The Secret Of Terror Castle ( The Three Investigators #1) by Robert Arthur

First published in the mid 1960’s, this mystery/adventure series of approximately forty books were written for 8-15 years olds and would be hard to beat if you want to find thrilling and original tales that don’t talk down to kids. Some of the plots pertain to ghosts, whispering mummies, talking skulls and other spooky or eerie themes although the stories always climax in some scheme in which a band of thieves, rustlers, con men or other non-supernatural element are attempting to snatch a lost or hidden treasure. I loved reading them as a child, and find that after all these years, they are still entertaining and packed with adventure.  [Read more…]

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Frenzy (1972 United Kingdom)

“Goodbye Piccadilly, Farewell Leicester Square” by Arthur La Bern is not a novel I’ve read so I can’t say if this is better or worse than the printed page its based upon. All I do know is sometime in 1971 Alfred Hitchcock came back to dear old Blighty to do it to his audience one more time. And here he dons the chef’s apron to serve us up a classic of cheap and nasty: forced sex, murder and food. I wonder what Hitchcock’s wife and family thought of Frenzy. “That’s…lovely dear…” They probably reacted the way any family would if the patriarch had just been arrested in your local brothel. Yep. Frenzy is red light entertainment all the way! [Read more…]

Dressed To Kill (1980 USA)

Dressed-to-Kill-1I wish Michael Caine had not been cast in this because he is too conventional and limited an actor to portray such an extremely unconventional character. That aside, Brian De Palma’s mash-up of Argento and Hitchcock really made headlines on release. Outraged feminists in the north of England invaded a cinema while it played and threw blood at the screen in protest. That kind of publicity guaranteed more curiosity and meant bigger box office than expected. A master filmmaker manipulated his audience with dark, politically incorrect twists filled with impure thoughts, deeds, guilty pleasures, illicit sex, and its punishing aftermath… [Read more…]

Twisted Nerve (1968 United Kingdom)

I’ve reviewed quite a few movies from that year of our Lord, 1968. A disquieting year for a number of reasons…Twisted Nerve, something of a link between Michael Powell’s “Peeping Tom” and Hitchcock’s “Frenzy”, has floated about like an apparition for so long it’s somehow managed to permeate the most seemingly unconnected crannies of pop culture. Its main theme, a haunting melody penned by legendary Hitchcock scorer Bernard Herrmann, was stolen by Hollywood’s pet magpie, Q Tarantino, for “Kill Bill, Vol 1”. Penned by celebrated “Peeping Tom” scribe Leo Marks, this is a fairly typical late-1960s psycho-thriller. [Read more…]

North By Northwest (USA 1959)

nbnwestIf anyone has doubts about the power of mistaken identity and its place in fiction, look no further than here. The many takes on it through the years have diminished its real power as a storytelling device. As a comedy trick, it is cheap and dull. But as a dramatic trick… there is real force behind it. Everyone dreads being alone in a time of crisis, not having anyone believe them and feeling like they are sinking further into a pit that’s growing ever deeper. [Read more…]

Psycho (1960 USA)

psycho5Imagine it is July 1960. You’ve just paid your thirty pieces of silver to the pharisees that own the movie theatre. You are shut in with all the other well dressed patrons. Not one tattoo amongst them, no mobile phones, no cries of “Shaniqua, move beeyatch!” or hip hop muzak to disturb the ambience. The lights go down. And then the screaming starts! Just ignore those kids to your left rioting over a pair of sneakers and keep your eyes on that screen up there. This here is the inspiration for many future classics like Eaten Alive. Show some respect! [Read more…]

Vertigo (1958 USA)

VHitchcock uses a complicated story, interesting characters, lavish visual detail, and deliberate pacing, plus a fine musical score by Bernard Hermann, to produce a mysterious, almost unearthly, atmosphere. The tension rarely lets up, and the viewer is caught up completely in it, at times almost to the point of discomfort. It’s the kind of film that repays careful attention, as almost every moment is filled with significant detail. [Read more…]

Family Plot (1976 USA)

family plotOne man’s horrid past starts to intrude on his equally despicable present. You can hide, but you can’t run. This is one of my favorite Hitchcock films, alongside things like Psycho & North By Northwest. The lack of suspense makes for a pleasant change. Although Hitchcock applied the magic directorial touch to many of the sequences, I can’t help but feel it is a small team of performers who make this a fun film to watch over and over again. [Read more…]

THE BIRDS (1963 United States)

the-birds“The Birds Is Coming!” screamed the promotional posters in the spring of 1963. Indeed. They came, they cawed, they conquered. No, seriously. Watching this really ruffles my feathers. Tippi Hedren is a little wooden and is caked in soft focus to mask her bland acting. The initial storyline sees her stalking Rod Taylor all the way from San Francisco to Bodega Bay. She goes to a lot of trouble just to get into a bloke’s pants, doesn’t she? What a skank! [Read more…]

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