CATACOMB OF TERROR
 

HOMICIDAL

1961. Directed by William Castle

A typical Castle film with an intro to warn, an inner moment to catch one's breathe and beware impending terror and a final twist to turn the film on its head and thus creating a 'wtf' moment!

A mysterious woman named Emily (Jean Arless) convinces a bellboy (Richard Rust) to spontaneously marry her for a financial reward. The two characters tie the knot and immediately after the ceremony Emily murders her partner and flees - so much for love then! Later Emily gloats of her dastardly deed to a mute, invalid elderly woman named Helga, whom Emily is nursing. The police start work on the crime and find out that the nurse was given the name of a local flower shop owner Miriam Webster (Patricia Breslin), who has an alibi of the night of the murder. The plot thickens, Miriam'r abusive father's estate, there are complications, one of which is that Warren confesses to being the husband of Emily. If you think this is complex then the tale takes a few more wicked turns before leaving your jaw on the floor with a quite unexpected 'reveal' indicative of that movie mischief maker Castle. A head rolling off a body in the midst of the action is a mere aside to titivate!

An unexpected movie that leaves it to the very last to win true acknowledgement of its success and a flick that nicely unwinds as it builds to the final shock. Castle plays it well, Jean Arless puts in a cracking stint - watch, believe, disbelieve - I like it!

   

THE INNOCENTS

1961. Directed by Jack Clayton

A film that was highly recommended and one I had vulgarly overlooked in my eternal chill-seeking journey. This is based on an M. R. James classic, namely 'The Turn of the Screw', an author I find hit and miss, something which can be said of this film too (in my personal opinion).

A wealthy bachelor who has 'no room, mentally or emotionally' employs a Miss Giddens (Deborah Kerr) as their governess, a lady with no experience and who is taking on the role of looking after the orphaned children after the previous governess, Mary Jessel, died less than a year ago. Miss Giddens builds a firm friendship with Flora (Pamela Franklin) the niece whilst the nephew Miles (Martin Stephens) is away from home at school. Miles is eventually kicked out of school in mysterious circumstance and arrives home whereupon his indulges in a lot of whispered and secretive behaviour with his sister. Miss Giddens becomes upset by the children's behaviour and also starts to see visions of the previous governess and her lover. Peter Quint (Peter Wyngarde). The housekeeper, Mrs Grose (Megs Jenkins), eventually fills in a few blanks and the children become more and more sinister. What transpires is an unerring bout of ghostly possession from souls looking for a new lease of life.

Despite the film being charged with an electric undercurrent of depravity and unspoken disturbances the film does move at a slow pace, never really matches the cinematic elegance with a solid fear factor and leaves one a little flaccid at the end. It is however a stylish haunting and one for those who like things subtle rather than stark.

   

THEY LIVE

1988. Directed by John Carpenter

A science-fiction horror film I watched back in the day and deemed it worthy of another visit 30 years on. I remember it being a decent watch and overtime this movie has built up a cult status and has many decent reviews. It seemed I was on a sure-fire winner but...

The story follows a muscle bound drifter (Roddy Piper) who discovers, via a pair of revealing sunglasses, that the ruling class are indeed an alien species concealing their appearance and manipulating people with a range of subliminal messages. The messages are all aimed to keep people within certain boundaries and maintain a suffocating status quo that keeps the populace dumb and dumber. In the mix we have a ludicrous street brawl that lasts six-minutes, an exposure of many underhand going's-on and a tale that will get all the conspiracy theory nuts on their high horses. In places things ring true, in others they seem overly cooked but all the while one can sense many questions being asked and many overlooked situations being put to the fore of your thinking - it is really nothing though that any decent individual hasn't already pondered!

I returned, I watched and I made a judgement and it was...crap. This film, for me at least, is a tired let down that lacks atmosphere, conviction, subtle touches and a gloominess very much needed a world seen in such a fraudulent state. The idea could have produced so much more and halfway through this one I was yearning for the end. I suggest this was a film of it's time and that time has passed but...there are still many points that need to be considered - think on!

