Friday, April 27, 2018

270. Terror at Red Wolf Inn

270. Terror At Red Wolf Inn aka Terror House (1972)
Director: Bud Townsend
Writer: Allen Actor
From: Cult Cinema

A young woman wins a vacation at a remote hotel only to learn the proprietors have grisly plans for her.

Regina doesn’t have any money to take a trip during her school’s break, but receives a letter telling her she’s won a vacation from a contest she didn’t enter. Because that’s totally a thing that happens and not a cause for concern at all. She’s taken to the Red Wolf Inn, an old hotel run by Evelyn and Henry with the help of their grandson “Baby.”

Yup. “Baby.”

Two other women are there when Regina arrives: Pamela, who’s leaving the next day, and Edwina. They all sit down to a lavish dinner where they feast on a plate of ribs. Lots of attention given to eating these ribs. Golly, they’re really enjoying eating that meat. Just lip-smackingly good eating going on there. Really savoring every bite of this mystery meat. Not even bothering to cut it up, just holding onto the bone and going to town. Getting every bite they can, not even slowing down to swallow between bites, just full-on chipmunking that meat. Oh boy, are they eating up some meat.

I’m not embellishing, that’s still summarizing the movie. The scene lasts, literally, four full minutes. The movie itself is only seventy-seven minutes long. More than five percent of the movie is this scene. There’s no background music, no dialogue, just constant shots of everyone chowing down on this dish. If eating (or padding) is your fetish, oh boy, will you enjoy this movie. After they finish the meat, Evelyn brings out desert and they all start eating cake. This is in addition to the four minutes, and, yes, they eat the entire cake.

By the way, have you guessed the twist yet? Long long shot of them eating meat? That’s right: cannibals! It’s not hard to guess and it’s not a surprise when it’s revealed. The movie is mostly waiting for them to just say what they imagine they’re keeping secret so we can all get on with our lives.

Anyway, Regina is starting to crush on Baby who vacillates between being uncomfortable about the women’s inevitable fate (better movie) and a screeching man-child with a mental disability. The two of them have lunch on the beach, start to kiss, and then a fish takes the bait from Baby’s rod. He reels in a shark and starts screaming “shark!” while holding it by the tail and smashing its head against the rocks. After he punches it a bit, he stands up, looks at Regina, and says, “I think I love you.” Then walks away.

We never come back to this moment! It’s never referenced again and it doesn’t put Regina off of Baby. It is hilarious. Spoiler alert, I’m not going to recommend this movie, but I recommend finding that scene.

Now it’s Edwina’s last night, big party, then she’s kidnapped by the family and butchered in the walk-in freezer. The next day, Regina gets suspicious that Edwina didn’t say goodbye, tries to escape when a cop shows up, but the cop is also one of Evelyn and Henry’s grandchildren. He’s not mentioned before and never shows up again. Regina goes into the freezer, finds Pamela and Edwina’s heads, flees, flags down a car, but it turns out to be driven by Evelyn and Henry.

On Regina’s last night, Baby rebels, shouting at Evelyn that he wants Regina. The couple tries to escape, fails, Baby seems to make amends with his grandparents, and blood splatters on nearby plants as Henry walks towards Regina waving a butcher’s knife. Cut to the house the next day and Regina is dressed as a homemaker, serving food to Baby while singing a song. The freezer door opens revealing the severed heads of Evelyn and Henry. At the end of the credits, Henry’s head looks at the camera and winks. THE END.

Some of you may be saying about the final description of Regina finding help only to have it be the cannibal family, the grandson of which being a shrieking monster, “Isn’t that The Texas Chainsaw Massacre?” To which I’d reply, yes, but that movie had style, tension, and a discomfiting strangeness that seeped into your skin leaving you feeling unclean afterwards. Also, that came out in 1974 and this is from 1972.

I’m not suggesting Tobe Hooper ripped this movie off. I’m suggesting The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is a much better movie. I was legitimately surprised at how much the final act of this lined up with Chainsaw, though. I also suggest you take my word on that instead of watching this to see for yourself.

