HORROR MOVIE REVIEWS

10 Underrated Halloween Themed Horror Movies

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With Halloween just around the corner, cable channels are pumping out their annual Halloween themed programming.  However, for us die-hard horror fans, programming such as AMC’s Fear Fest has turne…

Source: 10 Underrated Halloween Themed Horror Movies

 

Saw this and had to reblog.  Compliments to the author of this post, Meagan Navarro from RARE  HORROR blog.

HALLOWEEN (1978)

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halloween_poster

October being the month in which we find Halloween, I thought it only appropriate that I post a review that honors that day, and what better movie to choose than the  movie that bears its name, John Carpenter’s HALLOWEEN.

Let me state up front that this movie surprised me, happily surprised me.  You see, I always thought that the slasher film as a genre, or as a sub-genre of horror, was cheap and exploitative, making it unworthy to be called horror and unworthy of watching, so I  stayed away from it and never watched it.  Also, I believed, and still do to this day, that even though it is never officially stated in any definition of the horror genre, horror is, or should be, rooted in the supernatural.  There should be some supernatural event within the movie, preferably in the beginning, for my taste, which makes the movie a horror movie.  Near the end of HALLOWEEN, hints are given that there’s a supernatural or otherworldly element to Michael Myers, in the fact that no matter how many times he’s stabbed and shot, he doesn’t stay dead.  Plus I’m not a fan of the current trend in horror today, that of the human monster, where the horror is a serial killer.  I’ve said this before, on Facebook, and I’ll say it again here, real terror and horror comes from being chased by something like a vampire or a demon; something that cannot be killed.  That problem is tricky to solve.  With a serial killer, just turn and shoot Dexter in the ass and problem solved. So it was when I began this blog that I decided to watch the movie, because I knew I had to make my blog all inclusive.  Whether I like it or not, the slasher sub-genre is a part of horror, and a popular part, and it cannot be ignored.  And as it turns out, I did like this movie; in fact, I found it to be quite good.

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The opening scene.  Michael Myers’ house, before the murder of his sister, Judith Myers.

 

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Michael Myers, age 6, after killing his sister, Judith.

Being totally honest, the plot of HALLOWEEN is nothing fancy, but it didn’t need to be; it just needed to be sufficiently compelling and scary and set the stage for the action scenes, i.e., the murders, to follow, which it did.  The opening scene of Michael’s sister’s murder, was, in my opinion, particularly well thought-out and done.  Seeing everything unfold through the eyes of the murderer, I think, was a smart piece of film-making and it is definitely a suspense builder, which played out through all of the daytime sequences, leading up to Halloween night and the murders.

Here are a few stills of Judith’s murder:

HALLOWEEN is fast paced (though for me, Halloween night could’ve been gotten to a tiny bit sooner), well written and well acted by a predominately young cast.  This is the movie that put newcomer Jamie Lee Curtis, daughter of Hollywood actor and, in my opinion, legend, Tony Curtis, on the map and made her a household name.

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Jamie Lee Curtis, from the movie, 1978.

 

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Jamie Lee Curtis, today.

 

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Father, Tony Curtis.

Others in the cast include:

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Donald Pleasence as Dr. Samuel Loomis

 

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P. J. Soles as Lynda

 

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Nancy Loomis (Kyes) as Annie Brackett

 

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Kyle Richards as Lindsey Wallace

 

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Brian Andrews as Tommy Doyle

 

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Nancy Stephens as Nurse Marion Chambers
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Sandy Johnson as Judith Myers

 

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John Michael Graham as Bob

 

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Charles Cyphers as Sheriff Leigh Brackett

and

 

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Nick Castle

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Tony Moran

 

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s Michael Myers

 

This movie was, of course, directed by John Carpenter, and a stellar job he did. HALLOWEEN changed the face of horror for decades, which the jury is still out on whether it’s a good thing or bad. Overall, in my mind, this definitely is a very good movie, worthy of a four monster rating, but it falls just shy of great.  John Carpenter not only directed this movie, but co-wrote the screenplay (with the producer, Debra Hill) and music, too.

