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Category Archives: movies

Karloff Works his Magic on Me

There were several posters, but this was the one I downloaded first.

I am in the midst of watching The Sorcerers (1967) with Boris Karloff, but I really, really want to make my blog post before it gets any later.  I will attempt to watch and type.  Ooh, stopped typing for a few minutes. The movie just got quite horrifying.

OK, that scary moment is over and I will type a few more words, insert another picture, till I just have to watch again.

He does not appear to be a harmless old man, even before things get creepy.

This is one of the many movies where Karloff gets to use his real voice.  As I always say, I will never get over my delight at those deep, mellifluous tones.  And yes, with every sentence, I can hear, “Every Who down in Whoville liked Christmas a lot…”   In this movie… well, I don’t want to give away any plot points, as I do with the cheesy horror movies I love to write about.

Here is a creepier shot of him.

Karloff and his wife are mad scientists.  At least, he says he’s a kind of a hypnotist, but I never saw a hypnotist with all this creepy equipment.

I kind of wish they had done more in the laboratory (pronounced la-BORE-a-tory).

This is actually a gripping tale of horror, control and power with a surprising strong moral center.  But more I shall not say.  Watch the movie when you get a chance.

And we’ll call this a Slacker Saturday post.

 

 

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Blog Post of Lost Souls

Spoiler Alert!  I am going to pretty much recount the entire plot of The Island of Lost Souls (1932).  I did not realize the year till I looked it up just now.  I guess most readers have had ample opportunity to catch this flick.

I have not written about an old horror movie in a long time.  I have a bunch of them on my DVR, and on a recent Sunday, I felt the urge to relax, crochet, and watch.  I thought, Charles Laughton, Bela Lugosi, what’s not to like?  So Island of Lost Souls it was.

The movie opens with a ship rescuing a wild-eyed guy from a derelict, and I thought, “Oh, swell, the whole thing’s going to be a flashback.  This guy just escaped from the bad island and he’s going to tell us all about it.”  It is a hoary device much used in the cinema and elsewhere.  It’s not a horrible device, but I have to ask, “Why?”  Only I did not have to ask it this time, because it wasn’t what happened.  The ship was on its way to the mysterious island.  One cliche successfully avoided!

Wild-eyed guy, who recovers from his wild-eyed-ness pretty quickly and is named Parker, is on his way to meet his fiance, who is waiting for him where this ship just happens to be going.  He is able to send her a wireless, so that’s a relief for both of them, as well as an important plot point later (I did include a Spoiler Alert, remember?).

Now we come to what I think is a pretty good piece of plotting.  Plotting 101, I’ve learned:  cause and effect.  Because this, then this.  The ship is carrying enough wild animals to stock a zoo.  The obnoxious, belligerent captain finds this so disturbing he drinks.  A lot.  Because of his drinking (and because he is an obnoxious, belligerent sort — see, character causes action as well), he has a confrontation with Parker in which Parker decks him (ooh, unintended pun:  they’re on a SHIP and Parker DECKS him!).  Because of this, the captain, who is also vindictive, throws Parker overboard into Dr. Moreau’s boat when Dr. M is taking delivery on the animals.

Dr. Moreau is at first put out by the intrusion, but he is soon reconciled as he conceives of a sinister use for Parker. At least, Dr. M does not see his purpose as sinister.  He sees it as a golden opportunity to further his scientific research.

I did not understand his scientific research one bit, and I’m thinking that H.G. Wells (who wrote the original story) just made it up as he went along.  Years ago I read a book about how to write science fiction, and the folks that wrote it seemed to think that the reader maybe ought to believe that what you wrote was at least kind of sort of maybe perhaps remotely possible.  Obviously, H.G. Wells never read that book.   I daresay it was written after his time.  No matter, on with the blog.

