TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: DR. PHIBES RISES AGAIN (1972)

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DR. PHIBES RISES AGAIN (1972)

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Dr. Phibes (Vincent Price) rises from his self-imposed embalming and travels to Egypt to find the River of Life to resurrect his bride (Caroline Munro) from her eternal slumber. Phibes is in a race against time, as his rival Darius Biederbeck (Robert Quarry) also seeks eternal life and is headed there himself with his team. Phibes, not to be undone, finds gruesome ways to eliminate his competition, as he closes in on his goal.

Sequel is again directed by Robert Fuest from a script by he and Robert Blees. The 60s art deco look also returns, as does the twisted sense of humor. This installment seems to be a bit quicker paced and has more of a sense of fun, as Phibes’ death traps are even more elaborate and he has a hidden lair in one of the tombs that would make a Bond villain envious. How did he get all this stuff into Egypt and built without notice? Who cares? It’s a delightfully devious and fun romp as Phibes now has a rival who may be, at heart, even more sinister than he is. This dynamic makes Phibes more of an anti-hero this time as he slaughters his way through Biederbeck’s team with one death more inventive than the other. Watching him outwit his nemesis and decimate his accomplices, one by one, is a lot of ghoulish fun.

Price is again in top form, as usual, as Anton Phibes. The legendary actor is a delight to watch as the diabolical madman, and this time we don’t have to hide the fact that we are rooting for him. Robert Quarry is a suitable foil for the skull faced Phibes. His Biederbeck is a smug megalomaniac and we delight in watching his scheme slowly unravel at the hands of the devious doctor. Fiona Lewis is a sexy femme fatale as Biederbeck’s accomplice and romantic interest, Diana and Phibes’ loyal assistant Vulnavia returns (somehow) as well, though is this time played by Valli Kamp. Flick also features a brief cameo by the legendary Peter Cushing as a ship’s captain and a returning Terry-Thomas in a new role.

Like the first film, this is a cult classic and another example of why Vincent Price is a horror legend. It’s a bit more outlandish and thus twisted fun, than the first film, though the original was a bit more gruesome. There were many plans to bring the doctor back for a third film, one project was to be directed by George Romero and another would see Quarry return and add William (Blacula) Marshall to the mix. Sadly, none ever happened. There is talk of a remake with Malcolm McDowell, but this is such a classic Price role, it’s hard to see anyone else playing the organ and wearing the skull face.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 Phibes.

 

 

 

 

 

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RANDOM NONSENSE: HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO 3 HORROR LEGENDS!

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Yesterday 5/26 was the birthday of the immortal Peter Cushing and today 5/27 is the birthday of not only the legendary Christopher Lee, but, the incomparable Vincent Price as well! Three of the greatest horror icons of all time! Coincidence…I THINK NOT!!!

Source: MonsterZero NJ

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: THE SATANIC RITES OF DRACULA (1973)

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THE SATANIC RITES OF DRACULA (1973)

U.S. release title: Count Dracula And His Vampire Bride

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Christopher Lee appeared in one last film in the Hammer Films Dracula series, though, he would play the role one last time in the French film Dracula père et fils in 1976. Sadly, it is the weakest of the films, ending the series on a very mundane note. This film does have sentimental importance to me, as I saw it on a double bill with Amicus’ Vault Of Horror at the Showboat Cinema in Edgewater, N.J. when it was finally released in the U.S. in 1978 as Count Dracula And His Vampire Bride. It is nostalgically the only Hammer Dracula I saw in a theater and my recent revisit gravely disappointed me compared to how I remembered it.

Alan Gibson returned to direct as did Don Houghton return to write and despite only being their second Dracula film, the gas has already run out. They give the story more of a James Bond twist with Dracula disguising himself as a reclusive, millionaire CEO who is plotting a hideous revenge on all mankind using a combination of Satanic ritual and biological warfare…what? Van Helsing (Peter Cushing) and granddaughter Jessica (now Absolutely Fabulous’ Joanna Lumley) return to thwart The Count and save the world from a hideous fate, along with Dracula A.D. 1972‘s Inspector Murray (Michael Coles). Unknown to Van Helsing, though, Dracula still has a jones for his granddaughter. Yup, that’s it.

