Ash Ketchum's First Horror Challenge
Here's lookin' at ya, Boris and Bela...
Oct. 1, 2011
1. THE WALKING DEAD
(1936/U.S., 65 min., b&w, crime-horror, Warner Bros.) DVD (Karloff & Lugosi Horror Classics set)
Dir.: Michael Curtiz. Star: Boris Karloff. Karloff plays a man framed for murder by gangsters who is sent to the electric chair and is brought back to life when evidence of his innocence comes forth. The lab scene where he's revived echoes FRANKENSTEIN from five years earlier. Karloff, somewhat amnesiac, then goes after his killers, operating on a level of knowledge that is declared “supernatural.” His eerie performance is quite amazing, operating in a completely different universe from the world of Warner Bros. B-movie gangsters that dominates the rest of the film. Director Curtiz (CASABLANCA) also directed the historical epic, CHARGE OF THE LIGHT BRIGADE with Errol Flynn, that same year.
2. ZOMBIES ON BROADWAY
(1945/U.S., 68 min., b&w, comedy-horror, RKO) DVD (Karloff & Lugosi Horror Classics set)
Dir.: Gordon Douglas. Stars: Bela Lugosi, Wally Brown, Alan Carney. Brown and Carney, RKO’s unfunny Abbott & Costello knock-off team, play press agents who have to go to the Caribbean to find a zombie for their gangster employer’s nightclub—or else! They run into Bela Lugosi, as a mad scientist trying to create zombies in the lab, and an actual zombie played by Darby Jones—the zombie from I WALKED WITH A ZOMBIE (1943). Has some interesting supporting actors, including the Calypso singer Sir Lancelot (also from I WALKED WITH A ZOMBIE) and black comic actor Nicodemus Stewart as a janitor who wants to remain among the “living living” and not be one of the “dead dead.”
3. CALLING DR. DEATH
(1943/U.S., 63 min., b&w, mystery, Universal) DVD (Inner Sanctum Mysteries box set)
Dir.: Reginald LeBorg. Stars: Lon Chaney Jr., Patricia Morison. The first in the Inner Sanctum Mysteries film series, spun off from the popular radio show. So little happens onscreen that this could indeed have played better as a radio show. Chaney plays a neurologist whose cheating wife has been murdered and he’s a suspect. He has no memory of where he was when it happened and he has to find out. Uses a lot of voiceover interior monologues. This plays more like film noir than horror, like something out of Cornell Woolrich, leading me to wonder why this series is never mentioned in studies of film noir.
4. THE WHIP AND THE BODY
(1963/Italy, 88 min., color, horror-mystery) DVD (dubbed in English)
Dir.: Mario Bava. Stars: Daliah Lavi, Christopher Lee. Beautifully photographed and designed in color. Very atmospheric, but not much happens and the characters are such a tawdry bunch that I didn’t care what happened to any of them. Christopher Lee plays a wastrel son who returns to the seaside family estate and is soon murdered, although his ghost seemingly returns to haunt his ex-lover, who’s now married to his brother. Something like that. I opted to watch the English dub. Lee is dubbed in by somebody else.
Oct. 2, 2011
5. WEIRD WOMAN
(1944/U.S., 63 min., b&w, psychological horror/Universal) DVD (Inner Sanctum Mysteries box set)
Dir.: Reginald LeBorg. Stars: Lon Chaney Jr., Evelyn Ankers. Pretty wild look at academic politics on a sprawling campus after a celebrated ethnologist brings back a wife from “the islands” (presumably Hawaii) whose “jungle” voodoo is ridiculed by everyone—but then horrible things begin to happen. Five interesting women characters played by five interesting actresses in a screenplay written by a woman. Three of them have the hots for the “brilliant” and “dynamic” Chaney, which is kind of puzzling. Based on Fritz Leiber's "Conjure Wife," which was later made in England as BURN, WITCH, BURN! (1962).
6. THE FROZEN GHOST
(1945/U.S., 61 min., b&w, mystery-horror/Universal) DVD (Inner Sanctum Mysteries box set)
Dir.: Harold Young. Stars: Lon Chaney Jr., Evelyn Ankers. Starts off promisingly with Chaney as a radio "mentalist" traumatized by the death on stage of a hypnotic subject who takes time off by staying in--get this--a wax museum with a creepy disgraced plastic surgeon who makes wax figures of Lady Macbeth and Genghis Khan and the like. And then, Madame Monet, the woman who runs the place, "disappears." There's a HOUSE OF WAX vibe that could have been developed with more imagination, but instead the scheme underlying it all is just too ridiculous to take seriously and it all falls apart in the final third.
