I’ve written enough here at The Last Drive-In, to sort of feel more relaxed about letting it rip sometimes. I’m hoping you’ll indulge me a bit while I go off on a tiny rant… I hope that’s alright…
Michael Winner’s film was a failure at the box office. So what!
You will undoubtedly read 9 out of 10 reviewers who will make too convenient a statement about The Sentinelbeing a Rosemary’s Baby rip-off. In terms of how I experience this film, there’s more to it than just a pat dismissal and a flip accusation of being derivative. I had first read Jeffrey Konvitz’s book when it was published in 1974, and then went to the movies to see his adapted screenplay The Sentinelduring its theatrical release– I was a ripe 15-year-old who was captivated by the grotesque and eerie imagery. I also saw Rosemary’s Baby in 1968 as a double feature with The Mephisto Waltz 1971.
Perhaps there is a conscious connection or homage made by director Winner between the devilish residents of the infamous Bramford Arms with its history of murderers and deviants –the facade filmed of New York Cities Dakota with a birds’ eye view of Central Park as Rosemary and Guy Woodhouse move into their house of Hades in Rosemary’s Baby 1968, perhaps my favorite film.
Alison Parker (Christina Raines) does come in contact with a similar Gothic building filled with oddball characters who wind up being the ghosts of murderers who once lived in the impressive Brownstone. I imagine the gateway to Hell would attract an evil ensemble of nasties. And to counterbalance Alison as the women-in-peril who must fight off the paranoia and heady mind games are the devil and his minions who toy with Alison in order to drive her mad enough to try once again commit suicide. Rosemary Woodhouse has the perseverance to keep her devils at bay and hold onto her precious baby even if he was to carry on his father’s legacy. Either way, it’s both buildings filled with eccentrics and the fog of paranoia that tie the two films together for me, but that’s where it ends.
As an amateur film buff and classic horror film aficionado, I think I have some authority when weighing in on whether director Michael Winner’sThe Sentinel is just derivative dreck and/or dribble.
And I discovered that it’s not just the average chimer-in nudnik on IMBd who feel the need to review this film in such a simplistic way that making the comparison to Rosemary’s Baby feels like just a cop-out to me.
It is even referred to as such in writer John Kenneth Muir’s entirely comprehensive book Horror Films of the 1970s– citing two film reviews during the time of The Sentinel’s theatrical release…
Look, as far back as its theatrical release and the critique was, to lump all ‘devil’ in the city, good vs. evil tropes with the 1968 seminal film by director Roman Polanski based on Ira Levin’s novel Rosemary’s Baby.
“…a crude and obvious imitation of Rosemary’s Baby, but much creepier and more bizarre. The unnerving ending obliterates the memory of the rest of the film… makes good use of several past-their prime actors in small roles but attempts at psychological insight, subtlety or believability fall flat (it’s a horror story not a autobiographical story of Aimee Semple McPherson for crying out loud… believability.) The great special effects at the end justify the film’s faults however.” Darrell Moore. The Best, Worst and Most Unusual: Horror films, Crowne publishing 1983.
I say that, we leave believability outside our unconscious abject fear chamber that is our most hidden dread-drenched mind when partaking in a little collective anxiety-ridden purge, right Dr. Jung?
And if critic Darrell Moore is talking about Ava Gardner–a gorgeous 55-year-old woman who is NOT past her prime, I hate when sexism and agism rear their ugly head! I’m heading toward the number, which continually amazes people, I read these kinds of misdirected comments all the time, some critic or person saying ‘she’ looks so good for her age-40ish!, does that imply that Ava and I should be embalmed already? Geesh, but in the words of Sophia Petrillo, I digress…
February 12, 1977 from The New York Times written by Richard Eder—“The confrontations are supposed to be terrifying but the most they offer is some mild creepiness… Mr. Winner has sweetened the mess with some nudity, a little masturbation and a dash of lesbianism.”
Interesting that the one bit of titillation Richard Eder manages to pluck out is lesbianism. In fact, that seems to be of most interest to many reviewers. Well, it’s 2016 and if a lesbian pop up in a film, it’s now about as outmoded and the shock obsolete as the landline and mullets… well I have seen people still sporting mullets.
