1972. Directed by William A. Fraker 

A psychological and somewhat warped film that plods along, has some very disturbing moments and leaves one wondering just what transpired. 

Marguerite (Sondra Locke) is a 15-year-old and very troubled girl who has a collection of dolls that she likes to converse with.  She lives in an eerie mansion with her mother Katherine (Mary Ure) and her maternal grandmother Julia (Signe Hasso).  It is a tense and strained set-up with mother overbearing and Marguerite mentally unwell and being injected on a daily basis with a substance that is not what it seems.  Marguerites estranged father Michael (Robert Shaw) is soon on the scene with his new partner Anne (Sally Kellerman).  This creates all manner of uptight situations with Marguerite becoming almost obsessive and incestuous with her father.  Madness follows, one of Marguerites dolls is seen to indulge in a spot of murder, Anne becomes sickened by Michaels relationship with his daughter, a masturbation scene adds further depths to the deviancy and after a discovery and a final twist the tale ends and leaves one slightly open-mouthed.

A heavy-going film with some seriously warped angles and several roles that really are convincing.  This may be Locke's greatest performance, it really is an unsettling delivery and one, at times, that really makes the skin crawl.



1971. Directed by Paul Wendkos

A drawn-out film that drags out an interesting plot and takes the edge off the overall involvement.  A couple of decent acting roles are had, a smattering of tense moments and some underhand suggestions but all in all this is a self-diluted film that could have been better.

Frustrated concert pianist Myles Clarkson (Alan Alda) has moved on to become a music journalist whereupon he interviews the rather sinister Duncan Ely (Curt Jurgens), the world's greatest piano manipulator.  From here a strange relationship builds between the dying Duncan, his daughter Roxanne (Barbara Parkins) and Myles and his wife Paula (Jacqueline Bissett).  Duncan seems determined to reinvigorate Myle's piano skills and after he dies and his daughter carries out a strange occult ritual we soon realise that the inner being that is Duncan has now taken over the body of Myles.  Paula is excited by her husband's new found virility, life and financial gain but soon becomes aware that all is not as it should be.  Jealousy and deep suspicion take hold, the daughter of Myles and Paula is struck down and killed, a dream gives hint at devilish dabblings, the race is on to stop things getting out of hand, the final twist in the tale simply proves the power of the dark side.

A strong cast is let down by a weak tale and a lack of general drive and gusto. The simplification of the satanic and magical elements and the foot-dragging flow impede matters further which is quite aggravating as the potential was there to make this a real intense thriller, however the end verdict is a mere average.



1957. Directed by  Alfred Shaughnessy

A slow-burner with a fine monochrome shadowiness that helps accentuate the undercurrents of feline prowess and a gnawing insanity.  Shelley is wonderful in the lead and helps make for a great winter's day watch.

Leonora Johnson (Barbara Shelley) returns to her ancestral home with the expectation of inheriting some money. Whilst there she learns that the family is cursed and members become possessed by the spirit of a leopard.  Ex-love and psychiatrist Dr Brian Marlowe (Robert Ayres) steps in, fails to believe in the curse and is surprised to find that Leonora is still in love with him.  Marlowe (a married man) stays cool, death ensues and Leonora's mental state worsens.  Leonora is jealous of Marlowe's wife, some choice interplay follows before a dash to the climax is had and the mystery is left not completely solved.

A safe and steady film with a good lead performance, a solid story and some almost comforting visuals.  Part of the ‘Cat’ collection and more than holding its own as a stand-alone piece.


1964. Directed by Joseph Stefano

I was amazed to discover (after watching this film) that this ghostly thriller was a ‘made for American TV’ offering as the end result rises above what can be a diluting tag.

Blind heir Henry Mandore (Tom Simcox) believes he is being haunted by his dead mother who had a fear of being buried alive and so had a phone fitted in the family vault where she is apparently at rest.  Mandore's wife Vivia (Diane Baker) calls upon the assistance of paranormal investigator Nelson Orion (Martin Landau) who duly arrives with his sobering side-kick Mary Finch (Nellie Burt).  In the midst of the plot is the sole housekeeper Paulina (Judith Anderson), a sinister and dubious woman who, of course, is not what she seems.  Visions of ghosts come, the pace of the film is enthralling and the visuals more than enough to give a quite unique character to matters. Orion sticks to his task, certain truths are exposed and death pays a visit.  The film ends in a sober fashion and maintains its surprising standard.