So Parker, although he is not supposed to be snooping (what a surprise) (and what a surprise that he does), soon finds out that Dr. M and his colleague (the doctor who was on the boat and partially responsible for rescuing Parker.  I forgot to mention him) are doing some sort of heinous experiments that involve a lot of screaming. In fact, the lab is known as the House of Pain.  I flashed back to army basic training every time I heard “House of Pain,”  but never mind my little psychological glitches.

The nefarious purpose Dr. Moreau has for Parker is to introduce him to this beautiful but mysteriously ignorant young woman.  Dr. M tells Parker she is a Polynesian or some such, and although Parker is fooled, we are not.  We know she is one of the doctor’s experiments.

It turns out — and this is where I just can’t picture what sort of science was used — that Dr. Moreau has made all these men out of animals.  And isn’t that typical Hollywood — and theatre in general — all those men and only one woman!  Well let’s don’t get me started on the dearth of good female roles anywhere in theatre.  This blog post is getting long enough as it is.

Apropos female roles, however, the part of the fiance is not negligible, as such parts often are.  Because she has received the wireless from Parker (see, cause and effect!), she is waiting for him when the ship docks.  Belligerent Captain tries to blow her off, but she enlists the help of the American Consul to get the whole story out of him.  Soon she is off to the rescue.  I suppose someone will carp that she needs the help of men to save the day, namely the consul and the boat guy, but I feel this is mere quibbling. We all get by with a little help from our friends.  I guess the consul and boat guy could have been women, but this was 1932, after all.  Let’s not ask for miracles.

Full disclosure:  I stopped paying a lot of attention after Fiance sets off to save the day.  I did look up and watch the dramatic conclusion.  It was climactic and not unearned.  On the whole, I feel Island of Lost Souls is not the usual cheesy fare I delight in writing about.  I enjoyed it and do not rule out watching it again sometime.

 

Wrist to Forehead Bad Seed

We are watching The Bad Seed, a DVD of one of our favorite cheesy movies.  Spoiler Alert:  I’m going to give away major plot points to this movie, if not the ending.  I don’t know if I’ll give away the ending and I know that by the time I finish the post I shall be far too lazy to go back and edit this paragraph.  In my defense, it is Wrist to Forehead Sunday.  If you will not accept this defense, I will explain, shut up.

The Bad Seed, for the uninitiated is a movie made in 1956 about Rhoda, a little girl who kills people, and the devastating effect this has on her mother, Christine.  It was considered very shocking at the time, first as a novel, then as a Broadway play.  Who could believe that a sweet little girl was a murderer?  And that she had inherited the murderous gene from her grandmother?  Apparently her mother was just a carrier.  Well, I guess a lot of things skip a generation.

Steven’s biggest problem with the movie is that Rhoda right away seems like the kind of bad-tempered brat that might kill people.  She is supposed to be the perfect little girl.  She wears dresses, she keeps her room clean, she makes perfect curtsies at appropriate times.  The busybody landlady wishes she had “just such a little girl.”  We’re all supposed to buy into it too, apparently, and be shocked as we slowly realize what she is really like.  Steven does not see how it can even be a mild surprise much less a shock.  I have to agree.

My biggest problem, though, is that she never really cops to being a a murder.  Everything is, “But it wasn’t my fault!”  If Claude Dagel hadn’t said he was going to tell on her, she wouldn’t have had to kill him!  If he would have just quietly drowned when she pushed him off the dock, she wouldn’t have had to hit him with her shoe.  At least that would have been manslaughter, although this point is not thoroughly hashed out in the dialogue.

Steven is also bothered by the close-mindedness of Rhoda’s grandfather, Christine’s adoptive father, who pours self-righteous cold water on the theory of the “bad seed.”  Christine, who has been chewing up the scenery ever since little Claude’s death was announced on the radio (providentially, as it often is in movies, as soon as the characters just happen to turn it on), is horrified when she realizes her biological mother was a beautiful murderess.

The high points of the movie are the two scenes with Eileen Heckert as the drunken mother of the murdered little boy.  What a piece of acting!  She lift the movie temporarily above the melodramatic abyss.

