Tag Archives: Christopher Lee

Abominable Howling Alligators

This year, due to all the horror movies that we wanted to cram into our annual horror-a-thon, we decided to start our viewing on September 1st. Yes, we need an entire additional month. And there are still movies we’ll have to skip.

We have many, many movies.

We (actually, Chris) have decided to help ourselves sort all of them out by having theme nights:

  • Monster Mondays
  • Terrible Tuesdays (I’m going to kill him for this one)
  • When Animals Attack Wednesdays
  • Stuart Gordon Thursdays
  • Universal Fridays
  • Stalk & Slay Saturdays
  • Supernatural Sundays

I’m most looking forward to Supernatural Sundays as I have recently been able to watch truly scary stuff again – and it’s the supernatural stuff that’s always scared me.

This week we have watched the following: Abominable (2006), The Howling II: Your Sister is a Werewolf (1985) and Alligator (1980).

Abominable Movie Poster

Abominable Movie Poster

Abominable is a little known Bigfoot movie that has some amazing suit effects, tension-building direction and even some Hitchcockian vibes due to the lead (Matt McCoy) being wheelchair-bound and having a passing resemblance to Anthony Perkins. It starts off a little slow but pays off in the end. It also contains excellent extended cameos by Jeffrey Combs and Lance Henriksen – a couple of household favorites here at the Mills homestead.

The plot isn’t too complicated. Preston Rogers (Matt McCoy) returns to his wooded cabin in hopes to come to terms with the accidental death of his wife six months previous but things don’t go as planned when a huge Sasquatch tears through the woods, taking out horses, dogs and finally, several pretty co-eds. Preston does his best to prevent more deaths but no one believes him until it’s too late.

The monster suit in this movie is pretty amazing, especially those freakin’ teeth. So big and so realistic. This bigfoot has some googly eyes but I can forgive that since it resembles Ron Swanson on a really bad hair day.

If for nothing else, watch this movie for the last shot. It’s creepy as hell.

Tuesday night was truly terrible. Not even Christopher Lee could save The Howling II: Your Sister is a Werewolf. A direct sequel to the excellent The Howling (1981), this movie picks up at the funeral of Karen White, portrayed by Dee Wallace in the first movie and by a very forgettable Hana Ludvikova in this movie. The plot is pretty much nonsensical, there are images inserted into sequences that have nothing to do with what’s going on in the story, the actors portraying the protagonists (Jenny Templeton and Reb Brown) are just awful and even Christopher Lee seemed rather bored in many of his scenes. Vampire lore is substituted for Werewolf lore and the gratuitous nudity and sex scenes were eye roll-inducing.

Good thing I had some beading to do while we watched it. Yeesh.

I do not recommend watching this movie, unless you’re a fan of Sybil Danning’s admittedly impressive boobage. If you like those, you won’t be disappointed. Hell, just watch the end credits – it includes about 16 repeated shots of her removing her outfit over and over again.

Alligator Poster

Say Hello to Ramon…then say goodbye forever!

Wednesday night we returned to decent fare with Alligator starring the always enjoyable Robert Forster and female lead Robin Riker – known by me for playing Amy’s witch mother in “Buffy the Vampire Slayer“. And I’m not name-calling. She played an actual witch.

This movie follows the life of police officer David Madison, a man scarred by the death of his former partner, who stumbles upon an Alligator in the sewers who has been feasting on the discarded remains of illegal test-subject dogs. These animals have been pumped full of a growth hormone causing the Alligator to have a few growth spurts himself. Unfortunately, moments after discovering the Alligator, his new partner (of about 10 minutes) is snatched away and eaten by the car-sized reptile.

No one believes Madison, blaming his delusion on the stress caused by losing a second partner. But after a reporter is eaten by Ramon (yes, he has a name, but you’ll have to watch to find out how we know it), taking pictures as it happens and the pictures are found and developed, the city is put on full alert.

In the end, Ramon goes on a city-wide rampage, ending up at the estate of the owner of the lab that pumped those poor pooches full of growth hormones and you can probably guess that sleazbag’s fate.

Alligator is an enjoyable Animal-on-a-rampage movie with good writing, better-than-average character development and impressive special effects, especially for it’s time.

So, in all, I recommend both Abominable and Alligator, but wouldn’t wish The Howling II: Your Sister is a Werewolf on any discerning horror fan. It’s just not worth the pain.

The Mummy (1959)

Hammer's 'The Mummy' (1959)We start out our Halloween Horror Movie Marathon appropriately enough with the classic team-up of Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee in Hammer studio’s The Mummy (1959). Cushing plays the good guy this time, while Lee is the titular monster.

