1961. Directed by William Castle

Another minor gem from the master of cinematic gimmicks.  Here we are given a steady tale regarding disfigurement and a severe change in character as a result - the acting, the general feel of the flick and the lead madman are all splendidly delivered in a quite underrated film.

The year is 1880, Baron Sardonicus (Guy Rolfe) needs the help of renowned London physician Sir Robert Cargrave (Ronald Lewis) and so requests a meeting via his wife (and Cargrave’s ex love) Maude (Audrey Dalton). Cargrave travels to the central European country of Gorslava and is immediately put in a state of shock when he encounters Sardonicus servant Krull (Oskar Homolka) torturing another servant with hungry, blood-letting leeches.  Eventually we learn the meaning behind Sardonicus's needs and uncover a tale that is twisted, laden with torment and responsible for the creation of a man focused, bullying and brutal.  The masked Sardonicus is disfigured due to a psychological shock and sees Cargrave as is last vestige of hope.  Experiments are made, numerous threats issued, some fine interplay between the characters is enjoyed and before the final outcome, Mr Castle pokes his head into the mix with a cute bit of on-screen interaction.  The end scenes are played out, we get what we asked for (well if you believe the director) and sign out quite satisfied.  

What we have here is a simple premise, souped up by the creator's nifty touches, enhanced by a fine lead nutjob and a shuffling sidekick and of course rounded off in a quite unique fashion.  The cold cruelty and the forthright manner of the Baron is a joy for the horror-enthused aficionado and I happy to recommend this to all my fellow terror-seeking no-hopers.



1959. Directed by George P. Breakson

A cracking little chiller that has a cracked scientist, the usual love interest and a fine wayward experiment that goes ridiculously wrong. What more do we need.

Larry Stanford (Peter Dyneley) is a correspondent working in Japan and duly interviews the celebrated scientist Dr Robert Suzuki (Tetsu Nakamura). During the interview Suzuki discusses his work on cosmic rays and evolution whilst he craftily drugs Mr Stanford. He informs his assistant Tara (Terri Zimmern) of his trickery and what he plans to do, Tara is far from impressed. After injecting the drugged Stanford's shoulder with a mystery serum the film progresses and we now see Stanford turn from a mild-mannered man into a cantankerous and ill-tempered lout. His neglected wife Linda (Jane Hylton) arrives on the scene but Stanford is now involved with Tara and treats his good lady quite abysmally. Murders follow as our lead man loses control and sees his body change in all manner of ways. The man becomes a wild-untamed beast, the effects may be shocking but keep the onlooker enthralled. A personality is literally split in two, the gallop to the finale is exciting and the end comes in a quite satisfying way.

This is a small cutlet of wayward film-making that is a joy to behold. The outlandish results of an injection and the rampaging creature are all delivered with a good impetus and some decent acting. I think the lead role is played rather well and I hope this overlooked piece gets more credit than it is due. For far-fetched madness you can't go far wrong here.



1951. Directed by Robert Wise

A timeless classic with a saucer invasion, one man and his robot and a warning for all of mankind a theme very well worn but rarely bettered. This is a cool and commanding classic with some strong acting and a prophetic feel.

A flying saucer lands in Washington D. C. and is quickly surrounded by the armed forces. Alien Klaatu (Michael Rennie) appears with his robot henchman Gort. Klaatu is shot after offering a present, he is taken to the local hospital whereupon he escapes and makes his way to a boarding house and takes up lodgings. Here he makes friends with Bobby (Billy Gray), the son of Helen Benson (Patricia Neal). Bobby is intrigued by this new arrival and takes him on a tour of the city not knowing that he is from another planet. Helen and her boyfriend Tom Stevens (Hugh Marlowe) are almost unaware who Klaatu (now posing as Mr Carpenter) really is. During their excursion, Bobby and Klaatu visit top scientist Professor Barnhardt (Sam Jaffe) whom is not at home but whom is left a message that will solve an ongoing mathematical problem. A meeting eventually takes place, Klaatu warns that the world is in danger unless he can speak to various heads of state. After getting no joy from the president’s secretary Klaatu insists that the professor is the man to arrange a meeting of relevant minds to explain the nature of his visit. The plot runs smooth, Klaatu gives a demonstration of power before those close by suss who he is and make him a marked man, Helen is on the visitor’s side though but can she help mankind hear and take heed of Klaatu's message before it is all too late?

A great film and one to never tire of. I watched this as a nipper and in half a century have watched numerous times more, it does seem to get better with age. Rennie, Marlowe and Neal are top notch performers and help give this solid film and extra slab of conviction.