And I’d like to say there’s more than just mild creepiness, there are absolute moments of mind-jolting terror. The exquisite color palette and the eye for detail support the sense of mystery such as the fabulous Houdini poster in Michael’s apartment -a centerpiece in plain sight that one might miss though it is there to instruct us on our journey through the dark maze of the storyline
If anything, the film lies closer in relationship to Roman Polanski’s The Tenant (1976) where another protagonist Trelkovsky portrayed by Polanski himself, is being mentally tortured by a group of people (Shelley Winters, Lila Kedrova, and Jo Van Fleet) in his building that may or may not exist ultimately driving him to attempt suicide. The fact that our heroine Alison is driven to madness and suicide by her seemingly harmless yet strange and quirky neighbors, that are actually, unholy denizens of hell definitely evokes comparisons in my mind with Roman Polanski’s equally disturbing THE TENANT (1976).
The fact that the main protagonist is driven to madness and suicide by her seemingly harmless but, actually, unholy tenants brings forth comparisons with Roman Polanski’s equally unappetizing in THE TENANT (1976)
I’d even go as far as to compare directorMichael Winner and writer Jeffrey Konvitz’s film has something of an Alejandro Jodorowsky flavor to it, with the grotesque imagery and surreal processional. Or might have influenced the very hallucinatory Jacob’s Ladder (1990)which deals with a soul’s nightmarish journey through unfathomable realms of consciousness that conjures demons and angels alike.
With The Sentinel some people are fascinated, some are repulsed and some just think The Sentinel is truly a retread of Polanski/Castle’s superior masterpiece.
This is one of the most searing neo-Film Noir police procedural/syndicate treasure hunts and shadows eye candy featuring a truly frightening and frenetic performance by our beloved Peter Falk who not only manifested THE only possible rumpled detective in a raincoat, that– “just one more question” knows who the guilty party is in the first five minutes of meeting them, Columbo (sorry Lee J. Cobb) whose inimitable style began the television detecting technique where we know who did it.
As ColumboPeter Falk usually uses the art of ‘misunderestimation’ and quaint anecdotes about relatives who may or may not exist, as he politely taunts and squeezes with relenting loose end-tying questions pushing the culprit into a corner they can not escape from. In Murder, Inc (1960) Falk is so dark and brooding as a little thug with mad at the world and no acuity toward right and wrong. The only time I saw him create a darker character that sent chills down the back of my neck was in an episode of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour that aired on December 13th, 1962 called Bonfirewhere he plays a psychopathic lady-killer who is posing as a firebrand evangelist.
I am planning a very special tribute to the genius of Peter Falk and his unmade bed detective always on the prowl for the jugular, with a very different slant on the show, (no hints please) hopefully getting it ready by the winter of 2017 if I can enlist the wit & wisdom of fellow Columbo-worshiping Aurora of Once Upon A Screen to join me in pulling it off!
In his 2006 autobiography, Just One More Thing, Peter Falk attributes his performance as the crazed Reles in Murder, Inc. to launching his career! Not to mention that the great stage actress/teacher Eva Le Gallienne highlysuggested after Falk was caught sneaking into her acting class as part of the American Repertory Movement, that he stick with it!
Peter Falk received an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor for his ruthless, violent, and misogynistic murderous thug real-life hit man –Abe Reles.
film critic Bosley Crowther wrote:
“Mr. Falk, moving as if weary, looking at people out of the corners of his eyes and talking as if he had borrowed Marlon Brando’s chewing gum, seems a travesty of a killer, until the water suddenly freezes in his eyes and he whips an icepick from his pocket and starts punching holes in someone’s ribs. Then viciousness pours out of him and you get a sense of a felon who is hopelessly cracked and corrupt.”
Reles who reigned over the Brownsville district of Brooklyn during the 1930s depression era, was a clever and shifty taker and hit-man who could make people’s murders appear like brain hemorrhages by using an ice pick in just the right way. Lawman Burton Turkus (Henry Morgan) whose book the screenplay is based on, together with Det. Sgt. William Tobin (Simon Oakland) keeps track of this psychopathic criminal who is now working for the powerful crime boss Louis ‘Lepke’ Buchalter played as a self-indulgent burlesque man-child by David J. Stewart (Carnival Rock 1957, The Young Savages 1961) who runs the nationwide syndicate known as Murder Inc.
