Fear in the Night (1972)

One from the to watch pile…

Fear in the Night (1972)

Film: It seems to me that every time I reach a point where I think I have seen every Hammer film, ten more that I haven’t seen pop up. The best thing about these films is in general the reason I didn’t know about them is because I was a ravenous lover of Hammer’s monster movies, like the Frankensteins and the Draculas, but a lot of these thrillers and real fun and a great watch.

This film, Fear in the Night, is directed by one of the real creative forces of Hammer, Jimmy Sangster, who also directed Lust for the Vampire and The Horror Of Frankenstein. Being a prolific writer of Hammer films, he do-wrote this screenplay with Michael Syson, who also wrote the 1979 western, Eagle’s Wing.

Fear in the Night is a thriller starring Judy Geeson as Peggy Heller, a newly wed who is packing her things from the sharehouse she lives in so she can go with her new husband, Robert (Ralph Bates) at the boys boarding school where he is employed as a maths teacher.

On this night, though, she is attacked by a man with only one arm, and as she is someone with a history of mental issues, she is not immediately believed though the police are called and a report made.

She travels to the school where she finds it abandoned, as it is apparently end of term, and meets the headmaster, Michael Carmichael (Peter Cushing) and his wife, Molly (Joan Collins). Molly is immediately hostile towards Peggy, but Robert explains that she is apparently a bitch to everyone. Michael is a calm, studious type… WITH ONLY ONE ARM!!!!


Is Michael the man who attacked her, or is there a highly detailed plot involving misdirection leading to MURDER?

Well obviously there is, this is a Hammer film for goodness sake!!

This is a beautifully shot film, with some cool cinematic subtleties throughout, for example, Geeson’s costuming changes as her state of mind becomes fractured.

Considering Geeson basically holds the film single-handedly, she is perfect for the role. Girl next door pretty and with a tragic demeanour she nails this mentally-unstable waif brilliantly. That’s not to disparage the others: Collins plays perfect bitch, Bates plays perfect cad and Cushing? Well, Cushing is Cushing, and what else would you want?

All in all, it’s a quality Hammer Horror thriller, but it telegraphs most of its surprises quite early, and whilst the pay-off works, the epilogue is somewhat lacklustre.

Score: ***1/2

Format: This film was reviewed on the Australian, region B Bluray which runs for 94 minutes and is presented in a clear 1.66:1 image with a matching Dolby DTS-HD audio track.

Score: ****

Extras: There is not a great deal of extras on this, but what there is is quality.

End of Term: Inside Fear in the Night has various film experts from the UK like Jonathon Rigby, who wrote the amazing Euro Gothic, Alan Barnes, co-author of The Hammer Story, Kevin Lyons, the editor of eofftv.com and cultural historian John J. Johnston talking about the history and providence of the film. The only problem with this extra is it only goes for just over 15 minutes!

There is also a trailer for the film.

Score: ***

WISIA: Once the well-telegraphed twist is revealed, it doesn’t really lend itself to repeat watching.

Torture Garden (1967) Review

One from the to watch pile…
Torture Garden (1967)

Australian Bluray cover to Torture Garden

Film: I’ve always loved anthology films. I probably started with ones in the eighties, like Creepshow, Twilight Zone, Tales of the Darkside and Cat’s Eye, but have since gone back and explored older ones too, like Dr Terror’s House of Horrors and other films of its generation and style. These all seemingly have their origins in EC’s horror comics, and most of the wear their influences well no truly on their sleeves… hell, some are even BASED on those very same comics, like 72’s Tales from the Crypt, and the TV show of the same name.

It’s amazing how most anthologies are horror movies too, as realistically, good horror is like a good joke: everything works to a payoff that’s over the top or unexpected. Horror films are more a long, well articulated anecdote, whereas a good horror anthology is a bunch of riddles, usually, but not always, strung together by a host of some sort, who acts as a kind of comedian sharing his laughs.

