Bonus: Pit and the Pendulum

Watched: November 9 2018

Director: Roger Corman

Starring: Vincent Price, Barbara Steele, John Kerr, Luana Anders, Antony Carbone

Year: 1961

Runtime: 1h 20min

pit

Source

Spain, 1546. Mr Barnard (Kerr) comes from England to see where and how his beloved sister Elizabeth (Steele) died. He meets his brother-in-law Nicholas Medina (Price) and his sister Catherine (Anders) and is offered a strange and vague explanation of Elizabeth’s death.

pit2
“Suffocation from too-tight corset” is not among the excuses. Neither is “tripped over own voluminous skirt and broke neck.”

Source

Family doctor Leon (Carbone) later reveals to the grieving brother that his sister died of fright. Since more details are surely required after such a statement, Medina confesses that his bride had become obsessed with the inquisition era torture chamber in the cellar, and that she perished in an Iron Maiden.

pit3
We’ve always felt that a house is not a home without a fireplace, a lounge area, and an indoor torture chamber. We’re having ours installed next weekend.

Source

But is this all there is to it? Barnard is still not satisfied, and as we delve deeper into the house’s secrets, we learn that Medina’s father killed his brother and wife in the chamber when his children were young. Young Nicholas witnessed the ordeal and was never the same again.

pit4
Exhibit A: this is now his default resting face

Source

As Medina devolves into madness, strange things also begin to happen in the castle… So what really happened to Elizabeth? Is she haunting them? Or was she buried prematurely, House of Usher-style?

pit5
And why didn’t anyone bother informing doctor Leon of the dress code for the evening? These questions will haunt us…

Source

Pit and the Pendulum has everything we love: Gothic castles, secret passageways, hidden torture chambers, ghosts, murder, madness and torture. It is morbid, grotesque and lovely, and we completely adored Vincent Price as the confused, distressed widower. Barbara Steele’s eyes are as haunting as they were in Black Sunday, and she is the perfect Gothic heroine/villain (take your pick here). Personally, we are of course suckers for anything Poe (and Corman. And Price.), so we had no choice but to include this even though it is no longer on the list. It’s fantastic!

pit6
Best watched by squinting from inside an Iron Maiden. Well, we say “best”…

Source

What we learned: Crazy is hereditary.

Next time: Carnival of Souls (1961)

Advertisements

#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

innocents

Source

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

innocents2
Deborah Kerr looking for Miles in a flowing nightgown with a candelabra will forever haunt her dreams

Source

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.

innocents3
It helps that the 1961 winner of Britain’s Creepiest Kid Award stars in it

Source

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).

innocents4
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.

Source

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?

innocents5
It’s hard to decide what the truth is, but the crazy-eyes of Giddens might be a hint

Source

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.

innocents6
Well done for finding not just one but two ghosty, floaty see-through children! They’re hard to come by.

Source

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…

innocents7
Ghosts or not, we’ve learned that cute children are inherently terrifying

Source

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)

#193 Psycho

Watched: August 4 2018 (and many other times)

Director: Alfred Hitchcock

Starring: Anthony Perkins, Vera Miles, John Gavin, Janet Leigh, Martin Balsam

Year: 1960

Runtime: 1h 49min

psycho

Source

Man with mommy issues goes on killing spree. Loved by critics.

psycho2
“Mommy issues? Who has mommy issues? I’m just a normal, stable, sane boy.”

Source

Psycho probably needs no further introduction as it’s one of the most watched, loved and spoofed/homaged films of all time. Still, for those hermits who have been living secluded lives in the woods for the past 60 years but have also inexplicably stumbled upon this blog (hello, stranger! To be honest, you’re probably better off crawling back under that rock, given the current state of the world), we’ll give a very brief synopsis.

psycho3
In short, wood dwelling hermit: if you see this place, just keep driving. Or walking. Or riding your tame bear.

Source

Marion Crane (Leigh) is having an affair with Sam Loomis (Gavin) but they cannot afford to get married. When Marion gets her hands on $40 000 at work, she decides to steal the money and run away to elope with her beau. She is caught in a rainstorm and checks in for the night at the secluded Bates Motel.

Psycho4
Bad, bad idea

Source

Marion is reported missing by her sister Lila (Miles) and wanted by the police for theft. Lila decides to investigate the disappearance herself with the help of Sam and private investigator Milton Arbogast (Balsam) who is also on the case. What they find is not what they expected…

psycho5
It’s not what anyone would expect, really

Source

There’s nothing not to love about Psycho. It lulls you into thinking that you’re watching just another crime movie, and then BLAM! Creepy horror film!

psycho6
Hitchcock also managed to insert a T-1000, but we feel that subplot is vastly underdeveloped.

