#212 Carnival of Souls

Watched: December 19 2018

Director: Herk Harvey

Starring: Candace Hilligoss, Frances Feist, Art Ellison, Sidney Berger, Stan Levitt

Year: 1962

Runtime: 1h 22min

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Three friends accept a challenge to a drag race (though not the fun one with RuPaul) and their car ends up in the river. Only Mary Henry (Hilligoss) comes out of the water, but soon after the accident she starts to experience strange things.

Carnival of Souls (1962)Directed by Herk Harvey Shown: Candace Hilligoss
“What is this thing?? How do you even drive a car?!? Who on earth placed me behind a stearing wheel?”

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Newly moved to Salt Lake City, Mary finds herself slightly obsessed with an abandoned pavilion formerly used as a carnival. Even worse, she is haunted by the creepiest neighbour in the state of Utah. Oh, and also by a ghostly visage which pops up in windows, visions and dreams. But the neighbour is almost creepier than the spectre.

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Let us lay some wisdom on you: if your neighbour gives you the willies worse than this guy, it’s time to move. We don’t care how low your rent is.

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While Stalky McCreeperson, real name John (Berger), next door continuously tries to get in her pants, Mary tries to stay sane and perform well at her job as an organist. But she is troubled by her hallucinations (or are they?) and some unusual episodes in which all sounds disappear and people seem unable to see her. What is really going on with our heroine?

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She is tormented by confusion. How can a man simultaneously look so frightening and so amiable?

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Honestly, we went into this not expecting much. It’s part of a DVD box set we own with 50 horror films, and most of them are sub-par to say the least (with some notable exceptions). But we were pleasantly surprised by this atmospheric and unsettling cult classic.

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This single image will haunt our dreams for the rest of our lives. And now yours. You’re welcome. #sharethetrauma

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We loved the intense lighting and the reflections during Mary’s drive to Utah; the truly distressing ghosts; the main character (Mary is actually quite independent and don’t need no man!); the music; the make-up; and the dancing ghouls.

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This isn’t from the film, by the way. We just really wanted to share some pictures from our New Year’s party. ‘Twas a strange affair…

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Sadly, this was Herk Harvey’s only foray into the world of horror, although some of his other credits would suggest otherwise: “Dance, Little Children,” “To Touch a Child” and “Shake Hands with Danger” are all, unfortunately, enlightening and moralizing short films despite their evocative titles, and not the psychotic horror thrills we had envisioned. Our lack of research led to a very disappointing movie night indeed…

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All we’re saying is, when you settle in to watch a film called “Pork: The Meal with a Squeal” directed by this guy, you expect some Hannibal Lecter stuff.

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What we learned: We found 2019’s Halloween make-up. It’s a done deal now. Also, you should check out Herk Harvey’s credits as director. There are some real gems among these titles.

Next time: Jules et Jim (1962)

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#211 Yojimbo

Watched: December 17 2018

Director: Akira Kurosawa

Starring: Toshirô Mifune, Tatsuya Nakadai, Isuzu Yamada, Daisuke Katô, Seizaburô Kawazu, Takashi Shimura, Eijirô Tôno

Year: 1961

Runtime: 1h 50min

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Japan, 1860. Ronin Sanjuro Kuwabatake (Mifune) wanders the country side, choosing his way at random. The fates apparently guide him well, because he eventually arrives in a town in desperate need of his help.

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A town run by two strangely assembled crime syndicates

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Upon arrival, the ronin is advised to leave by inn keeper Gonji (Tôno) who tells him about the rival clans who terrorize the town and claims there’s nothing for him there. But the ronin has other plans. He decides to take on the responsibility of cleaning up the town and approaches one of the leaders to offer up his services.

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“Dude, listen to this. I’m gonna – no, listen! I’m gonna pretend to back each side. Right? Back each of them. But then I’m really not. Get it? Damn, I’m brilliant!”

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First, he convinces Seibê (Kawazu) to hire him as a swordsman, but overhears his wife Orin (Yamada) plotting to kill him once he has helped them kill their enemies. Then, when his new boss arranges for the two sides to meet in battle, Sanjuro quits his job and climbs up to watch the rival sides destroy each other.

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It would have worked too, if it weren’t for those meddling government officials.

