Thursday, 31 March 2011

Bogart Hits The Horror Spot With ...

The Return Of Dr. X

A murder, mystery thriller in which Humphrey Bogart plays an atypical role as a cold blooded killer brought back from the dead !.

The title of the movie is equal parts misleading, and completely apt.
The Return Of Dr. X has absolutely nothing to do with the 1932 made horror classic Dr. X, starring Lionel Atwill as the titular doctor, but the significance of this movies premise most definitely lies in its titling.

An eminent doctor of haematology, Dr. Francis Flegg, has developed a synthetic blood that can bring back recently inanimate life forms, and his greatest achievement is that of bringing back to life a man !. That man is a brilliant doctor in his own right, Dr. Xavier. The ethical issue at hand is that of Dr. Xavier being released into the custody of Dr. Flegg after his death … at the hands of his executioner, following his sentence to death after committing the murder of a child !.

When a newspaper reporter calls upon a famous actress, to get a coup for his paper, he discovers her dead body in her hotel apartment. Stabbed just beneath her heart, and her body drained of its blood. When reporter Walter ‘Wichita’ Garrett (Wayne Morris) prints his story for the morning press he is soon ridiculed by his colleagues when the actress turns up at the press chiefs office to hit them with a libel action. There is something not quite right about this picture though as the starlets flesh tone is a deathly pale pallor !.

Walter Garrett turns to his friend Dr. Mike Rhodes, who is himself called upon by the police to attend the crime scene of a murder which fits the same pattern that Garrett is describing. The victim is a male, called upon by the hospital as a blood donor, due to his rare type one group. Dr. Rhodes soon learns that the actress too has a type one blood group. When she later turns up dead, again !, for real, suspicions turn to Dr. Rhodes contemporary senior, Dr. Francis Flegg. Greater suspicion falls upon his mysterious assistant Marshall Quesne, another with a deathly pale pallor, not to mention a striking white streak of hair upon his head, and a freakish predilection for stroking bunny rabbits !.

Both Dr. Rhodes and Walter Garrett further investigate matters, and between them uncover a ghastly connection between the executed Dr. Xavier and Marshall Quesne. Humphrey Bogart’s portrayal of a ghoulish genius, caught up in the well intentioned yet flawed scientific machinations of fellow genius Dr. Flegg, is as unrecognisable in its interpretation to any other role he would ever play. A true curio from the annals of cinematic history.

Perhaps Bogart’s better known association with his interpretations of gangsters may be attributable to his characters conclusive stand at the films finale, as he is cornered by the police like a villain on the run with nothing left to do but shoot it out. More poignantly here may be to describe as a bunny rabbit caught in the headlights of an oncoming car !. Whichever way you wish to evaluate this truly is a curious role decision. It is almost as if Bogart’s agent, or even the film studio he was signed to, had an agreement that they were obligated to fulfil. Whatever the reason Bogart himself shows no sign of resentment or awkwardness in his performance, as he hams it up for all its worth.

The Return Of Dr. X Trailer

Movie Details IMDB

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Roger Corman's Classic Poe Trio ...

Tales Of Terror

Director Roger Corman once again brings together some of the icons of classic horror for this Edgar Allan Poe compendium of stories, Tales Of Terror. Vincent Price is the ubiquitous link throughout the three segments of the film, starring alongside fellow genre luminaries Peter Lorre and Basil Rathbone.

Corman’s infamous prolific output turnaround on these American International releases completely belies the high quota of production values. The sets are well constructed, and the use of costume and colour is luscious.

The charming and pretty young Maggie Pierce co-stars alongside Vincent Price in the opening segment. Morella is the tale of a daughter estranged from her father, who blames her for the untimely death of his wife. Living alone in his remote castle like estate house, atop a cliff, overlooking the ocean, Vincent Price’s character of Locke now lives his life through drink, drowning his sorrows as each day wastes away.

Locke’s daughter Lenora returns to the household in order to make peace with her father. Once home she discovers her fathers state of health and mind is not all that it should be. Holding on to the memory of his dear wife is far more tangible than Lenora realised, for cocooned in a myriad of webs and dust up in one of the bedrooms lays the decayed body of Morella, her mother and wife of Locke !.

