Tag Archives: Richard Matheson

Burn, Witch, Burn (1962)

220px-BurnwitchburnNorman Taylor (Peter Wyngarde) is a professor at a prestigious British college where he teaches psychology, in particular the psychology behind superstition and various belief systems. When he finds out that his wife, Tansy (Janet Blair), has been practicing witchcraft in order to protect them from what she believes are outside forces and attacks, he insists that she destroy all of her charms.

Almost immediately disaster reigns down on Norman and Tansy in the form of strange, hypnotic noises, lewd telephone calls, a near-death run in with a van and rape accusations. Norman shrugs it off as coincidence but as the strangeness continues he finds himself wondering if it was all true and if Tansy had been protecting them all along.

In the end it’s up to the audience to decide whether there was any real witchcraft going on or if it was all the power of suggestion.

Based on a novel Conjure Wife by Fritz Leiber Jr. and a screenplay by Charles Beaumont and Richard Matheson, this British black and white horror flick rises above the cheesy pre-credits sequence that American International slapped on it when it obtained the American distribution rights. Once Paul Fries finishes dispelling any evil spirits that could be caused by watching this movie, the film maintains a serious tone throughout and leaves AI’s attempt at camp behind.

Modern viewers may find this film slow and talky, but I found it to be a serious-minded, atmospheric examination of the power of suggestion and how easily it can be to be convinced of the supernatural when a person’s mind and body is stressed beyond endurance. The performances by Wyngarde, Blair and Margaret Johnston (as Flora Carr, a colleague of Norman’s) are top-notch and not once do they not handle the subject matter seriously.

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!

A Super Man Leaves Us

On the way to work this morning, Chris and I heard about Christopher Reeve’s passing. Most people remember him as Superman, as well they should. He gave one of the best portrayals of Superman ever – genuine, charming, even witty. His Clark Kent on the other hand…

However, I remember him best for his role of Richard Collier in the film ‘Somewhere in Time’ based on Richard Matheson’s novel, “Bid Time Return.” It has been a favorite film of mine since I was a kid and probably too young to even understand what was really going on. The performances of Reeve, Jane Seymour and Christopher Plummer have always struck a chord with me. As an adult, I can truly appreciate the film for all it has to offer and I love it even more.

Chris (my husband) has written in his own blog about his feelings of Mr. Reeve’s passing. I believe he perfectly sums up how I feel as well and I urge your to visit the site and read it.

http://www.atomicpulp.com/main.html