This is a Bud Townsend picture (director of Coach, The Beach Girls, and Nightmare in Wax). I previously said of Bud Townsend that “his vision as an auteur had always been to strip away the interesting parts of a film and leave the audience bored.” The same is true here. After the interminable dinner scene, we get a dream sequence that, while poorly shot, is compelling. Regina is having a sex dream about Baby, but it’s intercut with another dream of her eating a massive cake while sitting at a dinner table on the beach. It’s the one moment of visual inventiveness in the movie and the one thing unique to this picture.

In fact, I spent most of the movie thinking how much better it’d be if it were directed by Dario Argento. The movie needed a strange dreamy logic, especially if it wants to have its ending of Regina somehow flipping everything, surviving, and then continuing the family tradition.

And it ends with a wink! Just like Legacy of Blood, the last movie I watched, this ends with a wink, like the whole movie’s been a joke that the movie itself was aware of. Only no part of the movie was (intentionally) funny. There was no joke! So why the wink? And how do I get two of those in a row?!

I’ve written over a thousand words about this movie when there’s nothing worth saying about it. It sucks. Don’t watch it.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

269. Legacy of Blood

269. Legacy of Blood aka Will to Die (1971)
Director: Carl Monson
Writers: Eric Norden from a story by Carl Monson
From: Drive-In
Watch: Elvira’s Movie Macabre (via ShoutFactoryTV)

A hate-filled patriarch dies, leaving his substantial fortune to his servants and children, with one condition: the money will be evenly split among the survivors. As bodies start piling up, it’s clear someone doesn’t want to share.

We open on the solicitor playing a reel-to-reel recording of John Carradine reciting his will. To each of his three servants he leaves a million dollars to be paid out at the rate of $500/week as long as they continue to work at the house. To each of his four children, who he notes how much he hates, he leaves the rest of his fortune to be evenly divided among them. The reason he doesn’t leave them nothing is we wouldn’t have a movie otherwise.

He chose poorly.

The only stipulation is they have to live in the house for a week and anyone who leaves (or dies) will have their share split among the survivors. If all the children leave/die, the servants split the inheritance.

With a set-up like that, we should be off to the races with the siblings being wary of each other and of the staff. Instead, there’s a shrugging sense of “Whatta prick!” and everyone generally hangs out.

Even though the will stipulated that they all stay there for a week, things start happening that night because why develop suspense in a horror flick? First, a couple’s dog is killed. The sheriff is called to investigate and then gets murdered himself. The siblings find his severed head in the fridge, freak out, then discover that the phone lines have been cut and all the cars have been disabled. The eldest brother says, “It’s getting to be like some kind of horror film.”

Yes. A boring one.

The rest of the movie is people get killed one-by-one. They should all start getting suspicious of each other, but they never really do. We get some backstory involving incest and BDSM and thwarted romances that’s all supposed to be very sordid but is all played off with a shrugging nonchalance.

Anyway, bodies pile up, the killer is revealed in a twist, the killer is betrayed in a further twist, and we end with yet another twist and a character making a joke while directly addressing the audience and winking. THE END.

The whole work is just dull. Fortunately, it’s hilariously dull. One brother looks alternately like a fit Joe Don Baker or a bloated Arch Hall Jr. and Igor, the butler (named “Igor” for Chrissakes!), looks like a roided out Mel Brooks. One sister is hamming it up when her character’s not catatonic and her psychologist husband is generally being a smarmy prick. On top of that, there are a few hilarious deaths. A couple is electrocuted in bed looking like they’re pretending to be sex dolls and someone else is killed by bees.

I want to linger on the bee death for a moment. The character is suspected of being the killer and so gets tied up and locked in a room. The real killer arrives, throws a beehive in, and closes the door again. Other people in the house hear the victim screaming, open the door, and find the victim horribly stung, covered in bees, and not dead. Then they close the door! The victim isn’t dead, but they do nothing to try to save them or get rid of the bees. They literally look at the victim, go, “Oh,. Oh dear,” and seal them back up with the bees. Hilarious.

This film had echos of The Ghost in terms of a seemingly haunted house and a killer scheming for an inheritance as well as a Bela Lugosi murder-comedy I watched during the second part of the PD Project, One Body Too Many. Lugosi plays a butler who’s always trying to get people to eat some cookies. It’s just a running gag in the background, but part of this movie reminded me of One Body Too Many. That is, also, a better movie and I recommend that over Legacy of Blood.

