TOMB OF NOSTALGIA-EASTER EDITION: NIGHT OF THE LEPUS (1972)

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NIGHT OF THE LEPUS (1972)

Night Of The Lepus tells the chuckle inducing story of hormone experiments intended to curb an out of control rabbit population in the Southwest. This ‘solution’ causes not only an increase in size, but heightened aggression and a taste for flesh. Way to go science!

Only in the 70s (ok, maybe the 50s, too) could you have a horror movie about giant carnivorous rabbits. And what makes Lepus so much of a hoot, is just how dead serious this flick is. From the direction by William F. Claxton to the performances by it’s veteran cast, including Stuart Whitman, Janet Leigh and a mustache sporting DeForest Kelley, Lepus really tries to present itself as a serious horror flick and that makes it all the more fun. From the slow motion scenes of real rabbits running through miniature sets to the close-ups of obviously fake, blood-soaked prosthetic rabbit claws and teeth, Lepus goes the whole way in trying to convince us to be scared of these adorably vicious giant bunnies. Epic fail! There’s even a guy in a rabbit suit jumping on the helpless victims. Seriously, how can you not love that! Whether they’re growling like mountain lions or chewing up the locals, Lepus is a deliriously fun ‘so bad it’s good’ treat. And there’s even a few scenes of decent gore to properly represent the rabbit induced carnage. If that’s not enough to convince you, hold on to your Easter baskets for the military v.s. monster rabbit showdown at the climax.

A sheer camp delight that has been a favorite since watching it on T.V. as a kid in the 70s! Viewed in the right mindset and with the right beverage, this is a great bit of schlocky 70s entertainment. Rated purely as delightfully entertaining cheese!

-MonsterZero NJ

A solid 3 giant mutant carnivorous bunnies

lepus rating

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HAPPY EASTER from MONSTERZERO NJ

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: ALICE, SWEET ALICE (1976)

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ALICE, SWEET ALICE (1976)

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1976 slasher tells the story of sisters Karen (Brooke Shields) and Alice (Paula E. Sheppard) who share an intense rivalry instigated by the more aggressive and older Alice. During her first communion ceremony, Karen is brutally murdered by a small figure in a yellow raincoat and face mask. As Alice was not present at the time of the murder and everyone knows she had a dislike for her sister, fingers point the girl’s way. As other people are attacked and killed, the answer to the big questions become more and more urgent…is someone stalking this family for some unknown reason, or is Catholic schoolgirl Alice really a devil in disguise?

Cult classic is directed by Alfred Sole and co-written by he and Rosemary Ritvo and is set in Paterson, New Jersey. Sole’s style is atmospheric and despite some bad acting and clunky dialog, he manages to deliver some effective and disturbing sequences, especially with Karen’s gruesome murder right there in the church. The film is filled with religious and sexual overtones and that may even be part of our killer’s motivations. Sole surprisingly reveals the stalker about two thirds of the way through and the film actually becomes a bit creepier once we know who they are and why they are targeting the Spages family. While this flick is regarded as a classic, some of the before mentioned acting and dialog does hold it back a bit, as does a slower than average pace. The films of this era were more moderately paced than those that would come later in the 80s, but this seems like it could have benefited from something slightly brisker. The kills are brutal, though some of the sequences have attained a bit of a campy edge at this point, although young miss Sheppard is successfully creepy as Alice, keeping us wondering about her guilt or innocence. The film is very modestly budgeted and looks it, though it does make good use of the Paterson, New Jersey locations.

In terms of some of the acting, dialog and not aging as well as it could, Alice, Sweet Alice is not quite the classic it’s remembered as. It is still atmospheric and creepy at times and has some kills that are still effective and brutal. The pacing could have been brisker, though our killer’s reveal earlier than expected actually works and adds a more disturbing slant to things. Some of it may be viewed as campy at this point and the portrayal of an old-fashioned Catholic church centered neighborhood may seem dated, but this slasher film does pre-date Halloween by two years, though it finally saw release in same year as Carpenter’s masterpiece, 1978. Maybe not quite the classic it’s made out to be, but an odd and sometimes disturbing little movie.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 knives (a little extra credit for taking place/being made in New Jersey).

malevolence rating

 

 

 

 

 

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: A COLD NIGHT’S DEATH (1973)

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A COLD NIGHT’S DEATH (1973)

(Remember, clicking the highlighted links brings you to other reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

Flick is a 1973 TV thriller that aired on ABC’s Tuesday Night Movie. Mystery/horror involves two scientists (Robert Culp and Eli Wallach) who are sent to take over research duties from a third scientist at a remote mountain top base. They are doing behavioral experiments on monkeys for space travel and the current scientist sent some bizarre messages before losing contact. They arrive and find him dead under some very odd circumstances, but are ordered to continue his work. Soon strange occurrences haunt the remote base such as lights going on and off, doors and windows being opened and the heat being turned off. The two scientists start to point fingers at each other and as their time there stretches on, they begin to turn on each other refusing to believe that they and their test subjects, may not be alone.

