Werewolf Of London

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Year: 1935
Director: Stuart Walker
Writers: John Colton, Harvey Gates, Robert Harris, and Edmund Pearson
Music: Karl Hajos
Starring: Henry Hull, Warner Oland, Valerie Hobson, Lester Matthews, Clark Williams, and Lawrence Grant

Favorite Quote: “The werewolf is neither man nor wolf, but a Satanic creature with the worst qualities of both.”

What better way to get your weekend off to a start than spending an evening watching a classic Universal Monsters picture? While a fantastic film, Werewolf of London doesn’t quite reach the level of awesomeness that the Wolf Man did in 1941. But it’s a Universal Monster picture which means that no matter what you are in for an entertaining film!

When world-renowned and wealthy botanist Wilfred Glendon (Hull) and his friend Hugh Renwick (Williams) travel to Tibet in search of the elusive mariphasa plant, they should have perhaps paid attention to not only their fleeing Sherpa but the traveling Missionary who tells them that the valley that houses the plant is inhabited by Demons. A fact that seems supported when just before the discovery of the mariphasa, Hugh finds himself unable to walk further and Wilfred is struck by unseen assailants. His search at an end, Wilfred pushes on through the valley alone and begins to cultivate the rare plant. Unaware that above him hidden in the rocks a clawed and furry monster watches him intently until it springs down upon him, savagely attacking Wilfred, biting him on the forearm before being driven away by the Botanist’s attacks with a knife.

We next see Wilfred with two long scars on his arms where the creature bit him, he has returned home to London in triumph but is having difficulty with the mariphasa plant. The legend that we learned early in the film is that it takes it’s sustenance from the rays of the moon. Wilfred has constructed a Moon Lamp in an attempt to entice it to bloom for him but is missing out on the social party being held by the Botanist Club and his wife, Lisa (Hobson), good-naturedly scolds him about it. At the party Wilfred is introduced to Captain Paul Ames (Matthews) who just so happens to have been an old flame of his wife and the Botanist seems less than pleased that they are getting along so well. Also in attendance is Dr. Yogami (Oland) who informs Wilfred they had met before…in Tibet…and that they were both searching for the mariphasa plant at the same time. The two Doctors retire to the study after Wilfred refuses to allow Yogami to examine his mariphasa and Yogami openly tells him that the plant is an antidote to those who suffer from Lycanthropy.

Wilfred obviously doesn’t believe Dr. Yogami, not until the next night when his Moon Lamp experiment yields results with the mariphasa…and when the light touches his exposed hand it begins to sprout long claws and fur!

[Via] Universal Movies

The make-up effects for Werewolf of London were handled by the legendary Jack Pierce and the original design for the Henry Hull “Wolf Man” features would have been the same as the one Lon Chaney Jr. ended up wearing in 1941 if the studio hadn’t nixed it in favor of the more simpler make-up, it didn’t help that Hull refused to sit for hours having the make-up applied.

Hull’s Lycanthrope is different than the type we would come to love in 1941’s The Wolf Man as he seems to be quite intelligent, he dons a scarf, coat, and cap before prowling the streets of London in search for a victim.

Werewolf of London is available for viewing on Netflix Streaming this very moment. It’s a great film and not only the first Hollywood mainstream Werewolf film but earns it’s worthy spot in the pantheon of Universal Monsters. It receives four and a half pumpkins out of five!
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Dead End Drive-In

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Year: 1986
Director: Brian Trenchard-Smith
Writers: Peter Carey and Peter Smalley
Music: Frank Strangio
Starring: Ned Manning, Natalie McCurry and Peter Whitford

Dead End Drive-In is a peculiar treat, the film has elements of Mad Max and Lord of the Flies with a pinch of Radioactive Dreams all in the mix. The horror comes not from ghouls or demons this time but society itself.

Image courtesy of IMP Awards

Set in a near future (1990) where the economy has collapsed, crime has become rampant and completely out of control. Vehicles are now the ultimate commodity so much so that when there are traffic accidents, tow truck drivers not only fend off bandits in the cities with a good smack up the side of the head with a heavy wrench while working but pay off the Police in the hopes to receive protection as they do said work. Society still functions…sort of…and teenagers are still teenagers but now when they are out on the town they have to worry about getting hit with a Moltov cocktail or run down by hopped up street gang members.

