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IMDb member since February 2005
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Reviews

Malatesta's Carnival of Blood
(1973)

Fairly unseen flick about a family that goes to work at a carnival.
A man named Mr. Blood (who looks like Frasier, if he dressed up like Dracula) seems to be the front man. After settling in, the more carnival workers they meet, the sooner they realize the place isn't right. The movie seems to be fairly cut, there are a lot of inconsistencies in the plot. For instance, there seems to be a revenge type back story with the man of the family by the way he talks in some scenes, but there's never any concrete evidence to prove this theory.

Anyhow, when it goes dark, a whole heap of cannibals who used to be workers inhabit the carnival, and eat the flesh of people who visit. The explanation is that they eat human flesh because they were never told it was wrong, lol. Same cannibals also have great tastes in classic horror. Several scenes in a small theater show the flesh hungry crowd watching Cabinet of Dr Caligari and other films from yesteryear. There's also ghouls, a cultist/wizard named Malatesta and Hervé Villechaize from Fantasy Island. Wacky bunch of freaks, I tell ya! Most of the gut munching scenes were cut out, but you can view them in the outtakes section of the DVD. It's a shame they weren't added back in, but apparently American Zoetrope had a problem with the MPAA while remastering this lost film for DVD. A few scenes are still lost, for the time being, I believe. Either way, the cut scenes are worth watching, because it is pretty damn nasty in a few scenes. Another worthy mention of gore is a guy who smokes a joint getting beheaded while on a roller coaster. Lots of fun there, and a good creepy atmosphere.

Surprisingly no nudity. Surprising because the female lead runs around for half of the movie in her nightgown, pursued by ghouls and Malatesta. Great little trippy nighttime chase scene with her through the entire carnival, where death and carnage is discovered in all corners.

It has a great little bizarre ending too. Lots of fun to be witnessed in this incoherent, mindless Drive-In slice of cheese. Recommended for Fans of I Drink Your Blood and Carnival of Souls.

Danza macabra
(1964)

Directed by Antonio Margheriti (Killer Fish, Cannibal Apocalypse)
When American author Edgar Allan Poe visits London, he is approached by British journalist Alan Foster, who becomes the target of a peculiar wager. Not believing Poe's assertion that all of his macabre stories have been based on actual experience, Foster accepts a bet from Poe and his friend Sir Thomas Blackwood that he cannot spend an entire night in the Blackwood's haunted castle. Once installed in the abandoned castle, Foster discovers that he is not alone, as he is approached by various beautiful women and handsome men, and a doctor of metaphysics - who explains that they are all lost souls damned to replay the stories of their demises on the anniversary of their deaths! The first time I watched this glorious bit of classic horror, I was mesmerized the entire time. I found the movie genuinely creepy and at the same time sorrowful. Babs Steele is undeniably beautiful. The music score makes the atmosphere twice as terror inducing. The topless scene threw me for a loop, as I was not expecting it. It looks as Synapse did a great job with picture enhancement, because this movie looks damn fine for its age, and it's the Uncut International version, to boot. This is the movie responsible for me starting a Babs Steele and Klaus Kinski collection.

The Creeping Flesh
(1973)

Anthropologist Emmanuel Hildern (Peter Cushing) returns home from New Guinea with the skeleton that predates Neanderthal Man by three million years.
Here we have a wonderful little Hammer style horror film from director/cinematographer Freddie Francis, starring the late great Peter Cushing as Emmanuel Hildern and Christopher Lee as his half brother, James Hildern. Cushing's role is more timid than usual, portraying a scientist that is hopeful and overly optimistic about his work, certain that with his discovery he can change the world as mankind knows it. Lee is in one of his most diabolical roles ever. James has always been jealous of his brother's scientific genius. He is also headmaster of the insane asylum in which Emmanuel's wife was placed after losing her mind. This has been kept a secret from Penelope, as she has been led to believe that her mother died years ago, in fear that any knowledge of her Mother's existence could spring her into chaos, as well. Before Emmanuel injects this serum into his daughter, he never once relishes on the fact that this predated fossilized skeleton he is using as his implement of vengeance could be the root of a larger evil than current times are even aware of.