The script is obviously very weak, turning the fierce Count into a sub-par James Bond villain complete with evil plot to destroy the world, hidden lair and having him gleefully pontificate his plan to Van Helsing, who, obviously, serves in the James Bond role. He even spares Van Helsing’s life so he can watch the plan unfold, which is, of course, his undoing. The thought that Dracula would create a plague to wipe out his food source is ludicrous and Van Helsing’s pondering that it may be a final revenge/act of suicide is not an acceptable explanation. It’s silly. Dracula has had too many opportunities to stay dead, if he wanted to. Despite Dracula A.D. 1972 being somewhat fun and energeticGibson directs with a leaden hand here and the action is quite routine and ho-hum despite the filmmakers saying “PG be damned” and loading up on the blood, gore and nudity. The FX are so-so and even the selection of Hammer hotties is not up to par with the last few flicks, despite that the James Bond-ish angle would require a bevy of beauties to really take it the whole nine yards. The cinematography by Brian Probyn is unremarkable and has a TV movie look and John Cacavas delivers a forgettable score. The effort here is as dead as it’s vampires and one wonders why they bothered at all, as no one seemed to really want to do this. No suspense, no atmosphere, and despite healthy servings of gore and nudity, nothing memorable about the action. Even Dracula and Van Helsing’s final confrontation is half-hearted and unimaginative. It has a very ‘let’s get this over with’ feeling to it.

This is not only the first film with a weak cast, but the first film where Lee really appears to be tired of all this. He isn’t bad and has some fearsome moments, but compared to the rest of the films, he really seems to be just going through the paces. Another testament of his talent that even so, he is still effective. Cushing is the only one to seem to really be giving his all as Van Helsing, but that is why he is the legend he is and he didn’t have to go through this for the last seven years like Lee. Lumley is given little to do and doesn’t have the spunky sex-appeal of Stephanie Beacham’s Jessica from the previous installment. Dracula’s minions and vampire girls are all generic and unremarkable and Coles plays Murray as woodenly as he did last time.

Overall, this is a really weak effort and one wonders if it was just one last cash grab to milk a little more out of the series. It has an odd James Bond style plot…which is ironic, as Lee would become a true James Bond villain the following year in The Man With The Golden Gun and upstage Roger Moore…and yet none of that series’ buoyancy. There is plenty of nudity and gore, but used unimaginatively, the exploitation elements aren’t effective. It’s the first time the impeccable Lee seemed uncomfortable in the role and like he didn’t want to be there…which he didn’t. It’s an unfortunately, sad farewell to a classic series that maintained a certain quality almost to the end.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1/2 fangs and it only gets that for sentimental reasons.

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: DRACULA A.D. 1972 (1972)

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DRACULA A.D. 1972 (1972)

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Hammer Films tried to freshen up the Dracula series and did so by bringing The Count (Christopher Lee) to modern day London and brought back Peter Cushing as Van Helsing! They also brought in a new writer and director and the film appears to have no continuity with the other previous films in the series.

The story opens in 1872 with a stage coach hurtling through the forest with Dracula and Van Helsing battling on and about it. The coach crashes and both the good doctor and the fiendish vampire die in one final battle. A disciple (Christopher Neame) of Dracula’s takes his remains and buries them outside the cemetery that now holds the body of Van Helsing. We cut to 1972 London were a group of thrill seeking, young hipsters, including Jessica Van Helsing (Stephanie Beacham), are planning a dark ritual at a de-sanctified, abandoned church. Their leader Johnny (also Christopher Neame) is actually a decedent of that Dracula disciple from the prologue and the black mass he holds, raises Count Dracula from his grave to start feeding on the members of the group. Now it’s up to Jessica’s grandfather, Lorrimer Van Helsing (Peter Cushing), to take up his ancestor’s cause and send Dracula back to Hell where he belongs!

