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Category Archives: horror

A Cold Walk

I have been wanting to walk my dog, Tabby (I didn’t name her after a cat) (I told that story, didn’t I?), for some days now, but it has been too cold out for cute little doggies and middle-aged ladies. Today was only marginally better, but I thought I’d give it a try.

One reason I wanted to walk is that my back has been hurting me. I thought maybe I did something to it, but I really think all that I did was live to be fifty. And I haven’t been walking. Walking every day is very good for your back. It is good for your dog, too. How could I stay inside?

My thermostat said it was 18 degrees, which is practically 20. Luckily, my thermostat says nothing about wind chill. I hoped for the best. I put Tabby’s coat on her, bundled myself up, and we were off.

That bright sun ought to help, I thought. If only it hadn’t gone behind the houses. At least there were strips of sunlight. The sidewalks weren’t too bad. In the few places where nobody had shoveled, other pedestrians had worn a path. I don’t mind a little snow. The resistance burns a few more calories.

One patch of sidewalk was completely bare. I wondered if the people living in that house had put a heater under it, like some businesses do. I’d like to do that and not have to shovel. With my luck, I would mis-set the heat, the snow would melt then freeze, somebody would take a header and sue my pants off. Then I wouldn’t be able to afford to pay the heating bill.

When we turned the corner, we had full sun on our backs. Aaahhh. Well, I guess it was mostly placebo effect, because the air was still cold. My nose was running, but at least I had a handkerchief today.

I decided we would only go around one block. Tabby might have preferred to go farther, but I don’t think little dogs necessarily know what is best for them or me. Around another corner, we were in shade again. I thought how much I would appreciate the shade this summer. Then the wind picked up. Yikes!

I think Tabby enjoyed the walk. At least she stopped and sniffed the usual number of times. I enjoyed it too. I certainly needed the exercise. I needed more than what I got, to be honest, but one does one’s best. Tomorrow the temperature is supposed to be in the 20s. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: it sure looks different on the way up than it did on the way down!

An Unusual Voodoo/Witchcraft Kind of Guy

I’ve become suspicious of zombie movies, because the word “zombie” seems to cover such a wide fictional territory. Are they undead or just hypnotized? Flesh-eating or hate salt? Fast or slow? Body parts rotting or intact? There are many kinds of zombies.

Doubts aside, I DVR’d Plague of the Zombies (1966) from TCM in October. I ended up being glad I did. For one thing, it is a Hammer Film. I’m kind of a latecomer to the Hammer party, but I am a fan.

Spoiler Alert! I’m going to give away what seems to me important stuff, not just which kind of zombies these are. You might like to see the movie before reading this, if like me you like to be surprised.

The movie opens on some kind of voodoo ceremony. I don’t think the writers of horror movies research these things very well. I think they just put some half-naked Africans beating on drums and throw in whatever creepy stuff occurs to them at the time. In this case, it is a guy in a mask with a little doll (presumably a voodoo doll) and a vial of blood.

The voodoo doll is obviously female. Flash to a lovely woman sleeping restlessly. When mask guy starts chanting something weird, so does she. We see that her wrist is bandaged (and remember it later, of course). Suddenly she sits bolt upright and screams. End of prologue.

Next we meet a distinguished white-haired doctor and his beautiful blond daughter. They are going to Cornwall or the moors or someplace to help another doctor, who married an old schoolfriend of the daughter, investigate some mysterious deaths.

As the carriage rolls across the countryside, they see a fox, who is shortly followed by five guys in red coats on horses. What, no dogs? I don’t know much about fox hunting, but I thought there were always dogs. Anyways, the young bloods (I know that’s what they are, because that is how they are listed in the end credits) ask if anybody has seen a fox. Beautiful Daughter sweetly misdirects them.

Then it is on to the village, where a funeral is in progress. As Father and Daughter discreetly wait for the cortege to pass, the Young Bloods come thundering back and knock the coffin over a bridge. This makes for a nice creepy shot of the dead body.

The Young Bloods are mad at Daughter for misdirecting them. The brother of the dead guy is mad at both of them. I guess he blames them for the Young Bloods’ intrusion, which I personally thought a little unreasonable. Oh well, he is grief stricken.