Directed by Burt Balaban (Lady of Vengeance 1957) and Stuart Rosenberg who later went on to direct the sublimely thoughtful Cool Hand Luke 1967 starring Paul Newman, he also directed The Amityville Horror in 1979.
Filmed in CinemaScope Murder, Inc. possesses a gritty realism painted effectively by cinematographer Gayne Rescher (A Face in the Crowd 1957, Man on a String 1960, Rachel, Rachel 1968 and Otto Preminger’s Such Good Friends 1971)
The film’s musical score is indeed a great companion to the mood, as Frank De Vol who usually works with Robert Aldrich (What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? 1962) creates a tense and bitter little pill, a flamboyant world within the universe of egocentric criminals, petty thieves, depression era storekeepers like the wonderful character of Mrs. Corsi (Helen Waters who only appeared one more time in television’s Naked City in 1958) who runs the little soda shop or Joe Rosen (Eli Mintz) who live in fear for their lives. De Vol’s score in addition to a live smoking performance by the late Sarah Vaughan makes the film’s musical personality work very well with the visual story.
The viciousness touches the garment district, the Unions, the burlesque clubs all the way up to the Borscht Belt where comedian Walter Sage (Morey Amsterdam) is hit by Reles at the request of Lepke. There are cops on the beat and the feds looking to finally incarcerate and shut down Murder Inc. The film is seeded with little cameos by some actor’s first appearances, like Sylvia Miles as Sadie the loudmouth who gets Reles’ hand shoved in her face while in the phone booth.
A small but slick performance by Vincent Gardenia as the mob’s attorney Laszlo, and a terrific stage performance by Sarah Vaughansinging Fan My Brow and The Awakening written by composer George Weiss. I saw Sarah Vaughan at the Westbury Music Fair back in the 1980s! She was nothing less than magical!
The basic gist is this–Reles (Peter Falk) and his flunky Bug (Warren Finnerty) meet with Garment District crime boss Lepke Buchalter (David J. Stewart) who wants to hire Reles as the syndicate’s new hitman. Lepke’s first task is for Reles to hit comedian Walter Sage (Morey Amsterdam) who has a headline act up in the Catskills. Sage has been holding out money from the slots and Lepke is a petty hothead (who constantly drinks milk) with a literal belly ache. Enter Joey Collins Stuart Whitman (I’ve had a long-time crush on this guy and his eyebrows!) a singer, who knows Sage from show business, and since he owes Reles $600 which will soon be $1,000 with every day he doesn’t pay back his loan he feels cornered into helping Reles do him a ‘favor.’ Joey Collins (Whitman) is coerced into driving up to the Borscht Belt in order to lure Sage out of the club so Reles can do his dirty work with his nice clean ice pick!
When Reles pays a visit to the small apartment where Joey and his refugee showgirl wife Eadie (May Britt) live, Eadie is not only rude, she tries to throw Reles out. Reles who obviously has an inferiority complex takes Eadie’s dismissal as a rejection of his manhood and he comes back while Joey is out of the apartment and brutally assaults her with his, “dirty hands, his dirty fingers.”
But Joey is so entangled and emasculated by the predicament he’s gotten himself into, he doesn’t even try to stand up to Reles, but rather feels he is trapped, though Eadie wants to just run and get as far away from Reles and the whole deal. While the couple stays together because they are forced into a dynamic by Reles, they no longer sleep in the same bedroom nor act as a married couple. The weak and shameful Joey should have listened to Eadie!
Reles set the kids up in this glamorous apartment as a front.
Now that Lepke thinks he has everything under control he has Reles working full force taking out anyone who can fink on him. Reles gives a maniacal soliloquy about ‘taking’ manipulating the couple into living as a cover in his gorgeous apartment that is furnished with imported stolen goods and dope.
The police want to bring Lepke in because they have found a witness, small businessman Rosen who Lepke warned already to keep his mouth shut. He should have had his trusted man crush Mendy push him down the elevator shaft when he had the chance. Rosen is seen brought in by Detective Tobin by Lepke, Mendy, and their lawyer Laszlo in the halls of the courthouse. Rosen is now, at least this time– a dead man…
Mendy Weiss (Joseph Bernard) is asked by Lepke to kill Rosen himself, gunning him down right on the street in front of his shop, one pop in the guts, and then a bullet to the back of his head at Lepke’s request. Lepke comes to hide out at Joey and Eadie’s apartment, where he proceeds to demean and treat Eadie like a servant.