A beyond the grave tale of retribution, playing out with delicious aplomb under the direction of Roger Corman and the mercurial talents of Vincent Price.

The middle segment of the terror trio, The Black Cat, has Peter Lorre as the central character of Montresor, a somewhat washed up man well past his mid life and looking at his future through the bottom of a constantly emptying glass of booze. Every coin he can get his hands upon is spent at the local brewery. His younger pretty wife distraught at his changed persona.

Meandering in the streets in a half drunken state as usual on one particular day he chances upon a wine tasting gathering. He is beside himself at the opportunity to down free alcohol and does just that when he challenges wine connoisseur Fortunato Luchresi (Vincent Price) to a tasting session, bragging that he knows more about wine than this dandy gent.

The chance meeting of the two leads to Fortunato Luchresi meeting Montresor’s wife and it is not long at all before the two have an affair behind his back. Montresor discovers their indiscretion and plots their downfall in a devilish demise. He chains them both up in his cellar and then proceeds to incarcerate them behind a brick wall that he himself puts up.

Montresor discovers his wife’s hidden coinage and sets out that evening to spend his findings on drink, sharing in his good fortune with those in the tavern with him. The drink flows freely, but in his drunken stupor so does Montresors tongue. The following morning the police show up at his home asking after the whereabouts of his wife !.
What unravels is the clever twist of fate that delivers Montresor his own twist of sobriety, courtesy of the titular Black Cat !.

The final episode is The Case Of M. Valdemar. The startling tale of M. Vladimir (Vincent Price), a decent man who is dying. His devoted wife at his side, and a loyal friend and doctor at his bedside to aid in Valdemar’s last remaining days. At the forefront, however, is the cold character of Carmichael, a practitioner in hypnotism and a man who has managed to gain Valdemar’s trust. He has persuaded Valdemar to assist him in his research into what transpires beyond the veil of death. Valdemar has agreed to allow Carmichael to hypnotise him at his moment of death, to then use his spirit caught in a state of limbo to question about what does indeed lay beyond this mortal life.

Carmichael is an unpleasant personification of selfish advancement to the detriment and anguish of others. The role is masterfully realised by the splendid Basil Rathbone, synonymous with the role of Sherlock Holmes, here against type but acting with a recognised infusion of arrogance that he portrayed on screen so very well. As well as using the affable Valdemar to further his own end he also lusts after the poor mans beautiful wife, played by the very attractive Debra Paget.

At the point of death the hypnotic deed is done but of course Carmichael leaves poor Valdemar in a state of limbo for far longer than ever agreed to. Valdemar’s wife and the good doctor must act in order to make things right, and allow Valdemar to pass on over into the afterlife. Carmichael refuses to release Valdemar from the hypnotic state, and in turn forces himself upon his wife, insistent that she become his wife or Valdemar will never be set free !.

The overwhelming love and devotion to his wife triggers a deep set reaction within Valdemar, and in keeping with the films theme of revenge Carmichael gets to experience first hand what lays beyond death !.

A splendid horror anthology, colourful and classy, with a splendid cast of horror greats, all under the direction of a man in the prime of his profession. Tales Of Terror never looked so good as it does here, in yet another wonderfully presented High Definition print showing on the MGM HD Channel.

Tales Of Terror Trailer

Movie Details IMDB

Friday, 25 March 2011

Two Strip Technicolour Terror Titan ...

Doctor X

One of the true horror / thriller greats from the golden age of cinema. Doctor X exudes thrills and chills from each frame, deliriously intoxicating its audience like a fine wine. Each drop as sweet as the next. Lionel Atwill stars as the titular character, along with an equally magnificent cast of intriguing players. An amalgam of thrills, chills and deliciously deft humour abound in one of the cleverest movies of its time, and indeed of all time !.

There is a serial killer on the loose, murdering innocent people during the cycle of the full moon. Dubbed as the Moon Killer this reported monster appears hideously disfigured, and kills his victims with the precision of a surgeon. This miscreant of the night also has a taste for human flesh, and leaves each victim defiled with an act of cannibalism !.

