Countdown to Halloween Day 19: Monster of Piedras Blancas (1959)

0

Countdown to Halloween – Day 19: The Monster of Piedras Blancas (1959)
Cast:
      Les Tremayne as Dr. Sam Jorgenson
Don Sullivan as Fred
John Harmon as Sturges
Jeanne Carmen as Lucille

Screenplay by H. Haile Chace
Directed by Irvin Berwick

Plot: A lighthouse keeper has been feeding a mysterious creature (not quite from the Black Lagoon) and keeping it at bay for years. But when it gets hungrier, it begins to hunt and decapitate the local townspeople.

Personal Thoughts: The cast in Monster of Piedras Blancas actually do quite well for what really is a poor script. How many times do people just let the monster walk away? How could Fred really throw a rope up to the top of a lighthouse? And just what was Sturges’ plan by leading the monster up to the very top of the lighthouse? And what was up with the monster yell? One of the worst I’ve ever heard and I’ve seen a lot of these movies. Okay, these are flaws usually found in most monster B movie flicks but they really seem to stand out in this one. Not a horrible movie and I’m glad to finally own a better print but be prepared for a low-rent effort.

Trivia:
  • Les Tremayne became best known for playing Mentor in the CBS television Saturday morning series, Shazam! From 1974 – 1976.
  • Producer Jack Kevan created the monster based on his love for Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954). Having worked at Universal, he used molds of the feet from the Metaluna Mutant from This Island Earth (1957) and the hands from The Mole People (1956).
  • Despite the title of the movie, there wasn’t any location work done at the real Point Piedras Blancas. Instead, it was shot about 30 miles north in Cayucos.
  • One of the late Vince Rotolo’s (B Movie Cast podcast legend and Rondo Award winner) most favorite films, covered in episode 143. Vince also interviewed Don Sullivan way back in episode 13.

Availability: Available on an official home video release for the first time on Blu-ray from Olive Films.

Advertisements

Countdown to Halloween Day 18: From Hell It Came (1957)

0

Countdown to Halloween – Day 18: From Hell It Came (1957)
Cast: 
      Tod Andrews as Dr. William Arnold
Tina Carver as Dr. Terry Mason
John McNamara as Professor Clark
Linda Watkins as Mrs. Mae Kilgore

Story by Richard Bernstein & Jack Milner
Screenplay by Richard Bernstein
Directed by Dan Milner

Plot: Tabanga is a spirit that has been reincarnated as a killer tree stump, terrorizing a small village. It’s up to Dr. Arnold and his group to discover the secret of Tabanga and stop it before it kills again.

Personal Thoughts: What can one say about a movie with a killer tree stump? Well, to be more accurate, I guess Tabanga does grow to more than a stump. This is one of those movies that crosses the line to “so bad it’s good” status. The monster is so laughable but some of the more hilarious moments come from the actors themselves. There is the fight between native women that has some of the slowest and worst choreographed movements I’ve ever seen. The tribal chief throws a spear at Tabanga…and misses from a foot away. I’m not even sure what accent Linda Watkins was attempting and Tina Carver’s scream sounds like a bird…a horribly wounded bird. All that said, well worth watching once for the laughter alone.

Trivia:
  • Part of a double bill with another lesser-known and virtually forgotten Alison Hayes film, The Disembodied.
  • Pail Blaisdell, also known for his work on such films as Invasion of the Saucer Men and It! The Terror from Beyond Space, created Tabanga for Don Post Studios.

Availability: Available on Blu-ray from the Warner Archive Collection.

Countdown to Halloween Day 17: Half Human (1955)

2

Countdown to Halloween – Day 17: Half Human (1955)
Cast:
      Akira Takarada as Takeshi Iijima
Akemi Negishi as Chika

Written by Takeo Murata & Shigeru Kayama
Directed by Ishiro Honda

Plot: A group of mountain climbers and a local village on Mount Fuji are terrorized by a strange yeti-like creature.

Personal Thoughts: Half Human is almost like a holy grail for DVD collectors. While I always support buying legit copies of films, sometimes the bootleg market is your only option. However, even that is a gargantuan task due to the scarcity of this film. Having finally viewed it, I can say it was quite enjoyable. It does drag in a few places but the setting is unique for a Toho film and the snow creature’s design is quite good. The addition of the snow creature’s child is an interesting twist that ultimately plays a key part of the movie. There are some scenes of man-on-woman violence that are quite graphic and might be a little unsettling to watch. That said, a great cast and interesting plot make this well worth tracking down in its’ original Japanese version.

Half-Human-2

Trivia:

  • Toho has banned Half Human because of the negative depiction of villagers from Burakumin as being inbred savages.
  • Released in the United States in 1958 with much of the original Japanese footage replaced with a new American plot starring John Carradine. The end result is a poorly made film that has little resemblance to the original.

