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PCR #351  (Vol. 7, No. 50) This edition is for the week of December 11--17, 2006.

The Fabulous Architecture of the Tampa Bay Region, Part Two  by Will Moriaty
"Eragon"  by Mike Smith
"Charlotte's Web"  by Mike Smith
First Screening of Creature Productions' "Dark Dimensions"  by Nolan B. Canova
The Tampa Film Review for December  by Nolan B. Canova
Zombies! Zombies! Zombies! Part 3  by Drew Reiber
DVD Grindhouse: Horror Classics - 50 Movie Pack DVD Collection (Part 1)....Peter Boyle is Gone  by Andy Lalino
The Globes....Texas Boud....Passing On....Next Year....My Favorite Films, Part 50: "1941"  by Mike Smith
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Andy Lalino
Oddservations by Andy Lalino

DVD Grindhouse: Horror Classics - 50 Movie Pack DVD Collection (Part 1)

Capsule Reviews
I was flattered to hear that Nolan has been missing the "VHS Grindhouse" portions of my Oddservations column. For those unfamiliar, VHS Grindhouse is simply a review of horror/sci-fi/fantasy/cult movies which I at times include in the column. This time around, I'm doing a slight twist on the format by reviewing DVDs. Nole, I hope you enjoy the return to the Grindhouse!

A fellow cult-a-holic co-worker and I exchanged DVD box sets; I received "50 Horror Classics" while lending out "50 Sci-Fi Classics". Both sets were produced by the same manufacturer (Mill Creek Entertainment/Treeline Films) and are readily available at major retailers and even on eBay. It's an attractive package to a horror film fan, especially at a low $19.95 cost for 50 films. Granted, most, if not all, are PD titles, but I'd never let that stop me from watching some great old horror/sci-fi. I was actually pleasantly surprised to discover that the transfers were somewhat decent, with the main problem being indecipherable audio, especially from the poverty row features.

Many of the films in the 12 DVD Horror Pack are from the "poverty row" studios of the '30s and '40s: PRC (Producers Releasing Corporation) and Monogram, but it does include some others, such asAIP . Most are in B&W. The cover is, at first glance, cool, until you look close and realize it's an aging mustached guy with a flashlight pointed up at his chin. There's even a rating - "M" for mature audiences - parental guidance suggested!

As not to get too bogged down, here are capsule reviews of the films I watched thus far:

"Carnival of Souls" - Did not watch, as I've seen it about 20 times. One of my favorite horror films and a great, independent classic.
"Atom Age Vampire" - Did not watch, as I've seen it recently on Off Beat Cinema.

"Creature from the Haunted Sea" - One of Corman's early pictures. I've seen it before, so I skipped it.
"Nightmare Castle" - A real delight. Obviously inspired by Bava's "Black Sunday", this solid creature feature borrows Barbara Steele as a lecherous lover who gets tortured by her husband for her infidelity. She and her lover seek revenge in a supernatural way. Good torture scenes, and Steele looks better than she did in "Black Sunday", even appearing as ablond in this one. One of Steele's best post-"Black Sunday" features.
"Black Dragons" - The first (ugh) barely-a-horror film starring Bela Lugosi who plays a plastic surgeon betrayed by a group of Nazis. Bela uses hypnotism to seek revenge. Some good hypnosis scenes, and the flashbacks to the Nazi dungeons are interesting, but if this didn't have Lugosi it wouldn't be tolerable.
"The Invisible Ghost" - Though it has more supernatural elements than "Black Dragons", the story made little sense. Lugosi stars in this one too, playing Dr. Kessler - a man possessed by the spell of his missing wife (see what I mean?). Lugosi kills with his suit jacket - lame! It has some ghostly moments when his wife, who he thinks is missing, shows up outside his house. She's hidden by one of his servants and has to sneak out to see her husband, who she likes to hypnotize (she's insane). Again, without Lugosi, you wouldn't have a movie.
"One Body Too Many" - A fun, reading-of-the-will movie. Family members who don't get along are forced to stay in a creepy mansion at the insistence of the dear departed, as stated in his will, for a specified time. An intriguing element is a giant oddservatory located atop the mansion, which factors into the end of the story. Lugosi has a small role as a creepy butler, who poisons coffee with rat poison. Another welcome casting choice is Jack Haley (Wizard of Oz's Tin Man) playing a cowardly Insurance Salemsan-turned detective as family members end up dead.
"White Zombie" - Lugosi as Murder Legendre. A classic, and one I've seen many times before.