While Detective Tobin (Simon Oakland) has been trying to shake things up and harass Reles and Lepke, even asking the small shop owners for their help, as Mrs. Corsi explains to Tobin that innocent people are being threatened, ‘acid thrown’ on their wares, even attacked just being seen talking with the police. She refuses to say a word. He can’t break the protective shield surrounding this gang, nor legally fight against a sly lawyer like Laszlo (Vincent Gardenia).
District Attorney Burton Turkus (Henry Morgan) moves in and begins an all-out mission to bring down Murder Inc. which has its tendrils in Chicago and Florida (What happened to New Jersey? hmm)
Burton Turkus is interrogating Reles after he agrees to turn in state’s evidence. He asks Reles how he can simply murder people without any feelings around it. Reles asks him how his first time on the job as a cop effected him. He tells Reles, he was shaky at first but “he got used to it.” Reles gives him a very matter-of-fact ‘that’s your answer’ look.
Before the police finally pick up Lepke, while in hiding Lepke gets paranoid about his people squealing so he orders a hit on anyone in Brownsville that can connect him to the syndicate, especially Joey Collins and his wife Eadie who are living with him and now know too much. Finally, Eadie can’t bear it anymore and goes to the police and becomes an informant. Turkus takes Joey and Eadie into protective custody. Which isn’t so protective but hey, I won’t ruin the film for you.
Once Reles realizes that Lepke is on his trail he agrees to spill the entire can of Murder Inc. beans on the operation too, knowing the law very well, and making a deal with Turkus for a lesser murder sentence and his promise of protection.
So Reles is also hidden away at the less-than-fortress-y Half Moon Hotel room watched over by disgruntled uniformed cops in Coney Island. I won’t give away the defenestration climax, but I will say that Lepke does finally face execution for his part in several unsolved murders. His last meal must have included a gallon of milk for that upset stomach disorder…
You can absolutely say that it’s Peter Falk’s incendiary performance as the high-strung little punk with a Napoleonic complex based on true-life Brooklyn gangster “kid twist’ Abe Reles earning him the Academy Award nomination for his combustive performance and his myriad of colorfully vicious asides.
It’s what makes Murder, Inc (1960) work so well, but there are a lot of little inlaid gems that make this neo-noir crime drama a conflagration of mind-gripping tropes and wonderful little characterizations.
Murder, Inc is a neo-noir/documentary style/crime-drama masterpiece featuring not only Falk’s searing performance, but David J. Stewart as the despicable complainer -Lepke who ran the syndicate in New York City and was connected to all the major city crime bosses who oversaw big money, murder, and mayhem like a miserable business, taking out potential stool pigeons, or little shop owners who just can’t pay their protection fees — Vicious brutal and utterly mesmerizing the film plays like a nightmare while the well intended but at times inadequate good guys who just can’t seem to legally or physically pin down the bad guys without getting their witnesses murdered. Or it’s suggested that there are also insiders in the police department and government that shield these criminals from prison time. Murder Inc spreads like an insidious disease taking over the city, but like all things violent -they must eventually self-destruct as Stuart Whitman who plays Joey Collins: says to Reles, after he is arrested“I’m gonna watch you fry! I’m gonna watch you fry! I’m gonna watch you fry!”
Eadie (May Britt) is the film’s sufferer and sacrificial lamb as a woman who is either consistently abused and mistreated or woefully looked after by all the men in the film. She is surrounded by dread and ruin.
Talking about Lepke–“He came in the door like a king. He came with a hole in his stomach. All the time he stayed I was his housemaid. Two Minute Eggs… (she closes her eyes)… I boiled a thousand two-minute eggs and never did it right once…”
“I boiled a thousand two minute eggs and never did it right once…”
This is your EverLovin’ Joey saying I gotta go make a two minute egg!
13 Days of schlock, shock…horror and some truly authentic moments of terror…it’s my pre-celebratory Halloween viewing schedule which could change at any time, given a whim or access to a long coveted obscure gem!