This film, Amicus’s Torture Garden fits cleanly into that category. It’s got some great pedigree too: directed by Freddie Francis, who previously directed the aforementioned Dr Terror’s House of Horrors and Tales from the Crypt, not to mention The Deadly Bees and The Skull! Just to round off that level of pedigree is that it was written by Robert Bloch, writer of The Skull, The House that Dripped Blood, no most importantly, Psycho!

Welcome to the Torture Garden, the most horrible house of horrors at the circus, where Dr. Diabolo (Burgess Meredith) will show you the horrors that mankind has subjected itself to with his display of various torture devices… but for an extra five pound, he’ll show you something even more special.

Burgess Meredith as Dr. Diabolo

In his back room, he has a fortune-telling dummy, Atropos, which has the appearance of a gypsy woman (Clytie Jessop) holding shears, and when you look into your reflection in the shears, your future will be told… your terrible, horrifying future.

Watch the futures of a murderous man, Colin (Michael Bryant) possessed by a cat to commit evil; an aspiring actress, Carla (Beverly Adams) who’ll do ANYTHING to become successful at her craft; pianist Leo (John Standing) who’s relationship with a young lady is threatened by jealousy from an unusual source and finally, Ronald Wyatt (Jack Palance), and Edgar Allen Poe collector desperate to see the secrets of a competitor, Lancelot Canning’s (Peter Cushing), collection.

Living doll Beverly Adams!

It’s a fun collection of tales, as mention above, written in that very deliberate style of the EC comics and their ilk. It’s a slow set up to each tale, with a satisfying, though not always surprising ending… you know those times you know the answer to a joke but you go along with it anyway, well this is like that.

It features a solid cast though, with some enjoyable performances and seeing greats like Meredith, Cushing and Palance together is a great treat, but in a world where things like Creepshow and Tales of the Darkside exist, it’s not one of the great anthologies, and this may have something to do with the pacing as the stories are all actually quite interesting.

Score: ***1/2

Torture Garden Bluray menu screen

Format: This Australian region B bluray runs for approximately 96 minutes and it’s presented is a clear, but not fantastic, 16:9 image with an excellent Dolby 5.1 audio track. There is a very occasional artefact, but they are rare.

Score: ****

Extras: No extra for you!

Score: 0

WISIA: If I feel like watching an anthology horror film I’ll probably watch something else before this, but I may watch it again.

Jack Palance and Peter Cushing… acting pedigree!

Shock Waves (1976) Review

One from the re watch pile…
Shock Waves (1976)

The cover to Blue Underground’s release of Shock Waves

Film: If you’ve watched any of my YouTube videos you may have come across one where I describe and display my favourite coloured vinyl soundtracks. Now, I have a fairly extensive vinyl collection and almost 1/3 of it is movie soundtracks, either traditional bombastic orchestral ones like Star Wars and Superman, or ‘pop’ music ones like Scott Pilgrim Vs The World and Straight Outta Compton, but a lot of them are synthesiser based, very Lo-fi ‘synth-wave’ styled scores which delicately and intimately build a tone in the film that may not be there normally if you were just to take the visuals into account.  

Recently, I picked up an amazing copy of the score to the 1976 film Shock Waves, released by Waxwork Records who have produced some stunning soundtracks on vinyl… seriously, if you like records, check these guys out.

Richard Einhorn created the soundtrack to this film and it just sits perfectly with in the visual narrative, but what is that narrative? Well…

A young woman, Rose (Brooke Adams) is found floating in a rowboat, delirious and dehydrated and with a horrible tale to tell.

Shock Waves: Brooke Adams wonders what’s happening to the sky.

The tale tells of her and three other passengers on a boat trip when the boat, a troublesome vessel anyways, runs aground after almost colliding with another, abandoned boat. The next day, the two crew members get concerned due to the disappearance of the Captain, Ben Morris (John Carradine).

They get to shore of what appears to be a desert island, when very quickly they discover it has several inhabitants. One is a crazy old Nazi SS Commander (Peter Cushing) and the other is a group of NAZI ZOMBIES HELL-BENT ON THEIR DESTRUCTION.