Our hero of the film is Jimmy (Manning) who in an attempt to impress his girlfriend, Carmen (McCurry), ‘borrows’ his brother Frank’s completely restored ’57 Chevy to go to the Star Drive-In. The couple are given an option when they arrive of paying $10 for adults or $3.50 for those that are unemployed, to save money Jimmy declares they are unemployed. The manager of the Star, Thompson (Whitford), seems dubious but let’s them in for the discounted price. The lot is packed with all manner of vehicles and some of them look like there is just no way they could be functioning, possibly this is something that Jimmy should have picked up on while driving through the parked cars for a secluded spot. Carmen and Jimmy while having some alone time do not realize until too late that the back tires of the Chevy are being stolen. Jimmy is shocked to see that the culprits are none other than Police officers who roll the tires into the back of their armored vehicle. Jimmy and Carmen are about to learn they have driven into a societal nightmare and there may be no way to go back.

[Via] The Faster Blade

Dead End Drive-In has some faults, those being the over the top acting of some of the lesser characters and a weird switch of a ‘social message’ about halfway through the film concerning new arrivals to the Drive-In. But the film is perfect for a late night viewing and the main cast pull it off with Manning and Whitford being the standout actors. Dead End Drive-In gets three and a half pumpkins out of five!
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Moon Of The Wolf

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Year: 1972
Director: Daniel Petrie
Writer: Alvin Sapinsley
Music: Bernardo Segall
Starring: David Janssen, Barbara Rush, Bradford Dillman, Claudia McNiel, John Beradino, Geoffrey Lewis, and Royal Dano

Favorite Quote: “If he was born in the South maybe he’ll have more respect.”

Oh this is the joy of searching Netflix instant for a horror movie to review everyday. Finding a nugget of horror goodness that I’ve never had the pleasure of seeing before like the made for TV film Moon of the Wolf!

Moon of the Wolf first aired in 1972 on September 26th as the ABC Movie of the Week and it deals with the citizens of Marsh Island, a small Louisiana bayou town, and the mysterious and frightening deaths occurring to their community.

As the film begins we are introduced to Bayou residents Tom Sr.(Dano) and his son as the dogs on their property are going berserk, the two men let the pack of hounds lead them to a shocking discovery. Ellie Burrifors, a local girl from town is found dead, savagely attacked by what looks to be a wild dog or some other beast. The two men call in Sheriff Aaron Whitaker (Janssen) and though he didn’t request it they also inform her brother Lawrence (Lewis) who arrives shortly after the town’s physician, Dr. Druten (Beradino), begins his examination of the deceased. Dr. Druten demands that Ellie be taken to the hospital so he can administer a proper autopsy and after doing so we learn as does Sheriff Whitaker that while there was indeed bite marks upon her body it was a human that killed her, with a left-handed blow to the side of her head that might have killed her immediately.

Sheriff Whitaker pays a visit to those who knew the victim, most of them holding to the belief that it was a pack of wild dogs that are responsible. Whitaker checks in on Lawrence and his bedridden Father, Hugh, to see how they are holding up after such a terrible shock. Hugh mumbles in nonsensical French saying “Loug Garog” over and over. Lawrence is unable to tell Whitaker what it means but informs the lawman that he knows his sister was messing around with someone of “quality”, not someone from the bayou, he even admits that in anger he struck her the night before because she wouldn’t tell him who she was seeing and when Whitaker asks him to demonstrate how forcibly he hit her we learn that Lawrence is left handed.

Whitaker next calls on the Rodanthe plantation, ancestral home of the founders of Marsh Island as Ellie’s corpse was located on a part of their vast properties. As Whitaker drives up to the gatehouse he is greeted by Andrew Rodanthe on horseback, who admits he has already heard of the murder (Trust me, I live in a small town and this stuff happens). Whitaker has a theory that Ellie might have crossed across their property as a shortcut and if Andrew had possibly been outside in the evening and seen anything, and though he doesn’t say anything he harbors a suspicion that Rodanthe was Ellie’s lover. Andrew informs Whitaker that he would not have been able to see anything as during that time he was suffering from an attack of malaria, he was laid low by the shakes until the wee hours of the morning. As the two men are talking we are introduced to Andrew’s sister, Louise (Rush), who has just returned to the plantation after living in New York for many years. We also learn that Louise and Whitaker had crushes on each other during Junior High School but both were too timid and shy to admit their feelings for each other…this doesn’t seem to set Andrew at ease, in fact he seems quite offended at the idea. He tells Whitaker that Louise is back home because she is sick and must not be agitated or excited, she needs peace and quiet to get better.

To make matters worse, Sarah (McNeil), who helps the Burrifors family informs the Sheriff that she knows Lawrence is not only innocent but that Ellie was pregnant at the time of her death. Which confuses Whitaker as to why Dr. Druten hadn’t informed him as to why she was pregnant during the autopsy…to which the Dr. confesses that he was in fact Ellie’s lover and they were meeting that night to discuss what to do about the baby.

