“I’d go out of my mind but for you!”

Posted in 1980s, horror, Joe Dante, pumpkin ale, werewolf on November 22, 2007 by bigruta

Okay folks, ready for the last “Halloween” flick of 2007? Yeah, yeah, I know – you can’t wait. Tonight’s movie complements one I reviewed way back in 2005 during the first Halloween movie roundup.

The Howling

AVCO Embassy Pictures, 1981, 91 minutes, R

actors: Dee Wallace, Christofer Stone, Patrick Macnee, Dennis Dugan, Belinda Balaski, Robert Picardo, Don McLeod (of the Clan McLeod), Elisabeth Brooks, Dick Miller, Kenneth Tobey, Slim Pickens, John Carradine, Kevin McCarthy, Forrest J. Akerman, Roger Corman, John Sayles

writers: John Sayles and Terence H. Winkless; based upon the novel by Gary Brandner

director: Joe Dante

producer: Daniel H. Blatt

special effects: Rick Baker and Dave Allen

Taxonomy: Horror; werewolf flick; b-movie fans world-wide

Plot: An LA news woman goes to a country retreat to find relief from stress. The locals do not help.

The flick starts right off by letting us follow Los Angeles news anchorwoman Karen White (Wallace) as she goes to meet a suspected serial killer. Eddie “The Mangler” has been terrorizing LA, but he has a thing for Karen, so he contacts her and tells her he will meet her in a movie booth in a porno shop! Karen wares a wire, but the cops lose the signal. While watching a violent skin flick, Eddie tells Karen he has something he wants to show her. When she turns around to look Karen is stunned, but eventually screams and the two beat cops who were looking for her shoot Eddie.

The station manager can’t wait to get Karen on the air, but she freezes. She meets with Dr. George Waggner(Macnee), a psychiatrist who is also frequently featured on Karen’s news program. Karen cannot remember what happened in the booth, but she keeps having disturbing dreams. Dr. Waggner suggests she visit his woodland retreat “The Colony.” he thinks the peaceful setting and therapy might be able to help her. He tells her that The Colony is only for very special patients – and he ain’t kiddin’!

Karen and her husband Bill (Stone – soon to be Dee Wallace’s real life husband) drive upelisabeth-brooks_edited.jpg to The Colony and meet the folks. They seem like nice normal people, who really like their barbecue. Meat gets pushed on veggie Bill. Uh… that does not sound quite right, but you know what I mean. Oh sure a few of the folks at The Colony seem a bit odd, like old Erle Kenton (Carradine) who tries to jump into the fire, and TC (McLeod) who is, well, uh … rustic. And then there is TC’s sister Marsha (Brooks). Marsha seems to be a bit of a bitch, but she wears tight low cut leather clothing and has a nice body, so I guess we can put up with her attitude! Marsha tells Dr. Waggner she does not want her brother reading his book, “The Gift.” Waggner says that Marsha is very “elemental.” She also gives Bill a rather obvious, “Hello Sailor!” look. Well, it is a retreat for Waggner’s patients, so a little bit of odd behavior is expected.

Meanwhile, Karen’s friends and coworkers Terry and Chris (Balaski and Dugan) go to Eddie’s seedy apartment. There they find rooms full of newspaper clippings about murders and sex crimes as well as Eddie’s artwork. Most of the artwork involves very hairy feral looking people, but there is also one landscape. Yep, Eddie was a sicko! When Terry and Chris go to the morgue to view Eddie’s body, they discover it is gone! Well that’s odd.

Back up at The Colony, Karen hears some disturbing sounds in the night and finds severalterry.jpg mutilated cattle. She attends group therapy while Bill gets invited along with some of the menfolk to try to hunt down what ever killed the cattle. They don’t bag a wolf, but Bill gets himself a rabbit. TC tells him that his sister will be happy to cook it up for him, so Bill goes to see Marsha. Marsha is more interested in Bill than the bunny and jumps right up and slips him the tongue! Bill leaves and is attacked buy a large wolf. He is bitten and Dr. Waggner gives him rabies shots as a precaution!

Back in the big city, Terry and Chris talk about werewolves with Walter Paisley (Miller),tc1.jpg the owner of an occult bookstore. He fills them in on werewolf lore and even shows them a set of silver bullets a guy ordered but never purchased. They seem interested because of Eddie’s art and the fact that his body is missing. Paisley tells them, “They [werewolves] don’t stay dead, if you don’t kill them right.” What’s right? Silver or fire.

Karen calls Terry and tells her about Bill’s wound. Terry and Chris are watching The eddie_edited.jpgWolfman(1941) when they get the call. Terry goes up to visit Keren and Bill while Chris does a little more research for their show on Eddie The Mangler. Bill seems to be in good spirits, in fact he really snorffles up the meat – you know what I mean! The pace picks up and soon old Bill is screwing Marsha in front of a campfire! My friends and I spoke of this scene often as teens, you see, Bill and Marsha transform in mid diddle! They are eventually shown fully changed back-lit by the fire. This is done with cell animation and it is a bit awkward. Terry finds the spot where Eddie drew his landscape and winds up at his cabin! She is attacked but crawls inside the woodshed and chops off her attacker’s hand with a hatchet! The hand then changes back into human form in the first real transformation scene. She runs in a panic to Dr. Waggner’s office and calls Chris. While searching Waggner’s files Terry learns that Eddie is related to Marsha and TC. Then Eddie shows up in werewolf form and kills Terry as Chris listens!

Well boys and girls the stuff is really starting to hit the fan now! Karen finds Terry and then has her own encounter with Eddie (Picardo). Eddie tells her, “I want to give you a piece of my mind.” and pulls a bullet out of his head! Then we get the real transformation scene! Rick Baker and company worked overtime on this one! The transformation is quite grotesque and the resultant werewolf quite monstrous. Then we have a b-movie moment! As werewolf Eddie closes in on Karen, she miraculously finds a jar of acid to throw in his face! That was handy! Why oh why do doctors in b-movies have big old jars of acid just sitting around!? Karen escapes Eddie, but she is soon captured by her Colony “friends.”

Now we learn The Colony’s real purpose. Dr. Waggner started The Colony to help his stopww_edited.jpgfellow werewolves try to become less barbaric and more like normal humans. The others are fed up with this approach. They don’t want to eat cattle anymore – they want their natural prey – humans. Marsha seems to have become the Alpha of the pack. They give Karen a choice, accept “the gift” of lycanthropy or die.

Then Chris shows up with a rifle and the silver bullets from Mr. Paisley’s store …

Goodies:

Babeage: Dee Wallace and Belinda Balaski are attractive, but the hands down babe award goes to Elizabeth Brooks as the bitchy nympho Marsha Quist! Ms. Brooks shows everything during her scene by the fire. Talk about something to howl over!

Sleazeploitation: The character of Eddie Quist is just about all sleaze. He is a serial killer, an implied sexual deviant and a renegade werewolf! It is never explicitly stated, but there is a strong suggestion that Eddie sexually assaulted his victims. It is also not too much of a leap to imagine the Quist siblings … uh … together. Not that I would imagine such things! You people have filthy minds!

Beasts, Freaks and Weirdoes: Just about everyone at The Colony in either human or werewolf form!

Violence: Werewolf attacks, hand chopped off, gun-play, arson, televised murder.

Gore & FX: Lots of blood, the transformation scenes – which come hot and heavy during the climax – you know what I mean!, werewolf nookie.

Hey! that’s what’s his name!: This flick is loaded with character actors from b-movies including the Grand Master of all b-movie actors John Carradine! Dick Miller who plays Walter Paisley also played Walter Paisley in Roger Corman’s b-classic Bucket of Blood (1959). Ya got: Kevin McCarthy Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956); Kennith Tobey The Thing from Another World (1951), The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (1953), It Came From Beneith the Sea (1955); and Slim Pickens Dr. Strangelove(1964). How can you not love a movie with Slim Pickens as a werewolf!? Additionally there are cameos by: Roger Corman – the cheapo b-movie producer extordinair – looking for change in a pay phone, John Sayles who plays the morgue attendent and Forrest J. Ackerman who is browsing in the occult bookstore while holding copies of his magazine “Famous Monsters of Filmland” with a werewolf cover no less! And of course Robert Picardo who plays Eddie is now famous for Star Trek: Voyager.

Great Lines:

Karen about The Colony: “Well I hope these people aren’t too weird!”

