Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category
‘HORROR RISES FROM THE TOMB’ (aka) ‘EL ESPANTO SURGE DE LA TOMBA’ (1973)
Dir: Carlos Aured.
Since my early teens my preferred viewing has been the more gonzoid examples of 1970’s horror, especially those from our zesty European brethren, and very little comes close to the bravura, hyper active, bosomy schlock of Carlos Aured’s grandiloquent ‘Horror Rises From The Tomb’ (1973). To the obsessive euro cult cognoscenti this delirious OTT escapade is helmed by the genre veteran behind delightfully ludicrous and sanguineous fare such as ‘Curse of The Devil’ (1973) and ‘Blue Eyes of The Broken Doll’ (1973), the latter being a zealous but ultimately clumsy example of that most micro of genre’s, the Spanish Giallo. While demonstratively not on par with the Italian’s feverish output from this most fecund era of eyeball piercing horror; nonetheless, Spanish genre cinema from this period had a trump card in that most hirsute and burly of male protagonists, (and to-date, he remains a bona fide living legend of gothic horror)…..
Scabies and gentle germs I give you Waldemar Daninski (aka) Paul Naschy (aka) Jacinto Molina himself; Europe’s most capable and terminally rugged bogeyman. This swarthy interpreter of Euro horror’s most eldritch fantasies has long lent his swollen, snug-fitting turtleneck sweater’d form to a multitude of horror archetypes’ and he is at his brooding, archetypal best with this magnificent performance, one of Jacinto Molina’s most robust and enduring creations Alaric De Marnac; a deeply sinister warlock whose (off screen) cavalier occult dabbling has found little favour with the Christian hordes and thus finds himself awaiting a seemingly terminal case of death by decapitation; for many (if not all) this would seem to be an irreversible malady, not so for the sneering De Marnac who vehemently vows, at least while his malevolent bonce sits squarely on his broad shoulders, that he shall return from the clammy embrace of the grave to avenge this gross travesty of justice. For some clearly an idle boast, but ol’ Alaric obviously regards their sentence as little more than a contemptuous piffle; yet his motives for vengeance seem a trifle, well, indulgent, as I can only assume that he was sentenced to death for all manner of iniquitous, vile and barbarous acts, so this furious, all consuming need for vengeance must stem from the fact that they also paln to knock off his voluptuous squeeze, the delightful Helga Line.
I mean, he can’t really be that chagrined by the simple townsfolk wanting to Ice his paella padded ass for his wicked heathen ways; he must appreciate that during these medieval times his decadent pagan modus operandi was going to win him little favour amongst the simple god fearin’ proletariat. Anyway, I digress; so, this head-lopping provides both the catalyst for his eventual re-birth and sanguineous revenge. I don’t mean to belabour the point, but the only real quibble I have with Jacinto Molina’s pantomime gothic mise-en-scene is this irksome ambiguity about said vengeance…If you will excuse the tangent, in Abel Fererra’s most-able sleaze-fest Ms. 45 , the timorous Zoe Tamerlis gets raped twice in the same morning, which would bum out the most centred individual, thus giving her a perfectly legitimate reason to dress in a nun’s habit and fuck some almighty shit up; in fact she could dangle a small, helpless infant out of a 6 storey window, vote Tory, enjoy the wretched comedy stylings of Ricky Gervais, and listen to Coldplay and we’d still forgive the murderous, baretta-weilding Knob hater…No such laxity here, but maybe I’m missing the point since Naschy’s De Marnac is such a grievous swine he slaughters nubile Spanish totty under the most spurious, nay, entirely fraudulent of motives! Taken on this admittedly subjective interpretation, this Alaric De Marnac is an entirely reprehensible cove, since his garish revenge appears decidedly arbitrary, and director Carlos Aured is clearly disinterested in Marnac’s bloody ancestry, and like many of Naschy’s films (Be they good/bad or indifferent) it would be very unwise to give their plot’s/scripts too much scrutiny, might be best to ignore them completely and revel in the unrestrained lunacy, which in my mind is adequate compensation for the dearth of actual immersive story; ‘Horror rises from the Tomb’ is gloriously and unashamedly silly, and, personally, I wouldn’t have it any other way, this is primo, unpretentious gothic Grand Guignol that not only wears its heart on its ruffled sleeve, it tears said palpating organ though your ribcage and hungrily feasts on the sinewy delicacy before the last vestige of life dims from your glazed and incredulous orbs.