I probably could do a much better write-up for this movie, and perhaps I will sometime.  I’m pretty sure I have mentioned the movie before, although a quick search of my posts did not show it.  I say, no matter.  It is Wrist to Forehead Sunday, and I have written something.  Have a lovely rest of your weekend.

 

Old Movies on a Rainy Sunday

I love a rainy Sunday.  My favorite kind is with old movies.  Imagine my delight, then, when after seeing rain in the forecast I saw that it was Bette Davis day on TCM.  I LOVE Bette Davis!  I prefer to write about cheesy movies in this space, but for Wrist to Forehead Sunday, I feel justified in giving an overview of my Bette Davis day.

We tuned in to The Letter at nine.  We’ve seen this one before.  We rented it in Augusta, GA (remember going to a video store and renting movies?).  I wrote my Mom a letter about it in which I said something along the lines of,  “We saw this Bette Davis movie where she murdered this guy and was on trial for it.  There was this letter she had written which would incriminate herself and she had to get back the letter.  It was a really good movie, but I don’t remember the title.”  Steven wrote in the margin, “It was The Letter.”  I was pretty amused by that, but sometimes I am easy to please.

After The Letter was Mr. Skeffington, which I had DVR’d once but never watched (then we got a new cable box and the chance was lost).   I found it very sad, although the ending was happy (should I have included a spoiler alert for that?)  It also stars Claude Rains, who Steven and I love.  Bette Davis loved him, too.  I like to hear about actors who like and respect one another.  Oh, I guess it is also interesting to hear about when they loathe and despise one another.

Which brings us to Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?  That movie is on now, and we are watching re-reuns of Snapped.  You would think I would love that movie, but I do not.  I know, I love Bette Davis, I love Joan Crawford, I love old horror movies.  But I don’t like that movie.  Go figure.

We shall watch A Catered Affair, with Ernest Borgnine, which is on next.  I do like Ernest Borgnine.  Then we FINALLY get to some cheesy stuff with The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex.  I was thinking I had written a blog post about that one, but I was getting it mixed up with The Virgin Queen, which is a really cheesy one. I’d better watch Elizabeth and Essex again and make sure it’s as cheesy as I’m thinking. I may stay up past my bedtime for that one.  Happy Sunday, everyone.

 

 

Not Independent from Bad Movies

OK, it’s really one bad movie, one good movie and one… eh (making that so-so motion with one hand).  It is Independence Day, or the 4th of July.  Some people don’t like it when you say the 4th of July, but I wasn’t in love with that movie Independence Day, so I stopped using that phrase for a while (and now I hear there’s a sequel that’s even worse!).  (Full disclosure:  I was moderately entertained by Independence Day and do not rule out seeing it again) (I do not intend to watch the sequel, although it cannot be denied that shit happens).

Where was I? Ah yes, celebrating our country’s birthday.  Not really.  I do patriotic things when the opportunity arises, I try to honor my country always; today I’m just enjoying a day off with my beloved husband Steven and our recently acquired pooch, Spunky.  We had a lazy start to the day, although I eventually went running, did laundry and took the dog for a walk.  My main object of the day was to watch some movies.  That is what I will concern myself with in this blog post.

We started with The Vampire Bat, a DVD we purchased at Valley Exchange in Herkimer, NY.  It was not very far into the movie that I realized we had seen it before.  It is in fact included on our collection of 50 Horror Classics. I wrote a blog post about it.  The movie was 73 minutes according to my calculations, not 63 as claimed on the box.  Steven said it seemed longer.

Steven suggested Jaws next, as something that moves a little quicker.  We have watched this movie many times; it is one of our favorites, especially on the 4th of July (we also saw it once on Severed Head Sunday, which I also wrote a blog post about).  Next we put in a video cassette I purchased at a rummage sale, Monster from Green Hell. I can’t tell you much about that, because, quite frankly, I paid even less attention to it than I pay to most of the silly movies we watch. I’ll have to watch it again to write about it.