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Unfortunately, this first plan is foiled by the arrival of some sort of official person who comes to inspect the town. So the samurai needs to rethink his strategy for the next attempt, using all his craft and cunning to save the innocent inhabitants of the small village. But with the odds stacking against him, can he complete his mission? And survive the ordeal?

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Honestly, he too cool to be killed. Look at this badass!

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We were thrilled to be taken back into the samurai world of Akira Kurosawa. Our earlier encounters (Rashômon, Seven Samurai, and Throne of Blood) have been among our all time favourites, and Yojimbo definitely joins their ranks.

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We’re easy. Bring us a man with a sword and we swoon like teenagers.

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We love the costumes, the sword fighting, the characters, the actors, and the music. And we can easily see how this movie would inspire westerns (particularly A Fistful of Dollars, we seem to remember) – it’s the sort of story that works equally well in any setting in which there are lone gun-/swordmen and lawless societies.

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Don’t try to tell us this shot has not been recreated in a Sergio Leone movie!

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The main character is just so ridiculously cool that we cannot even find the words to describe him. He’s just cool. So very, very cool. And deadly. But in a good way. He’s just cool, man.

What we learned: We have a very strange crush on Toshirô Mifune…

Next time: Bonus: The Curse of the Werewolf (1961)

#209 Victim

Watched: November 28 2018

Director: Basil Dearden

Starring: Dirk Bogarde, Sylvia Syms, Dennis Price, Anthony Nicholls, Peter McEnery, Donald Churchill, Derren Nesbitt, John Barrie

Year: 1961

Runtime: 1h 30min

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Jack Barrett (McEnery) is on the run from the cops and desperately tries to contact several friends for help, all of whom turn him down and sends him on his way. When the police finally catches up with him, we learn that he is a victim of blackmail and Detective Inspector Harris (Barrie) correctly deduces the reason: Barrett is gay.

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It’s a lose/lose situation. He’s going to jail both for who he is and what he’s been forced to do to conceal that fact.

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When Barrett kills himself in his jail cell, one of the people who turned him away feels guilty. Successful barrister Melville Farr (Bogarde), a once close friend of the dead man (some might say too close), decides to find out the truth behind Barrett’s indirect murder and bring his blackmailer to justice.

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The unknown extortionist was a subtle man, gently blending into his surroundings, and did not in any way come across as the creepiest creep that ever creeped.

 

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There is just one problem. Farr is a respected member of society with a successful career and a lovely wife, Laura (Syms), both of which he stands to lose if he pursues his hunt. This does not deter him, and his investigation makes him vulnerable to scrutiny from a society in which homosexuality is not only frowned upon but illegal.

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Laura, for one, is not impressed by her husband’s indiscretions. She was under the impression that this was just a phase he went through in college (no, seriously, she really thought so).

 

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Victim really took us by surprise, as we were not familiar with it before it was added to the list. A movie which explores homosexuality and demonizes the society which condemns them rather than the gay men themselves? From 1961? We were very pleasantly surprised indeed!

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Granted, the gay (bisexual?) hero is married to a woman, and has apparently never acted on his homosexual urges, but it’s a start…

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It’s in many ways a very quiet movie, with little score, but it still packs a punch. We liked the Detective Inspector who seemed very sympathetic to the blackmail victims’ plight, all the people giving speeches about the ill-treatment of homosexuals and the fact that everyone treated Barrett’s suicide as a murder. It’s sad, outrageous and extremely engaging, and it must have been very controversial upon its release six years before homosexuality was legalized in Britain. And it’s definitely still worth seeing.

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Also, Patterson, Farr’s assistant (?), is our new hero

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What we learned: It’s incredible to think that people can be considered criminals because of who they are as opposed to what they do… And it’s even more incredible to think that this hasn’t changed – only the groups targeted have (and not even that in a lot of places).