"Attack of the Giant Leeches" - Growing up, I was rarely in the mood to watch this one on Creature Feature (after Godzilla and Gamera, giant leeches sounded anti-climactic), but now that I'm almost 40, I gave this one a shot and found it quite entertaining and well-done in a low-budget way. The characters are actually appealing, and I loved the leeches' underground cavern. YvetteVickers is especially good as a sultry swamp tramp. Produced by Gene Corman with Executive Producer Roger.
"The Screaming Skull" - This is another creature feature regularly rotated on Off Beat Cinema. A "drive your wife insane" movie in the vein of "Terror in the Haunted House", but unlike that film, this one has an actual ghost. Very much influenced by William Castle. A great, fun flick.
"Beast of Yucca Flats" - Tor lives! The famous Tor Johnson plays a nuclear scientist(!) in this bizarre horror film that has no dialogue - only narration and lame voice-overs. Caught in a nuclear blast, Tor is transformed into the beast, and kills naive idiots who go wandering into Yucca Flats. There's a subplot involving the KGB, and look for Conrad Brooks in a small role. The opening scene reminded me of "Blood Feast" (a woman getting out of the shower is killed and raped by a brute). For those who have seen this film, I could swear that the woman's nipple is plainly visible (remember, this was 1961), and the rape scene struck me as graphic for the time.
"The Terror" - Corman's famous PD quickie. Stars Jack Nicholson and Karloff.

"Revolt of the Zombies" - Nowhere near as exciting as the title suggests. WWI commandos go in search of a potion that gives life to zombies, in order to create an invincible army. Too much romantic subplot and not enough horror action. Strangely, the zombies in this film are Asian (Cambodian).
"Dead Men Walk" - I recall seeing ads for this film in my old '70s catalogs of Super 8 film reels, so I was looking forward to this and it did not disappoint. George Zucco plays twin brothers, one of whom is a Satan-worshiping vampire who returns from the dead with the aid of his servant (Dwight "Dracula" Frye). Ancient spell books, vampirism, and great satanic dialogue make this a don't miss for horror fans.
"The Mad Monster" - Zucco again, this time paired with Glenn Strange as the monster. Zucco is a mad doctor who creates a potion that turns men into werewolves, intent on starting an army of the fearsome creatures. Strange plays Pedro, a retarded manservant (who reminded me of "Lenny" in "Of Mice and Men") who the doctor injects with the serum, though he doesn't know he turns into a werewolf (who wears overalls). When transformed, the werewolf is let loose to kill local villagers (even a little girl), and eventually the doctor uses Pedro to kill his skeptical medical colleagues in the city. Great fun.
"The Giant Gila Monster" - Another fun giant creature on the loose movie. Even as a kid, I didn't appreciate giant monsters that were actually real lizards/bugs photographed to look huge. If you can get past that, you may enjoy other elements to the story such as the hot rods and a cool, gospel-crooning hero. The boxed set actually misspells the title (on the cover, no less!) as the "Giant Gilla Monster"!
"The Fatal Hour" - An unfortunate non-horror film starring Karloff playing "famous" Chinese detective Mr. Wong (Monogram's attempt to compete with 20th Century Fox's popular Charlie Chan). Tolerable only if you enjoy murder mysteries or Karloff, who you'd never know is supposed to be Chinese except through close-ups or viavexplanitory dialogue. A big-mouthed, bickering police detective is a highlight.
"Maniac" - Famous in the vein of "Reefer Madness", this is an incredible film from 1934(!) that truly set the standards for cult films to follow! Bad acting, cat-eye eating, drug-induced madness, cold-blooded murder, several topless scenes(!), and footage from "Witchcraft Through the Ages" and "Siegfried". The credits state "Phyllis Diller" is in it, but believe it or not it's a different actress than the famous comedienne!
"Metropolis" - Better suited for a sci-fi compilation than horror, this classic is one I've seen many times before.

