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Thus begins October…

…and since October ends with Halloween, this always seems to be a good month for horror movies.  I’d like to do a movie a day in the genre.  It may or may not happen since I principally watch the films on the weekends.  It’d be enough however, to average one a day.

So far, I put my average at 1.5.  I’ve seen three horror movies and this is 10/2.  I watched all three yesterday.  I also watched Priest, which despite its horror trappings (particularly vampires), is not a horror movie.  It is also just a mediocre movie, essentially The Searchers with vampires.  Paul Bettany plays a priest whose niece is kidnapped by a vampire lord who used to be a priest himself.

It should be noted that though there is a lot of symbols from Catholicism, there is actually very little religion in this film.  The priests are really warriors (although they have taken chastity vows).  As in The Searchers, Bettany is intent on either rescuing his niece or killing her if she’s “turned”.  And lest you think it is only that classic western that is being alluded to, there are references to many other films, from Blade Runner to all sorts of westerns and post-apocalyptic flicks.  Unfortunately, if you strip away all the allusions, you find there isn’t much that’s original.  On the plus side, there is Maggie Q (as a priestess) to look at.  Quality 5.0, Fun 5.0.

The first of the three horror films was Roger Corman’s The Masque of the Red Death.  For those who knock Corman as a schlock B-movie director, this is exhibit A to show otherwise (in fact, almost all of his Poe films are well made).  This movie has Vincent Price wonderfully chewing the scenery as the diabolical Prince Prospero, who offers his castle as a refuge for his wealthy friends against the plague of the Red Death. 

Prospero relishes cruelty and the corruption of the innocent.  The innocent in this film is Francesca (played by Jane Asher), a peasant girl who Prospero is making a project of, intending on wooing her into the servitude of Satan.  Hazel Court is Juliana, beautiful but already evil, hence of less interest to Prospero.  While the story is decent enough, it is the look of the film that is often stunning, particularly a sequence of identical rooms that all are a particular color:  yellow, purple, white and finally black.  Quality 7, Fun 8.

Next watched was Scream and Scream Again, a wonderful mess of a movie from 1970.  This movie is the only feature to have all three of the major horror stars of the era:  Price, Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee.  Unfortunately, the billing is deceptive:  Cushing is only in one scene and Lee just a few.  There is only one scene that features even two of the stars (Lee and Price) and their encounter is barely a minute.  Despite this, however, I enjoy this movie.

During the opening credits, we watch a man jogging around London.  As the credits end, he collapses.  It would seem to be a heart attack, so imagine his surprise when he finds one of his legs missing.  Naturally, he screams.  He will scream again later when he finds the other leg missing as well.

Meanwhile, a serial killer prowls the streets of the city.  He prowls the clubs of swingin’ London and picks up girls to not only strangle them but suck their blood.  Meanwhile again, there are nefarious goings-on in a fictitious but obviously Eastern Bloc country where an officer works his way into power by killing people with a variation of the Vulcan nerve pinch.  Christopher Lee is busy heading some British agency and Price is doing some sort of scientific work.  In other words, there’s a lot going on and it won’t really tie together until the very end of the movie.  Somehow, the complexity of the story adds to the fun:  you don’t often know what’s going on, but you enjoy the ride.  Quality: 6, Fun 7.

Finally, I saw Blood of Ghastly Horror, another entertainingly bad movie directed by Al Adamson.  As is clear from the introduction by producer Sam Sherman, the history of the movie is around as interesting as the movie itself:  in brief, an unsold jewelry heist movie made in the mid ’60s had some extra footage added years later to add a plot line involving brain devices, voodoo and zombies. 

The result, as you might guess, is a mess, with certain characters and plot lines disappearing without explanation.  It’s not without its charm, however, though compared to Adamson’s bad movie classic, Horror of the Blood Monsters, it is clearly second best.   Quality 2, Fun 5.

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