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!

Thursday, 26 May 2011

The Gorgon

SPOILER ALERT! THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS! SPOILER ALERT!

The village of Vandorf has a secret. A secret so terrifying that the locals live their lives in fear. After every full moon victims are found dead, but their deaths aren't caused by normal circumstances, their death's are due to being turned to stone.



The Gorgon is a 1964 Hammer production. It stars Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee and Richard Pasco. It was directed by Terence Fisher..

As if a film starring Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee, and directed by Terence Fisher wasn't good enough, there's also PATRICK TROUGHTON added to the formula too!

A young couple were killed at the start, when their bodies were found the woman had been turned to stone and her fiancée Bruno was found hanging from a tree. But at the court case the witnesses fictionalised the facts stating that her cause of death was due to being beaten to death. Their summary is that her fiancée killed her. But Bruno's father was in the court room too, and when he stood up he stated that all he had heard was lies, lies formulated from fear. But what do they fear? So Bruno's father goes about investigating just what it is that is giving these locals the willies.

Legend has it there were three gorgons. Two of them were killed but one of them (Megaera) escaped and fled to these parts near Vandorf. Could it possibly be the last remaining gorgon that has been killing people for the last five years? (Of course it is, it's in the bloody title.)

You sly gorgon bitch! She tempted Bruno's father out of his house with her beautiful singing he walked to her ruined castle and BAM she turned him to stone. It's pretty cool actually, he doesn't instantly turn to stone, he slowly changes so we see him all grey looking but still alive barely able to move. He managed to get back to his house and write a letter for his other son (Paul) who would be arriving the next day so that he can inform him of the gorgon.



“The correct term is Gorgonised which means literally turned to stone.” I don't know what it is but I love that word, it sounds so funny and just makes me laugh. Ha, Gorgonised. I can imagine it being used in a prank TV show “You've just been Gorgonised.”

Paul is rather bloody lucky, he saw the gorgon THREE times in the space of about a minute and managed to survive. This is because he saw the gorgon as a reflection, twice in water and once in glass. Well, he's maybe not that lucky, it did knock him into a coma for five days and turned his hair grey. But at least he didn't die a slow and painful turning to stone death. And on the plus side he awoke in hospital to be greeted by Nurse Carla where they then sort of fall in love.



The locals fear the gorgon and want to get rid of it yet when someone comes along with knowledge of the gorgon and also wants to destroy it they still won't admit it's existence. Why not just admit it and work together? You'll get rid of the gorgon a lot quicker. Think about it, it makes sense. But no they continue to ignore it.

YEY! Paul's professor (Christopher Lee) has come to Vandorf to lend a hand.

Megaera died a long time ago, but her spirit lives on. It's the spirit of Megaera that is terrorising the village of Vandorf. Her spirit has took control of someone and Professor Meister thinks it is Carla as she suffers from amnesia. During the cycle of the full moon is when Megaera's strength is at it's best so Carla will not be able to control her actions. All this is Professort Meister's theory, could it be true?

Oh no! Cushing's Dr Namaroff tried to behead Megaera. He got close to her by shielding his eyes with his arm but at the last moment just as he was about to take a swing at her he removed his arm and looked straight in her eyes. Silly Namaroff, now you're turning to stone. Cushing's gorgonised face is classic.



Professor Meister snook up behind Megaera with a sword as she was trying to make Paul look her in the eyes. But he looked just before Meister sliced her head off. As Paul began to turn to stone Megaera's severed head transformed back into Carla's [GASP] Meister was right! Meister says to Paul “She's free now.” then Paul dies.

All in all, it's ok. I was actually disappointed. For a film starring Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, Patrick Troughton, Barabara Shelley, directed by Terence Fisher and about a woman with snakes for hair that turns people to stone, it was disappointingly boring at times. Don't get me wrong it has it's good moments, the ending especially. I absolutely loved the ending, the sword fight between Namaroff and Paul (even if it was obviously two stuntmen at times) then the final confrontation with Megaera, that was absolutely brilliant. But a lot of what came before it seemed to be a bit boring. The atmosphere and set pieces were, as ever with Hammer, great. Overall, it's an average Hammer Horror. I personally was disappointed for the most part of the film but again the ending was great, it ended the film brilliantly.

The Gorgon 3/5

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Announcement - New Blog

Hi But We're British! readers,

For all lovers of time travel I have started a new blog where I review all things time travel in my usual style conveyed in But We're British! reviews. I will continue to write reviews for both But We're British! and Time Wimey. To visit my new blog click this link Timey Wimey.