It seems that twelve people have died. The families in this backward area will not allow autopsies, giving Distinguished Dad Doctor and Young Doctor a chance for some grave digging (“Could be worse; could be raining”) (oh wait, wrong movie).

We don’t have to wait too awful long to see the zombies, and they are scary. I was particularly fascinated by the motivations of the head bad guy, the leader of the voodoo/witchcraft kind of cult. He uses evil means to kill people and make them zombies, then utilizes them for a sound economic reason. He is also interested in beautiful young women for blood sacrifice purposes (less unusual in these pictures).

I kind of wish they had made more of the economic side of things, because that struck me as something different for a voodoo/witchcraft kind of bad guy. Any number of movie bad guys want to hypnotize beautiful young women for blood sacrifice purposes. However, zombie-izing young men to staff a haunted tin mine is a bit of entrepreneurialism that commands my respect.

Then again, I am a recently converted horror movie aficionado. Economics could play a time-honored role in zombie movies and I just haven’t seen enough of them. Obviously I have more movie watching to do.

In any case, I found Plague of the Zombies a delight. The dramatic conclusion is very satisfying, and Andre Morell as Distinguished Doctor Dad is an excellent hero. In post-movie commentary, Ben Mankiewicz mentioned that Morell is Watson to Peter Cushing’s Sherlock Holmes in Hound of the Baskervilles. That would be a good movie to see again. Love that Peter Cushing.

If You Like Voodoo Curses

When I started to watch The Devil’s Own (1966), another movie I DVR’d in October, I was delighted to find that it was from Hammer Studios. I love Hammer movies!

Unfortunately, this one did not entertain me as much as, for example. Frankenstein Created Woman. I think I like monsters better than voodoo curses and devil worshipers. But that’s just me.

Spoiler Alert! This is another write-up where I’m pretty much going to recount the plot. What can I say? These are fun for me to write.

The movie starts out scarily enough with Joan Fontaine frantically packing to leave an African village before… something happens. The natives helping her sensibly flee in terror. She turns around and sees a scary voodoo doll. OK, I cracked up a little at the doll.

Then the door bursts open and a giant mask comes through. You can’t even tell if there’s really a person behind it, so I can see where that would be a little disconcerting. Fontaine screams and collapses.

I thought at first she was about to get killed and that I had been mistaken in thinking it was Joan Fontaine. However, the next scene finds her, some time later, in England interviewing to be a headmistress at a school. With a nervous smile, she glosses over her “health problems,” by which we surmise she had some sort of nervous breakdown in Africa. Or something. Of course she gets the job; we knew that from the description on digital cable.

And then the movie slows right down. Oh, stuff happens. But it’s your basic human interaction kind of plot. This weird girl is being romanced by a boy, to the distress of her grandmother. Other villagers seem concerned as well, so there’s a bit of creepy foreshadowing.

About the time the boy falls victim to a voodoo curse (which we, the audience immediately recognize) (some characters are slower on the uptake, despite the headless Ken doll found on a tree branch), I made the note that I prefer monsters. After that, things get a little more exciting. Spoiler alert notwithstanding, I don’t want to give everything away.

It really was not a bad movie. When things got a little slow for my tastes, I amused myself by studying Joan Fontaine’s face, looking for a family resemblance with Olivia de Havilland. I think it’s there, especially in certain expressions, but I’ll have to watch Hush… Hush… Sweet Charlotte again to be sure.

The climactic scenes are scary or comical, depending on how you feel about devil worshipers writhing in a dance of… something or other. It gets suspenseful, although anybody paying any attention (even my desultory kind), knows how Fontaine can ultimately triumph. Oh dear, did I just give something else away? Sorry.

I enjoyed the movie. And I got a bit of crocheting done, which is important to me this time of year. But for my next Hammer film, I’m hoping for a monster.

But What Would Poe Think?

Spoiler Alert! I’m going to tell the plot and I may give away a couple of the best jokes.

I thought The Raven (1963) had it all: Vincent Price, Boris Karloff and Peter Lorre star. Roger Corman directed. And it’s based, or rather “inspired by” Edgar Allen Poe. This movie is going to rock! I thought, as I set my DVR.

