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Apologies in advance if these film reviews are not very inspired. I watched the films in question between about February and May of this year, and didn't take any notes about them at the time. So I'm now more or less reduced to reading the Wikipedia entries (vel. sim.) and trying to remember what I thought of them. I'm just noting down that I watched them, really.


6. House of Frankenstein (1944), dir. Erle C. Kenton

This is one of Universal's multi-monster stories, featuring Dracula, Frankenstein's monster and the Wolfman. Somewhat confusingly, Boris Karloff is in it, but not as Frankenstein's monster: Glenn Strange takes that role, while Karloff plays quasi-Frankenstein figure Dr. Gustav Niemann instead. [personal profile] lady_lugosi1313 suggested we should watch it primarily because it includes a portrayal of Dracula, here played by John Carradine in what I think is the first time I've seen him in the role. He's pretty good while he is in it, doing some nice evil seduction stuff on a young lady, but he gets killed off quite early, so that his story doesn't overlap very much with those of the other monsters (or creatures), and he doesn't get much chance to interact with them. The rest of the film was enjoyable in itself, though, with good castle sets and some dramatic deaths at the climax.


7. The Ghoul (1933), dir. T. Hayes Hunter

This is another Boris Karloff film, in which he plays a paranoid ageing Egyptologist who lives in a gloomy isolated house and is nearing death. Taking his inspiration from the rituals and beliefs of the Egyptians he has spent his life studying, he has built himself a huge neo-Egyptian tomb, complete with a statue of the god Anubis, whom he worships and believes will grant him immortality in return for the offering of a magical jewel. For a long time, the film maintains ambiguity over whether apparently supernatural events are 'real' or not: we see Karloff apparently dying, being interred in his tomb and returning as a vengeful ghoul, and the hand of the Anubis statue appearing to become animated in order to clutch the jewel. But eventually all is revealed to have non-supernatural explanations: the statue's moving hand was actually a servant reaching through a hole in order to steal the jewel, while Karloff turns out to have slipped into a cataleptic trance and then revived. Meanwhile, there is a lot of detective work dedicated to discovering what is going on, and plenty of other strange and gothic happenings. Karloff is absolutely superb in the title role and the whole film a real treasure. Definitely highly recommended.


8. Tendre Dracula (1974), dir. Pierre Grunstein

Oh my! This is one bizarre film. Peter Cushing stars as an ageing horror actor, who wants to move from horror into romance roles. Two scriptwriters are sent by their producers to his home, a crumbling chateau, to persuade him to change his mind, taking their girlfriends with them. There, increasingly bizarre things happen to them all. Is Cushing's character playing an elaborate series of jokes on them all, or is he actually somehow imbued with supernatural powers and they are in for some terrible fate? And what sort of film is this even supposed to be? The weirdest moment is when he puts one of the girls across his knee and starts spanking her, all the while continuing with his conversation as though nothing were out of the ordinary. But that moment is not actually shockingly or strikingly weird compared to what else goes on around it - it just edges slightly ahead of the pack. [personal profile] lady_lugosi1313 may have scoffed at me (perfectly fairly!) for watching Eugénie... the Story of her Journey into Perversion (LJ / DW) just because it has Christopher Lee in it, but now that I have sat beside her watching this film just because Peter Cushing was in it, I feel we are even after all.


9. The Monkey's Paw (1948), dir. Norman Lee

This is a shortish (only just over an hour) adaptation of the classic horror story by W.W. Jacobs which [personal profile] lady_lugosi1313 had recorded off the telly. The print quality was a bit smeary, but we both thought it was very good, and probably had looked pretty beautiful in its original condition. It is updated to the present day of the production, so that the son dies in a drag-car racing accident rather than at a factory, but otherwise follows the story fairly straightforwardly. There are some good working-class characterisations in it, and the sense of dread and fear as the unseen Thing knocks at the door to come in was very effective, if maybe slightly over-played.


10. The Legend of Hell House (1973), dir. John Hough

A haunted house movie starring (amongst others) Roddy McDowall, of whom I have been a great fan ever since I first saw him as Octavian in Cleopatra (1963). The premise is that a group of people made up of scientists and psychics agree to stay for a week in a haunted house where terrible events occurred twenty years earlier, in order to try to document and investigate the possibility of supernatural survival after death. Given the genre, the ghosts soon start to oblige, and given the date of production in the early '70s, many of their manifestations are distinctly sexual. That is, it's basically a load of schlocky, sexy, technicolour nonsense. However, much the the cinematography was absolutely exquisite, the score and sound effects were co-produced by Delia Derbyshire (of Doctor Who theme and the music during the resurrection ritual in Dracula AD 1972 fame), and Roddy McDowall certainly did not disappoint. He delivers a genuinely compelling performance of a character at first riddled with anxiety from his own traumas of twenty years ago, but gradually growing in strength and confidence until it is he who confronts the domineering spirit at the root of all the trouble, reveals his shameful secret and thus disempowers and exorcises him. Also includes a surprise cameo appearance from Michael Gough, who is always a bonus, although he doesn't do very much!


11. The Cars That Ate Paris (1974), dir. Peter Weir

Pretty different from the others listed here, and perhaps more accurately described as a cult film rather than a horror film. It's Australian produced and set, so I was keen to watch it partly with a view to my trip there in the summer, but also because it's a classic which I've always wanted to see anyway. It is quite Wicker Mannish in its portrayal of an outsider who finds himself alone in a deviant community, and perhaps also a little The Prisonerish as he tries to figure out what is going on, everyone reassures him that everything is absolutely fine, and he discovers that he is unable to escape. But, unlike those examples, our point-of-view character is pretty naive and lacking in confidence, while there is internal trouble within the community itself, between the ostensibly repectable mayor and his circle and a subculture of punky rebels. It is only after open violence breaks out between these two sides that the outsider character is eventually able to escape. Along the way there is a lot of tongue-in-cheek comedy about small-town / rural Australian life, and some good black humour around the horrific deeds which the townsfolk are getting up to. Far from a run-of-the-mill mainstream movie, this definitely deserves its reputation as a cult classic, and is sure to surprise more or less whatever you are expecting of it.


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