The final count for Horror Movie October: 29. It wasn’t quite the 31 I was shooting for, but ah, well. I didn’t have any money riding on it.
The final weekend of movie watching consisted only of movies I’d seen before and enjoyed. I started by continuing my Christopher Lee – Dracula viewing with Taste the Blood of Dracula. The fourth in the series takes up where number three left off: with Dracula writhing after being impaled by a cross. Soon he is a mere puddle of blood which turns into a powder.
A curio dealer who witnessed the “death” takes Dracula’s possessions (cape, etc.) as well as a vial of the powdery blood. Eventually, he sells the lot to three wealthy gentlemen who are seemingly the cream of society but actually love debauchery. A Satanist promises them a new level of dark pleasures and uses a combination of his blood and the Dracula powder to create a rather repellent bloody beverage. Not all goes as planned. The Satanist is soon dead, but Dracula has replaced him. He proceeds to prey on the three gentlemen, enslaving one of their daughters in the process.
As is typically the case, the redheads and occasional brunettes (especially if they’re named Lucy) tend to fare far worse than the blondes; also, the promise of salvation through Christianity is heavily played on, leaving the climax a bit underwhelming. Nonetheless, it’s worth a watch: Quality 5/10, Fun 6/10.
Following this movie was Scars of Dracula, which doesn’t really fit fully in the continuity of the previous movies. Yes, it starts with Dracula being resurrected by a vampire bat, but then it relocates to a new castle unlike the previous one. A young man, fleeing from a false rape charge, winds up Dracula’s captive. His brother and brother’s girlfriend try to find him. Since she’s blonde, you know she’ll come out okay, but pity the poor raven-haired barmaid. This one also features former Dr. Who star Patrick Troughton as Dracula’s servant. Unlike previous movies, Dracula controls animals in this one, particularly bats. Though generally considered one of the lesser movies in the sequence, I like it. Quality 6/10, Fun 7/10.
After this movie was a pair of Vincent Price movies. Theater of Blood is arguably his best, one that allows Price to ham it up as the vengeful Shakespearean actor Edward Lionheart out to get the critics who deprived him of an award he felt he deserved. Each of the deaths is based on a Shakespeare play, starting with Julius Caesar. Diana Rigg looks and acts wonderful as Edward’s daughter and partner-in-crime, Edwina. This movie is filled with dark humor and is an ideal companion piece to The Abominable Dr. Phibes with its similar plot. Quality: 8/10, Fun 9/10.
Price plays a much grimmer character in Pit and the Pendulum, one of Roger Corman’s Poe adaptations. In this movie, Price plays the son of a Spanish Inquisitor who is haunted by the ghost of his late wife, played by horror queen Barbara Steele. It’s actually a ruse played by the wife to drive Price catatonic with insanity, but the plan will backfire. Her final fate is a truly grim one. And yes, there is a pit and a very deadly pendulum. Quality 6/10, Fun 7/10.
Black Sunday, aka, The Mask of Satan, also stars Steele in the role that made her a queen of horror. She plays two roles: that of an evil witch who after two centuries, is not as dead as people think, and her young and good-hearted relative who offers the witch a chance at resurrection. This delightfully moody movie was Mario Bava’s first horror film, and like with Steele, would start a career in the genre. Quality 7/10, Fun 8/10.
Next on the list was the long-anticipated and well-worth-the-wait Island of Lost Souls. Among the classic monster movies of the 1930s (Frankenstein, Dracula, The Invisible Man, The Mummy, etc.), Island of Lost Souls stood out as being unavailable on DVD. And being made in 1932, it is a pre-Code film and it shows. If it was made five years later, it would have been substantially watered down.
Based on H.G. Wells’s novel The Island of Dr. Moreau, Island of Lost Souls deals with the hero being stuck on the title isle. At first, it seems like Moreau is performing terrible experiments on men, but he is actually transforming animals into human form, with mixed results. Moreau (played wonderfully by Charles Laughton) is a god among his subjects, and he relishes the role. He is also intent on a new experiment: mating the hero with the Panther Woman (who looks almost human). When that fails, he engineers an attempted rape of the hero’s fiancee by an animal-man. This is all the sort of material that would never fly once the Production Code kicked in. This is a nice gem and one of the classics of the era. Quality 8/10, Fun 10/10.
Finally, what Halloween month would be complete without Halloween? Yes, there were slasher movies before this one, but this movie really made the slasher flick a genre. As has been pointed out by many people many times, this film is almost completely bloodless, relying on suspense where others would rely on gore. In fact, after Michael Myers kills his sister in the movie’s prologue, there is virtually no violence till the last half hour. At the time, Donald Pleasance got the top billing, but it winds up being Jamie Lee Curtis who’s the star in what was her movie debut. Quality 8/10, Fun 9/10.