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The Haunted Palace

History Of Evil
Vincent Price once again stars in a Roger Corman produced and directed film, this time only partly inspired by Edgar Allen Poe, but more directly by H.P. Lovecraft, with Price playing two roles, first that of Joseph Curwen, an evil warlock who is burned to death by the angry citizens of the New England town of Arkham, then 110 years later his descendent Charles Dexter Ward, who arrives there with his lovely wife Ann(Debra Paget) to inherit the "palace", but instead finds that his evil ancestor wants to possess him in order to avenge himself on the town, then take over his body permanently...

Eerie and atmospheric tale combines both authors' stories well, with effective direction and acting. Still a bit protracted and slow, but otherwise a first-rate thriller with an ambiguous end.

The Shadow of the Cat

The Cat's Paw Of Justice
A Tabby cat named Tabitha witnesses the murder of its elderly guardian(played by Catherine Lacey) who was the victim of a plot by her four greedy relatives and two servants in order to inherit her valuable estate, but complications ensue when multiple wills must be found, and more urgently the unexpected danger of Tabitha, who enacts a systematic campaign of vengeance against them all, with the exception of one friendly relative(played by Barbara Shelley).

Cat lovers like myself will enjoy this tale, which works better as a droll comedy rather than a scary thriller. To see the relatives over-reaction to the feline(rampant felinaphobia I suspect!) is most amusing, as are their deaths, though this does run the risk of possible melodramatic absurdity, director John Gilling keeps things well balanced, with a fine cast as well making a difference, leading to a satisfying end.

Long unavailable Hammer Studios film can now be finally seen on Blu-ray.

The Thing That Couldn't Die

Good Vs. Evil On A Ranch
Carolyn Kearney plays a young, good-hearted woman named Jessica who lives on a ranch with several others somewhere in California who also is called a "water witch", someone with the power of dowsing, but on one awful day instead discovers a long buried chest containing the head of an evil devil-worshiper named Gideon Drew(played by Robin Hughes) who had been executed 400 years before, and now is ruthlessly seeking his body, also buried nearby, in order to re-attach itself and continue his evil ways...

Fondly remembered(by some) horror thriller is quite preposterous, with an abrupt if decisive end. Acting and direction aren't the best, though Kearney is appealing in a sincere performance, trying to warn everyone(and shield herself) from the corrupting evil influence of Gideon. Might have worked better as an episode of the later TV series "Thriller"(which Kearney acted in once with host Boris Karloff), with about 20 of its 70 minutes shaved off.

The Jungle Captive

Requiem For Paula
Paula the Ape Woman returns yet again(!) now played by Vicky Lane, who is unbelievably restored to life by another crazed scientist(Otto Kruger) who entraps both of his assistants Ann and Don(Amelita Ward and Don Brown) in his diabolical scheme, further helped by his hulking servant Moloch(Rondo Hatten) whose murderous inclinations bring on a police investigation leading right to them, and the hoped for end of this evil...

Needless sequel is rock-bottom fare, indifferently directed by Harold Young. Acquanetta did not return and is missed, though given how poorly used a blank Vicky Lane is, it may be just as well. Poor Rondo Hatten is shamefully wasted here in generic role that he sleep walks through, and film is utterly pointless, contrived and absurd(how many mad scientists are in that area anyway?) lumbering on to its limp anti-climax,(though this was at least the end!)

Jungle Woman

Return Of Paula!
Acquanetta returns to play Paula Dupree(the Ape Woman) in this sequel, which sees her restored to life(after having been shot by a policeman before) by kindly scientist Dr. Carl Fletcher(J. Carrol Naish) who keeps her at his sanitarium in order to study and educate her, but is alarmed when she not only learns to speak, but again shows romantic interest in the male lead, who is engaged to his daughter, so of course that must be stopped...

Equally absurd sequel is of course utterly unnecessary, though does work in a wacky way as a post-script to the first, the picture(directed by Reginald Le Borg) is overly talky and static, done with no style or atmosphere, though once again Acquanetta does have an undeniable allure about her, she is given nothing to work with. Also wastes top-billed Evelyn Ankers and Millburn Stone, who briefly return here at the inquest.