To Legacy’s credit, the film is in the public domain. Unfortunately, my copy has Mill Creek graffiti on it so I can’t upload it to archive.org. On top of that, there doesn’t seem to be a copy on the Internet Archive at all. However, the movie was featured on Elvira’s Movie Macabre and, as of this writing, is streaming via ShoutFactoryTV. The movie was also featured as an episode of Cinematic Titanic.

On its own, the movie is too dull to recommend. Nothing particularly dramatic happens, but also nothing particularly gory. It’s best enjoyed with sarcastic friends eager to riff something. The dullness of the film has a way of highlighting the absurdity of everything, and that’s always helpful when trying to laugh.

Friday, April 20, 2018

268. The Young Graduates

268. The Young Graduates (1971)
Director: Robert Anderson
Writers: Dave Dixon from a story by Robert Anderson and Terry Anderson
From: Cult Cinema

A girl has an affair with her teacher leading to a pregnancy scare. While waiting for test results, she and her friend go hitchhiking to Big Sur.

Mindy is heading to the dance with her boyfriend Bill. It’s the night before her 18th birthday and he makes a joke about hooking up “after midnight when you’re no longer legally jailbait.”

Yeah. Bare with me folks, this’ll take a minute. The movie thinks pedophilia is cute. I could say at this point that the joke doesn’t make sense since Bill’s not 18, but, you know what, that doesn’t matter.

They go to the dance where Mindy throws a tantrum over the band having already started and her being denied her big entrance, whatever that would be. Their teacher, Mr. Thompson, is working as a chaperone and taking pictures for the yearbook. Mindy gets mad that he takes what she thinks is an unflattering picture and Mr. Thompson’s wife complains about the music and him hanging out at the dance.

Get it? The movie is setting it up to be okay for him to have sex with a student because his wife has noticed him creeping on students and trying to have an affair.

Anyway, I don’t need to go through the whole plot because there isn’t one. Mindy goes to teachers’ house the next day, “seduces” him, and ends up screwing him in a shack somewhere. Time passes, she keeps hooking up with teacher, and then worries that she’s pregnant. Thompson sends her to a doctor he knows for a pregnancy test and she’s picked up by her friend Sandy. Since it’ll take two days to get the results Mindy and Sandy, through a series of events, end up taking Bill’s car, ditching it on the side of the road, and go hitchhiking to Big Sur.

They’re picked up by a motorcycle gang that tries to rape Sandy. Mindy manages to escape and yells, “Run!” which is apparently all it takes to free Sandy from the situation. They spend the night in an abandoned hayloft where Sandy tells Mindy that she swallowed one of the pills the bikers gave her and doesn’t feel well.

The next morning, Mindy and Sandy steal a motorcycle the gang left behind to continue their trip to Big Sur. Sandy doesn’t want to go, but Mindy forces her. Cause, really, it’s not like Sandy’s been through anything. After an interminable series of adventures that come to nothing, they end up in Big Sur where they’re arrested for being near a bunch of hippies wanted by the cops for peddling dope.

Meanwhile, Bill, Thompson, and Sandy’s boyfriend have been driving to Big Sur to find the girls. They end up at the police station just before the bust happens and see the girls get brought in. Cut to graduation. We see Mindy walk, Thompson and his wife having made amends, and a headline in the paper saying Mindy and Sandy beat the rap. At the dance that night, Bill tells Mindy that he’s been accepted to MIT and will be leaving for prep school on Monday, meaning they’ve now basically broken up. Mindy goes over to talk to Mr. Thompson and his wife who introduce her to the new teacher. Mindy starts dancing with him and the rest of the movie is just still frames of her and the teacher, implying she’s going to hook up with him too. THE END.

I hated this movie. I really, really hated this movie. The characters are completely unlikeable and there are no stakes for anything so nothing matters. The movie is never moving toward something. Even the pregnancy scare doesn’t happen until 42 minutes into this 100-minute movie. The only moment of consequence is the biker gang sequence, and that’s basically Mindy watching her best friend almost get raped. That event, though, doesn’t stop her from continuing on her trip so it doesn’t have actually have any consequences. In fact, after it happens and Sandy says she wants to go home, Mindy threatens to abandon her.

Mindy is a monster.

