1967. Directed by Jack Hill 

Also known as 'The Maddest Story Ever Told' this comedy cum horror is a quirky individualistic peach with many cute, laughable and downright entertaining touches.  From obscurity to cult status, this is a flick the most curious should definitely seek out and ponder - the end result will see your noggin thrown off- kilter noggin, and there ain't nowt wrong with that! 

After a retrospective introduction to the main plot we return 10 years in time to the rural Merry House where Ralph (Sid Haig), Virginia (Jill Banner) and Elizabeth (Beverley Washburn) live alone and in seclusion with their guardian and chauffeur Bruno (Lon Chaney).  The three younger members all suffer from 'Merrye Disease', a condition that sees them almost revert to a brutal, child-like state.  Virginia is the 'Spider Baby' due to her fondness for spiders and her penchant for stalking and eating bugs.  On a more sinister note, she also likes to catch unwary strangers and sting them to death with her two butchers knives - nasty hey?  One such victim is a delivery man who Virginia slays and then cuts his ear off which she keeps in a match box.  From here it becomes increasingly apparent that Bruno's hold on the kids is fragile to say the least and with guests arriving, suggestions that the kids should be taken to an institute and Ralph's growing sexual madness we head into a melting pot of utter, enjoyable lunacy.

This film is a hotbed of madness, a unique episode of unhinged fantasy that contains characters one is seriously charmed by.  The 2 lead lasses are a delightfully impish duo that never fail to delight and the overall antics that transpire, in a nut-house of no hope, is just a perverted pleasure to behold.  This film has cult status, this film is deserved of that title and a whole lot more.  What a romp! 



1933. Directed by Frank R. Strayer 

A neat Universal-esque offering released by Majestic Pictures back when the Universal ruled the horror roost.  This quality donation has many convincing touches and more than holds its own with many similar counterparts.

We find ourselves in the village of Klinesschloss where we hear rumours of locals dying from a loss of blood.  Vampirism is suspected to have reared its nefarious head once again and panic nips at the heels of the many.  The village police inspector Karl Breetschneider(Melvyn Douglas) remains sceptical but suspicion still manages to fall on the local simpleton Herman Gleib (Dwight Frye) who, amongst other things, has a fondness for bats.  Gleib gets hounded to his death, but the supposed vampire attacks continue.  In the midst of these events a scientist Dr Von Nieman (Lionel Atwill) is up to no good and striving to deflect blame and carry on with some quite bizarre experiments.  Throw into the mix a bit of love interest in the form of Ruth Bertin (Fay Wray) and some comedic attempts via bossy hypochondriac Gussie Scnappman (Maude Eburne) and you have a film with many obvious trappings of the aforementioned and more renowned studio.

I thoroughly enjoyed this one, a quick and effective flick with a strong cast and some sound atmospherics.  Frye is, as ever, spot on as a man not quite right in the head and Atwill is always value for money.  



1971. Directed by Piers Haggard 

A total oddment of a film with a sub-Wickerman feel and a creeping unease pervasive in many areas.  General unsettling behaviour and cheap sinisterism is thrown in as well as a few decent performances but this one fails to live up to expectations. 

The setting is 18th century England and it is here we see a farmer known as Ralph Gower (Barry Andrews) uncover a deformed skull in a ploughed field. A local judge (Patrick Wymark) is shown the spot but no evidence of the skull exists.  Meanwhile, Peter Edmonton (Simon Williams) brings his fiancee, Rosalind Barton (Tamara Ustinov), to meet his aunt, Mistress Banham (Avice Landone), with whom the judge is staying. The elders disapprove of the match and force Rosalind to sleep in the attic whereupon she awakens in a terrified state and ends up being sent to the local asylum.  Before being sent away Peter glimpses his fiancee's hand, it is seen to be a strange, devilish-looking claw.

With evil unleashed and a gang of teenagers exposed as dabblers in the black art the Judge takes it upon himself to get to the root of the problem and banish what nefarious forces are at work.  Some full frontal nudity via the leader of the cult, Angel Blake (Linda Hayden), a few nasty moments and a swift flourish to the finale and we have an average film saved at the very last. 

This weird and somewhat disjointed offering could have been better than what it turned out but still has enough individuality to be worthy of merit. Not one to watch over and over again but the odd visit may certainly be enjoyed.  



1960. Directed by Bert L. Gordon 

A strange tale of murder and then a ghastly haunting with the lead man put under intense psychological pressure and pushed into corner from which there seems no escape.