1997. Directed by Anthony Waller

A fantasy-horror comedy with some tidy scenes and effects and some CGI inclusions that I for one, am not won over by. I am also not a fan of comedic horror but this is one of the better offerings out there.

3 Yankee jerks head to Paris, looking to score with the girls and indulge in some daredevil antics. One such jaunt takes them to the top of the Eiffel Tower where Andy McDermott (Tom Everett Scott) plans to impress his two friends Brad (Vince Vieluf) and Chris (Phil Buckman) by doing a bungee jump. Before the foolish act however he sees a girl who is about to throw herself over the edge. The girl jumps despite Andy's efforts but our lead man follows her on a rope and saves her from death. He his left with a shoe as the girl flees but he soon tracks her down and comes across a world of lycanthropic madness, insatiable bloodlust and ghostly nightmares. Of course Andy falls in love with Serafine (Julie Delpy), is bitten by a wolf and reluctantly joins the pack but... things never run smoothly in these hirsute and fanged realms. The ending is pure cheesy corn and rounds off a quite lame affair that only gives rise to one or two decent moments.

Stylishly shot, fast flowing and with the odd snippet of promise this is still a far cry from the original classic and lacks any real bits to make me want to return for another fix. I really don't know why people indulge in follow-ups and comedy horror knowing that the standard set is already unattainable.



1961. Directed by

An independent horror film that revolves around a man who falls in love with a beautiful witch and duly ends up in a coven that worships the great devil deity, Gamba. Yes, we have heard and seen it all before but this is a steady film that remains on a middle ground.

The man at the focus of the flick is one Rick Turner (Robert Alda), a bloke who is having trouble getting any rest due to nighttime visions of an alluring young woman. He is drawn to a doll shop, finds a figure of the woman in his dreams, namely Bianca Milan (Linda Christian) and his told by the shifty shopkeeper Frank Lamont (Neil Hamilton) that he has already ordered and paid for the doll. Escorted by his girlfriend Donna Trent (Ariadna Welter) on the next visit, a likeness of his lady friend is also seen, but Frank refuses to sell. From here we see voodoo practices take place, Trent ends up in hospital as a result and Rick and Bianca finally hook-up with the former utterly smitten by the latter’s beauty. Rick is so taken that even after discovering Bianca is a witch he joins a coven, prepares to gives his all even though death may be the outcome. Of course Rick finally sees that his reasoning is askew and the finale comes, all is over and done with in just over the hour mark, it is just as well.

Far from a classic, I think this is a run-of-the-mill film that is enhanced by its short running time. The acting, the thrills and the general premise are all below par but it is a harmless offering causing little in the way of offense.



1981. Directed by Percival Rubens

A mild but still unsettling South-African slasher film with a mysterious maniac on the prowl and killing for the sheer, unexplainable love of it. These films are what they are, some people love this stalking style of horror.

Emily Parkinson is 14 years old and has been abducted by a heavy-breathing maniac, her parents want her back and so, after little progress is made by the local police, call in Col. Bill Carson (Cameron Mitchell), a psychic detective who works free of charge. Mr Parker (Peter J. Elliot) is hell-bent on revenge, Mrs. Parker (Moira Winsow) just wants her daughter back, Carson summons up his abilities and has somewhat nebulous visions of the murderer. Meanwhile the abductor has taken a liking to stalking a local school teacher known as Mary Jones (Jennifer Holmes). Mary lives with Jo (Zoli Marki), a woman having an affair with smooth idler Dean Turner (Craig Gardner), and whilst Mary gets more unsettled Jo seems quite disinterested. The madman continues to take lives in between a strict exercise regime and a fetish for girlie magazines. Mr Parker soon comes a cropper, Mrs. Parker cracks up, the other characters duly get theirs. The odd surprise incident, a final chase and the closing decision and we are left unsure as to whether we have watched a good or bad film.

My afterthoughts on this insidious film are one of a shadowy creeper that has good foundations but just lacking in that finishing touch. The crawling pace doesn't help but a few unexpected moments and some creep-out visuals partially save the skin on this flicks hide.



1959. Directed by Jerry Warren

Wow, how do these film makers get away with such stuff? It was the poster that initially had me intrigued with promises of strange worlds, monsters and disaster - I wasn't fooled and expected little but what I got was a super-cheap tale that failed to live up to any hype and suggestion.