The Monster and the Girl

The Gorilla and the Sister
Ellen Drew plays Susan Webster, an ill-fated young woman who leaves her comfortable small hometown to live a more exciting life in the big city, but instead falls into the clutches of a gangster ring(led by Paul Lukas). Her brother Scot(Philip Terry) comes to her rescue, but instead is framed for murder by them, sentenced to death, then executed, until his brain is transplanted into a gorilla by a mad scientist(George Zucco), who then seeks violent revenge...

Despite some baffling good contemporary reviews, this a perfectly awful film, every bit as generic as its title, first half with the trial would bore kids(and the overly complicated adult sublot way over their heads) the second half with the gorilla is so absurd and contrived, it would lose the adult audience who would have scoffed at its silliness! Stuart Heisler directs with little distinction, and only the appealing performance of Skipper the Dog gives this any appeal at all.

The Omen

Redux Sign Of Evil
Fifth "The Omen" film does not continue on from "Omen IV: The Awakening", but instead remakes the first, virtually scene for scene, only with some modern touches and jump scares thrown in. Whereas the original cast Gregory Peck and Lee Remick as Damien's "parents", here director John Moore cast younger actors Liev Schreiber and Julia Stiles, to little effect. Garish, needless, and utterly devoid of point, this soulless, depressing endeavor is instantly forgettable, and best forgotten.

Only watched this at all because it was included in the recent 5-film Blu-ray release from Scream Factory, and as bad as Part IV was, it would have been more logical(if no less desirable!) to have done this as a Part V; instead this is an unholy waste of time and effort.

Rambo: Last Blood

Fifth & Final
Sylvester Stallone returns to play John Rambo in this fifth and final adventure set about a decade after part IV, which saw him returning to his family ranch in Arizona at the end. Here, he is trying to take care of his niece, but her stubbornness about finding her deadbeat father in Mexico gets her abducted by a human trafficking cartel there, and once again Rambo goes into hardcore action to rescue her, but tragedy still haunts him, and he must make one final stand back home after the cartel vows to kill him in retaliation...

Despite Rambo being 70+ years old, he is still in great shape and as lethal as ever. Stallone does a fine job portraying him as both a kind man to his friends, though a merciless killer to his enemies. Direction by Adrian Grunberg is efficient, even if the story holds few surprises. Loads of action at the ultra-violent climax, which features various ingenious booby traps to kill the bad guys. Finale is quite poignant, and would serve as a fitting sendoff for this memorable character, though once again, time will tell if this really is the end of that long road as a wounded but still alive Rambo rides off on his horse into the sunset...

The Nun

Abbey Of Evil
Fifth film in "The Conjuring" franchise is also chronologically first, telling the origin story of the demon nun from "The Conjuring II" as Taissa Farmiga plays a novice nun in 1952 who is sent by the Vatican to a cloistered Abbey in Romania where one of its nuns was found hanged outside, but the apparent sin of suicide is justified as a desperate self-sacrificial attempt to stop the demon from escaping, one that is destined to fail...

Reasonably good prequel is well acted and filmed in Romania, with enough interest and fright to succeed, though is not up to the "Conjuring" films themselves, with some visual melodramatic overkill. Still, at least this has a narrative point behind it, and its strong reliance on faith and belief is refreshingly old-fashioned(much like a Hammer film) and commendable.

Godzilla: King of the Monsters

The Titans Rise...Long Live The King!
Third entry in the new "Monsterverse" franchise of Toho Monsters is the best yet, a magnificently realized, ecologically-minded film that is a direct sequel to 2014's "Godzilla", which sees our old titan-sized reptilian friend return to do battle with a would-be usurper to his monster crown, King Ghidorah, a three-headed alien titan bent on using other newly awakened titans like Rodan in its quest to be the new Alpha of the Earth, but Mothra is also present to assist Godzilla in its fight.

