This blog is a place for Me to review classic British films (in particular horror films) by Hammer, Amicus and the like. But I will occasionally branch out and review international films as these are the international counterpart to the British films, some of which will include works by American International Pictures, Mario Bava et al. I hope you enjoy!

Sunday, 31 October 2010

Vault of Horror

HALLOWEEN SPECIAL!

SPOILER ALERT! THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS! SPOILER ALERT!

Five man enter a lift which takes them to the secret basement vault of an office building. Unable to return to a higher level, they sit at the table and begin exchanging stories of their dreams that all end in their demise. The dreams range from vampires and voodoo to good old fashioned insurance scams.



Vault of Horror is a 1973 Amicus production. It is an anthology/portmanteau story made up of five short stories accompanied by an additional framing story that begins and ends the film. It stars Dawn Addams, Tom Baker and Michael Craig. It was directed by Roy Ward Baker. It is the sequel to 1972's Tales from the Crypt, and is also based on the Vault of Horror and Tales from the Crypt comics that inspired the Tales from the Crypt film.

To begin, this is one of my favourites, if not my favourite portmanteau Amicus Production. This and Dr Terror's House of Horrors I'd say are my top favourites.

The first story is about a man who kills his sister in order to claim the full inheritance from his deceased father. Little does he know that the town is over run by vampires, he soon finds out when he dines at the local vampire restaurant and is asked how he would like his blood clots, roasted? etc. The vampires realise he isn't one of them and then they string him up from the ceiling and stick a tap in his throat, allowing them and his vampire sister to have his blood on tap.



The second story is about an obsessive compulsive who makes his wife's life a living hell with his constant idea of “everything in it's place and a place for everything” he explains this to her by showing her his workshop where every single item has a designated position (Useful tip: DON'T MESS WITH HIS WORKSHOP HE WON'T LIKE IT). He even has a chart in his kitchen cupboard so he knows exactly how much of each item of food he has. She tries her best but by the end of the story her clumsiness takes over as she causes havoc to his orderly household through a calamity of slapstick events that unfold like tumbling dominoes. From a simple cup mark on the table she ends up spilling polish on the carpet, knocking a picture off the wall which rips the nail out of the wall. Then in order to fix the picture she heads down to his workshop and empties all his jars of various nails. [NOTE: THIS IS DEFINATELY A BAD IDEA, YOU KNOW HOW MUCH HE LIKES HIS ORDERED NAILS!] It's almost cringe worthy how clumsy she is and how much damage she is causing, especially when she messes about with his work shop because we all know how much he loves the order of his workshop items, and she messes it all up and breaks so much stuff. Then he arrives to see what has happened, tells her off but she snaps and wallops a hammer smack into the top of his head. Then we see that she has tidied the house and sorted everything into it's designated place. She has even sorted him into various jars; Eyes, Liver, Odds and Ends and so on. She's even picked up his motto “Everything in it's place and a place for everything” then laughs maniacally.



The third story is about a couple who travel to the East and try to steal the Eastern people's “magic tricks” for their own magic show. When they are refused a price for the secrets to their magic acts they turn to committing murder to obtain the flute that can make a rope stand erect from a basket high enough to be climbed. The robe then kills the couple and we see the woman who the couple killed is no longer dead but has somehow come back to life and is still continuing her magic flute and rope act.



The fourth story is about a man who has faked his own death in order to claim his life insurance, he's even took it as far as to be buried alive. The plan being for his friend to dig him up after the funeral. He also plans to kill his friend after he has collected the money for him. But his friend has other plans, he decides to leave him buried alive and collect the life insurance for himself. As the story unfolds his friend dies in a car crash and the graveyard caretaker kills the man in the coffin as a natural instinct to seeing a dead man jump out of a coffin at him.



During the fourth story we get a not so subtle reference to the previous film Tales from the Crypt, we see the man reading the novelization of the film, to which the camera zooms in on the book. They could have at least tried to make it subtle, I like the reference but I don't think it needed a close up of the book to reinforce that.

The fifth story is about an artist who after being cheated and robbed for his paintings learns how to perform voodoo through his artwork. His reason “to get revenge on those who wronged me”. He creates a painting of each of the men that wronged him then damages them in ways he deems appropriate for each individual, the loss of sight for the man who is an art critic, the loss of hands to the man who handles art work and for the man who oversaw it all, he is made to shoot himself in the head. But the artist also has a self portrait which before he can return to it in time a workman accidentally spills turpentine all over it resulting in the artist getting ran over, leaving his face resembling his now ruined painting.



