Archive for the Lost Classics Category

The Prowler (1981)

Posted in Lost Classics on December 28, 2009 by jamesdunn81

Wow, talk about being an all out stalk and kill flick. The Prowler just proves my point that 1981 had some of the best horror flicks of the 80’s. If nothing else, I would say 1981 is the best year of the 80’s for the genre (I was also born in 81 which also adds to it being the best year of the decade.) Rivaled only by The Burning, Tom Savinis work in this flick just proves how much he really was one of the top FX artist of that decade.

Opening with stock footage of American soldiers returning home after WWII, The Prowler is one of the rare slasher films that begins with the murders that inspired the legend instead of a spirited recap told around the campfire (see Friday The 13th Pt 2, Madman, The Burning). After receiving a “Dear John” letter while fighting overseas, the camouflage clad antagonist returns home to exact revenge on his unfaithful girlfriend. Finding Rosemary and her new beau skipping out on their graduation soiree to do some seaside face sucking, “The Prowler” swiftly dispatches the embracing couple with a brutal pitchfork impaling through both of their torsos. He then stomps his foot onto the base of the fork, further slamming the spiked prongs into the bodies of his love and her lover.

What makes these sequences all the more frightening is the attention to detail. As one unfortunate partygoer is stabbed through the top of the skull, “The Prowler” holds his hand over the boy’s mouth as blood pours down his face, his body rattles in a disturbing fashion and his eyes roll deep into his head. We linger with the killing for nearly a minute and it’s hard not to feel a bit nauseous after seeing Savini’s unsettling work.

Joseph Zito’s direction also helps add to the eerie atmosphere, showing “The Prowler” in shadows and darkness, never giving us a close look at the face of this mysterious night stalker. His work is also quite professional and this feature would springboard him into the director’s chair for two other stellar exploitation pictures, Friday The 13th Pt 4: The Final Chapter and Invasion U.S.A (Chuck Norris!)

This flick at the top of the slasher genre, boasting shocking kills, creepy campus settings and a wholly believable lead. Those interested in the genre would be hard-pressed to find a better example released after 1980. If you watch this film and want a good follow up, consider doing a double header with The Prowler and Madman.

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The Satanic Rites of Dracula (1973)

Posted in Lost Classics on December 25, 2009 by jamesdunn81

Rounding out our week of Hammer Horror flicks, which, has become two weeks thanks to my fucking computer, is none other than my other Dracula movie which stands atop the top of the mountain which is Hammer Horror, The Satanic Rites of Dracula.

In an isolated country mansion, a group of robed and hooded men gather around an altar to celebrate a black rite: one involving a cockerel, a naked young woman and a chalice full of blood. What makes these men unique is not just their occult devotion, but their central positions in the halls of wealth and power. In them, Dracula has found the perfect vehicles for his latest plot. Only this time, he is after more than just vengeance on his old foes, the Van Helsing clan. This time Dracula is set to destroy all humanity…dunt dunt dunt!

The second of Hammer’s Dracula movies to have a modern setting, The Satanic Rites of Dracula is a direct sequel to the previous year’s Dracula A.D. 1972 (which because of certain events the past week, I didnt get around to it.). Peter Cushing reprises his role as Lorimer Van Helsing, a university professor, expert on the occult, and possibly a descendant of one or more Van Helsings from previous Hammer movies. His plucky granddaughter Jessica also reappears, portrayed this time by Joanna Lumley. This time round, Jessica has shed her hippie ways and become a good deal more serious, presumably due to her brush with evil in the previous film.

With this being the only other “modern” Hammer horror film along side Dracula A.D. 1972, I was really hoping they made more films. Well, as it turns out Hammer horror is back! Christopher Lee will be returning to the company that made him a household name in a new film called The Resident due out sometime next year. I could not be more thrilled!

Horror of Dracula (1958)

Posted in Lost Classics on December 25, 2009 by jamesdunn81

Before we start off talking about one of my favorite Hammer horror films, I just want to apologize to everyone for the lack of updates the past week. We recently had out computer crash on us and had to replace it. So, with that being said we are back up and running and here will continue to provide stellar titles and podcasts. Now enough with the small talk, lets get down to business.

Without a doubt, 1958’s Dracula is the Granddaddy of Hammer Horror. Changed to Horror of Dracula for the US release (to prevent confusion as Bela Lugosi’s Dracula was still playing in the theaters, which is still Karens favorite), this film put Hammer on the map. This is still to date, along with The Satanic rites of Dracula as my all time favorite Hammer Horror film. Bottom line…Lee vs Cushing is fucking awesome!