7. STRANGE CONFESSION
(1945/U.S., 62 min, b&w, revenge drama/Universal) DVD (Inner Sanctum Mysteries box set)
Dir.: John Hoffman. Stars: Lon Chaney Jr., Brenda Joyce, J. Carrol Naish. A remake of the 1934 Claude Rains movie, THE MAN WHO RECLAIMED HIS HEAD. This one, about a chemist who makes medicinal drugs for a corrupt manufacturer, plays out like an EC Comics horror tale found in "Tales from the Crypt" some six years later. The gruesome ending is telegraphed from the first scene but it still must have packed a punch in 1945 when such violence was normally censored. The best of the four Inner Sanctum films I've seen in this set so far. (Still two more to go.)
Oct. 3, 2011
8. DEAD MAN’S EYES
(1944/U.S., 64 min., b&w, mystery/Universal) DVD (Inner Sanctum Mysteries box set)
Dir.: Reginald LeBorg. Stars: Lon Chaney Jr., Acquanetta. Interesting plot, with Chaney as painter who’s blinded “accidentally” by his model, who’s jealous of his fiancée. When the fiancee’s father bequeaths his eyes to Chaney upon his death, someone murders the father and Chaney is a suspect. The actual culprit turns out to be quite a surprise.
9. PILLOW OF DEATH
(1945/U.S., 66 min., b&w, mystery/Universal) DVD (Inner Sanctum Mysteries box set)
Dir.: Wallace Fox. Stars: Lon Chaney Jr., Brenda Joyce. Chaney’s a married lawyer with a yen for his secretary, which makes it look bad when his (unseen) wife is murdered. The secretary lives in an old dark house with a bunch of dotty old relatives who start getting murdered one by one. Needlessly complicated and a bit on the silly side, but the ending is a big surprise, esp. if you’ve seen all five previous films in this series. The best in this series remain WEIRD WOMAN and STRANGE CONFESSION.
Oct. 4, 2011
10. BRIDE OF THE GORILLA
(1951/U.S., 66 min., b&w, jungle horror) DVD (Mill Creek’s 50 Sci-fi Classics set)
Dir.: Curt Siodmak. Cast: Raymond Burr, Barbara Payton, Lon Chaney Jr., Tom Conway. Writer-director Siodmak wrote the screenplay for THE WOLF MAN (1941) and does a variation of it here, transposing the plot to the Amazon jungle and having the protagonist turn into a gorilla instead (an odd choice considering that gorillas are not found within 10,000 miles of the Amazon). The budget is so low that we never actually SEE the character’s transformation-into-ape, nor do we see much of the gorilla either. But the cast is better than it should be and Raymond Burr makes a compelling anti-hero as the plantation manager who engineers the death of his boss and then marries the boss’s hot, blond, buxom widow (Payton), before being cursed by a local witch. Lon Chaney plays the “native” police chief.
Oct. 6, 2011
11. THE TERROR
(1963/U.S., 81 min., color, gothic horror/AIP) Beta SP
Dir.: Roger Corman. Cast: Boris Karloff, Jack Nicholson, Sandra Knight. Old dark castle melodrama set in Napoleonic France in the early 1800s, but shot in a studio and on the beach at Big Sur, CA. Corman shot all of Karloff's scenes in 4 days on sets left over from THE RAVEN and THE HAUNTED PALACE, and then sent several proteges off on location to shoot the rest (which, surprisingly for a Corman production, took months). These proteges included Francis Coppola, Monte Hellman and Jack Hill. The script is all over the place, too. Notable only for its atmosphere and for an early Nicholson starring role.
Oct. 7, 2011
12. DEMON CITY SHINJUKU
(1988/Japan, 80 min., color, anime-apocalyptic horror) VHS (in Japanese with English subs.)
Dir.: Yoshiaki Kawajiri.
From the director of WICKED CITY and NINJA SCROLL. This one's less over-the-top than those films in the bloodshed-gore-and sexual violence departments, but it's still a compelling, beautifully designed anime adventure of occult conflict with an overpowering air of atmospheric menace in the demon-possessed ruins of Shinjuku. My favorite film so far among the entries chosen for this challenge (and the only one I've seen multiple times before).
