#240 Onibaba

Watched: September 30 2019

Director: Kaneto Shindô

Starring: Nobuko Otowa, Jitsuko Yoshimura, Kei Satô, Taiji Tonoyama

Year: 1964

Runtime: 1h 43min

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Sometime in the fourteenth century (we think) a mother-and-daughter-in-law team kill stray samurai and sell their stuff for food. The bodies? Dumped in a convenient hole and left to rot.

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Our disbelief was not quite suspended yet five minutes into the film, so the only thing we could think of at this point was that the dry grass must have really cut into the actors’ backs! Tres uncomfortable!

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A neighbour returns with news of their son’s/husband’s death, and the two women dispair. For a few days. And then the new widow starts sneaking off in the night to get her rocks off with the neighbour.

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The Queen of Eyebrows does not approve

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Mother worries that her partner in crime will leave her to her own devices now that she has a new lover. But when she meets a strange samurai with an even stranger mask she hatches a devious plan.

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Her new hobby: hanging out in fields at night with an unknown light source popping up at just the right time!

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Onibaba was strangely unsettling and it stayed with us for a long time after the credits rolled. From the animalistic lives of the two women in the beginning, to the demonic mask and the creepy ending, we were completely engaged.

 

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Admittedly, we thought Sir Brags-a-lot kind of had it coming, the way he treated his guide

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We loved the contrasts of light and dark, the intense music, the non-sexualised nudity, the mask, the epic eyebrows, and the general disconcerting feel of the entire piece. This is one of those movies we would probably never have watched if it weren’t for the list, so thank you Edgar. We loved it!

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If you’re wondering, the sexually frustrated tree-humping women did not strike a cord as much as the horror elements of the demon mask. That’s our story and we’re sticking to it.

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What we learned: Don’t shame two single, consenting adults for enjoying a healthy sexual relationship.

Next time: Red Desert (1964)

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Bonus: X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes

Watched: May 25 2019

Director: Roger Corman

Starring: Ray Milland, Diana Van der Vlis, Harold J. Stone,  John Hoyt, Don Rickles, Dick Miller

Year: 1963

Runtime: 1h 19min

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Doctor James Xavier (Milland) is getting an eye exam in anticipation of doing some sort of experiment on himself. His mission, should he choose to accept it (which he probably will as he is the one who came up with it in the first place), is to attempt to expand the spectrum of human vision.

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In other words: he wants to be able to see through people’s clothes at parties

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After a fatal test run on a monkey, he goes straight to a human test subject: himself. Which seems a bit presumptive given the fatality of the first test, but hubris has always been a great blinder. As are, it turns out, the eye drops he uses to change his own vision.

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“It’s so weird how the same eye drops that killed the monkey have some averse effect on human beings too! As a scientist, I never could have anticipated that.”

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Sure, at first the main effect of the drops is a new ability to check people for diseases, broken bones, internal injuries and unflattering underwear, but Xavier soon grows addicted to the drops, and his vision changes for each new dose. How far is he willing to go?

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Creepy, shiny, slightly cross-eyed contacts-far? Or even further?

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X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes is just the right amount of fun, silly, schlocky and overly dramatic to appeal to our sensibilities. Add to that a wonderful cameo by Dick Miller, eating as per usual, and Ray Milland as the eccentric genius and we’re completely sold.

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We also enjoyed the effect created by the I-can’t-believe-it’s-not-3D “Spectarama”

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X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes reminded us quite a bit of The Invisible Man, although the main character is slightly less crazy. Slightly. We loved the circus act, the amazing dancing at the party, the creepy contacts, and the drama of it all. This may no longer be on the list, but we’re not ones to turn down a Roger Corman movie if we have an excuse for one. A good choice if you’re looking for something a bit silly for a lost weekend. (See what we did there?)

