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A Mod Vampire?

Here, at long last, is the post I began some time ago about the cheesy horror movie I saw.  Full disclosure:  some people do not consider Hammer Studios films to be cheesy, but I have made bold to so categorize it for the purposes of this blog post.

Spoiler Alert!  I am probably going to give away most of the salient plot points of Dracula A.D. 1972, so if you have not seen it and like to be surprised at developments, read no further.  Also, if you have seen the movie and liked it, you also might like to read no further, because I not only did not like it, I did not pay a great deal of attention to it, so my write-up is likely to annoy you.

I DVR’d Dracula A.D. 1972 from TCM some time ago and finally got around to watching it on my recent birthday.  I had hopes of getting a blog post out of it, but, well, we’ll see.

I could tell by the title that the movie takes place in what were then modern times (I guess during the ’70s it would have been Mod Times, but that’s neither here nor there), not the pseudo past we often see in horror movies, which usually means the ladies wear long dresses and everybody gets around in horse and carriage.  I like the pseudo past better for a cheesy horror movie.  Perhaps I’ll try to analyze why one of these Lame Post Fridays.

One might ask, “Well, why did you DVR it if you thought you weren’t going to like it?”  That is the flip side of the yahoos that say, “How do you know you won’t like it when you haven’t seen it?” as if I have infinite time to watch every movie ever made! I gave this movie a chance because (1) Hammer Studios, (2) Peter Cushing AND Christopher Lee, (3) they just don’t show that many horror movies I think I am going to like.

I did not completely dislike this one.  I may even watch it again to clear up my confusion on the parts I missed.  In the meantime, I’ll write about what I remember.

The movie opens, as many of these movies do, with a kind of a prologue, showing something that happened long before the events of the movie proper take place.  We see Peter Cushing (Van Helsing) finish off Christopher Lee (Dracula), who almost immediately crumbles into dust or, I guess, ashes. Then we see a henchman-looking guy making off with a vial full of ashes.

I talked about this when I wrote about Dracula Prince of Darkness.  There is no way that guy got all the ashes!  When he reconstitutes that vampire, it is going to be missing something.  In Prince of Darkness it was the power of speech (oh yeah, there was a story that Lee refused to say any of the lines because the dialogue was so badly written.  I like my explanation better).  And so I repeat myself.

Back in “modern” times, the horror action grinds to a complete halt with a wild party scene that goes on and on.  Its purpose, I suppose, it to introduce the group of young people who will fall afoul of Dracula.  A worthy purpose, a very dull scene.  I learned that the kids are wild and their leader is a thoroughgoing jerkface.  If there were any subtleties or further character traits, I missed them.

After fleeing the police (long story), the kids repair to the pub in search of further thrills.  Jerkface proposes a Black Mass.  The kids are down with this, but Satan will have to bring “his own booze, his own bird, and his own pot” (I may have that quote wrong.  Oh well).

As the Main Girl rides home with her Boyfriend, we learn that her grandfather is Van Helsing, presumably offspring or descendant of the guy in the first scene (following the movie tradition that descendants look EXACTLY like their forbears) (really I don’t mind this tradition; it is kind of like movie shorthand) (and makes casting easier).  Boyfriend wants to consult the grandfather about Black Masses and calling up Satan and stuff, but Main Girl demurs.

We meet Peter Cushing briefly in the next scene, but it mainly shows that he has a good relationship with his granddaughter and she is not as wild as the crowd she runs with.  There is no hint of any other family members, another handy arrangement common in fictional settings (oh, I’m sure it happens in real life as well.  Just because I’ve never seen it).

Jerkface goes home and grabs the vial of ashes we saw in the prologue. I never saw any explanation of how he came by the ashes.  A descendant of Henchman?  The same guy, immortal but not as powerful as Dracula?  These are the things I hope to pay more attention to if I ever watch this flick again.

So Dracula gets re-constituted at the Black Mass about 45 minutes into the movie. I made a note of it in the TV Journal but neglected to note when the prologue ended, so I don’t know how long we had to wait for him to return.  I was happy to see him, because I was tired of this gang of miscreants and was ready to see them get picked off as vampire food.

Now here is a question I must look up sometime in Vampires for Dummies:  When does a vampire victim become another vampire and when are they merely a bloodless corpse?  Is it up to the vampire that bites them?  I just mention it in passing.  I have no real problem with bloodless corpses in a movie of this kind.  For one reason, I don’t like to keep track of too many characters.

Speaking of keeping track of characters, have any of you been wondering whatever happened to Peter Cushing?  I was, but no, he doesn’t come back yet.  First we have the rather lengthy Black Mass where Jerkface adds blood and stirs well.  He’s all excited to see Christopher Lee and wants congratulations on a job well done.

“It was my will,” Christopher Lee intones.

I was like, “YOUR will?  How could you will any anything?  Hello, you were ashes!  Get over yourself!”

Well, I heard Christopher Lee had an ego and I’m sure Count Dracula did, too.  I guess that immortal, blood-sucking thing could go to anybody’s head.  And the fact that you CAN be re-constituted from ashes, whether or not you willed it from that state (or were completely there when re-constituted), is a pretty unusual talent.  So I guess I should cut a newly un-dead vampire a break.

Anyways, I had really lost track of the plot by this time, but the police get involved when the first bloodless corpse is discovered.  then Peter Cushing gets involved, because, you know, vampires and his granddaughter being friends with the corpse (before she was a corpse).  The police do not tiresomely dismiss Van Helseing (Cushing) as a crackpot, that hoary cliche, but they don’t jump on board with crucifixes and wooden stakes, either.