We stopped watching movies after the Monster and are looking at crime shows on cable television.  A Dateline on ID just started that we have already seen more than once.  I must stop blogging and find another show to watch. I hope you are all having a grand weekend.  I go back to work tomorrow.  Won’t that be fun?

 

Rest Your Brain with Brain Eaters

My favorite part about Brain Eaters (1958) was that the characters spend a lot of time driving places.  I like to see the old cars.

Spoiler Alert!  I’m going to just tell most of the plot of this movie, at least, as much as I can remember (regular readers know how little attention I pay to these things).

The movie was one of the VHS tapes I purchased recently at a rummage sale (perhaps you read my blog post about it), so its cheesy bonafides are impeccable. Steven and I selected it of the several I had bought because it had the shortest running time, just over an hour.  We wanted to watch several movies that day.

After viewing the movie, I made a note in the TV Journal that no brains were actually eaten or in fact used in the making of Brain Eaters.  I’m not sure what I expected.  Maybe a few munching sounds at least.  Nobody gets to die in agony, which I’m sure was a great disappointment to the actors involved.  It can be a great deal of fun to die in agony, I would imagine even more so on screen than on stage.  On stage you have to either get carried off or lie there and try not to let anyone see you breathe.

Be that as it may, Brain Eaters opens with a scary sort of prologue in which one guy attacks another and something gets spilled. A voice-over says something about a nightmare.  I dislike voice-over narration, although I have always narrated in my head about my own life. When I was younger, my voice was a good deal more euphonious than it really was and had that slight echo like in the movies, and I narrated in the third person. Now I use first-person and have the eventual intent of writing it down in this blog.  But enough about me.  Getting back to the movie, this scene is never explained that I could tell.  Of course there is that not paying attention thing.  Perhaps subsequent events made all clear to the more discerning viewer.  If you are one of those and you watch this movie, please clue me in.

The movie proper begins with a a classic car driving along a road surrounded by a wooded area. The guy in the car is the narrator.  He and his fiance are returning from a visit to her parents, where they set the wedding date.  They are about to let his father know.  This bit of backstory never recurs, but I mention it because it is the only real backstory any of the characters get.  Perhaps I should not have a beef with that.  After all, we tuned in to see brains get eaten, not believable characters play out human stories.  Only your really classy horror/scifi movies give you both. It’s not really fair to ding the cheesy ones for not.

I was making a note in the TV Journal, so I missed why they stopped, but when I looked up the Narrator and his Fiance were looking at some dead animals in the woods. Come on, Hollywood!  Be kind to animals! (I wrote a blog post with that title.)

Next, they find a cone-shaped space ship and the plot thickens. At least, it gets so dense I didn’t quite know what was going on (Hey! Do you suppose some of my brains got eaten somewhere along the way?  Oh, you’ve probably been supposing that for years).

A government guy is sent to check things out.  All kinds of cops are hanging around the cone, which is now surrounded by scaffolding.  A dashing scientist type is there along with his beautiful assistant.  They don’t know what’s in the cone, but they can’t damage it in any way.  Typical!  They don’t know what it is, but the first thing they try to do is break it!  Dashing Scientist even fires a gun into the opening, so they can hear it ricocheting off the sides as it apparently travels all around inside the thing.

It gets pretty dull and boring for a while when Dashing Scientist crawls into the hole and starts wriggling along an endless tunnel while everybody waits outside for him.  Things get a little more lively when they go to talk to the mayor, who just happens to be Narrator’s father.

The group converging on the Mayor includes cops, Government Guy, a few scientists (including Dashing and Beautiful Assistant), Narrator and Fiance.  Before they enter, Mayor is struggling against himself with a gun.  He picks up the gun, aims it at his head, pulls it away from his head, puts it in a drawer. It seems he is struggling with some unseen force for control of his arm.