We get a lot of interesting subplots centered around the main story of The Creeping Flesh. For one, you get a five-man strong maniac that has escaped from James' lunatic asylum, hiding in the shadows and putting much physical harm on anything that gets in the way of what he wants. This ties in nicely later on in the film. And once James learns of Emmanuel's find in New Guinea, being the jealous brother he is, attempts to steal the skeleton, in the middle of a thunderstorm no less! You gotta love Lee in this gem.There's also a great and much unexpected ending that I just didn't see coming! The flesh regeneration FX are done up nicely by Roy Ashton, who worked on quite a few Amicus and Hammer films also. When Cushing's character first learns that water brings back flesh, it grows on the skeleton's middle finger. And this is mainly executed with stop/play camera style action, though, still fairly effective (despite the fact that the finger has a very phallic reverence about it). Not a whole lot of bloodletting here, but the makeup FX with the Creeping Flesh itself is enough to keep a classic horror fan interested.

Freddie Francis was also no newbie to horror, having working on a couple of Hammer and Amicus films himself as a director (and later went on to direct an episode of HBO's Tales From the Crypt in '89). This explains a similar style to Terence Fisher (Horror of Dracula), IMO. Cinematography is beautiful as well, by Norman Warwick (Amicus' Tales From the Crypt). There's lots of creative shots inside the asylum, as well as a few bits in the town, particularly in the pub where the escapee goes mad over a woman.

Hammer or Amicus fans should have no trouble loving this gem of a movie, nor should Cushing or Lee enthusiasts. The film has been remastered in high definition, presented in widescreen and Dolby digital. It's the best way to see it. Special features are sadly limited, but the movie more than makes up for the lack of extras on the DVD.

Recommended.

The Black Cat
(1934)

for Uni fans and Karloff/Lugosi enthusiasts
The introduction of Karloff and Lugosi's characters (Hjalmar and Vitus) is damn brilliant, as is the secret style twists of good and evil of them both as the film progresses. For a very long time, you're not sure which one of them is good or crazy, or if both of them are the farthest from good and in fact, completely insane.

Lugosi, at first glance, looks to be the more normal of the two. Dressed up kindly, with a usual face of kindness and his soft and beautiful accent. We learn later that he has the highest form of cat phobia known. At when seeing one, he cringes up into a state of fright, disgust and madness. And will do anything to get it out of his site, even killing it.

Karloff's entrance into the film is amazing, as in the shadows of his room he rises from the bed like lifting from a coffin. As Hjalmar enters the room where Vitus is giving Joan a shot, the door opens and he walks in looking like walking death and evil. Yet, he does seem to have a strange, perhaps forbidden charm about himself. One of the most genuine moments takes place outside, where we get a beautiful shot of clouds pouring through a full moon on one of the most blasphemous nights in history. Then the camera brilliantly drops down ever so slowly to a side shot of Karloff looking into the night sky, appearing just as evil as the devilish deeds he's about to conduct. Fantastic film-making.

Of course, this is one film where both actors dish out pure magic and madness for the fans, and there's not one moment of disappointment anytime either of them are on screen. But every moment they are shown together is attention grabbing full on intensity, whether it's dialog or the brawl between the two in the finale. I was expecting a bit more during the battle of concentration and wits between the two over a match of chess to determine a certain outcome. It just kind of happens, then it's over-with. But this is when Peter learns that Hjalmar has no intentions of letting he and his wife leave his house, as the car is broken down, the phone is dead (brilliant line from Karloff here "You see, Vitus, even the phone... is dead.") and the two servants block the door during an attempted escape.

David Manners and Julie Bishop show true sincerity and affection towards each other as newlyweds, Peter and Joan Alison. One particular charming moment between them takes place early on, in the train before Vitus makes his appearance. Peter asks Joan if she's hungry. Not wanting to seem needy or a hassle, she says no. He agrees he isn't either, and after a few seconds of staring and comfortable silence they burst out giggling to each other, both confessing they are starving. Maybe it sounds cheesy, but moments like this are genuine, and are sadly forgotten.

Unfortunately, neither Manners or Bishop are given a whole lot to do in a film that is just five minutes over an hour long. Once Karloff and Lugosi are fully presented, they become the main element of the plot (Bishop's character more so than Manners), but nearly as vague as the other intriguing yet, small characters. The Lt. and Sergeant that show up to Hjalmar's house with questions about the bus accident are terrific filler, though, and they are only in the film for about five minutes. But it's a nice pause for some comic relief, in which the two bicker at each other about which one of them came from the more stand up town.

