate is foreshadowed early in the film when he says “Nobody’s going to make a dummy out of me”. A Klown winds up making him a human ventriloquist dummy.

Originally, Klownzilla was supposed to be made with stop motion animation. But due to production costs and limited time to shoot, they made a suit instead

This is your EverLovin’ Joey sayin’ K…  I’ll be back with the letter L -hoping these trailers will LURE you in!

A Trailer a Day Keeps the Boogeyman Away! Halloween A-Z

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The Ghoul 1933

The Ghoul is a 1933 British horror film directed by T. Hayes Hunter and starring Boris Karloff who appears in the first and the last two reels, along with co-stars Sir Cedric Hardwicke, Ralph Richardson, Ernest Thesiger and Dorothy Hyson as Morlant’s niece Betty. The picture is considered one of the most ‘elusive’ of the lost horror films because it had not been seen until 1969 since its original release in 1933. There now exists a ‘tattered’ yet welcomed print (the negative had decomposed) owned by the Rank Organization, discovered in an East European archive and sent to The Theodore Huff Memorial Film Society. Karloff considered this film to be worthy of remembrance and had been heard saying that he hoped it would stay lost. (source: William K. Everson)

The film follows the story of Professor Henry Morlant (a very grotesque role for Boris Karloff), a rich eccentric and an Egyptologist who dabbles in the occult and is obsessed with the idea of immortality. Before his death, Morlant arranges for his body to be buried with a valuable ancient Egyptian jewel known as “The Eternal Light”, that will bring about his resurrection and be granted eternal life by the Egyptian God Anubis.

Upon Morlant’s death, a group of individuals, including his lawyer, a relative, and other acquaintances, gather at his estate to attend his funeral. Morlant is interred in low light given off by the glowing torches during a dreary, morbid ceremony. It is after this that the vultures swoop down for the reading of his will which includes the rightful heirs to his estate, a greedy lawyer, and a sinister collection of Oxford-educated Egyptians who seek to repossess the jewel. There are enough suspicious characters and villains to go around.

However, they soon discover that Morlant’s body has mysteriously disappeared, and they become embroiled in a series of eerie and supernatural events. As they search for the missing jewel, they are haunted by Morlant’s restless spirit, a ‘ghoulish’ version of the man who has returned from the dead, stalking his old house in search of the Eternal Light to achieve immortality. Driven by his unholy desires, unhinged by the end of his life, now a monstrous evil spirit he nearly strangles his niece Betty whom he adored in life.

In a grim ending, Morlant reclaims his jewel and offers himself to the God Anubis, carving sacrificial sacred symbols into his chest, and now can find his final rest after he has had his wishes fulfilled when the statue comes to life and accepts his gift.

The Ghost Breakers 1940

The Ghost Breakers is a 1940 comedy-horror film directed by George Marshall and starring Bob Hope and Paulette Goddard in the lead roles. The film combines elements of comedy, mystery, and the supernatural to create an entertaining and light-hearted story about a radio broadcaster, his trembling butler, and an heiress investigating the mystery of a haunted castle in Cuba.

The film follows the adventures of Larry Lawrence (played by Bob Hope), a radio personality and skeptic, who finds himself embroiled in a series of comedic and spooky events. After mistakenly believing he’s committed a murder, Larry flees to Cuba with his loyal butler, Alex (played by Willie Best), to escape the authorities.

In Cuba, Larry and Alex end up staying at a seemingly haunted mansion owned by Mary Carter (played by Paulette Goddard). Mary believes her family’s ancestral home is cursed and haunted by ghosts. Larry, always the skeptic, begins to investigate and uncover the secrets of the mansion, leading to a series of comedic encounters with supernatural phenomena.

As the plot unfolds, Larry and Mary join forces to unravel the mysteries surrounding the haunted mansion, including hidden treasure and a ghostly pirate curse. The Ghost Breakers is known for its witty humor, playful banter between Bob Hope and Paulette Goddard, and its blend of comedy and spooky elements, making it one of the most enjoyable classics in the comedy-horror genre.

The Giant Claw 1957

The Giant Claw shot over the course of two weeks is a 1957 science fiction film directed by Fred F. Sears (who also has 77 acting roles to his credits – was responsible for other cheapies including exploitation and westerns  – The Night the World Explodes 1957, the very sublime The Werewolf 1956, and the fabulous Earth vs. the Flying Saucers 1956 that featured the work of Ray Harryhausen.) The film revolves around the appearance of a gigantic and mysterious flying creature that threatens the world. Samuel Newman and Paul Gangelin’s script adhered to the classic and well-established narrative of the ‘giant creature-on-the-loose.’ Both Morrow and Corday wind up investigating a series of strange phenomena, including the destruction of military aircraft. As they dig deeper into the mystery, they discover that a massive bird-like creature, resembling a giant prehistoric vulture, is responsible for the destruction.