Erle: “I ain’t going like this. Damn teeth are shot! Hell of a note!”

Erle: “I still think it was UFOs. Them cattle mutilations!” Sherrif Sam Newfield (Pickens): “Good Erle good. You watch the skys for us now, that’ll be your job!”

TC to Bill: “You kill something you don’t eat, now that’s a sin.”

Walter Paisley on the subject of werewolves: “Silver bullets or fire, that’s the only way to get rid of the damn things. They’re worse than cock-a-roaches!”

Dr. Waggner: “Times have changed and we haven’t. Not enough!”

Eddie Quist on Waggner: “He’s so repressed!”

Chris: “You’re crazy!” Eddie: “Oh I’m much more than that bright boy. I’m much more!” I am the Emergency Medical Hologram. Please state the nature of the medical emergency.

Karen: “We have to warn people, Chris. We have to make them believe.”

Moral: Seriously – don’t fuck crazy chicks – no matter how hot they are!

Conclusion: The Howling came out the same year as An American Werewolf in London. I have to say I think AWL is better, after all it has Jenny Agutter, but The Howling comes in a very close second. One of the things that pulls this flick down is its association with the several crappy sequels that were made, which is not this film’s fault. There is of course the terrible end effect that comes close to spoiling the entire movie. That scene could have been so much better! Both flicks use humor well, never letting it break the spell of the story. Both feature great effects and good music. I usually don’t like the concept of werewolves forming communities, but it is well done here. They seem to band together for mutual protection and a desire to be more human. This points to the basic tragic nature of werewolves – they may be good people, but they cannot control themselves when they change. I like this idea better than the vampire cabals so popular nowadays. Vampires are supreme sociopaths each of which wants ultimate control, so vampire communities are complete nonsense. Anyway, if you have never seen The Howling give it a try and maybe compare it to An American Werewolf in London. See which you prefer. You are sure to have a howl of a good time – HA!

The Howling Sight Gag / Werewolf B-Movie Checklist:

  • cans of Wolf Chili

  • Allan Ginsberg’s “Howl”

  • victims just stand there and gawk as the werewolves transform

  • Wolf whiskey

  • big old jar of acid!

  • Bill reads “You Can’t Go Home Again” by Thomas Wolfe

  • Chris watches Big Bad Wolf cartoon

  • picture of Lon Chaney Jr. in Waggner’s office

  • Eddie’s sequence of evolution drawing – Neanderthal, man, werewolf

  • Marsha licks Bill’s wound!

  • close-up of hamburger frying during credits

  • can you spot all the characters named after werewolf movie directors?

One to Ponder: Why would a modern-day werewolf want to live in the woods? Plenty of homeless people to munch on in the big city.

What ya drinkin’, Jack?

Saranac Pumpkin Ale

Matt Brewing Company, Utica, NY

Y’all know about pumpkin ale by now right? Ale made with pumpkin and the traditional pumpkin spices served during Autumn. Saranac Pumpkin Ale is brewed with cinnamon, allspice, cloves, vanilla and ginger.

ABV: 5.40% IBU: 30 to 40

Color: a deep amber brown, darker than many pumpkin ales

Aroma: Lots of spice, the ginger comes through, clean not heavy

Head: Semi-persistent small bubbled dense cream colored head

Taste: Smooth start moves to a warm and spicy middle with no particular spice predominating then to a tart / bitter finish where the cloves really kick in and a short bitter aftertaste where you may get a ginger kick. The mouth-feel is quite rich, almost like a porter.

Recommendation: Saranac Pumpkin Ale is one of the richer darker pumpkin ales I have tasted. It is smooth and even with a nice spice snap when you swallow. I have to admit, I did not really taste any pumpkin. Overall a well crafted pumpkin ale with a character all its own. If you dig the pumpkin juice, this is one to try.

Okay, well there you have it! The 2007 “Halloween” movie reviews. Yeah, I know they were late, but hey I got them all in before Thanksgiving! Even gave you my traditional Halloween pumpkin ale review. What more could you ask for?

Oh and yes, I know “Sister Moon” is supposed to be about vampires, but it seems to fit werewolves better methinks.

Hope you all had a great Halloween and here’s to a happy Thanksgiving!

-BigRuta

Remember: Comments, questions, suggestions, requests and contributions welcome!

“You watch every night, you don’t care what I do…”

Posted in 1960s, Hammer, horror, werewolf on November 18, 2007 by bigruta

Hello again all you cwazy peoples! This time we have a flick based on the novel The Werewolf of Paris (1933) by Samuel Guy Endore. This was an influential tome for werewolf movie writers then as well as today. As you can tell from the title, the action took place in France in the 19th century. Tonight’s flick takes place in Spain in the 18th century. Why? Well apparently there were some Spanish style sets that were just begging to be used!

The Curse of the Werewolf

Hammer Film Productions, 1961, 91 minutes, NR

actors: Oliver Reed, Clifford Evans, Catherine Feller, Anthony Dawson, Ewen Solon, Richard Wordsworth, Yvonne Romain, Hira Talfrey, David Conville

writer: Anthony Hinds

director: Terence Fisher

producer: Anthony Hinds; executive producer: Michael Carreras

Taxonomy: Horror; werewolf flick; Hammerheads

Plot: There is something odd about Leon Corledo – can you guess?

This film consists of three parts, which I will refer to as The Prologue, The Introduction and The Climax. The Prologue: A filthy beggar (Wordsworth) arrives in a small town in Spain. Please understand, when I refer to him as filthy it is not a slight against the poor. The guy is covered in grime! Anyway, he hits up the local towns folk for coin or food and they tell him that they have none to spare. You see The Marques Siniestro (Dawson) is getting married today and has bled the town dry to pay for a feast – for nobles only. They tell him he should try his luck at the castle.

The beggar goes to the castle where Marques Siniestro and his blueblood toadys humiliate him. He is given to the Marques’ bride as a pet! And promptly thrown into the dungeon and forgotten. The only people he interacts with are the jailer and his young mute daughter.

Years pass, the Marques’ wife dies and he goes insane. The jailer has died and his grown cotw_birth_edited1.jpgdaughter (Romain) now performs his duties and acts as a chambermaid. One day the Marques attacks her as she is cleaning his room, so she bites him. He has her thrown into the dungeon. The beggar, now also completely insane and more animal than man – ahem – “attacks” her. When she is released the next day, she is sent to the Marques’ room – where she stabs him to death with a wall sconce and flees the castle. She is eventually found by Don Alfredo Corledo (Evans) and nursed back to health by his servant Teresa (Talfrey). Well guess what? The mute girl is pregers. She dies during childbirth on Christmas day. Teresa takes this as a very bad sign. Which seems justified when the water in the baptismal font boils!

The Introduction: It is years later. Don Corledo has taken the mute girl’s baby boy as his son and named him Leon. Well it seems that the local shepherds are losing sheep. The sheep are having their throats ripped out by some kind of nasty critter – a wolf? The village watchman Pepe swears he shot the wolf one night. The same night Don Corledo has to dig a musket-ball out of little ten year old Leon’s leg! Leon says he dreams of being a wolf. He also tells of the time Pepe took him hunting and he got upset when Pepe shot a squirrel – so he tried to kiss it and make it better. He liked the sweet taste of the blood! Don Corledo also notices that Leon has rather hairy palms. Well don’t all young boys?

Don Corledo consults the local Catholic priest who tells him that Leon has an evil spirit in cotw_lilw_edited.jpghim that fights against his human soul. He is a werewolf. The evil spirit becomes stronger through evil: cruelty, hate, aggression, violence. The human soul becomes stronger through love and kindness. Don Corledo vows to shield Leon from the evil spirit by showering him with love. The attacks on the local sheep stop – after Pepe shoots a shepherd’s dog with a silver musket-ball he made from melting his wife’s crucifix which was blessed by the archbishop. Pepe digs the ball out and keeps it on a cord around his neck. Well it’s solid silver ya know!

The Climax: More years pass, and the adult Leon (Reed) leaves home to make his way in the world. He gets a job bottling wine for Don Fernando (Solon). “Saludos my friends!” He becomes friends with his lone coworker Jose. Leon also meets Cristina Fernando (Feller) and thinks she looks mavalus! Unfortunately Cristina is betrothed to Rico Gomez (Conville) who is a rich jerk. Well, it don’t take long for Leon and Cristina to become secret lovers!

