Archive for The Phantom of Soho

Mmm, Reptilicious

Posted in FILM, literature with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 19, 2010 by dcairns

My quest, the one I’ve entitled See Reptilicus And Die — my quest to see every film depicted in the pages of Denis Gifford’s A Pictorial History of Horror Movies — the book he wrote by taking dictation form my childhood nightmares — my quest, I say, is not far from completion. If you visit the pages where I listed the films I had to track down and see, you’ll observe that most of the entries are now coloured BLOOD RED, meaning I came, I saw, I choked back my vomit.

Here’s a list of movies located but still to be watched —

THE BLOOD BEAST TERROR: killer moth romp with Cushing. Lovely.

MURDER CLINIC: never knew what this was, turns out to be a giallo. Got a very scratchy, very pink copy.

THE PHANTOM OF SOHO: actually got two radically different cuts of this krimi kaper, in different languages. Will watch both, become confused, write post.

INVISIBLE INVADERS: an Edward L Cahn atrocity.

WILLARD: rat movie with Michael Jackson theme song. Figures. Anyone remarked how the lyrics of “Thriller” describe accurately Jacko’s use of THE EXORCIST to terrify small boys into sexual submission?

THE VAMPIRE (1957): around this time somebody also made THE WEREWOLF. I guess it was time somebody noticed those basic titles hadn’t been exploited.

GAMERA VS JIGER: monsters duke it out at the 1970 Japan World’s Fair.

KING OF THE ZOMBIES: one of the easiest to see, since it’s actually online, and one of the hardest to sit through (I’ve tried, God knows I’ve tried).

RETURN OF THE APE MAN: the original was pretty bad. This phony sequel at least George Zucco and John Carradine to bolster Lugosi (and by “bolster” I mean “physically support”).

THE RETURN OF COUNT YORGA: it is entirely possible that I’ve seen this, on a b&w portable TV in my bedroom when I was 17. But I’m not sure that counts, since I don’t remember a damn thing about it.

BLACK DRAGONS: is going to be an ordeal. What drugs do you recommend to enhance the experience?

THE MONSTER MAKER: Ralph Morgan as a mad scientist is an attractive prospect, though part of me wishes it was his brother Frank.

DEAD MEN WALK: Zucco always cracks me up.

INVISIBLE AGENT: this ought to be good fun.

THE MAN IN HALF MOON STREET: watched half an hour before sinking into a coma. Will try again, using strong stimulants. Even duller than remake, THE MAN WHO COULD CHEAT DEATH. Even with the lovely Helen Walker, an immortal snore.

THE DEVIL BAT: has to be at least watchable.

EQUINOX: one of several Gifford titles to have received the Criterion treatment. And I’m not just talking about classics, but THE GRIP OF THE STRANGLER also.

THE HYPNOTIC EYE: I just tracked down a copy of this nasty-sounding thing. Beatniks, hypnosis and mutilation.

REPTILICUS: the mother of all Danish dinosaur movies.

The tricky ones are still the remaining rarities I haven’t laid hands on, of course. But plans are afoot…

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Quiz Tomorrow!

Posted in FILM with tags , on July 1, 2010 by dcairns

So watch out!

Win One for the Gifford

Posted in FILM, literature with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 8, 2010 by dcairns

Watched HOUSE, or HAUSU, as the Japanese call it — our friend Kiyo had recommended we obtain it, and then we read a glowing FaceBook recital of its many virtues from regular Shadowplayer and critic Anne Billson. Eaten by a piano? Drowned in cat’s blood? This sounded like a film to give Ozu a run for his money.

What concerns us for the moment, however, is a moment relatively early in the film, which has an unusually long preambular sequence setting up the arrival of seven cheeky Japanese schoolgirls (soon to be dead and possibly naked) at the titular haunted hausu. We’re on a coach, heading into the country. But what’s this extra on the left reading?

“The Gifford!” cried Fiona, startling me worse than anything in the movie would.

What a nice tribute from director Obayashi-san: Denis Gifford’s A Pictorial History of Horror Movies (far left of frame), suggesting a possible clue to his movie’s patchwork style — he’s been inspired by the random collection of images approach taken by Gifford in illustrating his Big Green Tome.