13. ONE BODY TOO MANY
(1944/U.S., 75 min., b&w, comedy-mystery-horror) Beta SP
Dir.: Frank McDonald. Cast: Jack Haley, Jean Parker, Bela Lugosi. Old dark house comedy with Haley (the Tin Man in THE WIZARD OF OZ) as an insurance salesman caught up in the machinations of a clan of greedy relatives fighting over an inheritance. Lugosi plays a red herring butler. Haley's amusing enough to make us wish the script were funnier. The rest of the cast includes old hands like Blanche Yurka, Lyle Talbot and Douglas Fowley.
Oct. 8, 2011
14. SHUTEN DOJI
(1989/Japan, 93 min., color, anime occult horror) DVD (in Japanese with English subs.)
Dir.: Junji Nishimura. Based on a manga by Go Nagai. Ep. 1: Chapter of Hyoki/Ep. 2: Chapter of Goma. I watched the first two eps. of a 4-part series. A high school boy realizes that he’s actually an ancient demon-hunting warrior and goes into action when demons possess his girlfriend and teachers. Lots of violence, gore and nudity, but not much imagination. Go Nagai did the same kind of story so much better in his earlier "Devilman," which I really should watch again for this challenge.
15. HORROR OF DRACULA
(1958/England, 82 min., color, vampire horror/Hammer Films) DVD
Director: Terence Fisher. Cast: Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, Michael Gough. I first saw this on the big screen 40 years ago. It remains the high point of Hammer horror for me. Beautifully done. Cushing’s Van Helsing uses an early form of dictaphone, one of those Edison devices that used cylinders to record your voice.
Oct. 9, 2011
16. HEAVEN AND HELL
aka SHAOLIN HELLGATE (1980/Hong Kong, 88 min., color, kung fu-horror-fantasy/Shaw Bros.) VCD (Video Compact Disc) In Mandarin with English subs.
Dir.: Chang Cheh. Cast: Lee Yi Min, Fu Sheng, Lin Chen Chi. As bizarre a kung fu film as you’re ever likely to see. There are segments in Heaven and on Earth, before the action shifts to Hell for the bulk of the running time. Lee Yi Min is a celestial guard in Heaven who’s exiled to Earth and kills a bad guy and winds up in Hell. He recruits three of the Five Venoms to help him fight his way out. Among the tortures of Hell: gamblers get their fingers cut off and gossips get their tongues pulled. An all-star kung fu cast is involved. I never quite got the point of it all.
17. MAKAI TENSHO SAMURAI REINCARNATION
(1981/Japan, 122 min., color, occult-historical adventure) DVD (in Japanese with English subs.)
Dir.: Kinji Fukasaku. Cast: Sonny Chiba, Kenji Sawada, Tomisaburo Wakayama. A famous incident from the early years of the Tokugawa Shogunate, when Christian rebels were massacred by the Shogun’s army, is given the occult/horror treatment as the Christian leader Shiro Amakusa turns to the Devil for help in exacting revenge on the Shogun and resurrects a band of dead warriors to help him, including famed swordsman Musashi Miyamoto! One of the most subversive films about Japanese history I’ve ever seen. Wild stuff and one of the best discoveries I’ve made during this challenge. All-star Japanese cast.
Oct. 10, 2011
18. NINJA RESURRECTION
(1997/Japan, 79 min., color, anime gorefest/OAV) DVD (in Japanese with English subs.)
Dir.: Yasunori Urata. Straight-to-video anime remake of “Makai Tensho” (the Japanese title of this anime)—see previous entry. This is told in two parts, both included on the DVD. The first part is about the battle between the Shogun’s army and the Christian/farmer rebels and the second is about Shiro Amakusa’s satanic campaign of vengeance. Lots of over-the-top bloodshed, slaughter and gore, with ample nudity and sexual violence. Ends abruptly—evidently meant to be continued, but wasn’t. I don't recommend this.
19. REBORN FROM HELL: SAMURAI ARMAGEDDON
(1996/Japan, 83 min., color, occult-historical adventure) VHS (in Japanese with English subs.)
Dir.: Kazumasa Shirai. Cast: Hiroyuki Watanabe, Yuko Moriyama. 1st part of a two-part remake of the 1981 film (see #17), but with a low budget and a no-name cast. Slow and dull. Stick with the 1981 film. The anime version (see #18) seems to draw on this version more than the 1981 film.