Other movie credits include:

Cinematography by Dean Condey

Edited by Tommy Lee Wallace

Production Company: Compass International Pictures and Faction International Productions

Distributed by Compass International Pictures

HALLOWEEN was released on October 25, 1978 with an R-rating and ran 91 minutes.  Its budget was $300,000-325,000 and its box office take $70,000,000.

Beginning with this review, I am adding two new rating systems — battle axe for violence and blood droplets for gore.  Unlike the monster rating system, where five monsters means it’s a great movie, five droplets or battle axes means that the gore or violence is overdone or gratuitous.

If I were reviewing this movie in its day, I probably would have upped the battle axe and drop counts, but today, times and our entire culture have changed, and in light of that, I think this count fits.

Review by Paul Pappas

Question:

HALLOWEEN definitely changed the face of horror movie-making.  Was that a good change or a bad one?  Leave a comment and let me know your opinion.

Next up will definitely be my review of the first season of PENNY DREADFUL, which I put on the back burner in order to do this review in time for Halloween.

And coming soon, the debut of BOTTOMMLINE HORROR MOVIE REVIEWS’ sister blog, BOTTOMLINE SCIFI MOVIE REVIEWS, with a review of the 1968 classic, PLANET OF THE APES.

DARK SHADOWS

 

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When I watch a movie with the intention of reviewing it, I always hope that it  will be good, that there will be something that I can rave about and praise.  And when the movie is over and I sit down at my computer to write that review, I struggle and rack my brain to find just the right words to yield that praise, but alas, today I review Tim Burton’s DARK SHADOWS, so I sit at my computer and I do not need to struggle, because there are no words of praise for this movie.  There is no justification to rave over this movie, only to rant.  In fact, I don’t need to rack my brain at all to come up the words to best describe Tim Burrton’s DARK SHADOWS; the words, terrible, awful, putrid and abomination, come to mind with great ease and fluidity.

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Barnabas Collins, on the road, having just been set free from his coffin.

 

Having established that DARK SHADOWS is a bad movie, I would like to explore the question of “why” it was a bad movie.  There may be many reasons why this movie was the aforementioned, terrible, awful, putrid and abomination, but I am only going to focus on what I consider the main three:

  • Never should have been a comedy
  • Not funny
  • Wrong director

Right up front, this movie should never have been made into a comedy; that was a poor decision.  I would go even as far as to call it a stupid decision.  With some properties there is room to poke fun at them and go comedic, but in the case of DARK SHADOWS, there was no room.  Within its fan circles, for that time, ie, pre-making of the movie, or pre-Tim Burton and Johnny Depp, DARK SHADOWS had a considerably large fan base, ranging in the upper tens of thousands, if not the upper hundreds of thousands, but still, compared to a worldwide demographic it would be considered a low number, but still high enough that you want to nurture it and hopefully increase it.  You never want to irritate or alinate your pre-existing audience.  That’s exactly what Tim Burton and Johnny Depp did when they decided to make it a comedy; the fans  didn’t want a comedy.  They didn’t want the show they loved, mocked and ridiculed.  They had been wanting and hoping for a big screen adaptation for years and with the news that Johnny Depp obtained the copyrights they thought they had it, to their dismay, they were wrong.  Keep in mind as well, that the fact that this movie was a comedy, did  not come to light until shortly before its release.  In my case, I think I saw the trailer on youtube a day or two before it opened and I remember saying to myself, “They made it a comedy!”  And then I read the fan comments and they were all negative; a few people said, they wouldn’t go to see it.  But the most telling point, I think is that in every interview Johnny Depp gave on DARK SHADOWS, prior to its release, is that he never once said that it would be a comedy; in fact, he said words to the effect of; and bare in mind that these are not quotes, I am merely paraphrasing, Dark Shadows is iconic.  Jonathan Frid’s portrayal of Barnabas Collins was flawless.  We will remain true to the original.  Again, not quotes, but that essentially is what Depp said.  Well, Dark Shadows is iconic; he was right, there.  And when something is iconic, you don’t tamper with it, you keep it the same, or as near as possible.  There’s always some changes made when remaking a movie, otherwise there would be no point in remaking it, just reshow the same movie.  And in spite of the many on air flubs, done by the whole cast, and not just Frid, Jonathan Frid’s portrayal was flawless; here Depp was right, again.  And when a portrayal is flawless, you honor it and you respect it, you don’t mock it.  And the words remain true usually means, to keep the same.  Well, pretty much the only thing that was kept the same between the 1960’s TV series and the 2012 movie was Barnabas Collins’ hairline.