Human characters(played by Kyle Chandler, Vera Farmiga, Millie Bobby Brown, Ken Watanbe, and Charles Dance) are present of course in various capacities, but this is a monster film, make no mistake, and never has it been more realistically and seriously achieved than here. Filled with many tributes and knowing nods to the original series of Toho studios Godzilla films from decades previous, this is a true love letter and dream come true for fans of those Japanese epics that may well look quaint now with the astonishing CGI available, but will still be cherished nonetheless.

Future will hold Godzilla meeting Kong from "Kong: Skull Island" to see who will hold the monster crown. Whether or not other monsters like Gigan, Megalon, or Hedorah will appear is yet to be determined. Stay tuned through the closing credits though...

Annabelle: Creation

Creation Of The Origin Of Evil
Prequel to a prequel(!) tells the previously unknown backstory of how the doll Annabelle was created, which it turns out was by a man named Samuel Mullins(Anthony LaPaglia) who has a wife Esther(Miranda Otto) and a young daughter named Bee who is tragically killed by a car, driving both the parents into making a desperate, foolish action to make contact with their dead daughter that will lead to devastating consequences(especially for a nun and six orphans staying at their home) that will go on to haunt many lives for decades...

Disappointing entry in this growing franchise has some effective scares but also many slow spots and lulls, with a contrived, unconvincing story that didn't really need to be told, when all is said and done, though it does nicely dovetail into the first "Annabelle", still a superior film.


Land, Sea & Air
Director Christopher Nolan delivers another superb film, this time a WWII epic recreating the events at the battle of Dunkirk, France in 1940, as Allied troops are forced to evacuate from invading German forces by fleeing to the beaches and harbor, where they await rescue from various ships both military and civilian, while a group of Allied fighter planes do their valiant best to defend them by air. A compelling and realistic viewing experience from start to finish, with masterful score and cinematography. Though there isn't much emotional involvement with the characters, it is the true story being told that is the attraction here, as this important event in the war is finally given a proper treatment, and is a welcome breath of fresh air given the overly cynical and CGI saturated nature of so many modern films. Would have been at home as much in its own depicted period as it is in ours; a real achievement.

Kong: Skull Island

Kong As Island Defender
Exciting new version of the King Kong story stars John Goodman as a secret government representative from the Monarch group that is organizing a team of fellow scientists and soldiers(led by Samuel L. Jackson) to explore the mythical Skull Island which is inhabited by a variety of monsters, with Kong being the apparent King of, though he is often in battle with an aggressive species of giant iguana-like lizards that threaten all their lives. Tom Hiddleston and Brie Larson also star as a tracker and photographer to aid the mission, though John C. Reilly also shines as a stranded WWII soldier who attempts to lead the survivors off the island to an approaching rescue ship.

Excellent F/X bring Kong to vivid life like never before, portraying him in a sympathetic light, (despite the carnage) though of course the original 1933 version is still best. Also contains an apparent subtext and awareness to "Apocalypse Now" and "Moby Dick"

Second in a series of updated Toho "monsterverse" films, in which Kong, Godzilla(2014) and other Japanese monster stars will appear.

Rogue One

A Story Of Hope
First in the stand-alone/spin-off series of "Star Wars" films is a winner. Set in-between Episodes III & IV, story has a ragtag group of rebels(led by Jyn Erso, played by Felicity Jones) who are made aware of an alarming new super-weapon just completed by the Empire called the Death Star that is capable of destroying whole planets, and so come up with a desperate plan(aided by the Rebel Alliance) to steal the schematics of it in order to exploit a weakness built into it by a most personal architect and "collaborator" - Jyn's father Galen(played by Mads Mikkelsen), though that won't be so easy, as Darth Vader(still voiced by James Earl Jones) is on the way to stop them...

Superb prequel takes its time to build, but delivers a rousing third act filled with well-staged ground and outer space battle scenes that gives this a welcome gritty feel. Filled with knowing cameos(especially regarding Grand Moff Tarkin) and touches, film is obviously made with love and respect by director Gareth Edwards and the whole crew, with a final sequence and scene that hits the bulls-eye.

Will give real hope to "Star Wars" fans that new parent company Walt Disney is on the right path at last, though of course only time will tell for now...

