A Trailer a Day Keeps the Boogeyman Away! Homebodies (1974) Do You Know Where Your Grandmother Is Tonight?

Homebodies 1974

Homebodies1974 directed by Larry Yust (Trick Baby 1972) features a marvelous ensemble of beloved character actors, Ruth McDevitt ( The Birds 1963, Miss Emily in the 1970s series-Kolchak: The Night Stalker, and a slew of made-for-television movies and popular tv series), Peter Brocco (One Flew Over the Cukoo’s Nest 1975 , the ubiquitous Ian Wolfe, William Hansen (Fail Safe 1964, The Laughing Policeman 1973, Francis Fuller (They Might Be Giants 1971)  and Paula Trueman (The Anderson Tapes 1971, The Outlaw Josey Wales 1976). With cinematography by Isidore Mankofsky (Trick Baby 1972, Scream Blacula Scream 1973, Carrie 1976 (uncredited). The film features a snappy song – “Sassafras Sunday” that tags along with the credits.

An offbeat black comedy centered around six unassuming elderly tenants being forced out of their home, evicted from their brownstone, victims of gentrification. Led by the impish Mattie (Trueman)…

Mattie’s trajectory forces the audience to examine where the line between eccentricity and psychosis lies. – Elizabeth Erwin-Short Cuts: Senior Citizens Rage in Homebodies 1974

they decide to exact retribution in inventive ways, against the ruthless land developers that want to drive them out and tear down the building. The cast are a curious gang of aged assassins who take down the people (Linda March as the unsympathetic Miss Pollock , Kenneth Tobey and Douglas Fowley) who are trying to wreak havoc on their quiet lives!

TRIVIA:

Paula Trueman was nearly blind when she acted in this movie. Because of her poor eyesight, the car had to be towed in the scene with Trueman driving an automobile.

Peter Brocco spent some time with blind people to research his character Mr. Blakely

This is your EverLovin’ Joey, a homebodie sayin’ hope you’re always in your happy home!

BRIDES OF HORROR – Scream Queens of the 1960s! 🎃 Part 1

This special The Last Drive in Halloween Feature will conclude with Part 4 and it’s primary focus exclusively on the great Barbara Steele!

‘through the complex changes in society surrounding traditional female roles using the ambivalence of the horror genre’ – Claudia Bunce

The 1960s were plagued by controversy and convulsed with violence. Horror cinema with the exception of Hammer Studio and European filmmakers’ colorful pageantry of Gothic tales, and the colorful dreamlike poetry of Mario Bava, mainly transitioned from classical themes. In the 1950s, B-horror movie narratives were concerned with outside hostile forces, alien invasions, and fear of nuclear war, but the new decade began to explore more interior horror that originated in the home and within ourselves. And many of these movies stand out as women-centric protagonists…

“Widely interpreted as a pivotal moment in the horror genre. Suggestive that monstrosity must be defined as inherent to the bourgeois family structure rather than an arcane social aberration: the crimes of Norman Bates can be read as the consequence of the sexually active mother, not unlike Marian Crane. The film is profoundly subversive.” – source unknown

After Riccardo Freda abandoned Black Sunday, the project went to cinematographer Mario Bava and became his directorial debut. The film was the start of the director’s momentous contribution to the genre with his masterful grasp of mise en scené composition, allegorical visual symbolism imagery, and the bold use of expressionist color, vivid tones and spectrum of light. Bava directed Kill, Baby Kill! 1966 featuring a ghostly little blonde girl (actually a boy actor) with a white ball that is the creepy harbinger of a series of violent deaths.

Mario Bava unleashed on us his very dark-hearted black & white Black Sunday in 1960 with jolting scenes of death and a new horror goddess, the provocative, wide-eyed- Barbara Steele. During the decade of the 60s, Steele’s ascendance within the genre was part of a broader trend in horror cinema that echoed the real world. Her strong presence and instinct to captivate our gaze, stood head to head with male horror stars Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing during that period of horror cinema. Barbara Steele inhabited the haunted screen with such a formidable primacy, there’s no disputing she is the ultimate scream queen.

The Italian movie industry of the 1960s saw a wave of Italian gothic chillers. Bava’s Blood and Black Lace 1964 is best remembered as the first ‘Giallo’ a particularly savage trademark of murder mysteries.

Riccardo Freda directed The Horrible Dr. Hichcock 1962 and The Ghost 1963, Margheriti’s beautifully orchestrated, eerily atmospheric ghost story Castle of Blood and Ciano’s Nightmare Castle 1965. All starring Barbara Steele.

Roger Corman established himself as a successful director. Of course, maverick filmmaker Corman showered us with some of the best campy low budget sci-fi / horror films of the 1950s, and in the 60s we were reintroduced to the splendid Poe adaptations in a series of vivid films of glorious terror and dread, with Daniel Haller’s gorgeous hallucinogenic art direction. These films are a series of Gothic masterpieces, – House of Usher 1960, Pit and the Pendulum 1961 and Masque of the Red Death 1964, featuring Hazel Court, another icon of 60s horror, who would command the screen with her fiery sensuality, flexing her bloodlust to offer herself up as Satan’s bride in Red Death.

Corman established himself as a successful director with his landscapes as Rodrick Usher says are a ‘feverish and deranged mind’ with his colorful more substantial yet still low-budget homages to Poe’s series of horror tales. With screenplays by Richard Matheson and cinematography by Floyd Crosby. Reaching its artistic peak with Masque of the Red Death. Many of the women in his Poe series feature a more incendiary female character. The horror genre especially from the 60s forward would prove to have more provocative roles for women since the femme fatale reigned during the time of film noir.

Instead of the restrained earlier decades, the 60s held up a mirror to the decade’s social turbulence and reflected back to us, with subversive storytelling, its edgy gore, and taboo-breaking narratives that fed a whole new audience who were hungry for more realistic and challenging scenarios. A new vanguard of filmmakers shattered traditional boundaries that restrained on-screen violence and sexuality.

Women’s roles in classical horror films of the 1930s & 40s (to my memory for now), with the exception of Elsa Lanchester as the Bride, and Gloria Holden as Countess Marya Zaleska in Dracula’s Daughter, initiated most of the leading ladies and supporting actresses, as easily fainting from fright, who screamed with hollow innocence, projecting reductive nuances of helplessness.

Still, there were established directors such as Alfred Hitchcock who caught wind of the changes, inspired by Clouzot’s le Diabolique 1955 and impressed by William Castle’s popular run of low-budget horror formula (albeit with its use of gimmickry).

Psycho 1960 would be set in safe and secure American suburbia instead of the imposing castles of Europe. The clean-cut serial killer would eclipse the caped swarthy vampire as the screen’s new boogeyman. Yet Marion’s ascendancy is as much a major element of the narrative as Norman Bates’ psychopathy!

Hitchcock offered us the bold cautionary, The Birds, a film Fellini referred to as “an apocalyptic poem” featuring a beautiful woman perceived as a she-devil that ushered in the natural world’s revolt.

FROM BARBARA CREED THE MONSTROUS FEMININE:

“Melanie Daniels in The Birds is a single woman in her thirties drifting – who must go through a trial by fire which she suffers, is humiliated and lectured to lower her defenses. She is an outsider who is being shown how social behavior becomes physically agonizing.”

The stark black & white Psycho 1960 based on a real-life serial killer, Ed Gein, pushed the boundaries of the Production Code with its shocking scenes of murder and inflected frames of Janet Leigh’s bra and slip. Leigh’s 30-minute on-screen persona of the immoral Marion Crane was a diverging representation of the traditional leading lady.

The decade also signaled a multitude of black & white psychological thrillers. Hammer split off some of its focus on the gory period pieces- translations of Frankenstein, Dracula, and Mummy, and jumped on the Psycho bandwagon with films like Scream of Fear 1961, Maniac 1963, Nightmare 1964, Hysteria 1965, Die! Die! My Darling! 1965 starring Tallulah Bankhead as the menacing Mrs. Trafoil, not a Medieval crone but a modern-day unleashed psychopath. And, The Nanny 1965 with Bette Davis, coming off of her pair of shockers by director Robert Aldrich, plays a sinister governess terrorizing young William Dix.

After Baby Jane, the industry was rife with menacing Hollywood starlets. I’ll be writing about the shattering of the myth of Hag Cinema, down the road. Robert Aldrich set in motion a trend of psychological horror films after he paired Bette Davis and Joan Crawford together in what is considered campy, outrageous at times, sickening – What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? 1962. It was a watershed moment for the genre.