20. BARON BLOOD
(1972/Italy-Germany, 90 min., color, horror) VHS (dubbed in English)
Dir.: Mario Bava. Cast: Elke Sommer, Joseph Cotten, Massimo Girotti. Lightweight, PG-rated Bava piece about a bloodthirsty Baron who’s revived after 300 years and begins to kill again after taking over his old castle. Beautiful photography and location-filming, but a thin story focused primarily on nocturnal stalking. I saw this in a theater 38 years ago on a double bill with THE THING WITH TWO HEADS.
21. MYSTERY OF THE WAX MUSEUM
(1933/U.S., 77 min., color, mystery-horror/Warner Bros.) DVD.
Dir.: Michael Curtiz. Cast: Lionel Atwill, Fay Wray, Glenda Farrell. This was remade in 3-D as HOUSE OF WAX (1953) with Vincent Price, which is the better movie (and is on the flip side of this disc). This one’s worth seeing for an array of amazing Caligari-esque sets by Anton Grot and the eerie look of the old 2-strip Technicolor, in which everything in most scenes was a mix of green and orange. Atwill’s a great villain, while the hero role is taken up by Glenda Farrell as a brassy, wisecracking blond lady reporter who, in a bit of pre-code dialogue, asks a cop, "How's your sex life?"
Oct. 11, 2011
22. THE EVIL MIND
(aka THE CLAIRVOYANT) (1935/England, 68 min., b&w, occult drama/Gainsborough) Beta SP.
Dir.: Maurice Elvey. Cast: Claude Rains, Fay Wray. That's two Fay Wray movies in a row. Claude Rains excels as a fake psychic who suddenly finds he can make actual prophecies, but only when a certain other person, who's not his wife, is in his proximity. Which creates problems for him. There's a great mine disaster sequence that looks like it was actually shot in a mine. My P.D. copy is 13 min. shorter than the 81-minute original. I'd love to know what's missing.
Oct. 12, 2011
23. FEAR IN THE NIGHT
(1947/U.S., 71 min., b&w, film noir/psychological mystery/Paramount) Beta SP.
Dir.: Maxwell Shane. Cast: Paul Kelly, DeForest Kelley. Based on “Nightmare,” by William Irish (Cornell Woolrich). 20 years before Star Trek (TOS), "Bones" plays a working man haunted by a nightmare in which he commits murder. His homicide detective brother-in-law (Paul Kelly) gets caught up in the case when the nightmare proves to have been real. Woolrich's stories of tormented men who've lost crucial memories was quite a popular source of material for film noir in the 1940s. This story was eventually remade as NIGHTMARE (1955) with Kevin McCarthy and Edward G. Robinson in the Kelley/Kelly roles.
[Hiatus for New York Comic Con and other interests]
Oct. 18, 2011
24. SAGA OF THE PHOENIX
(1990/Hong Kong-Japan, 90 min., color, supernatural fantasy/Golden Harvest) VCD (in Cantonese with English subs.)
Directors: Lam Nai Choi, Lau Shut-Yue. Cast: Gloria Yip, Loletta Lee, Hiroshi Abe. Hong Kong fantasy based on the Peacock King anime/manga. There’s a villainess called the Hell Concubine and enough of her hellish minions to make this film clearly eligible for this challenge, despite the abundance of Hong Kong slapstick comedy and the emphasis on the terminally adorable teen star Gloria Yip as “Hell Virgin Ashura.” She has a cute little imp sidekick named Genie created by puppet, mechanical model and stop-motion animation. I enjoyed this.
25. HOLD THAT GHOST
(1941/U.S., 86 min., b&w, old dark house comedy/Universal) DVD
Dir.: Arthur Lubin. Cast: Abbott & Costello, Joan Davis, Evelyn Ankers. I used to see this all the time on Channel 11 in New York, but they always cut about 20-25 min. of it to fit it into a 90-min. time slot with commercials. So a lot of scenes were new to me. I used to love A& C, but as a grown-up I find their routines tiresome. Comedienne Joan Davis perks this one up and the best scene features her and Costello doing a slapstick dance duet to “Blue Danube.”
Oct. 19, 2011
26. A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET
(1984/U.S., 92 min., color, horror/New Line) VHS.
Dir.: Wes Craven. Cast: John Saxon, Heather Langenkamp, Johnny Depp. First time I’ve seen a film in this franchise. I don’t quite get the appeal of it, nor did I buy the premise. That whole dreams-coming-alive thing is something I just can’t suspend disbelief for. The opening credits tell us that Robert Englund plays “Fred Krueger.”
27. PEACOCK KING
(1989/Hong Kong-Japan, 80 min., color, supernatural fantasy/Golden Harvest) DVD (in Cantonese with English subs.)