No doubt AMC and TCM will be running a slew of gems from the archives of Horror films to celebrate this coming Halloween! Films we LOVE and could watch over and over never tiring of them at all…
For my 13 days of Halloween, I thought I might watch a mix of obscure little gems, some vintage horror & Sci-Fi, film noir, and mystery/thriller. Halloween is a day to celebrate masterpieces like The Haunting, The Tingler, House on Haunted Hill, Curse of The Demon, Pit and The Pendulum, Let’s Scare Jessica To Death, and Psycho just to name a few favorites.
But the days leading up to this fine night of film consumption should be tempered with rare and weird beauties filled with a great cast of actors and actresses. Films that repulse and mystify, part oddity and partly plain delicious fun. Somewhat like Candy Corn is…for me!
I’ll be adding my own stills in a bit!…so stay tuned and watch a few of these for yourselves!
The Witch Who Came From The Sea 1976
Millie Perkins bravely plays a very disturbed woman who goes on a gruesome killing spree, culminating from years of abuse from her drunken brute of a father. Very surreal and disturbing, Perkins is a perfect delusional waif who is bare-breasted most of the time.
Ghost Story/Circle of Fear: Television Anthology series
The Phantom of Herald Square stars David Soul as a man who remains ageless, sort of.
House of Evil, starring Melvin Douglas as a vindictive grandpa who uses the power of telepathy to communicate with his only granddaughter (Jodie Foster) Judy who is a deaf-mute. Beware the creepy muffin people.
A Touch of Madness, stars Rip Torn and Geraldine Page and the lovely Lynn Loring. Nothing is as it seems in the old family mansion. Is it madness that runs in the family or unsettled ghosts?
Bad Connection stars Karen Black as a woman haunted by her dead husband’s ghost.
The Dead We Leave Behind stars, Jason Robards and Stella Stevens. Do the dead rise up if you don’t bury them in time, and can they speak through a simple television set?
Night Warning 1983
Susan Tyrrell plays Aunt Cheryl to Jimmy McNichol’s Billy, a boy who lost his parents at age 3 in a bad car wreck leaving him to be raised by his nutty Aunt. Billy’s on the verge of turning 17 and planning on leaving the sickly clutches of doting Aunt Cheryl and she’ll kill anyone who gets in the way of keeping her beloved boy with her always…Tyrrell is soooo good at being sleazy, she could almost join the Baby Jane club of Grande Dame Hag Cinema, making Bette Davis’s Baby Jane seem wholesome in comparison.
Also known as Butcher Baker Nightmare Maker...
Murder By Natural Causes (1979 Made for TV movie)
Written by Richard Levinson and William Link the geniuses who gave us Columbo, this film is a masterpiece in cat and mouse. Wonderfully acted by veteran players, Hal Holbrook, Katherine Ross and Richard Anderson, and Barry Bostwick. Holbrook plays a famous mentalist, and his cheating wife has plans to kill him.
from IMDb -A meek pharmacist creates an alternate identity under which he plans to murder the bullying liquor salesman who has become his wife’s lover. Starring Richard Basehart, Audrey Totter, Cyd Charisse, and Barry Sullivan
Messiah of Evil aka Dead People 1973
A girl arrives on the California coast looking for her father, only to learn that he’s disappeared. The town is filled with eerie people and a strange atmosphere of dread. She hooks up with a drifter and they both uncover the true nature of the weird locals and what they’re up to. They learn the horrific secret about the townspeople…This film is very atmospheric and quite an original moody piece. Starring Marianna Hill, Michael Greer, Joy Bang, and Elisha Cook Jr.
Devil Times Five aka Peopletoys 1974
This film is a very unsettling ride about a busload of extremely psychopathic children who escape after their transport bus crashes. Finding their way to a lodge, they are taken in by the vacationing adults and are eventually terrorized by these really sick kids. Claustrophobic and disturbing. Stars Sorrell Booke, Gene Evans. Leif Garrett plays one of the violently homicidal kids.
The Night Digger 1971
Starring the great Patricia Neal, this is based on the Joy Cowley novel and penned with Cowley for the screen by the wonderfully dark Roald Dahl, Neal’s husband at the time.