Source

The shower scene is perhaps the most famous scene in cinematic history, and no matter how many times you’ve seen it or its various recreations, it still has impact. As does Norman Bates’ transformation from sweetly awkward and likable young man to creepy insane murderer.

psycho7
He actually seems quite charming at first, making Marion supper and all

Source

As mentioned in our last entry, this goes perfectly as a double feature with Peeping Tom, if you want a night filled with serial killers and crazy. And who doesn’t?

psycho8
“We’re off to see the killer! The wonderful killer of girls!”

Source

What we learned: We all go a little mad sometimes. Also, if it doesn’t jell it’s not aspics.

Next time: Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (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

Bucket

Source

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.

Bucket2
“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!”

Source

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.

bucket3
“Dead Cat” is an instant success, admired by art lovers and drug enthusiasts alike

Source

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.

bucket4
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!

Source

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.

bucket7
“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!”

  Source

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?

bucket5
“This severed head has been bothering me all week, so I clayed it!”

Source

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.

bucket6
“I’m a famous and celebrated sculptor now, so you must date me. Unless you’re just a bitch and a whore!”

Source

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.

bucket8
“If it’s hell, can I still be king..?” “Of course you can, Mr Futterman.”

Source

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

throne

Source

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.

throne2
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.

Source

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.

throne3
“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!”

Source

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.

throne4
Poster girl for sanity

Source

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.

throne5
Just doing some hovering in the background in the blood stained room. Nothing sinister going on here.

Source

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.

throne6
It’s like this shot in the beginning is some sort of foreshadowing or something.

Source

Love, love, love this!

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

Next time: What’s Opera, Doc? (1957)

Bonus: The Curse of Frankenstein

Watched: December 25 2017

Director: Terence Fisher

Starring: Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, Hazel Court, Robert Urquhart, Valerie Gaunt

Year: 1957

Runtime: 1h 22min

Curse

Source

Victor Frankenstein (Cushing) is smart, ambitious, handsome, charming and rich. He is also an arrogant jerk. And imprisoned. He confesses to a priest and tells his unusual, and somewhat unbelievable, story.

curse7
“It all started, as these things tend to do, with a dead dog…”

Source

Orphaned at a fairly young age, Baron Frankenstein hires his own tutor, Paul Krempe (Urquhart), to be his teacher and later partner. Together the two explore the world of science!

Curse2
That’s just normal glass – his eyes are really like that. If you don’t believe us, watch Top Secret (1984)

Source

Their greatest achievement, the reanimation of dead tissue, brings about different reactions in the two scientists. While Kempe’s initial reactions is “yay! This’ll make surgery so much easier and safer!”, Frankenstein’s first impulse is to go out and harvest body parts to make himself a new man-puzzle. Kempe finally starts to see the sociopath in his student, and they have a falling out.

Curse3
“It’s MY turn to reanimate the corpse!” “No, it’s MINE!” “Who’s the one paying for all this?” “Screw this, I’m out.”

Source

Things escalate when Victor straight up murders another intellectual to use his brain for his creation, and then uses his successfully assembled and animated creature (Lee) to kill his knocked up maid Justine (Gaunt) who threatens to expose his shady dealings if he does not marry her.

Curse4
“Sorry, sweetheart – you’re certainly not good enough for the likes of me. Think of what the children will be like??? No, I’m engaged to marry my cousin. Yay gene pool!”

Source

Meanwhile, Victor’s cousin Elizabeth (Court) has arrived to marry him, which adds another complication. With the death toll rising, a creature on the loose, a falling out between the friends, and a Fair Maiden innocently roaming the large house at night, how on earth will this end?

curse6
Let’s face it: fancy, defenseless ladies roaming around castles in the night with only a small lamp for company are usually not indicative of happy endings…

Source

The Curse of Frankenstein is quite different from its early predecessor Frankenstein despite their many similarities. For one, the monster (or, in this case, creature) isn’t really all that important. As creepy and scary as Christopher Lee is in this, the focus is all on the Mad Scientist Victor Frankenstein.

curse5
For such an unfortunate looking creature, he’s a surprisingly snappy dresser!

