Bonus: Dr Terror’s House of Horrors

Watched: April 25 2020

Director: Freddie Francis

Starring: Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, Neil McCallum, Alan Freeman, Bernard Lee, Roy Castle, Michael Gough, Donald Sutherland, Max Adrian, Ursula Howells

Year: 1965

Runtime: 1h 38min

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Six people from different walks of life (and by that we mean 6 middle class white men) meet in a train carriage. One of them, the aptly named Dr Schreck, is a tarot card practitioner and volunteers to read all their fortunes. This goes about as well as you’d expect in a horror film, and all five passengers learn of the terrible fates about to befall them. Should they live long enough to experience it, that is…

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“Let’s play Five Original Ways to Die!”

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Could it be werewolves?

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Or perhaps killer plants?

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How about some voodoo? Always a fun and original way to go!

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Or perhaps you’re looking for something more along the lines of a disembodied hand looking for revenge?

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I know! Let a future Watcher take you on a vampire hunt. Nothing says classic horror like bloodthirsty fiends lurking in the night sucking the life force from the young and vital.

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This horror anthology is clearly inspired by Dead of Night, and while it doesn’t quite live up to its predecessor, it is very fun and entertaining. Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing are wonderful as always, and Donald Sutherland looks very much like his son (who Sister the Oldest may or may not have had a huge crush on in the early nineties… Think Lost Boys/Young Guns era).

The Lost Boys (1987)Directed by Joel Schumacher Shown: Kiefer Sutherland
Sure, the look might be somewhat dated now, but it certainly worked in 1987! (And in 1992 which was probably around the time the movie [and the style] reached Norway.)

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An excellent little place holder while we wait for access to the rest of the list!

What we learned: Dr Terror sure had an impressively detailed and specific deck of tarot cards!

Next time: Batman (1966)

#265 The Collector

Watched: March 19 2019

Director: William Wyler

Starring: Terence Stamp, Samantha Eggar

Year: 1965

Runtime: 1h 59min

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Freddie Clegg (Stamp) is a socially awkward butterfly collector who’s convinced that the only reason he can’t get a date is because women won’t take the time to get to know him. Then one day he wins a large sum of money, buys a remote farmhouse, and decides to test his theory by kidnapping Miranda Grey (Eggar) – an art student he’s been stalking for a while.

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“Stop..!. struggling..! I am a nice.. *hnng* ..guy – I’m doing this for your own good.”

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After the initial shock of having been drugged and taken by a psychopath, Miranda decides the only way she’ll leave the house alive is if she plays along with her deranged “host.” She agrees to stay for four weeks, during which time Freddie believes he can Beauty-and-the-Beast her into falling in love with him.

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“Oh, you’ll be quite happy here in this cold, damp cellar prison I made you. You’ll have a bed, clothes, art supplies – everything a young woman could possibly need! Now love me. “

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The Collector may be from 1965 (based on a 1963 novel) but the parallels to certain contemporary movements are impossible to ignore. Freddie definitely doesn’t see himself as a bad guy (he’s a Nice Guy, you see – just misunderstood), but he also doesn’t see Miranda as human. She is only there to fulfill his needs – she has none of her own. And when she fails to act the way he wants her to, she has no more value to him.

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Trying to flood the house to get the attention of a neighbour when your host is finally letting you have a bath? Where were you raised???

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We absolutely loved this one, and were on the edge of our seat throughout. Terence Stamp was amazing as the psychopathic Freddie – his physicality as well as his sudden and chilly shifts in mood and attitude were fascinating to watch.

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The switches between childlike, innocent happiness and icy calculation are very creepy

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Samantha Eggar is similarly engaging as Miranda – she never loses her defiance despite having to negotiate and play along with her kidnapper. She, like us, never quite loses hope that she might eventually escape this hell.

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Despite her fear, Miranda tries to connect with and manipulate Freddie – anything to regain her freedom

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If you’re a fan of psychological horror and/or serial killers, The Collector is a classic and you simply must check it out. And what better time to watch a movie about someone being held against their will in a remote house than in the midst of a pandemic in which we’re being forced to stay inside our houses? If nothing else it will put your own isolation into perspective. (We hope you’re doing well though, and that you’re not too lonely, wherever you are. Stay inside and stay safe!)