Crawford and Davis in particular in Aldrich’s films made the bold and courageous decision to act under harsh white lights, in grotesque makeup, and willing to immerse themselves into a character -eccentric, cringingly childish, and utterly sadistic.

After Baby Jane, Aldrich followed up with Davis, de Havilland, and Agnes Moorehead in Hush… Hush, Sweet Charlotte 1964. Crawford worked with William Castle on Strait-Jacket 1964, and Geraldine Page played a greedy murderess in What Ever Happened to Aunt Alice? Co-starring Ruth Gordon. Shelley Winters appeared as the maniacal villainess in the fable-like Who Slew Auntie Roo? 1969 and Winters, Debbie Reynolds, and Moorehead in 1971 topped it off with Harrington’s What’s the Matter with Helen? A personal favorite of mine.

The second wave of the feminist movement and its emergence and impact began with Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique, giving 50s suburban housewives a different vision of domestic enslavement and began to disassemble the myth of that decade’s family values. The quaint and complacent sentiment of post-WW2 comfortability became subverted by empowered women who broke free and found new independence reigniting the Monstrous Feminine giving permission to women as represented more freely in film, with more prominent parts, especially fostered in… the horror genre.

The 60s subverted the expectations surrounding the traditional housewife roles. Witches could be well-bred housewives like Janet Blair in Burn Witch Burn 1962 or a malevolent ingénue, Sharon Tate in Eye of the Devil 1966.

“The housewife witches of Burn, Witch, Burn and Season of the Witch use witchcraft to escape the confines of the domestic sphere and subvert their husbands’ patriarchal power. Then there is the cult leader witch of Eye of the Devil who uses her femininity to intimidate traditional societal gender roles” – Claudia Bunce

Significant films like Robert Wises’ The Haunting 1963, which were suggestive of lesbianism and repressed sexuality, stars two very significant central female characters, Julie Harris and Claire Bloom who give intensely complex and reflexive performances. Bloom as the stylish and extraordinarily self-composed Theo is a truly independent woman who lives life on her own terms. There isn’t anyone who wouldn’t shiver while at the mercy of the malevolent forces of Hill House. Director Georges Franju’s Eyes Without a Face (The French title Les Yeux sans Visage) 1960 has perhaps one of the most graphic scenes of horror, a gruesome fairytale with its medical experimentation with facial transplantation and a lead actress, Edith Scob with her macabre blank mask who floats around the halls like a lost princess swallowed up inside a night terror. The film also stars a stoic Alida Valli, a strong ally to the twisted plastic surgeon in search of a new face for his daughter.

Jack Clayton’s adaptation of Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw, became a screenplay by William Archibald, The Innocents 1961’ lead actress Deborah Kerr lies wide open with her distillation of a woman tortured by her sexual paranoia. Dressed in classical clothes, unlike Deneuve’s role in Repulsion, where her character Carol’s neurosis is flayed and hung out naked on display.

And most significantly, the female-centric role of Mia Farrow as the allegorical heroine Rosemary Woodhouse, hunted down by a coven of upper west side devil worshipers in Roman Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby 1968. Farrow’s performance is a striking denunciation of control over women’s bodies, a slow burn of paranoia, and a strong instinct for survival.

“but when he (Guy Woodhouse) took control of her reproductive functions, he asserted his dominance over her in the darkest way possible.

Assertion of dominance reinforced his masculinity and the traditional role that men had in relationships. Guy’s taking control assuages the fear of women gaining too much independence.” – From Jenna Labbie damsels in Distress Analyzing gender in horror movies of the 1960s and 70s

Polanski’s earlier released Repulsion 1965 strayed from Hitchcock’s black humor drizzled about in Psycho. Repulsion rather has a sense of nightmarish realism and a protagonist, Catherine Deneuve who goes down a rabbit hole of repressive seizures.

Repulsion is an extremely disturbing contemplation on the destructive forces of loneliness, isolation, and paranoia seen through the lens of a sexually repressed young woman, Carol who suffers a homicidal breakdown while her sister and married lover leave her alone for a long weekend. An exit from the cheeky dark humor of Hitchcock’s Psycho, Repulsion brushes the screen with strokes of Carol’s existential misery.

Michael Powell’s groundbreaking shocker Peeping Tom is a hauntingly twisted mood piece about serial killer Karl Bohm who films his victims in the last moments of their death to capture their fear. It features two very strong female leads, Anna Massey and Maxine Audley.

Mexican fright flicks abound with atmospheric gems like The Curse of the Crying Woman 1963, The Brainiac 1961, and The Witch’s Mirror 1962, featuring strong female-centric characters played by Rosita Arenas and Rita Macedo. And in Jack Hill’s oddball black comedy Spider Baby 1967 benefitted from the quirky presence of both Beverly Washburn and Jill Banner as two bizarre, homicidal sisters.

Luana Anders features significantly in the genre, highlighted in Coppola’s Dementia 13 as the independent yet ruthless Louise Halloran and as prostitute Sylvia in Robert Altman’s psycho-sexual thriller That Cold Day in the Park 1969. The film stars one of my favorite underrated actors, Sandy Dennis who gives a stunning performance as the disturbed Francis Austen, who holds Michael Burns hostage.

George Romero broke ground with the brutal realism of Night of the Living Dead 1968 which has not so indirect social relevance. 60s horror films were breaking away from Hollywood and being forged by gutsy independent filmmakers with smaller budgets, and an imaginative longing to experiment with diversity, artistic style, and a divergent way to visualize and process gender roles outside traditional cultural norms.

Barbara Shelley

The Queen of Hammer

Ryan Gilbey, in her obituary in The Guardian, praises Shelley’s acting in the Hammer films, considering that she had “a grounded, rational quality that instantly conferred gravitas on whatever lunatic occurrences were unfolding around her.”

The world lost Barbara Shelley in January 2021 at the age of 88. With hair like paprika, Barbara Shelley was born Barbara Kowin. A glamorous gothic leading lady was considered the ‘Queen of Hammer’ during the studio’s golden age of Gothic horror. A classical beauty, with an air of elegance and self-assuredness, she has co-starred with other Hammer royalty Christoper Lee and Peter Cushing. Shelley was an actress with such integrity and beauty that she transcended the horror genre.

The London-based production company was founded in 1934 by William Hinds and James Carrera who made a string of hit Gothic horror films from the mid-1950s until the 1970s. Inspired by classic horror characters like Baron Victor Frankenstein, Count Dracula, and the Mummy and appeared in 104 films and television series until 2000. She was a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company between 1975 and 1977.

From Wiki-
{Hammer reintroduced to audiences by filming them in vivid colour for the first time. Hammer also produced science fiction, thrillers, film noir and comedies, as well as, in later years, television series. During its most successful years, Hammer dominated the horror film market, enjoying worldwide distribution and considerable financial success.}

“Hammer was like a family, a very talented family… with a wonderful atmosphere on the set and a wonderful sense of humour”

“When I first started doing Hammer, all the so-called classic actors looked down on the horror film. All the other things I did, nobody remembers those. But for the horror films, I’m very grateful to them because they built me a fan base, and I’m very touched that people will come and ask for my autograph. If you went to see a [Hammer] film in the cinema, the gasps were interspersed with giggles because people were giggling at themselves for being frightened, they were frightening themselves, and this is what made Hammer very special.”

With her success as a teenage model, she made her minor film debut in Hammer’s motion picture Mantrap in 1952 directed by Terence Fisher and starring Paul Henreid and Lois Maxwell.

Shelley took her screen name from Italian actor Walter Chiari who saw something in the actress and suggested that she use the last name as a tribute to his favorite English romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley. She wound up living in Rome for four years and appeared in nine Italian-speaking films.

She returned to the UK in 1957, starring that year for British Lion Film in her first starring role within the horror genre as Leonora Johnson née Brandt in Cat Girl (1957), directed by Alfred Shaughnessy who set out to borrow from Jacques Tourneur’s superior, and innovative Cat People (1942.) Leonora Johnson returns to her ancestral home that is beset with the family curse, that she will be possessed by the spirit of a leopard. The film was a collaboration between American International Pictures and the British Anglo-Amalgamated.

Her first starring vehicle was Cat Girl (1957), Alfred Shaughnessy’s offbeat variation of Jacques Tourneur’s influential Cat People (1942), and A.I.P.’s first co-production with the UK’s Anglo-Amalgamated. The following year she made her first major appearance in a film for Hammer The Camp on Blood Island.