Yes, a quite classy ghost story with all performances well played out, the entire look of the film appealing and the flow both steady and absorbing.  A minor surprise this even though it is not one to watch over and over again, it has thread of creepy suspense and a certain winning style for sure.



1988. Directed by Pen Densham

A generic supernatural horror film with all the trimmings of the era, a few smatterings of dated special effects and some acting performances that are limited in the extreme - this one barely makes the average mark.

After an intro and a dash ahead to 25 years into the future we find ourselves in the company of a happy family consisting of Hilary (Pamela Collyer) and Jack Halloran (Nicholas Kilbertus) and their daughter Amy (Meredith Salenger). Hilary receives an unexpected phone call from her estranged sister Felice (Joanna Pacula); death soon pays a visit and at the funeral of Hilary Amy spies a strange looking woman. That woman is Felice, a feline looking creature who soon worms her way into the Halloran home and seems determined to win the affections of the innocent young girl. Jack is duly seduced, interference from outside sources is dealt with in a cold and callous manner and Amy is soon under threat of losing her life to a possessed and long-dead Felice. The full premise of the plot is revealed, a showdown comes with a demon exposed and Felice striving to pass on her controlling life force - it is all played out in a rather predictable and laborious manner.

There is nothing original or outrageously appealing to this film and as matters unwind the viewer is left making comparisons to older, more respected cat cursed films and realising that this is indeed a poor effort. If the finale would have had more gratuity and a subtle twist matters may have been saved.



1957. Directed by Arnold Laven

Run of the mill 1950's sci-fi/monster madness mayhem with the hero, the girl, the scientists and the creature all par for a very well worn course. This is what it is, a drive-in feature that is an enjoyable watch.

A massive earthquake opens a crevice in the Saltern See and releases a giant mollusk. A parachutist and two divers are killed and so Lt. Cmdr. John 'Twill' Twillinger (Tim Holt) is soon on the case. The boat exhibits a strange slime as well as the body of the parachutist which is drained of all blood. Twill now teams up with the recently widowed Gail MacKenzie (Audrey Dalton) and Dr. Jess Rogers (Hans Conried) before more deaths occur and an egg is recovered from the sea floor after a thrilling confrontation with a giant beast. Rogers keeps the egg in a stable environment whilst the navy deal with a group of mollusks that have escaped into a nearby canal system and caused havoc. Back at the lab and Gail's young daughter inadvertently changes the temperature settings of the containing chamber and the egg hatches and attacks both mum and daughter. Twill soon arrives though and the day is saved due to some fast thinking and back up from the navy. The ending is all hunky-dory and rounds of a routine escapade.

I like these 1950's excursions into radioactive madness. There may be many films of the same ilk with the same basic structure and characters but they do work well and here the monster is highly effective, gets good screen-time and adds that all important finishing touch.



1999. Directed by Antonia Bird

A very strange and surprising film that hybridises the old western theme with flesh-eating horror and mythical beliefs. The acting is sound, the gory scenes adequate although the odd quipped line does mar the believability levels.

Set during the Mexican-American War Second Lieutenant John Boyd (Guy Pearce) uses cowardice to save his hide after being captured but then has an unexpected burst of bravery and single-handedly captures a Mexican command post. He earns promotion but the superior General Slauson (John Spencer) is unimpressed and banishes Boyd to a far-off outpost in Sierra Nevada. Here Boyd joins up with a hotch-potch group of soldiers who all have their own individual quirks and nuances. No sooner as Boyd settled in than a strange character appears who has a terrifying tale to tell. The man is known as Colqhoun (Robert Carlyle), a sole survivor of a wagon train that got lost and ended up with the survivors eating one another. Colqhoun claims to have left a man named Ives behind and a woman, the party soon set out to investigate and capture Ives and save any survivors. Alas for the group of saviors the tale is a trick and we learn that Colqhoun is a voracious cannibal and feeds to stay healthy and virile. The crew are picked off one by one, Boyd escapes but soon meets up with Colqhoun again who is introduced as the new fort commander. The plan is to live a life of good health whilst feeding on passing travelers, Boyd is the only man to quell Colqhoun’s insatiable appetite. Let the battle commence.

