The Oblong Box (1969 United Kingdom)

Owing virtually nothing to Edgar Allan Poe other than the title, American International Pictures (AIP) did like to insult the public’s intelligence. The critics of the time did not have much enthusiasm for this flick, which is often surprisingly nasty for that era, but I think this has enough entertainment value for at least one viewing. The director, Gordon Hessler, who replaced Michael Reeves after his untimely death, does a good job of making the film into a reasonably compelling narrative, even if he is a little too fond of extreme close-ups.
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Noble House (James Clavell)

Ignore the “New York Times Bestseller” blurb on the cover. That is like an Oscar. Very annoying and no guarantee of quality. (But this is a good novel, despite the New York Times endorsing it) It’s rare for a book of this size to maintain its pace, but this one manages it. A great business novel with a large cast of larger than life characters from governors to coolies in the cauldron that is Hong Kong. The plot twists and turns with many unexpected turns and stories within stories. The characters themselves are far removed from anyone I have ever met and operate in a moral framework that is utterly alien. Yet one can’t help but sympathize with them as every one of them goes about achieving their own aims with ruthless rationality. [Read more…]

The Blood Beast Terror (1968 UK)

A Hammer imitation from Tony Tensor’s Tigon films, only made on a lower budget and with noticeably less enthusiasm, this is actually a lot more entertaining than it really ought to be. The film is obviously made on a lower budget than Hammer had to play around with at the time and this occasionally shows through, particularly in the creature’s costume. However, a fine British cast do the job and veteran director Vernon Sewell puts in a solid if unremarkable job. The script is literate, the locations good and the movie well-filmed. A load of old mothballs this may be, with too much dialogue, but I had low expectations beforehand. [Read more…]

Rosemary’s Baby (1968 USA)

This post is dedicated to those who were slaughtered (Sharon Tate & John Lennon) or raped (Samantha Geimer) so Roman Polanski could enjoy a successful movie career, untold wealth and women to satisfy his carnal lusts. The devil certainly looks after his own…

RB was a real landmark that helped keep the genre alive by pushing the occult (something fairly taboo back then, and not fully explored in cinema since the days of the silents) to the fore. Also, the restrained atmospheric horror was extremely influential. It inspired many, but has rarely been bettered. Not as scary as The Exorcist, which is more sick and nasty but Rosemary’s Baby is superior in its intricate plotting, which drives the icicles up the viewer’s spine in a fit of paranoia. Its almost as if an innocent Catholic girl became victim of the real Illuminati. And she has. Oppressive control by shady forces seems all too real in our world. This gives Rosemary’s Baby an authenticity lacking in the usual horror/fantasy genre. [Read more…]

Dementia 13 (USA/Ireland 1963)

Public domain titles from the golden age of schlock, like Dementia 13, tend to live an unloved life in the bargain bins of any self-respecting dvd store. Price will vary from fifty cents up to maybe five bucks if the merchant is feeling lucky. Why this has such a I’m cheap buy me status is baffling to a lover of old schlock like me. This film owes much of its terror from its setting, its imagery and surreal circumstances that have a hint of something otherworldly. [Read more…]

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…]

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 Owl Service (Alan Garner)

I can’t believe I haven’t reviewed this book until now. I read it when I was little, and it scared me quite a lot at the time. Now that I am not as much of a scaredy cat I can see it for what it is: an impressive novel originally intended for a juvenile readership but, as these things tend to do, ended up being just as popular with adults. A remarkably subtle and complex fantasy that could also be classed as weird fiction for young adults. The style is fast-paced, sparse, and doesn’t patronize the reader with pages, or even paragraphs of scene-setting. (By the way– it may be bad luck to gaze at an owl. That’s why I chose such a bland cover above instead of the more striking ones featuring our nocturnal feathered friends. Don’t want to tempt fate…) [Read more…]

“The silver stream is a poor man’s wine…”

Lady In Cement (1968 USA)

Warning: for the hip-hop/MTV crowd of today – this flick is probably one for you to avoid. It does not contain CGI effects, mindless dance music, jumpy editing, eye-blinding SFX or even a politically correct message thrown in. Good, now that’s out of the way, what do we have here? We’ve got the pride of Italian Americana – ole Blue Eyes himself…we’ve got a Jewish lady with a sumptuous cleavage that puts Raquel Welch to shame… we’ve got very bad 1960s hair days… we’ve even got Hoss Cartwright himself, Dan Blocker… Oh, and we also have the aforementioned Raquel Welch…our basket might be overladen with goodies! Or is it? [Read more…]

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