After six fatal and heinous killings the police are convinced that they are the act of a surgical specialist. Doctor Xavier is the prominent head of the city medical institute, where he and acclaimed specialists are dedicated to their research. Any one of them could be the killer. Doctor Xavier pleads with the police to give him forty eight hours to undertake his own intricate methods to uncover the truth.

Xavier and his colleagues come together at Doctor Xavier’s coastal mansion, atop a cliff face, looking out over the sea. Here Xavier conducts his scientific investigation to out the killer, but things of course do not go exactly to plan.

There are plenty of red herrings, excellent sets, superb use of light and shadows, and a terrific cast of creepy characters. Every one of them has something about them that links them as a possible suspect, along with a ghoulish butler could Otto who could give Doctor Frankenstein’s hunchback assistant Igor a run for his money.

Light hearted tomfoolery is provided by a luckless and bumbling newspaper reporter named Lee Taylor (Lee Tracy), who manages to gatecrash proceedings at the mansion and get himself embroiled in the frightfully unusual events that play out. Fay Wray provides an attractive and bright addition to proceedings, playing Doctor Xavier’s daughter Joanne.

This really is an ingenious gem of a movie. Its use of early two tone Technicolor really adds to the piece, creating a film with depth to it that is almost 3D in quality. The hues of an old faded photograph resonate throughout the films macabre fibre. Comparing the film alongside its black and white trailer there is no comparison between which is the better version, and that is the Technicolor one without question here.

Preston Foster particularly stands out with his performance as Dr. Wells. His research is into that of cannibalism. Having lost his left hand he has dedicated his life to his field of expertise, its affect upon him evident in his appearance as a somewhat dishevelled individual, focused on his work.

Each of the professional men working under the same roof as Dr. Xavier at the Academy Of Surgical Research is as driven and committed to their medical studies, but what is the one defining factor that sets the killer apart, and for what purpose are they driven to kill !?.

Director Michael Curtiz has a superb cast of actors, along with a wonderfully intricate story to engage the best from them, enabling him to deliver to an engrossed audience such a delirious roller coaster ride of emotions, the most satisfying of all being surprise !.

They certainly do not make them like this anymore !.

Dr. X Trailer

Movie Details IMDB

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Island Of Pernicious Primates ...

The Lost Tribe

A group of friends out at sea run into trouble when their yacht hit’s a coral reef, tearing into the hull of the boat. The shipwrecked companions are washed ashore upon the beach of an uncharted island. Within the inland jungle something far more inhospitable than the wake of the ocean awaits them. A wave of tribal terror follows !.

The mysterious island and its even more mysterious inhabitants seem not to be a mystery to the U.S government forces. A scientific research team had set up base camp there, but having all fallen prey to the native primate creatures a clean up military team, headed up by Lance Henriksen’s character, is sent in to cover the incident up and to leave no witnesses.

This is actually a pretty well done, low budget, tried and tested horror formula, that runs at a good pace throughout. The threat of the movie indeed comes in the form of the island primates. Their basic instincts of survival within a tribal regime, with an alpha male leader, is realistic. When the creatures attack their victims it is primarily unexpected and well done, swooping down from above, out of the trees, and carrying off their targets to immediately feast upon them.

Lance Henriksen’s character is pretty much a cameo, but his presence always adds credence to proceedings in these low budget outings. He believes that the stranded companions are a part of the island scientific team, and so continues to follow his brief in killing all human life, as pre-ordered.

Most of the cast are there for creature fodder, and fulfil their intended roles dutifully enough. Throat severing and creature chow downs come in equal measure, with a modicum of blood to raise the rating to an ‘R’.

What keeps the movie going is the lead character, a strong female with a presence about her that plays a little off the Ripley character type from Alien (1979). Apply a Predator (1987) scenario to the primate creatures upon the island and you have a familiar mix. The introduction of our heroin discovering a gooey grape like plant extract that upon bodily application gives a masking effect, that the short sighted creatures senses are thrown by, and it all adds up to a faux coming together of the two big budget Hollywood action movies.