Jose talks Leon into going out one Saturday night for some entertainment. That’s how cotw_gw_edited.jpgthey end up at a gambling club and whore house! Yep, lots ‘o vice going on! Leon feels uncomfortable – then the full moon comes out. The next day Leon is back at the Corledo villa and a ho and Jose are dead!

Don Corledo, Teresa and the priest tell a terrified Leon that he is a werewolf. The priest says he may be able to get Leon into a monastery where he will be cared for and protected, but until then he will have to be chained. Leon flees to the Fernando estate and is preparing to run away when Cristina shows up – and the full moon comes out. No doubt about it, the lunar cycle is just altogether different in werewolf flicks! Leon feels the cotw_wolf_edited.jpgtransformation coming upon him and begs Cristina to leave, but she holds him and comforts him until he falls asleep. Cristina stays with Leon all night – and he does not change! The love of a good woman, don’t ya know! They plan to run away together and marry. Oh how romantic! Then Leon is arrested for the murder of Jose. The ho don’t count I guess.

Then … well, remember Pepe’s silver musket-ball? Remember how The Wolfman (1941) ended? Remember how to add two plus two?

Goodies:

Babeage: Catherine Feller is quite cute, but she is the innocent girl to go with Reed’s innocent guy. The babes are Yvonne Romain and the assorted hos. Hammer always included at least one well endowed lady for the boys in the audience.

Sleazeploitation: Go back and read The Prologue – mmmkay?

Beasts, Freaks and Weirdoes: Leon in werewolf form, the beggar and Marques Siniestro – great name that!

Violence: Mostly off-screen. Except right at the end.

Gore & FX: Nice bright red Hammer blood! The transformation is done via a combination of fades, quick cuts and scenes where the werewolf moves between areas of light and darkness. Well done and I would imagine not too expensive. Reed’s grey werewolf looks darn cool. Very much the man-beast wolf that walks as a man, but different from Chaney’s and unique in coloring.

Great Lines:

Priest: “A werewolf is a body with a soul and a spirit constantly at war. The spirit is that of a wolf.” But, what if I have the spirit of a kangaroo inside me? Or the spirit of a salamander in my pocket?

Pepe upon finding that he has shot the shepherd’s dog: “So it was you all along.” Yeah, and you melted a holy relic to kill a frickin dog! Jerk!

Rico Gomez: “It’s very unfair. This is the third evening running you’ve had a headache and we’ve had to come home early.” Cristina: “I can’t help having headaches, Rico.” Rico: “No but it’s beastly inconvenient all the same. I was winning!” Gee, that’s too bad Rico, but I need me some monster lovin!

Jose telling Leon about the whore house: “There’s this place I know just outside town. It’s a quiet place, very respectable.”

Leon to Cristina when he wakes up in her arms: “Tell me – I must know .. did I change?” Did you ever bigboy!

Teresa: “Pepe’s silver bullet! So it has come to that at last.”

Moral: Parents of young boys must be ever vigilant of hairy palms!

Conclusion: Many werewolf flicks are rather fairytale like. Ya know, the original Grimm versions with lots of blood and retribution! Sexual symbolism is also common. “The change”, lust, blood, monthly cycles, etc. Curse of the Werewolf has these elements but it also has some traditional folkloric attributes that other werewolf flicks ignore. Leon becomes cursed because he is the result of violence and cruelty against two innocents – the jailer’s daughter and the beggar. He is born on Christmas day – an old Christian sign of ill portent. His transformation occurs during the time of the full moon, but he can control it by leading a virtuous life of love and kindness. The love of a good woman can “cure” him. All in all a very Christian, very Catholic, take on werewolves. Surprisingly the priest is a good character! Usually we see religious figures leading the crazed mob or wanting to burn the protagonist at the stake. Here he is a spiritual adviser trying to save Leon. Oh yeah, and the bit about little Leon tasting the squirrel’s blood? Well, historically many rabies victims were persecuted as werewolves. Nice touch. A good film that I recommend, but don’t expect a thrill a minute gore fest. Curse of the Werewolf is more about how people treat each other than about blood. Give it a try.

Hammer Horror Flick Checklist:

  • Gothic style sets

  • set in a bygone era

  • cobwebs – lots of cobwebs

  • creepy old castle

  • creepy old aristocrats

  • buxom babes in low cut dresses

  • red red blood

  • everybody speaks with English accents – no matter where the location

  • torn clothing (on Leon)

One to Ponder: Do my eyes deceive me? I did not notice Leon taking his shoes off before he transformed! Uncouth Spaniard!

Well, that’s another one down for 2007. Catch ya next time!

-BigRuta

Remember: Comments, questions, requests and contributions (reviews not money) welcome!

“I’m all by myself in your silver light…”

Posted in 1950s, radiation, Sci-Fi, werewolf on November 9, 2007 by bigruta

All righty then all you slappy dinguses! The second werewolf flick for the 2007 (post) Halloween review jamboree is from the 1950s! Oh yeah! You know what that means! Everybody: “Radiation can do anything!”

The Werewolf

Clover Productions, Columbia Pictures Corp., 79 minutes, NR

actors: Steven Ritch, Don Megowan, Harry Lauter, Joyce Holden, George Lynn, S. John Launer

writers: Robert E. Kent, James B. Gordon

director: Fred F. Sears

producer: Sam Katzman

Taxonomy:Sci-Fi; werewolf flick; superstitious trappers

Plot:An amnesiac stumbles into Mountain Crest, California. The Hook: He won’t like what he soon remembers.

The flick opens at night in the little town of Mountain Crest, California. We see a guy in a suit drag himself down the street and go into ‘Chad’s Place’, the local watering hole. Seems the good folk of Mountain Crest like their liquor! They suck it down like it was the answer to their prayers. When asked why he is in town the stranger looks confused and says, “I guess I’m just passing through.” He then leaves. Another patron of Chad’s, a big dude named Joe, tries to mug the new guy – oh hell, his name is Duncan Marsh (of the Clan Marsh!). We don’t know that yet but I don’t want to keep having to write “the stranger.” Anyway, Joe tries to rob Duncan (Ritch) and soon has way more than he can handle! An old lady sees what happens (we only see feet – what is it with werewolf flicks and feet?) and screams.  A very hairy Duncan runs away and soon has to protect himself from an armed Deputy. The Sheriff (Megowan) is called in and all concerned think the large animal tracks indicate that Joe, was attacked by a crazed beast. Based on the fact that Deputy Clovey (Lauter) told him that whatever attacked him walked on two legs, the Sheriff thinks a human is responsible for Joe’s death.

Sheriff Hains takes Clovey to Doc Gilchrist’s place to get patched up. Here we meet tww_clovey.jpgAmy Standish (Holden) Doc’s nurse and Sheriff Hains squeeze. The doc thinks Hains is crazy talking about a man being the cause of Clovey’s wounds. Amy brings up the psychotic condition of lycanthropy. Hmmm…

The next morning we see that Duncan has slept in a culvert. I should mention that it is winter and Duncan is barefoot. He says, “I know I was dreaming!” when he sees that his footprints change into those of a large wolf. He then goes and finds his shoes and socks, which had been neatly placed near a fallen tree. What the hell!? Are these movies trying to convince us that werewolves would actually stop mid-transformation to remove their footwear? Also all of Duncan’s clothes are in good order – even his tie! Oh I can hear my Dad now, “You young people today are such slobs! Why in my day, even the werewolves were snappy dressers!”

Soon Duncan shows up at Doc’s place. He tells Doc and Amy that he can’t remember tww_duncan.jpgwho – or what – he is and he does not know why he is in Mountain Crest. He says he has vague memories of a car crash and two doctors… but it is all foggy. He says he thinks he killed a man last night. Amy and Doc show him sympathy and Duncan seems to trust them, but then they blow it when they try to sedate him. He cries, “Those other doctors did something to me!” and runs away. Amy promptly calls the Sheriff.

