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Monsters that aren’t sheep

Wrapping up the noteable films from last weekend’s movie-fest, there were a couple more monster movies featuring more classic creatures:  one vampire film and one giant bug film. 

Of these two, it’s not too hard to guess which one Slaughter of the Vampires is.  For some reason, before I picked up this one, I had heard some praise about it, making it was a cut above the standard 1960s Euro-horror, but it’s really not much more than another Dracula retread.  An unnamed vampire, after fleeing from some townspeople, takes residence in the wine cellar of a nice estate.  He then proceeds to seduce the young wife of the owner and convert her to a vampire.  Her husband gets assistance from a Van Helsing-like doctor and then the slaughter can proceed.

The look of Slaughter of the Vampires (also known as Curse of the Blood Ghouls) is, at best, only mildly eerie, the vampire is not all that threatening and the story is, as mentioned before, just a rehash of Dracula fare.  I’m not a big fan of Lugosi’s Dracula, but it’s an improvement over this film.  Better yet, watch the Christopher Lee version, The Horror of Dracula.  For Slaughter, a Quality score of 3/10 and a fun score of 2/10.  This one’s a yawner.

Far better is The Black Scorpion, a 1957 giant monster movie that I’d never even heard of prior to its appearance on TCM last week.  It fits right in with a genre that includes Them, The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, The Deadly Mantis, Tarantula and a couple dozen other, some good, some bad.  The Black Scorpion fits somewhere in the middle.  The plot deals with a bunch of giant scorpions wreaking havoc after being freed from their underground lair by a volcanic blast.  1950s B-movie star Richard Denning (also in the wonderful The Creature from the Black Lagoon and the less-wonderful Creature with the Atom Brain) is the geologist stuck in the middle of the rather standard story.  What makes this film good, however, is the wonderful effects work by Willis O’Brien, who was also responsible for The Lost World (1925 version), The Giant Behemoth, Mighty Joe Young and most importantly, King Kong.  The monster close-ups are pretty silly, but the stop-motion animation featuring giant scorpions (and other creatures) is fun to watch.  Quality 5/10, Fun 6/10.


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