From IMDb -Effective psychological love story with a macabre twist not found in the original Joy Cowley novel. The dreary existence of middle-aged spinster Maura Prince takes an unexpected turn with the arrival of young handyman Billy Jarvis, but there is more to Billy than meets the eye. This well-crafted film, full of sexual tension and Gothic flavor, was Patricia Neal’s second after her return to acting, her real-life stroke worked deftly into the story by then-husband Roald Dahl. Written by Shane Pitkin
They Call It Murder (1971 Made for TV movie)
A small-town district attorney has his hands filled with several major investigations, including a gambler’s murder and a possible insurance scam. Starring Jim Hutton, Lloyd Bochner, Leslie Nielsen, Ed Asner and Jo Anne Pflug
A Knife For The Ladies 1974
Starring Ruth Roman and Jack Elam, there is a jack the ripper-like killer terrorizing this small Southwest town. Most all the victims are prostitutes. A power struggle ensues between the town’s Sheriff and Investigator Burns who tries to solve the murders.
Born To Kill 1947
Directed by the amazing Robert Wise ( The Haunting, West Side Story, Day The Earth Stood Still )this exploration into brutal noir is perhaps one of the most darkly brooding films of the genre. Starring that notorious bad guy of cinema Lawrence Tierney who plays Sam Wild, of all things, a violent man who has already killed a girl he liked and her boyfriend. He hops a train to San Francisco where he meets Helen played by Claire Trevor who is immediately drawn to this dangerous man.
The Strangler 1964
Starring the inimitably imposing Victor Buono, who plays mama’s ( Ellen Corby/Grandma Walton) boy Leo Kroll, a psychopathic misogynous serial killer, under the thumb of his emasculating mother. Kroll’s got a doll fetish and a fever for strangling young women with their own pantyhose. The opening scene is chilling as we watch only Buono’s facial expressions as he masturbates while stripping one of the dolls nude by his last victim’s body. Part police procedural, this is a fascinating film, and Buono is riveting as Leo Kroll a psycho-sexual fetish killer who is really destroying his mother each time he murders another young woman. Really cool film by Allied Artist
Murder Once Removed (1971 made for tv movie)
A doctor and the wife of one of his wealthy patients hatch a plot to get rid of her husband so they can be together and get his money. Starring John Forsythe, Richard Kiley, and Barbara Bain.
Scream Pretty Peggy (1973 made for tv movie)
This stars Bette Davis who plays Mrs. Elliot. Ted Bessell plays her son Jeffrey Elliot a sculptor who hires young women to take care of his elderly mother and his insane sister who both live in the family mansion with him. Also stars Sian Barbara Allen. What can I say? I love Bette Davis in anything, specially made for tv movies, where something isn’t quite right with the family dynamic. Lots of vintage fun directed by Gordon Hessler
The Man Who Cheated Himself 1950
A veteran homicide detective witnesses his socialite girlfriend kill her husband. Then what ensues is his inexperienced brother is assigned to the case. Starring Lee J. Cobb, Jane Wyatt, and John Dall.
The Flying Serpent 1946
Classic horror/sci-fi flick that just doesn’t get the attention it deserves. Almost as fun as The Killer Shrews. Starring veteran actor George Zucco
The Pyjama Girl Case 1977
This more obscure Giallo film was directed by Flavio Mogherini and starred one of my favorite actors Ray Milland, Also starred Mel Ferrer and the beautiful model/actress Delilah Di Lazzaro. I’ve left my passion for Giallo films in the dust these days, but I decided to watch one that was a little off the beaten track.
From IMDb- Two seemingly separate stories in New South Wales: a burned, murdered body of a young woman is found on the beach, and a retired inspector makes inquiries; also, Linda, a waitress and ferry attendant, has several lovers and marries one, but continues seeing the others. The police have a suspect in the murder, but the retired inspector is convinced they’re wrong; he continues a methodical investigation. Linda and her husband separate, and there are complications. Will the stories cross or are they already twisted together? Written by <email@example.com>
A wounded criminal and his dying partner take refuge in a seaside castle inhabited by a cowardly Englishman and his strong-willed French wife. A bizarre dynamic unfolds as this eccentric couple once captives of the criminals at first, their relationship strangely begins to evolve into something else.