Terence Fisher, the undisputed god of British horror, directs the film. From a directorial stand point, this film is literally flawless. And I’m jaded and bitter, so that means something. Terence’s camera angles have never been better. Every single shot of Chris Lee is absolutely menacing in the most deliciously subtle way. It is this subtlety that gives this film its creepiness. Even if you’re just a casual fan, you can not help getting sucked into the atmosphere that this film creates. This film sets the bar high in the “mood” department and Hammer Films never met this standard again (with the possible exception of The Satanic Rites of Dracula).

Horror of Dracula is one of those horror gems that come around once in a lifetime… or at least as many times as Lee decides to wear a cape. Yet, this will always be the film that cut Hammer’s teeth (no pun intended. Eh, all right, it was), and it is the best of the best. Bloody, erotic, and absolutely mesmerizing, this film needs to be viewed at least once a year.

Kiss of the Vampire (1963)

Posted in Lost Classics on December 15, 2009 by jamesdunn81

Hammer Film’s Kiss of the Vampire is a classic of the genre. Released in the early 60’s during the tons of vampire films in the wake of Hammer’s hugely successful 1958 version of Dracula starring Christopher Lee, gives it the characteristically Hammer atmosphere between the more popular Universal horror of the 30’s and 40’s and the more intimate, in your face brand of the 70’s and beyond.

Kiss of the Vampire begins strongly. The first thing we see is a funeral procession. Both the direction and cinematography in the opening are absolutely stunning. Sharp manages to show an activity that we’ve seen in at least 200 other horror flicks from a completely fresh angle. He also takes his time, giving the funeral more emotional weight, even at such an early point in the film; we don’t even know who any of the characters are yet. Alan Hume’s camera work conveys a very deep three-dimensional setting, and manages to be beautiful, cold and bleak at the same time. Our first glimpse of Professor Zimmer, elevated and at a distance from the funeral party, is haunting, and equally effective is the shock of his next action, which results in an amazingly red pool of blood. Which is how I would kill vampires if I was a vampire hunter. Crush them in the coffin while other are watching.

As a Hammer film, Kiss of the Vampire contains almost no gore (except for that pool of blood that I mentioned from the first scene). It also characteristically moves much slower, than most younger genre fans will be accustomed to. These aren’t flaws, of course, but just warnings to those of you whose horror experience to this point consists mainly of Scream, Evil Dead and Texas Chainsaw Massacre that you need to adjust your settings, and maybe lay off the sugar  and the mountain dew a bit, before you sit down to watch the classic films of this and earlier eras.

Phantom of the Opera (1962)

Posted in Lost Classics on December 14, 2009 by jamesdunn81

So the first movie to kick off our week of all things Hammer Horror is The Phantom of the Opera. People have said this is one of the most revered classics out of the Hammer Line. While I agree that it does have its place, it really isn’t the best. My personal favorite like I have said before, is the Horror of Dracula, which we will save for later on in the week.

There’s no use adding a summary for a movie I really hope most of you have already seen the story in some form or another(if not, for shame!), as Hammer didn’t deviate much from the traditional Phantom plot that we’ve all come to know and love. This isn’t to say that this version is simply a rehash of what came before. The origin of the Phantom is brand new. Revealing the origin would ruin the mystery for most people, so I will just say that Hammer moves away from the “deformed freak full of rage” as seen in most versions of the Phantom, and instead gives him an intrinsically human quality. This made it easier to sympathize with him (for almost any classic horror monster to work, there has to be some level of sympathy), and it worked very well in the film. Also, the origin actually gives a really good reason for the Phantom to be haunting the Opera in the first place instead of the “oh, him? He’s always been there.” tactic that most versions have used. That just made you more emotionally invested in both him and the story, which makes it one of the better versions of the tale ever told. But as far as it being the “best” Hammer film or even the “best” Terence Fisher film? I will let you decide.

The main reason the Phantom’s backstory works so well is due to Terence Fisher. He drops subtle clues early on indicating that the Phantom holds a deeper secret than what is being revealed. As the movie progresses, more and more clues are revealed, but he leaves the “big bang” for the climax. This formula never seems to fail when Fisher is behind the wheel. A good comparison would be to Hammer’s Captain Clegg, in which the audience know there is something more to the story than what is occurring, and it is this suspicion that keeps the audience’s attention. I dare say Phantom does it better, because the secret is more subtle. Whereas Captain Clegg is just a series of random scenes that you have to “wait and see how they connect,” Phantom leaves you with the feeling that there COULD be a deeper secret, but it is entirely possible that there isn’t. This subtlety is not often seen in Hammer, but when it’s done, it’s often done to perfection.

The Phantom of the Opera is a Hammer classic that will be enjoyed by all those who love Hammer or classic horror monsters. But like most enjoyable Hammer films, it has flaws that can hardly be ignored, which makes it undeserving of the pedestal it is given. Go in with high expectations, as it will surely meet them. Just don’t go in thinking this is “the” quintessential Hammer experience, as you’ll be setting yourself up to be disappointed.

