Summer of Forgotten Horror – Double Door (1934)

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Summer of Forgotten Horror – Week 2: Double Door (1934)
Cast:      Mary Morris as Victoria Van Brett
Evelyn Venable as Anne Darrow
Kent Taylor as Rip Van Brett
Anne Revere as Caroline Van Brett
Colin Tapley as Dr. John Lucas

Based on the play written by Elizabeth McFadden
Written by Jack Cunningham & Gladys Lehman
Directed by Charles Vidor

Poster 1Plot: Rip Van Brett is set to marry the young and lovely Anne Darrow despite the disapproval of his sister, Victoria Van Brett. Victoria does not think Anne is worthy of her incredibly wealthy family and begins a plot to ruin their marriage. There is a big mansion, secret passages and hidden rooms lurking in the dark while murder is on the mind of a disturbed and greedy individual.

Personal Thoughts:

This is an absolutely fun and entertaining flick. Made by Paramount Pictures in 1934 and licensed to Universal, it has never been released commercially on any type of home media format. It’s based on a popular stage play that ran for over 140 performances at the Ritz Theater in New York. Lacking a good soundtrack, the film does comes across as a bit melodramatic at times, but there are some truly horrific moments towards the climax. Mary Morris is absolutely evil, being billed as the female Frankenstein of Fifth Avenue. There are even some implications of possible incest between Rip and Victoria, taboo even in the pre-code era. Definitely worth the effort to track this one down.

Poster 2Trivia:

  • The only film for actress Mary Morris. She had an impressive stage career, including originating the role of Victoria Van Brett in the stage play.
  • The film debut of Anne Revere, who also starred alongside Boris Karloff in The Devil Commands (1941) and Vincent Price in Dragonwyck (1946).
  • Director Charles Vidor was uncredited for his work on The Mask of Fu Manchu (1932).

Availability:

  • Never released commercially, it was available as a DVD-R from Creepy Classics. However, I don’t see it currently listed but you might reach out to them and see if they plan on offering it again soon. The print is good considering its age and well worth adding to your collection.
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Vincent Price Displays Love of Art in Convicts 4 (1962)

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Convicts 4 posterWhile we all can rattle off dozens upon dozens of movie titles starring the horror legends Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee and Vincent Price, it’s often within those non-horror efforts that hides a forgotten classic. It’s fun to go through their IMDB listings to discover something new. For example, a young and 27 year old Cushing starred alongside Laurel and Hardy in A Chump at Oxford (1940) and Lee was a guest star in the Boris Karloff TV series Colonel March of Scotland Yard in 1956. But Vincent Price? Well, he seemingly appeared in everything.

Price would gladly guest star on television shows such as The Bionic Woman or Love, American Style just as much as he would star in a horror flick. But Price also had a long history of starring in dramatic flicks. In 1962, he took a small role as art critic Carl Carmer in the prison film Convicts 4. This was a fictionalized account of death row convict John Resko based on his own autobiography, Reprieve: The Testament of John Resko. This was the one and only film directed by Millard Kaufman, who is better remembered for writing such classics as Bad Day at Black Rock (1955) and Gun Crazy (1950). Oddly enough, he was also a co-creator of the classic cartoon character Mr. Magoo. He also wrote the screenplay for Convicts 4.

PriceThe movie begins as convicted killer John Resko (Ben Gazzara, Anatomy of a Murder) is being prepped for the electric chair. Just before he is to die, he receives a last-minute reprieve. The movie follows his story, now serving a life sentence in prison. Gazzara turns in an amazing performance but he’s almost overshadowed by the tremendous supporting cast. Stuart Whitman (Shatter) follows Resko from working as a guard to the eventual warden at the prison. Rod Steiger (The Illustrated Man) appears briefly as the first and obviously sadistic warden Tiptoes. Ray Walston (My Favorite Martian) is wonderful as the potentially mentally imbalanced Iggy while familiar face Jack Albertson (Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory) appears as the art teacher.

