Archive for The Man Who Could Cheat Death


Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , on June 4, 2014 by dcairns

Pictorial history of horror films back

A long time ago, in the early Cretaceous period I think it was, I swore to see every film depicted in the pages of Denis Gifford’s A Pictorial History of Horror Movies. I have not so far succeeded. I called my quest “See REPTILICUS and Die,” and I had been holding off on viewing the Danish dino non-epic until I had successfully tracked down such features as THE DEVIL BAT and THE EXPLOITS OF ELAINE. I have not entirely succeeded. It’s not so much that several of the “most wanted” titles may or may not be lost films, it’s more that THE MAN IN HALF MOON STREET seems unwatchably dull, even more so than its Hammer remake (known locally as ANTON DIFFRING’S ARSE IS ON FIRE), and that BLACK DRAGONS is an incoherent mess that makes you feel unpleasantly stoned when you try to watch it. But I may get through them one day.

Braving the possibility of a vengeful deity striking me down for tempting fate, I plopped REPTILICUS in the laptop and perused it with Fiona from the comfort of the marital bed. At least we would be carried off together. An IMDb reviewer seems to have shared my concern: “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.”

“When nature defies its own laws…” Hmm.

82 minutes later (for we watched the AIP English dub, not the 92 minute Danish original) Fiona remarked, “That was really disappointing. Although I did quite like the way everyone spoke really slowly, and all the women looked the same.”

The people spoke slowly because they were Danes speaking a second language for the English version, not knowing that AIP would dub them all anyway.

Danes drilling for oil in Lapland strike dinosaur blood instead, preserved in a layer of what is technically known as “icy muck.”


The film’s main title appears over a closeup of the man’s crotch and his bloody hands. Which is kind of strange when you think about it or don’t.

They exhume a tail, which isn’t what they were looking for but maybe works as a consolation prize, ship it to wonderful, wonderful Copenhagen, and stick it in a tank of nutrients (I think they mean meatballs), where it begins to regenerate, like Oddbod Jnr in CARRY ON SCREAMING. The logic being, if a lizard can grow a new tail, why can’t a tail grow a new lizard? Hang on to that logic, for it is the last you shall encounter for some time.

Not anticipating that a rampant dinosaur in their capital city might cause traffic congestion, the Danes carry on feeding the tail while the American officer brought in to supervise the military side of the tail-feeding goes on a sight-seeing tour of the city. The Tivoli Gardens get much play, with even their own theme song, “Tivoli Nights,” (AKA “the love theme from REPTILICUS”). Prolific sci-fi scenarist and Scrabble tray Ib Melchior obviously included this scene to make us ache all the more heartily for the destruction of Denmark’s capital along with its entire population, and he succeeded all too well. The bloodlust emanating from Fiona as she lay beside me staring at the scenes of Scandinavian merrymaking with a look of cold psychopathic rage was positively alarming. But when the eventual sauropod rampaged through the scenic grounds, spitting acidic venom in all directions, I heard myself cheering alongside her.

Fiona did, however, feel that it was a gross dereliction of the monster’s duty to fail to bite the head off the Little Mermaid statue.

Don’t watch this song unless you have someone conveniently positioned to punch on the arm right afterwards.

The dinosaur itself is a… I think “puppet” is actually dignifying it too much. I don’t know exactly how they’re making it move — nor do I know how it’s actually supposed to move in the movie’s reality, since as Fiona pointed out, it has feet but no legs, is sort of dachshund-shaped — but I think it’s a basically inert figurine being waggled about by an offscreen “effects artist” holding it by the tail. In effect, what the Lap oilman unearthed was the monster’s handle.

Via Facebook, Jim Earp draws our attention to the unsung figure of the drawbridge operator, who panics and raises the bridge so that a score of panicked citizens can cycle over the brink into the deep. “One of the greatest interpretations of anguished, imbecile helplessness in the history of cinema.”