See Keep Watching the Skies featuring Earth vs. the Flying Saucers Here:

Jeff Morrow plays Radar test pilot Mitch Macafee whose discovery of an unidentified flying object (UFO) initially met with widespread skepticism. Most people doubted his account, dismissing it as a mere fantasy. However, doubt turned to alarm when a fighter jet mysteriously disappeared without a trace. The authorities and officials could no longer afford to disregard Macafee’s story as mere conjecture, especially as other planes and boats fell victim to unexplained attacks.

Of course, he has a hard time convincing anyone that he saw what he saw.MacAfee’s love interest is 1950’s scream queen heroine Mara Corday as Sally Caldwell. Mitch and Sally, along with the military, must find a way to stop this colossal menace before it can cause more destruction and chaos. Along for the ride is science fiction’s stalwart military/police/scientist-actor Morris Ankrum as Lt. Gen. Edward Considine.

See my tribute to Queen B’s of 1950s sci-fi & horror: Mara Corday Here:

Eventually, its existence can’t be denied when it flies off with a train filled with passengers dangling from its beak. The authorities warn everyone to stay indoors, but a carload of rebellious teenagers don’t listen and get eaten in their car like a can of unopened sardines. The problem is, that the giant claw is undetectable by radar because somehow, The enormous bird, defies the laws of physics. This monstrous bird possesses its own antimatter shied which also makes it indestructible. And its goal is to lay its eggs here on earth. So one could say that this creature is both an ancient god and extraterrestrial? When Morrow shoots up the Claw’s eggs there begins a personal grudge against him, who then must work around the clock to find a way to pierce the thing’s antimatter shield. Once the Giant Claw is shot down it disappears into the ocean and that’s the last we see of it.

The Giant Claw is known for its campy special effects, including the rather comical appearance of the titular creature, and has gained a cult following among fans of classic B-movies.

It has been reported that the marionette of the “Giant Claw” monster, made by a model-maker in Mexico City, cost producer Sam Katzman a mere $50./blockquote>

The lead actor, Jeff Morrow, confessed in an interview that no one who had worked on the film knew what the giant bird creature actually looked like until the premiere.

He watched the film in its entirety for the first time in his hometown. Hearing the audience laugh each time the monster appeared on-screen caused him to slip out early, embarrassed anyone might recognize him.

The Gorgon 1964

She Turns Screaming Flesh Into Silent Stone!

Read Brides of Horror 1960s tribute to Barbara Shelley Here:

The Gorgon is a 1964 British horror film produced by Hammer Film Productions, known for its classic horror productions. Directed by Terence Fisher (Curse of Frankenstein, Horror of Dracula, and The Mummy), and a story by writer J. Llewellyn Devine and screenplay by John Gilling (Plague of the Zombies 1966 and Blood Beast from Outer Space 1955) the film blends elements of mythology, suspense, and gothic horror that features gorgeous strokes of a lush color palate with art direction by Don Mingaye and cinematography by Michael Reed.

Co-writer Gillina told Little Shop of Horrors magazine, “was a writing assignment from Hammer that I considered one of my best screenplays…” but according to him, Anthony Hinds ”re-wrote the opening and changed much of the dialogue.” Ultimately this damaged the script and the film.

Set in a remote German village in the 19th century, the story revolves around a series of gruesome murders that have plagued the community. Each victim has been turned to stone, and the villagers are living in fear of a mysterious and deadly creature.

Local physician Dr. Namaroff (played by Peter Cushing), the local physician employs Carla Hoffman (one of Hammer’s finest scream queens/heroine Barbara Shelley) to work as his assistant. Carla just happens to be possessed by the spirit of Megera -the ancient mythological creature -The Gorgon. Richard Pasco plays Paul Heitz the hero hopelessly in love with Carla, who is blinded by the possibility that she may be responsible for the uncanny killings that have beset the village.

“You’ll perform an autopsy?” the inspector asks. “On a body that’s turned to stone?” Namaroff

When Professor Karl Meister (played by Christopher Lee) arrives in the village to investigate the murders, he is joined by Dr. Namaroff to begin to uncover the chilling truth behind the deaths. They soon learn that the Gorgon, a creature from Greek mythology, is responsible for the killings. The Gorgon has the power to turn anyone who gazes upon her face into stone.