Well, the movie does rock, but not quite in the way I expected it to. It starts out creepy enough: the camera pans through a gloomy castle while Price’s inimitable voice intones the poem “The Raven” by Poe. A big, scary black bird appears on cue. When Price dramatically asks will he ever see his dear Lenore again and we are waiting for — come on, you know this — Quote the Raven, “Nevermore!” instead we hear a rather testy Peter Lorre answer, “How should I know?”

And it goes on from there.

It is a very silly movie. Boris Karloff is responsible for Lorre’s feathered state. He is the evil head magician. Price’s father used to be the (not evil) head magician, but Price lives retired with his beautiful daughter and the body of his dead wife.

Lorre’s son is played by Jack Nicholson. I think it is delightful that Nicholson got his start in cheesy horror movies. So far I’ve seen him in Little Shop of Horrors, The Terror and now The Raven. Unfortunately, in The Raven, he is merely a handsome young man and doesn’t get much to do.

The highlight of the picture is the showdown between Karloff and Price. This is a scene they love to show clips of in Price or Corman retrospectives. Price counters Karloff’s zaps with panache and a sweet smile.

I laughed heartily at The Raven and recommend it to lovers of horror with a sense of humor.

More than a Knock-Off

I was just a little disappointed in the plot of The Mad Magician (1954). At first I took myself to task for lamenting the movie I wanted to see rather than enjoying the movie I did see. Then I thought maybe I could write a story using the plot I’d been hoping for. What plot was that, you may ask. I say, nice try! You’re not stealing my plot ideas! In fact, I’ve said too much already.

Enough of that nonsense. Let’s talk about The Mad Magician, starring Vincent Price, another Halloween movie presented by TCM which awaited me on my DVR. Oh yeah, before I forget:

Spoiler Alert! I’m getting a little bored with these spoiler alerts, are you? But this is one where you seriously might want to watch the movie before reading about it.

In pre-movie commentary, Ben Mankiewicz tells us the plot. Price is an inventor of illusions for other magicians. When his own chance for fame is cruelly snatched from his grasp, he goes mad and seeks revenge. The movie followed House of Wax, Price’s first horror film. Both movies were in 3D, a feature completely lost on television viewers. That hardly matters: moth movies are very enjoyable.

Magician follows a rule I once read: Audiences want the same thing, only different. A lot of elements are the same. Price starts out as a dreamy, creative genius who turns murderous once his dreams are destroyed. He was dreamier in Wax, and he was destroyed physically, which accounted for both his method and his madness. I thought in Magician he was more murderous than mad. Of course, a murderous Vincent Price is always worth a watch.

Leonard Maltin calls Magician a knock-off of Wax (Leonard Maltin’s 2011 Movie Guide, Signet, 2010). I can see that, but, really, this is a plot line that is used often and to good effect. Somebody does a guy dirt. The guy seeks revenge. It worked in The Count of Monte Cristo. It worked in Sweeney Todd (the stage play; hated the movie). I won’t even begin to list all the more recent movies, books and graphic novels that use it, but that might be a fun game at your next party, if you’re into that sort of thing.

Getting back to our movie, one addition is that Price has a wife that betrays him. She’s played by the delightful Eva Gabor and is quite a different character from her Lisa on Green Acres.

Another fun character is the gossipy writer from whom Price rents a room. Only she thinks he’s… well, that would be giving away an important plot development. She was my favorite character, not surprisingly, as I fancy myself a writer. Also, she is far from a useless movie female, but is very instrumental in moving things along.

The movie does make use of a hoary make-up cliche: you can use prosthetics and masks to completely transform yourself into another person. Oh, don’t spout “suspension of disbelief” at me. Some things are easier to swallow than others (although “swallow” and “suspend” is kind of mixing metaphors, isn’t it?). In this case, there is at least an explanation for the impersonations and Price’s talent is important to the plot.

I recommend The Mad Magician. It might be fun to watch it on a double bill with House of Wax and list every parallel. My favorite was the final joke involving a head. I thought the one in Magician was funnier, but spoiler alert notwithstanding, I don’t want to give it away.

Not Up On All the Good Guy Rules

Two weekends ago, I watched an unusual Hammer Studios film in which Christopher Lee played the good guy, The Devil’s Bride (1968).