It’s really not a bad movie.  I might try to see it again if I get a chance.  I don’t promise to pay more attention, but if I do perhaps I could write a better blog post about it.  In the meantime, I hope at least some of you are pleased that I did not publish yet another post about Why I Can’t Write a Post.

 

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.

Why This is Not a Movie Post

I’m not giving up Wrist to Forehead Sunday, you can’t make me.

That previous sentence should have a semi-colon instead of a comma, but sometimes I regard punctuation as much art as science. The Punctuation Police and the Grammar Guardians can ding me all they like, because I am usually quite correct about these things.

Regular readers will realize I was too ill yesterday to partake in any Mohawk Valley adventures. Today I feel slightly less crappy but not yet un-crappy. Anyways, Sunday is almost always an off day for me.

Yesterday I watched a Hammer Studios film and today a Bela Lugosi movie. I could write about either one, only it also seems that I can’t. You know how I always put a Spoiler Alert. Well, the things I would be apt to talk about for these movies goes beyond spoiler and into “Well, why don’t you just tell us the whole damn movie while you’re at it!” These are things astute movie viewers may see coming (I did), but there is still an element of, “Wait a minute, it could be that…” The satisfaction is in saying, “I thought so!” and not “I read about that in a blog!”

You know, I’ve said too much already. Now I am afraid viewers will say, “What did she see coming… ah yes! Of course!” Instead of letting it unfold in front of them.

Or am I being silly? That, of course, is always a possibility. In any case, I see my word count is over 250 words. Quite respectable for typing with one wrist on my forehead (oh, OK, that’s only figuratively)(metaphorically?). I hope to see you on Middle-aged Musings Monday.

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.

What? No Peter Cushing?

Spoiler Alert! I’m actually not going to give a lot away, especially not the ending, because I had stopped paying much attention by that time. In my defense, it was Saturday night and way past my usual bed time.

I DVR’d Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb (1964) with high hopes, thinking it must be the sequel to The Mummy, which I enjoyed recently. As I learned from Ben Mankiewicz’s pre-movie commentary, it is the second of four Mummy movies made by Hammer Studios (I referred to them as Hammer Films in my post on The Mummy, but I specifically noticed Mankiewicz said Hammer Films this time) (in the interests of accuracy). The movie was directed by the son of the guy that owned Hammer at the time. I suppose that would explain it.

My first disappointment was that neither Peter Cushing nor Christopher Lee were in the movie. I like Lee better as Dracula than as the Mummy anyways, but I felt Cushing was a real loss. Still, I thought I would try to enjoy it. A Hammer Studios monster movie must be worth a watch, right?

The movie opens with some guy tied by his hands to two stakes in the desert, guarded by an Arab-looking guy (1960s Hollywood version) (but I didn’t need to tell you that). A group of nomad-looking guys ride up on horses. Without a word, one of them kills the guy and chops his hand off. This gives everyone a good laugh (except, of course, the dead guy), and they ride off with the severed hand.

Cut to a luxurious tent, apparently the living quarters of the archaeologists excavating the tomb. A guy is pouring a French lady another drink. She flirtatiously asks is he trying to get her drunk. He says he will try to do so when they return to London (another spoiler: he doesn’t), and she coquettes that she will let him. It must be pretty dry out there, even for a desert, because I didn’t think he was such a much.

It turns out the dead guy of the previous scene is her father. She flees in tears.

“Let her go,” somebody says wisely to the boyfriend. People are always saying that in movies. I don’t know if they do in real life, because I am usually the one fleeing in tears, or at least I was in my dramatic adolescent past (although in my case, I sadly suspect it was more of a collective, “Thank God she’s gone!”) (but I digress). I think in the case of this movie, the movie makers wanted French Lady to be alone when she discovers in her bed (I did include a spoiler alert, didn’t I?) the severed hand (oh, you probably saw that coming; I did).

Another dramatic shock happens when they discover a dead body amongst the artifacts they are taking back to England. I got a good laugh over that, because, well, the body looked a little comical. Meaning no disrespect to the fictional dead.

Speaking of good laughs, Steven and I both cracked up when… I can’t remember who said what, but suddenly everyone froze in a dramatic pause and looked at… the sarcophagus. Which looked a little like Tutankhamen with a pig nose.

Soon they’re on a boat headed back to England. A couple more dramatic things happen, including the introduction of a mysterious, handsome stranger. He beats up a would-be assassin and tosses him overboard. That seemed a little careless to me. Wouldn’t you, for example, like to ask the guy who he works for?

Things get a good deal less exciting in London. French Lady starts playing Old Boyfriend against Handsome Stranger, but that isn’t very compelling, because Old Boyfriend doesn’t get very jealous. We find out, via dialogue, not demonstration, that French Lady is a rather brilliant Egyptologist, having studied hard to earn her father’s love (remember him? She doesn’t seem to). It seems Old Boyfriend wants her for her brain. What an insult! It is so refreshing that Handsome Stranger understands she wants a home and to stay in it. Well, this is before the feminist ’70s (no, I am not going to entertain a discussion on family vs. career; this is not that kind of a blog).

Where was I? Ah yes, losing track of the movie. It’s not what you call fast-paced and action-packed. And I don’t remember the ending. Something happens in a sewer after we find out a BIG secret about Handsome Stranger. So if this movie pops up again on TCM, I may try to watch it till the end. I may even write another blog post about it.