I understand why purists of the series might consider this one a low point for bringing Dracula to the 70s and surrounding him with swinging hipsters and funky music, but I think it’s good fun. Don Houghton wrote the script and while it may not be the strongest of stories, it is refreshing to have a different setting and Cushing back as Dracula’s arch-rival. It also gives a fairly good reason for Dracula’s return as Johnny resurrects him to gain immortality. Alan Gibson directs fairly by-the-numbers, but imbues the film with so much of the 70s youth culture of the time with it’s music and fashions that, if nothing else, it gives the film a heavy 70s nostalgia to make it a treat. Sadly, the film also gives Dracula limited screen time focusing on Van Helsing, but as Cushing has been away from the series since 1960’s Lee-less Brides Of Dracula, we’ll allow it. There is some blood spattered, but after Scars Of Dracula’s R rating caused distribution problems, they went back to PG and it is limited and there is no nudity. The film has a fairly moderate pace, but there is a lot of action and there is some nice cinematography from Dick Bush and a jazzy 70s score by Mike Vickers, who replaced series regular James Bernard. A fun entry with a very 70s vibe and while Dracula’s screen time is limited, there are two nice confrontations with arch-nemesis Van Helsing bookending the film.

A good cast as usual. Again, Lee is in top form giving Dracula a sense of menace despite limited screen time. A testament to his work ethic that he performed so well, a role he came to hate. Cushing is as charming as ever and he provides a welcome boost to the film and gives his performance a nice energy and sincerity as the occult expert and ancestor of the legendary Lawrence Van Helsing. Stephanie Beacham’s Jessica Van Helsing is pretty and a bit more independent than some of the series’ ladies, but ends up being a damsel anyway. Christopher Neame seems to be channeling Malcolm McDowell’s Alex here, to a good degree, but it works in context to the character and setting. Michael Coles is functional but, a bit by-the-numbers as Inspector Murray, a cop investigating the ‘mysterious’ deaths. Last, but not least, we get hot British bird Caroline Munro as an unfortunate member of the hipster group and future Dracula snack.

So, while many feel this was the series’ low point, I respectfully disagree. I really love the 70s vibe and despite a minimal appearance by The Count, it is evened out a bit by the return of Cushing as Van Helsing. The film is loaded with 70s nostalgia, there are some very effective set pieces and is definitely enough fun to make it an entertaining watch. Lee and Cushing would return one more time to battle it out in the follow-up, The Satanic Rites Of Dracula.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 fangs.

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Even surrounded by Dracula A.D. 1972‘s bevy of Hammer beauties, Lee can’t help express how tired he is of all this.

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: SCARS OF DRACULA (1970)

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SCARS OF DRACULA (1970)

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Scars Of Dracula was released a scant six months after Taste The Blood Of Dracula and returns the action to Dracula’s home turf and presents possibly the most vicious incarnation of Lee’s Count under the direction of Roy Ward Baker, who directed quite a few memorable horrors, including the classic Quatermass And The Pit.

The film wastes no time resurrecting Dracula (Christopher Lee) in the very first scene. A vampire bat dribbles blood over his remains from the previous film, which are now laid out in his castle…possibly brought there by the returning Klove (now Patrick Troughton). Dracula too, wastes no time getting down to bloodsucking business and this earns him the wrath of the villagers, who set fire to his castle. Dracula survives and when the villagers return home, find every woman and child left behind in the local church, slaughtered by Dracula’s personal winged air force…a flock of vampire bats. That’ll learn ’em! Soon after, notorious philanderer Paul (Christopher Matthews) makes the mistake of bedding the Burgomaster’s (Bob Todd) daughter, Alice (Delia Lindsay), who denies her part was consensual upon discovery. Paul flees and winds up hiding out in Dracula’s castle, which, if you haven’t guessed, isn’t the best place to hide. After Paul has a dalliance…the boy never learns!… with Dracula’s mistress, Tania (Anouska Hempel)…his attempt at escape finds him trapped in Dracula’s crypt and…well, you can guess what happens next. Suffice to say Paul’s brother Simon (Dennis Waterman) and his beautiful fiancee, Sarah (Jenny Hanley) come searching for him and a showdown in Dracula’s castle is eminent…though when Klove falls for Sarah, Dracula may have an insurrection to deal with, as well as, the vengeful Simon!