As I’m working my way through all the films illustrated in this book, it was a pleasure indeed to find a fellow fan.

So how am I doing?

Candace Hilligoss, so effective in her goose-like beauty in CARNIVAL OF SOULS, makes her only other appearance in CURSE OF THE LIVING CORPSE (that’s not her above, though), a movie that actually does try hard to be good, and even seems to have a partial, coffee-stained map guiding it in the right general direction. Period flavour has been aimed for, unusual dialogue attempted (“The body is a long insatiable tube!”), and suitable actors engaged (a nubile Roy Scheider, not yet tanned to alligator-hide perfection, is particularly effective). Plus a decent nasty plot premise, in which some insufferable rich folks in period New England are wiped out (perhaps by a departed relative) in the manner of their worst fears. Lest the gimmick and the talking stuff don’t quite carry the day, some gore and some decorous semi-nudity are laid on. It doesn’t quite make it to being memorable or actually, y’know, good, but one can’t fault the intent.

Attempts to obtain THE ALLIGATOR PEOPLE have so far defeated me — anyone out there can help?

I have, however, got my sweaty mitts on FRANKENSTEIN CONQUERS THE WORLD, a Japanese kaijin flick using the man-made man, grown to giganticular proportions, as protag. Can’t wait to sample this Ishiro Honda weirdfest.

Also obtained but not yet watched: the 1957 THE VAMPIRE, which for some reason Gifford illustrates twice; THE PHANTOM OF SOHO, in two distinct versions;

Enjoyed two surviving Melies masterworks, THE VANISHING LADY, from which Melies produces three frame enlargements for a before-during-and-after account of M. Melies magic trick, and THE GIGANTIC DEVIL, whose oddly simpering Satan I had long admired in still form. This year I intend to recreate, in my own fashion, the lost movie LA PHRENOLOGIE BURLESQUE, so I can tick that one off my list also.

CRY OF THE WEREWOLF was directed by I LOVE A MYSTERY’s Henry Levin, but disappointed on most levels: there IS a werewolf, but it’s played by a large-ish dog, and the transformations are just crummy dissolves. Nina Foch lends low-budget class, but it’s all uphill.

VOODOO MAN amuses pretty thoroughly (especially George Zucco runnign a gas station) and DR RENAULT’S SECRET is genuinely, like, good, with an affecting monster act by J. Carrol Naish. Appallingly, I mainly knew this fine thesp for his swan song, DRACULA VS FRANKENSTEIN, a truly tragic affair in which his struggle to keep his false teeth inside his head while mouthing idiotic lines is the sole memorable feature, unless you count a mute Lon Chaney Jnr, who, like his great father, had been robbed of the power of speech in the last months of his life, and thus appears here as a wordless monster.

THE MAGIC SWORD, known to Gifford as ST GEORGE AND THE SEVEN CURSES, making it slightly trickier to track down, is a full-to-bursting confection of sub-Harryhausen fantasy FX. Not half bad by Bert I Gordon’s standards (and he does have standard — though if challenged I’m not sure I could quite explain what they are). The prosthetic hag in Gifford’s still turns out to be Maila Nurmi, AKA Vampira, and the hero turns out to be Gary Lockwood of 2001 fame. Basil Rathbone and Estelle Winwood heap on the ham, but the film’s finest thespian delight turns out to be busty nonentity Anne Helm, playing “Princess Helene” in the manner of a concussed cosmetologist. It’s so wrong it’s exactly right.

THE MAN OF A THOUSAND FACES seems to exist not to honour MGM’s 25th anniversary, as suggested, but merely to prove that even James Cagney’s talents have their limits. The real casting coup is Robert Evans as Irving Thalberg, before Evans made the transition from tanned-yet-pallid toyboy leading man to high-powered, wide collared exec. It’s perfect casting, with what one might politely call Evans’ limitations as an actor (Peter Sellers, on hearing of Evans’ appointment as head of Paramount: “Why, you silly cunt, you couldn’t even act the part!”) serving him well in the role of the ultimate empty suit.

In fact, it’s a pity Chaney never played The Invisible Man, robbing us of the sight of two shirt collars, encircling vacuum, nodding in cheerful agreement.