In The Films of Christopher Lee, the actor called The Gorgon a ”beautiful-looking picture, but the whole thing fell apart because the effect of the snakes on Megera’s head was not sufficiently well done for the climax of the film. Not a memorable picture, but it ouls have been terrific.”

Syd Pearson Hammer artist did the makeup for The Gorgon.

Grave of the Vampire 1972

“Cake is so delicious. I can’t believe dead people haven’t found a way to eat it.”

Director John Hayes–specialized in trashy exploitation & horror including Dream No Evil 1970 (Read my post about the film HERE:), Garden of the Dead 1972 (which was part of the double bill with Grave of the Vampire), The Cut-Throats 1971 and Jailbait Babysitter 1977— was in a good position to explore the evocative study of the modern-day vampire. Following the Yorga mythos, Hayes also made a smart move in casting Michael Pataki as Caleb Croft. Hayes manages to effectively include brutal deaths and a climactic confrontation between father and son.

Michael Pataki’s portrayal of Caleb Croft/Professor Lockwood is not bad as a malevolent, hostile, and snarling 70s-style vampire. William Smith -prolific in exploitation, thrillers, and favorite television series like Kolchak, Columbo, and The Rockford Files is known for his hyper-H Man persona and is an interesting decision to be cast as the tragic product of Croft’s angy loins.

Back in the early 1970s Grave of the Vampire featured one of the most cringe-worthy scenes in a horror movie. Today it wouldn’t arouse a slight wince, but for that time period seeing a mother feeding a newborn infant a baby bottle filled with blood was quite a bold move on the part of filmmaker John Hayes. In 2009 Paul Solet directed Jordan Ladd in Grace, the story of a mother Madeline Matheson who loses her unborn child but insists on carrying the baby to term. When she delivers the infant it miraculously returns to life but with a thirst for human blood…

Leslie begins drawing her own blood into syringes and filling bottles to feed the baby, whom she names James. Thirty years later, Leslie dies, leaving her son to blame his father for her suffering, James spends his life hunting down his evil father.

All within the first fifteen minutes of the film, in a mist-shrouded graveyard, the camera gracefully circles around a tomb bearing the Croft family name. Jaime Mendoza-Nave’s ( The Town That Dreaded Sundown 1976, The Evictors 1979) soundtrack resonates with the rhythmic thud of a heartbeat, hinting at a secret lifeforce lingering within the tomb.

This reveal is suspended as the film cuts to a college fraternity house, where a  ritual is being held, “Lola Blossom’s gonna do her dance,” says a fraternity brother. “And we’ve got all the freshmen dressed up like dogs so they can crawl on their knees and bark at her.”

One of the college students – Paul, leaves the party with his girlfriend Leslie, driving off in an automobile from the 1930s.

Somewhere in New England on a moon-soaked night in 1940, the young couple Paul (Jay Scott) and Leslie (Kitty Villacher, The Deathmaster) go to a cemetery to make woopie in the nighttime hours. Sporting an argyle sweater and bow tie, Paul plans on taking the opportunity to propose to his sweetheart. When Paul proposes to Leslie, her response is classic: “Yes, Paul, anytime you want me to.”

The lovers immediately become amorous on a tombstone. Leslie says, “I don’t think I’ll ever be frightened of graveyards. It’s special for us.”

At the same time, a coffin lid in the Croft tomb opens to expose busy character actor Michael Pataki whose dessicated face appears with decrepit green/gray pancake makeup. (Tino Zachhia Psychic Killer 1975, Death Game 1977, and The Manhandlers 1974 was responsible for Pataki’s vampire makeup) The living dead Croft is crawling with tarantulas and toads. (think Barbara Steele in Black Sunday).

This is the grave of Caleb Croft (Michael Pataki  178 television & movie credits- from exploitation/thriller/dramas and a slew of horror films-) a known murderer who was accidentally electrocuted to death — now rising from his tomb in search of fresh blood.

Paul and Leslie don’t have time to celebrate as they climb into the back seat of his car to consummate their engagement when Croft ascends from his coffin and makes his way to the couple’s car ripping the car door off its hinges, pulling Paul out, lifting him over his head, and slamming him down onto a massive tombstone, breaking his back. Leslie then witnesses Croft sucking blood from her fiancé’s neck. And when she tries to escape, he drags her into a nearby freshly dug grave.

During the gruesome attack, a worse fate is in store for Leslie, as she is dragged into the empty grave and assaulted by the undead fiend who flees before sunrise to find shelter and commit further bloodshed.