Anthony Hinds writes again for new director Baker and the film is effective and fun and really ups the violence quota, which earned this series it’s first R rating in the U.S. It also shows Hinds running out of ideas as there is no explanation as to Klove’s return after being shot, assumedly to death, in Dracula: Price Of Darkness and no explanation to Dracula’s odd resurrection, other than possible loyalty from his winged comrades. It does give Lee a lot to do and gives the usually dignified Dracula a very nasty mean streak. After taking the action abroad in previous films, we are returned to Dracula’s home and that’s where a good portion of the action takes place. It does limit the scope a bit but, gives Dracula a large amount of screen time and who can argue with that? Baker directs with a more moderate pace and with the action restricted to the halls of Castle Dracula, it is on a smaller and less impressive scale. To balance things out, though, Baker does give the film some nice atmosphere, the sets are as vampire chic as always and the new level of violence adds a little shock element to the proceedings. New cinematographer Moray Grant gives the film a bit of a different look but, true to the gothic tone and James Bernard once again scores atmospherically. There is a little humor spliced here and there, too, which is a first in this series but, Baker contrasts it with some of the most violent scenes in a Hammer Dracula flick, up to this time. Film also has some nice charm and the Hammer ladies have their charms as well.

To say Lee is in top form, despite not wanting to play Dracula anymore, is an understatement. His Count is intimidating, downright nasty at times and still has a little sex appeal left for the ladies. It was cool to see Dracula commanding his legion of bats and climbing castle walls straight out of Stoker’s book…elements this series hadn’t tapped into much, previously. The rest of the cast are all solid in their roles including Troughton taking over the part of Klove, Waterman as our valiant hero, with Hanley, Hempel, Lindsay and Wendy Hamilton as beer wench Julie, all filling their parts and corsets quite effectively.

Another fun entry in a series that, up to this point, has kept a standard of quality even with the formula wearing a bit thin by now and it’s star not being completely committed to the role. It’s one of the nastier entries, though, also the first to have some outright humor in the proceedings. Roy Ward Baker does a solid job directing and creates a moody and sometimes very violent horror and gave us one more quality chapter before the series started to really show signs of running out of gas.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 fangs.

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: DRACULA: PRINCE OF DARKNESS (1966)

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DRACULA: PRINCE OF DARKNESS (1966)

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Eight years after Horror of Dracula, Christopher Lee and The Count returned, as did writer Jimmy Sangster, from a story by Anthony Hinds, and director Terence Fisher. Sequel takes place ten years after the previous film’s events with the villages surrounding Dracula’s castle still fearful and superstitious, despite his demise. Two couples are journeying past and are warned not to go to nearby Karlsbad and certainly stay away from the castle. They do not listen and when their driver abandons them on the road, a mysterious carriage picks them up and brings them to the castle. A man named Klove (Philip Latham) claims to be the servant of the long dead Dracula and that his master bid the castle always be prepared to receive guests…I’ll bet! Klove sacrifices one of the guests and pours their blood over Dracula’s ashes and soon The Count (Christopher Lee) rises from the dead and is hungry for the surviving members of the ill-fated party. Will they survive his thirst even with the help of a vampire savvy monk (Andrew Keir)?

Sequel is fun but, is a bit of a letdown when compared to the first film. Fisher does give the film some atmosphere and it can be quite bloody, but, it takes half the running time for Dracula to finally rise and then he doesn’t have all that many scenes. That and he never speaks a world of dialogue, just glares or hisses when angered and robs us of Lee’s intimidating baritone voice and impeccable line delivery. Andrew Keir’s Father Sandor is a fine enough adversary but, he’s no Van Helsing and no Peter Cushing. It’s a mystery why Cushing’s vampire fighter wasn’t brought back till Dracula A.D. 1972. The sets and production design are still a gothic treat and there is some intense action but, it’s too bad the film waits 45 minutes to reintroduce The Count and then never really gives us time to re-establish his threat. The film is technically sound. There is another effective score by the returning James Bernard and Michael Reed matches the muted color scheme of Jack Asher’s cinematography from the first film. A lesser effort but, still has a lot of what we like in these movies.