Secondly, deciding to go the comedic route with DARK SHADOWS was a risky decision, at best; and in my personal opinion, as a fan of DARK SHADOWS, and my professional opinion, as an unpublished writer of horror fiction, a bad decision, but once made, they had to make sure it was a damn good comedy.  It wasn’t funny.  It was a one joke movie, and it wasn’t even a good joke.  I’m two hundred year old, I’m dead and I’m hiding it very poorly, and somehow no one knows it.  The only joke I found slightly humorous was when Barnabas said, referring to Alice Cooper, “That’s the ugliest woman I ever saw.”  The biggest sin a comic, or in this case, a comedy movie, can commit is to not be funny.  DARK SHADOWS, under the guidance of Tim Burton and Johnny Depp, was not funny.  A major reason for the lack of humor was the lack of a good script.  The witch, Angelique, becomes a fishing mogul, ruining the  Collins family fishing business, and upon his release from his coffin, Barnabas vows to ruin her and restore the family business.  From what I read at the time, it took months, maybe even a year, if not longer, before they felt they had the right script; they fired one writer in the process, I seem to remember hearing.  That was the right script?  Not in this reviewer’s opinion.  The plot was juvenile, inane and just plain pointless.

Lastly, the aforementioned two reasons for the movie’s failure gives testimony to, and, I think, concretely support the third reason, which is that Tim Burton was the wrong director.

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Tim Burton, seen here talking a scene over with Johnny Depp.

 

It is the director who decides what direction the movie should go in, ie, straight horror or comedy.  True, Johnny Depp and Burton probably discussed it first and maybe it was a joint decision, with both parties agreeing, but ultimately it is the director who makes the final decision.  The decision being made to make DARK SHADOWS a comedy, which was also the decision to cast aside the legions of DARK SHADOWS fans, and show blatant disrespect to Dan Curtis, the show’s creator, it needs to be the best damn comedy it can be, so you pick up enough  new fans to replace the old fans, you, meaning, Tim Burton and Johnny Depp, pretty much, threw in the trashcan, which it was not.  Script approval; who is hired as the script writer and the decision to go comedic are all decisions that fall upon the director  to make and in each case they were the wrong decisions.  All that being said, and it’s reason enough, that is not why I think Tim Burton was the wrong director.  Tim Burton brings to a movie what he brings to every movie, his creative vision, and that vision is usually a dark one, which would have been the wrong decision in the case of DARK SHADOWS.  Fortunately, Tim Burton didn’t pursue that vision; unfortunately he pursued a comedic one, which as I have been saying throughout this whole review, was the wrong decision.  Furthermore, I think you have to look at Tim Burton’s track-record with remakes and I don’t think Tim Burton has a good one at all.  Three remakes or remake related movies by Tim Burton that should have been good, but were not, are:

  • BATMAN RETURNS
  • CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLAE FACTORY
  • PLANET OF THE APES

 BATMAN RETURNS isn’t a remake; it’s the sequel to the 1989 BATMAN movie, which is considered a remake of the 1966 BATMAN TV series, which it actually wasn’t; it was a retelling of the early BATMAN comics, and it was a good movie, but the same can’t be said for the sequel, BATMAN RETURNS.  BATMAN RETURNS was a box-office disaster.  It was too dark.  Tim Burton’s vision for BATMAN RETURNS was to go darker than he  did in BATMAN,  which was pretty dark already, but in that case, it worked.  In the case of BATMAN RETURNS, it did not; and if you peruse over the plot you will see why, which basically was this; The Penguin hates  kids, so he tries to kill the children of Gotham City.  This is the plot of a BATMAN movie; a movie you  expect kids to go and see,  or think their parents will let them see?!  Tim Burton did.  In fact, he intended to make the third movie even darker; and when the studio told him no, that they wanted a  lighter movie, Tim  Burton quit the BATMAN movie series, as director and apparently, Michael Keaton agreed with him, because he left the movie series, too.

CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY is another stunning example of Tim Burton’s inability to make a decent remake.  He took a beloved, Gene Wilder classic and remade it into something unworthy for a dog to crap on.  CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE  FACTORY, is too dark, (a Tim Burton hallmark), it wreaks of depravity, it’s an attack on children, and the mere mention of cannibalism pertaining to a child is in mind numbing and stomach turning bad taste.  Another kids  movie made totally inappropriate for kids, by Tim Burton.

 In the case of the 2001  PLANET OF THE APES, I must give Tim Burton credit for making a valiant effort at remaking the 1968 classic, but I’m afraid the movie totally missed the mark, resulting in another  Tim Burton remake failure.  There were too many scenes that took place at night, making it difficult to make things out at times, it was boring in places, it wasn’t plot-driven,  and there wasn’t any character development.  Add on to all that, the most absurd climax, followed, by, what Tim Burton was, no doubt, hoping would be a surprise ending that rivaled the 1968 original, but instead was just plain too confusing.

In the opinion of this reviewer, these aforementioned reasons, coupled with his remake track record, prove beyond any doubt, that Tim Burton was the wrong choice for the director of DARK SHADOWS.

Having said all that I have in the negative, I don’t want to leave you, believing that I saw no good in DARK SHADOWS at all.  The sets and the scenery were quite good, indeed.  The town really looked like a 1970s town, not  necessarily Collinsport, but a town from the 70s.  I think Victoria Winters secretly being Maggie Evans and than, giving her the secret of being institutionalized as a child, because no one believed she saw ghosts, was a concept with great potential and a fantastic plot twist.  I also loved the idea of Julia Hoffman’s experiments on Barnabas’ blood secretly being for the purposes of making herself youthful.  And the idea of making Carolyn a she-wolf, great.  But all these ideas went nowhere because they were within a comedy and not a serious horror drama.

One more thing must be noted, and that is, that we live in the age of the sequel and the movie series, and as a comedy, I just don’t see any sequel potential, even if it had been a success.

In good conscience, based on everything I just said in this review, I don’t think I can give this movie even one monster, but Tim Burton and Johnny Depp did get one thing right in this movie; they showed respect to four DARK SHADOWS greats; Jonathan Frid, David Selby, Lara Parker and Kathryn Leigh Scott, by giving them cameos, so I’ll cough up one monster.

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In closing I would just like to make one more (pictorial) comment.

Give me,

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or

barnabas1

over

Johnny Depp Dark Shadows

any day of the week!

Review by Paul Pappas

Question to my readers:

Johnny Depp is set to star in UNNIVERSAL remake of THE INVISIBLE MAN.  What are your thoughts on it?   I will be looking for your answers in the comments.

THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM

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Original 1961 poster art by Reynold Brown

 

In 1961 Roger Corman did the world a favor when he decided to make the second, in what would turn out to be a series of five movies, based on the writings of Edger Allan Poe.

THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM, starring horror icons, Vincent Price and Barbara Steele, and produced and directed by, the aforementioned legendary horror director, Roger Corman, is a gripping and riveting journey into the realm of psychological and physical horror and a winner from start to finish.

The movie opens with Francis Barnard, played by John Kerr, riding in a carriage, on his way to the Medina castle – a dark and foreboding structure, high atop a hill, overlooking the ocean, and surrounded by a dark and dead looking forest.  A standardized ploy, seen in many horror movies, is used, and quite effectively, when the carriage stops halfway to the castle and the driver instructs Francis to get out and go the rest of the way on foot.  This starts setting the tone of the movie, letting the viewer know that there is something about that castle that should be avoided at all cost.  Francis’ trek up the hill, is when we get a chance to see the dead, spooky and haunted looking forest, and Corman’s use of downward angle shots, giving the scene an ominous sense.