Leslie ends up in a hospital. This is where John Hayes begins to disrupt the traditional vampire narrative. Two years before in 1970, Robert Quarry emerged on screen as Count Yorga who terrorized a group of 70s hipsters, and the same year as Grave of the Vampire, Dan Curtis introduced Kolchak: The Night Stalker which also subverted the conventional Gothic vampire tale as a modern-day exploration of the urban threat of vampirism, its historic mythos and its insidious ability to adapt to contemporary rituals. Now the vampire hunting Van Helsing became a shabby reporter in a Searsucker suit and $2 hat, chasing down a twentieth-century boogeyman, and in this film, Caleb Croft is actually a professor at the community college.

Lieutenant Panzer (Ernesto Macias) already suspects that Paul has been slaughtered by a vampire. When he questions Leslie at the hospital, he shows her a series of photographs and when she sets her eyes on the picture of Croft she has a violent reaction. Croft eventually kills Lieutenant Panzer (Ernesto Macias Kiss of the Tarantula 1976), by smashing his head with the lid of the crypt.

The doctor breaks the news to Leslie that she is pregnant. At first, she is happy thinking that she’ll give birth to Paul’s baby, but he immediately strongly urges her to have an abortion as what’s growing inside her is an otherworldly parasite. “What’s growing inside of you isn’t alive,”

Though he doesn’t explain his findings. Olga (Lieux Dressler), Leslie’s roommate in the hospital reveals why she doesn’t trust doctors, “My husband died from pills, man! Leslie is confused by her doctor’s ambiguous warning. Though he has been her doctor since she was a child she defies his logic. “All those old people in the waiting room, none of them ever got better.” Leslie turns her back on conventional medical science. When Leslie refuses his medical advice to abort her pregnancy, she leaves the hospital.

Leslie winds up in an old summer home that belonged to her parents and with Olga’s (Lieux Dressler, Kingdom of the Spiders) help who acts as a midwife, She delivers her baby at home in her bedroom. However, the baby, whom she names James (full name James Eastman), has a sinister secret. He requires human blood for sustenance, and Leslie resorts to drawing her own blood to feed him.

When Leslie quickly realizes “Why is he so gray?” Olga begs Leslie to take him back to the doctor. Leslie refuses and insists on trying to breastfeed the newborn one last time.

In a prophetic moment, as Leslie begins to bring her baby to her breast to feed, reaching toward a bowl of fruit that holds a knife, the blade cuts her finger and the little beads of crimson begin to drop onto the infant’s mouth. It’s at this moment that she realizes the true identity of her son, and who his father is.

Her ashen little boy can only find nourishment through human blood. Its anxious new pink lips suckle, the blood like red milk nourishes its unholy thirst. What upends this scene is the way it subverts the rule of law of motherhood – heightening the disturbing aspect of the thing, blending the grotesqueness of an infant drinking blood, and the simultaneous use of a traditional lullaby. “All the pretty little horses…” Leslie sings to James. I remember this scene vividly.

Some thirty years later, at the time of Leslie’d death, James has grown up to be the brawny James Eastman (William Smith,), who is presumably half vampire and half human enough to exist out in the sunlight but still depends on eating bloody raw steaks. James sits beside his mother’s coffin, he explains to us in voice-over:

James Eastman voiceover] ”My mother found it difficult to tell me that I wasn’t like other children; I could never share a life with whole human beings. I slowly learned that the thing that raped my mother and fathered me was no living feeling man, but a malignant force of cancer that refused to be destroyed. It wasn’t only her blood my mother gave to keep me alive, her youth and her own life was sucked up into the syringe that fed me.

I came to hate Caleb Croft for creating me in his image, and for using my mother as a spawning ground for his evil. I’m determined to destroy him.”

James is tormented having spent his life tracking down his monstrous father. It’s been James Eastman’s lifelong mission to finally confront his murderous old man, who constantly moves from place to place and has managed to elude him over the years. Caleb Croft who is believed to have been born centuries earlier as Charles Croyden is now calling himself Professor Lockwood, teaching a night class on the occult. James enrolls in one of his classes, being vocal about his suspicions about Lockwood – calling out the subject of vampires. And now father and son’s lives will finally converge

In class, Croft/Lockwood makes a racist remark about a voodoo spell that can kill its victims. Here he demonstrates a bit of ironic misdirection – drawing away his student’s attention from the fact that he is proof that these things are possible in a cruel and supernatural world “Can it really kill? No. Not here with automobiles and electric lights. We could never believe such a thing. But strip away the lights, the automobiles, the antibiotics that keep us one step ahead of death, and we are left with pathetic, frightened little creatures wandering in a cruel and hostile world.”

