Pharaoh’s Curse 1957
Pharaoh’s Curse is a 1957 American horror film directed by Lee Sholem (Tobor the Great and Superman and the Mole Men)
Character actor George N Neise plays the obsessed archaeologist Robert Quentin as part of a team of American archaeologists who unwittingly awaken a three-thousand-year-old ancient curse while excavating the tomb of a Pharaoh that is rumored to be cursed. Unlike the embodiment of the traditional mummy in the Universal franchise, one of the expedition members (Alvaro Guillot) falls prey to the vengeful spirit of the mummy seeking revenge on those who have desecrated his tomb. It needs to feed on fresh blood to sustain itself which makes it more vampiric than a mummified fiend. Rather than its victims being strangled by rotting bandaged hands, they are left with bite marks on their throats and an odd trace of mold on their necks.
The film starts off at a British outpost nestled in the heart of Egypt. An officer receives strict orders to locate an unsanctioned archaeological expedition and compel them to return to Cairo promptly. En route this small contingent of British soldiers crosses paths with an eccentric Egyptian woman who cryptically warns of dire consequences should they fail to halt the expedition in its tracks. But when they arrive at their destination it’s too late. The archaeologists have not only stumbled upon the tomb of the Pharaoh but have also dared to unseal it, unleashing a malevolent force, and one of the expedition members undergoes a ghastly transformation into a creepy old geezer in pajamas resembling a desiccated mummy-like figure that can’t seemingly be killed.
Pharaoh’s Curse stars Mark Dana as Captain Storm, Diane Brewster as Sylvia Quentin, Ziva Rodann (Macumba Love 1960) as Simira, Ben Wright, and Terence de Marney as Sgt Smolett.
Paranoiac is a 1963 as part of British psychological horror film produced by Hammer directed by Freddie Francis and scripted by Jimmy Sangster.
The story centers around the wealthy Ashby family, who reside in a large, secluded mansion on the English coast included are the Ashby siblings, Simon (Oliver Reed) and Eleanor (Janette Scott), who are haunted by the tragic death of their parents in a car crash several years earlier. They live under the care of their guardian, Aunt Harriett (Sheila Burrell).
Many years prior, a tragic car accident claimed the lives of two affluent parents, leaving their three children in the care of an eccentric aunt. However, just a few years later, one of the sons seemingly took his own life, leaving behind a fragile and emotionally unstable daughter and a spoiled, belligerent son who indulges in alcohol, exhibits emotional volatility, and behaves abhorrently in every way imaginable.
The sister, who was never a paragon of mental stability, becomes convinced she has encountered her dead brother, Tony, despite all evidence to the contrary. When Tony (Alexander Davion) unexpectedly resurfaces sometime later, doubt lingers over whether he is truly the lost sibling or a cunning impostor. This unexpected return sends Reed’s character spiraling further into madness, accentuating his already unstable and erratic behavior. Paranoiac co-stars Maurice Denham and Lillian Brousse.
The Psychopath 1966
The Psychopath is a uniquely creative and disturbing British horror offering from Amicus produced by Max J. Rosenberg and Milton Subotsky Released in 1966, it was directed by Freddie Francis with a screenplay by Robert Bloch. The film revolves around a series of gruesome murders that shock the tranquil streets of London. Each victim is found with a doll placed near their lifeless body, bearing a striking resemblance to the deceased and their method of execution.
Beginning with Reinhardt Klermer, a middle-aged amateur violinist is on his way to meet his friends who play together as a chamber quartet when a red car runs him down – repeatedly. The unseen murderer leaves a doll in Klermer’s likeness which even includes a miniature violin case. On the scene is Inspector Holloway portrayed by Patrick Wymark, who takes charge of the investigation and believes the murder is most likely committed by one of Klermer’s ensemble. Until, they too are killed (poisoned, stabbed, and hanged) accompanied by dolls, that are tokens of their death left at the crime scene along with their dead bodies. Holloway discovers that each of the victims had given evidence against a convicted war criminal whose bizarre paralyzed widow (Margaret Johnston -Flora Carr in Night of the Eagle aka Burn, Witch Burn 1962) and her curious son Mark (John Standing) seem likely suspects. Both the queer Von Sturms are collectors of dolls. Also under suspicion are Louise Saville (Judy Huxtable) and her fiance (Donald Loftis), because one of the victims was Louise’s father who did not approve of their getting married. Holloway even finds a doll with his likeness but that doesn’t stop him from getting at the truth.
There are some very effectively creepy moments and the art direction of Von Sturm’s doll-infested house is perfectly macabre. Perhaps there are those who will find this game of cat and mouse giallo cliche but the final scene of the film still causes a shudder in me that still seems to linger. The puzzle is solved but it’s nearly an excessively unpleasant revelation that left me with a queasy shudder at the end.
Detective Superintendent Holloway portrayed by Patrick Wymark, takes charge of the investigation, and he soon discovers that the victims are all connected to a past crime. As he delves deeper into the case, he unravels a web of dark demented secrets.
As Holloway races against time to catch the elusive killer, the film keeps the audience on the edge of their seats with its suspenseful atmosphere and a chilling score by composer Elisabeth Lutyens and pulp fiction-style layouts by cinematographer John Wilcox (The Third Man 1949).