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And even if you’re stuck inside, it’s still nice to occasionally dress up for dinner. Especially if you’re alone and not with the psychopath who abducted you… If that is the case, eat in your PJs. You deserve it.

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What we learned: NEVER hit them once and then try to run. You keep hitting until there’s nothing left but splattered brain matter (theoretically of course. Please do not organize a raid on our apartments. Or search our basement).

Next time: The Hill (1965)

#254 Repulsion

Watched: February 9 2020

Director: Roman Polanski

Starring: Catherine Deneuve, Ian Hendry, John Fraser, Yvonne Furneaux, Patrick Wymark

Year: 1965

Runtime: 1h 45min

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So, here’s the thing. We enjoyed the movie. We loved Catherine Deneuve. The story is intriguing, and the men are sleazy and disgusting. However, watching Polanski-movies is difficult in light of, well, him… (And yes, we know this might seem a bit hypocritical seeing as we actually did review Knife in the Water. We have just given it a bit more thought since then. And sure, there are probably lots of other problematic directors as well, but in this case there is so little doubt and it is so well publicized that it cannot be ignored.)

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Also, he’s clearly just ripping off Beauty and the Beast

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It’s the continuous debate of whether one can truly separate the artist from the art. Considering that he still goes free and is even rewarded (and awarded) despite being a rapist piece of shit, viewing and reviewing his movies is conflicting. Especially when they involve sleazy men trying to take advantage of mentally ill women. But, like, sexy mentally ill women. So that makes it ok, apparently…

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Cause as we all know, nothing is sexier than a spiralling woman. She probably just needs a penis to set her straight.

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We’re not going to tell you whether to watch this or not. It’s entirely up to you. The film itself is intriguing and beautifully shot, but it is also problematic in oh so many ways.

What we learned: Watching (old) Polanski movies is difficult…

Next time: Simon of the Desert (1965)

#253 Planet of the Vampires/Terrore nello spazio

Watched: January 15 2020

Director: Mario Bava

Starring: Barry Sullivan, Norma Bengell, Ángel Aranda, Evi Marandi, Stelio Candelli, Franco Andrei, Fernando Villena

Year: 1965

Runtime: 1h 28min

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Back to civilization after winter break, we dive into the magical and stylish world of Mario Bava with Planet of the Vampires (pronounced vampyres, like Andrew’s documentary in the Buffy episode “Storyteller“. At least in our minds).

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Unfortunately, despite a good start, the female heroes in this this movie tend to scream, faint, and/or run away at the first sign of the undead. Buffy would not approve.

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Argos, a spaceship filled with beautiful people in fabulous leather outfits, approaches an unexplored planet together with its sister ship Galliott. Both ships are sucked into the planet’s atmosphere and go in for a rough landing, and then the crew members try to kill each other once they wake up from the crash.

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“I’m sure glad someone designed these high necked and traditionally vampire proof outfits for our space journey. Their reliance on perfect peripheral vision is exactly what has gone wrong with earlier expeditions.”

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A knock on the head is enough to bring them back to themselves, and the Argonauts go out onto the new planet to see if they can find and rescue the crew of the Galliott. However, strange things start to happen – voices are heard, dead and living bodies both disappear, and massive skeletons are discovered. What is going on?

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“I wonder how these giants died…” “Isn’t it obvious? No high necked, sexy leather outfits anywhere! It was only a matter of time before they perished.”

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Bava always hits the spot for us, although we have never seen this particular movie before. The costumes are amazing, the concept is great (and clearly an influence on later works in the genre), the sets are awesome and there are some very cool shots and visual effects.

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The planet looks eerie and fantastic

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It’s a fun and slightly campy sci-fi-space-adventure which will make you develop trust issues on par with The Thing (1982). Loved it!

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“Plastic is not good for the ENVIRONMEEEENT!!!”

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What we learned: We’re so cosplaying this later. Peripheral vision and ability to turn our heads be damned!

Next time: Repulsion (1965)

#243 The Masque of the Red Death

Watched: October 19 2019

Director: Roger Corman

Starring: Vincent Price, Hazel Court, Jane Asher, David Weston, Patrick Magee (double feature night with Seance – we had a Magevening!), Nigel Green, Skip Martin

Year: 1964

Runtime: 1h 29min

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An old woman is given a rose by a red-cloaked figure and all hell breaks loose.