She’s played as ceaselessly whiny, selfish, and childish, which is the creepiest part. There’s a shot of her talking to Sandy while just wearing a nightie and she’s doing that little kid twisting back and forth while fiddling with the fringes thing. You know, like when a toddler doesn’t want to go to bed. She’s playing an 18-year-old who’s dating a teacher and we’re not supposed to see his hooking up with her as problematic on any level.

No, we’re not. In fact, the movie plays that situation off as though it’s okay. When Thompson finds out Mindy may be pregnant, he tells his wife. He somehow blames her for it, in fact, and she leaves until the end of the movie when they’re all huggy and happy again for some reason.

I basically have to stop writing because I’m just getting mad about this movie. There’s so much more to say, but I don’t want to give this flick any more of my time. My notes include the phrase, “Life is short, but movies like this make it feel very long.” So if you’re a terminal patient, I recommend this movie to you. Otherwise, stay away. It’s not even bad in an entertaining way, just endlessly infuriating.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

267. The Ghost

267. The Ghost aka Lo spettro (1963)
Director: Riccardo Freda
Writers: Oreste Biancoli and Riccardo Freda from a story by Orest Biancoli
From: Chilling
Watch: archive.org

A woman convinces her lover to murder her husband, but the pair begin to suspect they’re being haunted by his ghost.

Scotland, 1910. We open with the end of a séance. The master of the house, Dr. John Hichcock, has a degenerative disorder that’s left him disabled. He has very little strength in his limbs and has to use a wheelchair to get around. His doctor, Dr. Charles Livingstone, is administering a treatment designed by Dr. Hichcock, namely injecting Hichcock with poison and then the antidote. The hope is that the poison will reinvigorate Hichcock’s limbs. During the first treatment we see, Hichcock reminds Charles that, according to documents already signed by Hichcock, Charles will be held blameless in the event of Hichcock’s death. Charles could simply not deliver the antidote and not face any consequences. Hichcock then tries to poison himself, but Charles stops him.

After Charles leaves, he passes Hichcock’s wife, Margaret, entering the house. Hichcock witnesses the brief meeting from the window. When she enters the room, Hichcock bullies her a bit, then tries to shoot himself. Margaret stops and disarms him. He accuses her of having feelings for Charles and wanting him dead.

That night, Margaret and Charles meet up because they are having an affair and do want Hichcock dead. Which raises the question of why they each individually stopped him from killing himself. Margaret begs Charles to kill Hichcock, but he refuses.

And then the next day withholds the antidote and Hichcock dies.

Anyway, strange things start happening around the house. Margaret and Charles hear Hichcock’s bell ring, his wheelchair falls down the stairs, and the maid starts channeling Hichcock’s voice. The key to the safe containing all of Hichcock’s money is missing and Margaret and Charles have to root around in the corpse’s pockets to find it. Once they open the safe, it’s empty.

Things escalate gradually until Margaret starts to suspect Charles is actually gaslighting her: he opened the safe when she wasn’t present and then presented it being empty, the maid found Hichcock’s favorite snuff box in Charles’ room, and a treasure chest hidden beneath Hichcock’s coffin is empty meaning someone else got to it first.

And breaking form, I’ll leave the rest unsaid. The movie is in the public domain so easy to watch if you want to satisfy your curiosity. THE END (of this synopsis)

A gothic haunted house tale starring Barbara Steele. I can’t even say how excited I was for this. Steele is a solid actor and adds real panache to any old-school horror film she’s in. She manages to play her roles at just the right point between damsel in distress and femme fatale, each character possessing innocence touched by darkness or darkness tempered by innocence. That precise sense of no one being wholly good or evil is what makes gothic stories interesting—the monster is sympathetic and the heroes don’t walk away untouched by what they’ve seen. Having said that, I wish I’d enjoyed this movie more.

Despite the solid, if predictable premise—I was assuming some gaslighting situation from the start—things move too slowly. It takes a little bit for Hichcock to die and it’s a bit confusing when you see Charles and Margaret both try to keep him from killing himself. The movie would have been more interesting if they weren’t having an affair and instead were tormented by the vengeful ghost of this petty paranoiac. That they do murder him validates his suspicions and kind of justifies his actions.

Also, there’s not enough haunting. I’m thinking of other ghost/gaslight stories I’ve written up here, and there’s just a lot more incident in those films. This has a phantom bell, a chair falling down a stairwell, and two incidences of seeing Hichcock’s ghost. Otherwise it’s just the stress of being seen as suspicious and gradually suspecting each other. Those elements would be fine, but they’re too spread out over the movie. The film never commits to its ambitions.