The Possession of Joel Delaney 1972
The Possession of Joel Delaney 1972 is an unsettling American horror film directed by Waris Hussein. The movie is often noted for its exploration of supernatural and psychological horror elements, which align with the distinct characteristics of horror films from the early 1970s.
Norah Benson (played by Shirley MacLaine), is a successful career woman living in New York City. Her life takes a disturbing turn when her brother Joel Delaney (played by Perry King) becomes possessed by a malevolent spirit.
Joel, once a gentle and caring family man, starts exhibiting violent and erratic behavior. He begins to speak in a strange and menacing voice, displaying a complete personality change that terrifies Norah. Desperate to understand and help her brother, she delves into the mystery surrounding his possession.
As Norah tries to grapple with her brother’s transformation as she investigates, she uncovers a sinister connection between Joel and a mysterious woman from the city’s underworld named Alvean (played by Lovelady Powell). Alvean seems to hold the key to Joel’s possession and the dark forces at play. Like many horror films of the 1970s, the movie incorporates elements of cultural and social commentary, reflecting the anxieties that arose in that decade of filmmaking.
Phobia is a 1980 psychological thriller directed by John Huston and starring Paul Michael Glaser. Glaser plays a psychiatrist Dr. Peter Ross, involved in a radical new therapy and comes under suspicion when his patients are murdered, each according to their individual phobias. The film co-stars John Colicos, Susan Hogan, Patricia Collins, Lisa Langlois, and Alexandra Stewart.
Parents 1989 is -excuse the pun – a delicious black comedy/social commentary/horror film directed by Bob Balaban. The film’s appropriately bizarre title for its Germany release was ‘Daddy ist ein Kannibale’, or ‘Daddy is a Cannibal!’
The story is set in the 1950s and follows a young boy named Michael Laemle (Brian Madorsk). Michael Laemle is the young and curious protagonist of the film. He’s a sensitive boy who becomes increasingly suspicious of his parents’ behavior. As he unravels the dark secrets of his family, he becomes the audience’s passport into the disturbing world of the Laemle household. Michael’s transformation from innocence to paranoia is a central theme in the film. Sure it’s not missed that the surname of the family in this movie is “Laemle”, a likely nod to Carl Laemmle Jr. producer of such horror classics as Frankenstein 1931, Dracula 1931, The Mummy 1932 and The Invisible Man 1933.
He starts to become suspicious of his parents, Nick (Randy Quaid) and Lily (Mary Beth Hurt), as he notices their peculiar behavior. His father works for a meat company, and the family consumes a lot of meat themselves, but Michael suspects that it might not be ordinary Grade-A choice cuts of beef. As he grows increasingly paranoid, he dives deeper into and uncovers disturbing secrets about his parents and their gruesome eating habits. They are cannibalistic murderers.
Parents is a unique and unsettling blend of black comedy and horror that delves into themes of conformity, the American family, and the dark underbelly of suburban life.
It serves as a satirical commentary on the conformist values of 1950s suburban America and portrays a seemingly idyllic family and neighborhood, which hides a disturbing and taboo theme of cannibalism. The film explores the idea that beneath the facade of normalcy, people may be repressing their darker impulses. Parent’s dark humor is at the core essence of Balaban’s film. It finds absurdity in the mundane and macabre doings of the Laemle family’s life. The contrast between the sunny, idyllic facade and the nightmarish truth is skillfully woven into the narrative to evoke simultaneous astonishment and amusement, played for both shocks and laughs. Its unconventional take on suburbia has endeared it to dedicated aficionados of offbeat, cult cinema. The eerie retro visual paintings of 50s American living, photographed by cinematographers Ernest Day and Robin Vidgeon, and the provocative score by Jonathan Elias contribute to the film’s overall sense of unease.
Nick Laemle: Michael, are you ready to behave? I thought I’d tell you a little story? Want to hear a story? I’ll tell you a little story and I want you to shut up until I’m finished.Michael Laemle: [Tied to a chair by his father] You eat people.Nick: I’ve been watching you, Michael. You’re an outsider, you’re not like them. You’re like us.Michael: I don’t love you any more.Lily Laemle: Yes, you do.Nick: We’re bound for life, no matter how much you hate us.(as he slowly unties Michael] I’m untying, and when you’re free, you can sit down with us and eat, or you could run outside and shout your little secret to the world. And you know what they’ll do, Michael, hmm? They’ll come here and they’ll burn us. Is that what you want? You want to see them burn your parents?Lily: Mint jelly?
One of my favorite actors who doesn’t get enough attention is Sandy Dennis. Here she has a supporting role as Millie Dew the school social worker who is worried about Michael’s behavior and is one of the outside figures who begins to sense that something is amiss in the Laemle family.
Many critical essays on Parents delve into its social commentary, particularly its critique of 1950s suburban conformity and the facade of the nuclear family. The film portrays the unsettling idea that beneath the veneer of a perfect suburban family, there may be hidden, disturbing secrets. Some essays examine the psychological horror aspects of the film, focusing on the transformation of the protagonist, Michael, from innocence to paranoia. The Laemle family serves as a metaphor for the anxieties and fears lurking in the American psyche during the 1950s. Parents also challenge traditional gender roles, with the mother, Lily, taking on a more dominant and unsettling role compared to the father, Nick. This inversion of gender expectations adds layers to the film’s exploration of identity and conformity.