Next we meet a couple of scientists. We know they are scientists because they have a tww_me.jpglab full of animals and wear lab-coats and dark goggles. These two sweet fellers are Dr. Morgan Chambers (Lynn) and Dr. Emory Forrest (Launer). They are conducting experiments exposing animals to – wait for it! – atomic radiation! Ya knew we would get there sooner or later didn’t ya? Yes, these guys are “those other doctors.” Emory tells Morgan of the story of a death in Mountain Crest and we are then treated to Morgan explaining their research – as if Emory had no idea! It seems they believe, that is Morgan believes, Emory seems like a bit of a doofus, that fallout from H-bomb testing will mutate everyone on Earth into stupid vicious beasts. So, they are trying to develop a way to immunize themselves against this eventuality. Yep! Radiation immunization! God I love 50s sci-fi flicks! They also learn that Duncan is missing when his wife shows up and asks them if they could know where he might have gone. Fearful that Duncan could get them in trouble – nonconsensual radiation therapy and all – they zip off to Mountain Crest to pop a cap in his ass. Though they do not use those words.

Well the race to find Duncan is on! Sheriff Hains enlists Doc, Amy, Mrs. Marsh and Duncan’s little boy to help him bring Duncan in. They know he is hurt – leg got caught in a trap; wonder where they got that idea? Hmmm… – and use a bullhorn to get him to give himself up. That night Morgan nad Emory break into the town jail, drug the deputy and prepare to kill Duncan. Surprise! Duncan has changed in his sleep! Morgan and Emory get chewed up. Dang! Now we will never get that radiation vaccine! Stupid werewolves don’t understand the benefits of modern medical science!

Sheriff Hains gathers a large posse and goes out hunting for Duncan. No that Duncan tww_meat.jpghas killed two more people the Sheriff does not intend to show any mercy. At one point during the chase, the Sheriff orders the men to throw torches toward Duncan so they can get a good shot. Hey yeah! Several flaming chunks ‘o wood won’t cause any harm in the California woodlands! Holy crap! Well this leads to the climactic scene where Duncan is trapped on a bridge and the posse gun him down. “Now he can go home.” says Sheriff Hains. The End.

Goodies:

Babeage: None. Joyce Holden is an okay actress, but not a babe. the actress who plays Duncan’s wife looks like, well, a 50s housewife.

Sleazeploitation: Like I noted above, the folks in Mountain Crest love their booze and there is a blond barfly, but nothing really happens that could be classified as sleaze.

Beasts, Freaks and Weirdoes:Duncan in his ‘werewolf’ form. Mogan & Emory.

Violence: Uh … well … nope. Kind of odd for a werewolf flick.

Gore & FX: The transformation is done with fades just like in The Wolfman (1941). Not too bad really. I guess the setting could be an ‘effect’; the flick was shot in and around Big Bear Lake, California. Unfortunately black and white does not do the scenery justice.

Great Lines:

Doc: “Man what you’re trying to say is just a lot of poppycock! Storybook stuff! The kind of things kids get nightmares about!” No doubt about it – Doc Gilchrist is Dana Scully’s father!

Sheriff Hains: “Doctors try to save people. The law doesn’t always have a choice.”

Dr. Morgan Chambers: “They’ll make the hydrogen bomb more powerful, then more powerful again! Enough to change every person on the face of the earth into a crawling inhuman thing from fallout radiation!” And that was just his testimony before Congress about stem-cell research!

Dr. Morgan Chambers: “The perfect science, Emory. The science that ends all science.” Uh … What!?

Dr. Emory Forrest: “You’re not going to kill him!? [Duncan]” Dr. Morgan Chambers: “You think he still wants to live after what he has become? It will be an act of charity!” I think you mean an act of mercy, doc. Or were you planning on putting his kid through college?

Here are a couple of exchanges that show just what softies Sheriff Hains and Deputy Clovey are: Amy, “What a horrible horrible thing to happen to a human being!” Hains, “Yeah.” Hains, “How do you explain a thing like this to a wife and kid?” Cloves, “Maybe you don’t try.” Stop it you two before I tear up!

Moral: Never wear your good shoes in the snow.

Conclusion:

The Werewolf is actually a fairly good little flick. Only one problem – it’s not about a werewolf! Sure Duncan looks like a werewolf when he changes, but none of the werewolf folklore comes along for the ride. Full moon? Don’t matter. Sunlight? Don’t matter. Infects those he injures? Nope. Silver needed to kill him? Lead bullets do just fine. A shame really because the flick nails the tragic element rather well. We really feel sorry for Duncan and his family. If this flick were made in the 80s the culprit would be exotic drugs. The 90s – genetic engineering. But this was the 50s and it had to be radiation. I guess they wanted to add a well known monster into the mix. Ah well, still a tight little cheapo b-movie. Nothing wrong with that!

50s Sci-Fi Checklist:

  • radiation can do anything!

  • big ass cars – Mountain Crest has 22 police cars!?

  • tons of booze and cigs

  • tones of the hep-cat era

  • big ass jukebox

  • atomic not nuclear

  • real men still wore hats

One to Ponder: Were the clothes really werewolf proof in the 40s and 50s?

Well, that’s two post Halloween werewolf flicks for 2007. Catch ya next time – and remember: comments, questions, suggestions and contributions welcome.

-BigRuta

“Sister moon will be my guide…”

Posted in 1940s, horror, Lon Chaney Jr., Universal, werewolf on November 1, 2007 by bigruta

Hello again friends and neighbors! Big Ruta is back and ready to lay some Halloween movie lovin on ya! Oh baby! Ya might notice that my blog has moved. Blogger was just giving me too much trouble. Each post was getting more and more frustrating and so at the suggestion of h&m, I have moved over here to wordpress. I like it so far. We’ll just have to see how it goes.

I love werewolves. Of all the frightful critters to come crawling out of our collective folkloric subconscious, “the wolf that walks as a man” is perhaps my personal fave. Ya got all the classic themes: transformation, corruption, savagery, lust, blood, guts, guilt, redemption, love, hate, death, disease, magik all wrapped up in a wonderfully tragic package. What’s not to love?

There have been plenty of werewolf flicks, but most just don’t do the subject justice.

This Halloween, I’m going to share a few that I like with y’all.

The Wolfman

1941, Universal, 70 minutes, NR

actors: Lon Chaney Jr., Claude Rains, Ralph Bellamy, Bela Lugosi, Maria Ouspenskaya, Evelyn Ankers

writer: Curt Siodmak

director, producer: George Waggner

Taxonomy: Horror; werewolf flick; dog lovers

Plot: Good hearted lug Larry Talbot gets bitten by love – and something else.

Lawrence Talbot (Chaney) returns to his family estate in rural England after the tragic death of his elder brother in a hunting accident. He is soon helping his father, Sir John Talbot (Rains) fix the telescope in their castle-top observatory. He then uses the scope to spy on a cute blond while she is dressing!wm_scope_edited2.jpg Yep! Larry is just a big old lovable lug – and perv. He visits the antique shop where the blond works and buys a walking stick. The walking stick has a silver handle in the shape of a wolf’s head with a pentagram etching. Let the exposition begin! Gwen Conliffe (Ankers), Larry’s voyeuristic target, explains that the pentagram is the symbol of the werewolf and that a werewolf can see a pentagram in the palm of his next victim’s hand. Gwen is the first of several characters in the flick to recite the classic doublet,

“Even a man who is pure in heart and says his prayers by night, may become a wolf when the wolfsbane blooms and the Autumn moon is bright.”

Notice it does not specify a full moon. Anyway, Larry pesters Gwen into going out with him that night.

After a chat with Sir John – and a repetition of the poem – Larry shows up at the antique shop happy to see that Gwen is waiting for him. But Gwen has a surprise in store Larry; she has invited her friend Jenny to come along! Take that Slick! The three walk out into the misty moors and pick some wolfsbane. Which gives Jenny the opportunity to recite the poem. We have now heard it three times within 10 minutes. Subtlety be damned! We need to keep reminding the audience that this here is a werewolf flick! Our happy threesome end up in a gypsy camp where they meet an Maleva (Ouspenskaya) and her son Bela (Lugosi). Yes that’s right, Bela Lugosi plays a guy named Bela. Easy to remember, I guess. Larry and the ladies ask if they can have their fortunes read. Jenny goes first and Larry and Gwen slip off into the moor to flirt in a goofy 40s kind of way.

It seems Bela does not like wolfsbane, hmmm… bela_edited.jpgThen we see a star on his forehead – not a pentagram, mind you, a star. He tells Jenny, “Your left hand shows your past, your right hand shows your future.” Then he sees a pentagram in her right palm! He tells her to go – quickly and she runs away. Gwen and Larry hear Jenny scream, Larry goes to investigate and sees a large dog (yeah, it’s supposed to be a wolf, but it is a dog) chewing on her. This shot is well done, very fast, but it gets the point across. Larry beats the dog – er – wolf to death with his walking stick, but not before being bitten! Gwen and Maleva take Larry home. Then Bela is found dead on the moors near Jenny with Larry’s walking stick next to his body!