“Is he trying to kill himself or to not kill himself?” I asked.  It was the most interesting bit of acting in the movie.

You’ve probably guessed that Mayor is having his brain eaten. These creepy bugs attach themselves to the backs of people’s necks and feed on the brain.  While making a hearty meal, the bugs can also control the person’s actions, some with greater success than others, apparently.  Really, the movie is not consistent on this point at all.

They figure out the brain-sucking thing pretty easily with a lightning fast autopsy on Mayor (oh yeah, he gets shot in a dramatic scene I didn’t tell you about) (this write-up is getting pretty long after all).  Seriously, one minute the guy’s is getting shot, two minutes later, the doctor is telling us all about it.  That is some damn good forensic science!

Of course, just because they know the problem doesn’t mean they can deal with it right away, especially since it is more widespread than they realize.  They sensibly call for help first thing (they don’t always do that in these pictures), but it does them no good when the brain eatee in the telegraph office assures them the message will be sent then sends an entirely different one.  The phone is no better when the bug-laden operator keeps telling them, “I’m sorry, that line is busy.”

And then a bunch of other stuff happens.  I know I said I was going to tell you the whole plot, but this post is over 1,000 words already.  Is anybody even still reading?  I kept watching till the end, paying my usual sporadic attention.  It isn’t a bad way to spend an hour on a lazy Sunday, if you like cheesy old sci fi flicks.  Which I do.

 

Murder Movie Monday?

Spoiler Alert!  I’m going to completely give away the plot, solution, big reveal and dramatic conclusion of 10 Little Indians also known as And Then There Were None.

I was in the play version of this Agatha Christie classic, having formerly read the book and the play. Steven and I own a DVD of And Then There Were None (1945).  When they did Agatha Christie Day on TCM, I DVR’d 10 Little Indians  (1966) and finally got around to watching it sometime later (full disclosure:  it was not the first time I’ve seen it).  I wrote about it even later than than, then discovered it in my notebook, and we watched our DVD yesterday with the idea that I could write about both movies today.

The original story is set on an island, the classic isolated place to murder people.  The 1966 version changes things up by bringing the characters up a treacherous snow-covered mountain in  a cable car.  The characters are different, too.  The judgmental spinster is replaced by a glamorous actress.  Fabian plays the spoiled, arrogant young man.  In the original, this character is a rich ne’er-do-well.  In the movies he is a singer hired to entertain the guests.

Both movies make use of this handy character, who sits down at the piano and sings the ditty about the 10 Little Indians.  Both movies also have one character murmur to another to hang in there (or words to that effect), he’s almost out of Indians.

Incidentally, I had never heard of this macabre poem before reading the book.  The 10 Little Indians I know goes, “One little, two little, three little Indians…”  Nobody gets killed; we just count.  That is the kind of sheltered childhood I led.

A little epergne (I’ve never used that word before; I hope it’s right) in the middle of the table depicts the ten unfortunate Indians.  A mysterious hand breaks one off every time a character is picked off.

Of course the characters behave in the time-honored fashion of movie characters confronted with a mad killer.  They lose their cool, they go off alone, they trust or mistrust each other for the flimsiest of reasons.  This is not a 70s slasher flick, so nobody has sex just before meeting a gruesome end.

In fact, none of the ends are particularly gruesome, which to me is another advantage of old movies.  I find a couple of deaths horrifying by reason of empathy.  For example, how would I feel if I was scaling down a mountain and looked up to see a hand chopping away at the rope holding me.  Yikes!

It’s not all chills and thrills, unfortunately.  Things move too slowly for my tastes.   But perhaps I ask too much.

I guess I did not need the spoiler alert after all, because I feel distinctly disinclined to actually give away the ending.  I will say that I like the movie ending better than the play ending.  And I like the very end of the 1966 flick better than the 1945 version.  Anybody who has seen both versions (or either version), feel free to offer your opinion in the comments.  Don’t worry if you give away the big reveal; we’re still covered by the Spoiler Alert.