WARNING! I'M ABOUT TO DISCUSS THE ENDING! WARNING!

The end, after they have all told their tales the lift doors open revealing a graveyard to which they all walk off into and each disappear one by one. The last of the men explains to the audience that every night they must come together and tell of the evil things they did when they were alive, that they must do this every night for all eternity. This I think is brilliant, its so dark and horrific, the idea of every single night having to tell of the evil things you have done for all eternity. This is a brilliantly horrifying concept.

In true Amicus tradition it's a horror with a dash of comedy. It contains both intentional and unintentional comedy. The unintentional tends to come from the actors' hammy acting (as usual), but we love it!



The best stories are the second and the fifth, the second one is more funny than horrifying but the fifth one which is the best of the lot is rather horrifying the idea of an artist taking revenge through the use of voodoo art, its brilliant and creepy at the same time. Plus Tom “The Doctor” Baker is the artist, I can't think of anyone else who would have been better than him, he isn't as eccentric as in Doctor Who but he's still good. The third story kind of bores me, it's definitely the weakest of the five, the fourth one is pretty decent with it's extravagant life insurance scam, the first one is ok, but nothing special, but the ending is good so that makes up for the rest of it. The idea of vampires sticking a tap into a man's throat so his blood is on tap is brilliant. I think I may have found the tap thing a lot funnier than I probably should have done, especially seen as I didn't find it scary just funny. I would definitely recommend this film to anyone interested in Amicus productions.

Vault of Horror 4/5

Friday, 22 October 2010

The Devil Rides Out

SPOILER ALERT! THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS! SPOILER ALERT!

Set in the 1930s in the South of England, Duc de Richleau and Rex investigate the goings on of a friend, Simon, who has become involved with the Occult. The Occult headed by Mocata plan to baptise Simon and Tanith, another young member, in the name of the devil. The Duc and Rex manage to rescue the two young members, but Mocata is determined to get them back, so now The Duc and Rex along with the help of a few others must help Simon and Tanith from falling into the clutches of Mocata once again.



The Devil Rides Out is a 1968 Hammer production. It stars Christopher Lee, Charles Gray, Nike Arrighi and Patrick Mower. It was directed by Terence Fisher. The film is based on the 1934 novel, The Devil Rides Out, by Dennis Wheatley. The film was first proposed in 1963 but due to censorship on the subject of Satanism it took 4 years for the censorship to ease allowing the film to go into production in 1967. In the US the film was released as The Devil's Bride.

Right, where to begin? Well for starters, we've got Charles Gray as the baddie Mocata, you may remember him more famously for one of the several portrayals of Blofeld in the James Bond films, or as the guy giving you the step by step low down on just how to actually do the time warp. “It's a jump to the left.”

As the Duc de Richleau, we've got Hammer legend Christopher Lee, who is rather brilliant. Apparently on many an occasion, Christopher Lee has stated that of all his films this is his favourite, and is the one he would most like to see remade with new special effects and that he would like to reprise the role of a mature Duc de Richleau.

Then there's our victim; Simon. Patrick Mower in another role where he is caught up in other people's evil doings. If it's not being under the spell of a vampire (Bloodsuckers), then it's meddling with black magic and the Occult. He just doesn't learn.

Leon Greene's Rex van Ryn is brilliant. There's a scene where he's in a car chase, Mocata frosts up his car windscreen and unlike any normal person who would at least have a second of panic or rationally stop the car or try to look around the windscreen, his initial reaction, his split second decision as soon as the windscreen frosts up is PUNCH IT! And amazingly he is the only person who can punch their entire fist right the way through a glass windscreen and not cut their hand.



During the ritual where Mocata is about to baptise Simon and Tanith, just before The Duc and Rex rescue them, we see the devil himself in the form of the Goat of Mendes. Now what this film taught me is that you can make the devil explode by throwing a cross at him as (my favourite character) Rex shows us.





So remember kids. If you're confronted by the devil in Goat of Mendes form. Throw a cross at him, he'll explode.

