TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: WAR OF THE WORLDS (1953)

MZNJ_New_TON

now playing

bars

WAR OF THE WORLDS (1953)

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

Classic 1950s science fiction flick is based on the equally classic novel by H.G. Wells. It has a meteorite crashing into the California mountains near a small rural town. Scientist Dr. Clayton Forrester (Gene Barry) is nearby and heads there to investigate. When he arrives, he meets pretty Sylvia Van Buren (Ann Robinson), who joins him and soon they discover that the meteorite is actually a spacecraft with a trio of hostile Martian war machines inside. With more of these craft landing all over the world, the military surround the Martians in hopes of stopping them. The Martian technology is too advanced and our most modern weapons…most modern for 1953, that is…are no match for the invaders. As the Martians begin a wave of global destruction, Forrester and Sylvia begin a desperate attempt to find some way to stop them, before the planet falls to this seemingly indestructible enemy.

Film is directed by Byron Haskin for legendary producer George Pal. The screenplay is by Barré Lyndon based on H.G.Wells’ 1898 novel. The film takes some liberties with Wells’ book, such as with the design of the Martians and their weaponry, but most by way of simply updating the story to the 1950s and moving it to the United States. The basic tale is still there. It’s the original Independence Day and is a far superior movie, aging much better over a longer period of time. The SPFX may seem antiquated by today’s CGI heavy standards, but the wire-work, models and visual FX were quite impressive for the time and still have impact even today. The sound effects and Leith Stevens’ epic score are also very effective and add atmosphere. The battle sequences are intense and Barry and Robinson make a very good hero and heroine and have nice on-screen chemistry. The film is filled with gung-ho military types and strong religious overtones, as was typical of films of this era. It is very strong dramatically, even a bit scary in some of the earlier sequences, and has some pretty devastating scenes of city destruction and the panic and terror of the citizens within. It is simply a great movie and tells a lot of story and accomplishes a lot in it’s economic 85 minutes without ever feeling overcrowded, or it’s main characters shortchanged.

Overall, this is simply a great flick that still resonates almost 70 years later. The SPFX were impressive at the time and are still powerful today, even if the techniques have become outdated and antiquated. The Martians and their war machines are made scary and the film is populated with some fun characters that are stereotypical of this era of science fiction films. The leads are endearing and well performed and the narration from Sir Cedric Hardwicke adds atmosphere and dramatic intensity. A classic movie that has aged far better than a lot of more contemporary films with similar premises. War of the Worlds is currently available on a wonderfully restored blu-ray special edition from the Criterion Collection.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 4 (out of 4) Martian war machines.

**************************************************

bars

EQUINOX and EVIL DEAD I & II: A COMPARISON IN HORROR!

MZNJ_new_views

EQUINOX and EVIL DEAD I & II: A COMPARISON IN HORROR!

MAJOR SPOILER WARNING! In order to properly compare these three films, I have to give DETAILED SPOILERS. If you haven’t seen Equinox, or Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead and Evil Dead II, there are MASSIVE SPOILERS BELOW for each film. You have been warned!

**************************************************

For years horror movie fans have debated as to whether or not the 1970 low budget horror Equinox was an influence on Sam Raimi’s 1981 Evil Deadthough there are also strong similarities with it’s 1987 sequel Evil Dead IIas wellSam Raimi has never mentioned seeing it, though Evil Dead FX man Tom Sullivan has. We may never know for sure and it’s up to us then to decide for ourselves. So read on to take a look at just how these flicks compare…

(Click on the highlighted movie titles to go to the full length reviews and on the photos to enlarge them!)

**************************************************

THE STORY

Equinox finds Four college students David, Susan, Jim and Vicki (Edward Connell, Barbara Hewitt, Frank Bonner and Robin Christopher), venturing into the woods to meet a Prof. Waterman (Fritz Leiber), who, unknown to them, has discovered an ancient book of evil. They find his cabin destroyed and once acquiring the book from a creepy old man (Irving L. Lichtenstein), soon have the devil himself after them to get it back. In this film the evil has already been unleashed when our main characters arrive.