Fun enough though for a throw away view. Undemanding entertainment with enough action and creature attacks, along with the welcome Lance Henriksen cameo, to keep it interesting till the inevitable showdown ending.

The Lost Tribe Trailer

Movie Details IMDB

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Paul Naschy's Wolf Man Upstages ...

Dracula Versus Frankenstein

Earth’s iconic monsters of horror, brought together by an alien threat, to wreak terror upon the world. Resurrected from their tombs to terrorise, and manipulated at will by beings from a dying planet, hell bent on subjugating this planet in order to claim it as their own.

The story is from Spanish horror star Paul Naschy, who also appears in the film as Waldemar Daninsky, the wolf man, and apparently also made up as the Frankenstein monster. As Waldemar Daninsky Naschy more than holds his own in the better attention grabbing moments of the film, which with its erratic premise and choppy editing are few !. As Frankenstein’s monster we have a curious creation that looks like a badly made up stand in for Peter Sellers !.

Credence is given to the movie with the star role of Michael Rennie, no stranger to playing visiting alien beings to Earth. This, sadly, would turn out to be his last screen performance before his death in 1971. Here, along with beautiful Euro starlet Karin Dor, he takes the host form of a scientist. His character is Dr. Odo Warnoff, and Karin Dor plays the role of Maleva Kerstein, a fellow scientist. Together they plot the downfall of humanity, deep within the bowels of their acquired castle laboratory.

The wolf man is brought back from a lifeless stasis when Dr. Warnoff undertakes open heart surgery upon him to remove a silver bullet. Once revived he is then controlled to do the aliens bidding. His brawn and strength proving useful in unearthing the mummy and Frankenstein’s monster. The vampire prince of darkness is kept as safe distance, his blood harnessed to be used as a virus upon the people of Earth.

The dastardly deeds of Dr. Warnoff are not altogether complied with by his assistant Maleva Kerstein, combined with the stubbornness of an unshackled wolf man, things don’t ten quite see their way through to ultimate fruition. With the moon full Waldemar Daninsky makes his bid for freedom, squaring off against the creatures, affording Dr. Warnoff’s dissenters the opportunity to turn against him.

It’s all rather hammy and showing today it really does look like a movie dusted down out of a moth ball ridden cinema closet. It really is like watching a discarded test reel for one of the classic forties made Universal Horror productions, only this was made in ninety seventy !. A miss mash of good intent that really is relevant only for the cameo of Paul Naschy’s Waldimar Daninsky character, and the final farewell by Michael Rennie. Karin Dor is underused, and a sad shadow of her former horror highs in the previous decade.

A hard film to come by today, and perhaps for good reason. This, however, like so many other movies of its type and time are neglectfully left to deteriorate in cine cans stored away and forgotten about. Given love, care and attention with the proper restorative process and even this Dracula Versus Frankenstein could still attain its place amongst the horror kitsch classics. 
Dracula Versus Frankenstein Trailer
Movie Details IMDB

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Dario Argento's Yellow Peril ...


A killer is on the loose in Milan, Italy. His victims all very beautiful women. His psychotic intent, to make them ugly by means of slicing up their pretty features. A tortured individual with a history of being picked on as a child, and ostracised due to his jaundiced condition. A medical frailty giving him a yellow skin pallor. The Italian translation for yellow, Giallo !.

Director Dario Argento strives once again to serve up an imaginative movie to place him back on the map of recognition. His legion of loyal fans yearning for a return to former glories. Sadly, as has been the case for far too long now, the master of suspense and stylistic slasher thrillers fails to re-ignite the genre, or his flailing career.

Adrien Brody stars as  Inspector Enzo Avolfi, an American cop with an Italian heritage, investigating the most heinous of murder crimes in Italy. He is a loner and resides in the basement of the cities main police precinct, churning through his case load. His latest case is that of the on going murders of beautiful women, all visitors to Milan, so far more difficult to attain information on with no local ties or obvious connections.


