Halloween Scene 2019!

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! That is, the time when my kids have gone back to school, the weather gets chillier and I inject unhealthy quantities of horror into my veins. Last year, I went way too big with a project that might change into something else, so this year I’m keeping it somewhat simple when it comes to the horror films, books and comics I’ll be putting in my eyeballs. Continue reading Halloween Scene 2019!

Halloween Scene: The Raven (1963) & The Tower Of London (1962)

Over the weekend I found myself in an increasingly rare place: looking for something to watch on a Saturday night. Of course, I flipped through Netflix, Amazon Video and Hulu trying to figure out what to watch, but it was a trip to my trusty DVD rack that finally helped me figure out what to put in my brain: Vincent Price flicks!

Continue reading Halloween Scene: The Raven (1963) & The Tower Of London (1962)

Halloween Scene: 2015 Horror Recap

Usually around the end of a year I take some time to go through my favorite albums of the year and I still might do that, but I also felt like looking back at my favorite horror experiences of 2015. Thanks to Netflix, the library and a gaggle of fun freelance assignments around Halloween I got to see a good mix of old and new films this year that I wanted to look back on one more time before moving on to the new year. Continue reading Halloween Scene: 2015 Horror Recap

Halloween Scene: The Tomb Of Ligeia (1964)

the-tomb-of-ligeiaLast week the weather turned gray and all I wanted to do was sit down and watch a marathon of Val Lewton, Universal Monster and Vincent Price movies. Of course, I have two small kids, so I only got to watch one of them, but it was still a great experience. A few months ago I got my hands on the excellent Scream Factory Vincent Price Collection II set and have slowly been making my way through it. As it happens, I’ve only seen a few of these movies before — House On Haunted Hill, Dr. Phibes Rides Again and Last Man On Earth — so the others have been a nice surprise, like Tomb Of Ligeia.

I knew nothing about this film going in aside from the main star, but it also happens to be directed by Roger Corman and adapts an Edgar Allen Poe story. This was Corman’s last Poe film and, instead of shooting all of it in the studio, he actually went out and used the gorgeous crumbling British abbey you can see in the film. This not only opens the world up, but also brightens it and adds a sense that everything’s about to crumble around the main characters.

The story follows Price’s Verden Fell, a widower who hangs out in a mansion next to the crumbling abbey. His dead wife Ligeia said that she would never really die, but that doesn’t stop ol’ Verden from flirting with the delightful Rowena (Elizabeth Shepherd). The two have a whirlwind relationship, that ends in marriage and a honeymoon. While away, the super-serious Verden lightens up (and even takes off the strange sunglasses he’s always wearing), but upon returning he goes back to his old, strange ways. The longer they’re in the mansion, the more Rowena realizes that it might be haunted, the pet cat is a jerk and her husband is clearly up to some craziness that most likely involves his seemingly deceased former love. All of this comes to a head at the end of the film in a delightfully crazy manner.

At 82 minutes, Ligeia moves at a quick clip and covers quite a bit of ground in a short time while also taking time to show off some beautiful scenery before returning to the darkness within the castle (and Verden). I highly recommend giving this movie your full attention if you’re going to watch because it’s very easy to miss a few key details here and there. You might think the horse riding scene or long shots of the honeymoon are going to take a while, but as soon as they lull you into wondering what’s happening on Twitter, you’ve already missed a major explanation. I rewound a few times thanks to brief distractions from my phone and am glad I did because otherwise I would have been pretty lost.

As far as the Blu-ray transfer goes, this one looks spectacular, enhanced by the real locations used to shoot about half of the film. You really get to see that abbey in all it’s creepy glory. The pops of red from the flowers and blue and purple from the candles can all be properly seen and wondered about thematically. I haven’t listened to the commentaries (one by Corman, the other by Shepherd) but I do enjoy the intros and outros that Price recorded for this and some of the other films back in the 80s. They were part of a PBS Price marathon series and the kind of awesome find that Shout/Scream Factory has become famous for in the film fan community. Kudos to them for that and for this amazing set. I hope to get my hands on the first one at some point, but am also looking forward to watching The Raven and the rest of these movies in this rad-looking format.

80s Odyssey: Dead Heat (1988) & Order Of The Black Eagle (1987)

dead heatDead Heat is the kind of movie I should have already seen. On one hand, it’s exactly the kind of movie that sounds right up my alley: a buddy cop movie involving zombies. It was also, as my buddy Sean Collins wrote about years ago, an entry in one of the many Manly Movie Mamajamas I missed (they watched this and the excellent Tango & Cash and Point Break). I’ve also heard a bunch of my friends — many of the guys that attended that MMM — talk about how crazy it is. It wasn’t until Rickey Purdin’s latest VHS Diary post that the bug finally got in my ear deep enough to get me to watch the flick on Netflix Instant. And, man, they were right, this is one wacky, kind of awesome movie.

I write a lot on UM about how I like peanut butter and chocolate movies, you know two great tastes that taste great together. I’ve got a lot of subgenres I like, but I’m an even bigger fan of movies that combine those genres successfully. For the most part, Dead Heat does just that, though it’s a little more goofy and sloppy than some of my favorite movies of the original genres.

The film follows cops Treat Williams and Joe Piscopo as they get involved with some crimes that lead them to a strange discovery: some of the perps had already been dead. This brings them to a company that has developed a way to resurrect the dead. In the process, Williams winds up dying but Piscopo and their pal the medical examiner toss him on the machine and turn him into the undead. He’s not your typical zombie right away  but as we eventually find out, he will deteriorate like his fellow formerly dead folks.