Sam Raimi’s classic The Evil Dead has five young people, Ash, his sister Cheryl, his girlfriend Linda, Scott and Scott’s girlfriend Shelly (Bruce Campbell, Ellen Sandweiss, Betsy Baker, Hal Delrich and Theresa Tilly), going up to a secluded cabin in the woods for a weekend of partying and fun. When they get to the rundown cabin, they find an old book and a tape recording in the creepy cellar that claims it is the book of the dead and wrapped in human flesh. Thinking it’s all a joke, they play the recording, which includes someone reading from the book, and find out the hard way that it’s all too real, as they unleash horror beyond their imaginations.

Evil Dead II finds Ash, now alone, trapped in the cabin with the forces of evil trying to get at him. Ash is soon joined by the daughter (Sarah Berry) of the archeologist, who formally inhabited the cabin and is the finder of the book. She and her party (Dan Hicks, Kassie Wesley and Richard Domeier) first think Ash has murdered her parents. Soon enough, though, the evil in the woods makes itself known and Ash joins forces with his new companions. Their numbers start to dwindle as the evil lays siege to the cabin and Ash must face this ancient terror in a final showdown.

There are some differences in plot details, but all three flicks have a cabin, a book of evil discovered by a professor and a group of unsuspecting characters, being attacked by an ancient evil. All three have demons and demonic manifestations from the book. All three have a story or backstory that is revealed by way of a reel to reel tape recording.

 

**************************************************

THE EVIL

Equinox has the devil himself in the human disguise of park ranger, Mr. Asmodeus (theatrical cut director Jack Woods) pursuing the four characters to get the book back. He can take on the guise of one of the other characters and appears in a flying demon form near it’s climax. He also sends various minions to get the book, such as an octopus-like creature, a mutant ape and a blue giant. His minions appear to be able to be killed by conventional means, while he can be warded off with protection symbols from the book.

The Evil Dead Films feature ancient evil spirits known as Deadites, that are unleashed when either the book is read from directly, or a recorded reading from the book is played back. They want the souls of all those in the cabin and possess and torment the occupants claiming them one by one. Raimi’s film requires the possessed victim be totally dismembered to render them harmless. The Deadites seem to hail from somewhere around ancient Sumer and there are, like in Equinox, some creature-like minions in Evil Dead II. The Deadites appear to be only able to attack at night, while Equinox‘s evil is active both day and night.

 

**************************************************

THE HEROES

Equinox’s ill-fated hero is college student David Fielding (Edward Connell). He’s a clean-cut all-American college student who is forced to come up against some supernatural odds. He’s resilient and brave and is pretty much the strongest and quickest thinker of his group of friends. Poor Dave ends up doomed and in an insane asylum, but before all that, he stands up to some intimidating evil.

Ash Williams (Bruce Campbell) is the Evil Dead franchise’s beleaguered hero. The now iconic Ash is a mild mannered fellow and a little on the cowardly side in the first film. He leaves it up to alpha male Scott to hack up his possessed sister Cheryl and generally do the hero stuff till the Deadites get Scott, too. This leaves Ash all alone to man-up and battle the Deadites. It’s not till the sequel that he starts to take on the mantle of a hero, although an arrogant and bumbling one.

 

**************************************************

THE SETTINGS

Here, settings differ slightly though both include cabins and woods. The cabin we are traveling to in Equinox is already destroyed by the time our characters get there and the film takes place primarily after that in the surrounding forest.

Both Evil Dead and Evil Dead II take place primarily inside the cabin with a few unsuccessful sojourns out into the woods.

The cabins in all three films were previously occupied by professors who found the books of evil in question.

 

**************************************************

THE BOOKS

All Three movies contain books of evil that trigger the horrific ordeals the respective films’ characters endure. Equinox‘s book is discovered in the Persian Gulf by a Prof. Waterman and it is his examining the book and it’s contents that opens a portal allowing the evil to enter this world and seek the book’s return. It is described as a bible of evil.