Colonel Montford (Bellamy) starts to investigate and it seems more and more likely that Larry killed Bela. Larry swears he killed a wolf, and overhears Maleva tell Bela that his suffering is over. There is some discussion of the psychology of lycanthropy, but no one takes it seriously – except Larry.

The gypsies hold a celebration in honor of Bela. Many of the townsfolk go out to the gypsy camp for the festivities. We see a young gypsy woman hike up her skirt to show her legs while dancing – shocking! Larry finds a bit of time to flirt a bit more with Gwen – when she is not with her fiancee!charm_edited.jpg Eventually Maleva tells Larry flat out that Bela was a werewolf and that Larry having been bitten, but not killed buy Bela is now a werewolf himself. She gives Larry a charm with a pentagram on it, she says it may protect him. She also mentions that only silver can kill a werewolf. Maleva then tells the other gypsies that there is a werewolf in camp and they pack up and leave right quick!

Larry goes home and starts to feel itchy. He pulls up his pant legs and takes off his shoes and socks and we get the transformation scene! We see Larry’s legs and feet slowly transform into those of a wolfman via fades. Yep, just his legs and feet. I remember having seen scenes of Lon Chaney Jr’s face transforming, but those must have been from one of the sequels because we never see that in this flick. To give the make-up folks some credit, they show his feet transform so that he walks on his toes – just like a wolf.

Well the wolfman is out now! Larry prowls the moors looking for prey – his clothes still fit quite well, no tears even with his shirt buttoned all the way up to the neck! The wolfman seems to be more fit than Larry! He comes across a gravedigger. Not sure who he is burying or why he is doing so way out in the moors, but he just stands there and screams when he sees the wolfman and gets chomped. Colonel Montford notes large wolf tracks that lead right up to the Talbot estate. Larry finds the same tracks on his bedroom floor and a star on his chest. Hmmm… Could it be true!?

Montford rounds up some men and they wait at a shooting platform after setting out leg-hold traps. Sure enough, the wolfman steps right in one – ouchies!wm_back_edited.jpg He pulls it open, limps away and passes out. Maleva shows up and says a little charm and the wolfman changes back into Larry. Well, if she could do that, then… oh nevermind!

Larry tells Gwen he has to go away but when he gets home Sir John straps him into a chair! Larry begs Sir John to take his walking stick. Well, Larry changes and escapes – gee didn’t see that coming! – gets shot, but hey it was just a regular old lead bullet, so no biggie! He attacks Gwen, who went out on the moors looking for him – jeez! The funny thing is, Gwen holds the wolfman off pretty well! Sir John kills the “wolf” with the silver-headed walking stick – and we see the wolfman change back into Larry. Everybody cries. The End.

Goodies:

Babeage:Evelyn Ankers is an attractive damsel in distress, but not what I would call babe material – at least not in this flick.

Sleazeploitation: Well, Larry is a peeper…

Beasts, Freaks and Weirdoes:The wolfman (duh!) and Bela.

Violence:A couple of gun shots, leg in trap and two walking stick bludgeonings.

Gore & FX:No gore. The make-up effects are good but the transformation scene is a let down – unless you’re a foot fetishist. Perhaps the worst effect in the flick is the werewolf sound effects. Howling sure, but other than that the wolfman sounds like a tired old hound.

Hey, that’s what’s his name!: Claude Rains was in a ton of movies. He had his own Universal series of flicks as The Invisible Man(1933). He was Captain Renault, better known as “Frenchy,” in Casablanca (1942). As for Ralph Bellamy, well check out his IMDB page.

Great Lines:

When Larry shows up for his date with Gwen he says, “And you see, I wore my cane too!”

Larry: “Wolf! Gypsy woman? Murder!? What is this?” It’s the plot Lon, try to pay attention.

Dr. Lloyd says of Jenny, “Her jugular was severed with the bite of powerful teeth.” Wow! That werewolf must be damn strong! If his teeth alone can sever someone’s jugular, just imagine how powerful his jaws must be!

Sir John, “You policemen are always in such a hurry! As if dead men don’t have all eternity!” So jus chill out wit a cool beverage, mon!

Two men ask Larry what he is doing out on the moors. He tells them, “Why, the same thing that you are of course – hunting.”

When he sees Larry’s star shaped scar, Sir John says, “That scar could be made by most any animal.” Yeah, any animal that got “A”s in geometry!

Moral: Keep your pets on a leash.

Conclusion:

The Wolfmanis the standard from which all werewolf flicks derive. It lays all the gothic groundrules: mark of the beast, lycanthropy as an occult disease, moonlight good, silver bad, wolfsbane, werewolf cursed to attack those he loves. It also runs into the classic logical flaw of having the cursed character change into a werewolf several times over a few consecutive nights – lunar calendar be damned. Of course, as I pointed out above, the full moon is never specifically mentioned, just the bright Autumn moon. So lycanthropy only happens in the Fall? Just like football! Hmmm…

This is me at age nine baby!:Yeah, yeah, yeah – enough with the sappy romance! Wait! Dracula is a gypsy now? Runnin and howlin through the moors at midnight! Woohoo! The guy just stood there and let himself be killed! Oh man! His dad killed him!

Universal Monster Movie Checklist:

  • names you know

  • cool sets

  • love interest – even if it disrupts the flow

  • big old castle

  • fog – lots of fog

  • goofy comic relief – with an accent

  • cobwebs – lots of cobwebs

  • where’s the blood?

  • happy ending

One to Ponder:Did the wolfman always take his shoes off before he transformed?

Okay, well there ya go! My first Halloween movie review of 2007. Hope ya liked it.

What? Halloween was yesterday?

Aw crap!

– BigRuta

Remember: comments, suggestions, requests and contributions always welcome!

"Aye, there’s the rub!"

Posted in 1950s, Sci-Fi on August 7, 2007 by bigruta

Get ready for some boffo-socko British b-movie sweetness tonight kiddies!

The Crawling Eye
(The Trollenberg Terror, The Creeping Eye, The Flying Eye, Creature from Another World)
Tempean Productions Limited, Allience Film Studios, Middlesex, England; 1958; 84 minutes; NR
actors: Forrest Tucker, Janet Munro, Jennifer Jayne, Warren Mitchell
director: Quentin Lawrence
writers: Peter Kay, Jimmy Sangster
producers: Robert S. Baker, Monty Berman
Taxonomy: Brit Sci-Fi; alien invasion flick; opthamologists
Plot: Strange doins’ abound near the Swiss village of Trollenberg.
The Hook: Them’s aliens I tells ya!
Trollenberg Switzerland is a small village near the base of a famed mountain that attracts many climbers. Is the mountain called “Trollen?” I don’t know. The name of the mountain is never mentioned. It seems that lately this mountain has earned a bad reputation. You see, several climbers have had accidents and died. Some are never seen again. Some just lose their heads completely. Literally! The opening shot is of the members of an English climbing party who are resting on a ledge while their leader climbs to the next way point. The ‘mountain ledge’ is an appallingly cheap looking studio set with a curtain painting backdrop. The leader notes something odd, screams and then falls down past the other two climbers – without his head! The funny thing about this scene is that we hear him scream as he falls! Well all this death and decapitatin’ spooks the locals, many of whom leave town.