Next time: West Side Story (1961)

#208 The Innocents

Watched: November 7 2018

Director: Jack Clayton

Starring: Deborah Kerr, Martin Stephens, Pamela Franklin, Michael Redgrave, Megs Jenkins, Peter Wyngarde

Year: 1961

Runtime: 1h 40min

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When Sister the Oldest was young, she watched a lot of movies which were somewhat age-inappropriate. Child’s Play (1988) abruptly ended her doll playing career around 1990. Early exposure to Predator (1987) and Blue Velvet (1986) brought on a fear of invisible monsters leaving cut-off ears lying around willy nilly (the two movies may have been a bit muddled up in her young brain), though she found Terminator 2 (1991) more sad than scary. And then there was The Innocents

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Deborah Kerr looking for Miles in a flowing nightgown with a candelabra will forever haunt her dreams

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Like many of the others, this was partially watched on a friend’s TV one night  – our own parents were quite strict about what was appropriate viewing for kids – and it messed Sister the Oldest up quite a bit. However, November of this year was the first time she’d seen it since, and it still holds up as a creepy Gothic tale of ghosts and/or madness.

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It helps that the 1961 winner of Britain’s Creepiest Kid Award stars in it

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Based on Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw (which we’ve actually read, being the cultured, sophisticated people that we are), the film tells the story of Miss Giddens (Kerr), who is sent to the British countryside as a governess to two young orphans, Miles (Stephens) and Flora (Franklin).

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As well as being a charming little doll, Flora possesses the strange ability to keep both the background and the foreground in focus. An unusual gift for so small a child.

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Giddens initially finds her two young wards utterly charming, and the estate beautiful. But as she starts to investigate what happened to the last governess and her dangerous lover, the children’s behaviour begins to worry her, and the rot underneath the beauty of the place starts to come up to the surface. Are the kids being haunted? Possessed? Are they playing games with her? Or is she slowly going insane in the isolated estate?

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It’s hard to decide what the truth is, but the crazy-eyes of Giddens might be a hint

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As stated, The Innocents has held up incredibly well. It’s a very faithful adaptation of James’ novella and the disturbing atmosphere of the original is very much present in the film version. The kids are perfectly cast, as is Deborah Kerr, and the estate is lovely and Gothic.

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Well done for finding not just one but two ghosty, floaty see-through children! They’re hard to come by.

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We loved the wholly impractical costumes (how were people supposed to do anything wearing something like that?) and the way everything in the shot was in focus at once (deep focus..? We’re not really down with the terminology of cinematography..), which made it feel unsettling and “wrong.” There’s very little score in the movie and it’s rather quiet most of the time, which works well to emphasise the atmosphere. Also, we loved the ambiguity of the ending…

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Ghosts or not, we’ve learned that cute children are inherently terrifying

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What we learned: One need not be a chamber to be haunted. Or mad. One need not be a chamber to be mad either.

Next time: Victim (1961)

#207 The Hustler

Watched: October 20 2018

Director: Robert Rossen

Starring: Paul Newman, Jackie Gleason, Piper Laurie, George C. Scott, Myron McCormick

Year: 1961

Runtime: 2h 14min

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Eddie Felson (Newman) and Charlie Burns (McCormick) are hustling their way across the USA with the goal to challenge legendary pool player Minnesota Fats (Gleason). Find him they do, and the bigwig agrees to play Eddie, starting at $200 per game.

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“How does this work again? Do they both hit the balls at the same time, or..?” “Dunno. I thought they were supposed to take turns or something.” – Real conversation between sisters watching this

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While Eddie gets off to a flying start, he gets drunk, conceited and easily manipulated and end up losing his entire $18 000 winnings back to Minnesota (the guy, not the state. Maybe we should just go with “Fats”?).

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He doesn’t mind what we call him. He’s just happy to be here.

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Humiliated and broke, Eddie leaves Charlie and half of his remaining money and skulks off into the night. At a bus station he meets Sarah Packard (Laurie), a charming alcoholic with a limp, and the two strike up a conversation and later a relationship.

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Ain’t no romance like a bus stop romance ’cause a bus stop romance don’t end (well)!

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The two seem happy together for a while, but then gambler Bert Gordon (Scott) offers to put up Eddie’s stakes in return for 75% of his winnings, and Eddie goes back out into the world of semi-professional pool playing – a world Sarah can see is no good for him. Or anyone else for that matter. But is Eddie ready to let his grudge against Minnesota Fats go? And how much is he willing to sacrifice to get a second chance at besting him?

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“I mean, what do you want with these people? That guy wears shades inside! And I swear that lady just took a flower pot, turned it upside down and called it a hat!”

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We love how there’s very little preamble and backstory to The Hustler. We’re thrown right into the action and never given a moment to stop and catch our breaths until the end.