Dir.: Lam Nai-choi. Cast: Yuen Biao, Gloria Yip, Gordon Liu. I watched the more comedic sequel, SAGA OF THE PHOENIX, yesterday. I should have watched this first. Yuen Biao is the star and he had only a supporting part in the sequel. Gloria Yip, as Ashura, has a small part here. Lots of stop-motion animated monsters in this one. The action shifts from Japan to Hong Kong to Tibet. Based on a Japanese manga/anime series. Exciting, but gets a little too serious in its final section in Tibet.
28. AYAKASHI - SAMURAI HORROR TALES: YOTSUYA GHOST STORY
(2006/Japan, 90 min., color, anime period ghost story/Toei) DVD.
Dir.: Tetsuo Imazawa. This DVD offers four eps. of a TV series, the original title being “Ayakashi: Japanese Classic Horror,” and the subject of the four eps. is “Yotsuya Kaidan,” a ghost story written almost 200 years ago and one that’s frequently performed on stage in Japan. The original author narrates a tale of a “grudge” ghost who goes after the husband who dumped her for a younger woman and had her killed. Very beautifully animated.
Oct. 22, 2011
29. THE INVISIBLE MAN’S REVENGE
(1944/U.S., 77 min., b&w, horror-sci-fi/Universal) VHS.
Dir.: Ford Beebe. Cast: Jon Hall, John Carradine, Evelyn Ankers. Last entry in the Invisible Man series has the most contrived plot—and no relation to the other Invisible Man movies. Hall, who played a good guy in THE INVISIBLE AGENT (1942), plays a homicidal maniac who gets turned invisible by mad scientist John Carradine (who had a bit part in the original INVISIBLE MAN, 1933). So there’s no sympathy for the main character. Hall’s actually quite good, but his performance is kind of wasted since there’s no formidable hero character for him to play off.
30. A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 3: DREAM WARRIORS
(1987/U.S., 96 min., color, horror/New Line) VHS.
Dir.: Chuck Russell. Cast: Heather Langenkamp, Craig Wasson, Patricia Arquette. The best moment involves a cameo by Dick Cavett and Zsa Zsa Gabor. Heather Langenkamp is one of the worst actresses I’ve ever seen in a theatrically released movie. Craig Wasson looks disturbingly like Bill Maher. There are occasional good ideas, but the script doesn't develop them. This was supposed to finish up the series for good, but the money was too good to stop.
31. BLACK MAGIC
(1975/Hong Kong, 91 min., color, occult horror/Shaw Bros.) R3 DVD (in Mandarin with English subs.)
Dir.: Ho Meng-hua. Cast: Ti Lung, Ku Feng, Tanny Tien Ni, Lily Li. Set in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in order to craft a setting that mixes ancient occult lore with a modern Asian city. The gorgeous Tanny Tien Ni plays a hot widow who uses the spells of a black magician (Ku Feng) to win the heart of her handsome employee (Ti Lung) away from his new bride (Lily Li). Ends in a showdown between a good shaman and the black magician on the beams atop a construction site. Wild and fun as only Hong Kong can do it. One of the seven best films I’ve seen for this challenge.
Oct. 23, 2011
32. VAMPIRE HUNTER: THE ANIMATED SERIES, Volumes 1-2
(aka NIGHT WARRIORS: DARKSTALKERS’ REVENGE, 1997/Japan, 90 min., color, anime supernatural fantasy/OAV/Capcom) VHS (in Japanese with English subs.)
Dir.: Masashi Ikeda. 4-part series based on Capcom’s “Vampire Hunter” video game. Darkness rules over humanity in a period setting that has modern touches (cars, TV screens, electric guitars). A vampire hunter emerges who is half-“Darkstalker” and sets out to rid the world of Darkstalkers. Can’t say I understood everything, but it IS very imaginative and its talkiness is leavened by plenty of action scenes and lots of monsters.
33. ENCHANTING SHADOW
(1960/Hong Kong, 79 min., color, ghost story/Shaw Bros.) R3 DVD (in Mandarin with English subs.)
Dir. Li Han-hsiang. Cast: Betty Loh Ti, Chao Lei, Yang Chih-ching. A simple ghost story, done gently and deliberately, focusing on character rather than supernatural thrills, as a young scholar gradually realizes the true nature of the mysterious beauty who keeps visiting him at night, the growing danger to him and the task he must accomplish to set things right. This was remade as A CHINESE GHOST STORY (1987), which had far more thrills and special effects, but wasn’t quite as beautiful as this film.