Then our heroes arrive! The story revolves around three groups of characters: 1. Alan Brooks (Tucker), who is “from the UN.” and Professor Crevett (Mitchell), who studies cosmic rays in an avalanche proof observatory high on the mountain. In fact Crevett has called Alan in to help him with a little mystery. It seems there is an odd cloud, that glows with radioactivity and never moves from the south side of the mountain despite the wind. Most of the climbing accidents have occurred on the south side of the mountain. Hmmm…

2. Ann and Sarah Pilgrim (Munro and Jayne), who are performers in a mentalist act that regularly plays at The Palladium in London. They were on their way to Geneva, but once Ann saw the mountain, she insisted that they stop in Trollenberg and stay at the Hotel Europa, the only hotel in the village it seems as all the characters are staying there! Ann has odd feelings about the town and mountain, as if she had been here before … Hmmm…
3. Everybody Else, including Dr. Dewhurst, a geologist and his guide Brett and the assorted villagers and die hard climbers still hanging around. Two words: alien chow!
Okay well, as this is a Brit flick, there is plenty of atmosphere and dialog and character interaction which is actually well done and helps flesh out the characters and move the story along, but is not very exciting to write about. So, I’ll just give you some highlights and we can move on to the thrilling climax, mmm’kay?
Well! Alan, Crevett and Ann all have secrets that are eventually revealed. Ann is not just a ‘mentalist’, she is an honest to goodness telepath! She is very sensitive and can pick up the thoughts of others, but apparently she cannot transmit her own thoughts. This turns out to be a very bad thing. You see, Alan and Crevett have worked together before, in the Andes, and there was a radioactive cloud, and a clairvoyant old woman, who was killed! Seems Alan is a member of a special UN team that investigates “phenomena.” Yep! That’s right, Alan is Fox Mulder’s father! Alan and Crevett know that aliens are responsible for the cloud; it is a reproduction of their atmosphere. The aliens are highly telepathic, and they kill human telepaths because they know too much! The implication is that the aliens are trying to take over the Earth by slowly replacing our atmosphere with theirs! They can control the cloud and telepathically control dead humans! Got all that?

Now remember group 3? Well, they start getting killed left and right! People have “accidents”, a couple of guys get a climbing pick to the head, decapitations happen! The aliens try a using their zombie slaves to off Ann, but Alan – who has developed a thing for her of course – comes to the rescue. Then the aliens mentally compel Ann to come up to them, but that don’t work either. Finally the aliens decide to close in for the kill. The cloud moves down the mountain and surrounds the village. The only place to run to is the observatory. B-movie moment! As everybody is escaping up to the observatory in the cable car, a little girl goes back to the hotel for her ball! Damn kids! Just as she retrieves her ball, an alien pops open the door and grabs her! Well, thanks to the stupid American title and poster, we already know what the alien looks like! It is a big giant eyeball with tentacles! Alan chops off a tentacle, frees the stupid little girl and makes it up to the observatory! He should have let the alien eat the girl, it might have bought the rest of them more time!

Once everybody is in the observatory, the aliens surround it with clouds and attack! They send another zombie to kill Ann, but studboy Alan shoots it. Yeah, he shoots and kills the dead guy, don’t think about it too much! Then the aliens start busting through the walls to get to Ann! Frankly, I can’t blame them; Janet Munro was dang purrdy! At this point Alan theorises that the aliens need a cold environment and apparently calls in a big favor because he has the RAF firebomb the mountainside and observatory! That’s right, the UN guy has the British Air Force bomb a Swiss mountain! Holy crap! This guy has pull! The British bombers appear to be Vulcans!
Up until this point the special effects have been mostly okay, with some good miniature shots, but the scene of the aliens getting napalmed is just too good to miss! I’ll just say that Ray Harryhausen had nothing to worry about if this was his competition! Well, since the observatory was made to withstand Alpine avalanches, the rather heavy looking firebombs don’t penetrate the roof (sure!). The aliens get turned into eyeball ‘que and Alan and Ann get all misty eyed over each other. The End?
Goodies:
Babeage: Janet Munro! Oh my goodness, is she a cutie! Janet Munro started in several films and TV shows from the 50s to the 70s. She would be most recognizable to Americans from her Disney flicks: Darby O’Gill and the Little People (1959), Third Man on the Mountain (1959) and Swiss Family Robinson (1960). She was liked by critics, but some did not approve her attempt to change her good girl image with nude scenes in the sci-fi film The Day the Earth Caught Fire (1961). Feel free to learn a bit more about Ms. Munro, but be warned – there is no happy ending.
Sleazeploitation: None. The few scenes with Janet Munro and Jennifer Jayne in nighties are rather funny now a days.
Beasts, Freaks and Weirdoes: Zombies, intelligent clouds, gigantic tentacled eyeball creatures!
Violence: A couple of fist fights, attempted stabbing, climbing pick attack, gun shots, Molotov cocktails, hatchet, decapitations, firebombs. Sounds worse (or better depending on your point of view) than it actually plays out.
Gore & FX: Some blood, a very quick look at a decapitated torso, decent miniature sets, nice cloud effects that supposedly influenced John Carpenter to make The Fog (1980), and some very silly eyeball monsters!
Hey! That’s what’s his name!: Forest tucker was in a ton of movies and TV shows, including doing his own time with Disney. He may be best remembered by Boomers as Sgt. Morgan O’Rourke on the 60s TV show F Troop.
Great Lines:
British climbing team at start of flick, “Didn’t you see him?!” “What are you talking about?” “His head – it was torn off!” This line is repeated later in the flick – just in case you were not paying attention.
Dr. Dewhurst keeps his resume short and sweet, “I’m a geologist. I know all about rock formations, that sort of thing.”
When Professor Crevett learns of Ann’s telepathy, he advises Sarah to get her away from Trollenberg, “It’s not good for her here.” But I do enjoy leering at her, oh yesss!

While sleeping Ann calls out a warning for the investigators, “Keep them away from the hut!” They cannot hear her, being way up on the mountain and all, but hey, she tried!
Alan to a Crevett, “I’m going to throw a bomb at that one. You watch on the screen and see what happens.” Let me get this straight, you are going outside to throw a Molotov cocktail at one of the giant telepathic pissed off eyeball monsters, and you want me to stay here in the nice safe observatory and watch what happens over the video camera? Will do
Chief!
Moral: Don’t play with that! You’ll poke your eye out!
Conclusion: The Crawling Eye is actually a better flick than this review makes it seem. The actors play their characters well, especially Janet Munro who makes Ann come across as shy, sweet, sad and a little spooky all at once! These days the actors in many sci-fi / horror flicks play their roles too knowingly campy which spoils the mood and is simply annoying. The ideas involved – that aliens would try to take over the earth simply by changing the atmosphere to suit them and not us is intriguing. The telepathy stuff is done in a straight forward manner much more subtly than in later sci-fi films. The special effects are hokey, but this was not a huge budget flick in the first place. Additionally, prior to 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), special effects in sci-fi, fantasy or horror movies were not really expected to be all that spectacular. My biggest complaint is that the American title, The Crawling Eye, and the posters used to advertise the flick spoil the surprise! The English title, The Trollenberg Terror, gives no hint at what the aliens are, of if there are aliens. This approach would have made the first sight of the eyeball monsters a bit more shocking.
This is me at age nine baby!: Yeah, yeah, who cares! Blah, blah, blah! (first 3/4 of the flick). Decapitated head in a bag! Cool! Let them eat her! Hahaha! Yeah that looks real! Vulcan bombers! Cool!
Brit B-Movie Checklist:
a Dialog a bit more complex than American b-movies
a very polite English folks
a the gruff American
a the money grubbing Swiss
a Imperial gallons of booze
a the pretty girl who faints often
a the staunch male heroes who disapprove of the girls being there
a British stock footage
a classic miniature special effects
How about a Swiss weisse? Sure! As long as it is German!
Schneider Weisse Hefe-Weizen
Brauerei G. Schneider & Sohn
Munchen, Bavaria, Germany
Hefe-Weisse is “wheat – white” beer. It is made with a large proportion of wheat malt to barley and usually does not incorporate a a large amount of hops. The result is a light in color and taste. These beers are often drunk in the summer and are often supplemented with flavored syrups or liquors.
ABV: 4.90% IBU: 14
Color: A light honey amber color, cloudy from the wheat proteins.
Aroma: Very soft and clean, no hops, slight malted wheat predominates, hint of citrus.
Head: Persistent full high creamy tan colored head. Note: The glass should be very clean or it will result in the head “flattening.”
Taste: Very smooth light and slightly sweet start moves to a clean sweet slightly fruity middle and then to a brief hint of bitterness during the finish and a short aftertaste.
Recommendation: This is perhaps the arch typical Hefe-Weizen. Just as Guinness is the baseline for stouts, Schneider is the baseline for Hefe-Weizen. Any self respecting Hefe-Weizen needs to be at least as good as Schneider’s. This beer is light and refreshing with a hint of citrus – less than in Belgian wit beers. Schneider Weisse Hefe-Weizen is produced in accordance with the German Beer Purity Law of 1516 and is bottle conditioned – so be careful of the little blob of yeast at the bottom of the bottle. A fine summer beer that is mild enough that it may win over some converts from the mass market American brews. Recommended for those willing to try something new, but not ready for any radical departure from what they are used to drinking.
Hope everyone has had a great summer vacation! Back soon!
-BigRuta
Remember: comments, suggestions, questions and submissions always welcome!