After Prof. Lockwood theorizes that death is ‘beautiful’, James presses him on the subject of vampires, and the legend of Charles Croydon, a 17th-century Englishman who, with his wife, practiced vampirism. James and fellow student Anita (Diane Holden) have read that Charles Croydon and Caleb Croft murderer and rapist, are in fact, the same person. But the bell rings, and it cuts Lockwood off before he can address the question.

In the meantime, Lockwood/Croft has already murdered a prostitute drinking her blood after he slashes her neck with a broken bottle. Next, he seduces one of his female students, “At first you reminded me of my dead wife Sara, but then I went beyond that… Forgive me if I seem to be compelling. That quality is inspired by you.” She answers him, “I feel very helpless at this moment.” “You are free to leave, No tricks. no…’ (re-referencing the racial slur.)

Later that night, Lockwood is in the library searching for a book on Charles Croydon. When the library closes, the librarian unloosens her hair letting it fall on her shoulders, and begins to try and seduce him. She entices him with the knowledge that she was once a photographer’s model. But, when she refuses to let him take the book on Croydon from the library, he becomes enraged, “You were using me!” He grabs her by the throat and kills her.

Later, James and Anita attend a party, where she remarks to him ‘‘I’d swear you were a vampire if I hadn’t seen you walking around in the sunlight. You’re unobtainable.”

By the night’s end, James winds up back at his apartment with another student, Anne (Lynn Peters) who seduces him. After they make love,  he can hardly keep from biting her neck, but he stops himself.

James becomes romantically involved with Anne who happens to remind Croft of his former vampire bride, but it is Anne’s flirtatious roommate Anita (Diane Holden) who offers herself up to Croft in exchange for vampirism, but she just ends up another one of his many victims.

When Lockwood comes looking for Anne and wanders into Anita’s apartment, she knows his true identity and asks him to make her one of the undead. “I want you to make me a vampire. Slowly mix my blood with yours until one night while I’m bathing in the light of the full moon, the black magic will take place, and I will come to you as your bride, and serve you for all eternity.”

But he denies her hunger for immortality, “The relationship would become a bit stale, don’t you think.”  Then he takes a kitchen knife and slashes her throat. Anne comes home from her night of lovemaking and finds Anita’s body in the shower.

After Anita is found murdered, Anne’s friend notices that she is very calm for someone who found her best friend slaughtered, “God if I found Anita like that, I’d be in a strait-jacket. But here you sit, sweet as cream, ready for tonight’s seance.”

Anne and James attend a séance hosted by Lockwood who shows up for the séance channeling a bit of Robert Quarry’s Count Yorga, another modern vampire flick that features a groovy séance. Carol Moskowitz (Abbie Henderson) remarks, “You make a groovy medium” and tells Lockwood ”I’m not afraid… I even left my crucifix upstairs!”

Lockwood chooses Anne to be his conduit to the spirit world. He tells everyone to “relax,” and begins invoking his dead wife Sara: “Anne is here with us all. Take her, Sara. Your mind in her body, with me through all eternity.”

James seizes the moment to summon the recently deceased Anita, channeling her presence into Anne’s body. James seeks to compel Anita to reveal the truth about the way she died at the hands of Croydon/Croft/Lockwood.

Through Anne, Anita speaks, “Professor Lockwood is the vampire,” and then Anne faints.

James carries Anne upstairs, and the two make love again. Lockwood faces his students with one of them saying “I think either you’re a vampire, or Anne is a marvelous actress and voice impressionist.”

Lockwood breaks their neck, while another macho séance guest (Carmen Argenziano) stands bewildered as the bullets from his gun pass right through Lockwood’s body. As he bares his sharp teeth, he slaughters the rest of them, and then finally goes on to confront his son.

It is then that James reveals his true identity – that he’s the vampire’s long-lost illegitimate offspring. James and Lockwood begin to have a violent exchange. They follow each other upstairs where Anne passes out again. “Who are you?” Lockwood asks and is destined to find out.“I’m your son!… Your son, conceived in a grave!”

When James puts a stake through Lockwood’s heart, he returns to the decrepit fiend that rose up from the grave. “James, what’s the matter?” Anne asks. “Get away from me, Anne,” he growls in agony. The twist ending… James now has fangs.