The cast are all fine. Lee is still intimidating as Dracula despite being given no dialogue and only having maybe ten minutes, or so, of screen time. Andrew Keir is suitable enough as Father Sandor and he is a good character but, Cushing’s Van Helsing is sorely lacking. Renown British actress Barbara Shelley makes for a fine female lead and then vampiress, but, it is Suzan Farmer’s Diane who is the real heroine of the film, though pretty much just a damsel in distress. Francis Matthews is a fine hero as Diane’s husband Charles who confronts Dracula to save his wife. Rounding out, Charles Tingwell is the ill-fated Alan Kent and gives his character some life while he is onscreen and Thorley Walters gives an off-beat performances as the disturbed Ludwig, a Renfield-like character who has encountered Dracula before and may still be in his thrall.

The film may not equal Horror of Dracula but, is still full of charm and fairly entertaining. It does make a bit of a mistake taking so long for Dracula to finally show up and then giving him nothing to say, but, Lee makes him intimidating despite minimal screen time and being reduced to more of a simple monster. It’s not the worst of the series and a lot of these flaws would be fixed in the following entry, Dracula Has Risen From The Grave!

-MonsterZero NJ

3 fangs.

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: HORROR OF DRACULA (1958)

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HORROR OF DRACULA (1958)

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With the passing of screen legend Christopher Lee, I thought it would be fun to take a look back at some of his greatest horror roles starting with this classic, his first film as Count Dracula for Hammer Studios!

This 1958 flick is written by Jimmy Sangster and directed by Terence Fisher, who both worked on a number of Hammer Studios horrors, and is loosely based on Bram Stoker’s book. This version has Jonathan Harker (John Van Eyssen) being an associate of Dr. Van Helsing’s (Peter Cushing) and infiltrating Dracula’s (Christopher Lee) castle disguised as a librarian, with plans to vanquish the monster. Harker fails to kill Dracula and The Count decides to take revenge by going after Harker’s fiancé Lucy and then her sister Mina. The only thing in the vampire’s way is Dr. Van Helsing who has come to try to save the Holmwood women and put The Count down…for the count! Sangster’s script takes many liberties with Stoker’s story but, what Dracula film hasn’t? The story is quick and to the point and doesn’t waste too much time with melodrama, getting right to the bloody action. Fisher directs the film with a moderate pace and gives it plenty of atmosphere with a gothic visual style that serves this Euro-horror very well. Fisher gives the story a slight sexual element, too, that wasn’t there in previous tellings, with Dracula’s female victims being a bit less resistant to The Count’s unearthly charms than in the past. There is also some fairly generous bloodletting that was also rare in previous vampire films and it gives this a more intense feeling than the tellings that came before it. It’s tame by today’s standards, but, must have been quite shocking to audiences in 1958 seeing blood spurting out of a staked heart in the full color of Jack Asher’s cinematography. The film is also effectively bathed in an equally gothic score by James Bernard, who became Hammer Studios go-to guy for their horror film music. All the elements combine to make a satisfying and very entertaining vampire movie that still works today as does it’s American counterparts of the 30s and 40s.

Another effective part of the film’s success is Fisher’s cast. Cushing is top-billed in this one and his Van Helsing characterization is one of the things this versatile actor is most known for. His Van Helsing is much younger and far more a man of action than the doddering old professors that preceded him and is actually a lot closer to the man in Stoker’s tale who was more of an adventurer. Cushing was also a bit dashing and he has a great rivalry/chemistry with Lee that would rekindle in two more movies as literature and film’s greatest rivals. As for Lee, his first appearance as Dracula is obviously impressive, though, The Count doesn’t have that much screen time in this one, and to be honest, he really doesn’t in the book either. He is more of a presence. When he is on screen, Lee is an imposing figure at six foot four and is a dashing looking man, as well as, intimidating, with his intense stare and smoldering features. He also adds a little sex appeal in with his menace, as he does seem to take pleasure in his blood draining, where previous vampires were simply monsters. Lee would come to own the character over the course of the series and may indeed be the quintessential Dracula to this day. Depends on what one wants in the character, but, I certainly won’t argue that he is. Cast also includes future ‘Alfred’ Michael Gough as Arthur Holmwood and he is perfect as the dapper English sceptic who slowly begins to believe that monsters walk the earth. Eyssen is fine as Harker but, is on screen briefly. Melissa Stribling and Carol Marsh are also charming in the roles of Mina and Lucy perspectively but, aren’t given too much to do other than be damsels in distress but, that is a sign of the times, as this was still the 50s. At least they get to be a bit sexier than the Lugosi film heroines were years earlier.