Written by Christopher Knopf and directed by Jerrold Freedman, this is actually a very tense and disturbing little thriller from a time where television was producing a lot of quality horror, supernatural and Sci-fi TV movies. We get a cold and remote setting, which sets us up already with a sense of claustrophobia and then throws in some very unsettling circumstances in the mysterious death of the previous inhabitant, who seemed to allow himself to freeze to death. The two men don’t seem to agree as to how this man died and it sets up a growing distance between the two scientists as strange things start to happen around them. The suspense and tension cranks as they start to suspect each other of first, some sort of game, then possibly of some sort of psychological imbalance. It’s a great two man play as these men start to unravel and turn on each other, pointing fingers and making accusations as to what is going on around them. The big reveal comes in the last moments and the final frames will stick with you when we finally find out what is happening at Summit Base.

Aside from the simians this is a tight two man cast with Michael C. Gwynne’s helicopter pilot only seen briefly at the beginning. The rest of the 74 minutes it’s just Culp and Wallach, who do excellent work. They start out as two men who are colleagues and have worked together before. Both actors work well together and convey being unnerved at the death of ‘Dr. Vogel’ from the start. Each man has conflicting theories, which plants a bit of a seed of discontent right from the beginning. Soon as the activity inside the snow surrounded base gets weirder and weirder, the men are ripe to start blaming each other. Both actors really do well in portraying the gradual sense of mistrust that becomes suspicion and paranoia and then finally outright hostility. It’s a nice character study that really focuses on the destruction of these men’s professional and personal relationship due to some outside influence neither seems to be able to identify…and thus they point fingers at each other. Great performances from both actors..

This was a really cool flick! It was taunt and suspenseful and really kept you guessing until the final few scenes. The portrayal of paranoia and suspicion was really well done, as was the element of two people basically trapped together with the possibility of one or both losing their marbles and being a danger to the other…or is that what they are supposed to believe? The revelations comes almost at the very end and it will really unsettle you and take you by surprise. A really good little thriller with a classy cast!

-MonsterZero NJ

3 scientists à la Mode.

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Couldn’t find a trailer so, how about the full movie…

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: THE SENTINEL (1977)

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THE SENTINEL (1977)

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Flick is a prime example of the type of big studio, all star cast, horror films that came out in the 70s after the success of films like The Exorcist and Rosemary’s Baby. It tells the story of emotionally troubled model Alison Parker (Christina Raines), who moves into an old building in Brooklyn with a group of eccentric neighbors, including an old blind priest (John Carradine) who lives on the top floor and constantly stares out the window despite his handicap. No sooner does she movie in, that strange things start to happen. She begins to suffer headaches and strange dreams and she’s even told by the realtor (Ava Gardner) that, aside from the old priest, there is no one else living in her building. Despite these developments, Alison continues to live there and her nightmarish visions continue to worsen. It appears that the apartment is a gateway to hell and the old blind priest is it’s guardian. It’s time for a changing of the guard, though…and guess who has been chosen to watch the gateway next?

Film is written and directed by British filmmaker and frequent Charles Bronson director, Michael Winner from Jeffery Konvitz’s book. It has some genuinely creepy and disturbing moments, thought they are inconsistent in their delivery and the film takes about halfway through for stuff to really start getting spooky. Winner has a very straightforward style, so the film has a very by-the-numbers feel, though he does manage some legitimate chills here and there. There is some good gore and makeup FX from the legendary Dick Smith and the film did receive some harsh criticism for it’s use of actual deformed people as demonic minions in it’s unsettling climax. The pace is a moderate one and we get a very ominous conclusion, as was common with 70s horror flicks. It’s not a bad flick, but one that could have been a lot better with a more stylish director behind the camera to give it some life and intensity…though, again, Winner does create a memorable and atmospheric climax and some chilling moments along the way. It’s just a little stale at times.

Christina Raines is fine as the emotionally scarred young woman thrust into a nightmarish situation. She is a little wooden in her performance, but she does alright. As stated there is an all star cast in support of lead Raines. Chris Sarandon plays her high profile, lawyer boyfriend who doubts her at first, then does some investigating which changes his mind and gives us needed exposition. He is a little uncharacteristically bland in the role. Carradine has little to do as the blind priest Father Halliran and has no dialog. We also have Ava Garder as a realtor, Burgess Meredith as one of Alison’s spectral neighbors, Eli Wallach as a hard-nosed cop and Martin Balsam as an eccentric professor. We also have some rising stars such as a young Christopher Walken as a detective, Jeff Goldblum (who starred as a thug in Winner’s Death Wish) as a photographer and Tom Berenger as a new tenant.