Availability: The original Japanese version remains unreleased on home video and is near impossible to find on the bootleg market. It will take patience and a master of Google Fu!

Countdown to Halloween Day 15: Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1921)

0

Countdown to Halloween – Day 15: Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1921)
Cast: 
     Werner Krauss as Dr. Caligari
Conrad Veidt as Cesare
Friedrich Feher as Francis

Written by Carl Mayer & Hans Jonowitz
Directed by Robert Weine

Plot: Dr. Caligari comes to Hostenwall for the annual fair, bringing with him his somnambulist (sleep walker) Cesare. When victims begin to turn up in this sleepy village, Francis believes that Cesare is responsible. Cesare may very well be the killer but when we see him attempt to kill Francis’ fiancée Jane, he stops and decides to kidnap her instead. What is Dr. Caligari’s role in all of this and what secrets lie within the nearby insane asylum?

Personal Thoughts: I first saw this movie years ago in a muddy public domain version. While I enjoyed it then, nothing prepared me for the absolutely stunning restoration from Kino Classics. With a tinted picture that is sharper than ever, I noticed fine details that were invisible before. The score is also beautiful, so key in enjoying a silent film. The German expressionism on display is also a visual treat that has never looked better. The story is just as engaging but has been enhanced by this recent restoration. While there are some good prints on YouTube, none have the superior score from Kino. I highly recommend you track this version down and avoid all public domain copies at all costs. The upgrade is more than worth the effort.

Cabinet-of-Dr-Caligari-3

Trivia:

  • With the strong influence of German expressionism, the sets were created for a fraction of the cost. Most were made out of paper and used a forced perspective to create the impression of a more three dimensional background.
  • One of the earliest horror films, it was remade several times but none capture the shock and overall presentation of the original.

Availability: The best version is available on DVD and Blu-ray from Kino Classics.

Countdown to Halloween Day 14: Haxan (1922)

0

Countdown to Halloween – Day 14: Haxan (1922)
Cast: 
    Maren Pedersen as The Witch
Benjamin Christensen as The Devil

Written & Directed by Benjamin Christensen

Plot: The history of witchcraft from the dawn of time through 1922 is told in a documentary-like style using actors to portray historical figures. Everything from paganism to satanic worship is covered with sometimes graphic and horrific visual representations.

Personal Thoughts: Haxan is a very intriguing look at the world of witchcraft through the eyes of a 1920s filmmaker. This is clearly part documentary and part fiction as we are seen intentionally shocking visuals that are most likely less accurate and more fantasy. However, it’s done in an engaging and entertaining way.  I loved the use of old drawings and appreciated the visual representation of demons that are almost comical by today’s standards yet were horrifying at the time this was made. Well worth watching for its’ historical significance as well as for pure entertainment.

Haxan-1

Trivia:

  • Several scenes were cut from the original release, including where a dead man’s figure is removed from his hand, a nude woman embracing the Devil and numerous scenes of torture. All of these and more have since been restored.
  • The creators of The Blair Witch Project (1999) used the title of the film for their production studio, Haxan Films.
  • In 1968, a re-edited 76-minute version was released entitled Witchcraft Through the Ages, featuring narration by William S. Burroughs and a jazz musical score by Jean-Luc Ponty.

Availability: Available on DVD as part of the Criterion Collection.

Countdown to Halloween Day 13: Weresquito Nazi Hunter (2016)

0

Countdown to Halloween – Day 13: Weresquito: Nazi Hunter (2016)
Cast:      Douglas Sidney as Cpl. John Baker
Rachel Grubb as Leisl Schmidt
James Norgard as Dr. Schramm
Michael G. Kaiser as The Weresquito

Written & Directed by Christopher R. Mihm

Plot: World War II is over but Cpl. John Baker is still experiencing a living hell thanks to the mad experiments of Nazi scientist Dr. Schramm. He has turned Baker into a creature for whenever he sees blood, he transforms into the blood-sucking Weresquito. Baker is tracking down all of the other experiments and the good doctor himself but he didn’t count on meeting Leisl.

Personal Thoughts: This is a vast departure from everything we’ve see in the Mihmiverse to date and it might be hard for some people to adjust. It is not family friendly and much darker, which unfortunately means significantly less humor. While there are still some of the usual Mihmiverse gags, such as the flashlight routine, it is a much more serious corner of the Mihmiverse. I enjoyed the movie overall but it’s just so different when you’ve come to expect more light hearted fare. That said, it is one of Christopher’s better films, just not a good starting off point for a new Mihmiverse fan.

Weresquito-2

Trivia:

  • This film directly connects to The Monster of Phantom Lake (2006) with the appearance of Michael Kaiser, which also connects it to House of Ghosts (2012), where we are introduced to his mother Ursula.
  • James Norgard manages to squeeze in his usual line of “Dear God No” with a German twist, stating “Dear God Nein” in a rather intense moment in the film’s climax.