Before I forget, Spoiler Alert! I may even give away the ending this time. Perhaps I should also include a No Cheese Alert, because although Hammer Films are quite fun to write about and I do poke fun at them, I could not say they were cheesy. The production values are too good, for one thing. The films are visually appealing. Sets and costumes reflect effort and expense. Perhaps one day I’ll do a whole post pontificating on the cheesiness inherent in the horror genre. In the meantime, back to today’s feature.

The movie opens with Lee and a friend in a carriage riding to a reunion of some sort (you know I never bother about details). They decide to stop at the house of this guy that seems to have dropped from sight. We learn that this is the son of a friend of theirs. The friend is deceased, and Lee and his companion are pledged to take care of the son, now a fine young man.

When they arrive at the young man’s house, some party is going on. An innocent-looking girl says, “Oh, I thought there were only supposed to be 13 of us.” So in case we missed the title, we are clued in. Channeling Sherlock Holmes, Lee tells his friend to listen in on the other guests’ conversations.

When Young Man is all, “So sorry I can’t ask you to stay,” Lee pipes up with, “Can I just look at your telescope quick?” and bounds up the stairs.

The weird charts on the wall and cryptic symbols on the floor are explained away as decorations. Less easily explained are the two chickens Young Man tries to keep Lee from finding.

Lee says he would rather see Young Man dead than involved with this stuff, so this could have been a really short movie, although kind of a downer. Instead, Lee punches him in the face, knocking him cold.

I have to say it again, that is perhaps the movie cliche I find most annoying which is the least true. If it was that easy to knock somebody out with a blow to the face, most boxing matches would be a lot shorter. Oh, I know some boxers do knock their opponents out with one blow, but these are professional punchers and even they can’t do it every time. It is extremely unlikely that random movie characters can accomplish it so conveniently. Rant over.

So Lee and Friend get Young Man to Lee’s house, where Lee brings him around, hypnotizes him, slips a crucifix around his neck and sends him upstairs to sleep it off.

Of course he does not stay safely asleep or, again, this would have been a shorter movie. It’s round one to Satan (or rather his henchmen), but Lee says, “At least we saved the chickens.” That may be, but he leaves them in the basket in the telescope room closet. If he was really going to save them, shouldn’t he, for example, have brought them out to the chicken coop and gotten them some feed and water? Or is that just my Be Kind to Animals obsession talking?

Lee sends his Friend off to rescue the Girl, remember, the one who thought there were only supposed to be 13. Did I mention she is suitable for Friend to fall in love with? I can’t remember where Young Man is at this point. Lee is off to the British Museum for research. My inner geek rejoices at the thought of combating evil through books, but Lee puts an awful lot of faith in somebody who just now began to believe in Satan.

That is the first of several times Lee gives his second string good guys instructions and goes off to do his own thing. You know they aren’t going to be able to handle it. Only the main good guy can ultimately triumph over evil. Then again, as we said earlier, Lee usually plays the bad guy. He’s probably not up on all the good guy rules. And here I am again, carping on the usual means employed to keep the conflict going so the movie is feature length.

And then a bunch of stuff happens.

It seems the head Satan worshipper has vast if inconsistent powers. He can remotely hypnotize people, only sometimes it doesn’t work. And like all movie bad guys and monsters, his victims follow his nefarious instructions at differing rates of speed, depending on plot requirements. One of his followers picks up the hypnotism trick, too, although to what end, I’m not sure. She hypnotizes the guy who’s trying to save her through bondage (it makes sense in the movie), but spends the rest of the scene staring out the window at a storm. Awaiting further instructions, I suppose.

I confess there was a whole lot I did not pay attention to. For example, there is an outdoor worship fest that reminded me of the KKK rally in O Brother, Where Art Thou? I busied myself in the kitchen when I saw a goat and feared it would come to a bad end (there I go again with the Be Kind to Animals).

There is a little girl who is a pretty good actress, not too cute, not too bratty. Of course she is placed in grave danger. I blame Lee. He has the grown-ups (of the non-servant variety) upstairs in the middle of a fancy chalk circle with salt and holy water and whatnot. The kid is in bed being watched over by some old butler or caretaker. Not even a crucifix. Hello! What do you think is going to happen?