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“She loves me, she loves me not…”

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Prince Prospero (Price) is a villain and a tyrant. And a satanist. After the Red Death appears in the village providing for his castle, he burns it to the ground with the exception of three villagers. Francesca (Asher), her father Ludovico (Green) and her betrothed Gino (Weston) are taken to the castle to provide entertainment.

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“No, what I’m saying is I’ll never win an axe throwing competition in this corset!”

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Prospero throws decadent parties for his rich friends to distract from the plague ravaging the outside world. He enjoys humiliating and mocking his guests, but as they seem to have little in the way of dignity, they tend not to mind.

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“See? I knew that corset wouldn’t hold her back!” “I’d still prefer if she took it off…”

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The prince is into some dark shit though, and his new goal quickly becomes to turn the Christian Francesca to his own faith. His wife (?) Juliana (Court) senses competition and decides to go all in with the whole Satan-thing to please her man. But will their close, personal relationship with the Devil save them from the looming threat outside?

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“Oh ordlay, ivethgay usway ouryay essingsblay. Amen-ay!”

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Another Poe, Price and Corman collaboration, and we’re living for it. Vincent Price is his usual fabulous self, and we loved the colours, the clothes, the sets and the story.

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“My interior decorator was going through a symbolic phase.”

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The start was almost Bergmany with Death hanging around playing cards, and in the end it comes full circle with a bunch of colour-coded Deaths (Illnesses? Plagues?) marching away in a conga line of doom.

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“Day-o! Daylight come and me wan’ go home!”

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An excellent Halloween movie and wonderful entertainment all around, The Masque of the Red Death is everything you would expect and more. Love, love, love this.

What we learned: Don’t sell your soul to Satan over a guy. Do it for yourself!

Next time: The Naked Kiss (1964)

#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)

#237 Blood and Black Lace

Watched: August 19 2019

Director: Mario Bava

Starring: Eva Bartok, Cameron Mitchell, Thomas Reiner, Arianna Gorini, Dante DiPaolo, Mary Arden, Franco Ressel, Claude Dantes

Year: 1964

Runtime: 1h 28min

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Isabella, a model at a large fashion house, is brutally murdered and her body hidden in a closet. As the investigation gets on, it soon becomes apparent that a serial killer is on the loose. No gorgeous lady is safe!

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“Christ! He even killed the mannequin!”

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Isabella’s diary, where she had detailed every vice and sin of everyone connected to the fashion house, soon surfaces, which is not popular among her friends and colleagues. As the diary is passed around from model to model, the killer starts going after each one in turn, disposing of them in various brutal (and lurid) ways.

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Remind us never to buy from that fashion house. Every stitch of clothing rips apart the second a psycho tries to murder you. #notimpressed

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But who could be behind the murders? You’ll have a blast trying to figure that out in this atmospheric and stylish Italian masterpiece.

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Trust no one! Not even the creepy red child-but-with-boobs-dummy

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This movie was tailor made for us (no pun intended). Serial killers and gorgeous dresses? Those are our top two areas of interest and expertise! As always in Bava movies, we loved the colours and the lighting. We were completely in love with the red mannequins and all the curtains, and the scene where they prepped for the show was pure perfection.

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The killer’s mask is simple but amazingly unsettling

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For giallo and/or horror fans, if you have the opportunity (and the inclination), we would recommend you watch both the English and the Italian versions. You’ll get two slightly different stories and it’s very fascinating!

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But seriously: do not buy from “Christian’s Haute Couture.” Especially not tops. V low quality

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What we learned: “Must be a sex maniac in a homicidal rage” – our theory about everything from now on.

Next time: Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)

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)

#230 The Haunting

Watched: April 21 2019

Director: Robert Wise

Starring: Julie Harris, Claire Bloom, Richard Johnson, Russ Tamblyn, Fay Compton, Rosalie Crutchley, Lois Maxwell

Year: 1963

Runtime: 1h 52min

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Eleanor “Nell” Lance (Harris) has been oppressed and mistreated all her life – both by her abusive mother and her overbearing sister. So when she gets a mystical invitation to spend a few days in Hill House as part of an experiment, she “steals” her own car and sets off.

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“To adventure! And possibly gruesome death.”