The scene of Hjalmar walking through his dimly lit dungeon-esque lair underneath the mansion is without doubt, the most eerie moment here (aside from Karloff's truly terrifying gazing looks). He walks slowly, holding a black cat firmly in his arms petting it ever so gently, going up to each glass coffin staring at his female corpses as if they were the most beautiful forms of art ever conceived. The most creepy point about this moment is observing the scenery closely, a few times you can catch a glance of the well preserved women swaying back in forth in their small glass cages. Goosebump inducing.

The movie has an ultra slick change of atmosphere from the rainy night storm, to the brightly lit modern looking house, to the bleak and damp dungeon. Lot's of nice scenery, and a couple of really cool shots. To note one, on the ride in the bus we get a nice POV sequence from outside the front window on the hood, straight ahead with the main focus being speckled raindrops and the muddy road. It only lasts for a few seconds, but it was highly effective; not to mention the same style shots are emulated today on a much higher scale budget, sometimes.

The Raven
(1935)

Lugosi is the reason
The reason this is so effective. In one of his finest roles as the mad Doctor Richard Vollin, the icon steals every moment of the show. Black Hearted, obsessed, demanding; Bela opens the flood gates and out comes a very memorable character that fully succeeds with a sickness. A key scene where he really displays the skills with Vollin is when Judge Thatcher tells him he musn't see his daughter ever again, and the mad Doc's eyes wince sharply together while he starts demanding to the Judge to bring him Joan.

Unfortunately, Karloff shows up twenty minutes into the story, which is a considerably long wait when the film just an hour. As the murderous Bateman, he's not given a whole lot of character, other than he's violent, angry and probably just as mad as Vollin. After his operation, he's turned into a wretched, two-faced freak. More uglier than ever before. This brings on one of the most involving moments for the two horror legends. After seeing his appearance through several mirrors, he jolts into a spastic rage, and all the mirrors are shattered from his gun a-blazin'. Boris still does a fine job with the more or less supporting role, but a little more would've been nice.

The movie spends so much time focusing on Bela and letting him work the magic, that everybody else is pretty lacking during many scenes. Even Irene Ware as Joan is pretty transparent, and so much more is expected from the character of the woman Vollin is obsessed with. Other than having the rage for Poe (though, not nearly on the level of the Doctor), her ability to dance and her hidden devotion towards the Doc, not much else is given about her. The segments with her and Dr. Jerry Holdon (Lester Matthews), her fiancé, are wasted by no real display of affection. The dialog seems false and forced, aside from a scant few genuine moments of Matthews making it believable. Samuel S Hinds as Joans' Father gives the secondary role all it needs. He's protective, doesn't trust Vollin for a second and never backs down from him. In character, Hinds shows more concern for his daughter's safety than her own husband. Disappointing.

The settings and environments are brilliant, especially Vollin's mansion of trap doors, secret rooms behind bookcases, rooms where the walls come together and some that descend into a lair where Doc keeps all kinds of demented torture devices; most importantly the massive swaying blade that slowly lowers itself down into a hapless victim from The Pit and the Pendulum. Several good scenes of eye candy here.

Not really as effective as The Black Cat, IMO. Karloff and Lugosi didn't have the chemistry, Lugosi was his own chemistry. The Raven sometimes just seems like it's living in the shadow of the Black Cat. Both movies are merely just respects to the Poe stories, and stray from following in their footsteps; though, The Raven definitely gives more nods. Not perfect, but it's still a very entertaining Uni/Bela/Boris outing.

Black Christmas
(1974)

Intensity to it's fullest!
One of my favorite scenes is when Jessica (The Gorgeous Olivia Hussey) finds some of her sorority sisters dead in a bed, and the killer's eye is peeping at her through the creak in the door. The whole chase scene down the steps afterward is edge of your seat material, some of the best I've ever experienced. Especially when you think Jessica is completely out of harms way, and the killers arm comes out of nowhere trying to grab her! I still freak at that scene! Enough could never be said at how amazingly eerie the phone calls are, even uneasy at times. The switching of voices sends chills down my back.

Another great moment is Margot Kidder's death, while the Christmas caroling continues outside the house.

There are a couple of plot holes that bugged me a bit...