I don’t need a spoiler alert to tell you the movie ends with Satan’s followers vanquished (I’m sure the big buy survives to fight another day). Young Man says, “Thank God,” to which Lee piously agrees. You know, apart from the crucifix, there is very little reference to God. Shouldn’t He be the first one you call when you are fighting Satan? I’m just saying.

However, movies are more into the props and, as I mentioned earlier, maintaining the conflict to feature length. Speaking of length, this is getting to be one of my longer posts, so I’ll save the philosophical discussion for Lame Post Friday.

Get On With The Creature!

I had great hopes for Wasp Woman (1959). The title seemed to promise a monster. I knew they might slough me off with a big bunch of insects, but I was willing to take that chance. When I saw Roger Corman’s name in the credits, I felt certain I had made a wise decision.

Spoiler Alert! I will give away some plot developments, but not all. Still, more than I would want to know, so I warn you.

The movie opens with predators of a different kind, in a corporate board room. A hard-nosed businesswoman is putting her board through the wringer on declining sales. A good-looking young man jumps up and in arrogant leading-man fashion blames her. It is a cosmetics company, you see, and she has always been its “face.” Now that the face has changed, customers do not trust it.

Snap! Why didn’t you just say, “It’s your fault, because you got so old and ugly!” Incidentally, she’s neither. She’s not young and chipper, but I should look so good in my 40s (I’m still in my 40s for at least another month, so shut up!). Obviously the movie is setting her up to take extreme measures to look young and beautiful. Naturally this will lead to trouble.

I can’t help noticing that the quest to keep a woman young and beautiful forms the catalyst for a number of horror movies. I like best the ones where they have to kill authentically young and beautiful women to do it. Oh dear, that didn’t sound very nice. I only meant that those were the most horrifying and in general the cheesiest. I think woman’s quest for beauty and man’s role in aiding and abetting is a ripe topic for some serious commentary, if I was that sort of a blogger. Being the sort of blogger I am, I may mine the topic for some half-baked philosophy one Lame Post Friday.

Where was I? Ah yes, with Cosmetic CEO ready to fund some highly risky experiments involving wasps. They provide some background on what terrible creatures wasps are, especially the queen, and the supposed scientific basis for the experiments. I wasn’t paying a great deal of attention. You know in these pictures the science is going to be spurious; I say just get on to the creature.

It takes a while for the Wasp Woman to show up, and she’s a pretty good movie monster. I wish she had gotten more screen time. Before the creature shows up we have to go through the mad scientist (he is actually a rather sweet old man) convincing CEO to fund him, then watch him work, progressing too slowly to suit CEO. Of course she experiments by giving herself extra injections.

She doesn’t see a kitten, previously rejuvenated from an old tabby, go crazy and attack the mad scientist. He gets hit by a car and goes into a coma before he can either perfect the formula or warn anybody about what happened to the cat (he kills the cat, by the way; it might have been fun to have several wasp-infused creatures running around but I guess that’s just me, always wanting more).

The hero — remember, arrogant guy from scene 1? — and his love interest — CEO’s secretary — are, not surprisingly, pretty boring. There’s another guy who always has a pipe in his mouth and gets to have a little more character. My favorites were the two brassy secretaries. I was a little worried over who would end up being wasp food, but the body count wasn’t too high (which could be a good or a bad thing, depending).

It’s a pretty fun movie. I recommend it. If you watch it and have a discussion on the feminist implications, please let me know what conclusions you draw.

Something with a Vampire

In my continuing quest to find cheesy horror movies to write about, I turned once again to Steven’s DVD boxes set of 50 Horror Classics, purchased for him by me out of a discount bin.

Spoiler Alert! Although I will try to avoid mentioning the big reveal. It is a big one. In fact, already I’ve said too much.

As I sit here writing this, I suddenly realize I am not 100 percent clear on what the title is. Something with a vampire. The Vampire Bat? Or was that the one I saw with Vincent Price and Agnes Moorehead? So many vampires, so little time. I know I can look up these things before I type this into the computer, but I thought it said a little something about the movie that I could not recall the title. Or about me. In either case, I found it of interest.