A real oddball film that has a certain degree of uniqueness and quirky interplay.  The final delivery is not as gratifying as it should be despite some solid acting and some memorable characters thrown into the mix.  The main let down is the overall lack of focus and we are left with a film that appears to be uncertain as to what it actually wants to be.



1972. Directed by George McCowan

A very cheap environmental flick that crawls (or should that be hops) along at its own sedate pace and provides little in the way of nerve shattering excitement and gratuitous gore. This eco-horror though has a sound message despite all its failings.

The film follows wildlife photographer Pickett Smith (Sam Elliott) who we initially see canoeing through a swamp, happily taking pictures of the local wildlife which he suspects is falling foul to pollution. He his soon upended by speedboat nut Clint Crockett (Adam Roarke) and his sister Karen (Joan Van Ark). By way of apology Pickett is taken to the family home where he meets the cantankerous patriarch Jason (Ray Miland). Jason is an ex-hunter, not a lover of wildlife and planning to enjoy his birthday and Fourth of July celebrations next day despite an influx of frogs and various other critters. Various members of the family fall foul to the beast invasion, spiders, snakes, lizards and a turtle get in on the act with revenge the underlying theme. Jason remains stubborn and disbelieving, Pickett strives to save the day, the frogs - well, they just keep on coming with that dead-eyed look emanated from bewildered and yet determined faces.

A strange film and one best watched and filed away in the cabinet labeled 'middling'. The premise is appreciated but the feel of the film and the script is far from rewarding. American International Pictures operate with a minimal budget, sometimes this fact is blatantly obvious.



1953. Directed by Arthur Hilton

This short independent film is one of those efforts that makes you wonder how the hell these folk get away with such creations and what do the actors and film makers think of the end result when giving it that all important premier viewing. This is an epitome of 50's throwaway trash and yet I can't help indulging, and enjoying, these farcical flicks.

A spaceship is headed to the moon, four men and one woman are the only crew who seem confident of a successful mission despite the vessel being made up of the most ludicrous equipment. Unbeknownst to the crew a race of leotard wearing cat-women are controlling the thoughts of their female member, namely Helen Salinger (Marie Windsor) and guiding them to their city where they hope to steal the expedition's spaceship and use it to fly to earth and take over the world. After negotiating a giant spider attack the crew meet up with the cat women's leader Alpha (Carol Brewster) and her cohorts. A grooming of the men ensues, Kip (Victor Jory) is not taken in although he has the hots for Salinger. A few skirmishes, a swift finale, a love interest and the film wastes no time in calling it a day and leaving us... gob-smacked.

Laden with failings, built on an idiotic premise and with a script that is lacking in any depth and without any convincing delivery this is a real turkey of a film and just one slab of inane hokum but, I enjoyed it, loved the escapist angle and enjoyed the almost comic book innocence of the whole escapade. For connoisseurs of low-grade sci-fi this is a must, for people with any sense then this is a serious no, no. I now know where my level is at.



1959. Directed by Irvin Berwick

This is one of those monster movies that never really gets any air-time and one that slips under the radar despite being an interesting tale with a fine rubber-suited creature to round things off. The coastal setting and slow reveal only help in keeping the viewer intrigued.

The film is set in the Californian town of Piedras Blancas and revolves around a nervous and shifty lighthouse keeper known as Sturgess (John Harmon) and his daughter Lucille. The opening scenes show us a strange hand reaching over a coastal rock to take some food that has been deliberately left - from here we see a town fall under the dark clouds of a murdering monster, a beast that is not revealed until the very last. The victims end up decapitated and drained of blood with all those investigating matters utterly baffled. Thankfully Lucille's boyfriend Fred (Don Sullivan) is a marine scientist and after examining a strange scale is soon hot on the trail with the local constable (Forrest Lewis). The slow suggestive style builds to a climactic showdown in the lighthouse with the monster revealed in all its latex glory.

I think this is a well shot film and neatly parceled and packaged. The monster is obviously based on the renowned 'Creature' but the first viewing of its snarling, water-spewing face is still an eye-oipening delight. The acting holds up, the small town being terrorized theme works well and a few gory moments are a treat for all. Definitely one to revisit!


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