Another disappointment was the drab sets and cinematography. Gothic horror like this generally provides some entertainment just in seeing the exteriors and the creepy haunted house sets the crew has put together. In The Ghost, we get one nice exterior of the manor at the beginning and that’s it.

In the end, I didn’t feel like the movie lived up to its promise. IMDB users collectively give this 6.2 stars which is considerably higher than most of the movies I’ve watched, but it missed the mark for me. Much like yesterday’s movie, Alien Contamination, the movie lacked a certain energy. However, for a rainy Sunday afternoon or a nice bit of background for a midnight Halloween party, this may be just what you’re looking for. As I mentioned above, the movie is in the public domain and I’ve added an MPEG2 copy to archive.org here.

Friday, April 13, 2018

266. Alien Contamination

266. Alien Contamination aka Contamination (1980)
Director: Luigi Cozzi
Writers: Luiji Cozzi and Erich Tomek from a story by Luigi Cozzi
From: Cult Cinema

Strange green eggs that spray a corrosive acid are found on a ghost ship in New York harbor. It’s up to a scientist, a disgraced astronaut, and a New York City cop to discover the truth and prevent a potential alien invasion.

Hello Italy! Thanks for the dubbing and establishing shots of NYC that we’ll never see again. 1980? Hey movie, thanks for reminding me of what the World Trade Center used to look like.

So a ghost ship docks in New York harbor and Lt. Tony is sent to investigate. He and a team of scientists start finding the bodies of the crew, each of them seemingly having exploded from within. Down in the cargo hold, they find loads of strange green eggs, one of which is glowing. Of course, they all gather over this glowing, pulsating, green curiosity that proceeds to explode. All the scientists get hit with the material, swell up, and explode. Lt. Tony is taken into quarantine.

There he meets Col. Stella Holmes, the new head of this case. They learn that the eggs were to be delivered to an import/export outfit in the city. When they raid it, they find three thugs and thousands of eggs. The thugs shoot one of the eggs, spraying themselves and dying.

In the lab, the scientists explain that the eggs seems to be silicon-based (that means alien!) and that when they get sufficiently hot, they eject this deadly substance. She injects a rat with the substance which then explodes. I’ll admit, that moment was hilariously bad, but it also stands out as being one of the few moments of the movie with any vim.

By this point, I’m thinking this is an Italian Aliens rip-off, but there are no creatures in the eggs. Just lots of eggs all over the place. The team suspects the plan is to hide them throughout the sewers so the entirety of New York could be contaminated. What the endgoal of that plan is, I cannot tell you.

Turns out this is the future, though (which I should have recognized from the cardboard backgrounds doubling as “computer tech”) and there’s been a manned mission to Mars. One of the astronauts, Cmdr. Hubbard, came back saying he’d seen a giant alien an a cave full of eggs. His partner, Hamilton, denied the story. Hubbard was discharged and, six months before the events of the film, Hamilton died in a plane crash.

So, Holmes picks up Hubbard and, with Tony, goes down to Brazil where the ship originated from. There, Hamilton who had faked his death, is working with the alien from Mars to try to contaminate the Earth with the eggs. Various action sequences, Holmes and Tony are captured, Hubbard arrives to save the day.

Not before Tony gets eaten by the alien, though. This was also a lovely moment.

Hubbard shoots the alien to get revenge for it having ruined his career and life and Hamilton, no longer under the alien’s psychic control, explodes in slo-motion, which was a mistake because it lets you clearly see the seams in the giant squib on his chest as well as the tubes running up his pant legs to power it. Holmes and Hubbard leave together and then we cut to an egg sitting in the garbage in some city. The egg explodes and we freeze for, THE END

Not a terrible flick—straightforward, okay Saturday-afternoon movie effects, and a plot that’s a little more ambitious that I expected—but there’s just no energy to it. I’d even say it’s weirdly low-key. The movie isn’t trying to be low-key, it’s just that everything happens in a very perfunctory way. The actors don’t bring any oomph to their parts and the whole thing kind of plods along.

