Tales Of Terror (1962 USA)

The fourth venture into Poe adaptations for Roger Corman and Vincent Price sees them taking on the portmanteau format with a trilogy of creepers.  Somewhat a turning point in the series. Tales of Terror implements a wicked sense of humour for the first time that’ll become more and more a trademark in the later movies. It is usually very difficult to try to adapt Poe stories to film–similar to the difficulty of attempting to adapt H.P. Lovecraft to film. Both authors write very dense, poetic, often abstract prose, and Poe, especially, is sometimes not very plot-oriented. Although each segment in Tales of Terror succeeds in its own way. [Read more…]

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The Ax ( Donald E Westlake)

Wanted: Middle management for the oversight of an assembly line in an industrial paper factory. College degree and experience a must. Homicidal maniacs welcome to apply. Burke Devore is a typical middle-aged guy with a steady job, a wife and two kids. When he gets laid off he spends 2 years looking for new employment and realizes that there are too many people with more education and experience looking for similar work. Donald Westlake wrote this in 1997, but his publishers missed an opportunity during the last economic bust to reissue this book with great fanfare because it’s even more poignant now. There is not a single dull moment in the entire novel and to top it all off, the ending is even more brilliant.
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Countess Dracula (1971 United Kingdom)

Despite its misleading title, this is a rendition of the exploits of Elisabeth Bathory–a Hungarian noble woman who killed around 650 girls in the 16th century. She believed bathing in their blood would restore her youth. The film’s feel of Hungary circa that time is convincing throughout, perhaps because director Peter Sasdy, producer Alexander Paal and romantic lead Sandor Eles were all native Hungarians. In a role at one time earmarked for Diana Rigg, Ingrid Pitt is frostily sinister as the elderly Countess and fulsomely passionate as the younger one, despite Hammer Studios re-dubbing her dialogue by another actress.  [Read more…]

The Forbidden Territory (Dennis Wheatley)

This was a smash hit in 1933 for its first time author. And he never looked back. By the 1960s he was selling a million books a year. He was never ‘big’ in America though, and with his elitist views and prudish characters, Wheatley’s name has faded into near obscurity now. As well as being well written from a technical perspective—plot, story, dialogue, exposition, The Forbidden Territory is also an interesting window on the late British Empire. For this reason, if no other, the books of Dennis Wheatley are worth reading. If you have a warm fire and a comfortable reading chair, this slim novel should provide a top-hole evening of very British entertainment: wealthy debonair characters (resolutely heterosexual) tanning the hide of uppity foreigners. It almost makes one wish for the return of the British Empire. [Read more…]

The Lord of the Rings: The Twin Towers (2002 New Zealand/USA)

So the journey continued with ‘The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers.’ This review will assume you have seen the first film, ‘The Fellowship of the Ring.’ Which is fine because Peter Jackson, at the helm of this massive production, assumes you have seen it as well. Intelligently, Jackson does not begin with a redundant and unnecessary prologue. He dives right into what the filmmakers considered the hardest segment of the trilogy to make.  [Read more…]

Journey To The Far Side Of The Sun (1969 United Kingdom)

Intriguing sci-fi entry has enough going for it, that it deserves to be better known. Conceived and produced by Gerry and Sylvia Anderson of ‘Thunderbirds’ fame, it has a pace so slow that it’s not going to be to all tastes. But patient audience members should appreciate the excellent, colourful visuals and the vibrant cinematography. The special effects are pretty good & the music score is an enjoyable one. This flick provided what the audience of 1969 wanted: a detailed look on the astronauts, their training, preparation, the technical means available to them – make everything as realistic as possible. That was the thing to do, I suppose, if you wanted to entertain people who were witnessing the landing on the moon. [Read more…]

The Sword In The Stone (1963 Walt Disney)

A wonderful classic story, told in typical Disney style while Walt was still alive, and filled with great songs and beautiful animation, how could anyone not fall in love with The Sword in the Stone? The 18th animated Disney outing is a very relaxing movie to watch. In any animation, you want humour and emotion, and this film has plenty of both. Most of the humour comes from Sir Ektor (voice of Sebastian Cabot) and Archimedes (voice of Junius Matthews), but Merlin (voice of Karl Swenson) had some truly delicious lines. I just love Archimedes, he is absolutely hilarious, and still manages to be likable, despite being very grumpy.  [Read more…]

Funny Title, Nice Song

Classy Tune, Busy Drumming

The Witches (1966 Britain)

There are things that keep you watching here, of course; there always are in a Hammer Horror. I particularly liked the depiction of rural village life in the 1960s; it’s picture postcard stuff, the sort of thing to make me nostalgic for a time I never actually knew. After a hell of a start, The Witches, which could indeed have used a more masterful director like Terence Fisher at the helm, slowly loses its grip. The screenplay is from Nigel Kneale, and he was dissatisfied with this film because he intended it to be a dark comedy that poked fun at witchcraft but Hammer wanted a serious horror movie so all comedic touches were removed.  [Read more…]

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