Jazz pianist Tom Stewart (Richard Carlson) is due to get married to what seems to be the love of his life Meg Hubbard (Lugene Sanders), he has however one problem, his recently dumped ex, Vi Mason (Juli Reding).  Mason calls upon Stewart at a lighthouse where an argument ensues and Mason falls to her death.  Stewart had the chance to save her but took the cowardly option and duly pays a heavy price.  The ghost of Mason will not be denied and her undying love for Stewart will not be quenched.  Creeping footprints, eerie voices, spooky apparitions and a persistent gnawing at Stewart's resolve help the film hold attention and with a young girl dragged into the mix and a spot of blackmail coming by the way of a cocky beatnik, the trip to the finale is decent enough.  The final shot shows that it is never wise to let down a lady.

A fair film and one that flows well and has a nice atmospheric tension throughout.  Carlson plays the dubious and untrustable lead role well and a feeling of satisfaction is had when he gets his comeuppance. 



1981. Norman J. Warren

A British Sci-Fi film that is utterly flimsy, laden with dubious acting, a disjointed thread and just an overall cheapo feel.  After watching the full film (which I struggled through) I did wonder why a couple of well-known faces were drawn into getting involved.

The plot takes place on a frozen planet where a team a team of scientists and archeologists are working on an excavation.  Some strange caves and crystals are uncovered and a theory of dualism is offered up which really does beggar belief.  One of the found crystals begins to pulsate and a member of the crew becomes taken over by a strange life force.  Life is lost after Ricky (David Baxt) the infected one goes back to the caves where we see a comrade attempt to chainsaw her own leg off and Ricky get blown away. Later, Mitch (Trevor Thomas) and Sandy (Judy Geeson) return to the caves to collect more crystals where a ludicrous alien creature appears and rips apart Mitch before proceeding to rape Sandy with a transparent, tubular phallus that pumps forth a dubious green liquid. It is revealed that Sandy is undergoing an accelerated pregnancy which seems to be the cause of her going on a murderous rampage.  Death and destruction follow with a nasty birthing scene giving rise to a couple of quite repulsive looking sprogs - the only questions I have at this stage is will the two young aliens live to rule again and will the film soon be finished? 

A cut-price atmospheric free 'Alien' wannabe with a complete lack of conviction had come the final credits.  Geeson does fine with the material she is given, Beecham is wasted and the rest just fill the usual roles - this is not a film I will be rushing to see once more.  Verdict – crap.



1994. Directed by Simon Sprackling

Sometimes one comes across a film and wonders 'what the Hell is going on', 'what is the point' and of course 'WTF'.  This pseudo-pantomime of all things bizarre and almost experimental is just such a film.  I sat down, kept the peepers peeled and for some strange reason, quite enjoyed the lunacy.

We begin at a poker game where Callum Chance (Christopher Lee) loses his ancestral home to the arrogant record producer Max Taylor (Benny Young).  Max moves into the home with his family and after spinning a wheel of chance, all madness breaks out after a nightmarish, wise-cracking jester (Tim James) enters the fold.  What follows is a stalking scenario with gruesome murders and humorous snippets all thrown in to a hotchpotch of acid-head visuals.  Also arriving at the mansion are Max's brother Johnny (Matthew Devitt) along with a mixed bag of hitch-hikers, one of whom is voodoo woman (Pauline Black).  After the dabbler in black arts learns of the Jesters manifestation the race is on to destroy the impish one before too many come a cropper - alas once the 'Funny Man' is on a roll there is no stopping him.  Prepare for some quite ghastly goings-on.

An absolute nuthouse of events with drugged-up dabblings and off-the-cuff craziness the order of the day.  Some of the executions are neatly delivered, some of the gags a little cringe-worthy and just the whole shebang is a festival of tomfoolery.  As said, I did enjoy the off-kilter approach but won't be revisiting the madness anytime soon.  One viewing is more than enough, one has to try and stay sane. 



1972. Directed by Ray Austin

A low-cost shabby black magic film simply reliant on an overabundance of nudity.  This is a mere b-grade wannabe Wheatley breast-fest with gratuitous exploitation the name of the game. All involved should hang their heads in shame - this is a veritable duff do.

The plot revolves around two runaway sisters, Christine (Ann Michelle) and Betty (Vicki Michelle) who are on the look-out for some modelling work. As is the case with these runaways they are soon picked up and given a lift, in this instance by businessman Johnny (Keith Buckley) who takes a liking to the leggy Betty.  The two girls eventually end up at a house in the country after Christine successfully auditions for dubious modelling agent Sybil Waite (Patricia Haines).  Alas all is not what it seems and the girls are soon introduced to the house owner, Gerald Amberley (Neil Hallett) and the joys of the dark side.  Christine is the first to submit and with her psychic ability is something of a prize catch for the coven.  Sybil and Christine lock horns, sexual tension arises and Betty is soon lured towards the sable side although Johnny reappears on the scene and has other ideas.  The culmination of all the insidious goings-on is more nudity and a somewhat weak finale - I expected nothing more and nothing less.