In 1958, she co-starred as a woman in peril at the hands of mad scientist Callistratus (Donald Wolfit). In Blood of the Vampire, Shelley is the picture of fainting beauty chained to the wall, a garish period piece in line with the days of Universal’s classic horrors though scattered with gory scenes satiated by fake blood and understated cleavage.

In 1880 Transylvania Dr. Calistratus is brought back to life by his one-eyed hunchback assistant Carl after he’d been executed as a vampire. At the same time, Dr. John Pierre (Vincent Ball) is on trial for killing one of his patients whom he tried to save with a blood transfusion. He is found guilty and sentenced to life. Barbara Shelley plays fiancee Madeleine, set on finding the truth behind the incriminating letter allegedly proving his guilt, forged by Calistratus.

He is brought to prison for the criminally insane by the mad doctor’s hunchback Carl. John is put in a cell, a menacing place guarded by vicious dogs, where Calastratus experiments and tortures his human subjects. In order to prove John’s innocence Madeleine poses as Calastratus’ housekeeper who winds up chained to a wall and strapped to an operating table!

Shelley was against her body being exploited or appearing in any nude scenes while being menaced by Wolfit. She warded off this endeavor by producers Robert S. Baker and Monty Berman by writing the word “STOP” on her chest. She threatened to sue the studio if it even used a body double.

“I had one or two dissertations on horror sent to me by students, and all the discussion ever seems to be concerned with is exploitation and the licking of blood and a scene of people making love, and it’s not right. It annoys me intensely because my career was not built on exploitation and sex. It was built on working very hard.”

In 1960, she is marvelous in the heartbreaking role of the tragic mother Anthea Zellerby who has given birth to an unfeeling monstrous alien boy who has uncanny dangerous powers along with the rest of the children of Midwich. All the mothers in Midwich have conceived during a strange blackout where they wind up giving birth to a breed of malevolent telepathic sociopaths.

Shelley’s character is earnest in the role of a woman torn between motherhood and sheer terror in director Wolf Rilla’s incredibly unsettling moody classic blend of science fiction and horror-Village of the Damned (1960) based on John Wyndham’s science fiction novel The Midwich Cuckoos. The film co-stars George Sanders as Shelley’s altruistic husband Gordon, who seeks to understand the menacing children with their freaky white hair and piercing eyes and his creepy son David played by Martin Stephans. These dangerous little progeny can get inside people’s minds and make them do anything they want, as in making Shelley’s character stick her hand in a pot of boiling water. The screenplay written by Stirling Sillipant is quite a disturbing potboiler it total.

She went on to star in John Gilling’s turn-of-the-century old dark house mystery Shadow of the Cat (1961)

Some of the outstanding pictures that put her upon the thrown as the reigning Queen of those splendid years of Gothic horror are Dracula: Prince of Darkness 1966, Rasputin the Mad Monk 1966 with Christopher Lee, and The Gorgon 1964 with Peter Cushing. The monstrous Gorgon is portrayed by Prudence Hyman.

“She really was Hammer’s number one leading lady and the Technicolor queen of Hammer.
“On-screen she could be quietly evil. She goes from statuesque beauty to just animalistic wildness… She adored Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing and loved working with them, that was very dear to her.”-Agent, Thomas Bowington

What truly established Barbara Shelley’s esteemed reputation as the First Lady of British horror in the mid-1960s is her collaboration with Terence Fisher. Leaving behind the more exploitative persona of the luscious heroine with inviting bosoms Shelley portrayed the sympathetic character of Carla Hoffman in Fisher’s mood piece The Gorgon. Carla is the assistant to Dr. Namaroff (Peter Cushing), and a tortured soul possessed by an ancient evil spirit with serpents for hair and the ability to turn whoever gazes upon her to stone, and Shelley conveys the bleakness of a woman who is held captive by her monstrous alter ego.

Before Shelley turns into a blood-sucking bride of Dracula, she plays her first woman transformed into a monster in The Gorgon (1964). She told the studio “I wouldn’t need any makeup… just a green face and the headdress of real snakes.” Shelley absolutely let down when she saw what the special effects department conjured up, “They came up with these terrible sorts of rubber snakes dancing around and it just looked awful. It wasn’t frightening at all.” She had said that it was “probably the biggest regret I’ve had in any film I ever made.”

She was absolutely dejected when they chose to substitute Prudence Hyman in the part of the Gorgon, “They came up with these terrible sorts of rubber snakes dancing around, and it just looked awful. It wasn’t frightening at all.” She called it “probably the biggest regret I’ve had in any film I ever made” though she admired the look of the picture, noting that “every shot … resembles a Rembrandt painting.”

In Dracula: Prince of Darkness 1966, Christopher Lee resurrects the count from Horrors of Dracula 1958. Shelley plays Helen the heroine whom we empathize with as she is trapped by her circumstances, when her stubborn husband Alan (who dismisses Helen’s panic) and his brother Charles, both refuse to leave the creepy unwelcoming Castle Dracula after stumbling onto the unattended mausoleum.

They want to stay and partake in a meal laid out for them, but Helen is justifiably spooked by its strange undercurrent. “Everything about this place is evil”.

Once Christopher Lee’s resurrection, Helen goes through a diverging transformation from the archetypal repressed female to an unrestrained raptorial vampiress liberated from her proper English breeding, in high contrast to her tight up swung hair in a provincial hat, was now wide open with unwound flowing hair and unequivocal breastage. Shelley loved how distinct her character’s trajectory was in Dracula: Prince of Darkness. From inhibited, startled gentlewoman to the monstrous feminine as one of Dracula’s brides. When she appears at Karlsbad Castle, telling Suzan Farmer, “nothing’s wrong” through hungry red lips and baring fangs. “Come sister, You don’t need Charles…” she tempts, with inviting arms outstretched to the innocent Suzan Farmer as Diana. Shelley’s virtuous woman who reveals to her Diana that she is now a vampire is lauded by Gilbey in The Guardian as having “traumatized and tantalized” viewers.

Shelley’s scream in Dracula is actually dubbed by fellow actress Suzan Farmer (Die Monster Die! 1965 with Boris Karloff) who appeared with her in Dracula: Prince of Darkness and Rasputin The Mad Monk.

In a terrifying scene perhaps inspiring Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot, has Helen tapping on the window in the middle of the night. “Please let me in,” she pleads. “It’s cold out here. So cold. Everything’s all right now.”

She was delighted by one of her most potent scenes -as when she contends with her adversaries – monks who lie her on a table and hammer a stake through her undead heart.

Shelley told Mark Gatiss in his 2010 documentary series A History of Horror, “The scene that I’m most proud of is when she is staked that’s absolute evil when she’s struggling and then suddenly she’s staked and there is tremendous serenity. And I think that is one of my best moments in the film.”

“… and then suddenly she’s staked, and there is tremendous serenity. And I think that is one of my best moments on film.”

“Christopher Lee, who was an eloquent Gothic figure of pure evil in 1958’s first adaptation of Stoker’s vampire, had now evolved into a hissing fiend. But Shelley had this to say about the actor -“He brought dignity and veritas. It’s a difficult thing to bring to a fantasy like a vampire. And that is just Chris’ appearance and his personality. He did all that. He used to walk onto the sent and I’d say to him it’s an extraordinary performance, cause we know each other so well and you could hypnotize me. But it was brilliant because he completely dominated the film without a word. Talk about silent movies!”

Shot at the same time was another Hammer horror, Rasputin the Mad Monk with Christopher Lee has dialogue in a more colorful, lurid role, as the mad mesmerist in contrast to his silent, blood-eyed fiend. Shelley falls under the spell of Rasputin. While not willing to do a nude scene in Blood of the Vampire, she was however up to laying bare a seduction scene with Christoper Lee. “That scene was in the script when I read it. The scenes I refused to do was when they would suddenly say to me ‘Oh, you take your clothes off here’ The answer to that was always no” – From an interview with Fangoria Magazine 2010.

One of her beloved roles is her last Hammer feature in Roy Ward Baker’s adaption of writer Nigel Kneale’s (The Quatermass Experiment 1955, First Men in the Moon 1964, The Witches 1966, The Stone Tape 1972 TV movie) Quatermass and the Pit 1967.

In Quatermass and the Pit, Shelley portrays scientist Barbara Judd who along with paleontologist Doctor Roney (James Donald) and a team of scientists discover an ancient alien race whose spacecraft is found buried in the underground station at Hobbs End during an expansion of London’s Underground transport system. Shelley develops a psychic link to the aliens and is taken over by the inhabitants of the alien spacecraft.