However, two of the best supporting performances come from Vincent Price and Sammy Davis Jr. Price appears in only one scene as art critic Carl Cramer, clearly mimicking his own real-life passion for art. It was in the same year of 1962 that Price began his long standing relationship with Sears, launching The Vincent Price Collection of Fine Art. In the movie, Cramer is a key to convincing Resko that he has talent as an art student, which is part of a bigger effort for prison reform. Price is doing simply what he loves to do but he does it so well. And Davis appears in only a couple of scenes as well, playing inmate Wino. Not the jovial Rat Packer we remember him as, Davis could act and does so here, showing an edge we seldom got to see.Sammy

For many years, Convicts 4 remained buried in the Warner Brothers vaults but thanks to the Warner Archives burn-on-demand DVD series, it has resurfaced and is now readily available for a new generation. The movie really is quite entertaining and all of the familiar faces help make up for the limited Price on-screen time. Nonetheless, it is certainly worth tracking down. Check it out on DVD and a clip from the film on YouTube. I also highly recommend watching episode 47 of Dr. Gangrene’s Fantastic Films of Vincent Price series.

That’s it for this month’s tribute to Cushing, Lee and Price. I hope you enjoyed it. Come back in a few days as I have something special lined up for the summer of 2016 and it all begins this Friday!

Happy Birthday Kayla!

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As the saying goes, it’s my blog and I’ll write about it if I want to…or something to that effect. Today, I am not writing about some great monster flick or legendary horror actor. Rather, I am offering up birthday wishes to my daughter…my little sweet pea, Kayla!

Kayla has always been daddy’s little girl, whether it was playing Power Rangers with her brother and I on Saturday mornings or wanting to get in on the latest all-star wrestling bout in the living room. But most of all, she’s always had a love for scary movies. Imagine how proud I was when her and her brother discovered Vincent Price in House on Haunted Hill or the smile on my face when they wanted to sit down and watch Batman or The Three Stooges. Kayla and I watched Ghost Hunters for years (until we both gave up on it) and, most importantly, we’ve been watching every episode of Supernatural together since day one. We even traveled down to Dallas to meet Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki. And she loves to attend comic conventions with me, carrying my wish list and reading off issue numbers as I pour through long boxes searching for cool stuff. Yep, she’s a cool kid and I’m proud to be her father!

Happy 24th Birthday Kayla!!!Kayla Walking Dead

Dread Media – Scream and Scream Again (1970)

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Scream posterThis week on the Dread Media podcast, episode 457, I take a look at the first of the only two films that Vincent Price, Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee starred in together. However, Scream and Scream Again (1970) is a bit of a cheat considering that Cushing never appears on screen with Cushing or Lee. Furthermore, Price and Lee only have one scene together. That said, it has its moments and is worth checking out.  Watch the trailer and see if you notice anything odd, then do some shopping on Amazon for the DVD or Blu-ray versions.

There’s one more Vincent Price film coming before the month of May is done…Convicts 4 (1962)!

Christopher Lee Does Little Swashbuckling in Pirates of Blood River (1962)

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Pirates posterIf you’re wanting to make a pirate movie but you’re told that you can’t afford a ship, wouldn’t you think you might decide to make a different type of movie? Unfortunately, that didn’t stop production on a seldom-talked about non-horror effort from Hammer Film Studios called Pirates of Blood River (1962). However, by the time filming was finished, several of the cast probably wished it had never happened.

Hammer regular Jimmy Sangster had the unenviable task of writing a pirate story that had nothing to the do with the seven seas and everything to do with a swamp. So, if pirates are landlocked, are they still pirates? This movie is set entirely on the Isle of Devon, home to a group of Huguenots under the stern rule of a group of village elders imposing their moralistic views upon everyone. Break a law and you’ll be sent to the nearby penal colony, even if you’re the son of one of the elders.

