Friday 10 October 2008

Basking In The Cesspool Of Filth #3 - The Rise Of The Bleary Eyed

A few additional October fright links as Halloween ticks ever closer:

A few more fright night films (well, except for the last one):

The Brides Of Dracula (1960 - Terence Fisher) - After so much Amicus, I felt a bit of Hammer was appropriate...With absolutely no offence to either of the great Nosferatu films (Murnau and Herzog), Fisher's 1958 "Dracula" ("Horror Of Dracula" in North America) could very well be my favourite of the Dracula tellings on film. His next Dracula film was this 1960 effort - though the big count is gone, his progeny lives on. Set free from a chained existence he led in his own home, the Baron Meinster goes about finding some new victims. Of course, Dr. Van Helsing arrives on the scene to help stop the evil and the story builds up to the final confrontation when the Baron is attempting to suck in the naive young woman who set him free into his new set of "brides". Peter Cushing is terrific, the sets are stunning and the story is loads of fun. Where have I heard that before?

Yokai Monsters: 100 Monsters (1968 - Kimiyoshi Yasuda) - The second film in the Yokai Monsters set, but the first one released, this one starts with a social gathering of the members of a village (elders, workers, kids) where stories about the Yokai are related in spooky detail. For each story told, a candle is blown out. At the end of the gathering (called the "One Hundred Stories") when the last candle is put out, it is said that an apparition will visit. Of course telling stories about Yokai is one thing...Allowing them into your house is another. So to avoid these apparitions, it has become tradition to perform the curse elimination ritual. But what happens when you don't take it seriously? Well, ask the evil land owner and his henchmen who want to tear down the shrine and tenement building. The whole setup and premise of the film is mostly an excuse to show a variety of these Yokai monsters - both as real apparitions as well as within the tales being told within the One Hundred Stories gatherings. If I was perhaps a bit disappointed at the relatively small amount of monster time the film provided (the plot points take up a lot of screen time in the 80 minute film), it was only because those sections were so well done and so entertaining. Again, there's no CGI or special effects here. For the most part the monsters are created using costumes, masks, shadows and occasionally a few visual effects (like double exposure, etc.). It's amazing how very effective these techniques can be - in particular with the appearances of the long-necked woman and the umbrella creature. The former is one of the better creepy moments of the film while the latter offers some goofy silliness to the proceedings.

And what better mix could you ask for in a monster movie? Good creepy silly fun.

Rabid (1977 - David Cronenberg) - Another of Cronenberg's early films...This one zips along at a much more even pace with the action beginning early and continuing straight through (as opposed to the slower paced "The Brood"). It has some issues (Marilyn Chambers, though not terrible, is not exactly sharp in her role), but it puts a nice spin on the zombie film with a Typhoid Mary type character who doesn't completely succumb to the disease she imparts to others. The most disturbing part of the film wasn't a graphic blood drenched shot, but the fate of the lead character.

The film also provided some additional pleasures for me as it was shot in my old hometown of Montreal and brought back a slew of memories from the late 70s - the stores, the Metro (Montreal's subway), the street signs, etc.

And you want disturbing? Look at those glasses! Geez...

The Beast Must Die! (1974 - Paul Annett) - The first stinker from Amicus that I've seen. A rich hunter calls 5 guests to his house - he suspects one of them is a werewolf and wishes to hunt and track the beast. The film is way too slow to develop any sort of interest or tension, has poor development of the central mystery and the main character is a totally unsympathetic dick. The most irritating part of the film was the acting and accent of the rich hunter (played by Calvin Lockhart) - I guess he was trying for an elite British high society accent, but he gave it a nasal tone and chose odd speech cadences with pointless elongations of syllables that brought attention to itself. And they totally wasted Peter Cushing and Michael Gambon! Still the film had one or two moments, but when your werewolf is really just a dog with lots of fur you need to go back to the drawing board.


Nostalgia Kinky said...

Great shots from of my favorite films from Cronenberg. I'm actually quite fond of Chamber's performance in the film but I hear what you are saying...really enjoying these posts.

Fox said...

I wanna see Rabid again, now. That and Shivers. I think I always dismissed those earlier Cronenberg films as amateurish when he started making his moves towards more "serious" fare, but now that I think the "serious" stuff is kinda blah I'm gonna go back to the older stuff and reevaluate.

Bob Turnbull said...

Jeremy/Fox, yeah I was surprised I liked "Rabid" that much - I had the same impression of Cronenberg's early films. There's some awkward moments, but he absolutely builds to some freaky moments. And you know he's got deeper underpinnings for all these films and an interesting take on women's issues.