"The Vampire Bat" - An interesting curiosity starring Fay Wray, Lionel Atwill, Dwight Frye and Melvyn Douglas (what a cast!). A vampire (or bat?) is loose in a German village, and the townsfolk are getting nervous. Luscious, moody B&W photography, and Frye, as always, is a hoot.
"The Ape" - Karloff in one of his lesser efforts. Seen it before.

"The Monster Maker" - A strange film with J. Carrol Naish playing an evil swindler masquerading as a doctor who is obsessed with a woman who's a dead ringer for his late wife. When the woman will not return his advances, he goes after her father, a concert pianist, and infects him with the rare disease Acromegaly, and is horribly disfigured. Being that Naish is the "doctor" who knows most about the condition, the father is referred to him, with Naish his only chance to return to normal. The make-up is very good. Normally, in the '40s one typically saw monsters, not real humans with grotesque medical conditions.
"The Killer Shrews" - Though lambasted by bad movie junkies, this one isn't as bad as you may have been led to believe. Sure, they're dogs with fake hair and teeth masquerading as "shrews", but they're scary - and they're a lot of them! The cast is good for this type of film: James Best (Roscoe P. Coltrane) plays the hero, with Fess Parker (also the producer) playing the bad guy who makes the situation more difficult. A big letdown is the dull house they're all holed up in - a little more atmosphere would have added more menace.
"The Brain that Wouldn't Die" - A bad movie classic! Seen is many times before.

"King of the Zombies" - Seen before. A good watch.

"Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde" - The silent John Barrymore version. Seen it before. Another boxed set misspelling: "Jeckyll"!

"Bluebeard" - John Carradine plays a serial killer. Seen it before on TCM.

"The Corpse Vanishes" - A great, fun horror film! Bela Lugosi plays a letch who poisons and kidnaps brides (on their wedding day) and takes them to his wife to restore her youth and beauty. A nosy female reporter connects the clues and spoils the morbid fun. With secret passages, a loony wife, poisoned orchids, and a brute servant.

"Night of the Living Dead" - Need I write more?

"Doomed to Die" - Another Mr. Wong (sounds like a porn film) movie with Karloff, much more polished than "The Fatal Hour". This time Wong's out (heh-heh) to solve the murder of a shipping magistrate. For Karloff fans only.
"The Phantom of the Opera" - Lon Chaney's classic and one I've seen many times.

"The Indestructible Man" - Anyone remember this one on Creature Feature? Lon Chaney Jr. plays "The Butcher", who's sentenced to death and brought back to life by a mad doctor. His finds himself indestructible after his resurrection (bullets and knives don't phase him) and goes after a trio of double-crossers who put him in the lockup. Chaney is great (there's lots of close-ups of his eyes), but if you're looking for him as a monster - forget it - he appears as a man throughout most of the movie, except when his face is burned by a flame thrower at the end.
"The Hunchback of Notre Dame" - Lon Chaney's classic and one I've seen many times.

"Nosferatu" - Seen many times.

"Swamp Women" - Directed by Corman and one of the few color films in the collection. Actually, it looks like it was shot in Super 8! I wonder if a good print still exists of this film. It would be nice to see this with vivid colors. I believe this is my second time around watching "Swamp Women" - it's a great exploitation film. A group of female convicts escape into the bayous of Louisiana looking for diamonds. The hellions kidnap a couple in love, and use them as leverage. Stars Beverly Garland and Michael Connors (Mannix). Features an alligator attack, lots of gun and knife play, a rattlesnake encounter, double-crossing, seduction, and Mardi Gras footage.
"The World Gone Mad" - A non-horror movie I did not watch.

Though not the biggest fan of 1940's horror, I found most of the films to be entertaining and atmospheric. To be continued.

Peter Boyle is Gone
"Young Frankenstein" fans everywhere are mourning the loss of Peter Boyle, who died a few days ago. Here's to the actor who put a new spin on "Puttin' on the Ritz" and made the '70s that much more fun and memorable.

"Oddservations" is ©2006 by Andy Lalino.  The Oddservations banner is a creation of Andy Lalino. All other graphics are creations of Nolan B. Canova.  All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2006 by Nolan B. Canova.