The killer picks up his victims in a taxi cab, sedates them, and takes them back to his disused habitat away from residential population. There he carves and cuts them with all manner of dulled, cold blades, and hand tools. Some brief shots of his victims being cut, and particular use of a hammer, deliver unpleasant viewing. Taking sado sexual pleasure with his brutality the killer photographs his work, storing the pictures upon a laptop to view back at his leisure.

Beautiful fashion model Celine (Elsa Pataky) becomes his latest victim. Finishing late at a fashion show, and seeking to get home, and in out of the rain, as quickly as possible to meet up with her visiting sister Linda, she is unfortunate enough to get into the cab of the killer. When she fails to return home to greet her sister, Linda (Emmanuelle Seigner) goes to the police to report her as missing. They point her in the direction of Enzo Avolfi and suddenly she steps into his world of miscreants and murderers.

Enzo Avolfi’s insular character instinctively tries to push Linda to the sidelines, but her strong willed character rises above his gruff rebuttal, and together they piece together information that places Avolfi closer to catching this killer than he has ever been in months. With another body turning up, wrapped in plastic sheeting, and dumped in a public place, time is of the essence in finding the killer before Celine becomes his next victim !.

Brody looks awkward and almost disinterested in his role, but still manages to be one of the films saving graces despite this. Clearly he had issues with the production and has since taken legal action to stop the film getting an official release. Another set back for the once superlative Dario Argento, and a crying shame it is indeed, as anyone familiar with his earlier great work longs for at least one last hurrah from the movie maestro.

The movie as a whole never really builds up any great tension, nor escalates to an exciting climax. It just goes about its story telling in a fairly pedestrian manner. Most unforgiving of all is perhaps the fairly evident tag on at the end of the movie that pretty much says lets give the audience an explanation, rather than leaving the film on closure that to most will be evident at the relevant time. Make up your own minds, but the open ended cessation seems evident as to what Argento would have wanted, and although perhaps flat, leaves matters open for conjecture and discussion, good or bad.

No wonder Adrien Brody went on to play a bad ass alien butt kicker after this in Predators (2010). All of his pent up frustrations following his experience on Giallo would be beaten and battered to a bloody ‘deep red’. Far better representation of the old Argento, than this yellowed out pallor masquerading as a Giallo.

Movie Details IMDB

Thursday, 10 March 2011

BBC Quality Sci-Fi Alien World Drama ...

(2011 / BBC TV Series)

Intelligent and engrossing eight episode Sci-Fi series from BBC UK. A quality high definition channel show set in the not so distant future of 2040. Set upon a human life supporting alien world, where a new colony of Earth’s evacuees seek to begin a new life, as Planet Earth becomes inhabitable !.

The first colony of people escaping from Earth build a settlement, and in time create a city from their one journey space crafts, and every useful part upon them. Resourcefulness of the planets own ecology is also prevelant for this new world named Carpathia.

Order and structure is put into place and a fair minded leader is put in place as president of Carpathia, Richard Tate (Liam Cunningham). His right hand confidant, friend, and chief medical head is Stella Isen (Hermione Norris), together they bring the colony together in this brave new world. Amongst the other strong leads are chief security enforcers Fleur Morgan (Amy Manson), smart, sexy and sassy, and the likeably hot headed Cass Cromwell (Daniel Mays).

Dealing with the alien environment and all its new challenges is just half the battle on Carpathia, as dealing with each other proves to be just as demanding. Things are done in the name of science, and believed in the benefit of the ultimate survival of those settling on Carpathia. Decisions made by President Tate way heavy on his mind, particularly when with hindsight those decisions may well prove to have been hasty !. Giving the order to extinguish the lives of a manufactured group of human clones, used in testing resilience to the climate, haunts him and indeed comes back to physically haunt him !.

There are many unanswered questions and occurrences, abundant throughout this environment in which these alien settlers have claimed as their new home. As the episodes play out something insidious stirs out of sight in the background, something permeating the very fabric and fibre of Carpathia and those that inhabit it. An eerie underplay that is as interesting as the well structured characters, and more than tantalising in its threatening tone.