Synth, Cushing, Carradine, Nazi zombies and Brooke Adams (who has been seen in several movies of this era, such as Invasion of the Body Snatchers and Murders in the Rue Morgue) makes for a pleasurable viewing experience. It’s not a perfect film, lord no, but it has enough going for it to make it a solid watch.

Shock Waves: Peter Cushing as the SS Commander

A special mention has to be made of the actually Nazi Zombies themselves. The actors are under some serious make up to make them look ‘zombified’ and the costumes are efficient looking Nazi ones, but the real talent comes from the underwater scenes with them in it. They don’t look like they are holding their breath, they don’t take a deep breath when they surface and there is a disturbing comfort they appear to have with just walking along the ocean floor. Really creepy.

It’s a traditional ‘unstoppable horror versus plain old humans’ but the addition of Cushing and Carradine gives it some horror cache, and it soundtrack makes it creepier than it probably is!

Score: ****

Format: This review was done with the AmericanBlue Underground release on DVD which runs for about 84 minutes and is presented in a below average and artefact filled 1.85:1 visual with a slightly above average 2.0 soundtrack.

Shock Waves DVD menu screen

Score: **1/2

Extras: A nice selection of extras on this disc. From Flipper to Shock waves is an interview with Luke Halpin who plays Keith, one of the crew who acts as the ‘hero’ of the piece. He was also a member of the cast of the 60s Flipper TV show, hence the title!

A pretty cool commentary also features on this disc, starring director Ken Wiederhorn, special effects artist Alan Ormsby and filmmaker Fred Olen Ray. It’s an informative and interesting commentary.

We also have a bunch of promo material including the trailer, TV spot, two radio spots and 

Score: ****

WISIA: It’s a fun 70s flick, so yeah, it’s a rewatcher for sure!

Nazi Zombies rise from the depths!

The Brides of Dracula (1960) Review

One from the to watch pile…
Brides of Dracula (1960)

The Australian bluray release of The Brides of Dracula

Film: I have always been a champion of Hammer Horror films. I prefer them over the Universal ones just because in general I find them more compelling; still melodramatic, but more compelling.

This film, The Brides of Dracula, stands out in amongst Hammer’s Dracula films for the sole reason that it doesn’t feature Dracula in it at all. Sure there is a vampire with a bevy of evil she-demons at his hand, but no actual Count Dracula! 

Don’t worry though, Van Helsing still turns up!

The Brides of Dracula: Peter Cushing as Van Helsing

Schoolteacher Marianne Danielle (Yvonne Monlaur) has found herself abandoned by her horseman in a small town whilst on her way to her new post at a school for young ladies. Baroness Meinster (Martita Hunt) offers to take her in overnight seeing as how the local boarding house has no rooms available.

The problem with the Baroness’ manor though is that she has her son, Baron Meinster (David Peel) chained up in a room. Marianne takes pity on his interment and steals a key so that he may be freed, but then she finds the horrible truth about the baron… he is a vampire!

She runs away from the castle, only to be luckily found by a certain Dr Van Helsing (Peter Cushing), who is continuing his journey across Europe, executing the undead wherever he finds them.

Even though the slick of this Bluray claims that this film has ‘some of the best acting, photography and period detail of the Hammer Dracula series’, I honestly don’t see it. I found it to be staged, melodramatic and overwrought and difficult to remain engaged with it.

The whole process of the story seems to take far to long to sell to the viewer, and unfortunately, I didn’t find Peel’s vampire to be very threatening at all. In actual fact, he appears more like Rocky from The Rocky Horror Picture Show than a threatening undead figure.

The Brides of Dracula: David Peel as Baron Meinster

The film has several examples of Hammer glamour in it though. Yvonne Monlaur is exquisitely beautiful, and is juxtaposed nicely by Andree Melly’s unusual fairy-ish looks.

One weird thing I notice about this film is the soundtrack’ I almost get a Friday the 13th vibe off it. It’s possibly just me, but I just hear elements of the score in there.

All in all it’s not an awful film, it’s just somewhat of a trial to get through.