She is subjected to images of green gooey decomposing locust-like alien carcasses that in the process of being removed from the tunnels cause her brain to succumb to the electromagnetic influence of the spacecraft, causing her to writhe in pain. She is so totally reasonable as an actress that she brings credibility to her character. Shelly had claimed that director Roy Ward Baker was her favorite of all the filmmakers she worked with.

The way he felt about her goes like this. He told Bizarre Magazine in a 1974 interview that he was ‘mad about her. “Mad in the sense of love,” he said. “We used to waltz about the set together, a great love affair. It puzzles me about her. She should be much bigger than she is, but I don’t think she really cares whether she is a star or not. She can act, God, she can act!”

In The Avengers 1961 image: Studio Canal

Barbara Shelley would eventually do guest appearances on popular television shows including the British television series Doctor Who playing Sorasta in the episode “Planet Of Fire,” starring Peter Davison as the fifth incarnation of Doctor Who. She would also appear on The Saint, The Avengers, The Man From U.N.C.L.E, and Route 66. Later she would play Hester Samuels in “EastEnders.”

Shelley’s final role in horror films was in the old dark house mystery Ghost Story 1974 directed by Stephen Weeks co-starring Marianne Faithful.

Her final role on screen was in the Uncle Silas mini-series in 1989. A sinister character brought to life on screen by Derrick De Marney in 1947 with Jean Simmons in the role of Caroline.

Although Shelley ultimately felt framed in within the horror genre by the late 1960s, retiring two decades later, she always embraced her devoted fanbase and left behind a substantial legacy. “I realized that my work had been appreciated and that I had – through those horror films – actually reached a far bigger audience than I would ever have done if I’d stuck to the theater.”

The actress was modest about her achievements but happy with her legacy, as she conveyed with typical aplomb to Marcus Hearn: “There’s a lovely saying – we’re given memories so we can have roses in winter. When I look back over my various rose gardens, I’m only sorry I didn’t enjoy them more”.

“No one told me I was beautiful. They said I was photogenic but no one said I was beautiful. If they had I would have had a lot more fun!”

In an interview with the Express newspaper in 2009, she said she was told at a convention by female fans that they loved her for her strong roles. “Which I thought was a brilliant thing to have said about one. I never thought of it in that way. The fact that I’m still getting mail from my horror fan base really touches me.”

TRIVIA

While making the 1961 TV film, A Story of David, she met Hollywood star Jeff Chandler and they began a relationship. Chandler died suddenly the following year. Shelley is later reported to have said that he had been the love of her life

So convincing was Shelley’s violently realistic struggle against the stake, she swallowed one of her stuck-on fangs.

With no spares at the ready and a tight shooting schedule, it is reported that she kept drinking salt water until she puked it up.

After the scene in Dracula: Prince of Darkness where she struggles with the monks at the end with her demise, it was so physically demanding on Shelley, that she suffered from chronic back pain.

Barbara Shelley would recall how she and Lee, prided themselves on being “un-corpseable”, and would compete to make one another laugh during takes.

Cat Girl 1957, Blood of the Vampire 1958, VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED 1960 THE GORGON 1964,  DRACULA PRINCE OF DARKNESS 1966, RASPUTIN THE MAD MONK 1966, QUATERMASS AND THE PIT 1967

Continue reading “BRIDES OF HORROR – Scream Queens of the 1960s! 🎃 Part 1”

It’s October! There might be a few things that go bump in the night here at The Last Drive In!

Happy October my dear friends!

There’ll be a few trailers to keep the Boogeyman away and Brides of 60s Horror on their way to scream at you!

Your EverLovin’ Joey wishing you a happy haunting all throughout this spooky month! 🎃

The Film Score Freak Recognizes: And little things between…

 Above photo of composer Dave Grusin

The art of film wouldn’t resonate without the language of music to help speak for it!

*And don’t think I forgot Jerry Goldsmith. He is my ultimate inspiration and will get a feature tribute all to himself!

*Billy Goldenberg

(Columbo episodes) Murder by the Book and Ransom for a dead man.

*Gil Mellé

The Sentinel 1977

Embryo 1976

Columbo episodes-Blueprint for Murder 1972, Short Fuse, Dead Weight and Death Lends a Hand

*Malcolm Williamson

Crescendo 1970

*Johnny Mandel

The Sandpiper 1965

*Dave Grusin

Columbo episode Presciption Murder (1968)

3 Days of the Condor 1973

The Nickel Ride 1974

*Michel Legrand

The Thomas Crown Affair 1968

Summer of ’42 (1971)

*Krzysztof Komeda

Rosemary’s Baby 1968 (courtesy of Soundtrack Fred)

*Jerry Fielding

The Enforcer 1976

The Mechanic 1972

The Big Sleep 1978

*Pino Dinaggio

Don’t Look Now 1973

*Francis Lai

live for life 1967

Bilitis 1977

The Forbidden Room 1977

*Colin Towns

The Haunting of Julia 1977 aka Full Circle

*Jaime Mendoza-Nave

The Brotherhood of Satan 1971

*Fred Myrow

Soylent Green 1973

*Waldo De Los Rios

The House that Screamed 1969

*David Raksin

Force of Evil 1948

The Big Combo 1955

Night Tide 1961

The Bad and the Beautiful 1952

*George Duning 

Picnic 1955

The Devil at 4 O’Clock 1961

*Ernest Gold

Ship of Fools 1965

*Maurice Jarre

Ash Wednesday 1973

Les yeux sans visage (1960)

*Alex North

A Streetcar Named Desire 1951

Hard Contract 1969

Shanks 1974 (courtesy of Goregirlsdungeon)

Spartacus 1960 love theme

The Children’s Hour 1961

*David Shire

Norma Rae 1979 “It goes like it goes”

The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1974)

The Conversation 1974

*Quincy Jones

The Getaway 1972

*Michael Small

Klute 1971

The Stepford Wives 1975

Audrey Rose 1977

*Lalo Schifrin

The Fox 1967

Cool Hand Luke 1967

Prime Cut 1972

Bullitt 1968

*Ennio Morricone

The Sicilian Clan 1969

courtesy of Soundtrack of the Mind

Violent City 1970

*Kenyon Hopkins

12 Angy Men (1957)

*Ron Grainer

The Omega Man 1971

*John Carpenter

Escape from New York 1981

*Trevor Jones

courtesy of Soundtrack of the Mind

Labyrinth 1986

This is your EverLovin’ Joey sayin’ all the beautiful little things between – will always stay the same here at The Last Drive In!

 

Thank You For Being a Friend: Saying Goodbye to Betty White – Dec 31, 2021

A legacy of comedic brilliance!

There are times when my heart is heavy and the only thing in this world that I can process with ease, is an episode of The Golden Girls. There are no words that can sum up Betty White’s legacy, a comedic giant who wasn’t afraid to just let it rip, a compassionate animal rights activist, and a national icon who wound up becoming one of the most beloved figures. She is purely golden. I’ll let Betty White’s genius speak for itself.

Actress Betty White poses for a photograph in Los Angeles, California May 26, 2010. REUTERS/Gus Ruelas (UNITED STATES – Tags: ENTERTAINMENT)

clip-‘The Triangle’ Season One episode 5

clip ‘The Competition’ Season One episode 7

clip ‘Flu Attack’ Season One episode 21

clip ‘It’s a miserable life’ Season 2 episode 4

clip ‘The Sisters’ Season 2 episode 12

clip ‘And then there was one’ Season 2 episode 16

Tribute to Rose Nyland!

THIS IS YOUR EVERLOVIN’ JOEY SAYIN’ WE ALL LOVE YOU BETTY. THANK YOU FOR BEING OUR FRIEND!

 

To Sidney, With Love-Saddened by the loss of Legendary actor Sidney Poitier

Sidney Poitier-elegant, profoundly influential and trailblazing actor and filmmaker Sir Sidney Poitier has passed away at the age of 94.

NEW YORK TIMES TRIBUTE

I think I’ve been in love with Sidney Poitier since I saw him in To Sir, With Love. He won me over like his awe-struck students, with his beautiful gentle manner. After that I was drawn in by his keen ability to portray a depth of character in all of his roles. He’s got a way about him, a kind of magnetic pull. Maybe it’s his bright smile with a light that shines within. Maybe it’s the intensity he brings to the screen, because he does not go half way with his emotional fortitude. Sidney Poitier is a legend because he mastered the utterance of genuine skill with a singular essence of dignity, composure and grace.