"Just sit right back and you’ll hear a tale…"

Posted in Uncategorized on June 26, 2007 by bigruta
Howdy friends and neighbors and welcome to the second Duh Spot Ray Harryhausen flick review! You knew I would get around to doing another stop motion spectacular eventually, didn’t you?

Jule’s Verne’s Mysterious Island (Mysterious Island)

Columbia, 1961, 100 minutes, NR

actors: Michael Craig, Michael Callan, Gary Merrill, Herbert Lom, Joan Greenwood, Beth Rogan, Percy Herbert, Dan Jackson

director: Cy Endfield
writers: John Prebble, Daniel B. Ullman, Crane Wilbur – based on the novel by Jules Verne
producer: Charles H. Schneer

visual effects in “super dynamation”: Ray Harryhausen

Taxonomy: Sci-Fi; giant critter / mad scientist adventure flick; Harryhausen / Verne fans

Plot: During the American Civil War, Union soldiers escape a Confederate prison camp via an observation balloon. The Hook: They wind up at the retirement home of Captain Nemo!

The flick starts out during the siege of Richmond, Virginia, 1865 at Libby Military Prison. I know this because it says so right there on the screen! A Union war correspondent by the name of Gideon Spilitt (Merrill) is inspecting the camp and visiting Union prisoners. Just as he is about to get to know Captain Cyrus Harding, Herbert Brown and Neb Nugent (Craig, Callan and Jackson respectively), they stage a daring escape! Mr. Spilitt gets swept up in the action and soon finds himself helping the three Yankees subduing Confederate guards and stealing an observation balloon. Confederate Sgt. Pencroft (Herbert) does his best to foil their escape, but soon they are high in the air and in a storm and Pencroft is the only one who knows how to pilot the balloon. They make a deal that when they land everybody can go their separate ways without either army being the wiser.

Well boys and girls this ain’t no ordinary storm they are drifting through, no sirree! Why it’s the “greatest storm in American history!” The balloon gets blown due west at very high speeds for four straight days! Soon they find themselves over the Pacific! Eventually they spy an island on the horizon. Then the balloon springs a leak and starts going down. They toss out everything they can to lighten the balloon, even cutting the gondola away, but they still crash into the sea. Spilitt, Brown, Nugent and Pencroft make it to the island, but where is Harding? After a brief search they find him unconscious near a campfire. Harding admits that he did not make the fire, but the others think he is just in shock. Soon they find that the island has a colony of huge oysters, each about a foot long! Well after they eat and rest a bit Captain Harding assumes command. Spilitt and Pencroft voice token objections and Harding decides that they will climb to the top of the volcano. Did I mention the volcano? Yeah there is an active volcano on this island. Hmmm … ship … I mean balloon wrecked guys on a deserted island with a volcano in a b-movie. Gee, I wonder what will happen?

They make some suspiciously straight spears and head off across the island. Soon they arrive at another beach and see a sea-side geyser. As they walk across the beach a frickin huge crab emerges from the sand! When I say frickin huge I mean about twenty feet wide! The frickin huge crab grabs Neb and the others try to free him. Here we see one of Harryhausen’s unique skills. There were many folks who toyed with stop motion animation over the years, but Harryhausen usually did scenes where his animated critters interact with humans in the same scene. When Neb is in the crab’s claw we get cut scenes of the actor in close-up and wide shots where Neb is actually another animated figure. As always with Harryhausen this is very well done with the figure standing in well for a real human. The guys manage to get Neb free and flip the crab into the geyser. Boiled crab for everyone! Of course if the crab had proportional strength Neb would have been crushed, but hey this is fantasy!

The trek to the volcano continues and the guys find quite a few wild goats. Then the big discovery – women! They find two women unconscious on the beach – yes another beach. They also find a few guys but they are dead. When the ladies come around they introduce themselves as Lady Mary Fairchild and her niece Elena Fairchild (Greenwood and Rogan) from England. They were attacked by pirates … or their ship broke up in a storm … I forget which. Anyway the five men and two women (heh heh heh) make for, you guessed it, the volcano. They discover caves that that had been used as shelter by folks who had been abandoned by pirates. Well they move right in, set up shop, start herding the goats, plant a garden and Lady Fairchild even starts making clothes from goat skins! She makes a hot little number for her niece to replace her badly damaged dress. Elena’s new dress has a very short skirt which barely covers her goatskin panties and a low cut front for nice cleavage shots! Maybe those Victorian women were not as repressed as is commonly assumed!

Neb finds a chest washed ashore with a compass, charts, a sextant, tools, pots and pans, guns and a copy of Robinson Crusoe. Gee, that should come in handy!

Okay more giant critter action! Elena is attacked by what seems to be a giant chicken. Actually this is supposed to be one of the numerous giant carnivorous predatory birds that flourished after the last ice age, but the first image that comes to mind is that of a giant chicken. Well Herbert ain’t gonna let no overgrown roaster hurt his gal, see he has a thing for Elena, so he jumps on the chicken’s neck and kills it with a knife. Another good human critter animated sequence and barbecued chicken for everyone!

The story starts to pick up a little speed now as Herbert and Elena go off and stumble upon a really frickin huge honey bee hive. How frickin huge? Well so huge that they hide in a honeycomb cell when one of the bees shows up. Not too bright are they? The bee seals them into the cell with wax and they start a fire to get out! They escape before they run out of oxygen or die of smoke inhalation and fall down a crevasse and find an underwater bay and a remarkable ironclad ship. This is the Nautilus – Captain Nemo’s submarine from 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea. Meanwhile, back at the cave, pirates have been spotted making for the island. They come ashore to replenish their supply of drinking water and – opps! – the idiots in the cave shoot at them! So the pirates start firing their cannon at the cave! But then – BOOM! – the pirate ship is rocked by an explosion and sinks! All this commotion has brought Herbert and Elena back to the shore where they see a guy come out of the water wearing some kind of rubber suit with a big seashell on his back and one on his head! It is Captain Nemo, of course, wearing his own diving gear. Seems Nemo planted an explosive on the hull of the pirate ship.

Nemo (Lom) invites everyone to dinner on the Nautilus. He lets them in on the fact that it was he who rescued Harding and built his campfire. He also made sure the ladies survived and supplied the chest o’ useful stuff. The folks know of Nemo and initially do not like him because of his well known habit of sinking military ships. Nemo explains that was his way of discouraging war (read 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea for more details). For the last few years Nemo has been conducting research designed to rid the world of hunger and competition over scarce resources, which he sees as the primary cause for war. To this end he has successfully bred some giant critters. He wants to share his knowledge with the world, but there is a problem. The Nautilus is no longer sea worthy and cannot be repaired. Nemo needs a vessel to take himself, his research and specimens back to civilization. He also needs a crew. Oh and by the way, the volcano is going to destroy the island soon. Yeah, like we did not see that coming!

Our heroes soon hatch a plan to used the Nautilus to pump air into the remains of the balloon – remember the balloon? – in order to re-float the pirate ship. Nemo teaches Harding, Herbert, Neb and Pencroft how to used his scuba gear and also how to operate his electric gun – under water! As the salvage operation progresses a giant nautilus (a kind of mollusk related to squid and octopus) attacks! More well done critter / human action scenes, though the nautilus is not as dynamic as I would have hoped. Harding kills the critter with the electric gun. How exactly would that work? Never mind. And they succeed in re-floating the pirate ship! Yea! However, Nemo is killed when the cavern collapses on the Nautilus – the sub not the critter. The survivors pledge to work for world peace and plenty in honor of Captain Nemo. Well, that is very noble, but they have a ship to operate that is completely waterlogged, so the sails and rigging will need quite a bit of time to dry out and of course none of them are sailors and so could not sail much less navigate a ship. Oh yeah, and the pirates were out of fresh water, remember? Happy ending? I’m not so sure!

Goodies:

Babeage: Beth Rogan may not have been a great actress but she was quite cute and her goatskin minidress with matching panties provides some nice eye candy!