After the requisite dull and extraneous exposition; I mean, who gives a greasy hand fuck why these libidinous strumpets want to spend the weekend at Naschy’s terribly isolated and preternaturally spooky ancestral home, as long as they get nekkid’ and dead asap. Naturally, this being one of many Naschy identikit scripts he swiftly orchestrates a plethora of righteous sequences where he gets to leer and paw at a multitude of wide-eyed compliant hotties, and herein lies the timeless giddy appeal of this gaudy production; for subtlety and nuance may I suggest a trip to the National portrait gallery, for a lurid preponderance of perky boobage and theatrical, unrealistic gore ‘Horror Rises From The Tomb’ hits the motherlode… So, to recap, the nudo euro babe quotient here is VERY high indeed, so kudos! And should you tire of this undulating and ravening spicy tapas of erotic nubile flesh being repeatedly pawed at by a series of lascivious Spaniards, one can also revel in the promethean displays of bodily dismemberment, cannibalism, evisceration and wondrously crusty attack zombies that add the final mouldering veneer of sepulchral horror to this muscular celebration of sex, death, decapitation and yet more death. In a perfect cinematic world all genre films should adhere to Naschy’s voluptuous creedo of muchas bloody gash and muchas bloody tits, and contemporary horror wouldn’t be such a tiresome, thin and borderline redundant affair. Naturally, this magnificent era was when the goggle-eyed director was far more of a voyeur than auteur, this fundamental difference is why so many of these wildly exploitative titles have been lovingly restored and have found another generation of zealous fans.
With many actors it would be foolhardy, if not a trifle unbalanced to gauge the merit of their work by the amount of hair the character has on display; not so with Naschy, his finest cinematic scares seem forever melded to rug-faced gnascher Waldemar Daninski, his iconic take on this most ubiquitous lycanthrope who, quite frankly, turns up in more films than is absolutely necessary.
Here he cuts a decidedly nobler swathe wrapped in a Merlin cloak, topped off with a louche thatch of unruly Ian McShane mulletry and a sculpted, oh-so roguish devil–man beard. Much like fellow genre stalwart John Saxon who also spent much of his screen time bearing his thick, well-muscled torso with great alacrity; Naschy, like Saxon, appears to be similarly afflicted by brillo pad hair, an enigmatic condition whereby the aggrieved viewer (me) spends much of the film’s running time contemplating the authenticity of said barnet; in Saxon’s case his exaggerated macho posturing are clearly designed to draw one’s attention away from his very tightly wound and convoluted comb over, and Naschy’s bare chest, log cutting, fist fightin’, pussy gettin’ oeuvre is clearly another diversionary tactic to keep one’s eyes from straying to his far-too-rigid hairline. Fraudulent follicles aside, the glorious films of Paul Naschy should be cherished by all who favour simple bloody fare served with generous scoops of heaving breast meat.
(Naschy reprises the role of Alaric in the equally exaggerated goth monster mash up Panic Beats, which, also, comes with the highest recommendation)
This is an absolute gem, and why this masterful chiller remains so obscure is beyond me! ‘Unmann Wittering & Zigo’ is masterfully directed by John Mackenzie, with truly chilling performances from a sublime young cast and yet another stand-out performance from the ever-genius David Hemmings. This profoundly disturbing film can sit quite uncomfortably alongside ‘village of the damned’ & ‘the wicker man’ as one of British cinema’s all-time great horror films. A razor-edged shocker with a palpably disturbing atmosphere; as this genuinely creepy film unfolds, director, Mackenzie ratchets up the penetrating unease with consummate skill; including a number of genuinely terrifying sequences (The ICA or NFT really should give this masterpiece a screening) Highly recommended.
Unique example of mid-70’s weird-beard horror, and as far as I’m aware ‘Homebodies’ stands tall to this day as the one and only octogenarian revenge drama. This singular horror conserns the plight of disgruntled wrinkles as they confront their callous, money grubbin’ landlords with imaginatively murderous results. The films strapline is a neat précis of all this zimmer-framed lunacy…”A murder a day keeps the landlord away!” Director Yust manages to fashion a credible shlocker that achieves the impossible; that is, it manages to simulaneously tug at ones heart strings while a dobbering old bint hurls some schmoe estate agent into a cement-y grave! Hats off to thee, Larry Yust, they REALLY don’t make ‘em like this anymore!
Michael Reeve’s first and youthful foray into genre filmmaking, while admittedly hamstrung by the obvious constraints of a penurious budget and inexperience, still yields up considerable entertainment. ‘The She Beast’ is a zesty, vengeful yarn of bedeviled witchery that goes beyond it being merely the tentative opening salvo from the talented auteur of the soon-to-be-legendary ‘Witchfinder General’. Unlike many creaky horrors from the mid-sixties ‘The She Beast’ merits a re-visit not only for the other-worldly beauty of, Barbara Steele, but the almost pubescent, Reeves still manages to construct some luridly effective shock moments and generates a palpable gothic sensibility which remains timeless. Yes, one can easily to point out the obvious faults; but it’s far more amusing to kick back and enjoy all the frantic retributions of our lunatic, musili-faced witch. I will always have a soft spot for ‘The She Beast’ and it’s edifying to notice that it has generated a considerable cult of personality all of its own.