Enter our hero, Jonathan Standing (Kerwin Matthews, The 7th Voyage of Sinbad), son of Jason Standing (Andrew Keir, Five Million Years to Earth). As our movie begins, Jonathan is caught having relations with a married woman. As he is held by guards, the woman runs, eventually entering a nearby swamp and being devoured by ravenous piranha. Jonathan is sentenced to the penal colony despite the obvious displeasure of the community. However, he soon escapes and runs into a group of pirates led by Captain LaRoche (Christopher Lee).

Pirates 2LaRoche is looking for a home when his men aren’t being buccaneers and Jonathan’s village is the perfect place. Once he hears its home to Huguenots, dreams of rumored fortune plays into his decision to find the village. Naturally, a confrontation occurs with the pirates eventually finding the gold and heading back to their ship with Jonathan and the villagers in hot pursuit. And let’s not forget those pesky little piranha.

Pirates of Blood River is definitely an odd entry from Hammer. It’s a pirate movie without a pirate ship (well, what we see is a long shot of stock footage) and the village rulers you hate at the beginning of the film end up being the heroes of the piece. Christopher Lee turns in an adequate performance as our pirate with support from Oliver Reed and Michael Ripper as pirates Brocaire and Mack. Kerwin Matthews is dashing as the main hero but Glenn Corbett’s performance as Henry is about as exciting to watch as paint dry.

It’s painfully obvious that the budget was quite small on this one, with only a handful of smaller sets and the swamp, which was really a pond at Black Park. Filming there was hazardous due to excessive mud, sludge and disease. Oliver Reed contracted an eye and ear infection while Michael Ripper nearly drowned and Lee claimed he couldn’t walk upstairs for six months.

The piranha sequence at the beginning of the film was originally much more intense before the censors cut it down. In fact, the censors even reportedly removed all of the piranha scenes at one point along with the blindfolded swordfight. However, those scenes have since been restored.

Pirates 3The crew certainly comes with an impressive list of credentials. Director John Gilling was a staple of Hammer, including such films as Brigand of Kandahar, Plague of the Zombies and The Reptile. The writing staff consisted of John Hunter (Never Take Sweets from a Stranger) and John Gilling (The Gorgon), along with Jimmy Sangster (Terror of the Tongs, The Mummy) and another longtime Hammer contributor, Anthony Nelson Keys. However, despite a good cast and crew, Pirates of Blood River really falls flat. It lacks excitement and, at times, you find yourself shifting from one plot (unhappy villagers, stern rule, fornicating wives) to another (pirates in search of gold). A few scenes are fun but the endless walking through the swamps can be tough to wade through.

Pirates of Blood River is currently available and reasonably priced as part of the Icons of Adventure DVD box set. Check out the trailer on YouTube and have what fun you can with this one before listening to the recent 1951 Down Place podcast review. Perhaps an early Sunday morning over some breakfast and tea would help make this one a little easier to get through.

Monster Kid Radio – Night of the Big Heat (1967)

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Island posterI’ve finally made my return to the Rondo award-winning Monster Kid Radio podcast! I was there at the beginning and this week I’m back in episode 269, sitting down for a very fun conversation with host Derek M. Koch to talk about Night of the Big Heat (1967) aka Island of the Burning Damned. This oft-maligned classic, starring Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing, is a fun way to spend a rainy Saturday afternoon. The movie might be a little difficult to find on DVD or Blu-ray but is well worth tracking down. And fear not, we’re already planning my return for later this year!

Dread Media – The Dr. Goldfoot Adventures

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Dr Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine posterThis week on Dread Media in episode 456, I take a look at two of Vincent Price’s lesser talked about non-horror offerings. First up, Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine (1965), followed by Dr. Goldfoot and the Girl Bombs (1966). One is definitely fun in a cheesy 60s way, the other is really tough to make it through. Then, take the time to also check out the incredibly unique 1965 television special, The Wild Weird World of Dr. Goldfoot!

Stay tuned, there is more Price, Cushing and Lee madness coming your way before May is over!

Bikini Machine 2