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Who knew watching people play pool could be so exciting?

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Paul Newman is fantastic in it, and Piper Laurie, reminding us of a (wonderful) cross between Carey Mulligan and Stockard Channing (Grease-era Channing, specifically), equally so. Sure, it centers around pool (ugh – a sport!) but that is not what this movie is about. So if you, like us, tend to avoid these kinds of films, give this one a chance. You (probably) won’t regret it. It’s powerful, moving and heartbreaking.

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Ah, what could have been…

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What we learned: We know way too little about the rules of pool. Also, don’t pursue obsessions at the cost of human relationships.

Next time: The Innocents (1961)

#205 Lola

Watched: November 1 2018

Director: Jacques Demy

Starring: Anouk Aimée, Marc Michel, Jacques Harden, Alan Scott, Annie Duperoux, Elina Labourdette

Year: 1961

Runtime: 1h 30min

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Roland Cassard (Michel) loses his job and randomly decides to give a young girl his dictionary due to her resemblance to his old friend Cécile (Aimée) – even sharing her name. By chance, he then runs into said friend, who now goes by the name Lola. And is a showgirl…

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Would you believe she both merengues and does the cha-cha..?

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Lola, now a single mother, is very happy to see her old friend, and the two go out to dinner before her show one evening. Roland finds out that despite not having heard from him in seven years, Lola is still hung up on her baby daddy Michel (Harden). While waiting for him to return, the dancer passes the time with American sailor Frankie, who also develops a strange and unhealthy relationship with Lola’s young lookalike Cécile (Duperoux), seeming destined to repeat history.

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The young girl is easy prey too – the only person invited to her birthday party was a random dude she had met only once and who her mother wanted to bang. Way to make a girl feel special.

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Roland falls for Lola and decides to make his unrequited love her problem by telling her about his feelings and being childish and mean when she rebuffs him. Because naturally it is her fault that he fell for her and she should feel bad about it.

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Perhaps Roland should practise reading body language instead of guilt-tripping women when they don’t love him?

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Lola is an interesting movie – the perspective switches between characters and goes off in all kinds of directions, while still telling the story quite efficiently. Lola is a bit simple, but sweet, and we loved how she was never apologetic about her work or her status as a single parent.

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Of course, she had nothing to apologise for, being a fabulous woman and great mother, but we have a feeling not everyone would have thought so, especially in 1961

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While we’re still unclear how their days worked (does Yvon go to night school? How on earth do they get so much done before school? And did Roland come to work late five times in three days???), Roland acted like a stereotypical “nice guy” with Lola, and we’re very worried about Frankie grooming the young Cécile, we absolutely enjoyed this movie and we can’t wait for what else Jacques Demy has in store for us. Also, we need Lola’s corset. And top hat.

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If you’re only going to own one outfit, make it a classic!

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What we learned: Never go with service men.

Next time: The Guns of Navarone (1961)

#204 A Taste of Honey

Watched: October 30 2018

Director: Tony Richardson

Starring: Rita Tushingham, Dora Bryan, Murray Melvin, Robert Stephens, Paul Danquah

Year: 1961

Runtime: 1h 41min

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Jo (Tushingham) is an artistic sixteen-year old girl who’s neglected by her mother Helen (Bryan) and tired of the way her life is going. Following the girl’s short romance with black sailor Jimmy (Danquah), Jo is kicked out from her home when her mother marries a disaster of a man, Peter (Stephens).

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Strangely, it wasn’t the affair that dissuaded Peter from taking her on as his new daughter. It was her resting-weird-face which freaked him out.

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Jo moves out, gets a flat and a job in a shoe shop, as well as a new gay best friend in Geoff (Melvin). In short, she’s pretty much living the outcast girl’s dream. There’s one problem though – her romance with Jimmy left her pregnant.

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No inexperienced teenager would have stood a chance with this guy…

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Like Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, A Taste of Honey was familiar to the extremely sophisticated Sister the Oldest from her literature studies, but only in writing. The film version of Shelagh Delaney’s play was no disappointment and we both enjoyed it a lot.

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On the question of favourite character we’re torn between both these two

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We can imagine that this one would have been at least a tiny bit controversial upon release with its depictions of sexuality (both young girls and homosexuals should keep that to themselves, thank-you-very-much!), interracial relationships and horrible parenting.