In 1972 the gloomy and modern Gothic work was a far cry from the usual Hollywood vampire movie. The whole idea of a vampire knocking up a young woman in a dreadful empty grave, and later giving birth to his waxen offspring with a thirst for blood, is quite unsettling, and this blesses the film with the shocking scenes that would lead to some controversy by way of the critics and audiences alike – that of the mother cutting her own breast or sticking a needle in her arm like a heroin addict, to fill the baby’s bottle with the blood needed to feed her baby boy. Included in this cinematic sacrilege, are the droplets of blood sprinkling onto the infant’s lips in close-up.

The low-budget film reportedly made for $50,000 in 11 days. Grave of the Vampire was obviously influenced by the box office success of Count Yorga, Vampire 1970, possessing some of the same still effective crudeness, gritty creepy offbeat realism of many of the early 1970s and the funky California Gothic-dreary atmosphere associated with Yorga and its sequel in 1971.

One of the things that has given Grave of the Vampire some notoriety over the years is that its screenplay was written by a young David Chase, some years before he would become story editor on the classic Kolchak: The Night Stalker series of which he wrote eight episodes for. Chase would go on to become the creator of the iconic culture phenomenon mob drama The Sopranos.

This is your EverLovin’ Joey sayin’ G! It’s been ghastly! Stay tuned for the Horror of letter H!!!!

🚀 Keep Watching the Skies! Science Fiction Cinema of the 1950s: The Year is 1955

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DON’T FORGET TO CHECK OUT! : THE YEAR IS 1954

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CREATURES, CONQUESTS AND CONQUERING MUTANTS

The Atomic Man aka Timeslip

the atomic man

They Called Him the HUMAN BOMB!

British Science Fiction/Thriller from writer/director Ken Hughes (Wicked as they Come 1956, The Trials of Oscar Wilde 1960, Cromwell 1970). From a story by Charles Eric Maine.

Stars actor/director Gene Nelson as Mike Delaney, Faith Domergue as Jill Rabowski, Peter Arne as Dr. Stephen Rayner/Jarvis, Joseph Tomelty as Detective Inspector Cleary, Donald Gray as Robert Maitland, Vic Perry as Emmanuel Vasquo, Paul Hardtmuth as Dr. Bressler, Martin Wyldek as Dr. Preston. The film is known as Timeslip in England, a mild British thriller using American stars to boost interest in the film, and was cut by almost seventeen minutes for it’s U.S. release!

The Atomic Man, poster, (aka TIMESLIP), from left: Faith Domergue, Gene Nelson, 1955. (Photo by LMPC via Getty Images)

A man (Peter Arne ) is fished out of the Thames, shot in the back, the x-rays show that he is radioactive and projects a glowing aura around his body. The man dies on the table and is clinically dead for over 7 seconds, when they perform surgery to remove the bullet. American reporter Mike Delaney (Gene Nelson) decides to interview the man who he bares a striking resemblance to Dr. Stephen Rayner is very cryptic about what happened to him. Dr. Rayner whose face is all bandaged up is however in his laboratory working on an artificial chemical element of atomic number 74, the hard steel-gray metal with a very high melting point. Delaney and photographer girlfriend Jill Rabowski (the intoxicatingley dark eyed Faith Domergue) are curious about what is going on and begin to investigate. While the strange man in the hospital continues to act mysterious Delaney’s investigation lead him to Emmanuel Vasquo (Vic Perry) who heads an organization in South America that produces Tungsten steel.

Delaney and Jilly learn that the man they found in the Thames is in fact the real Dr. Rayner, and since he was clinically dead for 7 1/2 seconds and is radioactive somehow he has fallen into a time shift where he is living that small percentage ahead of time. The reason his answers to questions are so quizzical is because he is responding 7 1/2 seconds before they are asked. Delaney with the help of the real Dr. Rayner try to stop the imposter in the lab who is a double hired by Vasquo to impersonate the scientist so they can blow up the lab and prevent any competition by Dr. Rayner to produce artificial steel and pose real competition from the South American suppliers.

The Beast with a Million Eyes

Prepare for a close encounter of the terrifying kind! An unspeakable horror… Destroying… Terrifying!

After his debut with Monster From the Ocean Floor in 1954, The Beast with 1.000.000 Eyes was a great foray into the new market of teenage drive-in movie goes that Roger Corman’s production team tapped into. First through the company called American Releasing Corp. which eventually became American International Pictures a year later.