Here is a, not so brief, synopsis of the plot, as obtained from Wikipedia.  In sixteenth century Spain, Englishman Francis Barnard (John Kerr) visits the castle of his brother – in – law Nicholas Medina (Vincent Price) to investigate the mysterious death of his sister, Elizabeth (Barbara Steele).  Nicholas and his younger sister, Catherine (Luana Anders) offer a vague explanation that Elizabeth died from a rare blood disorder six months earlier; Nicholas is evasive when Francis asks for specific details about the disease.  Francis vows that he will not leave until he discovers the true circumstances surrounding his sister’s death.

During dinner with the family physician, Dr. Leon (Antony Carbone), Francis again asks about his sister’s death.  Dr. Leon tells him that his sister died of massive heart failure, literally “dying of fright.”  Francis demands to be shown where Elizabeth died.  Nicholas takes him to the castle’s torture chamber.  Nicholas reveals that Elizabeth, under the influence of the castle’s “heavy atmosphere” became obsessed with the chamber’s torture devices.  After becoming progressively unbalanced, one day she locked herself into the iron maiden, and died after whispering the name, “Sebastian.”  Francis refuses to believe Nicholas’ story.

Francis tells Catherine that Nicholas appears to feel “definite guilt” regarding Elizabeth’s death.  In response, Catherine talks about Nicholas’ traumatic childhood.  Their father was Sebastian Medina, a notorious agent of the Spanish Inquisition.  When Nicholas was a small child, he was exploring the forbidden torture chamber when his father (also played by Price) entered the room with his mother, Isabella and Sebastian’s brother, Bartolome.  Hiding in a corner, Nicholas watched in horror as his father repeatedly hit Bartolome with a red hot poker, screaming “Adulterer” at him.  After murdering Bartolome, Sebastian began torturing his wife slowly to death in front of Nicholas.

Catherine and Francis are later informed by Dr. Leon that Isabella, in fact was not tortured to death, rather she was entombed behind a brick wall while still alive.  Dr. Leon explains, “The very thought of premature interment is enough to send your brother into convulsions of horror.”  Nicholas fears that Elizabeth may have been interred prematurely.  The doctor tells Nicholas that “If Elizabeth Medina walks these corridors, it is her spirit and not her living self.”

Nicholas believes his late wife’s vengeful ghost is haunting the castle.  Elizabeth’s room is the source of a loud commotion, and it is found ransacked and her portrait slashed to ribbons.  Her beloved harpsichord plays in the middle of the night.  One of Elizabeth’s rings is found on the keyboard.  Francis accuses Nicholas of planting the evidence of Elizabeth’s haunting as an elaborate hoax.  Nicholas insists that his wife’s tomb be opened.  They discover Elizabeth’s putrefied corpse frozen in a position that suggests she died screaming after failing to claw her way out of her sarcophagus.

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Image from moviescreenshots.blogspot.com.

 

Nicholas runs off screaming repeatedly, “True.”

That night, Nicholas – now on the verge of insanity – hears Elizabeth calling him.  He follows her ghostly voice down to her tomb.  Elizabeth rises from her coffin and pursues Nicholas into the torture chamber, where he falls down a flight of stairs.

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Elizabeth rises from her coffin.

As Elizabeth gloats over her husband’s unconscious body, she is met by her lover and accomplice, Dr. Leon.  They had plotted to drive Nicholas mad so that she could inherit his fortune and the castle.

Leon confirms that Nicholas is gone, his mind destroyed by terror.  Elizabeth taunts her insensate husband.  Nicholas opens his eyes and begins to laugh hysterically while his wife and the doctor recoil in horror.

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As Elizabeth taunts Nicholas he opens his eyes and begins to laugh.

 

Believing himself to be Sebastian, he replays the events of his mother and uncle’s murders.  He overpowers Dr. Leon, believing him to be Bartolome, and Leon falls to his death in the pit while trying to escape.  Nicholas seizes Elizabeth, and repeats his father’s promise to Isabella to torture her horribly.