Thanks

Andy

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Countess Dracula

SPOILER ALERT! THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS! SPOILER ALERT!

17th Century Hungary. Countess Elisabeth discovers that if she bathes in the blood of virgin women then she can temporarily restore her youthful good looks. Posing as her daughter she uses this new found ability to go about lusting after a young soldier, but as the romance blossoms the death rate of young women in the area increases, even to the point where the Countess' maids start to become suspicious.



Countess Dracula is a 1971 Hammer production. It stars Ingrid Pitt, Nigel Green and Sandor Eles. It was directed by Peter Sasdy.

This film is based on the legends of “The Blood Countess” Elisabeth Bathory. Much in the same sense of how Dracula is based on the legends of Vlad the Impaler. Countess Elisabeth is based on Elisabeth Bathory who is said to have tortured and killed hundreds of women, but although she was never convicted of the crimes she was later imprisoned in bricked up rooms where she would die 4 years later. The character of Elisabeth Bathory is also used in the novel Dracula: The Un-Dead by Dacre Stoker, which is the official sequel to Bram Stoker's Dracula. That adaptation of her portrays her as being a lesbian vampire which isn't in this film but both do have the bathing in women's blood, as in one scene from the book she has a woman hung over a bath and cut open so her blood pours into the bath.

Ingrid Pitt, one of the most iconic stars of Hammer and she was only ever in TWO Hammer films! Nice bit of trivia for you there.



Right from the start we're getting the general gist that Countess Elisabeth is a bitch and no one likes her. At one point she hits a maid and causes her to slip and cut herself on the knife she was holding. As she cuts her face blood spurts out onto the Countess' face so she tells her to leave. But when she rubs the blood from her face, she notices that the area the blood touched has rejuvenated and is now young looking. Thrilled by this discovery that the maid's blood can make her young again she rushes to the maid's room. The next day the maid is nowhere to be seen and the Countess is fully rejuvenated. I suspect foul play!

Oh you sly bitch! In order to enjoy this new found youth she has her daughter's arrival delayed by arranging to have her kidnapped, so she can pose as her daughter and lust after a young Lieutenant. All the while, her lover Captain Dobi who knows her terrible secret must keep schtum and just sit and watch.

Oh no! It wasn't permanent! Whatever will she do now?! She'll kill again of course, duh.

That's brilliant and unintentionally hilarious! The Countess is just sat there dabbing blood on to her face with a GIANT sponge.



Naked Ingrid Pitt WOOOOOOOO, but she's covered in blood ewwwww.



Ah! They've found some of The Countess' victims. THREE dead bodies hidden behind a mere few barrels and nobody noticed before now? Didn't anyone notice the smell? I recommend some Olbas, it gives you the power to breathe naturally.

AH! She turned old during the wedding ceremony! She has a knack for picking the worst moments to turn old, earlier she turned old just as she was about to get it on with the Lieutenant, but then caught a glimpse of her reflection and ran away. This time though she was kind of fucked as she did it in front of everyone, and decided to attack her daughter but the young Lieutenant got in the way and got killed instead. Next thing, The Countess is in prison awaiting trial or execution (one of the two) all the while people outside are chanting “Devil” and “Devil woman” until one woman says “Countess Dracula”. Ah, so that's why they called it that.

All in all, it's not bad. First time I watched this a few years ago I really enjoying it, but this time round not so much. I suppose it's worth giving a look, especially if you're a Hammer fan and even more so if you're an Ingrid Pitt fan for obvious reasons. Because she was only in TWO Hammers! Dirty minded people. Nigel Green is good as the jealous Captain Dobi, as funny as his name is he's a fiendish man who keeps trying to drive the Countess and the lieutenant apart. One method, was to get him completely smashed and in bed with a whore so he could get the Countess and show her. There isn't particularly a lot of horror, there's a bit of blood but nothing major and as for nudity, there's the odd boob flying about the place, and that's pretty much Countess Dracula in a nutshell. I'm not really selling it am I, well what can I say, it's ok and that's about it. The title choice wasn't good either, obviously they were trying to gain interest by chucking Dracula into the title which obviously is a good selling point when it comes to Hammer but there is no relation between this and Dracula, she's not a vampire, she doesn't drink blood, it's a completely separate story. Even the porn versions of Countess Dracula have her as a vampire! They should have named this after one of Elisabeth Bathory's nicknames like “The Blood Queen” or “The Blood Countess”. I think that would have sold it and without having to mislead audiences by piggy backing on the Dracula name. All in all, yeah sure go watch it, it's not bad but don't be expecting anything spectacular.