The book of the Evil Dead films is the Naturan Demanto or Necronomicon…the book of the dead…and is described as Sumerian in origin and thus is discovered by a Professor Knowby (John Peaks), also in the Persian Gulf area.

Both books are filled with cryptic languages and spooky illustrations and are not only filled with dark rituals, but also ways to protect from the evils evoked.

 

**************************************************

THE OPENING SCENES

Equinox opens interestingly at it’s climax with David on the run through the woods from the demonic evil and finding himself in a hospital after being hit on the road by a driverless car. A year later he’s gone insane and a reporter named Sloan (James Philips) investigates the story to find out what happen to him. It’s his reviewing David’s initial taped testimony that sets us on a flashback to what happened.

The Evil Dead opens with the camera racing through the woods with some ominous growling heard as it reaches the car carrying our main protagonists. It is quick and to the point, but sets the tone right away that something bad is going to happen to our five unsuspecting travelers as they head towards the cabin.

Evil Dead II simply picks up where the first left off, after a brief recap, with the evil attacking and briefly possessing Ash, who is saved by the rising sun. So, there is little similarity here.

All three films’ openings are perfect for setting us up for what is to come, starting us off with an atmosphere of fear and foreboding. Though there are only minor similarities here between Equinox andThe Evil Dead, none really with Evil Dead II…except, of course, for the woods setting each share.

 

**************************************************

THE ENDINGS

In terms of their climaxes, all the films have endings that resonate.

Equinox ends with David in the asylum screaming for his cross which “accidentally” is now in the hands of reporter Sloan. It’s a year and a day after the incident at the park, the day the demon predicted David’s demise. As Sloan leaves the building, David’s dead girlfriend Susan is seen walking into the hospital. As we hear David’s cries for his cross over the soundtrack, a wicked smile appears on Susan’s face. Ominous and spooky, a last chill before you leave the theater.

The Evil Dead ends with Ash having barely escaped a vicious assault from his possessed friends by burning the book in the fireplace resulting in a roller coaster bloodbath of gore. As the sun starts to rise, he limps out the door only to have the camera race towards him growling like in the opening and coming right at his face as Ash utters a horrible scream. The film cuts to black and ends with the credits rolling; Ash apparently not as triumphant as he believed. It is ferociously quick and very effective, a last jolt before you leave the theater.

Evil Dead II comically has Ash being sucked into a vortex and deposited in the Middle Ages, where, at the moment, he is seen as a deliverer come to defeat the Deadites. Again as with the opening scene, no similarity here to Equinox other than the visual of a castle.

…though all three endings do involve screaming.

 

 

**************************************************

MISC.

Here, pictures speak louder than words, with these visual similarities…

 

**************************************************

IN CONCLUSION…

So, we have one flick that is a horror masterpiece and one of the greatest horror flicks of all time and another that is a cult classic, midnight movie from a decade earlier that may…or may not…have inspired it. Both were derived from short films. Equinox was re-edited with new footage added from the original The Equinox … A Journey into the Supernatural, a 70 minute film expanded for theatrical release. The Evil Dead was created from the short film Within the Woods, a thirty minute version of the same story made to attract investors. They both feature some startling SPFX on incredibly small budgets and took three or more years to finally hit theaters. Both are also first films made by young aspiring filmmakers, that made an impression and got careers off the ground for some of their makers and stars.

We may never know the actual truth as to whether Sam Raimi saw and was inspired by Equinox, but the story and visual similarities make for a striking argument. At this point it’s up to you to decide as to what you believe. Did Equinox inspire The Evil Dead, or is it just a cinematic coincidence? Either way, they are both horror classics in their own rights that are now held in high regard.