34. SANTO Y BLUE DEMON CONTRA DRACULA Y EL HOMBRE LOBO
(SANTO AND THE BLUE DEMON VS. DRACULA AND THE WOLFMAN) (1973/Mexico, 99 min., color, wrestling-horror) DVD (in Spanish with English subs.)
Dir.: Miguel M. Delgado. Cast: Santo, Blue Demon, Aldo Monti, Nubia Marti. Wrestling superstars Santo and the Blue Demon are charged with the task of protecting the family of a professor who’s been kidnapped for the purpose of reviving Count Dracula and the Wolf Man. They totally botch the job. Very little action until the two wrestlers take on a band of unconvincing werewolves at the 85-minute mark. Wrestling bouts bookend the film, making it about 20 minutes longer than it needed to be. Well, at least I’ve seen a Mexican horror film for this challenge.
Oct. 24, 2011
35. CURSE OF THE UNDEAD YOMA
(aka Blood Reign: Curse of the Yoma) (1989/Japan, 77 min., color, anime ninja horror/OAV/Toho) DVD (in Japanese with English subs.)
Dir.: Takashi Anno. Script: Noboru Aikawa. Lots of monsters, demons, ghosts, spiders and walking corpses in this gory tale of a young ninja looking for the childhood buddy who'd scarred him and fled during a battle and is now at the heart of a revival of demonic evil in the land (1570s Japan). Beautifully designed and animated, but not much attention is paid to the narrative or the characterizations. Watchable but if you're looking for a compelling story, you're better off with the Peacock King or Vampire Princess Miyu OAV series from around that same time. This DVD contains both parts of this made-for-video anime.
Oct. 25, 2011
36. THE HAUNTED PALACE
(1963/U.S., 87 min., color, horror/AIP) VHS.
Dir.: Roger Corman. Cast: Vincent Price, Debra Paget, Lon Chaney Jr. I consider this the best of Corman's Edgar Allan Poe cycle, chiefly because it wasn't based on Poe but on a novel by H.P. Lovecraft, "The Strange Case of Charles Dexter Ward." Probably the best Lovecraft adaptation as well. The title comes from a Poe poem and some lines from the poem were thrown in to make a tenuous connection to Poe. Beautifully atmospheric production. Corman directed a few horror films, but I think this one is the creepiest and most effective.
Oct. 26, 2011
(1983/Canada, 87 min., color, sci-fi-horror-thriller) VHS.
Dir.: David Cronenberg. Cast: James Woods, Deborah Harry. Cronenberg does love transformation of flesh, doesn't he? I watched a cut Sci-Fi Channel broadcast taped 12 years ago, so I don't feel I should judge it yet. I didn't quite understand the whole premise anyway. Given the tape fetish on display (Betamax, no less!), what would a remake in the digital file/streaming era look like?
Oct. 27, 2011
38. “Jeepers Creepers…It’s Boris Karloff!”
Live event at New York Public Library. Four actors read from a script to reenact highlights from Boris Karloff’s life and career while scenes from that life, including film clips and stills, are projected on a screen behind them on the stage. Audio clips from interviews with Karloff are used as well. This was followed by a live Q&A session with Karloff’s daughter, Sara Karloff. Mayor Bloomberg declared this weekend, “Boris Karloff Weekend.”
Oct. 28, 2011
39. VAMPIRE HUNTER: THE ANIMATED SERIES, Volumes 3-4
(aka NIGHT WARRIORS: DARKSTALKERS’ REVENGE, 1997/Japan, 90 min., color, supernatural fantasy/OAV/Capcom) VHS (Vol. 3: in Japanese with English subs./Vol. 4: dubbed in English)
Dir.: Masashi Ikeda. All over the map, narrative-wise. Several sets of characters are in play, but none of them get to do much as giant robots set out to wipe out all life on Earth and, in the final episode, the robots battle an invader from outer space named Pyron, who then has to take on the “Vampire Hunter” of the title. Confusing, but beautifully animated and designed.
Oct. 29, 2011
40. ENCOUNTER OF THE SPOOKY KIND
(1980/Hong Kong, 98 min., color, kung fu-horror-comedy/Golden Harvest) VHS (English dub)
Dir.: Sammo Hung. Cast: Sammo Hung, Chung Fa, Chan Lung. The progenitor of kung fu-horror-comedy as only Sammo Hung can do it. And he doesn’t stint on either element. It’s great watching competing Taoist mystics battle each other, with Sammo as kung fu pawn. Sammo has three scenes where he has to spend the night in locked chambers with revived corpses. The kung fu finale is spectacular.