Dr Tarr’s Terror Dungeon aka Mansion of Madness 1973
This is a mysterious and nightmarish excursion into the “the inmates have taken over the asylum” theme. Based upon Edgar Allan Poe’s The System of Dr. Tarr and Professor Feather
Blue Sunshine 1978
Three women are murdered at a party. the wrong man is accused of the crimes. yet still more brutal killings continue throughout the town. What is the shocking truth behind this bizarre epidemic of …people losing their hair and turning into violent psychopaths?
Starring Peter Brocco, Francis Fuller, William Hanson, the adorable Ruth McDevitt, Ian Wolfe, and PaulaTrueman playing elderly tenants who first try to thwart by rigging accidents, a group of developers from tearing down their building. Old homes and old people…It turns into murder! This is a wonderfully campy 70s-stylized black comedy/horror film. I love Ruth McDevitt as Miss Emily in Kolchak: The Night Stalker series.
The ensemble cast is brilliantly droll and subtly gruesome as they try to stave off the impending eviction and relocation to the institutional prison life of a cold nursing home facility.
A modern Gothic commentary on Urban Sprawl, the side effects of Capitalism on the elderly and their dust-covered dreams, and the fine balance between reverence for the past, and the inevitability of modernity.
The jaunty music by Bernardo Segáll and lyrics by Jeremy Kronsberg for “Sassafras Sundays” is fabulous!
The Evictors 1979
Directed by Charles B. Pierce whose style has somewhat of a documentary feel ( The Town That Dreaded Sundown 1976 Legend of Boggy Creek 1972) This film has a very stark and dreading tone. Starring one of my favorite unsung naturally beautiful actresses, Jessica Harper ( Suspiria, Love and Death, Stardust Memories, and the muse Pheonix in DePalma’sFaustian musical Phantom of The Paradise ) and another great actor Michael Parks. A young couple Ruth and Ben Watkins move into a beautiful old farmhouse in a small town in Louisiana. The house has a violent past, and things start happening that evoke fear and dread for the newlyweds. Are the townspeople trying to drive them out, or is there something more nefarious at work? Very atmospheric and quietly brutal at times. Also stars Vic Morrow
Starring Ida Lupino and Howard Duff. Agnes Langsley gets a job as a caretaker of an old estate. The last occupant was the owner’s cousin Jennifer who has mysteriously disappeared. Agnes starts to believe that Jennifer might have been murdered. Is Jim Hollis the man whom she is now in love with… responsible?
Directed by Douglas Sirk and starring Lucille Ball, George Sanders, and my beloved Boris Karloff!
There is a serial killer in London, who lures his young female victims through the personal ads. He taunts the police by sending cryptic notes right before he is about to murder again. The great cast includes Cedric Hardwicke, George Zucco, and Charles Coburn...
Love From A Stranger 1947
A newly married woman begins to suspect that her husband is a killer and that she is soon to be his next victim. Starring John Hodiak and Sylvia Sidney
Savage Weekend 1979
Several couples head upstate to the country and are stalked by a murderer behind a ghoulish mask.
Directed by the great Don Siegel ( Invasion of The Body Snatchers 1956, The Killers 1964Dirty Harry 1971 This stars Clint Eastwood, Geraldine Page and Elizabeth Hartman. Eastwood plays John McBurney who is a Union soldier imprisoned in a Confederate girls boarding school. A very slow yet tautly drawn web of psycho-sexual unease forms as he works his charms on each of these lonely women’s psyche.
The Mad Doctor of Market Street 1942
An old-forgotten classic horror, starring Lionel Atwill and Una Merkel. Atwill plays A mad scientist forced out of society when his experiments are discovered. He winds up on a tropical island, there by holding the locals hostage by controlling and terrorizing them.
The Man Who Changed His Mind original title (The Man Who Lived Again) 1936
Directed by Robert Stevenson. Starring my favorite of all Boris Karloff, and Anna Lee of Bedlam
Karloff plays Dr. Laurence, a once-respected scientist who begins to delve into the origins of the mind and soul connection.
Like any good classic mad scientist film, the science community rejects him, and so he risks losing everything for which he has worked, shunned by the scientific community he continues to experiment and further his research, but at what cost!…
The Monster Maker 1944
This stars J. Carrol Naish and Ralph Morgan. Naish plays Dr Igor Markoff who injects his enemies with the virus that causes Acromegaly, a deformity that enlarges the head and facial structures of his victims.