-MonsterZero NJ

bars

MONSTERZERO NJ’S SATURDAY NIGHT DOUBLE FEATURE: EQUINOX and THE EVIL DEAD

MZNJ_SNDF
now playing

bars

MonsterZero NJ’s Saturday Night Double Feature is back! For years horror fans have discussed the similarities between the 1970 low budget flick, Equinox and Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead. Was this flick an inspiration for Raimi’s classic, or was it all a coincidence? We may never know exactly, but we can watch both films together and decide for ourselves…

Equinoxposter

EQUINOX (1970)

Four college students (Edward Connell, Barbara Hewitt, Frank Bonner and Robin Christopher) venture into the woods to meet a professor (Fritz Leiber) who, unknown to them, has discovered an ancient book of evil. They find the cabin destroyed and once acquiring the book from a creepy old man (Irving L. Lichtenstein), find the devil himself is after them to get it back.

While this does sound like the plot of an Evil Dead film, it is actually the plot of the low budget horror, Equinox which was released in 1970. Over a decade before Raimi’s classic, the film does share a lot of plot elements, such as the students being possessed, here by the park ranger disguised Satan, and even the book itself is quite similar to Raimi’s Necronomicon. It’s never been stated that the film was an influence on Raimi’s flick, but Evil Dead effects artist Tom Sullivan admits seeing the film and it inspiring him to make movies. Draw you own conclusions.

Equinox is campy by today’s standards and is slow paced, unlike Raimi’s roller coaster ride, but there is some fun to be had and some nice SPFX for such a low budget flick. Equinox started out as a low budget short film, put together by three future FX legends, Dennis Muren, Jim Danforth and Dave Allen in 1967. It was made for about $6,500, from a story by Mark Thomas McGee and directed by Muren. So there is some great FX work for the time and budget, including some very cool stop-motion animated creatures, representing the Devil’s minions and Old Scratch himself in winged demon form. Producer Jack H. Harris saw their film and hired writer/director Jack Woods to film some new footage and expand the 70 minute short film into feature length and re-edit it. The film was finally released in 1970 as Equinox, shortened from the original title of Equinox…A Journey Into The Supernatural. I saw this as a kid and must admit it creeped me out back then. I watch it now and it’s more campy fun than scary, but it’s no denying that it is a valiant low budget effort, despite some very amateurish acting from the cast, including director Jack Woods, who also appears as The Devil in park ranger form.

This film, like Raimi’s, is now considered a classic. Whether it inspired Evil Dead or not, both films represent the achievement that future filmmakers can make on a micro-budget, if their hearts and talent are in the right place. Evil Dead fans should check it out for the interesting similarities, even if we may never know if Raimi indeed saw and was influenced by it, or if the familiar elements are just coincidence. It’s been released in a wonderful restored edition by the Criterion Collection, which includes the original short film and effects work that didn’t make the final cut. A campy, fun horror that gave the world, Dennis Muren, Jim Danforth and the late, great David Allen…and maybe…just maybe, Evil Dead.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated A campy fun 3 (out of 4) blue giants!

 Equinoxrating
**************************************************

plus

the-evil-dead-poster

bars

The original Evil Dead is one of my all time favorite horror movies, if not the all time favorite. I was fortunate enough to see it in a theater when it was released in 1981 and it changed how I looked at horror movies. This one was furiously paced, wildly inventive and delivered buckets of blood and gore, all on a shoestring budget. It launched writer/director Sam Raimi’s career and made a cult legend out of star Bruce Campbell.

The film opens as Ash (Bruce Campbell) and girlfriend, Linda (Betsy Baker) are traveling to vacation in a remote cabin with another couple, Scott (Hal Delrich) and Shelly (Sarah York), along with Ash’s sister, Cheryl (Ellen Sandweiss). When they get to the rundown cabin they find an old book and a tape recording, in the creepy cellar, that claims it is the book of the dead and wrapped in human flesh. Thinking it’s all a joke, they play the recording, which includes someone reading from the book and find out the hard way that it’s all too real, as they unleash horror beyond their imaginations. The quiet Cheryl is the first to be possessed, as she is attacked and literally raped by the trees during one of the film’s most talked about scenes, As the panicked bunch lock her in the cellar, it is only the beginning as they are soon possessed one by one by an ancient evil that can only be stopped by total bodily dismemberment. Let the fun begin!