Phantasm: Ravager

End Of The Road
Fifth and final film in this series is mostly a showcase for stalwart series star Reggie Bannister as Reggie, former ice cream vendor turned wandering warrior still in pursuit of the evil Tall man(played by the late Angus Scrimm) in his never-ending plan of world domination, which seems to be coming true, though it is equally possible that poor Reggie is suffering from dementia, since he is visited in hospital by an older Mike(A. Michael Baldwin) who thinks it's all in his addled mind, though both realities seem to be converging to a final reckoning point...

A much-delayed, low-budget yet ambitious sequel that was produced sporadically over many years, which explains the patchy and convoluted narrative structure presented here, which is of course the chief problem. Unlike Part I(even II), there is little here that is eerie or original, and expecting any kind of proper closure at this point is ultimately futile, despite the earnest efforts of everyone involved. Still, "Phans" will want to see it regardless, as(for better or worse) this is the end... though you will certainly want to stay through the closing credits!

The Conjuring 2

The Hodgson Haunting
James Wan returned to direct this superb sequel that sees Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga resuming their roles of real life paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren, who are first seen(in a most effective prologue) investigating the notorious Amityville haunting in 1976, before moving forward a year to being asked by the Church to look into the veracity of the reports of a haunting in Enfield, England, where the Hodgson family(a single mother and her four children) are being terrorized by a seemingly evil old man who had died in the house, but as the Warrens discover, the situation is far more complicated and sinister than that...A match for the original, this intelligent, chilling, frightening sequel is even better, with a well crafted plot that pays off emotionally and spiritually by the heart-stopping climax. A model of its kind, and further installments done like this would be most welcome, as there are still more cases to tell...

X-Men: Apocalypse

Mutant Apocalypse
Eighth "X-Men" film,(though the first one taking place entirely in the new, altered time-line) is set in 1983, where a powerful, ancient mutant named Apocalypse(played by Oscar Issac) has been reawakened, and is hellbent on ridding the world of all traces of human civilization, who enlists four mutants(Storm, Angel, Psylocke, and Magneto) to help him in this task, though the combined powers of Charles Xavier, Mystique, Jean Grey, Cyclops, Beast, Nightcrawler and Qucksilver may be too much even for a self-styled god... Action packed if bloated entry has big ideas but fairly routine execution, and I still think this new time-line(effectively negating five of the first six films in the franchise!) is quite needless and misguided.

Hugh Jackman does make a brief, obligatory appearance which sets up the planned ninth film in the series. Wolverine is not done just yet it seems...

Jurassic World

The Park Goes Global
22 years after the disastrous events of the first film, a new park(renamed World) was built upon the ruins of the original, and has been a huge success for about a decade, but an increasingly apathetic public has led the new corporate owners to authorize an experimental dinosaur created from various DNA sources that is large, fierce, and intelligent, so naturally breaks free of its paddock to wreck havoc, creating a domino effect of calamities that will lead to even more destruction and loss of life. Bryce Dallas Howard and Chris Pratt co-star, as does returning actor B.D. Wong as Dr. Henry Wu from the first film.

Fourth film in this series was a massive hit, effectively updating the story to 2015 and a new generation. Good plot and characters, exciting action by director Colin Trevorrow, though of course this is(intentionally) much like the original.

Ending of course sets up the planned Part V...

The Outer Limits: The Premonition
Episode 16, Season 2

Time Barrier
Dewey Martin stars as Jim Darcy, an Air Force pilot who is flying an experimental X-15 plane when it hits a sonic boom and suddenly crash lands. Jim is safe without injury, but his wife Linda(played by Mary Murphy) is also driving close by, and goes to him when they both realize that a freak accident of the plane hitting Mach 6 has somehow caused them to trip the time barrier a short distance into the future, where everyone is frozen until time catches up with them, which means they must be back in their proper places, or be stuck in limbo like some poor man/being they encounter at the airbase, not to mention they must save their little girl who is about to be hit by a truck after leaving her daycare center... Interesting episode has good acting and involving characters, with the limbo man especially tragic.