Source

Frankenstein himself is also very different. Personally, we feel that this take on the Baron is closer to the source material than many other incarnations – he really is an arrogant, egotistical, spoiled brat with a God complex in the book, no matter how bad he feels once everything falls apart. Cushing’s Frankenstein is particularly ruthless, and we love him for it. Well, not him as much as this version of events, we suppose. But we definitely love this film!

curse8
…and this guy! #decompositionchic

Source

What we learned: If you’re going to stand up to a rich, insane, megalomaniac nobleman who doesn’t like being told what to do, you’d better have a contingency plan…

Next time: The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957)

#153 The Bridge on the River Kwai

Watched: December 27 2017

Director: David Lean

Starring: William Holden, Alec Guinness, Jack Hawkins, Sessue Hayakawa, Geoffrey Horne

Year: 1957

Runtime: 2h 41min

bridge

Source

Happy New Year, gentle reader! After a Christmas hiatus (and a ridiculously popular New Year’s tweet), we are finally back in business and continuing our journey through 1000+ films. And where better to start than David Lean’s classic WWII drama The Bridge on the River Kwai.

bridge2
Oh boy. Here we go again!

Source

During World War II, a British company led by Colonel Nicholson (Guinness) joins several other prisoners of war in a Japanese prison camp. The camp commander, Colonel Saito (Hayakawa), tasks the newly arrived company, including its officers, with building a railway bridge over the nearby river. Hence the title of the movie.

bridge3
“It’ll be fun! Like building legos! Also, you can get nekkid and swim. It’s by far the most fun you can have in a prison camp consisting entirely of men.”

Source

Nicholson refuses to build the bridge, citing the Geneva Convention which forbids officers from being used for manual labour while prisoners. Saito, unable to kill him outright due to witnesses, instead settles for prolonged torture of all British officers.

bridge4
Torture: the best diet! Tried and tested by prisoners of war everywhere.

Source

When Nicholson is finally released from the iron box in which he’s been enclosed, the two colonels make a strange deal that the captured officers will oversee the work and construct the best damned bridge Burma has ever seen, dammit!

bridge5
“There’s no way I’m building a bridge for the enemy to facilitate their warfare. Unless that bridge is gonna be the best one ever constructed. Yeah, that’ll show’em!”

Source

Meanwhile, (fake) U.S. Navy Commander Shears (Holden), who originally warned the British officers about Saito, has joined an escape party and actually managed to get away! Hurray! Once he reaches safety, he is recruited to return with a small special forces party to destroy the eponymous bridge, joined by Major Warden (Hawkins), Lieutenant Joyce (Horne) and a very unlucky soldier who dies en route.

bridge6
Manly men to the rescue, betches!

Source

The Bridge on the River Kwai is a true classic, and despite lasting for almost three hours, it’s engaging throughout. You’re sort of rooting for both Shears and Nicholson, even though the latter goes bat shit crazy with bridge-building pride. So, really, one roots for Shears. Though Nicholson is admirable as well. Even Saito, the natural antagonist, is humanized in the course of the film. It’s all very emotionally confusing.

bridge7
Yep. Sums it up.

Source

A great, if tragic, way to start the new year. Here’s to 2018!

bridge8
“So, you got any new year’s resolutions?” “Well, I’m gonna build a great bridge and not back down under threat of torture and death. Oh, and I’m considering quitting smoking. You?”

Source

What we learned: Live like a human being.

Next time: Bonus: The Curse of Frankenstein (1957)

#146 A Face in the Crowd

Watched: November 27 2017

Director: Elia Kazan

Starring: Andy Griffith, Patricia Neal, Walter Matthau, Anthony Franciosa

Year: 1957

Runtime: 2h 6min

face

Source

Marcia Jeffries (Neal) is a small town radio reporter who makes a show called “A Face in the Crowd.” As she has the brilliant idea of recording an episode in the local jail, she discovers charismatic drifter Larry “Lonesome” Rhodes, and his music and personality make him an overnight sensation.

face2
You know it’s going to be a good day when the only unhappy person in jail is the sheriff

Source

Marcia and her uncle, who owns the radio station, give Lonesome more airtime and soon his popularity spreads across the nation and, via Memphis, he ends up as a TV personality and big time influencer in New York.

face3
“Look! A tiny, magical me inside a box!”

Source

On TV, Lonesome Rhodes is a down-to-earth country boy with a heart of gold and grass root wisdom to spew. However, in real life Larry is a selfish scoundrel of a con man who grows increasingly madder with his newfound power and political influence. Marcia, who has fallen in love with her discovery despite being a very smart woman, gradually realises that she has created a monster…

face4
The face of a completely sane and not at all crazy man, thankyouverymuch!