   

DIARY OF A MADMAN

1963. Directed by Reginald Le Borg

An American flick based on two tales by Guy De Maupassant, namely 'The Horla' and 'Un Fou'. The combination of the renowned scribbler and Vincent Price is one to whet the appetite, what unfolds is tame but still intriguing!

Local French magistrate and sculptor Simon Cordier (Vincent Price) is dead, his diary is read by his pastor friend and the film shows us what led to the lawman's demise. It is revealed that Cordier was held in the grip of a malevolent spirit that dominated his mind and forced him to commit murderous acts against his will. The strange being (The Horla) is transferred to Cordier after he accidentally kills a prisoner he was trying to help. From here, after reacquainting himself with his hobby of sculpturing Cordier meets, and falls in love with, the seeming scheming Odette Mallote (Nancy Kovack), a woman already married with high ambition. Cordier is besotted but driven to behead his loved one and anyone else the Horla seems to find a nuisance. Paul DuClasse (Chris Warfield), Odette's husband becomes involved whereupon the tale escalates to the finale and we end with the opening scene where the reader finally closes matters.

A slow and diluted film with the possession done in a mild way and no real gratuitous madness thrown in. Having said this, Price always played the cerebrally troubled so well and his radiation of an inner turmoil never fails to convince. This isn't a film you would watch week in week out but one to dabble with now and again.

   

MUMMY'S HAND, THE

1940. Directed By Christy Cabanne

From the success of The Mummy (1932) a series of 4 films came from the Universal Studios starting with this typical offering. The outcome is as you were with hidden tombs, sinister protectors of a sacrosanct orders and of course the shambling dead all making for much sand-blown Hokum.

We begin at the Hill of Seven Jackals where dying High Priest of Karnak (Eduardo Ciannelli) goes over old ground and tells the shifty Egyptian Andoheb (George Zucco) about the curse of Kharis (Tom Tyler) how he was buried alive after trying to raise his beloved Princess Ananka from the dead. Andoheb is given the role to protect Ananka's tomb with the help of Kharis the Mummy who can be brought to animated life by the use of the scared Tana leaves. At this point we switch to an out of luck archaeologist Steve Banning (Dick Foran) and his sidekick, Babe Jenson (Wallace Ford) who eventually team up with a touring American magician Solvani (Cecil Kellaway), his daughter Marta (Peggy Moran) and Dr. Petrie (Charles Trowbridge) of the Cairo Museum. As these pack of seekers get close to the end result Andoheb and his bandaged aide set to work and are happy to murder anyone in their path. Things moved on, a showdown comes, I don't want to throw in a spoiler but you can almost guess the rest!

Take away the opening sequences and you have a short film of no originality that is typical of the Mummified movies. These are flicks to dip in and out of and if you watch as a series you will realise what blatant mimics they are and of one distinct strain. Individually though they can be enjoyed provided the mood is prepared.

   

TOMB MUMMY'S, THE

1944. Directed by Reginald Le Borg

A follow-on film from The Mummy's Hand with the same format used and beaten to buggery and the usual 'protect that which is scared at all costs' thematics. I do wonder if Universal made any decent money out of these things as they seemed intent on churning them out time and time again.

The first ten minutes of the film are taken going over the previous flick's escapade as told by archeologist Steve Banning (Dick Foran) at his home in Mapleton, Massachusetts. We then are shown the villain of the last piece, Andoheb (George Zucco), hand over the power of Kharis The Mummy to Mehemet Bey (Turhan Bey) and assign him the task of terminating the remaining members of the Banning expedition and their descendants. Andoheb then duly breathes his last!