The vampire killings start before the first scene of the movie. We open on a meeting of important men of the village discussing the murders. It’s vampires, insists the burgermeister (and any time there is a burgermeister in one of these movies, how many flash onto Santa Claus is Coming to Town and Burgermeister Meisterburger? Raise your hands).

There are no vampires, insists the sheriff or marshal or whatever he is. He is dressed like a plainclothes detective and is apparently the only cop the place has. At least, I don’t remember seeing any other cops. Probably a low budget production.

Our hero states that he will seek out a human murderer and goes to visit his girlfriend, conveniently located in the next room. I wasn’t clear on the geography of this movie, but that’s what it looked like to me. Oh, and he has to go down some steps, which seems appropriate, because it looks like a mad scientist’s laboratory. It belongs to the village doctor. Fay Wray is his assistant.

My girl Fay does not get to crack wise, like she did in Mystery of the Wax Museum nor yet to scream her head off as she did in King Kong. I was naturally disappointed. Also on hand is Fay’s aunt, a hypochondriac who is constantly after the doctor to prescribe for her, using some impressive if malaproppriate medical terms (I just made up that word malapropriate: malapropism + appropriate). She was my favorite character, especially since they let Fay be so boring.

The other character of note is a half-wit who says bats are good, making him an object of suspicion to the villagers. You can tell he is a half-wit, because he speaks of himself in the third person. He likes to catch bats and pet them and put them in his pocket. Is anybody else reminded of Lenny in Of Mice and Men? Our half-wit does not fare a whole lot better.

Things get suspenseful, even given poor Fay’s lamentably underscripted character. I don’t really want to say too much, because I was intrigued and a little surprised by how things unfolded. A little confused, too, because Fay’s part was not the only thing underscripted.

On the whole, I enjoyed the movie. But now I want to view Mystery of the Wax Museum again. So I can watch Fay Wray crack wise.

Note: It is The Vampire Bat, 1933. The one with Vincent Price and Agnes Moorehead is The Bat, 1959. I wrote a blog post about it.

Not a Scooby Doo Plot

Spoiler Alert! I don’t really give much away this time, but it’s become a habit to include an alert.

I admit I DVR’d The Mummy on TCM thinking it was the black and white version. You know how I love old horror movies. When I found out it was the Hammer Films production from 1959, I figured it would still be worth a watch.

I already knew that Hammer had revitalized the horror genre in the late ’50s and early ’60s. What I learned from Ben Mankiewicz’s pre-movie commentary was that for the first few movies they made — Dracula and Frankenstein flicks — they had to be careful not to infringe on the copyrighted portions of movies previously released by Universal. After the success of the earlier films, Hammer was able to negotiate with Universal for re-make rights. The Mummy is the first of those re-makes.

That was very interesting to me. Now I want to see the older version more than ever, to see what they changed. And I may like to write a blog post contrasting the earlier, non-infringing movies with the re-makes.

The movie stars Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee, veterans of previous Hammer films. Lee gets to be the monster this time, and he was not nuts about the extensive make-up, according to Mankiewicz. I can see where an actor might find it limiting, although Lon Chaney reportedly found it liberating. I wonder if George Clooney would like to try it. But I digress.

Cushing plays one of the archaeologists responsible for desecrating the tomb of… oh dear, I don’t recall the lady’s name. I may have written it in the TV Journal as I watched, but even if I did I am not at all confident in my spelling. It was some high priestess or other. There is a rather elaborate backstory about how the Mummy became her guardian. Someday I’ll have to look up some actual Egyptian legends to see how much Hollywood was really pulling our leg.

Speaking of leg, Cushing’s is broken, and his uncle has this nutty idea Cushing should return to civilization and get it properly set by a doctor. Of course he does no such thing. For one reason, he would avoid the Mummy’s curse and how would that have helped the movie? Later on he gets to walk around with a romantic limp that, quite frankly, I thought was going to figure into the plot more prominently.

Speaking of romantic, Cushing has a beautiful wife who, in one of those typical movie coincidences, happens to look JUST LIKE the lady in the tomb. Oh well, I suppose you could make up some rationalization about how Cushing is such a dedicated Egyptologist that he subconsciously fell in love with a girl who looked just like an Egyptian. Or something of that nature. I guess I don’t really have a problem with this sort of thing. It figures into the plot and makes the flashbacks easier to cast.

