Die, Monster, Die! (1965 USA)

The original script for this adaptation of H. P. Lovecraft’s The Colour Out Of Space was so bad, written by Jerry Sohl, that the crew behind the camera could not stop giggling. At one point, actress Freida Jackson, wailed: “I can’t speak these lines. They’re unspeakable!” So director Daniel Haller had to rework the narrative mess. Despite his surgery, unintentional laughter remains. During an absurdly tense meal time scene, a servant collapses to the floor–taking the tablecloth and cutlery with him. Inspector Clouseau couldn’t have done it better.
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It! (United Kingdom 1967)

Roddy McDowell is at his paranoid best in this typically insane, typically 1960s, horror picture. Most fans of these flicks know this one is about a Norman Bates–like character who uses a monster named the Golem, (from Jewish folklore) to do his bidding. And the bidding is not nice. The Golem itself is a burnt but creepily imposing–looking statue. The rest of the cast pale beside Roddy and his chum so what do we get here for our attention? It has no great cinematography, direction, script or anything conventional to recommend it. It’s hard to explain but this movie is worth a watch if you like the offbeat, the original etc. You just have to see…it (I can’t stop typing the word!). C’mon, how many other films have a two letter title?
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Man In A Suitcase (1967/68 United Kingdom)

No, its not the Police song from their 1980 album ‘Zenyatta Mondatta’. Man in a Suitcase is one of those ITC colour series filmed in and around Pinewood Studios and on location in London during 1966/7. (Locals at the time must have been constantly interrupted by cameras, cast and crews preventing them getting from A to B). Its a rough, tough adventure series which, thanks to the strength, charisma, and capability of the leading player: a surly Texan method actor Richard Bradford, still continues to enthrall and entertain folk who lap up this nostalgia for swinging London, dollybirds in mini-skirts, green Hillman Imps etc.
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The Wolves of Willoughby Chase (Joan Aiken)

 

Set in an alternative 1832 where the monarch is James III (implying that the House of Hanover never came to the throne) and wolves have entered England during a bad winter by crossing the Channel Tunnel (not opened in our reality until 1994). Unlike the children’s books of today – this was first published in the early 1960s – the whole thing proceeds at a rip-roaring pace with very little build-up. There are a number of other books in the series, all set in the same alternate history but I don’t know if all the characters are the same in each. [Read more…]

Scream And Scream Again (1970 United Kingdom)

This is one of those old British films that let you down but you want to look for the good within the disappointment. Its mildly entertaining but incoherent: 3 separate stories have been forced together. The result is an ultra-long episode of TV’s The Avengers. This is so late ’60’s, with its discotheques, pop groups ( ‘The Amen Corner’ ) and blokes in flowered shirts. Hammer tried to go down the same route later with ‘Dracula A.D. 1972’ but, by then, London had stopped swinging. On the plus side, if any film signposted the direction horror took in the ’70’s, it was Scream And Scream Again. You even get a foretaste of Michael Crichton’s ‘Coma.’
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A View From A Hill (2005 United Kingdom)

In the 1970s the BBC used to include a ghost story, usually by Dickens or M.R. James, in their Christmas schedules. They dropped the habit later on, but this millennium saw them reboot the series again from time to time. Here is one of the better examples. Directed by Luke Watson, this goes back to the series’ roots; the period setting instantly lends itself a quality and timeless feel, meaning it’s very hard to pin point and define exactly when it was made. [Read more…]

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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The Woman In Black (1989 United Kingdom)

A truly memorable piece of work, once seen never forgotten. Unlike American made horror, the Brits know how to do subtle, relying on the potency of a story full of suggestion and anticipation. And when the great Nigel Kneale is involved with a script the result is usually quality and this is quality. Plus the special effects are few which lulls the viewer into thinking that this film is set in the real world, thus making us a bit more uneasy. No monsters, no blood or violence, no cliches, just terror. You’re constantly thinking: Is she there? Isn’t she? Where is she? What’s that sound? What’s upstairs? Everything’s fine…or is it? Aaah! [Read more…]

Night Watch (1973 Britain)

Ellen Wheeler (Elizabeth Taylor) is stuck in a loveless marriage with John Wheeler (Laurence Harvey). There’s also a deserted mansion right next door to her. One dark and stormy night she sees a dead body in that house. She’s terrified and calls the police. They come but find nothing. Her husband and best friend Sarah (Billie Whitelaw) try to convince her she was seeing things but she’s positive it was there. Soon she can’t sleep or eat and is slowly going mad. The viewer may also be driven mad by the pace of this flick: its slower than a broken clock. And that describes about the first eighty minutes of running time. So be patient.  [Read more…]

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion The Witch And The Wardrobe (2005)

The Chronicles of Narnia is a film that couldn’t have been made in the 20th century effectively – it relies so heavily on special effects and digital tricks that even attempting to make it without all the digital trickery would have resulted in a B-film, regardless of its budget. With his experience as the special effects guy on several of the Batman films, director and producer Andrew Adamson did manage to put together one hell of a display. With all the visual do-goodery in place, and one of the best stories ever told to drive it forward, there wasn’t a lot to make the Witch and the Wardrobe fail… And of course, it doesn’t. [Read more…]

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