There is a great scene in the last half hour of the film where The Duc and three other people are in a room and standing within a chalk circle, the circle being the only protection they have against the black magic attacks Mocata is sending their way. They have to fight off a night full of black magic attacks, well when I say “night full of black magic attacks” you'd expect a lot. Well there's two big ones and a couple of minor ones if you count them as attacks; the candle lights were dimmed and the fresh water was made to taste bad. Them aside we're left with the two decent attacks, firstly there's a giant tarantula. Sorry I'll rephrase, GIANT TARANTULLA! Then after the GIANT TARANTULLA! is defeated by throwing a jug of water on it, the next attack is from the Angel of Death, who rides into the room on horseback and whips his helmet off to show us his bare skull. He is then defeated by The Duc who chants some form of incantation to vanquish him.





Overall, I rather liked The Devil Rides Out. The cast was great, the story was good. Terence Fisher's directing was (as always) spot on. It's one of those Hammer Horrors that is up there with the greats, it's not brilliant but it's definitely worth a watch and I would recommend it any day, unless of course you really don't like the devil...or goats.

The Devil Rides Out 4/5

Friday, 8 October 2010

Incense for the Damned (aka Bloodsuckers)

A group of people travel to Greece to search for a missing Oxford student; Richard Fountain. They discover that wherever Richard has been there has been an unsolved murder. They dismiss the idea that these crimes are Richard's doing and press on with their search, when they find Richard they discover he is under the spell of a vampire. Believing they have killed the vampire, they return to England with Richard. Unbeknown to them the curse has returned with them, and Richard becomes under the vampire's spell once again.



Incense for the Damned (also known as Bloodsuckers) is a 1972 Titan International Productions and Lucinda Films production. It stars Patrick Macnee, Peter Cushing and Patrick Mower. It was directed by Robert Hartford-Davis. This film is based on the novel Doctors Wear Scarlet by Simon Raven.

I've heard a couple of things about this film, the first thing being that the film's budget ran out part way through production so a number of scenes weren't filmed and the film was pieced together with what they had filmed so far. To help with any inconsistencies they added a narrator over the top to fill in the gaps. The second thing I heard about this film is that when it has appeared on television it has been the full uncut version, whereas the versions that were released in the cinema, and then on home video and DVD were various cut versions. In fact, on the DVD one of the cut scenes is used as an extra feature appearing as a deleted scene, why it wasn't just left in the film I don't know. It's annoying because it's the scene likely to have been controversial as it features sex, nudity and blood, exactly what these films were famous for; extremity and causing controversy, constantly pushing the boundaries, and they cut it out.

The synopsis to this film sounds rather good, but the final piece is disappointing, even more so when you look at the cast. Although Peter Cushing is credited in the top 3, he appears as a still image at the start and appears properly in the latter half. Then we have the Avenger himself, Patrick Macnee, but he gets dropped half way through the film, literally dropped off a cliff. There's even Edward Woodward who appears for one scene just randomly in the middle of the film. And then we have Patrick Mower again another good actor, at least he lasts the film's duration. Even with all these great actors the film fails, these actors aren't given the opportunity to be as great as they are in anything else they are in.

Some of the action sequences did have their moments, funny moments. Best of all being Patrick Macnee hitting a guy's head between 2 gates. Even then it was just slapstick violence, very much like the sitcom Bottom, when they hit each other in the head with the fridge door, which I don't think was the intended approach for this horror.



Now I know they hadn't killed the vampire as she was still able to have her influence over Richard later in the film, but to think she had been killed by being pushed off a small flight of stairs is ridiculous. An ordinary human could survive that fall, so for a vampire to be killed by it is a bit naff, presumably the reason she survived is because they didn't stake her, but still for a fall to even injure her is pretty poor story telling. SHE'S A VAMPIRE FOR GOD'S SAKE!

Overall, this film is a big disappointment, although it has its moments of action that amused me, I still found it dull and boring for most of the film. The great actors aren't used effectively or to their potential. As I mentioned earlier about the missing scenes, this makes the story a bit confusing at times and again rather poor. It's just very poor and not what you would expect as the final piece when you've read the synopsis. The synopsis leaves you with high hopes and intrigue, but the film let's itself down and spoils a potentially great story.

Incense for the Damned 1/5

Saturday, 2 October 2010

The Two Faces of Dr Jekyll

SPOILER ALERT! THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS! SPOILER ALERT!