A very poor film that is just a lazy attempt at a cheap thrill. The only character of note is Gerald Amberley who is a really oily blighter and as shifty as they come.  I suppose we need failures like this to accentuate the real gems out there and I am sure back in the day this offering helped a few pimpled youths to relieve a bit of tension - I certainly hope so. 



1971. Directed by Laslo Benedek

A cold and somewhat sombre film that relies on a psychological tension, a whodunnit storyline and a backbone of acting by a few familiar faces.  This was something more than I expected, come the final scenes I was more than satisfied with what had transpired.

Salem (Max Von Sydow) is a man locked in a lunatic asylum for a brutal axe-murder that he didn't commit.  With guile and cunning our lead nutjob escapes and makes sure his sister Ester Jenks (Liv Ullman) and her husband Dr Anton Jenks (Per Oscarsson) don’t forget that they committed the foul deed.  Several murders ensue with a local inspector (Trevor Howard) not convinced that all is as it seems.  Dr Anton is framed, he pleads his innocence and explains that the man that is committing these murders is Salem. Alas for Dr Anton, Salem is a resourceful chap and one who is seen to cleverly escape and return to his cell with no one any the wiser.  The intrigue holds true and the film progresses at a gratifying pace with an atmospheric and unhinged feel pervading every scene.  Come the end justice is dealt in many ways and yet one is left feeling quite sympathetic and saddened.  It is that type of film.

#I think the somewhat stark appearance of the film, the limited players and the general blend of underlying tension and solid acting make this a real creeper of a film with a solid foundation that is away from matters overly fanciful and pretentious.  For me, we have a slab of well-played out unrest although the final parrot-based twist is laughable and unnecessary.


THE ATOMIC BRAIN  1963. Directed by Joseph V. Mascelli

Otherwise named as 'Monstrosity' this low budget sci/fi horror has obvious elements of Frankensteinian dabblings as well as a distinct lack of depth, talent and intrigue.  Even one of the producers stated that this was the worst film he had worked upon, and one can see why.

Mrs Hettie March (Marjorie Heaton) is loaded, elderly and quite obnoxious.  She lives in a mansion along with a certain Dr Frank (Frank Gerstle), who spends most of his time in the basement carrying out brain transplants.  To date, the only semi-success he has had is creating an idiotic man-beast who wanders around snarling and seemingly in a zombie-like haze and a young lady who is roams around like a member of the living dead community with a strange absent stare.  Mrs March wants her own brain transplanted to a younger model so as to defy the mental aging process, she has a cunning plan and advertises for some domestic help.  3 girls arrive, Nina Rhodes (Erika Peters) from Austria, Bea Mullins (Judy Bamber) from England, and Anita Gonzales (Lisa Lang) from Mexico. Mrs March takes her pick and the film progresses with all sorts of angles and oddball occurrences plus a real twist in the cat's tail that indicates some imaginations just need a little reigning in.

A quite odd film that tries something a little different and falls a long way short.  One or two scenes stand out but the lead up to the limp finale finds one looking at the clock and wondering when this short film will be over.  A curio for sure, but frustratingly disappointing in too many areas.  The character of Hettie though is wonderfully aggravating and when she gets her comeuppance some pleasure for the viewer is attained. 



1973. Directed by Eugenio Martin

A very rewarding Spanish film with a very gratifying feel to it and some good sinister acting thrown in.  The religious paranoia, underlying sexual frustration and unhinged thinking is all neatly portrayed by two lead women who really hold their own.

In a small Spanish village we are introduced to middle-aged sisters Marta (Aurora Bautista) and Veronica (Esperanza Roy.  These two seemingly upright women run a small inn which seems to be a popular little stop off point for tourists.  One young lady called May (Loreta Tovar), who is stopping at the inn, decides to do a spot of topless sunbathing on the terrace whereupon she is confronted by the sisters and asked to leave.  A kerfuffle ensues, the young girl is pushed down a flight of steps and ends up falling against a window and cutting her throat.  Religious fervour dictates the innkeeper's actions, the body is concealed just before May's sister Laura (Judy Geeson) arrives.  From here onwards we see the demise of several more supposedly morally redundant young women whilst all the while Veronica is indulging in carnal knowledge with local helper Luis (Carlos Pineiro) and Marta is seemingly in a permanent state of sexed up tension.  One clip, where Marta spies on some nude male bathers and flees through a field of thorns, is both perversely erotic and almost blasphemous and really reveals show much about one of our lead characters.  Of course, things can't continue as they are and after a supposedly unmarried mother arrives at the inn with her baby in tow and Laura's suspicions grow, the end is in sight for this unsettling reign of terror.  A guest passing out after finding something nasty has been served up on her plate is almost the final straw.

I really enjoyed this emotive and at times, brutal film.  The two sisters are portrayed with such realism and with an overriding sense of cerebral mania.  They work as a unit and as separate entities and the whole tale is tidily delivered at a very satisfying pace.  Great stuff. 


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