Countess Dracula 2/5

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Dr Terror's House of Horrors

SPOILER ALERT! THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS! SPOILER ALERT!

Dr Terror boards a train with five other men, after discovering he is a fortune teller they ask him to tell them their future. Four Tarot cards are dealt to tell the person's fate, the fifth card tells them how to avoid it. With fates involving severed hands, vampires, werewolves, voodoo and killer plants they may have to take the fifth card's advice.



Dr Terror's House of Horrors is a 1965 Amicus production. It stars Christopher Lee, Roy Castle and Peter Cushing. It was directed by Freddie Francis. This was the first in Amicus' series of portmanteau films.

I'm not too sure why the title comes on screen in German with the English translation as a subtitle. I know Dr Terror is meant to be German but that doesn't mean the title should be in German. Unless Amicus figured that 1965 audiences were so easily scared that even the German language would put the shits up them.

Oh Roy Castle (the film's funny man) pissing off Christopher Lee (the film's angry man) by accidentally closing the train door on him. Bad idea that, but someone had to annoy him. It was inevitable really, if Christopher Lee plays a sophisticated person then you can guarantee he'll get pissed off and angry.



I do love Peter Cushing, but do you know what I love more than him? His dodgy Dr Terror eyebrows. They're so hairy, they'd give Roger Moore's a run for their money.

FIRST STORY

Jim Dawson returns to his family home to help the new owner (Mrs Biddulph who moved there for solitude after her husband's death) make alterations to the house.

No! Don't do that! If you find a tomb hidden behind the wall of the basement belonging to the man who lost his house to your family and died during a conflict with your family but also swore vengeance on the owner of the house, then DON'T and I repeat, DON'T pull it out and open it!

As it turns out it was all an elaborate trap concocted by Mrs Biddulph who is actually the werewolf who has been skulking around and that she is also the wife of the man in the tomb. She's been waiting 200 years to avenge him.

After being shown his fate Dr Terror then deals the fifth card, the escape card, the card which will tell him how to avoid this nasty fate. The fifth card is Death.



SECOND STORY

Bill Rogers and his family return from holiday to find a vine has grown up the side of their house. But there's more to this plant than meets the eye.

When Plants Attack! They thought to cut the vine, THEY WERE WRONG! The vine simply smacked the sheers out of Bill's hand. This is no ordinary vine. And as if that wasn't enough. NO! Not the dog! Anyone but the dog! He was one of the good ones! The vine killed the dog.

Bill then enlists the help of some plant specialists, one of which is working at their home and discovers that the plant actually has a brain. But before he's able to tell anyone of his finding the vine kills him too.

Well what do you know. Smoking isn't so bad after all. The other plant specialist decides to light his pipe and does so near the window. But as he does it the plants move away from the window. There he realises FIRE! The one thing everything fears. Then he lights some paper and heads out to bring help. Disappointingly that's it. Now yeah, I know killer plants are bad and all but Bill didn't die or suffer a horrible fate, his story ended with him in the house with his wife and daughter waiting for the other guy to bring help. Yet, his fifth card states his only escape from this actually-not-that-bad-of-a-fate is Death. Bit harsh really if you ask me. I mean come on, they would have been rescued in a bit.



THIRD STORY

This is the humorous one of the five stories, after all it stars Roy Castle. Biff Bailey is a jazz musician constantly looking for the next hit. But how far will he go?

What a tool! Not only is it common sense to not meddle with voodoo but his friend warns him not to have anything to do with it. Yet, he still goes out to write down and steal the voodoo music being played at a ritual. No! Bad Joojoo don't meddle with voodoo. That's the moral of the story (it's also common fucking sense).

Even the chief voodoo guy tells Bill not to steal the music because it belongs to a jealous and vengeful voodoo God who, if he steals it, will have his revenge. Yet, he still steals it. This guy needs a slap. Then he takes it to a London club and plays it. Whilst playing it, a powerful wind blows through the club and smashes the place up. Then on his way home to work on the music he starts getting nervous and paranoid as he begins to be, in a sense, haunted.

Wait what? He fell over and when he picked himself up there was a poster on the wall for Dr Terror's House of Horrors, to which he looked at it and look even more scared. [shrug] Beats me.

When he makes it to his apartment, doors and windows start slamming and the lights go out. When he turns them back on the voodoo God is there and takes back the sheets of music as Bill collapses to the ground. And that's it, he could well have suffered a heart attack which then at least he died but that isn't specified, so as far as I'm aware he could well have just fainted. And with that, he is given Death as his fifth card too.