The biggest example of this is the, I think, intended love triangle of Holmes, Hubbard, and Tony. Tony keeps, I think, flirting with Holmes, but she has a seeming history with Hubbard, not the least part her being the head of the committee that said his story was bunk. I have to throw that “I think” in there, though, because not only do the characters not seem invested in flirting with each other, they don’t seem that worked up over alien eggs invading Earth.

Give Gramma a kiss!
The alien itself looks good in a goofy way. The monster looks silly, like a one-eyed version of Mother Brain from Captain N: The Game Master, but they built a full-sized version that grabs one of the actors and then eats him. The crew on this movie built a big silly monster, but they put the effort in and built it well.

There were a few moments that stood out because they showed a bit more inventiveness than the rest of the movie: the exploding rat, Tony getting eaten, and the alien itself. However, they were too few to carry the rest of the movie along at its shuffling pace. The people involved in making it didn’t seem that invested so it was really hard for me to get invested. It’s not bad, per se, but it’s not great. I was hoping for something over-the-top and cheesy when I started this, but it never lived up to those expectations.

We Hate Movies would classify this as a “hangover film”: you can have it on in the background, not pay particular attention to it, and not miss anything. That’s not a recommend, but it’s not a suggestion that this be avoided either.

Saturday, April 07, 2018

265. The Tell-Tale Heart

265. The Tell-Tale Heart (1960)
Director: Ernest Morris
Writers: Brian Clemens and Eldon Howard, based on the story by Edgar Allen Poe
From: Pure Terror
Watch: archive.org

Edgar Marsh murders his friend Carl after seeing Carl being intimate with the woman Edgar loves. Now Marsh is haunted by the sound of Carl’s still-beating heart.

Ever want to know the “true” story behind Poe’s classic, “The Tell-Tale Heart”? No? Oh. Well. This is just awkward for all of us.

Much of this movie is very strange. It’s from 1960, but has a very 20’s/30’s aesthetic and ethic and that difference can be very jarring. For instance, there’s a scene where Edgar is sitting in his apartment looking at pornographic images. That’s fine for a movie from 1960 and is used as shorthand to communicate Edgar’s sexual frustration, but the movie is shot in black-and-white and feels very stagey, like it was made during the early period of cinema where they didn’t quite know what a movie should look like. In other words, this doesn't feel like a movie from 1960 so the dirty pictures feel very out of place.

On top of that, the movie tries to do a kind of blending of realities. We open with Poe waking up screaming. His friend Carl comes in and hands him some drugs. Poe stumbles over to a chair and starts examining some papers. Cut to the actor playing Poe going to a bar/brothel and getting scared away by a sex worker. This is Edgar Marsh who is not Poe, but I think he's called "Poe" several times despite that (?) The end of the movie makes it apparent that Poe is dreaming that he’s Marsh, but there’s no indication elsewhere in the movie. Marsh has a limp, we’re told, but it’s not visually clear at all and only mentioned, again, at the end when Poe wakes up.

As for the plot, Marsh lives alone in a big house. He sees Betty move in across the street and peeps in her window from his. He asks his friend Carl for advice about how to talk to girls and approaches Betty. She goes out with him, but he’s a bit of a damp squib and then tries to force himself on her at the end of the night. For some reason, she lets him take her out twice more, each time becoming increasingly uninterested.

Until he introduces her to Carl. She and Carl hit it off immediately and eventually make arrangements to meet at her apartment, a meeting Marsh watches from his room. The next day, he invites Carl over and murders him. From here, it’s the plot of “The Tell-Tale Heart.” Marsh is hallucinating the heartbeat while Betty is trying to get the police to investigate Carl’s disappearance. They say Carl's done this before and laugh at her for being a sucker. More than that, it feels like the cops are laughing at the idea of believing a woman. Finally she breaks into Marsh’s house, finds the murder weapon, and delivers it to the police. They eventually see the blood and hair on it and only then go to question Marsh. He reveals all, gets shot, and falls off a balcony and impales himself.

Then Poe wakes up screaming. Carl runs in to check that he’s okay. Poe says he’s had a strange dream, that Carl was in it, and then looks out the window to see Betty moving into the house across the way. THE END.