The Pyx 1973
I love Karen Black and not just because she let herself be chased by that evil Zuni doll in Trilogy of Terror or dressed up like Mrs Allardice in Burnt Offerings. She’s been in so many memorable films, in particular for me from the 70s. Here she plays Elizabeth Lucy a woman who might have fallen victim to a devil cult. Christopher Plummer plays Detective Sgt. Jim Henderson investigating the death of this heroin-addicted prostitute. The story is told using the device of flashback to tell Elizabeth’s story.
Five Minutes To Live 1961
Johnny Cash, the immortal man in black, plays the very unstable Johnny Cabot, who is part of a gang of thugs who terrorize a small town. This is a low-budget thriller later released as Door to Door Maniac. I could listen to Cash tune his guitar while drinking warm beer and I’d be satisfied, the man just gives me chills. Swooning little me…….!
The Psychic 1977
In this more obscure EuroShocker, a clairvoyant… the gorgeous Jennifer O’Neill, suffers from visions, which inspire her to smash open a section of wall in her husband’s home where she discovers a skeleton behind it.
She sets out to find the truth about how the victim wound up there, and if there’s a connection between their death and her fate as well!
Too Scared To Scream 1985
Directed by actor Tony Lo Bianco A killer is brutally attacking several tenants that live in a high-rise apartment building in New York City. Mike Connors stars as Detective Lt. Alex Dinardo who investigates the killings. Also stars another unsung actress, Anne Archer, Leon Isaac Kennedy, and Ian McShane
Violent Midnight 1963
An axe murderer is running loose in a New England town! Also known as Psychomania not to be confused with the fabulous British film of devil-worshiping bikers who come back to life starring Beryl Reid. This film features Dick Van Patten, Sylvia Miles, James Farentino, and Sheppard Strudwick. It’s got it’s own creepy little pace going for it.
When Worlds Collide 1951
Another classic sci-fi world is headed toward destruction film, that I remember from my childhood. Starring Barbara Rush and John Hoyt, two of my favorite character actors. It’s a lot of fun to watch and a well-made film that’s off the beaten path from… Forbidden Planet and War of The Worlds.
All The Kind Strangers (1974 made for tv film)
Starring Stacy Keach, Sammantha Eggar, John Savage, and Robby Benson
A couple traveling through a backwoods area is held hostage by a group of orphan children who want them to be their parents. Whenever an adult refuses to participate in the delusion, they are killed. Great disturbing made for tv movie.
The Todd Killings 1971
Directed by Barry Shear and stars Robert F. Lyons as Skipper Todd, a very sociopathic young man who holds sway over his younger followers like a modern-day Svengali. Also starring Richard Thomas, Belinda Montgomery, and the great Barbara Bel Geddes as Skipper’s mother who takes care of the elderly.
From IMDb-“Based on the true story of ’60s thrill-killer Charles Schmidt (“The Pied Piper of Tucson”), Skipper Todd (Robert F. Lyons) is a charismatic 23-year old who charms his way into the lives of high school kids in a small California town. Girls find him attractive and are only too willing to accompany him to a nearby desert area to be his “girl for the night.” Not all of them return, however. Featuring Richard Thomas as his loyal hanger-on and a colorful assortment of familiar actors in vivid character roles including Barbara Bel Geddes, Gloria Grahame, Edward Asner, Fay Spain, James Broderick, and Michael Conrad.” Written by alfiehitchie
This film has a slow-burning brutality that creates a disturbing atmosphere of social and cultural imprisonment by complacency and the pressure to conform, even with the non-conformists.
Todd almost gets away with several murders, as the people around him idolize him as a hero, and not the ruthless manipulating psychopathic killer that he is. Frighteningly stunning at times. One death scene, in particular, is absolutely chilling in his handling of realism balanced with a psychedelic lens. This film is truly disturbing for it’s realism and for a 1971 release.
To Kill A Clown 1972
Starring Alan Alda and Blythe Danner. Danner and Heath Lamberts play a young hippie couple who couple rent a secluded cabin so that they can try and reconnect and save their marriage.
Alan Alda plays Maj. Evelyn Ritchie the man who owns the property and who is also a military-raised- sociopath who has two vicious dogs that he uses as an extension of his madness and anger.