Archive for Kill Baby Kill!

Fall of the Curse of the Horrors of the Coughing Man Without a Body from Beyond Space (With Sledgehammers)

Posted in FILM, literature with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 2, 2009 by dcairns

So, my “See REPTILICUS and Die” quest to watch all the films depicted in Denis Gifford’s A Pictorial History of Horror Movies goes on — here is the fourth and final list of entries I haven’t told you about. This was completed on the laptop of our young ward, Louis. As I see the movies, I will change the titles here to RED. A few earlier entries have already changed hue.

Page 162. I think I tried to watch KING OF THE ZOMBIES online once, but the combination of bad, low-res image and sound, and bad, low-res film-making was too much for me. If I can get a decent copy I suppose I’ll have to try again.

Page 163. VOODOO MAN is a quickie from Poverty Row kings Monogram, which brings George Zucco and Bela Lugosi together and attempts to keep them sober.

Beautiful zombies at the mercy of a madman! I like the idea of the screenwriter hero — poverty row goes pomo!

164-165. THE NEANDERTHAL MAN has a fun make-up, but I don’t know anything else about it. CRY OF THE WEREWOLF stars Nina Foch, which is good news, but is this one of those’40s monster movies without an actual monster? THE HYPNOTIC EYE is such a good title, I would be satisfied if the movie itself were just a lingering close-up of a dripping eyeball. That would be pretty hypnotic. In fact, it’s possibly the only film shot in Hypno-Magic, “the thrill you see and feel”. I wonder if, after the word “feel”, in very very small microdot writing, is the word “cheated”. It seems possible.

167. VENGEANCE, with Anne Heywood is an Anglo-German brain movie, which strongly suggests to me that it must be at least as good as Ozu’s LATE SPRING. But I could be wrong there.

171. I’ve kind of seen FIEND WITHOUT A FACE, but “kind of” doesn’t cut it here, and I’m actually intrigued to experience it properly. Director Arthur Crabtree’s career starts with erotic Freudian Gainsborough melodrama MADONNA OF THE SEVEN MOONS and ends with sadeian thick-ear HORRORS OF THE BLACK MUSEUM, making him a genuine God of Trash. Crazy trash, the kind that Douglas Sirk reckons can sometimes approach art.

172-3. It’s actually quite hard to recall which Universal ’50s giant animal films I’ve seen, but I think it’s, like, all of them. But from Japan comes SPACE AMOEBA, GAMERA VERSUS JIGER, and DESTROY ALL MONSTERS. The last-named was probably the film my seven-year-old self was ulcerating to see above all others.

175. IT! THE TERROR FROM BEYOND SPACE, is a precursor to ALIEN in many ways. I’ve seen the last half-hour and actually found it tense, which is practically unheard-of for these things. Even though it’s by the generally rather useless Edward L Cahn, I’m psyched to see the whole show. PHANTOM FROM SPACE looks like one of the big-heads from Metaluna has been working out at Muscle Beach. Has to be worth a chuckle at least.

180. Here we have REPTILICUS, the only Danish dinosaur movie I can think of. An IMDb reviewer writes, “This is the movie that we Danes can be proud of!! It is the worst movie ever made but it is so funny that I am about to die.” So I’m right to hold off on watching this until the instant of my death. I shall complete my meaningless Gifford-based quest by choking on my own brains as I watch Copenhagen flattened by a prehistoric glove puppet. Incidentally, REPTILICUS is directed by Poul Bang and Sidney Pink, so when I do blog about it, from the afterlife, I can joke about it being a Pink/Bang movie. Something for us all to look forward to.

184. FRANKENSTEIN CONQUERS THE WORLD is an endearingly stupid idea, a Japanese giant monster movie (kaiju) in which the giant monster is the Frankenstein monster, somehow grown to 100ft in height, battling a big squid.

187. 1957’s THE VAMPIRE again, for some reason. Was Gifford just randomly throwing publicity snaps together?