Source

In many ways, A Face in the Crowd is more relevant now than it was in 1957. The popular media’s influence on politics, the TV personality’s power over people’s thoughts and opinions, and the yes-men surrounding the star enabling his delusions are all more prominent now than ever.

face5
Just look at who became president of the USA in the latest election…

Source

While funny at times, and dramatic at others, it still plays more like a horror movie in many ways than a drama, particularly since it really nails a lot of nasty truths about society and politics.

face6
We like these guys, though. Especially Walter “I Hate Extroverts” Matthau.

Source

Weirdly prescient and very unsettling, A Face in the Crowd should be watched by all.

What we learned: Fame is a fickle friend.

Next time: Curse/Night of the Demon (1957)

#138 Bigger Than Life

Watched: October 4 2017

Director: Nicholas Ray

Starring: James Mason, Barbara Rush, Robert F. Simon, Walter Matthau

Year: 1956

Runtime: 1h 35min

bigger

Source

School’s out for Easter. What a dream! Though not for teacher Ed Avery (Mason), who suffers stomach pains and is on his way to his second job as a cab dispatcher. Despite his clear discomfort and his rush to get to his second, secret, job, he takes the time to give a student a break and to play matchmaker for a couple of colleagues. An all round good guy!

bigger2
Pictured: every teacher’s face at vacation time

Source

After a dinner party, Ed collapses and his wife Lou (Rush) and BFF Wally (Matthau) get him to the hospital. The doctors run a series of tests, including a very cool and quite possibly cancer-inducing X-Ray with barium, and are discouraged by what they find. Without treatment, Ed has less than a year to live.

bigger3
A life span further reduced by the liberal helpings of barium and x-radiation

Source

The only treatment found to be somewhat effective is the newly discovered (possibly?) hormone cortisone, but it can have serious side-effects. After weeks of experimenting, a proper dosage is found, and Ed is sent back home with a few weeks’ supply of cortisone pills.

bigger4
Ed’s medication gives him a new appreciation for fancy clothes and shopping sprees. There’s a chance we may have too much cortisone in our systems…

Source

In time, Lou starts noticing some changes in her husband’s personality. He is more adventurous and spontaneous, but less sensible and responsible. He is energetic and manic with terrible mood swings and occasional tremors.

bigger5
There’s always a possibility he is possessed, according to the mirror

Source

As Ed’s solution is to up his cortisone intake, his new personality traits develop into full blown delusions of grandeur, complete with a new tyrannical approach to family life.

 

bigger6
Even his shadow gets in on the action, looming threateningly over his young son Richie

Source

Bigger Than Life is very dramatic, and Ed’s development throughout the film goes from one extreme to the next. We loved the X-Ray/barium scene, the dramatic crescendo of the ending, the shadows and the general craziness. It may not be a film we’ll rewatch over and over again, but it is definitely worth watching once.

What we learned: Teachers owe it to themselves to be sick on school days – not during vacation. Word! Also, stick to the prescribed dosage.

Next time: Forbidden Planet (1956)

#128 Diabolique/Les diaboliques

Watched: August 7 2017

Director: Henri-Georges Clouzot

Starring: Simone Signoret, Véra Clouzot, Paul Meurisse

Year: 1955

Runtime: 1h 57min

Diabolique2

Source

Christina Delassalle (Clouzot) and Nicole Horner (Signoret) are colleagues at a boarding school for boys somewhere in France, but that’s not all they have in common. They are also involved with the same man – Christina’s tyrannical bastard of a husband Michel (Meurisse).

diabolique1
“It’s always more fun to share with everyone”

Source

Michel does not only mistreat his poorly (but wealthy) wife – he is also abusive to his mistress and the children in the school. Fed up with him, Nicole concocts a murderous plan to rid the two women of their shared lover. Christina is hesitant at first, but after her husband humiliates her and rapes her, she has finally been pushed too far.

diabolique3
Not what most men have in mind when they picture being bathed by two women

Source

They go through with their plan, but the already mentally and physically fragile wife is quickly deteriorating from the stress and the guilt. Then, the body disappears, freaky stuff starts happening and things turn creepy.

diabolique4
Artist’s representation of us watching this film

Source

Diabolique is very, very creepy and suspenseful. Michel is extremely unlikable and we’ve never wanted two people to get away with murder more than in this case. This film kept us guessing to the end (although we had a theory which turned out to be spot on) and there are a lot of exciting twists and turns in the plot.

diabolique5
The look of a woman mentally preparing for murder

Source

We won’t say much more as we do not want to spoil this gem for anyone, but if you haven’t seen it, it should go to the top of your to-watch list. So good.

Diabolique6

Source

What we learned: If you’re going to murder someone, make sure you know how to play it cool.

Next time: It’s Always Fair Weather (1955)