Okay, why on earth would Peter (Jessica's boyfriend) ever go looking for her in the basement of the sorority house at the end? You hear him yelling outside before he breaks out a window, but that doesn't make sense. Even if the doors were locked and he was yelling for Jessica, he already broke in once before (when Jessica and the others were at a search party for Clare), and it was never indicated that they weren't locked that time. Even so, it still makes no sense what so ever that he would look in the run down basement that looks like none of the girls have ever stepped a single foot in. I feel this entire scene was just made to make Peter look like the most ultimate Red Herring, but I think enough evidence was already pointing to him to totally steer the viewer away from the twist ending.

Another thing that got to me was how they build John Saxon to act like a convincingly real cop, only to later make the whole police force to look like a bunch of backwoods Rosco P. Coltrane rejects. Early on Saxon is doing what a lot of cops do, asking questions that had already been answered. Like when he asked of the last time who and when someone had seen Clare, he said "Last time she was seen was this morning" when Jessica had already stated it was the night before. Subtle little bits like that won me over...

What didn't was these cops knowing there is a second phone line in the house, and they didn't even think of that from the get go? Better yet, once they realized the calls WERE coming from the house, they never thought of checking the attic, or not even once looked for it? Come on! It was right above the girls rooms! Nevertheless, I did love the downbeat last five minutes of the movie. I guess many people felt cheated with the outcome, I kinda thought it was genius, I just didn't think the whole last ordeal with Peter and Jessica was needed at all for the ending to be so effective. Peter could've entered the house in a more believable way...

Spider Baby or, the Maddest Story Ever Told
(1967)

or The Maddest Story Ever Told
Sid Haig is a hoot in this, especially when he gets all dressed up for dinner. What a whacked out family. Pretty charming performance from Lon, and the two sisters were devilishly entertaining. Just when you think the movie can't get any crazier, Emily Howe slips into lingerie, gets chased through the yards by the mansion, and seems to develop an infatuation with Ralph (Haig), who really only communicates in grunts and hilarious goof-ball faces. The people living under the floor in the basement/cellar was definitely a shining creepy moment. Highly recommended for fans of redneck style horror, this is one responsible for many later to come favorites.

Fantomas do an awesome cover of the Spider Baby theme song on their "Director's Cut" CD, check it out.

Son of Frankenstein
(1939)

Son of Frankenstein
Lugosi was great and vile looking as the broken necked Ygor. He really stands out during a hearing in the town courtroom about what all is going on at the Frankenstein castle. Ygor was already sentenced to death once and hung, for digging up corpses. Somehow he survived with a broken neck, and can't be sentenced again unless he commits more disgusting acts of crime. He knows this too, and Lugosi shows this character's happiness grow arrogant and powerful with glee. He's also equally good in Ghost of Frankenstein, but I think that is a less enjoyable film. Lugosi is also awesome in The Devil Bat. But, I do consider White Zombie his best movie, and Dracula I like but it isn't a favorite.

Psycho
(1960)

For what it is, Psycho pretty much is a perfect film.
It's very disappointing that Anthony Perkins was type-casted due to this performance. I think he proves here that he could play any type of character. With Bates alone you get more than one personality, and he plays them all up well. One of the best scenes in the movie is the dinner with Bates and Marion. It's a really well-developed sequence. And it shows Bates from both sides of the spectrum. A lonesome nice guy with a bit of sadness, then out pops a slight hint of perhaps madness or insanity.

Watching this movie over and over, it still doesn't get boring to me. The build-up of Leigh's character being washed from existence doesn't become boring to me after multiple viewings. It's a Hitchcock movie. His style of filming leaves so much beauty to look at before the horror begins here. I found myself wandering all over the sets while re-watching this. And I think the first 45 minutes gives you a perfect introduction to Marion. At first you think she is going to get away with her spir of the moment crime, then you learn that the good in her knows what she did was wrong, and that she wants to go back and make the best she can of her mistake. Sadly, she never gets to, and one of the most iconic death scenes in horror history is born. And that character that became so solid in your minds that you are just so certain is the lead heroine, is gone. Watching it now and still knowing of the scene in the shower still gives me disbelief that that's how it went down.

Richard Band owes a lot of gratitude to the movie's film score. When I watch Re-Animator, the opening of Psycho immediately comes to mind.

I'm no expert on film, and I like some real bad crap and no brainer films. But I look at this film as a flawless masterpiece.

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