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This is a man who has survived a Roger Corman movie marathon

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What we learned: The main character is called Dr Xavier and can see what others cannot, similarly to Professor Xavier from X-Men. This movie was released in September 1963, just like the first X-Men comic which featured Professor Xavier. Mind. Blown.

Next time: A Fistful of Dollars (1964)

#190 Eyes Without a Face/Les yeux sans visage

Watched: August 4 2018

Director: Georges Franju

Starring: Pierre Brasseur, Alida Valli, Edith Scob, Juliette Mayniel, Béatrice Altariba

Year: 1960

Runtime: 1h 30min

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A woman dumps a faceless body in the middle of the night. The body is found and identified as Christiane Génessier (Scob) by her father, Doctor Génessier. Her face was destroyed in a car accident caused by the doctor and she is presumed to have killed herself.

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“Yes, yes, definitely my daughter. I would recognize her lack of face anywhere.”

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The body is buried and no one questions its identity, but what is the deal with all the missing girls in the area? The ones who resemble the presumably dead girl? The one with the ruined face and the surgeon father..?

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They’re certainly not having their faces removed and transplanted to Christiane. No siree!

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Doctor Génessier is riddled with guilt and hubris, and despite his daughter’s protests he’s trying to repair the damage he’s done, leaving in his wake a trail of faceless bodies. With the help of former patient Louise (Valli), he kidnaps young women, removes their faces, and tries to transplant them onto his own daughter who he keeps locked up in the house like the stray dogs he experiments on.

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At least the prisoners can take comfort in each other’s company

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We love everything about this film! The circusy music, the surgery shown in excruciating detail, the haunting mask and outfits of Christiane which make her look like a doll, and the ending with the gorgeous final shots – there’s nothing here not to love.

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She’s like the adorable ghost of a life-sized doll wandering about the mansion, bonding with animals Gothic Disney-princess style.

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Daddy is a giant douche whose pride is more important than the happiness of his daughter, even if he tells himself he’s doing this for her. Also, there’s some seriously shoddy police work going on – we mean, why would they send in Paulette (Altariba) for a consultation with the doctor without keeping an eye on her or instructing her to report back when she was discharged? Amateurs.

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“Yeah, this is what you get for shoplifting!”

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Terribly unprofessional police work aside, Eyes Without a Face is a haunting horror movie which should be on everyone’s to-watch list. It’s terrible and beautiful, and it reminds us of a twisted and dark fairytale. Love it!

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We prophesize a Disney remake

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What we learned: Looks aren’t everything.

Next time: La Dolce Vita (1960)

#174 A Bucket of Blood

Watched: April 6 2018

Director: Roger Corman

Starring: Dick Miller, Barboura Morris, Antony Carbone, Julian Burton

Year: 1959

Runtime: 1h 06min

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In a beatnik café, pretentious poet Maxwell H. Brock (Burton) is performing his latest work, to the fascination of busboy Walter Paisley (Miller). Inspired by the artists he surrounds himself with, and also driven by their ridicule of him, Walter decides to try his hand at sculpting.

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“So, how did we do this in Arts and Crafts again..? I just knead it for a while and then it turns out amazing? Can’t be more to it than that!”

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Realising that sculpting is harder than it looks, he takes a break to save his landlady’s cat who’s stuck inside the wall. However, stabbing through it, he accidentally stabs the poor cat. Naturally, he proceeds to cover the dead animal in sculpting clay and the next day he turns up to work with his new sculpture.

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“Dead Cat” is an instant success, admired by art lovers and drug enthusiasts alike

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Walter’s newfound success leads to admiration from his crush Carla (Morris) and other patrons of the café, and a lady gives him some heroin as a gift, as one does. This in turn leads to an attempted arrest as an undercover cop follows Walter home and tries to book him for drug possession. Afraid, Walter hits him over the head with a frying pan, killing the cop instantly.

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What do you do when you accidentally kill a cop? Why, cover the body in clay and pass it off as a life sized sculpture, of course!