This has a 5.8 on IMDB and I’m not sure why. I found it incredibly plodding and dull. The movie drags its feet getting to the killing, spending that time seeing Marsh be a bad date and watching him constantly push Betty and Carl together. Time may be a factor in my reaction. I think the movie is trying to make you sympathetic to Marsh’s situation, to see him as a “Nice Guy” that’s just not catching on, but, post Red Pill and GamerGate, I don’t have any patience or sympathy for the “Nice Guy” trope. He’s a creep who won’t take “no” for an answer and murders his only friend out of jealousy. He’s not sympathetic.

The interesting character is Betty. She’s new in town, goes on one date with a guy, and now is trapped in this murder nightmare. Marsh even says to himself after the murder that she’ll come to him eventually because she has nowhere else to go. That’s your horror story. Add the cops not believing her and you’ve got a real source of tension.

This movie is in the public domain (boy does it feel like a while since I've said that) and I’ve added an MPEG2 copy to archive.org here, but I can’t really recommend it. The movie’s boring. So much so that I forgot the William Castle-esque opening title cards suggesting that those who are squeamish close their eyes whenever the sound of a heartbeat plays. I guess it was to make people close their eyes through the “tense” parts of the movie where nothing happens and there’s nothing to be afraid of. I’m sure you can make some jokes about the flick, but apart from that, it’s a dud. Skip it.

Friday, April 06, 2018

264. Craze

264. Craze (1974)
Director: Freddie Francie
Writers: Herman Cohen and Aben Kandel based on a novel by Henry Seymour
From: Cult Cinema

An antiques dealer starts sacrificing women to a forbidden idol in exchange for supernatural riches.

With a title like Craze, I expected something much closer to Panic or Romero’s The Crazies, ie. a film about a form of murderous madness or paranoia spreading through a population or at least being exercised by a group of people. Instead, this is Jack Palance with a thin porn stache murdering random women.

We open with Palance as the leader of this oddball cult that meets in his basement. A woman “sacrifices” herself to the idol by either pretending to cut her stomach open or by cutting her stomach open (it’s not clear if it’s supposed to be fake or is just a terrible special effect). After the cult leaves, a former member who’d been expelled bursts in, struggles with Palance, and impales herself upon the idol’s claw. Police come to Palance’s store to ask him questions about the missing woman, but he says he hasn’t seen her in months.

Palance runs an antique shop that’s doing poorly. He tells his assistant to sell a desk to an interested party, but they find a hidden drawer full of gold coins. Palance attributes their good luck to the sacrifice he made so, of course, he goes on the prowl to kill other women.

And that’s really the balance of the movie. There’s a bit of The Brain That Wouldn’t Die in the leeriness of Palance’s hunting. First he’s looking to hook up with someone, then kill her, but even that devolves into just Palance finding someone and killing them. The murder sequences don’t have much drama.

While all this is happening, the police keep pursuing Palance, but there’s never any explanation for why. The lead detective is suspicious of Palance and then, after another murder, is still suspicious, therefore he must be the killer. I’m not exaggerating about his logic there. No evidence connects Palance to the murders which only serves as proof for this cop that Palance is the killer.

Palance’s assistant also knows what’s happening, but is sort of caught in the middle. He’s benefiting from what’s happening, which makes him an accomplice, and Palance is threatening him every time the assistant suggests slowing down the killings.

Even that doesn’t make sense. Palance keeps killing and keeps reaping unrelated economic rewards, but he never seems driven to kill out of mania or a sense of needing the money. So the movie lacks any motive force. Eventually, Palance has a fight with the assistant and throws him through a window which leads the police to rush in. Palance faces off against them in the basement by, I’m not making this up, holding an axe and spinning around, until the cop who’d been suspicious of him the entire movie just shoots him. Palance falls upon the idol and dies. THE END.

The sweet release of farts.
It’s boring. Skip it. Yes, there’s some fun to be had laughing at the way Palance looks, but here’s the picture. Now you don’t need to see the movie. The deaths aren’t interesting and there’s no sense of tension at all, neither in the kills or the cops closing in. The kills lack tension because it’s obvious this character was introduced only to be killed and the cops lack tension because they’re never actually closing in. In that sense, it’s pretty similar to the other Jack Palance “thriller” I reviewed in this series, Man in the Attic. That movie also featured little tension and cops landing upon the killer more through luck than through any investigative action on their part. That movie at least let Palance have some character moments, though. This is just boring throughout.