London, 1874. On the belief that within every person there is two personalities, one who they are, the other who they could be without moral restrictions, Dr Henry Jekyll studies endlessly on the human mind and creates a serum that will unleash the other personality and create a person free of life's moral restrictions. He tests the serum on himself and becomes Edward Hyde, as Hyde he discovers that his wife Kitty is having an affair with his friend Paul Allen. Paul Allen, whom always uses Dr Jekyll for his money, in order to pay off his own debts. Jekyll begins questioning just who he is when Hyde and Allen become friends and begin exploring London's seediest nightspots. Jekyll decides to close the door on Hyde and destroys his work, but Hyde still manages to resurface regardless of the serum. Now Jekyll must do battle within himself, two personalities fighting for control, the two faces of Dr Jekyll at war within the same mind and body.



The Two Faces of Dr Jekyll is a 1960 Hammer production. It stars Paul Massie, Dawn Addams and Christopher Lee. It was directed by Terence Fisher. In America the film was released under two different titles; Jekyll's Inferno and House of Fright. It was based on Robert Louis Stevenson's The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.

This is quite a dark depiction of Mr Hyde, especially so for a 1960 film, its rather clear that Hyde has raped Kitty, obviously we don't see it but what we do see is him forcing himself on her and the aftermath where he has already left but she awakes with scratches and cuts on her. On top of this we see him strangling a woman who we later see with strong red marks on her throat to show how forcefully he was strangling her. This I thought was quite a daring move on Hammer's part, again evidence towards the aspect of hammer constantly pushing the boundaries.

On a lighter note, there were a lot of funny faces pulled by Mr Hyde in this film, so I think The Many Faces of Mr Hyde would equally work as an appropriate alternate title.





WARNING! I'M ABOUT TO DISCUSS THE ENDING! WARNING!

As the poster puts it “A shock ending that you dare not reveal!” well, I dare reveal this “shocking” ending. The ending seems somewhat rather promising for a while, Mr Hyde kills three people and frames Jekyll for the murders, putting Jekyll in a situation where he must give up to his Hyde persona and allow him full control. To which Hyde then destroys Jekyll's research and sets up the scene of the crime to look like Jekyll killed himself. Allowing Hyde to escape and live a new life free of Jekyll. This I thought was brilliant. Next, we see Hyde and a group of others at a hearing about Jekyll's crimes. As they leave Hyde walks alongside Jekyll's old friend, a fellow scientist we see at the start of the film, Hyde then grabs hold of the man and says “Help me” in Jekyll's voice. Now, that for me would have been prefect, what should have followed should have been Hyde shrugging off Jekyll and walking out the building presumably to live a life of his own. Instead, Jekyll begins to fight Hyde once more, then he transforms back into Jekyll who says that he has destroyed Hyde, to which the other scientist says that he has also destroyed himself. Which I quite like the aspect of saying that he has destroyed himself, not physically but mentally, as Jekyll a mild mannered, dull reclusive has now become a murderer and a rapist, and will now most likely be executed for his other persona's crimes. I suppose its a decent ending but I wouldn't call it so “shocking that you dare not reveal!” I think a more shocking ending would have been everything up until the point where Hyde speaks with Jekyll's voice saying “Help me.” so that we know Jekyll is still alive in there. Then have him shrug it off and leave to live a notorious life all the while with Jekyll having to bare witness to all the horrors Hyde inflicts on people. That for me would have been a more shocking ending and a much more horrifying prospect to happen to Jekyll.

This is a decent Hammer film, I personally think Terence Fisher has directed better Hammer films but this isn't at all a bad film. What I do like about this Jekyll and Hyde adaptation is that it's different to other adaptations, its still the same story but certain aspects are changed, and more crucially its one of few adaptations that doesn't have Jekyll/Hyde die at the end. It's also unique for making Jekyll a dull and bland character in contrast to Hyde who is portrayed more exciting and suave. The reason for this was to reflect Terence Fisher's belief in what critics have called “the charm of evil”. I really liked the dark yet charming depiction of Mr Hyde, it worked very effectively, and I think made the character that bit more terrifying than having him just simply being a bad man all the time, in this he comes across as a gentleman, which allows him to gain people's trust but even Mr Hyde is two faced. This is definitely one for any Jekyll and Hyde fan, I wouldn't say this is the best Jekyll and Hyde adaptation but it is good, and made better for tweaking certain aspects and bringing a fresh new angle to the classic tale.

The Two Faces of Dr Jekyll 3/5