The Outer Limits: The Probe
Episode 17, Season 2

Final Transmission
Last episode of the series sees a cargo plane traveling through a hurricane and making a crash landing into the sea. The survivors(including Peter Mark Richman and Peggy Ann Garner) find that their rubber life raft is not on the water, but instead is on a metal surface, and indeed they appear to be inside some mysterious structure that turns out to be an unmanned alien probe that had scooped them up for examination, though a strange microbe creature has escaped sterilization, which just might keep them alive if they can figure out a way to communicate their plight to the unknown intelligence...Good episode has fine acting and an intriguing premise that holds viewer interest. Though the series' cancellation was unfortunate, this does at least provide a fitting end.

The Outer Limits: The Brain of Colonel Barham
Episode 15, Season 2

Mind Control
Anthony Eisley stars as Colonel Barham, a dying astronaut confined to a wheelchair who volunteers to be a part of an experimental operation that will see his healthy brain removed from his body, and placed in a complex artificial container connected with a supercomputer that will allow him to undertake the mission to Mars that is being planned. Unfortunately, the arrogant-minded Barham becomes even more so, developing an inflated egomania and a dangerous form of mind control that threatens the lives of the staff. Grant Williams also stars as Major McKinnon, and Elizabeth Perry as the Colonel's wife. Uninspired episode is mired in too many clichés to succeed.

The Outer Limits: Counterweight
Episode 14, Season 2

Panic Button
A six person crew(played by Michael Constantine, Jacqueline Scott, Sandy Kenyon, Crahan Denton, Larry Ward, Charles Radilac) has volunteered to participate in the first simulated test space flight to the planet Antheon. There is even a panic button on board that, if pushed, will immediately end the flight, and any chance of their going on the real thing. The captain(played by Stephen Joyce) and stewardess(played by Shary Marshall) do what they can to help, but paranoia and personality clashes emerge, threatening the success of this experiment, as some malignant force seems determined to stop the mission... Tedious episode misfires much like the flight itself, though the monster is nicely done.

The Outer Limits: The Duplicate Man
Episode 13, Season 2

Five Hours
Ron Randel stars as Henderson James, a scientist in the near future who had successfully smuggled to Earth a fierce but banned alien creature called a Megasoid that has escaped from its captivity in his home. It is in its reproductive cycle, which means more of these things could emerge, so Henderson decides to handle the crisis himself by having a limited-life(5 hours) duplicate(clone) made to kill the creature, but instead it causes his wife Laura(played by Constance Towers) to prefer its company to his, since their marriage is on the rocks. Sean McClory co-stars as the spaceship captain who smuggled it to Earth for Henderson, and is called upon to help again. Good cast and set design, but marred by a ridiculous looking(if distinctive) monster, story flaws, and a slow pace. Towers is luminescent though(why does Henderson ignore her?)

The Outer Limits: Keeper of the Purple Twilight
Episode 12, Season 2

Human Emotions
Warren Stevens stars as a scientist named Eric Plummer who has been despairing about completing complex equations needed to manufacture an anti-magnetic disintegrator when he is unexpectedly approached by an alien named Ikar(played Robert Webber) who will give him the help he needs if he can borrow his emotions, a concept unknown to his species. Of course the emotions wreck havoc on the orderly mind that his race prides itself on, which threatens everyone involved, in particular Eric's girlfriend Janet(played by Gail Kobe) as the aliens plan to invade the Earth, and wont let the compromised Ikar stop them...Dreary, all-too predictable and arch episode only has memorable monsters to distinguish it in any way, despite the colorful title.

The Outer Limits: The Inheritors: Part II
Episode 11, Season 2

Six Children
Second of two part episode sees government agent Adam Ballard(Robert Duvall) along with his fellow agents continue their pursuit of the four men(played by Steve Inhat, Lee Pollack, James Frawley, and Ivan Dixon) all soldiers who have been chosen by an alien intelligence to complete an important project that they can't explain or stop themselves from completing. Things have taken a more definite turn as it is learned that six children, all afflicted with one physical malady or another, are being taken to a newly built spaceship for transport to an unknown alien planet, and the question is if it is for good or evil purposes... Excellent conclusion to this compelling story continues the fine performances, script, and direction, all leading to a truly poignant, beautifully realized ending.

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