“I felt very much as if I were representing 15, 18 million people with every move I made”

Sidney will be remembered for his riviting performance in the tense, racially charged No Way Out 1950, in the film noir Edge of the City 1957 and combustible dramas The Defiant Ones 1958 and Pressure Point 1962 not to mention his portrayal of Gordon Ralfe in the heartwrenching A Patch of Blue 1965.

Poitier was the first Black actor to win the Academy Award for Best Actor in 1964 for his performance in ‘Lilies of the Field.’ He gave one hell of a startling performance as Virgil Tibbs In 1967’s In the Heat of the Night and as Mark Thackeray in To Sir, With Love 1967.

To Sidney, With Love, Joey

A Trailer a Day Keeps the Boogeyman Away! Robert Quarry-“I’m hard to scare”

For this upcoming Halloween, I thought I’d pay the Boogeyman off with a few fearful trailers! I put together a little theme here at The Last Drive In – and I thought to myself… how ’bout offering up several off-beat & groovy horror flicks from the 1970s featuring that smooth & sinister villain – cult horror star!-Robert Quarry, the enigmatic dark anti-hero of horror, suave yet not overtly theatrical. He’s got a sublime sex appeal with the underlying trance like magnetism of a viper – mysterious, charistmatic and dangerous. He even attained his villainous status to go head to head with Vincent Price as Darrus Biederbeck, his nemisis in Dr. Phibes Rises Again 1972 and in Sugar Hill 1974 he plays another predatory bastard – Morgan who needs to get his arrogant ass whooped by the entrancing Marki Bey as Diana ‘Sugar’ Hill.

It’s his aesthetic that works so perfectly in the cult horror genre. And I believe that the sophistication and malignant evil of his Count Yorga is perhaps one of THE most exquisitely predatory vampires in the history of terror on screen! Quarry’s vision of his style of vampirism, was to move away from the conception of what we experienced watching Bela Lugosi or Christopher Lee’s Dracula. Not to downplay the significance of those two great performances. He wanted to give Yorga ‘a kind of reality and play him straight.’ (Robert Quarry in an interview)

Narrator: (George Macready) A vampire, in ancient belief, was a malignant spirit who when the earth lost its sunlight rose nightly from its dark grave to suck blood from the throats of the living. Its powers were many. It could see in the dark, which was no small ability in a world half-veiled from light. Its hypnotic skills baffled the domain of science. It was of a cunning more than mortal, for its cunning was a growth of ages, since it could not die by the mere passing of time. It had to have been by a wooden stake driven deep into its heart, or exposure to the rays of the sun, which would instantly decompose its body into a miasma of putrid decay. The believers of this superstition referred to vampires as the living dead. I seem to be making use of the past tense. Perhaps the present would be more precise, for it stands to reason that if one is superstitious, even on a small, seemingly insignificant level, one must be vulnerable to all superstitions, conceivably even those of vampires. Superstition? (laughs maniacally)

COUNT YORGA, VAMPIRE 1970

Dashing, Dark and Deadly-MISTRESSES of the DEATHMASTER – sharing his hunger for human flesh, his thirst for human blood, his evil lusts that even Hell cannot fulfill!

“… the special appeal of Count Yorga, Vampire may well be its Los Angeles locale… Count Yorga’s ambience is pure Hollywood and the seamy elegance of Robert Quarry’s performance… exactly compliments {sic} that ambience. Bob Kelljan’s direction, often resourceful, does especially well by Quarry’s disdainful civility… “ – Roger Greenspun, New York Times, November 12, 1970.

Count Yorga, Vampire is a moody 70s dive into terror, amidst a sense of mounting dread, squalor, claustrophobic panic and Robert Quarry’s conjuration of arrogance and menace, with an opening seasoned with campy irony and provocative narration by character actor George Macready! At the time of it’s release, because Yorga is a departure from Victorian or 1930’s settings, the film can be considered a move forward, bringing the vampire lore into modern times, that started a new trend. Though not showcasing modernity with the wheels of progress spinning as with films like The Hunger 1983 or The Lost Boys 1987, Count Yorga possesses a somewhat reformist aura and the hints of Gothic fairytale meeting up with a contemporary feel that makes for a very  inventive atmosphere. Though Quarry’s vampire still wears a cape, his Machiavellian hostility oozes from underneath his blood red velvet smoking jacket. It is this remnant of actors sinking their teeth into the role of Dracula or in this case another descendant of European vampiric royalty transported to contemporary California – that gives Quarry’s attempted tribute a bit of a twist, yet deliciously cliché.

I was so lucky to have seen Count Yorga, Vampire during it’s theatrical release in 1970. I hadn’t experienced anything like it before having grown up being transfixed by Bela’s swarthy, sensual, old world vampire, and Christopher Lee’s terror inspiring, blood red eyed Count. With Yorga, he evokes a level of disquiet in me from watching a slew of campy yet shockingly gruesome scenes in the film. There’s a languidness, an eerie dread, a modern Gothic sensibility that washes over films like Yorga, overcast with a hazy lens of 70s colors and an uncanny pacing that is indicative of many of the decade’s horror films. Consider Let’s Scare Jessica to Death 1971 – and any attempt at contemporary homage to that grand decade of experimental horror, will always lack that organic moody vibe that is persistent in 70s classic cult horror. To me it all seems to appear – a forgery.

Directed by Bob Kelljan  Yorga co-stars Roger Perry, Michael Murphy, Michael Mcready (George’s son), Donna Anders as Donna, Judy Lang as Erica, Edward Walsh as the brutish Brudah, Marsha Jordan as Donna’s mother (reigning queen of softcore cinema in the 1960s), Julie Conners, Paul Hansen as Peter and Sybil Scotford as Judy.

The film takes place in contemporary Los Angeles where vintage hipsters assemble a groovy séance in order to contact Donna’s (Donna Anders) mother, who has recently passed away. The medium who has been chosen to lead the ceremony is the enigmatic Count Yorga, who claims to have been her mother’s lover. Oddly, Yorga talked Donna out of cremation. He is in fact a modern day vampire who also has the power of telepathy and hypnosis. After the séance, Erica (Judy Lang) and Paul (Michael Murphy) take Yorga back to his creepy isolated mansion, and must camp out in the surrounding woods when their van gets stuck in a convenient mound of mud. After the couple indulge in some 70s VW van nookie, Yorga lurks, then attacks to the backdrop of cricket’s eerie night song and a lake of murky dark. He beats Paul unconscious and bites Donna, putting her under his control.

The next day, Paul notices the strange puncture wounds on Erica’s neck and takes her to see his friend, a blood specialist, Dr. Hayes (Roger Perry), who discovers that the pale as chalk Erica has been drained of blood and is now suffering from pernicious anemia. After they find Erica drinking the blood from her WARNING: – kitten- Paul is skeptical about the existence of a modern day blood sucker, but Hayes suspects that she is the victim of a vampire attack. That evening, Yorga summons Erica and offers her eternal life, taking her back to his secluded castle where his other brides await. She is transformed into a lustful creature, ghostly, predatory, under Yorga’s masterful spell and hungry for blood.

Paul, Donna, her boyfriend Michael and Dr. Hayes show up at the castle looking for Erica. Her boyfriend Paul who had arrived earlier and has been killed by his servant Brudeh.

There begins a restless game of cat and mouse as Dr. Hayes insinuates himself in Yorga’s castle, and tries to talk Yorga into dawn, working his way up to the question, does he believe in vampires? Vampires are real and more superior than humans, he smugly informs Hayes. Onto Haye’s game, Yorga manages to evade the daylight, so he and Michael plan on coming back the next night kill him. Donna, under Yorga’s hypnotic domination, exercising his influence on others, is summoned to the castle. Hayes and Pete (Paul Hansen) must somehow fight off the grotesque servant, Brudah, Yorga’s thirsty brides (Donna’s mother being one of them), who dwell in the castle like deathly Hammer nymphs, and must somehow save Donna and ultimately destroy Yorga.

Quarry would go on to reprise his role in 1971 with The Return of Count Yorga.

THE RETURN OF COUNT YORGA 1971

The overlord of the damned… The last of the vampires walks again among us… and Evil will have its bloodiest hour! 