This is a moderately entertaining 70s horror flick from a director more known for his Bronson headlined action flicks. It has some legitimate creepy moments, but takes awhile to get started. It’s basically all a set-up for it’s disturbing climax which came under fire, in the day, for using real deformed and handicapped individuals to portray it’s demonic creatures. Regardless of how one feels about that, it is very spooky and makes up for some of the film’s somewhat staler aspects. Some feel it’s a classic and while I’m not one of them, I respect that opinion as it certainly has it’s moments. Worth a look.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1/2 spooky specters

sentinel rating

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT (1972)

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THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT (1972)

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Classic flick is considered one of the earliest modern slasher films, though, it is more revenge thriller and doesn’t really follow the formula that seems to have become standard with the advent of films like Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Black Christmas and Halloween. The movie is produced by future Friday The 13th director Sean S. Cunningham and was the first feature film directed by future legend Wes Craven. The film is also one I got to see at a re-release in 1981 at my beloved Oritani Theater in Hackensack, N.J. With Craven’s recent passing, it’s time to revisit this flick that initially disturbed me on first seeing it on the big screen over thirty years ago.

Film tells a violent and vengeful tale of irony both cruel and just. Cruel in that two pretty young girls Phyllis (Lucy Grantham) and Mari (Sandra Cassel) head into the city to see a concert and just happen to run into two escaped convicts Krug (David A. Hess) and Weasel (Fred Lincoln) along with Krug’s son junior (Marc Sheffler) and the sadistic Sadie (Jeramie Rain). They are held against their will in the group’s apartment and suffer torment and rape before being taken bound and gagged up into a rural wooded area. There the torment and rape continues until both girls are brutally murdered. The just irony comes in that the four fiends responsible are not far from Mari’s house. Without knowing who they are, they trick their way into the couple’s home intent on more evil doings. Now inside, though, their identities are discovered and when the Collingwoods (Gaylord St. James, Cynthis Carr) find out who their guests are and what they have done to their daughter…there will be hell to pay!

Written and directed by Craven this is a raw and crude but, very effective flick. Some may see the events as convenient coincidence, but, the ironies that brings characters to their fates are certainly effective. As first, it brings the sweet Mari and her more rambunctious friend into a snake pit where they both cruelly meet deaths they don’t deserve and then it delivers those responsible to the very doorstep of Mari’s loving parents. Movie plot device, maybe, but, life can deliver such ironies as we all know. The sequences of the girls’ torture, rape and murder are still uncomfortable to watch after all these years as our villains are truly detestable and are enjoying their acts. All the more disturbing as that they are perpetrated on are sweet young girls who have done nothing to deserve it. When Craven’s script brings his four deviates to the Collingwood home, revenge is almost as cruel, but, far more deserving…and that’s what makes this work. There is some disturbing violence and ample bloodshed, obviously, and it is an interesting portrayal of how grief and anger can turn good people savage…a theme Craven would explore again in The Hills Have Eyes.

Not everything is perfect. There is a subplot involving the antics of a bumbling sheriff (Marshall Anker) and his incompetent deputy (Karate Kid‘s Martin Cove) that is played for laughs and sticks out in an otherwise serious and brutal film. Also, aside from the perfectly placed ironies, it is a bit of a stretch that the Collingwoods could stay so cool in the presence of the murderers, even after they find Mari’s body. I also thought it a bit of a stretch that they would invite the four strangers into their home, long before they found out who they were, even if this is the early 70s. There are also some songs on the soundtrack…the music is by star David Hess who was also a singer…that don’t seem to fit the mood of what is occurring onscreen.

The cast are all fine for such a low budget flick. Cassel is sweet and portrays a good girl simply wanting to sow a few oats at a concert and Grantham is the more vivacious friend who wants to help her do it and have a good time. Both are very likable and Grantham in particular shows some strength as her Phyllis remains protective of Mari even during their ordeal. Our villains are truly detestable and contemptible. David Hess is an abusive and sadistic monster, plain and simple as Krug. A man who seems to know nothing else but, violence and he openly enjoys it. Fred Lincoln is equally disturbing gas Weasel a man who enjoys depravity and killing and at times seems more demented than Krug. Equally sadistic and heinous is Jeramie Rain as Sadie. A cruel woman who enjoys the pain of others and appears sexually perverted as well. Rain makes her very disturbing. The only slightly sympathetic characters is Junior, Krug’s son. As portrayed by Marc Sheffler he seems more a young man too afraid to oppose his father than someone who actually wants to be involved in such depravity…though go along with it he does. Rounding out are Gaylord St. James and Cynthis Carr as Mari’s parents, who seem like typical good-natured, all-american parents which is all the more reason their descent into sadistic violence is so shocking when they seek to avenge their daughter’s murder. The two actors fit the bill well as a Norman Rockwell-eque family driven to deplorable acts of revenge.

So, yes this is a cult classic and an auspicious debut for a man who would go on to be recognized as one of the greatest horror directors of all time. It’s a crude film in many ways, but, it is still effective, even if not quite as shocking as it was back in it’s day. There are some obtrusive comic elements and it takes a little effort to accept the ironies that set things in motion but, they do work. It’s a landmark horror and a solid career starting point for writer/director Craven and producer Sean S.Cunningham. Certainly recommended but, be warned, after 40 years the flick still has some bite.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 and 1/2 chainsaws…yup! 2 years before Leatherface, Last House made use of one!

evil dead 2 rating

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