THIS song wasn’t in the version we saw, otherwise I believe we would both be dead. They would have to cut us out of the mattress. The “singer” WAS in the film though, in his Stephen King CREEPSHOW costume, providing the kind of laborious light relief that wouldn’t even work as relief if surrounded by autopsy footage.

Also, in the English version, Reptilicus doesn’t fly. Nor does he emit pathetic firecracker pops from his slack, rubbery jaws — clearly, AIP decided to mask what they considered an effect falling short of their high standards, by superimposing great snotty spurts of green goop. Or maybe they were worried that a fire-breathing dinosaur was inherently implausible. Yeah, that’ll never work.

At the end, the big guy is not actually killed, just rendered unconscious, his eventual destruction something the Danish authorities will presumably take care of offscreen, with the same wisdom and efficiency with which they grew him from a severed appendage and turned him loose in the first place.

Meanwhile, at the bottom of the ocean, a severed dinosaur foot, blown off in an earlier skirmish, awaits its chance to emerge and stomp the countryside in a sequel as yet unmade. I have Gilliamesque visions of the foot, which has declined to regenerate another legless dinosaur, bouncing around Jutland on its own recognizance, while a moron in dungarees warbles disturbingly.


“I don’t want this to be the last film I see,” said Fiona. So we watched IT CONQUERED THE WORLD.



Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on April 16, 2008 by dcairns

Was saddened to read on Tim Lucas’ Video Watchblog that Hazel Court has died. I always felt she didn’t get her due as an actress — her wicked comic turn in Corman’s THE RAVEN is a high point in a film also loaded with stars Vincent Price, Boris Karloff and Peter Lorre, all of whom are very funny. Corman’s advice to juvenile lead Jack Nicholson was “Just try to be as funny as the old guys.” The callow Nicholson failed, but Court more than holds her own. The fact that she’s astonishingly lovely and voluptuous helps, of course.

In her other roles — many of the most memorable ones in horror films — she doesn’t get to shine comedically, but she’s a sultry satanist in MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH, engaging in a bizarre hallucinatory, sado-masochistic ritual in order to be initiated into DARK SECRETS OF THE OCCULT. Gamely, she allows cinematographer Nic Roeg to distort her lovely face this way and that with his WEIRD LENSES (actually, maybe an optical effect?)

Hammer films tended to cast her in good girl roles, as in CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN or THE MAN WHO COULD CHEAT DEATH, mostly thankless parts for an actress of Court’s range, although she always played plucky heroines rather than bimbos.

I’ll be raising a glass of whatever’s handy in honour of the great H.C. when I get a copy, at last, of DEVIL GIRL FROM MARS, possibly her first genre film, in which a shiny-costumed lesbian dominatrix from space terrorises H.C. and Adrienne Corri in a Scottish pub, thus neatly fulfilling a requirement of Brit sci-fi-horrors, according to I.Q. Hunter’s excellent study, British Science Fiction Cinema — at some point the protagonists must and should RETIRE TO PUB AND AWAIT END OF WORLD.

A partial list of RTPAAEOW films:






…but there are many more.

Anton Diffring’s Arse is on Fire…

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , on March 22, 2008 by dcairns





I try to find something to say about almost everything I see, but this wasn’t too interesting. It did have fun performances though (especially from Diffring), plus the burning backside and one or two nice images…

Court of Appeal

Hands Across the Table

The Green Room

Fisher’s very traditional approach is such that he can appear stodgy if the material doesn’t deliver regular thrills. And he has a tendency to cut together single shots where one character doesn’t look at the other for the longest time, until you suspect he’s mismatched the eye-lines… then at last Character A turns to face Character B and you realise he’d just been staring into space. Fisher does this in STOLEN FACE as well, the most recent Fisher-Hammer flick I watched, and it’s disconcerting in a way that doesn’t seem too helpful…

But there are lots of good qualities in Fisher’s work, as I’ve previously mentioned — and shall again dot dot dot…