American International Pictures brought back Yorga using the original crew, a script by Yvonne Wilder, directed by Kelljan and a bigger budget. The film also stars Mariette Hartley as the heroine, Cynthia Nelson, who will become the object of Yorga’s desire. There’s a looming sense of expressionist disharmony. It opens with a sequence in a graveyard, in almost Jean Rollin fashion, where buried vampire brides break through the ground while young Phillip Frame (as creepy Tommy from the neighboring Orphanage), plays with his ball, and winds up coming face to face with Count Yorga. Once again Yorga uses his powers of hypnosis to get his victims to do his bidding, and the film does suggest that Tommy has himself become a fiend.

The undead vamps slaughter a family at a fancy dress party in suburbia. Yorga, wipes the memory of the surviving members who were attacked. Tommy has an evil little ghostly angel face, and he lies about what happened to the family who were murdered, as well as helps Yorga ensnare his victims and he too commits murder, when he stabs Jennifer to death. Jennifer (Yvonne Wilder) is mute and somehow resistant to Yorga’s influence. She’s the only one who knows what happened the night of the attack, but no one believes her.

Once again, Count Yorga waves his powers of hypnosis over Cynthia, who also survives the attack, and eventually pieces from that night start coming back to her. The overlord of the damned decides that he is in love with Cynthia and wants her to share an eternity with him, though he wants her to come willingly. She comes to stay with him at Gateway Mansion, where David (Roger Perry) fights for her eternal soul.

Perry is back once again as a doctor, this time Dr. David Baldwin, her fiancé, and George Macready makes an actual appearance as Professor Rightstat. The Return of Count Yorga also co-stars Michael Pataki and Walter Brooke.

Incidentally, George Macready is the producers father, which explains the actors involvement in both films, though Macready is not a stranger to being cast in eerie narratives. He gave a feverish performance in Boris Karloff’s anthology series, Thriller episode The Weird Tailor, (written by Robert Bloch) where he will stop at nothing, even black magic, to bring his son back to life.

THE DEATHMASTER 1972

Eyes Like Hot Coals…Fangs Like Razors! Khorda the Deathmaster Has Left His Tomb!

Directed by Ray Danton (actor I’ll Cry Tomorrow 1955, The Longest Day 1962-directed the very freaky Psychic Killer 1975) Screenplay by R L Grove, music by Bill Marx who also worked on Scream Blacula Scream 1973. The Deathmaster resurrects Robert Quarry’s synergy of sophistication and menace, this time as Korda, a long haired vampire who washes up on a Southern California beach in his coffin, and is met by a flute playing spaced out hippie, that serenades his arrival, then proceeds to drag his master along the sand on his back. Only after he has strangled a surfer who has made the mistake of looking inside the coffin. The opening feels like an exploration into the bohemian netherworld, somehow inverted into a modern dance of the macabre. Marx’s opening score, using bell trees, clarinets and harpiscord are truly a moody piece of work.

Korda proceeds to play a Guru surrounded by hippies, sans cape this time, instead trading in his smoking jacket for a Nehru or ruffled poet shirt and beads and a talisman around his neck and leather sandals and sardonic goatee. The Deathmaster is a trippy low-budget dive into the craze for spiritual growth and metaphysical discourse, with Korda spouting philosphical meanderings that Quarry in fact improvised. After fusing together a Manson type cult, they all become lambs to the slaughter. Korda radiates his connection to immortality which gives him a godlike aura he uses to mesmerize this 1970s generation that are renegade seekers of truth and transcendence, and free will and free love. The only one who rebels against the master, is Pico who sees him as a false prophet. Pico’s girlfriend, Rona becomes Korda’s object of desire.

Deathmaster also features John Fiedler as poncho wearing Pop, Bill Ewing as Pico and and Brenda Dixon as Rona-who appeared in 165 episodes of the popular soap opera- The Young and The Restless.

FUN FACT:

A production still reveals that the picture was filmed in December 1970 under the shooting title “Guru Vampire.”

The critic Robert Ebert claims that the Santa Monica beach used at the start of the movie is the exact same location used by Corman’s “Attack of the Crab Monsters”.

Quarry wears the same set of prop vampire fangs in this as he did in both Count Yorga movies. They were specially made and fitted by his dentist.

This is your EverLovin’ Joey sayin’ keep your homemade stakes wittled out of broom handles, ready in case Robert Quarry’s lurking round your VW van… don’t you wish you had one! I do…

🚀 Keep Watching the Skies! Science Fiction Cinema of the 1950s: The Year is 1956 — Part Two

CapturFiles_7

TO SEE 1956 PART ONE – HERE!


A MASTERPIECE OF SCIENCE FICTION OPERA, FREUD’S id AND SHAKESPEARE’S THE TEMPEST – IN SPACE.

Forbidden Planet

Earthmen on a fabulous, peril-journey into outer space!

🚀

A month after Invasion of the Body Snatchers was released, 12 years before the studio wowed audiences with it’s mesmerizing, complex production of 2001: A Space Odyssey, MGM released their spectacular, colorful, big budget science fiction space Opera – Forbidden Planet. Replacing the threat of an alien intruder seeking to take over our minds, the enemy WAS our mind and it’s potential to manifest a subconscious monster- a cartoon animated monster from the id. Perhaps a variation of Stevenson’s horror of duality, Jekyll and Hyde set in a futuristic milieu – on another planet.

Recognizing this theme, Walter Pidgeon’s character Morbius emphasizes the duality that exists within his nature. Behind the facade of the rational mind prowls the primitive instincts and desires, now incarnate right from it’s source – Freud’s id. Morbius is in denial that he has in fact manifested the monster himself. It’s an allegory of insatiable ego, internal agony and torment and perhaps incestuous jealousy. A collection of his suppressed rage hidden behind the outwardly rational scientific mind.

Shakespeare informs Prospero  – “this thing of darkness I acknowledge mine.”  Morbius is the true villain in Forbidden Planet, embodied by a power, intensified a thousand percent from the ancient science of the exinct Krell, who brought into existence their nightmares, ultimately proving to be the end of them.

Forbidden Planet has been the benchmark of the science fiction genre for years by it’s sheer scope of its production values. MGM was the studio that had painted for us, an unforgettable daydream – The Wizard of Oz in 1939. Director John Landis referred to the studio as making pictures with ‘gloss’ and Forbidden Planet was their feature science fiction film trading in Singing in the Rain for robots and ray guns. John Carpenter says that in terms of traditional science fiction ‘formulas’ this film ‘broke it’ Carpenter also attributes Forbidden Planet to his wanting to become a director.

And John Dykstra who did the FX on Star Wars comments – “It was a serious attempt to represent a completely unique world… it’s gotta be a world that nobody knows and at the same time everyone recognizes as being alien.”

Forbiden Planet is an allegory of technological power and mortal arrogance.

After years from its initial release Forbidden Planet finally reached its cult following, and is considered the Star Wars of the 1950s with its flamboyant color scheme, Wide Screen presentation, indelible visual effects and endearingly kitsch touches. Only one other dazzling post-war science fiction space Opera of the 1950s comes to mind -Joseph M. Newman and an uncredited Jack Arnold’s This Island Earth 1955  nears Forbidden Planet’s exhilarating yet a bit tacky tone.

Historian Carlos Clarens has remarked that Forbidden Planet is “a rare flight of fancy by the earthbound MGM – it resuscitates the classical elements of the horror movie, with ultra modern decor.”

Seth Lerer from his article Forbidden Planet and the Terrors of Philology -called it Esteemed science fiction film, a blend of high cultural allusion and high camp effects.”

Forbidden Planet has the feel of a fantastical pulp tale straight out of Amazing Stories, Astounding or Fantastic Adventures Magazine. The film showcases all the great elements of a classic science fiction story. Advanced technology, space travel, furturistic tidbits like forcefields, lightning inspired laser beams, brain boosting machines, transport beams, subtarranean worlds,  – rayguns, the vast planetary energy wells, likeable robots and a terror inspiring monster that lurks and tears it’s victims limb from limb. It’s interesting to note, we see Earthmen traveling in a typified flying saucer of 1950s alien flicks instead the traditional phallic shaped rocket.

Aside from ‘The sensuousness of the color’ (Carlos Clarens An Illustrated History of the Horror Film and Science Fiction)–or the sensorial experience brought about by the lush colors, my heart used to pump and pound (and still does), when as a kid I’d await the scene where the fiery id materializes. It emerges menacing, startling, causing a delighful jolt of fear and I was thrilled to see It’s sparking outline ambushed in the force field. This iconic scene is one of the contributing joys that gave me an appetite for classical science fiction, fantasy and horror in my childhood.

Forbidden Planet was directed by Fred McLeod Wilcox with a screenplay by Cyril Hume who adapted his script from an original story by Allen Adler & Irving Block. So much has been written on how they presumably modeled the film after the fatalistic comic allegory – William Shakespeare’s The Tempest. (uncredited).