Fuelled by an insurrection of the cloned human life forms, hiding away in the mostly uncharted zone outside of Carpathia city, and forboding visitations by seemingly all too real apparitions !?, the residents of Carpathia constantly strive to make their lives sustainable.

The arrival of a new ship from Earth with more people seeking a new life, brings another unstable character into the fold, in the shape of Julius Berger (Eric Mabius). His position attained upon the Earth escaping craft is questionable, but his position quickly attained upon Carpathia is even more so as each episode unravels. Mabius makes the role of Julius Berger, a strong willed preacher, his own in an often chilling display of controlled psychotic manipulation.

As Carpathia, and its disowned human cloned creations outside, battle for supremacy to survive the greatest threat of all is still awaiting to befall. Julius Berger is in secret contact with an approaching armada from space, their purpose seems evident, but who are they !?.

An engaging drama, decently acted out and non reliant on any evident and unwelcome CGI effects. A simple tale of human nature, and survival at all costs in an alien environment. Most definitely worth investing viewing time in, and the conclusion is close to unravelling its intensions to those that have stuck with it since inception.

Outcasts Trailer
Series Details IMDB

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Lon Chaney Jr. Once Resident (II) At ...

13 Demon Street
(1959/60 TV Show)
Episode: The Black Hand

Lon Chaney Jr’s character, trapped in purgatory until he can find a crime committed that is far more heinous than his own, hosts another episode in the short lived series 13 Demon Street. Opening once again with the highly effective, and applicably spooky black and white sweeping camera intro shot, we are introduced to … The Black Hand.

A car races along a winding road upon the winter snow draped coastal region of Bavaria. Another car speeds along towards it in the oncoming direction. The two car crash head on. From the wreckage of the first seen car steps a dazed woman, she turns back to the car to assist the male driver. His arm is trapped, wedged tightly between the steering wheel and the dashboard of the car interior. With a fire breaking out the man has to act quickly in order to escape.

The man is a surgeon, and the woman with him is his nurse, and love interest. She retrieves a medical kit from the boot of the car, and from its contents the man selects a scalpel. He has no other choice but to surgically sever his own hand in order to free himself from the shackles of the compacted vehicle.

Together the two companions check the other smashed car. Its passenger dead at the wheel. The surgeon acts quickly with his own self preservation and continued professional success in mind. He separates the deceased man from his own hand, in order to use it to replace his own which is crushed beyond any further practical usage.

Over the course of the next few days things get back to normal for the two medical people. The surgical performance upon the lost hand, in replacing with the one taken from the dead man at the scene of the accident, is a highly successful one. No one suspects that the hand is anything other than a reattachment due to the story imparted by the surgeon that his hand was cleanly severed off in the crash. The body of the other man so badly crushed and burnt it could never be identified as anything untoward.

During the course of standard procedure post accident interviewing by the authorities, the police inform the surgeon that the man involved in the crash was in fact a most wanted psychopathic killer, who had murdered five people. A woman hater who took great pleasure in carving up female victims. His loss to society welcomed rather than mourned.

When the surgeon returns to his professional position and resumes surgical procedures he begins to notice that his replaced hand seems to be taking on a life all of its own !. For the first time in his established career the man loses a patient in surgery. Four further loses of life in the operating room directly follow. All of those being operated upon are women !.

Fighting with his own sanity, and trying to control a foreign attachment to his own physiology, the surgeon seeks solace in drink, but a trip out alone to a dingy bar spirals out of his control. He is approached by a lady seeking his company, but his reaction to her advances are for his hand to reach out uncontrollably, assaulting her. He flees in panic, back to his own residence.

The same evening, whilst contemplating his state of mind, he turns to the nurse who best understands what he has gone through, but in seeking solace and understanding the hand strikes out once more. It attempts to strangle her, but the surgeon struggles it free. He fumbles about with his free hand, grasping hold of a knife from the kitchen, intending to use it to sever the attached hand once more.

The final outcome is an ironic twist, as the ill fated surgeon has a hand in his own end !.

Watch The Entire Episode Of The Black Hand Online
View Part One

View Part Two

View Part Three