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Madhouse

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Year: 1974
Director: Jim Clark
Writers: Ken Levison, Greg Morrisson, and Robert Quarry
Music: Douglas Gamley
Starring: Vincent Price, Peter Cushing, Robert Quarry, Adrienne Corri, and Linda Hayden. Boris Karloff and Basil Rathbone receive billing as well but they are merely featured in clips from previous American International Pictures.

Favorite Quote: “Everybody thinks I’m dead, including myself.”

First of all before I begin with the review of Madhouse proper I would like to say that I can’t believe I fell for the Retroist’s trick like this…again. He invited me over to his Retro Mansion for a friendly game of Mr. Do! and leaves me this note:

“Vic, glad you could make it! I had to step out and fetch some things at the store, I’ve left you some beef jerky in the basement.”

With visions of dried and salted beef dancing in my head I headed downstairs but no sooner did I open the basement door and step inside…when the door slammed shut behind me and I was treated to the Retroist’s maniacal laughter. In the room with me was this computer and a large stack of films to review for the month of October. But to be fair there is a rather large supply of beef jerky down here…so I guess it’ll work out okay.

Madhouse was the last film made by Vincent Price for the AIP studios, he had appeared in various films for the studio since the 1960s and most of them are shown as clips throughout this film, most of them his work in the Edgar Allen Poe film adaptations.

The plot of Madhouse revolves around a horror actor named Paul Toombes (Price) who is most famous for his portrayal of an Abominable Dr. Phibes like character called Dr. Death, and at the beginning of the film we are introduced to the main cast of the picture at a Hollywood party celebrating the latest Dr. Death release. There is Toombes’ best friend and fellow co-creator Herbert Flay (Cushing) who was once an actor but gave up the life after realizing he could be paid better at writing the films. We also meet a former love interest of Toombes, Faye Carstairs Flay (Corri), who is most certainly jealous of Toombes rising star and as we learn betrothal to his new leading lady. And lastly we meet Oliver Quayle (Quarry) a producer of ‘artsy’ adult films, some of those films we learn from the smug producer just happen to have starred Toombes new fiance, a fact that causes the actor to succumb to a fit of rage that he verbally takes out on his fiance. Distraught and rightly so she retreats from the party and heads upstairs to her bedroom. As the party continues downstairs, Toombes wrestles with feelings of guilt over his actions…but does he really? For we see someone dressed as his character of Dr. Death sneak into his fiance’s bedroom and dispatch her ruthlessly…it’s been said you sometimes have to do things to get ahead in Hollywood but in this case it’s literal as she is decapitated.

[Via] Sideshow Carny

The film beings proper many years after the scandal at that Hollywood party of Toombes and while he ended up in an asylum, he was merely a suspect in the murder case but never convicted. He is contacted by his good friend Flay and learns that he has an opportunity to be an actor once again if he will play the part of Dr. Death not in films but this time for a TV series. A TV series that just happens to be produced by Quayle. But there is a problem…since Toombes release murders begin anew and it seems that all clues point to the aging actor. Can he find the culprit behind all of the bloodshed before it’s too late…or does he already know the killer he seeks?

I’ll end the minor spoilers there as this all happens within the first minutes of the film. To be brutally honest this is not that great of a film. It’s got a stellar cast and they do give it their best shot, it’s just that the story has plot holes you can drive a semi truck through and a third act that is almost laughably nonsensical. Still this is a film that features the actors who brought to life such characters as Dr. Phibes, Van Helsing, and Count Yorga and at the very least will give you an hour of half of something to watch to help get in the Halloween spirit. It is currently available on Netflix streaming.

So for Madhouse I bestow three pumpkins out of five!
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The Haunted House of Horror (1969)

Halloween Movie Madness III has started and the first movie on the list was the 1969 British horror film, “The Haunted House of Horror”. The film, which captures the feel of hip late 60s Britain is full of mostly people I had never heard of, except for the American actor in the group, Frankie Avalon. The movies plot has been retold often enough that it will not be a surprise to anyone who has not seen the film. Kids are in a house and started getting picked off. Can they figure out who it is?

I know it was trying to capitalize off youth culture at the time, but with its bright colors and patterns that were popular, eventually the Carnaby Street fashion and culture starts to get distracting. Something about it just seems to clash with the dark setting of a haunted house. See for yourself.

Still its a pretty good movie and has a twist ending with a surprising amount of paint, I mean blood. Still pictures might not do it justice so check out the trailer. If the title at the end is confusing, its because the film was released as “Horror House” in United States.

Watching scary movies all October? Comment below!

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Halloween Movie Madness 2008

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Last year I listed the movies I was going to watch throughout the month of October and tried to post reviews of all of them. It was crazy month, but awesome, and filled with some great movies. So what about this year? Will I watch scary movies all month? Heck yeah! 31 Movies for Halloween 2007 was great, but its nothing like Halloween Movie Madness 2008!