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Walter gradually goes from underestimated and accident-prone simpleton to calculating killer who lets every small slight become justification for murder. He is, however, not smart enough to avoid killing people he knows and is known to dislike.

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“It is so sweet that you made a sculpture of a strangled woman who looks exactly like the one who spent last night insulting you very publicly. I simply must kiss you!”

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Leonard (Carbone), the owner of the café, is the only one to see through his newly discovered talent, but he is making money off of Walter’s work and has a vested interest in keeping up the illusion. But how long can this go on? And who is next on Walter’s kill radar?

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“This severed head has been bothering me all week, so I clayed it!”

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A Bucket of Blood is the farcical version of House of Wax. The concepts are similar, but this one is more comedic and strangely also more sinister in many ways. Walter is the epitome of the stereotypical “good guy” – he sees himself as sweet, kind, underestimated and misunderstood, but if he’s rejected by someone, or made fun of, he becomes violent and murderous while simultaneously justifying his actions in his head.

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“I’m a famous and celebrated sculptor now, so you must date me. Unless you’re just a bitch and a whore!”

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We loved his first attempt at sculpting Carla’s face, the extremely pretentious Maxwell and the morbidity of the whole film. We also understand perfectly why Roger Corman made so many films based on the works of Edgar Allan Poe – it’s a match made in heaven! Or probably hell, to be quite frank.

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“If it’s hell, can I still be king..?” “Of course you can, Mr Futterman.”

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What we learned: It’s not easy being surrounded by (pretentious) artists if you’re not one yourself. And also a simpleton…

Next time: Ben-Hur (1959)

#156 Throne of Blood

Watched: January 20 2018

Director: Akira Kurosawa

Starring: Toshirô Mifune, Isuzu Yamada, Takashi Shimura, Minoru Chiaki, Chieko Naniwa, Akira Kubo, Hiroshi Tachikawa

Year: 1957

Runtime: 1h 50min

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General Washizu (Mifune) and General Miki (Chiaki) are on their way to Spider’s Web Castle to have their excellent work recognized by Lord Tsuzuki (Tachikawa) when they get lost in Spider’s Web forest. They run into a magical old lady spinning her own web while singing depressing songs (Naniwa). She tells them that Washizu will be named Lord of the Northern garrison and Miki will take over his old post. She also predicts that eventually Washizu will become Lord of the Castle, succeeded by Miki’s son.

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As systems of government go, it’s a step up from women lying in ponds distributing swords, but it’s still far removed from general elections.

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While Washizu is content enough in his new, improved position, his wife Asaji (Yamada) becomes obsessed with the last part of the prophecy and keeps spurring him on to make it a reality. Asaji’s ambition combined with her husband’s skills as a warrior mean that soon the two start clearing the path for their social climbing, killing and manipulating their way to the top.

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“I admit it. I only want to be Lord because samurai armour is very cumbersome when you’re getting up off floors, and I ain’t getting any younger. Now I get a chair!”

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However, as the bodies start piling up, both Washizus descend into madness, and keeping their new status proves decidedly harder than getting it in the first place.

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Poster girl for sanity

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Throne of Blood is Kurosawa’s adaptation of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, and despite it being set in a very different culture and time, it is a very true adaptation. Mifune is amazing as feudal Japanese Macbeth, and Yamada is deliciously insane and creepy as his ambitious and ruthless wife.

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Just doing some hovering in the background in the blood stained room. Nothing sinister going on here.

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We love us some samurai, some murder and some madness, so naturally we loved this. It is grotesque and creepy as well as engaging and exciting. As all Kurosawa, it is also beautifully shot and gorgeous to look at. It’s a Shakespeare tragedy, so from the very beginning you have some idea of where this is going, but watching it all unfold is still a fantastic ride.

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It’s like this shot in the beginning is some sort of foreshadowing or something.

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Love, love, love this!

What we learned: Don’t take advice from paranoid, ambitious, crazy people.