41. THE EVIL DEAD
(1983/U.S., 85 min., color, gore-horror) VHS.
Dir.: Sam Raimi. Star: Bruce Campbell. In American horror films, gruesome things happen to people with no rhyme or reason. Here, horrible things happen to five innocent young people, two guys and three girls, when they spend the night at a ramshackle cabin in the woods somewhere. Not clear who or what it is that turns four of them into monsters or why. The brief explanation given made no sense to me. All Raimi cares about is the gore.
42. FAIRY, GHOST, VIXEN
(1965/Hong Kong, 105 min., color, ghost stories/Cathay) DVD (in Mandarin with English subs.)
Dir.: Tang Huang. Cast: Tang Ching, Bai Bing, Chen Fang. Three separate stories taken from the same source material that gave us A CHINESE GHOST STORY (1987). Here the first story is the same one that was used both for CGS plus an earlier film version, ENCHANTING SHADOW (1960, see #33). In this version, the character is a vixen (fox spirit), not a ghost. The second story deals with a ghost and the third with a fairy, hence the title. All three take the form of beautiful women who have a relationship with a human man. Simply and beautifully done, like real fairy tales.
43. DIE, MONSTER, DIE!
(1965/U.S.-U.K., 79 min., color, horror-sci-fi/AIP) DVD
Dir.: Daniel Haller. Cast: Boris Karloff, Nick Adams. Adaptation of Lovecraft’s “The Color Out of Space.” Very atmospheric design and cinematography. Not the most exciting story, but always very watchable and Karloff is great as a wheelchair-bound patriarch in a remote English estate trying to protect a deadly family secret from the outside world. I believe this veers away from the horror in the original story into a more science fiction direction, although I’d have to read the story again to confirm that.
Oct. 30, 2011
44. FRANKENSTEIN 1970
(1958/U.S., 83 min., b&w, horror/Allied Artists) DVD (Karloff & Lugosi Horror Classics set)
Dir.: Howard W. Koch. Cast: Boris Karloff, Donald Barry, Jana Lund. This was the first horror movie I saw on the big screen. It was on a double bill with the Russian fantasy epic, SWORD AND THE DRAGON. I was seven years old. I was thrilled to see Karloff on the big screen, because I was such a fan of the original FRANKENSTEIN from TV viewings, but even at that tender age, I recognized this as a total rip-off. Or in the parlance of the time, “That was cheap.” It hasn’t improved with age, although Karloff is great as always.
45. A CHINESE GHOST STORY
(1987/Hong Kong, 96 min., color, supernatural fantasy) VHS (in Cantonese with English subs.)
Dir.: Ching Siu-Tung. Cast: Leslie Cheung, Joey Wang, Wu Ma. Groundbreaking Hong Kong fantasy mixing wire fu, monster effects, walking corpses, and an absolutely delirious romance between a human and a ghost. When it isn’t horrific, it’s quite beautiful. Joey Wang as the ghostly beauty is just amazing. I’ve now seen three film versions of this story for this challenge.
(2004/Japan, 92 min., color, anime occult adventure/TV series) DVD Vol. 1: Eps. 1-4 (in Japanese with English subs.)
Dir.: Noriyuki Abe. A high school boy who can see the souls of the dead becomes a “soul reaper,” whose job is to help souls pass over into the next life and protect them from being eaten by the monstrous soul eaters known as “Hollows.” High school life is mixed with violent and intense battles with the Hollows over assorted innocent souls. Quite moving, actually. This long-running series is still airing new episodes
Oct. 31, 2011
47. THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN
(1957/England, 83 min., color, horror/Hammer) DVD
Dir.: Terence Fisher. Cast: Peter Cushing, Hazel Court, Christopher Lee. Cushing is the most arrogant and supercilious of Dr. Frankensteins--and the actor is magnificent in capturing those qualities--but it serves to distance us from the character. In the original (1931), we felt the mad doctor's passion and had some sympathy for him. Here he's an out-and-out sociopath. Lee is very good as the monster--and I like the makeup job--but there's not enough of him. (We don't even see him till the 49-minute mark.) He's not given a chance to make us feel for him. They got it right with HORROR OF DRACULA next, which I saw earlier in the challenge (see #15). But this is historically significant as the first classic monster film made in color.