Score: **

Format: This film was reviewed on the Australian region B bluray release which runs for approximately 85 minutes. The 16×9 image is bright but grainy (with an odd artefact) to the point of distraction. The Dolby Digital 2.0 audio is pretty good though.

Score: **

Extras: Only a trailer for the film.

Score: *

WISIA: The film is extraordinarily slow and the 85 minutes it runs for feels like 3 days, and I won’t have 3 days to waste ever again.

The Brides of Dracula: Yvonne Monlaur as Marianne

The Gorgon (1964) Review

One from the to watch pile…
The Gorgon (1964)

The cover of the Australian Bluray of The Gorgon

Film: Hammer horror films are some of my favourite horror films, and I have been a champion of them for many years, even to the point I once had a letter published in an early issue of Kitbuilders Magazine wondering why there were hundreds of Universal Horror characters available in model kit form, but Hammer horror characters didn’t seem to get much respect from those in the ‘kitbashing’ and resin model kit hobby.

Thankfully those days are gone and those still in that hobby, of which I am no longer one (due mainly to time restraints), have many Hammer characters to choose from.. and perhaps I like to think I may have had a small part in that.

The Gorgon: Peter Cushing as Dr. Namaroff

These films have had us see heaps of exposure to wonderful actors like Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing and Michael Ripper and their female counterparts, the so-called Hammer Glamour set, such as Caroline Monroe, Stephanie Beacham and Madeline Smith. The most famous of their films were about Dracula, or Frankenstein, but their forays into other creatures, like zombies, in The Plague of Zombies, or lizard-women, like in The Reptile were also occasionally incredibly entertaining.

Which leads us to this film, The Gorgon.

Paul Heinz (Richard Pasco) has travelled to a small village to investigate the death of his father, Professor Jules Heinz (Michael Goodliffe) and his brother, Bruno (Jeremy Longhurst), who apparently killed himself after murdering his pregnant girlfriend.

The doctor who pronounced them both dead, Dr. Namaroff (Peter Cushing) seems to be hiding something from Paul’s investigation though, which may or may not involve his assistant, Carla (Barbara Shelley), and legends of the mythical Gorgon, Megaera, keep turning up in conversation.

Thankfully, Paul’s mentor, Professor Karl Meister (Christopher Lee) turns up to assist, but can they solve the mystery before either one of them get… ahem… stoned?

The Gorgon: Patrick Troighton and Christopher Lee

Immediately this film is notable as it has Lee and Cushing in it, so Hammer fans should sit up and take notice, and the performances of all concerned are melodramatic, as one would expect. Special note should be made that this film also features second Doctor Who Patrick Troughton as the chief of police, and Prudence Hyman, who starred in other Hammer films like The Witches and Rasputin The Mad Monk. Hammer direction stalwart Terrance Fischer uses his talent to create some great sequences, but the joy stops there.

The story was written by one time movie writer, J. Llewellyn Devine, and developed into a screenplay by yet another Hammer regular, John Gilling, a writer/ director who is possibly best known for another Hammer film, The Mummy’s Shroud. This film, from a story point of view, unfortunately, is little more than a derivative of a werewolf film, with the big mystery being WHO is the normal person who changes, and that is telegraphed so early you could turn off the film at the 20 minute mark and know the result.

That would be a shame though, as the Gorgon make-up is magnificently cheesy.

In effect, it’s not that is a bad film but from a story point of view, it’s just disastrously generic, and bereft of surprises.

Score: ***

The Gorgon Madman Bluray menu screen: no extras for you!

Format: The reviewed copy is the Australian region B bluray, which runs for approximately 1 hour and 24 minutes, and is presented in a quite clear 1.75:1 image with a decent Dolby Digital Mono audio 

Score: ***

Extras: Nothing!

Score: 0

WISIA: Tragically, this is probably a Hammer film I won’t revisit just because the story is done so much better by so many other werewolf films, even though this isn’t a werewolf film.

The Gorgon: Barbara Shelley as Carla