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Helen may look caring and worried, but only as long as Jo’s needs don’t interfere  with her own

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Despite the somewhat bleak subject matter, A Taste of Honey is not as depressing as it could easily have become. The dialogue is funny and witty, and the characters are interesting – especially the women and Geoff.

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Peter’s just your run-of-the-mill misogynist bastard though

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We loved Jo – she’s awkward, insolent, insecure, independent, stubborn, sharp and fabulous, partly thanks to Tushingham’s performance. This movie is a great little slice of kitchen sink drama with a fantastic cast and a strange but interesting peep show scene set in Blackpool. Not sure why we point that out that in particular, but it seemed worth mentioning. Definitely recommended.

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What we learned: Life doesn’t always go the way you plan it. And sometimes you make the same mistakes as your mother.

Next time: Lola (1961)

#202 Village of the Damned

Watched: September 21 2018

Director: Wolf Rilla

Starring: George Sanders, Barbara Shelley, Michael Gwynn, Laurence Naismith, Martin Stephens

Year: 1960

Runtime: 1h 17min

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In a small British town, all the residents (and animals) simultaneously pass out one day. They wake up a few hours later, unharmed, but later find that all the fertile women in the village are pregnant. Which obviously leads to some uncomfortable questions and suspicions.

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Questions such as who was the sexy alien adonis who managed to impregnante a dozen women within the space of an hour? And what sort of pills was he on to keep it up?

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The children are born 5 months later (which hospital show-fans everywhere know is waaay too early), and they all have white blond hair and intense eyes. Among the new parents are Anthea (Shelley) and Gordon Zellaby (Sanders). The latter is a professor who enjoys a good relationship with British Intelligence, and he takes on the task of observing and possibly educating the strange children.

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As you can tell from his body language, he florishes in his new role as teacher and mentor for a bunch of creepy kids.

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The children develop quickly, and are supersmart and polite, which in itself is a warning sign for anyone who’s ever encountered an actual child. In addition, they seem to have a hive mind and powers of telepathy. If anyone from the village poses any sort of threat to them, they soon become suicidal and the threat is eliminated. But what is their purpose? And will humanity survive their coming?

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Ain’t nothing a rope and a gas mask can’t fix!

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Village of the Damned is such a classic horror movie we will just go ahead and assume that everyone has seen it. We love the final scene in which the kids tear apart Gordon’s mental wall, the chilling, creepy children themselves, and the unsettling atmosphere. The kids, and especially David Zellaby (Stephens), are calm, rational and emotionless, and very disquieting. Their reactions to any threat are relentless and brutal which works great coming from adorable little kids.

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By “adorable” we mean “ominous-as-fuck!”

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With Halloween coming up, you could do a lot worse – and it’s short enough to fit neatly into any sort of marathon you may be planning. Also, perfect low budget costume idea for those of you with children of your own! Just prepare yourself to be terrified of them.

What we learned: We’re definitely never having children. Never.

Next time: Zazie dans le Métro (1960)

#201 The Virgin Spring/Jungfrukällan

Watched: September 19 2018

Director: Ingmar Bergman

Starring: Max von Sydow, Birgitta Valberg, Gunnel Lindblom, Birgitta Pettersson, Allan Edwall, Axel Düberg, Tor Isedal

Year: 1960

Runtime: 1h 29min

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Ingeri (Lindblom) is an unwed pregnant servant for a prosperous Swedish family. Angry at her circumstance and jealous of spoiled rich girl Karin (Pettersson), she prays to Odin for justice while the rest of the household are Christian.

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She’s a freaking delight at parties

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The two young women are sent to church to deliver candles for mass, but Ingeri is spooked by the forest (and an appearance by Odin himself, probably) and Karin goes off on her own. She runs into a trio of goat herds who she invites to share her meal but being pampered and naïve, she does not sense the danger they pose until it’s too late.

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Clearly, she’s never met anyone not interested in her well-being before. They’re not even trying to be non-creepy!

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With Ingeri watching from the trees, two of the three men rape and then kill Karin, steal her clothes and valuables, and then leave her half naked body in the woods to rot. Later that night, the brothers seek shelter with Karin’s parents Märeta (Valberg) and Töre (von Sydow). The now worried parents only discover the brutal truth when their guests try to sell Märeta Karin’s distinctive and expensive dress, spotted with blood. They start preparing their revenge…

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Daddy forgets all about his Christian values when faced with his daughter’s brutal murder. Luckily for him, he keeps a pagan/satanic knife handy for just these kinds of situations.