Obviously this is a classic and even close to sixty years later, is effective and a lot of fun. Real-life best friends Cushing and Lee were in top form and just beginning to create legendary characterizations of two world famous literary figures…performances that would immortalize them alone, despite versatile and expansive resumes. It is quaint and charming by today’s standards and maybe even a bit tame when compared to modern vampire tales, but, still effective a telling nonetheless. It was the first Dracula film to turn up the sexy and crank out the blood and made a legend out of Lee and Cushing, whose body of work as a team and separately is unsurpassed. A classic and rightfully so…and for so many reasons!

-MonsterZero NJ

4 fangs.

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HALLOWEEN FAVORITES: SLEEPY HOLLOW (1999)

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SLEEPY HOLLOW (1999)

This Tim Burton directed classic is another of my Halloween Favorites and I like to watch it every year at this time, when I want a bit of a rest from the more intense horrors, but still want something with plenty of Halloween spirit and all the trappings… and this film has both.

Andrew Kevin Walker’s script, from a story by he and Kevin Yagher, takes a lot of liberties with the classic Washington Irving tale, but is still a lot of ghoulish fun. This version takes place in 1799 and transforms Ichabod Crane (Johnny Depp) from a meek local school teacher to a meek NYC detective with an interest in forensic science that annoys his superiors, who have a much simpler view of crime and punishment. His belligerent attempts at waking his peers up to the new age of police work earns him a trip up the Hudson River Valley to the small, remote village of Sleepy Hollow where a rash of decapitations has the entire town wrapped in a blanket of fear as they are rumored to be committed by a headless fiend riding an enormous black steed. Upon his arrival, the skeptical Crane not only comes face to face with a very real headless horseman, but witches, black magic and a conspiracy of death and murder. Can Crane get to the bottom of who holds the horseman’s reigns and somehow keep his own head on his shoulders where it belongs?

Despite wandering greatly from the original The Legend Of Sleepy Hollow, Tim Burton’s ode to Hammer horror films…with more than a few nods to the Universal classics…is, if nothing else, a stunningly spooky visual feast that oozes Halloween from almost every sumptuous shot of Emmanuel Lubezki’s cinematography. But Burton also brings dollops of atmosphere and a lot of spine tingling action, with a touch of fairy tale whimsy, as Crane overcomes his own fears to solve the mysteries around him and take on the supernatural head-hunting juggernaut. He also spatters the screen with a generous amount of the red stuff as we get quite a few beheadings, stabbings and slicings as the undead Hessian mercenary tracks down it’s assigned prey in Terminator-like fashion. And the gore FX are very well executed and there are only a few spots of CGI here and there to enhance the live effects occurring on screen. There is a great Danny Elfman score to add to the atmosphere and it’s all a great deal of fog-drenched, blood-spattered fun!

Burton also has a great cast to help him tell his tale. Depp is channeling his inner Peter Cushing as Ichabod Crane and he is a delight to watch as he takes his arrogant yet, cowardly police inspector wading into supernatural territory far removed from the comfort of his science. Christina Ricci is charming and pretty as both love interest and suspect, Katrina Van Tassel. She and Depp have a nice chemistry, though I do feel Ricci could have been a bit livelier at times considering how over the top the rest of the cast is. Miranda Richardson is perfectly cast as Katrina’s step-mother Mary and Michael Gambon is properly bombastic as her father and chief suspect Baltus Van Tassel. We also get Casper Van Dien as Katrina’s jealous suitor Brom, Michael Gough, Jeffery Jones, Ian McDiarmid, Marc Pickering and Christopher Walken as the Hessian mercenary whose loss of head creates a demonic legend. Add in cameos from Martin Landau and the great Christopher Lee and you have an almost perfect cast that gets the tone of the material ghoulishly well.

What can I say, I love this flick. It drips Halloween from every frame and while it may deviate from the classic tale considerably, it is a lot of bloody fun and it has a good cast that embrace the tone of the script perfectly. It’s a great flick to watch during the Halloween season, when you need a break from the more intense horror films, but still want a movie that has everything you want in a flick for this time of year. A really fun and deviously gruesome treat.