From here Bey takes up the job of caretaker at the Mapleton cemetery, sets his bandaged sidekick on a trail of murder, the first victims being Stephen Banning and his sister. Next in line it seems are Stephens's son, John Banning and his wife to be Isobel Evans (Elyse Knox) but Bey his sidetracked by the latter and becomes smitten whereupon he sends Kharis to kidnap her so he can arrange an eternity together and that she is to become his bride, as a 'High Priest of Karnak' and bear him an heir to the royal line. Time is running out for the rescue party to arrive, the impetus of action rises, the end comes but as we know...there will be more to follow!

This, as part of a series of 4, isn't a bad effort although for originality and shock value it score very low indeed. The Mummy fumbles around as per, the atmospherics do the plot justice and, if you want a short film with many sweet nostalgic nuances this may just be the one to pick out!

   

THE UNKNOWN TERROR

1957.  Directed by Charles Marquis Warren

Fungalised goings on with a strange tale left to develop before our disbelieving, and yet, expectant eyes.   This is a horror film from the 1950's - I think enough can be gathered from that short description to garnish some insight into what may transpire.  Sit back, watch the screen flicker, the foam run, the dubious outcome manifest itself - it is what we do!

Explorer Jim Wheatley (Charles Gray) disappears whilst exploring the 'Cave of the Dead' which duly brings his sister Gina Matthews (Mala Powers), her husband Dan (John Howard) and Pete Morgan (Paul Richards) into the fray.  There has been a romantic triangle going on, it all thickens the plot and the search for the lost explorer is carried out with a subtle tension.  The search party eventually find a village near the supposed 'Cave of the Dead' and make the acquaintance of the American Dr Ramsey (Gerald Milton), a man carrying out experiments into fungal and bacterial growth.  Ramsey is married to a local girl Concha (May Wynn) who he treats like a slave and shows no respect for whatsoever.  Concha takes some of the party to a nearby place where voices can be heard below ground - eventually the true horror of what is going on is revealed - a small tribe of fungus men are found, each one abandoned to their fate by the sinister Dr Ramsey.  Spores of sensationalism are spread, the action rate grows, as does the over fungal intrigue.

One of those oddball films that takes us down a unique path and leaves us pondering.   The acting, in part, is ropey, the effects far from impressive but this is a neat tale done and dusted in a short period and without any profound intent.   As a fungus lover my attention was held, as a lover of cheapo bilge I was also magnetised - and why the Hell shouldn't I be?

   

PHAROAHS CURSE

1957.  Directed by Lee Sholem

Here we go again, more tales of the bizarre from the sand blown regions of mystical Egypt in the early 20th century.  Here we have a slight change from the usual format but the gist and feel of the film come from vaults well used and predictably scripted.

The tale involves a Captain Storm (Mark Dana) who has been sent to shut down an expedition led by Robert Quentin (George N. Neise).   Quentin is searching in the Valley of the Kings seeking the lost, and cursed, tomb of Rahateb.  The locals are far from happy with what Quentin is up to, hence Storm's involvement.  Progress is troubled after being joined by Sylvia Quentin (Diane Brewster), Robert’s wife, whom he seems to be rather fond of.  On their short travels they encounter a strange lone woman called Simara (Ziva Rodann) who offers to take the group on a safer route to the tomb rather than following the set trail.   Upon arrival Simira announces they are too late as Robert Quentin and his group have opened a sarcophagus.  Simara's  brother Numar (Alvarao Guillot), who is helping the Rahateb expedition, mysteriously collapses upon the opening of the tomb and afterwards starts to rapidly age and show no signs of a pulse.   Numar eventually rises and enters the tomb and becomes something of a shambling protector, draining the lifeblood of those who dare trespass too far.  Simara gives out a warning, Quentin is Hell-bent on making history, Storm needs to step in and save the day.

Another short film, 66 minutes in fact, and one easily breezed through with the Universal-esque style, smooth flowing story and well-made up monster nicely delivered.  The characters are a trifle bland though and nothing untoward happens, and so don't get overly excited when sitting down to watch this but then again, for a low-budget effort, one can't complain.

   
   
   
 
   

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