The first Evil Dead did not have the heavy comic elements of it’s two sequels or recent series and what follows is a gore soaked roller coaster ride, when Ash finds himself the last man standing against his demon possessed friends. Raimi uses some fantastically inventive camera work and low budget gore effects to bring us Ash’s battle to survive against the people he once loved, in all it’s gory glory. The film is fast paced and once it starts, it never stops, as this classic turns the screws on it’s viewing audience with a barrage of scares, jolts and suspense, all bathed in buckets of blood. This was the first of it’s kind to use such a relentless and merciless attack on it’s viewers where most films at the time, like John Carpenter’s Halloween, or the original Friday The 13th, used a bit of a slower burn and more of a methodical pace to present it’s suspense and scares. Raimi paces this like an action flick. Carpenter did crank things up in the last act of The Fog, a year earlier, but it was still nothing like Raimi’s final act, as the outnumbered Ash refuses to “join us”, as his demonic assailants constantly taunt.

Evil Dead revolutionized horror to a degree and inspired some of today’s best young horror directors. Without it, we may not have a Blair Witch, Dead Alive or Martyrs. While we still get the occasional slow burn horror like Paranormal Activity and the films of Ti West and Stevan Mena, which is just fine, Raimi opened the door for horror filmmakers to take a far more aggressive approach and showed us horror can be deliriously scary, delightfully gory and just plain fun. A true classic that placed Raimi amongst the likes of George Romero and John Carpenter!

-MonsterZero NJ

Check out our review of the remake!

A solid 4 (out of 4) Ash salute!

Ash_Rating

**************************************************

ALSO…

If you’ve got time, add Evil Dead II as a third feature, which also shares some amusing similarities with Dennis Muren and Jack Woods’ 1970 cult classic!

-MonsterZero NJ

bars

COOL STUFF: CRITERION ANNOUNCES GODZILLA-THE SHOWA ERA FILMS 1954-1975!

MZNJ_cool_stuff

now playing

CRITERION ANNOUNCES GODZILLA-THE SHOWA ERA FILMS 1954-1975!

Godzilla fans rejoice! Criterion has offically announced what we have been hearing about for months…the Godzilla: The Showa Era Films 1954-1975 collection blu ray! This magnificent set of the original Godzilla films streets on 10/29/19 right before Halloween 🎃 and will include the following films…