190. INVISIBLE INVADERS is not only directed by Edward L Cahn (THE FOUR SKULLS OF JONATHAN DRAKE), but almost as if that weren’t enough, it stars John Agar. The mark of greatness. The still shows a bunch of zombie-type guys advancing through scrubland, and I can so easily imagine them singing the lyrics of Frank Zappa’s The Radio is Broken: “They need to reproduce! With John Agar… They need to reproduce! With Sonny Tufts… They need to reproduce! With Jackie Coogan…”

191. WILLARD. Rats. Lots of rats. Is this the one with the Michael Jackson song?

194. A couple of serious rarities: posters for a 1902 version of MARIA MARTEN, OR THE MURDER IN THE RED BARN (I’ve seen the later Tod Slaughter version) and FIGHT WITH SLEDGEHAMMERS, billed as “The most thrilling film ever taken.” I can totally believe it. It’s certainly the most thrilling title ever written, and why it hasn’t been used for every film made since, I can’t imagine. I suppose that would eventually cause confusion.

196. THE MAN WITHOUT A BODY deals with a reanimated head of Nostradamus. Rather than getting an actor to stick his head up through a hole in a table, the producers appear to have assembled an unconvincing puppet head, and fastened that to a table. Either that, or it’s an actor cunningly disguised to resemble a puppet head. THE CURSE OF THE LIVING CORPSE shows a rather attractive severed head on a plate. She may actually be the sexiest severed head I’ve ever seen. Who is she? I don’t know, but this movie does feature Candace Hilligoss from CARNIVAL OF SOULS, in what’s basically her only other role, so I have to see it. And it stars a nubile Roy Scheider! It’s directed by Del Tenney, who seems to have specialised in utter shit, but I’ll give this one a go.

197 features a bit of our personal history — a spooky image of a little girl at a window, her hands pressed against the glass. Fiona did a painting of this at art school. Gifford mislabels the still CHILDREN OF THE DAMNED (a nice movie, underrated) but it’s actually from Mario Bava’s brilliant OPERAZIONE PAURA / KILL BABY KILL! Fiona was thrilled to finally see the movie and recognise the image.

198. Oscar Homolka Akim Tamiroff as THE VULTURE? Count me in! Basically a stout, elderly Russian in a feather boa, not the most obviously terrifying image in the world, but I believe I could get into the spirit of the thing. TROG is the movie that inspired John Landis’s entire career — he saw it, and was convinced he could do better. Freddie Francis, the greatly embarrassed director of TROG, is therefore indirectly responsible for BEVERLY HILLS COP III and THE STUPIDS.

200. A movie from 1924 which I suspect may be hard to track down: THE COUGHING HORROR. Adapted from a Sax Rohmer potboiler, it’s a silent movie, which means that it absolutely MUST feature intertitles that read “Cough. Cough. Cough.” If I can find this beauty, I promise to feature it in Intertitle of the Week.

202. THE PHANTOM OF SOHO looks neat-o, being a German adaptation from a Bryan Edgar Wallace story.

203. THE MURDER CLINIC is an Alfredo Leone production, which means I extend the hand of friendship to it without a second thought. CASTLE SINISTER is a British movie from 1948 that I’ve never come across. That’s going to be a tough one to find.

206. THE BLACK CAT. An IMDB reviewer says  — “This version of “The Black Cat” was filmed in Texas in the mid-60’s and is probably one of the few Poe adaptations to have go-go dancers and rock and roll.” He also points out that the image used in Gifford, a girl with an axe embedded in her skull, was used as an album cover by a band rejoicing in the name The Angry Samoans. SEDDOK is another memorable title, but the movie (true title SEDDOK, L’EREDE DI SATANA) is a knock-off of EYES WITHOUT A FACE.

207. THE SPECTRE is the follow-up to THE HORRIBLE DR HITCHCOCK. Haven’t seen either of them. I bought a tape of the last-named in Camden Town a few years ago, but it crapped out shortly after the titles (featuring a credit for somebody called “Frank Smokecocks”). These are Riccardo Freda films, and therefore definite must-sees. Freda is a cinematic Sultan of Wrongness. I keep missing THE BLOOD BEAST TERROR, only catching bits, but maybe it’ll be worth seeing if a decent transfer turns up — I seem to recall it’s one of those Tigon productions that always seems impenetrably dark when aired on TV. MAD DOCTOR OF BLOOD ISLAND is another Philippino favourite, and another graphic image I tried to protect my little friend from in childhood.