Professor Millard Wyman (John Carradine) has designed diving bell and sends a crew of four down into the ocean depths to discover a world so far left unexplored. The party consists of Paul Whitmore (Allen Windsor) and Craig Randall (Robert Clarke), and two women Lauri Talbott (Sheila Noonan) and Dale Marshall (Phyllis Coates) and after things go awry the quartet of intrepid (or stupid) folk don their diving gear and try to get free of the trapped bell. They duly end up in an underwater cave that leads to a network of routes in which there seems no escape. Here friction arises, a wild man is discovered and the odd lizard is thrown into the action as matters progress and a real corned ending comes to fruition.

There is very little I can say about this abysmal bit of fun, it is what it is with some shambolic scenes, a misleading poster and a lead man who must have been pretty desperate for a payday. As mad as it seems though this is trashcan nonsense that can be enjoyed and binned, this alone makes it worthy of a watch.



1963. Directed by Herbert L. Strock

Another film concerning a five-fingered fiend out on the loose and focused on murdering anyone it comes across. I have seen quite a few 'killer hand' films, this ain't the best but I do like these appendage horrors.

After an astronaut crash lands in California there seems to be no trace of his remains until student Paul Lawrence (Rod Lauren) goes for a coastal swim with his girlfriend and discovers a disembodied hand which he takes home as a somewhat bizarre souvenir (like you do). Of course the hand has a life of its own and kills Paul's landlady which puts Paul under the close scrutiny of the local police. The alien possessed arm and hand now takes over the mind of Paul who starts to change in behavior and appearance (cue heavy eye-shadow). Paul attacks a few people, is soon cornered by the police who realise, after a fingerprint test, that Paul is not a killer. After a brief stand-off we see the arm seemingly get its comeuppance and Paul taken to the local hospital to recover. That seems to be that but a last second twist leaves us wondering.

A basic premise, drawn out over a running time that is far from necessary and with a lack of gruesome action. This is a film only for those immersed in this kind of fantastical hokum. Anyone with an ounce of sense would be advised to avoid, alas common sense is not one of my greatest assets - thanks goodness.



1967. Directed by Jim O' Connelly

With a host of familiar faces this circus-based yarn should have been a real treat, instead we get average fair and a somewhat rushed ending that leaves us a trifle frustrated. Comparisons are always going to be made to Circus of Fear, a far superior film in many ways.

Monica Rivers (Joan Crawford) and Albert Dorando (Michael Gough) are joint owners of a British traveling circus. Things are hit and miss but when a tightrope walker plunges to his death in mysterious circumstances the crowds start to flock. As luck would have it a new tightrope walker turns up, namely the daring and ambitious Frank Hawkins (Ty Hardin). Hawkins strives to build a relationship with Rivers, Dorando is murdered and business goes from strength to strength. Rivers is a prime suspect, mainly due to her cold and financially calculating manner. Thrown into the plot is Monica’s daughter Angela (Judy Geeson), who after being expelled from school soon finds herself in the role of the knife-throwers assistant. Also in the mix is the gobby and catty Matilda (Diana Dors), the assistant of the resident magician. Matilda is a sharp piece of work and causes due upheaval before we have a final showcase that sees murder most foul and the killer revealed. The unmasking is a surprise but far from convincing and we sign out rather deflated.

On paper this one looked set to be a real treat, instead we get a run-of-the-mill big top picture with some sound characters but a real lack of gore and tension. Matters seem rushed at the end but Crawford gives it her all and perhaps offers the picture a source of salvation. I would watch again though as the film looks good and is easily digested.



1958. Directed by Roger Corman

Another cheap independent film by Mr Corman that weighs in with a short running time, a young Robert Vaughan, a few dinosaurs and a weird monster for good measure - is there anything else we could really ask for?

A tribe of primitive people are ruled by a law, the law forbids anyone to trespass outside their zone and venture into a nearby area that seems lush and laden with life. A young man (Robert Vaughan) questions these rules and goes forth with a few other young chaps whereupon prehistoric beasts are encountered as well as a being that is believed to be a God that kills with the merest touch. Trouble and disgruntlement ensues, one tribe member is a rabble-rouser, calls for blood and has many backers but the youthful rebel will not be restrained and continues to follow his desires. Deaths follow, a showdown with the seemingly holy creature comes and fear dictates. The end reveal and explanation of how things are what they are is a real surprise and the film signs off and rounds of a quite entertaining 70 minute romp.

Daft, low budget and with a few minor short-cuts, this is still a decent caveman film with Vaughan fully immersed at the helm and putting in a decent effort. I like the odd dinosaur shots too - now they are primitive.


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