For the first half or so, it’s your basic buddy cop flick with a sci-fi/horror kick off, but then it turns into a full-on, bonkers zombie action movie. There’s this scene at a butcher shop in Chinatown that reminded me of movies like Re-Animator, Evil Dead and Dead Alive. It was insane. I don’t want to spoil it for you if you haven’t seen, just do yourself a favor and check it out if the idea of reanimated dead chickens attacking two cops sounds like your cup of tea.

But the movie’s not perfect. When I first turned it on I remember thinking, “Hey, Joe Piscopo, what happened to that guy? He was supposed to be the next big thing from Saturday Night Live in the 80s.” I know part of the explanation there is that his co-star Eddie Murphy blew up as the next big thing. He starred in Beverly Hills Cop and 48 Hours, the kinds of buddy cop flicks that I love and inspired the making of this one, clearly. But, I also didn’t get the sense that Piscopo was comfortable in the film. It wasn’t just that his character was freaked out by the fact that his pal and partner was a zombie, but that the man himself just wasn’t used to being on a film set. There’s one scene where the ME is explaining how they’re going to bring Treat back and Piscopo is just staring directly at the camera which is a general no-no.

As far as I’m concerned, though that’s a minor quibble. I still had a great time watching this movie today. It’s not like one of the best buddy cops of all time has horror elements in it, but it’s a fun attempt that I really wish I could have watched with my buddies.

order of the Black EagleI think the MMM gang would also get a kick out of Order Of The Black Eagle, a weird, wacky take on the James Bond spy flicks of the 70s and 80s. Our super spy in question this time around is Duncan Jax, played by a guy who only ever appeared in this movie and its sequel which I couldn’t find on Netflix at all. He does his best super-smooth routine, which you almost buy and then the next thing you know, he’s talking to his baboon while on a mission. The monkey is kind of a partner/valet/special friend, though he gets left behind for most of the action at the end.

The plot’s not super important to the movie aside from the fact that some Nazis were able to put Hitler in cryo freeze and they’re planning on thawing him out. Oh, there’s also something about a space age weapon, too. Jax gets sent to put a stop to this group, the titular Order of the Black Eagle, but he’s not the only one. There’s an American as well as a rag tag group of mercenaries that you can see in the trailer. I personally love how each of their specialties are put right on front street by way of their names (ie Spike throws knives!).

I didn’t give this movie as much attention as I should have, but I got the feeling that this one was more tongue in cheek than “trying to be clever and coming off as silly.” Some of the action stuff actually looked alright and I thought the scene of what wound up happening to Hitler was pretty interesting for this kind of movie.

I enjoyed this movie for its goofiness mixed with a pretty solid ending action scene. It’s the kind of thing you put on while doing stuff around the house or with a bunch of friends just looking to goof off, drink some beers and joke around about a movie. Man, if nothing else, watching these movies made me want to set up another MMM!

Quick Movie Review: Dr. Goldfoot And The Bikini Machine (1965)

I really didn’t know what I was getting myself into when I pushed play on the Netflix Instant version of Dr. Goldfoot And The Bikini Machine. I thought it was just another iteration of the AIP surf flicks I’ve enjoyed so much this summer (like Ski Party, Pajama Party and Bikini Beach), but it also happened to combine a few other favorite genres (to varying degrees of success) with some sci-fi/robot stuff going on as well as a spy motiff. Oh, and the bad guy is none other than one of my all time favorite actors Vincent Price absolutely relishing in his role as an evil mastermind. To say the man chews scenery doesn’t quite do his performance justice, he savors that ham like a world-class steak and it really makes the movie.

The plot revolves around Price’s Dr. Goldfoot creating lady-looking robots to rob wealthy men. In a precursor to Joss Whedon’s Dollhouse and The Matrix, the robots are directly programmed for the specific men they’re going after, which is a pretty rad idea seen through the prism of mid-60s sci-fi. Anyway, a couple of guys played by Frankie Avalon and Dwayne Hickman get wise to the plot and try to put a stop to it which leads first to a dungeon scene with cameos by some of their fellow AIP stars, including Annette Funicello, and then into a huge chase scene that includes boats on wheels and street cars.

It’s got all that, plus the trademark wit and thinly veiled sexual innuendo you should come to expect from the surf flicks and on top of all that it stars Price at his hammiest AND has some James Bondian moments (they this element is the weakest of the batch by far), which  makes this like the Voltron of weird subgenre movies for me. And you know what’s even crazier? It was going to be a musical originally, but those bits were cut out, though its unknown whether that was before or after filming started. Wouldn’t it be rad if someone uncovered a full print of this film with those scenes intact? I’d definitely give it another watch!

Vincent Price On The Dating Game

I found this clip on YouTube while trying to find a clip of Judd Apatow on The Dating Game which he mentioned on his episode of Inside The Actor’s Studio. It was a great episode that I recommend for any fan of his. Anyway, I read the description of this video of my favorite horror actor and fellow brother of Alpha Sigma Phi Vincent Price on The Dating Game. Now, Mr. Price wasn’t trying to get a date for himself, but was acting in the steed of Ms. X (who turned out to be actress Janit Baldwin), which meant that he was tasked with asking three suitors several bawdy questions. I’m guess it’s from 1972 because he’s constantly talking about Dr. Phibes Rises Again. I’m particularly fond of the question where Price asks how one contestant would kill the others to get to the girl. The clip might be a bit long, especially if you don’t skip through the prizes at the beginning, but there were enough giggles to keep me going. The prize? A Halloween date with Ms. Baldwin at the Magic Castle, the renowned magician club in Hollywood. I want to go to there.