A new piece by me at The Chiseler, outlining my demented and ongoing quest to see every film depicted in Denis Gifford’s big green book of monsters, A Pictorial History of Horror Movies.
Archive for Denis Gifford
First, a Vampira limerick. Next ~
Last we saw, Houdini’s neck was in a noose and he was bound hand and foot by thugs dressed as monks. Foolish monks! Love laughs at locksmiths and Houdini honks at headsmen. More seriously, his significant other, Marguerite Marsh, was about to have her face seared off by the laser beam eyes of a graven idol. And that can’t be good.
Now read on…
As a trap door opens ‘neath Houdini’s feet, he frees his hands by expert wriggling and lifts himself up onto the chandelier from which he is hung. Zita, recovering from a recent concussion, rushes forward and brains one monk with a vase, sending him toppling through the trap and into the fiery furnace below. HH now engages in an impressive bout of inverted fisticuffs, hanging upside-down from the light fitting and punching another monk into the flaming pit. Dropping to the floor he incinerates another opponent, and settles for punching the last one into a state of idleness.
Rushing next door, he saves MM from almost certain disintegration, going so far as to shove one of her assailants under the laser just so we can see what that’s like. Zita, HH and MM flee through the big doors before the Automaton, lumbering at top speed, can catch up with them. Then they all go home for a chat.
Zita has finally decided which side she’s on, with the aid of an intertitle showing a bleak landscape whose boulders are engraved with the names of the supporting cast. I wish I had something like that to help me reach decisions.
The goodies decide to use Zita as a double agent, but vamp Deluxe Dora soon rumbles her and sets a trap. The question of whether Zita is in fact MM’s half-sister remains unsettled, even after Harry produces what purports to be a birth certificate. Oh, and the evil Dacoit turns up again in a wicker basket, and Harry belts him one. I think that’s him out of the picture.
By the way, co-scenarist Arthur B Reeve (THE CLUTCHING HAND) also penned THE EXPLOITS OF ELAINE, which I am anxious to see, since an enticing image from it appears in Denis Gifford’s A Pictorial History of Horror Movies. Let me know if you have a copy.
Balcom disposes of incriminating documents. Yeah, you can get rid of Mitt Romney’s tax returns while you’re at it.
Mr Brent, MM’s dad, the one with the laughing madness, is abducted from his own home via secret passage. HH rigs up a trick camera to locate the entrance, and snaps the weaselly Balcom in the act of egress. At last, he gains access to the secret underground lair, where he embarks on a tussle with his corporate foe.
BOOM! Balcom had rigged the cave to explode, and Harry falls on the detonator with him. Meanwhile, Zita and Marguerite are menaced by thugs outside.
Can Harry escape from under a big heap of boulders? (I know, it seems inconceivable.) Tune in next week!
THE HYPNOTIC EYE — directed by George Blair, a B-movie hack on the slide into TV, and written by the husband and wife team of William Read Woodfield (also from TV) and Gitta Woodfield (her only screen credit). I think the writing team accounts for the weird pushme-pullyou of the movie’s sexual politics.
(Yes, I am reinvigorating my quest to see every film in A Pictorial History of Horror Movies by Denis Gifford! See REPTILICUS and die!)
Somebody is hypnotizing beautiful women into mutilating their faces, and the police are baffled. Hmm, could it be the stage hypnotist they all saw hours before their disfigurement? The cops ain’t too bright in this movie.
Here’s what I mean about the sex angle — on one level, the movie is sadeian, could easily double-bill or double-date with HORRORS OF THE BLACK MUSEUM or PEEPING TOM. On the other hand, the movie seems to like its plucky heroine, resulting in a bit of actual queasy tension when she’s imperiled — the flick is just ruthless enough to carve her kisser up, one feels. The psychology lags way behind that of Powell’s scopophilic monsterpiece (spoiler alert) — the evil hypnotist is himself in thrall to his glamorous assistant, Justine (geddit?), who turns out to be wearing one of those surprisingly convincing rubber masks movie people can apparently buy in the shops to hide those hideously scarred visages that they all have.
Justine is sternly played by Allison Hayes, who played the title role in ATTACK OF THE FIFTY FOOT WOMAN (that is, she played the woman, not the attack).
Movie ends with an apparently quite sincere warning against the dangers of stage hypnotism, which probably didn’t have any redeeming social effect since the act in the movie looks like good fun, and the subsequent horrorshow isn’t too convincing. Probably worth noting that screenwriter Woodfield, asides from decades of generic TV credits (The Fall Guy, jeezus, you mean somebody wrote that show?) was himself a magician, and also snapped famous nude shots of Marilyn Monroe on the set of SOMETHING’S GOT TO GIVE. One thing this movie might be taken to prove is that an infusion of violence, perversity and sleaze can actually make by-the-numbers policier dross quite watchable.
Movie also features the father of curiously sepulchral/pervy Inside the Actor’s Studio host James Lipton, playing “the King of the Beatniks” — I didn’t know they actually were a monarchical subculture. Anyhow, his performance is much as you might expect…