All the usual elements are here: warned against desecrating the tomb, desecrating the tomb anyways, leaving the Mummy’s first victim alone so that nobody quite knows what happened. At one point I said, “Oh, that would be a good plot: the guy that warned them does the killing himself and makes it look like the Mummy’s doing it.” Then I remembered that is the plot of almost every Scooby Doo mystery (although they didn’t usually deal in murder). I only steal from the best.

Cushing indulges in some typical stupid movie male activity. I know I usually rail against stupid movie females. In fact when movie males do it, it is brash or daring or refusing to play by the rules. As usual I must admit, if people in movies had any brains they would sit quietly at home and we would have boring movies (although I bet these days there is some yahoo with a webcam showing exactly that on YouTube). Cushing’s wife doesn’t do anything too stupid. Alas, she does not do much of anything else, either, the sad fate of many a movie female.

The movie does have what was for me a major “Waaaait a minute” moment, but to tell you that would entail quite a long plot summary and a major spoiler (alert notwithstanding). I enjoyed the movie. I think I am becoming a Peter Cushing fan.

Hush…Hush, Sweet Cheese

I know I’ve mentioned Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte (1964) in passing, but I don’t believe I’ve written a full post on the movie. I watched my DVD of it Memorial Day. I don’t like war movies, and that was all TCM showed all weekend. Yes, I KNOW it was in tribute to our fallen soldiers. I can’t help what kind of movies I like.

I guess you could call Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte (I can’t shorten it to Hush because of a rather hideous movie of that name made many years later) a Gothic horror. There’s an ill-lit Southern mansion, well past its prime, and a Southern belle in similar condition. That’s Bette Davis, tearing into her part with gusto. I love Bette Davis.

It’s kind of a contradiction in Davis’ character. She was vain enough to insist that she play her younger self in the flash back, but she eschews all glamour in the “present day” scenes (don’t know if I really need the quotation marks; it was the present day at the time). Maybe not such a contradiction. She was rightfully proud of her acting ability, and uglying oneself up for a part is a time-honored way to show one’s acting chops. To this day it’s what glamour girls do do prove they can so act.

Charlotte (see there, I can short the title) is as interesting for its background as for the movie itself. It was kind of a follow-up to Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? and was to have again paired Davis with Joan Crawford. Baby Jane famously re-ignited both actress’ careers. I have to admire Oscar winners who don’t scruple to do cheesy horror movies just to keep working.

I’m not sure, though, I would call Charlotte cheesy. For one thing, there are no cheesy special effects. There is no need for them: the horror comes from what the characters do to each other, not ghosts or monsters (ooh, I could do a whole blog post on how people are the most horrible monsters) (preview of coming attractions). The atmosphere is excellent, a brooding threat and air of mystery hangs over the whole. We slowly find out what’s going on, but all is not fully revealed till the end.

At least, I guess some astute viewers guessed the big reveal ahead of time. I almost never do, which is perfectly fine with me. How much fun is a horror movie where you can see everything coming? (Ooh, another future blog post: suspense vs. surprise. Discuss amongst yourselves.) (Oh, and I just heard another amongst you sniff, “What fun is ANY movie where you can see everything coming?” Read the sentence again without “horror.” It doesn’t sound as good.)

The movie boasts an excellent cast, especially Agnes Moorehead as Davis’ faithful servant. Speaking of eschewing glamour, it’s a far cry from her Endora on Bewitched. Olivia deHavilland, Joseph Cotton, Cecil Kellaway and Mary Astor round out the cast.

I realize I have not said much about the plot of Hush.. Hush Sweet Charlotte. I think this is a movie best enjoyed when you let it unfold before you. I recommend it. Would I say if you liked Whatever Happened to Baby Jane you’ll like Hush… Hush Sweet Charlotte? I guess I wouldn’t, because I never really liked Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? And that might be a subject for a whole other blog post.

By the way, I got all my information about the movie’s background from a wonderful book called Bette and Joan: The Divine Feud by Shaun Considine (E.P. Dutton, New York, 1989). Highly recommend that, too.