Next time: What’s Opera, Doc? (1957)

#114 House of Wax

Watched: June 11 2017

Director: André De Toth

Starring: Vincent Price, Frank Lovejoy, Phyllis Kirk, Carolyn Jones, Roy Roberts, Charles Bronson

Year: 1953

Runtime: 1h 28min

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House of Wax is an old favourite of Sister the Oldest, stemming from her love of Vincent Price in her teenage Goth days (we’ve all been there). A remake of Michael Curtiz’ Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933), it stars Price as Professor Henry Jarrod, an eccentric sculptor who works with wax figures.

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His obsession with his Marie Antoinette hints at his brewing insanity. Then again, she’s quite the looker!

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When Jarrod’s business partner Matthew Burke (Roberts) is in need of some quick cash, he proposes to the artist that they burn down the museum to collect the insurance. Jarrod, who has a close, personal relationship with all his creations, is not exactly on board, so Burke tries to kill him. The museum burns down and Jarrod disappears and is thought to have perished in the fire.

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In reality, he has but gone the way of his figures

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Fast forward a few months, and Burke dies under mysterious circumstances, his body disappears from the morgue, and his delightful (possible) fiancée Cathy (Jones – a.k.a. She of the Tiny Waist) meets the same fate. Simultaneously, Professor Jarrod reappears with plans to open a new wax museum, this time with a Chamber of Horrors included, showing historical crimes as well as recent, local ones. Coincidence?

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“Why, yes, there is an incredible likeness between my former partner who tried to kill me and whose body disappeared from the morgue, and my recreation of his death. I really am that good.”

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Sue Allen (Kirk), Cathy’s roommate and only witness to her killer, grows suspicious when visiting the museum and finding that Joan of Arc is the spitting image of her dead friend, though her suspicions are mostly written off as the silly ideas of a hysterical woman. Her own likeness to Jarrod’s Marie Antoinette put her on the artist’s radar, and tensions mount.

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“I told her not to touch the artwork! That’s it. She must die.”

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House of Wax holds up incredibly well and is an excellent and creepy feature. We love the image of the melting wax figures, everything about Cathy (our favourite), Vincent Price’s iconic voice, and the grotesque plot.

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“No ding-ding without a wedding ring!” – Cathy, paraphrased. God, we loved her.

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Originally made in 3D, it is easy to see how that would have added to the experience, and some scenes are clearly inserted mainly for the 3D effect. Unfortunately, we’ve only ever seen it in 2D, but perhaps one day we’ll have the chance to watch it in the same way as its original audience. One can only dream…

What we learned: Don’t kill people’s creative works for money. Or, money and art do not always work well together. Something to that effect.

Next time: Mr Hulot’s Holiday/Les vacances de Monsieur Hulot (1953)

#39 Bride of Frankenstein

Watched: September 10 2016

Director: James Whale

Starring: Boris Karloff, Colin Clive, Ernest Thesiger, Elsa Lanchester, Valerie Hobson, Una O’Connor

Year: 1935

Runtime: 1h 15min

Liquids consumed: inordinate amounts of wine…

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Dr. Frankenstein learned absolutely nothing from the events of the first film and is back to repeat his past mistakes.

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“I nearly died myself, therefore no one can criticize me!”

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Both the good(?) doctor and his creation survived the burning windmill at the end of Frankenstein and they are back. The creation (KARLOFF! KARLOFF! KARLOFF!) doesn’t exactly redeem himself in the beginning, by killing both parents of the girl he inadvertently drowned in the first film.

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In his defense, he was probably still slightly agitated from all the burning people had been doing to him lately

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Again, the creature is captured, but no chains can bind him! He escapes into the woods where he eventually meets up with a lonely old blind man who takes care of him and treats his injuries.

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Pictured: one of the most beautiful meetings in cinema history

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The old hermit treats him like a person and teaches him humanity and compassion, something his creator failed to do. Of course, eventually angry villagers destroy his peace and he must once again go into hiding.