Effective spook house shocker with the splendidly bearded Richard Crenna finding himself inadvertently at the veritable epicentre of a centuries old battle betwixt good and evil. literally moments after moving into the cavernous and foreboding property it becomes patently obvious that the gothic building means to do the inhabitants considerable harm. This simple haunted house potboiler is enlivened by a series of genuinely creepy set pieces, aided by a marvellous score by Johnny ‘Fragment of Fear’ Harris. The Evil is a real find, and is a definite keeper for those with a yen for gothic melodrama.
Hyperbole aside this is one of the finest genre films to come out of the UK in the 1960’s; a fascinating and entirely compelling examination of a clannish, insular family whose behavior becomes increasingly erratic after a bereavement causes their already fragile existence to spiral into murkier depths of unsupervised eccentricity. Things take a proverbial turn for the worst after the arrival of, Dirk Bogarde’s uber spiv character, whose motives for accepting the role of caring patriarch appear to be far from altruistic. Jack Clayton’s delightfully unusual ‘Our Mother’s House’ remains to this day a deeply penetrating, unflinching examination of child psychosis, and makes for entirely essential, and dare I say it, creepy viewing. And it would be entirely remiss not to mention the sterling acting from the youthful, ensemble cast; with a particularly affecting performance from the luminous, Pamela ‘Legend of hell House’ Franklin.
‘Hasta el viento tiene miedo’ is a supremely atmospheric gothic horror from the Mexican maesrtro of understated chills, Carlos Enrique Taboada. Here he takes a prosaic plot, the haunting of a all-girls school and turns it into high cinematic art. To my shame I was, until recently, entirely unaware of Taboada’s genre cinema, and it becomes apparent fairly switly that he is a true master of horror; the opening gambit of ‘Hasta el viento tiene miedo’ is creepy, subtle and shows a great mastery of camera that brings to mind the visionary genius of, Mario Bava. This is a genuinely unnerving ghost story that has you in its icy grip from its bravura first act to the heart-pounding, ectoplasmic dénouement. ‘Hasta el viento tiene miedo’ is clearly an important work, whose chilling gothic moitifs rivals that of ‘Black Sunday’, ‘N.O.T.L.D’, and ‘Carnival of Souls’, and it remains a profound injustice to genre cineastes everywhere that Taboada’s majestic, penetrating visions of fear aren’t more recognized for the landmark films that they so clearly are.
Wonderful gothic melodrama directed with considerable flair by the delightfully monikered, Reginald Le Borg (now there’s a name entirely suited to the genre!). Like many early forays into Freudian horror the premise is somewhat clunky; that evil exists as a separate, sentient entity able to commandeer the mind of man for its own malevolent end. This ersatz poltergeist (The Horla) eventually takes hold of the noble and law abiding mind of Vincent Price (An actor with a seemingly effortless ability to play aristocratic crazies!) and proceeds to drag this once erudite magistrate into the degenerate realms of a gibbering bedlamite. ‘Diary of A Madman’ is a splendid, neatly wrought horror tale with yet another sterling Price performance to recommend it. This laudable, Guy De Maupassant adaptation is a worthy compliment to the similarly pitched Corman/Poe pot boilers from the same era.
THE RATS (Robert Clouse) This little documented B-monster mash up turned out to be quite an amusing timewaster concerning the mainly human diet of a ravening plague of dachshund-sized rats in downtown Toronto. The real problem with the film is that it is meant to be based on James Herbert’s scuzzball splatterfest, and outside of cribbing the title, Clouse ill-advisedly decided to eschew Herbert’s wall-to-wall grume and stick to a more conventional modus operandi, which plays like a 1950’s Bert I. Gordon quickie, but it’s this very anachronistic take on the genre which I found so appealing; ‘Deadly Eyes’ would make a great double bill with the equally ludicrous, but entirely fantastic ‘Food Of The Gods’ . A particularly amusing moment (reminding one of ‘The Blob’) is the sequence in the packed cinema with a clutch of appreciative, vocal fans enjoying the classic sequence from ‘Game of Death’ where Bruce Lee makes light work of lanky titan, Kareem Abdul Jabbar; when suddenly the rampaging rats chew their way through the shrieking audience; bloody marvellous! Yes, the script is banal, with all the characterizations and performances, outside of the delightful Scatman Crothers cameo being completely perfunctory, but miraculously all this lumpen silliness manages to translate into acceptable late-night fare. (Admittedly it’s one of those uninspired schlockers where one’s lack of sobriety plays a role in the degree of entertainment said film affords).