Here end the spoilers because anything more and I’ll start to ruin the mystery of the film. This was a treat to say the least, it’s a nicely plotted made for TV film with a strong showing from it’s entire cast. This is certainly the type of TV movie that I hope will be airing come Halloween night, a bit spooky and to be fair, a dash of cheese, but it has the quality of a Kolchak: The Night Stalker episode. So I’m bestowing our first five pumpkins out of five this season to Moon of the Wolf!

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Tales From The Crypt Presents: Demon Knight

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Year: 1995
Director: Ernest R. Dickerson
Writers: Ethan Reiff, Cyrus Voris, and Mark Bishop
Music: Ed Shearmur
Starring: Billy Zane, William Sadler, Jada Pinkett Smith, CCH Pounder, Dick Miller, Thomas Haden Church, and Charles Fleischer

Favorite Quote: “Humans. You’re not worth the flesh you’re printed on!”

The Demon Knight film had a long and winding road before it was finally picked up and produced as the first of a proposed trilogy of Tales from the Crypt theatrical features. The first draft of the screenplay was dated back in 1987, two years before the HBO series, and was slated to be made by film director Tom Holland (Child’s Play).

After that failed to happen the script made it’s way into the hands of screenwriter Marc Carducci (Pumpkinhead) and he held onto it for a couple of years before he put it in the hands of Mary Lambert (Pet Semetary) but after the poor reception of the Pet Semetary sequel she was unable to raise the proper investment to bring the her vision of the film to the screen.

After that the script was picked up by Charles Band’s Full Moon Features (Puppet Master) but the amount of money it would take to bring Demon Knight to screen was too high for the smaller studio and the script found it’s way to Joel Silver (Lethal Weapon) where it was optioned to actually be the second entry in that proposed trilogy of Tales from the Crypt films, but Universal Pictures executives thought Demon Knight had a greater potential than the other two Tales from the Crypt films and the film was fast tracked for a Halloween 1994 release date but was pushed back to an eventual January 1995 release.

As Demon Knight begins we are given a humorous introduction segment featuring the Crypt Keeper and a surprise guest star before the film begins proper and we are introduced to our main protagonist, Brayker (Sadler), as he tears up the back roads of New Mexico in what we later learn is a stolen car in an attempt to escape his pursuer, a mysterious man driving equally as fast in his pursuit and that we come to know as the Collector (Zane). Brakyer’s vehicle though runs out of gas and he sets up a collision that destroys both of the vehicles in a fiery explosion. Brayker obviously escaped from the crash and makes his way to the nearby little town of Wormwood where he unsuccessfully tries to steal another car outside of a diner and while hiding out meets Uncle Willy (Miller) who befriends the drifter and tells him of a boarding house that he stays at where Brayker can bed down for the night.

Meanwhile the two burning vehicles have been spotted by the town sheriff and his deputy and while they are running the plates on what remains of them…from behind the devouring flames of the wreck steps the Collector. He quickly informs the lawmen on how he not only survived the crash but why he was driving so recklessly in his pursuit of Brayker, he warns them that the man is a very dangerous thief and if he has escaped into town there is going to be trouble.

Brayker and Uncle Willy arrive at the boarding house, a former church as Uncle Willy explains “They decommissioned it in the ’50s, due to lack of interest.”, and we meet the rest of the boarding house residents. Owner Irene (Pounder), recently fired postman (Fleischer), a prostitute with a heart of gold named Cordelia, and sassy work release parolee Jeryline (Smith). Very soon we are introduced to Cordelia’s “date”, a fry cook from the diner that tells the residents about the unsuccessful attempt at stealing a car. This causes Irene to call the police to report her newest resident which brings the Sheriff and his Deputy with the Collector in tow to the boarding house.

And then every single resident is about to experience a Demon Knight.

[Via] Universal Movies

Demon Knight is a very fun movie and it is certainly a perfect film to watch on a dark and stormy night, it is available on Netflix streaming at this very moment. Every member of the cast delivers a solid performance but it’s Sadler and Zane that carry the film, elevate it from a simple B-Movie premise. Zane in particular steals the show with his charisma and obvious enjoyment of his over the top character, he has fun with it. There are thrills and laughs in equal mix as you watch Demon Knight and if I was going to nitpick it’s only that the end feels a little rushed…like maybe the money was running out and they had to wrap it up. The third act fumble is not enough to wreck the film by any means but that is why I’m only bestowing four and a half pumpkins out of five to Demon Knight instead of the full five!
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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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