Continue reading “🚀 Keep Watching the Skies! Science Fiction Cinema of the 1950s: The Year is 1956 — Part Two”

Ladies in Retirement (1941) Though this be madness

I am so thrilled to be joining CMBA’s Hidden Classics Blogathon! There are many great contributions this year–  so many unsung gems for the offering! Thank you CMBA for allowing me to share this little obscure suspense yarn with all of you!

The Great Broadway Melodrama Comes to Flaming Life on the Screen!

Ladies in Retirement, with its play-bound vibe and all it’s macabre thought-processes, is directed by Charles Vidor  who did not shy away from films that manifested a gutsy imagination. Vidor is known for films that bordered on the edge of their genres, such as the 1930s horror classic The Mask of Fu Manchu 1932, the sinister obscurity Double Door 1934, and the symbol of unforgettable film noirs like the tension filled Blind Alley 1939 and the seductively arousing  Gilda 1946.

While it’s been referred to as film noir, I believe it meets the criteria of the 1940s suspense genre with a trace of — I don’t know — ‘Gothic melodrama noir’ for it’s use of light and shadow and familiar noir tropes like the focus on class, scandal (Fiske was a courtesan, Albert -thief and blackmailer, Ellen -murderess, Emily-dangerously unstable), and of course by the end fate steps in. In addition, there’s use of noir iconography, with its visual interest in staircases.

It’s also an old-fashioned horror story– not vampires or ghouls– but the haunting feeling you’d get from fog filled marshes off the Thames River, the tinny sound of a not quite tuned piano, a body behind the wall, or the disorder of insanity vs a murder of desperation and opportunity. Where as with all of Val Lewton’s startling contributions, the “unspoken and the unseen were the true sources of dread.” (Judith Crist)

The lighting particularly accents the player’s expressions as they emerge from the dark edges around their form, with merely an aureole on their face or eyes– like a lit mask. This is truly effective in bringing out the intense concentration of Ida Lupino’s beautiful eyes and Ellen’s inner turmoil. The angles in the set up of the interior are odd and sharp, once again the source of light, Lupino’s face lit from underneath used to provoke the contrast between black and a deathly pale white.

Columbia Pictures studio purchased the rights to Denham and Percy’s story with Rosiland Russell in mind for the starring role as Ellen Creed. Russell was featured as the lead Olivia Grayne in another psychological thriller Night Must Fall in 1937. But, Ida Lupino, as always, was worthy of the role and had a remarkably innate grasp of a woman torn by her strong sense of preservation. She was also married to Louis Hayward at the time of filming.

Lux Radio Theater broadcast a 60-minute radio adaptation of the movie on September 27, 1943 with Ida Lupino reprising her film role. According to contemporary articles in The Hollywood Reporter, Lillian GIsh Judith Anderson, Pauline Lord, Laurette Taylor and Helen Chandler were all considered for roles as one of the demented Creed sisters. 

Though the film is stage-bound, it preserves the feel of the original play, and has a visual moodiness thanks to distinguished and skillful cinematographer George Barnes (Footlight Parade 1933, Marked Woman 1937, Rebecca 1940, Meet John Doe, Jane Eyre 1943, Spellbound 1945, Force of Evil 1948,The File on Thelma Jordan 1949, The War of the Worlds 1953). Barnes started as a still photographer which explains the aesthetic of framing scenes like an arrangement of still lifes. He was nominated 7 times, one for his work on Ladies in Retirement, with over 200 films to his credit, he was a hard working cinematographer from 1935- 1949. 

Responsible for the art direction and interior design that won him an Academy Award is Lionel Banks (The Awful Truth 1937, Holiday 1938, Golden Boy 1939, His Gal Friday 1940, The Boogie Man Will Get You 1942, The Soul of a Monster 1944, Cry of the Werewolf 1944. He designed the South American set for Only Angels Have Wings 1939, and conjured up the turn of the century for the fantasy Here Comes Mr. Jordan 1941 and again for Charles Vidor’s lavish A Song to Remember 1945. Banks added to the stage play atmosphere of the film with it’s collection of sparce surreal, gnarled trees that look fake, fog shrouded heaths, and a heaviness to the interior as a suffocatingly enclosed space. The entire exterior scenes have a look of unreality, the outside appears like a murky dream-scape with painted clouds floating in a painted sky, where there is no departure.

Filmed mostly as a set piece in the parlor of a slowly waning old house on the marshes of the Thames Estuary some ten miles to the east of Gravesend, in 1885. The shots are set up with odd angles and the shadows create a sense of confined spaces with unseen rooms and staircases that go nowhere. Barnes and Banks even made a low stone wall of the cottage, seem to constrain the borderline of the house. 

The actors are positioned as the primary focus on the screen back dropped by the scenery that hints only at the suggestion of dank marshes, melancholy trees and craggy rocks surrounding the house. Much of the set pieces remind me strongly of an episode of Boris Karloff’s anthology series THRILLER, titled ‘THE LAST OF THE SOMMERVILLES’ released in 1961. Elements that are similar are the exterior shots that seem unreal, depicting an  obscuring fog with fake trees and pale grays, with the interiors also as closed in spaces of an antiquated house owned by an equally flitty old dowager (Martita Hunt) like Leonora, who preens and is prone to theatrics. She is taken care of by her dutiful companion played by Phyllis Thaxter who plans to murder the old gal. This perfectly macabre installment of the series happened to be directed by Ida Lupino! Perhaps she drew her inspiration from Ladies in Retirement. The art direction for that episode is done by Howard E Johnson, set by Julia Heron and John McCarthy Jr.

Martita Hunt and Phyllis Thaxter in The Last of the Summervilles 1961

Ladies in Retirement flourishes from it’s tense and stodgy narrative more than the dark humor that Denham could have chosen. Unlike the brisk screwball comedy of Arsenic and Old Lace 1943, by director Frank Capra and screenwriter Julius Epstein which was also based on a play by Joseph Kesserling. That play inspired Denham and Percy to write their own story about a pair of eccentric older women.

The stage play in 1939 went on to receive rave reviews with 151 performances at the Henry Miller’s Theatre. The story was written by Reginald Denham who spent the main part of his career directing Broadway theater, and Edward Percy. The play starred Flora Robson in the role as Ellen. Director Bernard Girard’s psycho-sexual and often grotesque The Mad Room 1969 is a modern re-working of Denham and Percy’s play. The film stars Shelley Winters, Stella Stevens with Michael Burns and Barbara Sammeth replacing the mentally ill Creed sisters. Denham also wrote the screenplay for the 1969 movie. He penned 2 episodes of Lux Video Theatre, ‘Help Wanted’ episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents 1956, 4 episodes of Suspense 1949-1950-‘Help Wanted’, ‘The Suicide Club’, ‘Murder Through the Looking Glass’, and ‘Dead Ernest.’ Denham also directed films from 1934-1940.

Continue reading “Ladies in Retirement (1941) Though this be madness”

Secret Beyond the Door (1947) Freud, Lang, the Dream State, and Repressed Poison

SECRET BEYOND THE DOOR (1947)

“Most people are asleep.”

“Wind was there and space and sun and storm… everything’s beyond the door.”

Fritz Lang’s psychological film noir, Secret Beyond the Door (1947) is suggestive of a dream state, from which the characters never quite emerge. The film draws blurry lines between what is latent and obvious desire. The doors are symbolic of the compartmental anxieties within the dark recesses of the mind. Secret Beyond the Door is steeped in metaphor, sunless and surreal, and an evocative score by Miklós Rózsa. Cinematography is by Stanley Cortez, who is responsible for another dream like milieu in Night of the Hunter (1955). It was Joan Bennett, who insisted on using Cortez as cinematographer.

The film co-stars marvelous character actor  Anne Revere  as Mark’s sister Caroline, Barbara O’Neil, Natalie Schafer, and Paul Cavanagh.

Bosley Crowther, “… Lang is still a director who knows how to turn the obvious, such as locked doors and silent chambers and roving spotlights, into strangely tingling stuff… For all its psycho-nonsense, this film is mildly creepy.”

The screenplay by Sylvia Richardson is based on Rufus King’s novel Museum Piece No. Thirteen, and also appeared in the December 1945 issue of Red Book.