 

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The Virgin Spring is like a dark and brutal fairytale – Karin is the innocent princess and Ingeri the dark witch (although she does seek redemption in the end). The three headed troll popular in Scandinavian folklore is also present, and there’s friction between the old faiths and beliefs and the relatively new Christian faith (which technically raped its way through Scandinavia, so the roles are slightly reversed) which we also often see in traditional fairytales.

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It’s almost as if thy’re going for some sort of contrast or something. We’re not sure.

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The rape scene is extremely uncomfortable to watch, even by today’s standards (as, indeed, all rape scenes should be) and the tension throughout the movie is palpable. For us Norwegians though, the appearance of Allan Edwall as a beggar residing with the prosperous farmers is a welcome distraction from the horror. Anyone who grew up in the Nordic countries in the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s are familiar with him from his roles in several films based on Astrid Lindgren.

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The man never fails to remind us of happier, more innocent times. Although, of course, there was no way Bergman would have foreseen that. (Sorry for picture quality. There’s a distinct lack of Edwall-stills from this movie online.)

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This is a fantastic, tense and uncomfortable movie about jealousy, hatred, revenge and redemption, and we truly recommend it. Even if you have no relationship with Allan Edwall.

What we learned: Hell hath no fury like a parent bereft. Also, try not to summon the old gods if you’re not 100% sure you can handle it. Just a little tip for you.

Next time: The Village of the Damned (1960)

#199 The Little Shop of Horrors

Watched: September 21 2018

Director: Roger Corman

Starring: Jonathan Haze, Jackie Joseph, Mel Welles, Dick Miller, Myrtle Vail, Leola Wendorff, Jack Nicholson

Year: 1960

Runtime: 1h 12min

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Seymour Krelborn (Haze) is a simple employee at Mushnick’s (Welles) failing floral shop on Skid Row, along with his crush Audrey Fulquard (Joseph). Their few customers are mainly limited to the unluckiest woman in the universe, Mrs Shiva (Wendorff), whose relatives keep dropping dead on a daily basis, and flower eating Fouch (Miller).

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Mushnick suffering his third mental breakdown of the day. They opened ten minutes ago…

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When Seymour is threatened with unemployment after screwing up yet another order, he reveals to his boss that he has been cultivating a new plant which he has named “Audrey Jr” and is told he can keep his job if he manages to popularize the plant and grow more of them.

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“She’s a fascinating creature, not at all bloodthirsty and creepy!”

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However, Audrey Jr is dying and Seymour struggles to find a food source for it. That is, until he cuts himself and the plant greedily drinks his blood… Having found sustenance for his creation, Seymour turns the shop and his unusual plant into superstars. But Audrey Jr craves more. And Seymour must provide…

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“What? No! It eats shoes. Shoes. Not dead bodies – no siree!”

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The 1960 original Little Shop of Horrors may not be as well known as the musical remake from 1986, but oh my did we love it! The characters, the plot, the script and the humour are all hilarious and we laughed so much that we were in pain at the end.

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Also, Jack Nicholson has a fantastically creepy and funny, though somewhat hyped up, small part as a masochist seeking dental care

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Roger Corman seems to love him some murderous simpletons who profit from their kills, as the main character shares some clear similarities with Walter Paisley (also Miller) in A Bucket of Blood. However, while Walter becomes a douchebag with his newfound success, Seymour seems to be more aware that what he is doing is wrong, and many of Audrey Jr’s meals are products of accidents rather than cold blooded murder.

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Most of them…

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We loved the investigators (especially the one who lost his kid), Mrs Shiva and her accident prone family, Fouch and his handy salt/pepper shaker, the flower floozies and generally everything about this. It’s in many ways a funnier version of A Bucket of Blood, and we cannot recommend it enough. And while we love the musical version, this one is somehow more charming and has become our favourite of the two. Go watch it!

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Like Audrey, it is an utter delight!

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What we learned: If a lifeform of unknown origin craves human blood to thrive, just walk away!

Next time: The Running, Jumping and Standing Still Film (1960)