Meanwhile, Henry Frankenstein (Clive) is nursed back to health by Elizabeth (Hobson). When he recovers, he swears off playing God for the foreseeable future. That is, until his old mentor Dr. Pretorius (Thesiger) comes calling and lures him back in.

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“Behold: the fruit of my loins; the tiny results of my seed!” “Wow! How did you do this?” “Ehm… Let’s not get into the details, shall we…”

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Pretorius befriends the creature and promises him a spouse. They convince (read: force) Frankenstein to assist them, and together the two scientists create a cultural icon (Lanchester).

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The inspiration for many a Halloween costume and gothic wet dream

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If you haven’t seen this one, we have no idea what you are waiting for. The cast is brilliant; the effects are very impressive (such as the tiny seed-people), the sets are wonderfully stylistic and the film is beautifully lit. Like the first installation in the Frankenstein series, the story is loosely based on Mary Shelley’s novel, but a lot of liberties are taken with the story and the characters. They try to pay tribute to the author though, by introducing Shelley with her trophy husband Percy Bysshe and their mutual friend Lord Byron in the beginning of the film, but here Mary sort of comes off as a silly little girl which doesn’t do her justice. Still, it’s a nice nod to the creator of it all (although it gave Sister the Oldest flashbacks to certain scenes in Gothic [1986]).

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“I still love her… But we belong dead…”

What we learned: Dr. Pretorius must have won some sort of masturbation championship to create so much life from his seeds.

Next time: Top Hat (1935)

#26 The Old Dark House

Watched: August 27 2016

Director: James Whale

Starring: Boris Karloff, Charles Laughton, Melvyn Douglas, Lilian Bond, Ernest Thesiger

Year: 1932

Runtime: 1h 12min

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Sometimes titles are just a perfect summary of the plot. A bickering couple in a car are caught in a storm and soon the road is undrivable. Luckily(?) for them and their hoot-and-a-half passenger (Douglas, who’s amazingly sarcastic and funny) they spot an old (dark) house and make their way there to take shelter from the storm. It seemed like a good idea at the time.

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Seems a perfectly charming and not at all sinister place to spend the night.

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Upon knocking on the door, they are greeted by The Karloff who mumbles something incoherent to which Douglas comments “Even Welsh ought not sound like that!” Karloff turns out to be the dumb servant to house owners Rebecca and Horace Femm (Thesiger, who looks strangely like Lon Chaney in Phantom of the Opera), an old creepy sister and brother duo who are less than thrilled about their unexpected visitors. It’s almost as if they’re hiding something in the house they do not want outsiders to see… Still, they reluctantly invite the guests to stay the night and offer them dinner.

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Not even a creepy manservant and a flimsy dress can relieve the tension

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Soon, another couple join them as they too are caught in the storm. This does very little to raise the spirit of Ms. Rebecca Femm (no one can have beds!) but romance blossoms and drinks are had.

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The hosts are thrilled about the whole affair!

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This film was awesome! It’s one of the ones we’ve heard of several times but have never actually seen before. While we expected suspense and horror, we were not at all prepared for how hilarious this film truly is. The dialogue, the gags and the characters, not to mention the use of wonky mirrors and shadows to create the eerie atmosphere, all make this another new favourite to play at parties (which might explain why no one comes to our parties). We’ll definitely watch it again at some point.

What we learned: This is a local house for local people – there’s nothing for us here!

Next time: 42nd Street (1933)

#22 The Island of Lost Souls

Watched: August 21 2016

Director: Erle C. Kenton

Starring: Charles Laughton, Richard Arlen, Bela Lugosi, Kathleen Burke

Year: 1932

Runtime: 1h 10min

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Based on H. G. Wells’ The Island of Dr Moreau (1896), The Island of Lost Souls opens with shipwrecked Edward Parker (Arlen) being rescued by a floating zoo. After an altercation with the captain he is unceremoniously tossed off the ship to a remote island owned and operated by mad scientist Dr. Moreau (Laughton) where Parker runs into several scary humanoid creatures. This being the 1930s though, everyone is very polite about the whole thing and he is invited to stay the night in Moreau’s house.