Francis, having heard Elizabeth’s screams, enters the dungeon.  Nicholas confuses Francis for Bartolome, and knocks him unconscious.  He straps him to a stone slab located directly beneath a huge razor-sharp pendulum.  The pendulum is attached to a clockwork apparatus that causes it to descend fractions of an inch after each swing, ever closer to Francis’ torso.  Catherine arrives just in time with Maximilian, one of the servants.  After a brief struggle with Maximilian, Nicholas falls to his death in the pit.  Francis is removed from the torture device.  As they leave the dungeon, Catherine vows to seal up the chamber forever.  They slam and lock the door shut, unaware that Elizabeth is still alive, gagged and trapped in the iron maiden.  The movie ends with a horrifying close up of Barbara Steele’s eyes.

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The final shot – Barbara Steele’s eyes in close up, locked in the iron maiden.  When I first saw this movie at age 13 or 14, this image made a lasting impression on me that still remains to this very day.

 

As you might expect, Vincent Price gave a tour de force performance as Nicholas Medina, a man haunted by the sins of his father, and in the end engulfed and taken over by those sins.  A bit of an apparent departure from the usual roles Vincent plays in the horror genre, being that of the villain, he is  the innocent victim in this film, only to mentally transform into Sebastian due to the inadvertent prompting of his unfaithful and vindictive wife, for the climactic scene.  I watched this movie twice in order to give it a proper review, and the first time around I thought that the movie needed a bit more of  evil Vincent, but on the second viewing I changed that opinion.  The proportions are right.  They are exactly what was needed.

 In the role of Elizabeth Medina, Barbara Steele was perfectly cast.  She played the part of the greedy, evil and unfaithful wife flawlessly.  The only thing I would have liked to have seen done differently about her performance, is that I wish there was more of it.  As the synopsis stated, the movie starts out with Elizabeth already dead, and then strange things begin to happen which are attributed to her ghost, Steele is not seen.  Apart from short, bluish tinged, black and white flashback scenes, without dialogue, the end of the movie is the only time we see her.  But when she is on screen, she is a joy to watch.

John Kerr gave a well-acted performance as Elizabeth’s brother, Francis.  He conveyed the right amount of emotion and disbelief at the proper times and kept the story moving along.

Antony Carbone provided a finely-acted performance as Dr. Leon, the  Medina family physician, friend and confidant to Nicholas and Elizabeth’s lover and coconspirator.  A good bit of casting in my opinion.

Luana Anders gave a nice, and for the most part, well-acted portrayal of Catherine Medina, sister of Nicholas.  In a few places her acting seemed a bit stilted to me, but overall a good job.

The music of a movie, as I said in my last review, can help or hurt the movie tremendously.  Here I don’t think it did either.  Let me state a bit clearer.  It definitely didn’t hurt it, but I don’t think it did anything to help set the mood.  Don’t get me wrong, I liked the music, but it didn’t stand out.  Purely a minor criticism.  One point of potential interest, at least to me, the music was reminiscent of the music from the original, 1968 Planet Of The Apes.

The plot and the story were tight and well-written, and for that we owe a big thank you to Richard Matheson, one of the best screen writers the movie  industry has known.  Sadly, some years back the world lost this great talent.

Set design is spot on excellent in this movie, and crucially important in a period piece.  Here are two images of the castle’s exterior and one of its torture chamber.

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This image came from moviescreenshots.blogspot.com.

 

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moviescreenshots.blogspot.com
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moviescreenshotsblogspot.com

It is also important to note, especially for literature geeks, that this is a Poe story in pretty much name only.  In fact, most, if not all, of the Corman/Price Poe movies are name only scenarios.  With THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM, the climactic scene is based on the Poe short story (too short to build a whole  movie off of) and everything that came before was all Matheson.

THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM movie statistics:

Running time: 85 minutes

Directed by Roger Corman

Produced by Roger Corman

Production Company: American International Pictures

Screenplay by Richard Matheson

Cinematography by Floyd Crosby

Music by Les Baxter

Cast:

Vincent Price as Nicholas Medina/Sebastian Medina

Barbara Steele as Elizabeth Medina

John Kerr as Francis Barnard

Antony Carbone as Dr. Leon

Luana Anders as Catherine Medina

Patrick Westwood as Maximilian

Lynne Bernay as Maria

Larry Turner as Nicholas as a child

Mary Menzies as Isabella Medina

Charles Victor as Bartolome Medina

THE PIT AND THE PENDDULUM should be on every horror fan’s must watch list.  It’s a great movie; finely-acted, well-directed and just a top drawer production all the way; one which well deserves a 5 monster rating.

And now here is a photo gallery from the movie; some of which you have seen throughout this review and some you have not.

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Opening title shot.
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Vincent Price as Nicholas
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Barbara Steele – Elizabeth
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Dr. Leon – Antony Carbone and Nicholas – Vincent
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Barbara Steele in costume standing by a pillory stocks.
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One of two behind the scene shots of the filming of the climax.
Pit And The Pendulum-08
And here’s the other one.  And that’s Roger Corman in black, with his hand  on the blade.

The two above are of Nicholas seizing Elizabeth before locking in the iron maiden.

The_Pit_and_the_Pendulum-1961-MSS-017
The Torture chamber
The_Pit_and_the_Pendulum-1961-MSS-042
Putrefied corpse of Elizabeth after failing to claw her way out of her sarcophagus.
PitAndThePendulum
Nicholas, believing himself to be Sebastian, prepares to torture Francis, who he believes to be Bartolome, with the pendulum.
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A far shot of the same scene.  This image, once again thanks to moviescreenshots.blogspot.com.
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Vincent walking with Barbara Steele and Roger Corman, at the studio.
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One more time, that amazing close up of Barbara Steele’s horrified eyes.

 

 

 

Reviewed by Paul Pappas

Question:  Which of the five Price/Corman Poe movies would you like to see remade or rebooted; ideally by Roger Corman, himself?

THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER

THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM

MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH

THE RAVEN

THE HAUNTED PALACE

THE TOMB OF LIGEIA

 

Still coming, my review of season one of PENNY DREADFUL

And the next movie I review will be Johnny Depp and Tim Burton’s DARK SHADOWS.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

HORROR HOTEL

horror_hotel_1960_poster_01

Horror Hotel, released in The United States in 1963, but originally released under its original title, The City of The Dead, in 1960, in Britain where it was made, is a good little tale of witchcraft, Satan worship and ritualistic sacrifice.

The opening scene, the burning of Elizabeth Selwyn in 1692, was sufficiently creepy and atmospheric and it sets the stage for the whole movie.  In fact, the atmospheric feel runs throughout the entire movie.  The opening scene immediately segues into the scene where Professor Alan Driscoll, played by Christopher Lee, finishes recanting the events of the burning to his class.  From there the synopsis of the plot goes like this: On the recommendation of her professor (Lee), a young female student, played by Venetia Stevenson, travels to the town of Whitewood, Massachusetts to do some research into witchcraft.  She finds the town occupied by the reincarnation of an infamous witch, played by Patricia Jessell, who was burned at the stake in the 17th century.  To sustain her immortality, virgins must be sacrificed to the witch every year — and the student, Nan Barlow (Stevenson), is one of the chosen victims.  That synopsis was obtained from Wikipedia and it left out the detail that there were two virgin sacrifices a year – one on Candlemas Eve and the other on The Witches’  Sabbath.

Over all, this movie benefited from fine performances given by the likes of the late, great, Christopher Lee, Venetia Stevenson and Patricia Jessell.  I will give a full cast list, along with the characters they played, at the end of my review.

Mood is one of the most important parts of a horror movie.  Mood begins with a good musical score, and in my opinion, a bad score can be the death of mood, if not a contributing factor in the death of the entire movie as a whole.  Fortunately, thanks to the talents of Douglas Gamley and Ken Jones, who did the music, and gave us one of the most bone chilling and blood curdling opening themes ever written, Horror Hotel achieves the desired mood of dark foreboding.