FOURTH STORY

Franklyn Marsh is an art critic who is more critical than appreciative of art work. Unfortunately, the artist Eric Landor gets the brunt of it.

Yey! Christopher Lee being an arsehole art critic. Double Yey! Michael Gough is the artist Eric Landor.

Oh harsh! But yes I like it. Landor gets even with Marsh by showing him a painting by a new rising artist, Marsh loves the painting and asks to meet the artist. To his surprise and humiliation it's a monkey. From then on Landor continues to torment Marsh with paper cut outs of monkeys when he's trying to deliver a speech and so on. But Marsh being the arsehole that he is, he's not going to stand for this much longer, so he runs Landor over crushing his hand.

This has to be the single most harsh sentence to leave a doctor's lips. After being told that the patient is an artist he replies “Artist? Not anymore.” What a bastard!

Shortly after leaving the hospital Landor kills himself, but then his severed hand takes on a life of it's own and begins terrorising Marsh. He burns it, stabs it, drops it to the bottom of a river and still it continues to come back. I think Marsh might need a hand with this one. Ho-Ho.

The hand comes back one last time and makes Marsh swerve off the road and crash. As he is being placed into the ambulance a guy says “he'll be blind for the rest of his life.” Then we hear Marsh scream. Now that is what I call a dreaded horrible fate. And like the others his fifth card is also Death.



FIFTH STORY

Dr Bob Carroll returns home with his newly wed wife. But there's something not quite right.

Freaky bitch! It can't be good when a woman sucks the blood from your cut finger. GET OUT BOB! GET OUT NOW! AH! Whilst Bob sleeps his wife turns into a bat and flies out the window! VAMPIRE!

Dr Blake is a good doctor. After seeing a kid with fang marks on his neck who claims to be feeling weak, he jumps straight to the conclusion of VAMPIRES! There's no reasonable explanation first just straight to the supernatural. Surely he should be grounded a bit more in reality, after all he is a doctor. What's next, A kid entering puberty who has stubble? WEREWOLF!

Oh, that was cool. As Dr Blake was about to be attacked by the vampire bat he coincidently made the shape of the cross with his arms as he defended himself. This obviously caused the bat to fly away.

Oh shit! Dr Blake (rather easily I might add) persuaded Bob to stake his wife because she's a vampire. After he does it the police and Dr Blake arrive, but Dr Blake denies telling him to kill his wife and says there's no such thing as vampires. After the police arrest Bob and leave, Dr Blake turns to the camera and says “This town isn't big enough for two doctors...or two vampires.” then he turns into a bat and flies away.

Again, the fifth card is Death.



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

The five men then tell Dr Terror to deal his own cards and his fifth card is also Death. Coming to the conclusion that none of them has a future they believe that it must be the train, and that it must be going to crash. I don't fully understand the logic in that but I'll come back to it. Marsh then turns to Dr Terror and asks “Who are you?” to which he replies “Have you not guessed?” Then the lights go out. When they come back on Dr Terror has vanished and the train has stopped. Believing it to be all over and that all is well they exit the train to find an empty platform and the train to have vanished. They then see a newspaper with the headline “TRAIN CRASH – FIVE DEAD” They then see Dr Terror who has now revealed his true identity – Death. I love that, I think it's brilliant that they were travelling with Death all along I think that's a great twist. But that doesn't forgive it of it's other problems.

As far as I'm concerned they've been shown their future, surely by knowing your future you could avoid it. It doesn't make sense for the only way to avoid it is to die before it happens because they now know what lies ahead and can simply not do it. On top of that, not all the stories ended nastily, some ended in such a way that the guy will be fine afterwards. For instance, the killer plant story Bill and his family will be rescued, the other guy went for help so why was he dealt Death as his only option to avoid it? In fact why were any of them dealt Death as the only option because as I mentioned earlier they now know their own future and can simply just avoid it by not going back to the family house, informing plant specialists immediately, not stealing voodoo music, not being an arsehole and not marrying a vampire. But that BIG problem aside, I quite like Dr Terror's House of Horrors. The stories aren't that great but it was always one of my favourite classic British horror films, that might well be because it was one of the first ones I ever saw but it isn't bad. The best stories are probably the last two, the other three aren't that good. But for Amicus' first portmanteau story it's pretty good, when compared to their other productions though, it's not that good. But as a starting point this was pinnacle for what would come in the following years from Amicus. If you're interested in Amicus then sure I'd say give it a look but I'd recommend seeing it after seeing one or two of their others because they made some brilliant portmanteau films, unfortunately this isn't one of them.

Dr Terror's House of Horrors 3/5