The Brides of Dracula (1960)

Posted in Lost Classics on December 13, 2009 by jamesdunn81

Let me start by saying this, not all Hammer Horror films are great. There are a couple that people know off the top of their heads and when people think about Hammer Horror they immediately think of Christopher Lee as Dracula, which is great don’t get me wrong. Horror of Dracula is probably one of my favorite Hammer Horror film, but to me Peter Cushing trumps Christopher Lee in spades. Enough with the gab. Here is how The Brides of Dracula awesomely plays out.

Marianne (Yvonne Monlaur)is on her way to a boarding school to become a teacher. After entering a small inn, the barkeep warns her to not travel alone, and to quickly return to her coach. Unfortunately for Marianne, the coach leaves without her, and she is forced to stay at the in. After being offered food, and a ride to another place that she could stay, the Baroness Meinster (Martita Hunt) enters, welcomes young Marianne to spend the night in Castle Meinster where she resides alone, and promises to get her to her school early in the morning.

Upon arriving at the castle, Marianne ventures to the balcony adjacent to her room, where she sees a young man across the courtyard on his own balcony. She questions Baroness Meinster about him, and is told that he is her son, the Baron Meinster (David Peel) and he remains on that side of the house, as he is mad, and has embarrassed her so that she cannot have any more guests or parties in her castle. In a subtle sort of way, she is given a warning, not to enter the Baron’s half of the house, but what kind of a movie would it be, if she followed the rules? After waking up in the middle of the night, she sees the Baron on his balcony, and thinking he is going to throw himself off of it, she rushes down the stairs and into his part of the house. What she finds is the Baron, chained to the wall, where he asks her to get the key from his mother’s room, and help set him free. Apparently, he is the heir to most of Transylvania, and his mother’s jealousy forced her to keep him locked up, encouraging the rumor floating around the town that her son is dead.

Needless to say, Marianne helps set the Baron free, setting the movie in motion. After the Baron confronts his mother, and they leave, Marianne gets dressed and returns to his room. There she finds Greta (Freda Jackson) the maid, laughing hysterically, seemingly mad now that the Baron has escaped. Marianne discovers that the Baroness is dead, and takes off, running blindly into the woods all night and into the early morning, where she collapses from exhaustion. Shortly thereafter, a coach rolls by, containing the infamous Dr. Van Helsing (Peter Cushing) who is still on a quest to rid Transylvania of all vampires. After Marianne tells Van Helsing of what happened to her the night before, we find out that the town’s priest has already summoned Van Helsing, to investigate the strange happenings in the town.

Hammer films are known for having a limited budget, but the amount of effort that went into making this picture is phenomenal. Visually, it is nothing short of a stunning masterpiece. Filmed on some truly amazing locations, both night and day, the movie looks spectacular. For a film that is nearly 50 years old to look this much better than half of the movies today, CGI included, really says something. Please do yourself a favor and check out this movie….if not for me, do it for Peter Cushing. (The man was in Shock Waves for Pete’s sake)

Five Across the Eyes (2006)

Posted in Lost Classics on November 26, 2009 by jamesdunn81

I wish more indie flicks like these made the rounds at conventions and whatnot. One thing about Five Across The Eyes that really got to me was how simple it looked, and I don’t mean that in a bad way. It was a flick I herd allot about through DreadCentral.com and Rue-Morgue.com. So you know me, I will always take the bait (majority of the time) I hear on something talked about enough. I wouldn’t say this is a great movie, or a classic, but the reason I’m posting this on our site is to show people you don’t need a million dollar budget to make a scary film. All you need is someone with a vision or direction. For that reason, Five Across The Eyes succeeds where allot of other films with way more money and high level actors have failed. In short, I think it would of been better as a cut down 15min -20min youtube film, but I still enjoyed it for what it was.

Five teenage girls find themselves hopelessly lost after taking a detour on their night-time drive back from a high school football game. They see salvation in the form of a still-open store where they get the directions they were after and a lot more besides. After accidentally bumping into an unattended SUV, the girls speed off into the night rather than report what they have done and face any consequences. But those consequences are coming their way anyway courtesy of the unhinged female driver of said vehicle who gives chase and over the course of the next hour or so, changes the girls’ lives forever.

Based on a script written by co-director Greg Swinson’s high school friend Marshall Hicks, at the time aptly called Chased, the material was knocked into a shape that would be workable for a movie costing just $4,000. With a cast of non-actors, Swinson and co-director Ryan Thiessen, armed with just a couple of cameras, shot the movie over nine long days in June 2005 in Morristown, Tennessee, the same town that The Evil Dead was shot back in 1981.

It’s flicks like these that will once in a while let you know you don’t need a ton of money or to be fucking funded by the god damn Weinstein Brothers. All you need is a location, some no name actors, some blood…well allot of blood, and a camera.