Set design is another factor in mood and in this movie, it was spot on.  The town of Whitewood looks haunted and frozen in time.  The fact that the film was shot in black and white definitely added to this effect.  The film having been made in England in 1960 may mean that it was not a conscious choice, but if it was, it was indeed a wise one.

It is important to note that Horror Hotel couldn’t ever have happened without a fine story crafted by Milton Subotsky and the screenplay by George Baxt.

All that being said, this film is not without its flaws.  The character of Nan’s boyfriend, Bill, was unnecessary.  He added nothing to the film at all, except maybe a means to bring the movie to a climax – a climax that seemed a bit forced and not as creative as it should have been.  After following Nan’s brother, Richard, up to Whitewood to look for the now missing Nan, he crashes his car, after seeing the image  in his windshield of Elizabeth Selwyn being burned at the stake and  laughing, and somehow manages to make it to town, half dead, in time to help Richard stop the second sacrifice.  During this process, on top of everything else, Bill has a dagger thrown into his back, but still manages to stagger over to a giant wooden cross in the cemetery and with a Herculean effort carries the cross over to the Satanists, causing their destruction.

Furthermore, when this movie opened in the States, it was a disappointment at the box-office.  The reason as to why is believed to be due to the fact that some of the dialogue was edited out when it premiered here – dialogue which helped to clarify the plot.  Here are a few of those deleted passages, which came in the beginning of the movie:

  • “I have made my pact with thee O Lucifer!  Hear me, hear me!  I will do thy bidding for all eternity.  For all eternity shall I practice the ritual of Black Mass.  For all eternity shall I sacrifice unto thee.  I give thee my Soul, take me into thy service.”
  • “O Lucifer, listen to thy servant, grant her this pact  for all eternity and I with her, and if we fail thee but once, you may do with our Souls what you will.”
  • “Make this city an example of thy vengeance.  Curse it for all eternity!  Let me be the instrument of thy curse.  Hear me O Lucifer, hear me!”

Taking the aforementioned criticisms into account, I cannot give this movie a 5 monster rating, (here at BOTTOMLINE HORROR MOVIE REVIEWS, we don’t use the star system, we use the  Frankenstein’s monster system), but I believe it deserves 4 monsters.

Horror Hotel Movie Statistics:

Running time: 76 minutes

Directed by John Llewellyn Moxey

Produced by Seymour S. Domer, Max Rosenberg (uncredited), Milton Subotsky and Donald Taylor

Production Company: Vulcan Pictures

Story by Milton Subotsky

Screenplay by George Baxt

Cinematography by Desmond Dickinson

Music by Douglas Gamley and Ken Jones

Edited by John Pomeroy

Distributed by British Lion

Cast:

Christopher Lee as Professor Alan Driscoll

Patricia Jessell as Elizabeth Selwyn/Mrs. Newless

Venetia Stevenson as Nan Barlow

Dennis Lotis as Richard Barlow

Tom Naylor as Bill Maitland

Betta St. John as Patricia Russell

Valentine Dyall as Jethrow Keane

Ann Beach as Lottie

Norman Macowan as Reverend Russell

Fred Johnson as the Elder

James Dyrenforth as the garage attendant

Maxine Holden as Sue

William Abney as the policeman

To sum up, Horror Hotel is  a well-acted, well-directed horror flick, with excellent sets and bone chilling music, but with a few flaws, which earns it a BOTTOMLINE HORROR MOVIE REVIEW rating of 4 out of 5 monsters.  I recommend this movie.

Reviewed by Paul Pappas

I encourage all who read my reviews to comment.  Tell me what think.  Do you agree with what I have said or do you disagree?  And why?  Or if you just have a comment to make on horror, post it here.  It might even become the basis for one of my future posts.  And please, if there’s a horror movie you would like to see reviewed, tell me.  I will respond to all comments.

Question:  What  is your favorite Christopher Lee horror movie?

Coming soon, my review of the first season of SHOWTIME’s PENNY DREADFUL.

And next, my review of The Pit And The Pendulum, starring Vincent Price and directed by Roger Corman

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