James Nicholson, who was the maestro of promotion, changed the name of the film from The Unseen to The Beast with a Million Eyes, because it just had better shock value for selling more tickets. Nicholson was famous for coming up with the title first, telling the marketing department to design an eye-popping nifty poster, and then actually working a script around that vision. Though there was already a working script Nicholson had a poster made up of a beast with a million… well about 7 eyes tormenting a scantily clad beauty.

Directed by David Kramarsky and Corman with a script by Tom Filer. This cult B classic stars Paul Birch as Allan Kelley, Lorna Thayer as Carol Kelley, Dona Cole as Sandra Kelley, Dick Sargent as Deputy Larry Brewster, Leonard Tarver as Him/Carl, Chester Conklin the silent film comedian plays Ben and Bruce Whitmore is The metaphorically million eyed Beast. A million eyes refer to all the animals in ‘nature’ that would run amok and destroy mankind!

The beastly slave of the alien is a hand puppet created by the cheesy greatness that was Paul Blaisdell. (link to my tribute The Tacky Magnetism of Paul Blaisdell)

Interesting side note: Corman needed someone to design the alien who originally was supposed to be an invisible force marauding through the galaxy hitching rides on various life forms and taking over their consciousness, like the animals in this film. In Bill Warren’s informative book Keep Watching the Skies, Corman contacted friend collector/historian Forrest Ackerman suggesting stop animation genius Ray Harryhausen (who obviously was way out of Corman’s league and price range) Warren-“Corman recoiled in economic in shock.” Then Forrest recommended Jacques Fresco a futuristic eco-conscious architect and designer who had created the space station and rockets for Project Moon Base (1953)

But Fresco wanted too much money for his work, so Ackerman came up with another idea. There was an illustrator who drew covers and did illustrations for his magazines, named Paul Blaisdell. It wasn’t like Blaisdell had the experience building movie models but the young guy did build model kits (the Aurora kind I used to spend the days gluing and painting) and did some sculpting. Blaisdell said he would try it for $200 for the job and another $200 for materials. Still more than Corman wanted to invest, it seemed the last resort if he wanted a creature in his film. Corman sent the poster to Blaisdell as a composite and informed him that it didn’t have to do much more than show itself on screen for a few moments, then collapse. Blaisdell could then make it on a small scale, using only the upper torso since the rest would be hidden by the ship’s hatch. And so he made a hand puppet which was a dragon-like creature with wings he molded from clay and placed a simple latex mold over it. Paul’s wife Jackie modeled its hands. The Blaisdell’s nicknamed him “Little Hercules”

Blaisdell made him a leather jacket, a custom-made eight-starred medallion, and a toy gun and finally added manacles and chains to its arms to point out his slave status. According to Randy Palmer’s book, Paul Blaisdell: Monster Maker he was happy with his work, and so were the crew.

Corman and American Releasing Corp must have been satisfied enough with Blaisdell’s skill and his price, he went on to become the go-to monster-maker for the studio during the 1950s. Including The busty She-Creature (1956), the cucumber alien in It Conquered the World (1956), The fanged umbrella bat in Not of This Earth (1957), The alcoholic google eyed brain invaders in Invasion of the Saucer Men (1957), my personal favorite Tobanga the walking tree spirit in From Hell it Came 1957 and the alien stow away in It! The Terror from Beyond Space 1957 inspired Ridley Scott’s Alien (1979).

He also acted inside the suits he designed, created special effects and did his own dangerous stunts in Corman’s movies. However, the 60s were not kind to Blaisdell and he decided to retire. He did co-publish a monster movie magazine with fellow collector and friend Bob Burns, but walked away from the industry entirely. Blaisdell passed away in 1983 suffering from stomach cancer at the age of 55.

Roger Corman has a singular touch all his own and it’s not just that he can create cult classics with a shoestring budget. Though filmed on the cheap, his work and so many American International Pictures releases will always be beloved because they possess a dynamism that is pure muddled non-logical magic. Beast with a Million Eyes is no exception. It takes place in the Southwestern desert where Allan Kelley (Paul Birch), his wife Carol (Lorna Thayer), and their daughter Sandy (Dona Cole) live on a dude ranch struggling to keep the weary family together. Carol feels isolated from the world and takes out her dissatisfaction with her marriage on her teenage daughter Sandy and resents the presence of the mute farmhand ‘Him’ who lives in a shack reading porn magazines and stalking Sandy quietly as she takes her daily dips in the lake. Trying to live a normal wholesome life on a desolate farm isn’t easy for Carol, as she burns Sandy’s birthday cake and is unnerved by the jet flying overhead that has shattered her good china. Life in the desert certainly isn’t the good life in suburbia.

