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.
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.
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!
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.