The Plot: You’ve heard this story before, and you’ll most likely hear it again. Back in the days of ancient Egypt, 4000 years ago, lived a Princess Ananka (Yvonne Furneaux) who had a personal bodyguard named Kharis (Christopher Lee). When she died, Kharis tried to bring her back using the Scroll of Life. He was caught and to atone for his sins against Ananka’s god, he was bound in bandages so he could become Ananka’s bodyguard for all eternity in the form of an undead Mummy.

All is well until some determined archaeologists, Steven Banning (Felix Aylmer) and his son John Banning (Peter Cushing), find the final burying place of Ananka and dare to open it up for exploration.

Years later, a worshiper of Ananka’s god brings the Mummy to England to exact his revenge on the family who dared move Ananka’s body. Poor Papa Banning goes first, then assistant Joseph (Raymond Huntley).

John Banning is almost done for when his wife walks in – and wouldn’t you know it, she looks just like old Ananka, giving the Mummy a start. Confused and believing his princess is actually still alive, he leaves John alone and returns to his master.

John’s pretty ticked off now so he goes down the street to confront the Mummy’s master and they have an oh-so-polite insult-fest and then John leaves to return home.

The Mummy attacks again, this time kidnapping Mrs. Banning but before he can take her down into the bog, she is able to get away, pretending to be Ananka. The Mummy is shot many, many times and he sinks down into the muddy bog, never to be heard from again (?).

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This wasn’t one of my favorite Hammer horror films. Without Cushing or Lee I don’t think I could have sat through to the end. It was a little slow, a little repetitive, and Cushing’s character was a bit of a milksop up until he decides to confront the man setting the Mummy on his family. That scene is the highlight of the film and quite effective.

I did like the fact that Cushing’s wife was not a screechy, fearful woman. Yes, she fainted once, but if you walked in on an undead Mummy strangling your husband, I think you might faint as well. After that, she was clear-headed, intelligent and didn’t panic when it was time for her to pretend to be Ananka to save herself.

So, this is one of those ‘glad I saw it’ movies but one I doubt I’ll sit through again.

Halloween Decorations and Viewing Have Begun

I pulled out the Halloween decorations yesterday. Last year I didn’t decorate the house interior at all so I’m doing much better this time around.

I also finished my DIY Halloween wreath. I wasn’t able to find black feathers so I used red instead. I like it – but at the same time I don’t. It’s hard to explain.

Halloween Wreath

I do like my DIY spider, though. Just painted a couple of differently sized Styrofoam balls black and then covered that with glitter glue, joined them with a wooden dowel, stuck in eight black pipe cleaners (cut in half) and voila! Sparkly Spider.

I was going to dye the gauze black but found that it works the way it came. Looks like bloody spider webs, bwa ha ha ha!

We have started our Halloween horror movie viewing. Last week my husband received a review copy of Scream 4 and while we didn’t think it was the best of the franchise we thought it was still a lot of fun. So, we picked up the first three (real cheap) on blu-ray and watched all of them on Friday night.

Scream Franchise

That third one was pretty weak but they were all enjoyable. And man, were they ever so careful with continuity. I was really impressed. I especially liked the fact that Sidney was wearing her boyfriend’s fraternity letters from the second film throughout the entire third film and it wasn’t even commented upon. It was a nice detail for all the fans of the series.

Last night we watched the Amicus film The House That Dripped Blood, starring three of my famous brits – Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee and Jon Pertwee. The first time I saw it years ago I only vaguely knew who Jon Pertwee was. I enjoyed watching the film  much  more this time because Pertwee happens to be my favorite Doctor Who.

Pertwee and Pitt

Jon Pertwee and Ingrid Pitt

I am beginning to wonder if I’ll ever see a performance by Jon Pertwee in which he does not wear a ruffled shirt and a cloak. 🙂

Happy Birthday to Who?

As I’m sure most couples do, my husband and I have many ‘running gags’ in our relationship. For example, If we see Mark Hamill’s name in the credits for anything we both exclaim ‘Mark Hamill?!’ in a tone of surprise.

One of our first running gags – in fact, it may be THE first – relates to my favorite Gentleman of Horror. When we first started talking on the telephone (it was a long-distance relationship) he started talking about an old horror movie and kept saying the name Peter Cushing as if I should know who he was. So, I asked him who he was talking about.

There was dead silence on the phone and I thought either we had been disconnected or he had hung up on me. I think he might have wanted to hang up on me because Peter Cushing was (and still is) one of his favorite actors. Chris listed off several of his older movies, which I had never heard of, and then finally, almost grudingly, told me that he played Grand Moff Tarkin in the original Star Wars movie.