They believe it is a plane that flies overhead but it turns out to be an alien ship landed in the hot sun-seared desert landscape. First Sandy’s dog Duke discovers the blinking lights of the spaceship, and when he returns home, he becomes violent and attacks Carol so viciously that she must shoot the poor animal.

Then black birds attack Allan, a docile old milking cow that tramples their neighbor Ben (Chester Conklin) then wanders onto Allan’s ranch and must be shot before it stomps Allan to death. And yes even chickens become menacing when they assail Carol in fury of clucking madness! Some force is causing the animals to go berserk… Later birds fly into the electrical box and cut off the ranch’s source of power.

Oddly enough what ever is effecting God’s simple creatures has also taken control of Allan’s mute handyman Carl (Leonard Tarver) who was Allan’s commanding officer during WWII, wounded during the war because of a mistake he made, Allan feels responsible for what Carl/Him losing a portion of his brain. He is what his nasty wife calls the poor mute. Carl is lured by what ever has piloted the spaceship, most likely because he is most impressionable due to his brain injury. Dick Sargent (yes! the second Darrin Stephens) who plays Sandy’s boyfriend is attacked by Carl who then lumbers off into the desert.

Larry-“That Loony of yours has gone mad!”

Later Carl kidnaps Sandy and delivers her to the craft in an effort to put her under its psychic control. Allan and Carol follow them to the ship and Allan tries to persuade him to let Carol go. Allan discovers that the evil alien is frightened by love, it is the creature’s weakness. The million-eyed alien imparts to us earthlings in voice-over that it has no material form but inhabits the minds of other living creatures, feeding off of them and controlling them. “Hate and malice are the keys to power in my world.” When the family confronts the intruder in its spaceship for a brief moment it materializes and then dies, the spaceship takes off leaving the bodiless creature behind in the form of a rat. The cycle of normal life resumes as an eagle (the representation of American strength and democracy) swoops down and carries the rat off with it. Allan philosophizes in his lugubrious manner “Why do men have souls? If I could answer that I’d be more than human.”

Carol Kelley: out there… all that wasteland and mountains. We might as well be on another planet. Oh, Alan without Sandy I don’t know what would happen to me. It’d be just you and me and… Him

[she sees Him looking at them]

Carol Kelley: . Always watching. Why doesn’t he ever go away on his day off? Always watching us. Heaven knows thinking what thoughts.

Allan Kelley: We’ve been over this before. You must know by now, he’s harmless.

Carol Kelley: I’ve never been sure.

 

IMDb Trivia:

According to American International Pictures head Samuel Z. Arkoff, Roger Corman‘s contract called for four films at a budget of $100,000 each. By the time it came to “The Beast with a Million Eyes,” the fourth film in the series, there was only $29,000 to $30,000 left, so Arkoff signed off on shooting the picture non-union in Palm Springs.

Producer Roger Corman was unsatisfied with the way the film was progressing and took over from director David Kramarsky, without credit.

When Samuel Z. Arkoff of ARC received The Beast with a Million Eyes he was unhappy that it did not even feature “the beast” that was implicit in the title. Paul Blaisdell, responsible for the film’s special effects, was hired to create a three-foot-tall spaceship (with “beast” alien) for a meager $200. Notably, the Art Director was Albert S. Ruddy, who would later win two “Best Picture” Academy Awards for The Godfather (1972) and Million Dollar Baby (2004).

The tiny budget meant music, credited to “John Bickford”, is actually a collection of public-domain record library cues by classical composers Richard Wagner, Dimitri Shostakovich, Giuseppe Verdi, Sergei Prokofiev, and others, used to defray the cost of an original score or copyrighted cues.

Continue reading “🚀 Keep Watching the Skies! Science Fiction Cinema of the 1950s: The Year is 1955”

A Trailer a Day Keeps the Boogeyman Away! The Giant Claw 1957

THE GIANT CLAW (1957)

Starring 50s Sci-Fi all-stars!- Mara Corday (Tarantula 1955, The Black Scorpion 1957) , Jeff Morrow (This Island Earth 1955, The Creature Walks Among Us 1956, Kronos 1957), and Morris Ankrum (Rocketship X-M 1950, Invaders from Mars 1953, Earth vs The Flying Saucers 1956,Beginning of the End 1957, Kronos 1957, Zombies of Mora Tau 1957, Half-Human 1958, Curse of the Faceless Man 1958, How to Make a Monster 1958, Giant From the Unknown 1958) 

Your EverLovin’ MonsterGirl will be flapping this way very soon!