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The experiment, led by Dr John Markway (Johnson), is looking for proof of the supernatural and Hill House was chosen for its history of madness, murders and suicides and its reputation for being haunted. Dr Markway explains that Nell was invited due to an event in her childhood where rocks had rained on her house, possibly because of Nell’s latent telekinetic powers, something she herself fervently denies.

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“No, no, no! Nothing so dramatic has ever happened! I’m not dramatic! Shut up or I’ll jump!”

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The other participants in this supernatural shindig include psychic Theodora (Bloom) and house owner’s nephew Luke (Tamblyn). Weird, fragile, abused Nell has lived too much in her own head and not enough out in the real world, and she struggles to form natural relationships with the rest of the group, especially Theodora who she seems to adore and detest in equal amounts.

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“She’s my best and only friend. I love her. Do I love her too much? No. But is Dr Markway in love with her? I hate her! Why don’t they love me? Did I kill my mom..?”

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Our guess is that for a large audience, Shirley Jackson’s classic horror story The Haunting of Hill House is possibly best known from the 2018 Netflix series, but do not be fooled. This is the real story and the adaptation closest to the original novel. (Ok, so the new version was scary and fun, but the ending was just all kinds of wrong. We’re still miffed.)

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“Sure is good we’re not all siblings, what with all the sexual tension and such.”

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We loved the opening voice-over telling the backstory, and the aging of Abigail. We loved the clothes, the mirrors, the black and white, the Dudleys, and the pounding on the door the first night. We loved the characters, the sets and the ambivalence – are we dealing with supernatural events or mental illness?

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Ghosts or good old-fashioned “female hysteria”?

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The Haunting is everything we look for in a horror movie: intriguing characters, gorgeous and fascinating location, creepy atmosphere, chilling servants (never a good movie without them), good backstory, and an ambivalent explanation. Fantastic! Except Eleanor’s sister and brother-in law. They are just the worst…

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Even Mrs Dudley is more likable, and she’s not exactly a laugh riot.

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What we learned: Hill House had the most Extra decorator in interior design history. The set designers must have had a field day. Also, deep focus was all the rage in the 1960s

Next time: The Servant (1963)

#228 The Birds

Watched: March 4 2019

Director: Alfred Hitchcock

Starring: Tippi Hedren, Rod Taylor, Jessica Tandy, Suzanne Pleshette, Veronica Cartwright

Year: 1963

Runtime: 1h 59min

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After a (slightly hostile) meet-cute, Melanie Daniels (Hedren), a socialite and prankster so good she makes news headlines, is intrigued by attorney Mitch Brenner (Taylor). She decides to stalk him, and follows him back to his weekend hideaway outside the city.

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Cause stalking is cute when a pretty, rich girl does it, but when we try it we’re slapped with a restraining order…

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Once there, Melanie ingratiates herself with Mitch’s ex and scores a dinner invite with his family where she learns that he is currently going through his Freudian phase – Melanie is the spit of his overbearing mother Lydia (Tandy).

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“Would you like to stay the night? I’m sure my mother can lend you some clothes. In fact, why don’t you check her closet right now? Put something on? Please..?”

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However, while Melanie and Mitch are flirting and working out their inner demons, the birds are starting to act strangely…

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“Alright, quiet down. I’m glad so many of you could make this assembly. First order of business: who wants to organize this month’s bake sale? Also, let’s kill all humans.”

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We don’t really need to say anything else about The Birds, do we? It’s one of the most well known and popular horror films in history, and also frequently referenced in other works. And while not all the special effects have aged gracefully, it’s still a fun watch.

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And it’s a good public service reminder to always close up your fireplace when not in use.

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Like Psycho, The Birds starts in one genre and ends up in a whole different place than where it was originally going. And while the eponymous birds are ever present, we’re almost halfway through the movie before they start constituting a threat and we’re reminded that we are indeed watching a Hitchcock film.

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That poor kid didn’t know what she signed up for

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We loved the very silly lovebirds-in-the-car-scene, Mrs Sholes the bird expert lady, the focus which was on everything but the birds until they attacked, the long siege without dialogue, and the fact that there is absolutely no explanation for the sudden viciousness of nature. Classic!

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Any movie which can make us fearful of these cute little things is a winner in our book

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What we learned: Nature is scary, yo.

Next time: The Great Escape (1963)