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“Oh, they’re harmless. There’s absolutely no reason whatsoever that I have this huge fence outside my house.”

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The creatures in the jungle are the experiments of the good doctor, who we learn was driven from London when one of his experiments escaped. They are mutated and surgically altered animals kept at bay through “religious” doctrine, enforced by “The Sayer of the Law” (Lugosi). Moreau then decides to introduce his only female creation, the Panther Woman Lota (Burke – credited only as “the Panther Woman”), to Parker and see if she’ll seduce him. Because that what fathers do with their daughters.

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“Sure, I may be engaged, but if she’s not really human, am I really cheating?”

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Like Frankenstein, Moreau has a pesky little God complex which will (of course) be his undoing, and like his German counterpart, he will learn that if you create life and mistreat your creation, you gonna get fucked. Meanwhile, the audience are treated to such simple philosophical questions as “what makes a soul?” and “what makes humanity?”

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Again we put it to you to guess who the real monster is

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This film is awesome – easily the best adaptation we have seen of Wells’ novel (which we haven’t read, but we’ve seen three film versions, so we like to pretend we have). It’s beautifully shot and has some great performances. The only thing missing is a song- and dance-number but, fortunately for us, The Mighty Boosh took care of that. Enjoy!

What we learned: Oh so much! Ships make people slaphappy; Bela Lugosi is awesome even in small roles; don’t play God and mess with nature unless you want to be killed horribly; watching Freaks and The Island of Lost Souls back to back before bedtime will give you weird dreams.

Next time: Love Me Tonight (1932)

#21 Freaks

Watched: August 21 2016

Director: Tod Browning

Starring: Olga Baclanova, Harry Earles, Daisy Earles

Year: 1932

Runtime: 1h

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A personal favourite of ours, Freaks is a cult classic everyone should watch. Cleo, a beautiful trapeze artist in a travelling circus, starts flirting with one of the sideshow “freaks,” little person Hans, for fun. When she discovers his wealth, she teams up with lover and resident strong man Hercules to hatch a sinister plot. Hans marries Cleo, breaking the lovely and gorgeous former fiancée Frieda’s heart in the process, only to be poisoned on his wedding day.

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Fortunately, nobody let a little thing like the poisoning of the groom ruin a perfectly good wedding party!

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Even if you haven’t seen the film, you must have come across the chant “Gooble gobble, gooble gobble! We accept her, we accept her! One of us! One of us!” which is how the “freaks” welcome Cleopatra into their midst. She, however, is not impressed and has no intention of being associated more than necessary with the ones she feels are beneath her. She ridicules her new husband and his friends and Hans realises he’s made a huge mistake just before gets sick from the poison.

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Pictured: pure hatred and dawning realisation. And drunk dude.

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The sideshow performers look after their own though, and when they learn what Cleo is doing, they start plotting a little revenge. And what a vengeance! On the road during a storm, the “freaks” go after Cleo and Hercules and make sure they really become “one of us,” turning them into the freaks they so desperately despise.

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“Who’s the freak now, bitch!”

We cannot express how much we love this film. Throughout the main narrative there are loads of subplots revolving around the daily lives of the circus performers which normalise and humanise them, making the actions of Cleo and Hercules even more despicable and leaving no doubt as to who the actual freaks are.

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Hint: it’s not these guys.

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What we learned: “normals” are the real freaks. But we already knew that. Also, Frieda is the most adorable woman you’ll ever see, Daisy is a fool for marrying Roscoe (he treats her like crap!), Venus and Phroso are wonderful people, and American Horror Story: Freak Show owes pretty much everything to this film.

Next time: The Island of Lost Souls (1932)