It must have pained him when I told him I had no idea who that was and he had to say ‘Darth Vader’s boss.’

Now, whenever Peter Cushing’s name is mentioned, more often than not, the other one will say, “Who?”

Honestly, I find that whole exchange a bit embarrassing now. While he was totally awesome in Star Wars, Peter Cushing was so much more than that one character. I call him a ‘Gentleman of Horror’ because he belongs to a group of actors who starred in many of the horror films of the 50’s and 60’s playing men of education and class – even when those men were evil villains. I also include Christopher Lee, Vincent Price and Basil Rathbone in this club and I’m sure there are others that I just can’t remember at the moment.

It is today that we celebrate Peter Cushing’s birthday. He was born in 1913 and passed away in 1994.

Peter Cushing

Horror Express

Movie Title: Horror Express (1972)
Starring: Christopher Lee as Professor Sir Alexander Saxton, Peter Cushing as Dr. Wells, Alberto de Mendoza as Father Pujardov, Julio Pena as Inspector Mirov, Silvia Tortosa as Countess Irinia Petrovska, George Rigaud as Count Maran Petrovski and Telly Savalas as Captain Kazan
Written by: Arnaud d’Usseau & Julian Zimet
Directed by: Eugenio Martin (billed as Gene Martin)

Two of my favorite actors who are frequent participants in many a horror film are Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing. Our latest October movie features both of them and for one of the few times, they are equals and are working together instead of trying to destroy one another.

In real life, Mr. Cushing and Mr. Lee were dear friends and enjoyed working together. Christopher Lee is best known for playing Dracula and Peter Cushing for playing Doctor Frankenstein for the Hammer studio. In Horror Express they play mere scientists and work together to hunt down a monster terrorizing the Trans-Siberian Express.

It’s the early 20th century and Professor Saxton (Christopher Lee), a prominent scientist in the field of archaeology has unearthed a humanoid creature, frozen in the Himalayas for millions of years. He believes the fossil will definitively prove evolution.

Countess Irina: I have heard of evolution. It’s… it’s immoral!
Professor Saxton: It’s a fact. And there’s no morality in a fact.

But before he can even get his find on the train, the dead bodies start appearing – the first right next to the crate containing his find. The local authorities know the dead man – he’s a well-known thief – but can’t explain why the man’s eyes have turned completely white.

Also traveling on the Trans-Siberian express is another prominent scientist, Dr. Wells (Peter Cushing). From the moment Dr. Wells steps into frame it is very clear that these two men share a mild animosity. Lee and Cushing play this perfectly and it’s a real shame that they couldn’t have shared more screen time as equals instead of mortal enemies.

Although the science is completely ludicrous, the sharp writing and superb performances by Lee and Cushing make this film a pleasure to watch. It also contains a few great quotes.

During the great monster hunt on the train, they deduce that the creature can actually body-hop and could be anyone. Saxton and Wells team up to look for the monster. Inspector Mirov walks in and finds them loading guns.

Inspector Mirov: The two of you together. That’s fine. But what if one of you is the monster?
Dr. Wells: Monster? We’re British, you know.

This movie is in public domain so beware of poor print quality. The best that we’ve seen so far is from Image, but that version is long out of print.

Rating: Eight Screaming Pumpkins out of ten.

Time…she slips through the fingers

Well, so much for my horror movie a day plan. I don’t want to do the whole making excuses thing because I really don’t have one – other than life.

Instead of doing another dedicated review, I thought I would make a list of horror movies I have seen and enjoyed and little blurb as to why they made the list. That way, if I flake out again, you’ll have a few movies to take a look at and maybe rent for yourself.

Mr. Sardonicus (1961)

From the back of the DVD box: Desperate to retrieve a winning lottery ticket, a greedy baron unearths his father’s corpse. An enormous jackpot is his reward, but not without a price: his face is frozen permanently into a hideous grin. He enlists his fiendish one-eyed servant to help him lift this horrible curse, but their schemes fail. Finally, he turns to a noted neurosurgeon – and his wife’s former lover – to cure him.

Based on a novella by Ray Russel and produced and directed by the legendary William Castle, master of ballyhoo.

I have only seen this movie once and it was a few years ago but I do remember that despite it’s simple shooting style and story, it is quite effective and the make-up for the grin still gives me the willies. (I won’t post a picture here. You’ll just have to see it for yourself.)

Purchase Mr. Sardonicus

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The Wicker Man (1973)

A creepy, understated horror flick about a small community of druids lead by Christopher Lee and investigated by Edward Woodward due to a missing child that the community claims never existed.

I didn’t bother to see the remake. Subtlety isn’t common in modern film-makers’ vocabulary and I doubt this film would work without it.