Watch a film starring:
--- Barbara Crampton -or- Barbara Shelley -
--- Doug Bradley -or- Sid Haig -
--- Hazel Court – THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN
--- Klaus Kinski -
--- Lance Henriksen -or- Ken Foree -
--- Lon Chaney Jr. – CALLING DR. DEATH
--- Michael Gough – HORROR OF DRACULA
--- Ron Perlman -or- Tom Atkins -
--- Ted Raimi -or- Reggie Bannister - THE EVIL DEAD
--- Vincent Price – THE HAUNTED PALACE
Watch a film composed by:
--- James Bernard – HORROR OF DRACULA
--- Simon Boswell -
Watch a film directed by:
--- David Cronenberg - VIDEODROME
--- Jean Rollin -
--- John Carpenter -
---Sergio Martino -or- Riccardo Freda -
--- Terence Fisher – HORROR OF DRACULA
Watch a film with make-up effects by:
--- Dick Smith -
--- Tom Savini -
Watch a film in each of the following sub-genres / types:
--- Anthology Film – FAIRY, GHOST, VIXEN
--- Appears on Video Nasties List -
--- Based on a Novel – WEIRD WOMAN, based on “Conjure Wife,” by Fritz Leiber
--- Blue Underground -
--- Called "Attack of ..." -
--- Called "Day of ..." -
--- Called "Night of ..." -
--- Called "Return of ..." -
--- Called "Revenge of ..." -
--- Cannibalism -
--- Documentary -
--- Extraterrestrial – “Vampire Hunter: The Animated Series”
--- Film and at Least Two of its Sequels –
--- Film and its Remake – ENCHANTING SHADOW/ A CHINESE GHOST STORY
--- Frankenstein – FRANKENSTEIN 1970
--- Ghost / Haunting – A CHINESE GHOST STORY
--- Giallo – BARON BLOOD
--- Horror Host (Count Gore De Vol, Elvira, Joe Bob Briggs, etc.)
--- J-Horror – AYAKASHI: SAMURAI HORROR TALES: YOTSUYA GHOST STORY
--- Killer / Evil Animal -
--- Killer / Evil Child -
--- Killer / Evil Doll -
--- Made-for-TV Movie -
--- Monster / Creature Feature / Godzilla -
--- MST3K / RiffTrax / Cinematic Titanic -
--- Mummy -
--- Musical -
--- Rape / Revenge -
--- Slasher / Psycho / Homicidal Maniac -
--- Silent Film -
--- Spoof / Comedy – ZOMBIES ON BROADWAY
--- Takes Place in Space -
--- Takes Place on a Holiday -
--- Takes Place on or Under the Sea -
--- Vampire – HORROR OF DRACULA
--- Werewolf – SANTY Y BLUE DEMON CONTRA DRACULA Y EL HOMBRE LOBO
--- Witchcraft / Satanic / Religious – NINJA RESURRECTION
--- With Commentary -
--- With the Words "Living Dead" in the Title -
--- Won an Academy Award (any category) -
--- Zombie – ZOMBIES ON BROADWAY
Watch films in at least three formats (Blu-ray, DVD, streaming, etc.):
--- First format, (DVD), (DIE, MONSTER, DIE!).
--- Second format, (VHS), (BARON BLOOD).
--- Third format, (VCD), (HEAVEN AND HELL).
Watch films in at least three languages:
--- First language, (Japanese), (MAKAI TENSHO: SAMURAI REINCARNATION).
--- Second language, (Cantonese), (A CHINESE GHOST STORY).
--- Third language, (Spanish), (SANTO Y BLUE DEMON CONTRA DRACULA Y EL HOMBRE LOBO).
Watch one film from every decade of film history:
--- 1890 OPTIONAL -
--- 1900 OPTIONAL -
--- 1910 OPTIONAL -
--- 1920 -
--- 1930 – THE WALKING DEAD
--- 1940 – WEIRD WOMAN
--- 1950 – BRIDE OF THE GORILLA
--- 1960 – THE WHIP AND THE BODY
--- 1970 – BARON BLOOD
--- 1980 – A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET
--- 1990 – NINJA RESURRECTION
--- 2000 - BLEACH
--- 2010 -
Watch a film for each rating:
--- G -
--- PG - BARON BLOOD
--- PG-13 -
--- R - A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET
--- X / NC-17 -
--- Unrated -
Venture Into the Literary World:
--- Read a Horror Novel or Novella OPTIONAL -
Nov. 5: List is finalized