Here is the plan:

October 1 – When a Stranger Calls (1979)
October 2 – The Unnatural
October 3 – Halloween 6 – Producers Cut
October 4 – Monster Squad
October 5 – House
October 6 – Fright Night
October 7 – CHUD
October 8 – The Fog (1980)
October 9 – KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park
October 10 – Carrie
October 11 – House On Haunted Hill (1959)
October 12 – Murders in the Rue Morgue
October 13 – Psycho
October 14 – The Last Man on Earth
October 15 – Blood Demon
October 16 – Poltergeist
October 17 – Jesse James Meets Frankenstein’s Daughter
October 18 – Monster Club
October 19 – Prom Night (1980)
October 20 – Nightmare on Elm Street
October 21 – Phantasm
October 22 – Saturday the 14th
October 23 – Island of Terror
October 24 – Summer Camp Nightmare
October 25 – The Mummy (1932)
October 26 – Craze
October 27 – Carnival of Souls
October 28 – Friday the 13th
October 29 – The Haunting (1963)
October 30 – 13 Ghosts (1960)
October 31 – Halloween (1978)

Its an eclectic mix of scary and not so scary with some stuff I haven’t seen in years mixed with some good old “comfort horror”. If I had the time this would be 3 times as large. So what is everyone else going to be watching? What is the one horror film you have to see every Halloween season?

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The Howling (1981)

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The Howling is pretty good werewolf film. Well written, well acted and filled with interesting special effects. The film involves a reporter who is investigating a serial killer who turns out to be a werewolf. She is so traumatized by the experience that she needs some rest. Her doctor pal sends her to spend some time at “The Colony”, which of course is a colony of werewolves, and then all hell breaks loose. Three actors will jump out at you in this film, although the whole cast is stellar. You have John Carradine as the moody old guy, Slim Pickens as the good ol’ boy Sheriff and one of my favorite actors Robert Picardo the serial killer I mentioned above, Eddie Quist.

You don’t know who Robert Picardo is? Does this picture help?
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No? Well how about this one?

That’s right. Mr. Picardo played everyone’s favorite Emergency Medical Hologram on Star Trek Voyager.
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Talk about career longevity? Mr. Picardo has been working steadily on TV and movies for over 30 years! I mean we all know he was on Voyager and China Beach, but he has made appearances in such classic shows as Taxi, Alice, Kojak, The Golden Girls, Silver Spoons, The Wonder Years, Newhart and many many more. And he isn’t even close to done he is constantly adding his talent to current TV shows and movies.

For more info on Robert Picardo – Visit the Official Robert Picardo Website.

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If you need a Robert Picardo fix this Halloween check out his appearance in an episode of CSI New York. It will broadcast on Halloween Night and takes place at the “Amityville Horror” house.

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A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

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Great movie! Not so great TV show. About 2 years ago, I decided to sit down and watch the “Nightmare on Elm Street” based show “Freddy’s Nightmares”. What a crazy ride. The show would go from slapstick to Felliniesque at the drop of hat. This can make for some some fun, but uneven episodes (all of which look like they were filmed in Canada). Happily one thing you can count on is the host. That’s right good ol’ Freddy himself did the sometimes creepy but mostly comical intros and bumpers to the show. Usually those were the best part of any episode.

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Not that the show didn’t have its high point. The episode with Lori Petty as an obsessed athlete who could run like the wind was pretty good and I remember an episode that had a young Brad Pitt in it. The best episode though, was the pilot. This intro to the show really makes you think this show is going to be good, because it shows Freddy’s Nightmare. Its a bit of a prequel where we see how the townspeople descend upon the murderous Freddy (who got out of Jail on a technicality) and burn him up.

Of course his worst nightmare would soon turn into their nightmare. Muhahahahaha.

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Why I can Watch Psycho (1960) Every Year

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Hitchcock – the Master of Suspense – was supposedly partially inspired to make a movie like “Psycho” after seeing the success of films like “House Haunted Hill”. Low budget movies that were full of chock full of audience pleasing thrills and made tons of cash. Now of course, Paramount, the studio he was under contract with, wanted nothing to do with the film. Describing it as “repulsive”. So Hitchcock, true auteur that he was, decided to make the movie himself on the cheap. This movie is a blue print for everything a good low budget should be.

Hitchcock scrimped on things like film stock, shooting in B&W instead of color. It was a financial decision that led to more creative cinematography. Do you know anyone who wants to see a colorized version of “Psycho”? People can still learn a lot about movie making from this film and not a lesson in cinematography or storytelling (which of course they can), but in basic creative decision making. So please, if you are producing “Anaconda 8”, take a moment and try to figure out what it is about giant snakes that people want to see.

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Do they want just snake on human violence? Or do they want lots of fake romance and techno-babble? Perhaps they want a period piece? Or maybe its just as simple as a giant snake, stalking some people and picking them off one by one. Heck I don’t even need to see the snake. In fact I would prefer not to. Its just going to be a lame CGI monster. Save your money — hire a good writer and save the computer graphics for those who can afford it.

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Want to Enjoy The Legend of Hell House? Read the Book

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The Legend of Hell House is a movie written by the great Richard Matheson and adapted from his novel Hell House. I read Hell House again a few months ago in anticipation of watching this movie again and although it has the great Roddy McDowall, it is a pale shadow of the book. Of course most book/movie comparisons make that argument based on the idea that you cannot put enough of the details from the book into the movie. Hell House is not exception.

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The movie isn’t horrible. It just feels rushed. Characters feel unmotivated even when they are well acted. The story sort of tumbles together, with convenient story twists that are not in the book. All in all it leaves you feeling that his movie should be much cooler then it turned out and it should be.

The film is passable as a good weekend diversion, but if you have the time, please pick up the book. You will be left feeling much more satisfied.

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