Godzilla 1954

Godzilla Raids Again 1955

King Kong vs Godzilla 1963

Mothra vs Godzilla 1964

Ghidorah, the Three Headed Monster 1964

Invasion of the Astro Monster (Monster Zero) 1965

Ebirah, Horror of the Deep (Godzilla vs the Sea Monster) 1966

Son of Godzilla 1967

Destroy All Monsters 1968

All Monsters Attack (Godzilla’s Revenge) 1969

Godzilla vs Hedorah 1971

Godzilla vs Gigan 1972

Godzilla vs Megalon 1973

Godzilla vs Mechagodzilla 1974

Terror of Mechagodzilla 1975

Direct from Criterion themselves, features will include…

  • High-definition digital transfers of all fifteen Godzilla films made between 1954 and 1975, released together for the first time, with uncompressed monaural soundtracks
  • High-definition digital transfers of Godzilla, King of the Monsters, the 1956 U.S.-release version of Godzilla; and the 1962 Japanese-release version of King Kong vs. Godzilla
  • Audio commentaries from 2011 on Godzilla and Godzilla, King of the Monsters featuring film historian David Kalat
  • International English-language dub tracks for Invasion of Astro-Monster, Son of Godzilla, Destroy All Monsters, Godzilla vs. Megalon, Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla, and Terror of Mechagodzilla
  • Directors Guild of Japan interview with director Ishiro Honda, conducted by director Yoshimitsu Banno in 1990
  • Programs detailing the creation of Godzilla’s special effects and unused effects sequences from Toho releases including Destroy All Monsters
  • New interview with filmmaker Alex Cox about his admiration for the Showa-era Godzilla films
  • New and archival interviews with cast and crew members, including actors Bin Furuya, Tsugutoshi Komada, Haruo Nakajima, and Akira Takarada; composer Akira Ifukube; and effects technicians Yoshio Irie and Eizo Kaimai
  • Interview with critic Tadao Sato from 2011
  • Illustrated audio essay from 2011 about the real-life tragedy that inspired Godzilla
  • New English subtitle translations
  • Trailers
  • PLUS: A lavishly illustrated deluxe hardcover book featuring an essay by cinema historian Steve Ryfle, notes on the films by cinema historian Ed Godziszewski, and new illustrations by Arthur Adams, Sophie Campbell, Becky Cloonan, Jorge Coelho, Geof Darrow, Simon Gane, Robert Goodin, Benjamin Marra, Monarobot, Takashi Okazaki, Angela Rizza, Yuko Shimizu, Bill Sienkiewicz, Katsuya Terada, Ronald Wimberly, and Chris Wisnia

Set is available for preorder through Criterion’s website for $179.96 before tax and shipping!

https://www.criterion.com/boxsets/2648-godzilla-the-showa-era-films-1954-1975

-MonsterZero NJ

source: Criterion

TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: EQUINOX (1970)

MZNJ_New_TON

now playing

Equinoxposter

EQUINOX (1970)

Four college students (Edward Connell, Barbara Hewitt, Frank Bonner and Robin Christopher) venture into the woods to meet a professor (Fritz Leiber) who, unknown to them, has discovered an ancient book of evil. They find the cabin destroyed and once acquiring the book from a creepy old man (Irving L. Lichtenstein), find the devil himself is after them to get it back.

While this does sound like the plot of an Evil Dead film, it is actually the plot of the low budget horror, Equinox which was released in 1970. Over a decade before Raimi’s classic, the film does share a lot of plot elements, such as the students being possessed, here by the park ranger disguised Satan, and even the book itself is quite similar to Raimi’s Necronomicon. It’s never been stated that the film was an influence on Raimi’s flick, but Evil Dead effects artist Tom Sullivan admits seeing the film and it inspiring him to make movies. Draw you own conclusions.

Equinox is campy by today’s standards and is slow paced, unlike Raimi’s roller coaster ride, but there is some fun to be had and some nice SPFX for such a low budget flick. Equinox started out as a low budget short film, put together by three future FX legends, Dennis Muren, Jim Danforth and Dave Allen in 1967. It was made for about $6,500, from a story by Mark Thomas McGee and directed by Muren. So there is some great FX work for the time and budget, including some very cool stop-motion animated creatures, representing the Devil’s minions and Old Scratch himself in winged demon form. Producer Jack H. Harris saw their film and hired writer/director Jack Woods to film some new footage and expand the 70 minute short film into feature length and re-edit it. The film was finally released in 1970 as Equinox, shortened from the original title of Equinox…A Journey Into The Supernatural. I saw this as a kid and must admit it creeped me out back then. I watch it now and it’s more campy fun than scary, but it’s no denying that it is a valiant low budget effort, despite some very amateurish acting from the cast, including director Jack Woods, who also appears as The Devil in park ranger form.

This film, like Raimi’s, is now considered a classic. Whether it inspired Evil Dead or not, both films represent the achievement that future filmmakers can make on a micro-budget, if their hearts and talent are in the right place. Evil Dead fans should check it out for the interesting similarities, even if we may never know if Raimi indeed saw and was influenced by it, or if the familiar elements are just coincidence. It’s been released in a wonderful restored edition by the Criterion Collection, which includes the original short film and effects work that didn’t make the final cut. A campy, fun horror that gave the world, Dennis Muren, Jim Danforth and the late, great David Allen…and maybe…just maybe, Evil Dead.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated A campy fun 3 (out of 4) blue giants!

Equinoxrating
**************************************************
bars