Long ago I read a book that told the meaning of dreams. It said that if a girl dreams of a boat or a ship she will reach a safe harbor, but if she dreams of daffodils she is in great danger. But this is no time for me to think of danger. This is my wedding day. –Celia Lamphere

The film opens with a voice-over by Joan Bennett. Celia Lamphere, (Bennett) journeys through her surreal and sleepy addiction to her new husband, architect Mark Lamphere (Michael Redgrave). Celia’s obsessed with the suspicion that Mark is hiding hideous secrets, she plans to succumb to his murderous compulsions. But Mark is not the only one with creeping psychosis. Celia herself is driven by a troubled, neurotic psyche that initially drew her to his enigmatic nature.

Celia wanders through a corridor literally and metaphorically, first in a reverie and then a shadowy nightmare. She first meets Mark on a trip to Mexico when she is mesmerized by the power of passion which can drive two men to fight each other to the death for a woman (Donna Martell). “How proud that woman must be to cause death in the streets.” She realizes that Mark is watching her excitement in this, his eyes like fingers. At that moment, Celia has a taste for danger. Like Mark, the thrill of death represents a strong aphrodisiac for her.

Celia: Suddenly I felt that someone was watching me. There was a tingling at the nape of my neck as though the air had turned cool. I felt eyes touching me like fingers. There was a current flowing between us… warm and sweet… and frightening, too, because he saw behind my make-up what no-one had ever seen. Something I didn’t know was there.

Throughout the film Celia strays from reality and finds herself adrift within a conscious flowing daydream. Her voice-over shows she is controlled by the intense beating of her heart. She relates the feeling to drowning “When you are drowning, your whole life flashes before your eyes.”

British actor Michael Redgrave made his U.S. film debut as Mark. Initially Lang wanted James Mason in the lead role. Mark turns dark and brooding soon after he marries his new bride. He has been married before and his first wife has died under curious circumstances. Also part of the plot is his serious young son David — who blames him for his mother’s death.

There is also, his strangely loyal secretary Miss Robey (Barbara O’Neil) who wears a scarf over one side of her face having been disfigured In a fire. One thinks of Rebecca later on. The film co-stars character actor Anne Revere as Mark’s sister Caroline.

Celia: I heard his voice and then I didn’t hear it anymore, because the beating of my blood was louder. This was what I’d hunted those foolish years in New York. I knew before I knew his name or touched his hand and for an endless moment, I seemed to float like a feather blown to a place where time had stopped.

Mark: You were living that fight. You soaked it all in – love, hate, the passion. You’ve been starved for feelings – any real feelings. I thought: 20th Century Sleeping Beauty. Wealthy American girl who has lived her life wrapped in cotton wool but she wants to wake up. Maybe she can. 
Celia: Is it as hard as all that? 
Mark: Most people are asleep. 

Mark shows all the telltales signs that he is delusional, having a preoccupation with several murder rooms and one locked door #7 in his estate. He’s filled with macabre declarations, “I have a hobby collecting ‘felicitous’ rooms”, (Celia mistaking the word for happy, not ‘apt’ for murder) “the way a place is built determines what happens in it”, “certain rooms cause violence even murders.”

Mark Lamphere takes his guests on a tour of his murder rooms.

“As an architect Mark Lamphere gives particular credence to the influence of space and human lives. He repeatedly uses the word “felicitous” to describe his theory that elements of particular space make certain human actions possible. And therefor ‘apt’ for that locale.” — The Dark Mirror Psychiatry and Film Noir by Marlisa Santos

Redgrave understands how to walk that fine line between innate intensity and male hysteria — one just needs to see his performance as Maxwell Frere in Dead of Night’s (1945) segment The Ventriloquist’s Dummy, where he wrestles with his ‘dummy partner’ Hugo.

Mark is fascinated by the connection between the action of murder and the significance of his locked rooms as psychological theatre. The film utilizes production design by Max Parker (Chandu, the Magician 1932, Arsenic and Old Lace 1944) who creates a dreamworld of disruptive psychosis. It’s within this fairytale steeped in misogyny that Redgrave wants to act out his fantasist murderous impulses. Secret Beyond the Door is a retelling of Bluebeard, the archetype of the serial killer who desires to annihilate women who dominate him. We see a hint of Mark’s roiling demons when he takes a group of party guests on a tour of his rooms as curios — original replicas of historic murders. One of his guests, a psychology major, associates the murder of a wife or lover to “unconscious hatred for the mother.”

Celia confronts Mark, “It was the way you immersed yourself in those stories you were almost happy about their deaths.”

“Probably the most overt Freudian depiction of noir psychosis is found in Secret Beyond the Door, a film that features various re-castings of fairy tale patterns bound up with the psychoanalytic interpretations of childhood trauma and sexual relationships. From the start, the film makes no artistic attempt to submerge its psychoanalysis frame […] all of Celia’s fears and desires are open for scrutiny from the time that she first encounters Mark.” — The Dark Mirror Psychiatry and Film Noir by Marlisa Santos

She takes a subconscious journey both surreal and substantive as she navigates her new relationship with Mark and her awakened death wish.

During their honeymoon Celia unleashes Mark’s sinister urges when she locks the door to their room. This catalyst brings his childhood trauma to the surface. As a young boy he perceived a painful transgression by his mother. His recollection of this seemingly insignificant incident turned into hatred of all women, that has carried throughout his life. These machinations bring him to homicidal delusion. His memories are locked away just as his morbid rooms are show pieces.

Celia embraces her husband’s impulses, setting herself up within the replica frozen in time of the death room #7 meant for her. But she desires to unlock Mark’s subconscious as well as his locked room.

Celia- “This is my room, waiting for me”

She waits with lilacs, waiting to trespass on the madness that has led him to this dark place. The link between love and death becomes interwoven as Celia prepares to sacrifice herself to Mark if she cannot save him from his tortured sickness. Kelly Oliver and Benigno Trigo cover Freud’s fascination with Eros/Thanatos in in their analysis of Secret Beyond the Door, drawing this connection between love and death. Which “according to the film’s logic, death is love’s uncanny double.” 

“Inasmuch as closed space can be interpreted as ‘cave’, ‘the grave’, a house, woman… entry into it is interpreted on various levels as ‘death’, ‘conception’ ‘return home’ and so on: moreover all these acts are thought of as mutually identical”.-Teresa de Lauretis

Mark’s voice-overs wrestle with the urge to strangle Celia if left alone with her. He imagines what he will say when asked if the murder was premeditated. Redgrave is framed within the scene by the prominent energy of his twisting a scarf as if he is preparing to strangle Celia. Holding the scarf, the murder weapon from Don Ignacio’s room, his voice-over gives us the sense of the film’s prowling subconsciousness.The darker counterpart to Celia’s dream-like twists and turns.

Mark: There’s something in your face that I saw once before in South Dakota. Wheat country. Cyclone weather. Just before the cyclone, the air has a stillness. A flat, gold, shimmering stillness. You have it in your face – the same hush before the storm and when you smile it’s like the first breath of wind bending down the wheat. I know that behind that smile is a turbulence that… 

Mark’s Freudian Oedipal struggle with hatred for his mother and all women with latent murderous desire is never quite explored as deeply as it could be in the film. In flashback we understand that he has been shut out of his mother’s affection in one scene. Though here, murder seems to be an expression of male exasperation, one wonders if this was consequential in creating such a conflicted and disturbed monster?

“The symbolism of shutting Freud’s psychological door is present yet after all the Freudian iconography, the basic motivation lies still in the darkness, with one door closed, leaving us outside the ‘Interior turmoil.’” (Marlisa Santos)

*From Women in Film Noir Edited by E. Ann Kaplan

“In the threatening family mansions of the gothic, or in The Haunting’s evil old Hill House, a door, a staircase, a mirror, a portrait are never simply what they appear to be, as an image from Fritz Lang’s paranoid woman’s film’ Secret Beyond the Door. The title sums up the enigma of many of these films in which the question about the husband’s motives becomes an investigation of the house (and of the secret of a woman who previously inhabited it.) 

Freud believed dreams were masks that disguised wish fulfillment. They are metaphorical inroads that point to our subconscious desires. And dreams— like folklore and images in art— are used as symbolism manifesting these unconscious emotional conflicts. Director Fritz Lang very often infused his films with an appetite for expressionist symbolism. With recurring iconography of doors and corridors, Secret Beyond the Door is perhaps one of his most pronounced visions of Freud’s The Interpretation of Dreams cloaked in the cinematic vogue of film noir.

Some Men Destroy What They Love Most!

This is your EverLovin’ Joey saying, there are no secrets between us, here at The Last Drive In! See ya soon!