208. 1949 British version of FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER sounds very intriguing — Britain really wasn’t known for horror in those days. This is a tatty “quota quickie” that sounds kind of appealing.

216. Last page of the index, and Gifford manages one more still (although he forgets to list it IN the index): the 1923 WARNING SHADOWS, which I have and which I intend to watch very soon.

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Four skulls without a single thought

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on September 14, 2008 by dcairns

THE FOUR SKULLS OF JONATHAN DRAKE got bumped to the top of the Watch Pile, ahead of far worthier items like Rivette’s HURLEVENT and the Sturges-scripted THE POWER AND THE GLORY, simply because Fiona and I both grew up (if, in fact, we ever grew up) with Denis Gifford’s A Pictorial History of Horror Movies as our bible. And so a sort of mission has formed in our heads, to see every single film pictured in that quaint and curious volume.

Gifford, an appealing fan-boy writer whose works also covered British comic books and comedians, set us a formidable task by including many rare and hard-to-see movies, some of which have no historic value whatever, but had the advantage of yielding at least one eye-popping image, captured in a production still and lovingly reproduced within APHOHM‘s green-tinged dust-jacket. The idea of seeing them all was probably planted when I showed Fiona a manky tape of Mario Bava’s KILL, BABY, KILL! and she recognised the image of the little girl at the window as one she had painted in art skool. Since that initial damp glimmer, the idea of “Doing the Complete Gifford” has grown into not quite an obsession — our brains are too full of obsessions to accommodate another, unless we invest in a memory stick — but certainly something it would be fun to pursue.

I will, at some future date, append a complete list of the films we need to see. Maybe some of you Shadowplayers, all you wonderful people out there in the dark, can help source them.

THE FOUR SKULLS OF JONATHAN DRAKE moves with slug-like speed through a slender narrative that might furnish an entertaining half-hour, but is overstretched by the film’s rather paltry 70 mins. Perhaps the slowness is effected by the age of the cast, most of whom seem to be in the twilight of their lives and “careers”, but that aspect of the film is actually novel and welcome, especially as it gives us the great Henry Daniell, a villain’s villain if ever there was one, as the oleaginous Dr. Zurich, of Switzerland. The aged and baggy-eyed Daniell, whose face seems more than ever to be adorned with a Lone Ranger mask fashioned from his own skin, is nevertheless on chipper form as the baddie, a man with a strange and horrible secret.

Movie begins in fun fashion as Jonathan Drake (Eduard Franz) meditates upon a shrunken head, and is then persecuted by a vision of three hovering skulls. I call that a fine start. Sadly we then become mired in “plot”, although the graphic and detailed visual account of how to shrink a man’s head is both entertaining and informative. In addition, we have Zurich’s South American Indian henchman, Zutai (Paul Wexler), a man equipped with a string moustache, as if somebody had tried to make a shrunken head of him, sewing up his lips, but had given it up as a lost cause.

“Who am I kidding? I can’t shrink heads!” cried the student of cephalominimalism, kicking over his cauldron and discarding Zutai’s cranium without even having severed it.

Zutai’s handsome countenance was the image Gifford chose to immortalise, and along with the floating skulls, shrunken heads and moments of gore and unpleasantness (the needle that injects a paralysing fluid that simulates death!), definitely forms a highlight. Some talkie back-story establishes how Zutai became impervious to bullets, but an even more radical reveal gives us the secret of Zurich’s immortality — his head has been attached to an Indian’s body. Somehow, as a result, he is immune to the effects of old age (even though he’s clearly suffering them RIGHT NOW) and is actually 200 yrs old. This surgical miscegenation is visualised by a shot of poor old Henry with shirt open, stitching around neck and shoe-blacked torso testifying to his offense against nature. I shouldn’t be glad I saw that, but I kind of am.

Having finally captured the ageless-yet-withered Zurich, Drake procedes to murder the helpless felon by severing his head, with the full cooperation of the local police (!) and then we get a quick disintegration, leaving only —

“The fourth skull!” affirms Drake, grimly.

“Yes! It was me all along! Mwahahahahaha!”