Purchase The Wicker Man

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Horror Express (1973)

This would be a typical ‘stuck on a train with a killer/monster’ movie but both Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee are thrown into the mix which instantly makes it a horror classic. Besides, it has one of my favorite Peter Cushing lines of all time which means nothing out of context.

And for all you Kojak fans, Telly Savalis appears as the arrogant Captain Kazan. Who loves ya, comrade?

Purchase Horror Express

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The Changeling (1980)

The Changeling is a chilling tale of the ghost of a wronged child haunting the house in which he was murdered. George C. Scott gives a splendid, understated performance of a man who, after losing both his wife and daughter in a car accident, moves into the large house and attempts to help the spirit find peace.

The ending of this movie can seem a little goofy, but the film up to that point is genuinely scary and just a touch heart-wrenching.

This movie has no overt special effects and relies on story, performances and sound effects to scare you and does so to great effect. I never thought I could be afraid of a little rubber ball, but apparently, I can.

Purchase The Changeling

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Legend of Hell House (1973)

Huh. It’s starting to look like 1973 was a good year for horror movies, eh?

Based on Richard Matheson’s novel Hell House – and fortunately, the screenplay was also written by Matheson – this film is about a group of investigators visiting a house that is no doubt very haunted. The leader of the group believes he has invented a machine that can de-haunt it. I doubt that it’s any great spoiler that it doesn’t work.

You can’t stop ghosts. You just can’t.

Purchase The Legend of Hell House

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Okay, there’s five movies for you sink your teeth into if you haven’t already. And if you have – enjoy them again!

Where it all started

I consider myself a big entertainment buff and have been since I was thirteen. I try to keep myself informed about what’s going on in the biz, read my entertainment sites, read the magazines, listen to the news. I’ve been this way since I was thirteen. In fact, I can even give you an exact date if you need it (August 30, 1985).

Before I saw Back to the Future on that fateful August night, I had my favorite actors – Shaun Cassidy was the first actor I can remember singling out and then Tom Hanks when he was on Bosom Buddies – but my ‘fanship’ of those two was nothing compared to what happened when I finally noticed Michael J. Fox.

If you don’t believe me, check this out. Yeah. That’s my website. I’m not ashamed of it – a little defensive, maybe – but never ashamed.

After becoming the uber-geek-fan of MJF back in 1985, I started reading every teen magazine my parents would let me buy, attempting to keep abreast of all things Michael J. Fox. As a result, I started following other ‘non-threatning boys’ careers such as Ralph Macchio, Ricky Schroeder and Kirk Cameron. I read most of those magazines from cover to cover and eventually started reading more grown-up, more reputable publications as well. I just wanted to know what was going on and after a few years, it wasn’t just those cute boys I was interested in.

However, my obsession with all-things-MJF did not stop just because my interests were expanding. Because of my teenage angst obsession, I started trying things those fan magazines said he liked. I even tried Linguini in Clam sauce, for cripes sake – and that was some of the nastiest stuff I ever tasted. Ugh!

He was often quoted as saying he was a big James Cagney fan. I had never even heard of James Cagney so I had no idea what he was all about. And so, one Friday night in Southeast Texas, the local t.v. station had a James Cagney film on their schedule – Something to Sing About. Fortunately, I wasn’t one of those kids that wouldn’t watch anything in black and white – I watched Mr. Ed every night on Nick-at-Nite – and I watched it. And loved it.

It snowballed after that and now I’m a huge fan of classic films of all genres – musicals, comedies, dramas, film noir, gangsters – you name it. If I happen across anything in black and white on television, I’ll stop to see what it is or who’s in it. I won’t always do that for color films.

I never really met many others who were into films, music, books and television the way I was. I feel extremely lucky that I met a man who is just as interested as I am. I’m doubly fortunate in that we have a lot of the same likes, but we also have many different likes. Before I met my husband, I had never heard of Bruce Campbell and I wouldn’t have been able to name Peter Cushing or Christopher Lee if you showed me their pictures. Now, I can’t imagine my entertainment world without them. And while I’ll never really feel the need to ever see The Girl Hunters ever again, I am honestly glad that I at least saw it once.

It’s not the most important area of my life and I know that it’s not as important as trying to keep out economy out of another great depression but I’m glad that I have plenty of places to go whenever things get tough. I can watch a movie, read a book, listen to some music and even though the problems may not go away, I almost always feel better able to face that problem. Even though entertainment doesn’t rank up there with world peace, it’s still pretty consequential.

So, my thanks go out to Mr. Fox. He changed my life in many ways and for most of those changes, I’m still grateful.