3 and 1/2 horsemen!

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MONSTERZERO NJ’S SATURDAY NIGHT DOUBLE FEATURE: AT THE EARTH’S CORE and WARLORDS OF ATLANTIS

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This week’s double feature is actually a sequel to one done a while back featuring two of the Doug McClure/Kevin Connor/John Dark rubber monster fantasy flicks The Land That Time Forgot and The People That Time Forgot. Now we have the other two in this ‘quadrilogy’, the bizarre At The Earth’s Core and, the only one not based on an Edgar Rice Burroughs book, Warlords Of Atlantis. Enjoy this double bill of cheesy monster madness!

 

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AT THE EARTH’S CORE (1976)

Another fun cheese fest from the Land That Time Forgot people, this time based on Edgar Rice Burroughs’ first Pellucidar novel…adapted by Milton Subotsky…The story has adventurer David Innes (Doug McClure) and his friend, Professor Abner Perry (the legendary Peter Cushing) test driving a deep earth drilling machine and ending up in a bizarre world at the center of the planet. While there, they battle strange creatures, tyrannical bird men and Innes finds love with the beautiful cave girl Dia (Hammer honey Caroline Munro). Will they get home alive?… will David want to, with his Earth’s core cutie now at his side?

The effects are quite cheesy with it’s styrofoam sets and rubber monsters, but free from traditional dinosaur design, the rubber monsters are quite weird and the landscape is quite psychedelic. Director Kevin Connor (Land That Time Forgot, Motel Hell) doesn’t take things too seriously and keeps the flick moving at a fast pace. His cast play their roles straight…though Cushing is delightfully over the top…but do seem to be having fun and so do we. Add some beers and both Land and People That Time Forgot and you’re good to go with a fun Saturday night of rubber creatures and cave girl cuties. Special to me because it was the first film (second film of a double feature with Bug, actually) I saw at the legendary Oritani Theatre in Hackensack, New Jersey.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 buxom cave cuties!

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WARLORDS OF ATLANTIS (1978)

Warlords is the 4th and final of the Doug McClure/Kevin Connor collaborations and this one is based on an original story, written by Brian Hayles, whereas the last three were based on the works of Edgar Rice Burroughs. As with the previous films, we are treated to the usual formula of action, adventure and an assortment of rubber monsters. This story finds McClure as engineer Greg Collinson, diving bell builder and part of a expedition in the early 1900s to find evidence of the existence of Atlantis. The crew of the Texas Rose find more then evidence, when they are taken prisoner and brought to the underwater kingdom of Atlantis itself. The Atlanteans are actually survivors who crashed here from the dying planet Mars. They now capture seafarers as slaves and plan to take over our planet with our own advancing technology. But there is one problem, their presence here has mutated a number of lifeforms and now these monsters are slowly destroying the Altantean cities one by one. Can Collinson and crew escape? Will the Atlanteans survive an attack by the giant turtle-like Zaargs?

Warlords isn’t quite as entertaining as some of the previous Connor adventures, the story does get a bit convoluted even for this type of flick, but it’s still fun and the added nostalgia of pre-Jurassic Park rubber monsters and model work really helps. There are an assortment of creatures to amuse, along with the Star Trek-ish sets and, of course, a busty slave girl (Lea Brodie) to add jiggle and love interest to the proceedings. Warlords may not be the best of the McClure/Connor collaborations, but it’s still charming enough for those in the mood for an old school monster movie and the kind of romantic adventure flick that they just don’t make anymore. Also stars Shane Rimmer, John Ratzenberger and dancer/actress Cyd Charisse who still had a great pair of legs here at age 56. I saw this flick in 78 at Edgewater, New Jersey’s ShowBoat Cinema, another favorite movie haunt of mine as a kid.

NOTE: Warlords is not currently available, but I luckily found my old VHS copy for today’s revisit. It’s now transferred to DVD. The first three films were released in the US by American International Pictures and Warlords was released by Columbia Pictures which might have something to do with Warlords’ unavailability.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 buxom… there’s a pattern here… Atlanteans!

warlords of atlantis rating

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