Sleazeploitation: None. The five guys (six counting Nemo) two gals thing is never played out (darn!). Pencroft, the Confederate does not even taunt Nugent, the black Union soldier. A nice change of pace actually.

Beasts, Freaks and Weirdoes: Giant oysters (that don’t do anything except get made into stew), giant crab, giant chicken, giant bees, giant nautilus and of course, Nemo.

Violence: A couple of fist fights, knife to the neck of giant chicken, couple of rifle and cannon shots.

Gore & FX: No gore but great Harryhausen animated critters and people! Plus one rather crappy matt shot of some gulls. Not really sure why that was included.

Great Lines:

Gideon Spilitt remarking on the geyser, “Now we know where we can get a hot bath!” Yeah, really hot!

Herbert Brown upon first sight of Elena, “She’s beautiful!” Harding, “Better than that – she’s alive!” Hey! what’s wrong with beautiful dead women, huh?

Cyrus Harding, “The women added a few welcome feminine touches which turned the cave into a home.” What!? Women in The Man Cave!? Sacrilege!

Herbert Brown, “It’s a honeycomb!” Elena, “Can’t be, it’s too big!” Honey weren’t you just attacked by a giant chicken?

Nemo’s response when Spilitt tells him he is a war correspondent, “You supply the ink. The soldiers supply the blood.”

Nemo, “Contact with my own species has always disappointed me.”

Nemo as he drains off the last of his brandy, “My last bottle, another pressing reason to leave.” You know, that and the island blowing up.

Nemo’s vision, “Imagine, wheat that grows 40 feet high! Sheep the size of cattle!” MARSHmallow PIES! (See The Killer Shrews)

Moral: Always book your flight through a reputable travel agent.

Hey, that’s what’s his name!: Herbert Lom who plays Captain Nemo is most famous to American audiences as Chief Inspector Charles Dreyfus from the Pink Panther movies.

Conclusion:

Jules Verne’s Mysterious Island is a fun little adventure tale that should appeal to the youngins and provide a bit of innocent nostalgia to their parents. Is it an accurate screen version of the Jules Verne novel? No idea. I have never read Mysterious Island, though I did read 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea. Harryhausen’s work is top notch as usual. The giant crab was actually the shell of a real crab that Harryhausen articulated. One scene shows the crab’s mouth parts moving. This was done buy matting in footage of the mouth parts of a live crab over the front of the animation. There is a scene where the men cross over a cleft via a huge fallen tree. This scene is very similar to that in King Kong (RKO, 1933). Harryhausen learned from Willis O’Brian the guy who did the animation in Kong. I would guess this scene is a tribute to O’Brian. The funny thing is all five of the guys cross the tree bridge at the same time! How dumb is that? They could have all fallen to their deaths! Ya got to love Hollywood!

This is me at age nine baby!: Yeah, yeah, balloon ride, big deal! Come on! Get to the monsters! Giant crab! They could not have flipped him that easy! Oh man – girls! Jeez! Giant monsters, cool! Captain Nemo and the Nautilus, cool! The rest – boring!

Ray Harryhausen Adventure Flick Checklist:

a cool giant critters / monsters
a not so fantastic acting
a at least one historical location / set
a at least one non-animal animated miniature
a pretty lady in distress
a legendary / literary source material
a reverse motion shot
One to ponder: What did Nemo have against dugongs anyway?

I don’t think Harryhausen ever animated a flying pig.

Hog Heaven, Barleywine Style Ale

Avery Brewing Company, Boulder, Colorado

Okay, so, barleywine is one of the most complex and flavorful beer styles in the world. Barleywine is an attempt by brewers to make a product that not only rivals wine in alcohol content but also may be cellered in order to enhance the flavors with age – just like wine made from grapes. As such, barleywine can be sort of a crap shoot; sometimes it just does not work out and the result can be awful. But when it works, oh my!

ABV: 9.20% IBU: 100

Aroma: A wonderful blend of sweet malty barley and snappy hops. Very fresh with hints of orange peel, apricot, clove and resin. Complex but not harsh. Remember, the aroma gives clues to the taste.

Color: Crystal clear deep honey almost red amber.

Head: Small bubbled, dense, foamy, cream colored persistent head that imparts Belgian Lace.

Taste: A very mellow sweet and malty start with hints of toffee that moves to a gently bitter middle where the orange, apricot and spice elements pop up leading to a finish that starts off with a sort of sour fruit aspect that moves to the bitter hoppy zing one would expect from the IBU rating. This is a wonderfully complex beer. I had a hard time nailing down what I felt were the proper descriptors, the flavor changes as you drink, but is always smooth and well balanced.

Recommendation: Barleywines really represent the whole package to beer snobs. The complexity of the aroma, taste and “mouthfeel” (one of the rather silly words beer snobs use) combined with the beauty of the color and head, the punch of the alcohol and the fact that this style of beer changes as it ages means that these beers are seen as being the peak of the brewer’s art. The fact that they can be hard to make just enhances the mystique. Some brewers have said that new batches of their barleywines are “undrinkable”, that is to say that they must be cellared for a few years for their flavors and characters to develop. No doubt about it, if you get into barleywines, you are a true beer snob. Avery’s Hog Heaven is a good place to start. It is not as high in alcohol as most barleywines, in fact I was surprised it was under 10% ABV! And even new batches are quite enjoyable. For those of you intimidated by such a high IBU rating, Hog Heaven will show you that bitter really is not synonomus with retch inducing! With an ABV that low, I’m not too sure how well it would age, but as an intro to barleywine Hog Heaven tastes great and may lead you down the path to more serious barleywines. Which would be a good thing indeed! Recommended.

So there ya go! More Harryhausen dynamation to come in future posts so stay tuned!

-BigRuta

Remember: Comments, questions, requests and contributions always welcome!

"Man, there’s really something wrong with you! One day your going to self-destruct!"

Posted in Uncategorized on May 12, 2007 by bigruta
Howdy all! Big Ruta is back with another cinematic gem for you this evening! And just to show you that not all Japanese b-movies involve guys dressed as giant lizards, yakuza and ninjas or girls dressed in skimpy superhero costumes we have …

The Manster

Lopert Pictures Corp. / United Artists of Japan, 1960, 72 minutes, NR

actors: Peter Dyneley, Satoshi Nakamura, Terri Zimmren, Norman Van Hawley, Jane Hyton

producer, director, writer: George P. Breakston

Taxonomy: Sci-Fi; mad scientist/mutant dude flick; 60s era schlock lovers

Plot: Hard nosed press correspondent tries to get the scoop on eccentric Japanese scientist. The Hook: He becomes the doc’s newest guinea pig!

The first thing we see as the flick starts are several geisha girls frolicking in some hot springs! Woohoo! Then a shambling shadowy figure slips into the geisha house. A drunken Tokyo businessman? No! It seems to be some sort of creature! This here critter proceeds to thump the poor geishas but good. No, not like that you pervs! It kills them! And just prior to the opening title sequence we get to see a sloppy Kurosawaesque bit of arterial spray on a paper room divider! Cool baby!

After the opening sequence, we see Larry Stanford (Dyneley), a correspondent for ‘World Press,’ trudge up the side of Mt. Fuji, in a suit and tie of course, to meet with rich eccentric scientist Dr. Robert Suzuki (Satoshi Nakamura). Larry also gets to meet Dr. Suzuki’s hottie assistant Tara (Terri Zimmern). Dr. Suzuki tells Larry that his work revolves around the role of mutation in evolution. Cosmic rays are mentioned (they were the new gee wiz stuff back then) and Dr. S explains that he is trying to use chemical substances to mimic the effects of radiation to produce mutations. Okay now that a bit of scientific sounding gobbledegook has been uttered, we can get on to the fun stuff. Rather suddenly, Dr. S asks Larry if he is faithful to his wife. Then he slips Larry a Micky! Just as soon as you can say, “Tricky Jap bastard!” Dr. S injects some of his enzyme cocktail into Larry’s shoulder. When Larry wakes up and apologizes for nodding off, Dr. S says he will visit him in Tokyo and Larry goes home.

Of course we already knew that Dr. S was a nutcase because prior to Larry showing up at his lab, he had killed his previous failed experiment – which used to be his brother Kenji! Dr. S has a great mad scientist lab built right into the side of Mt. Fuji complete with weird plants, giant mushrooms, random chemistry glassware and equipment. In addition to Kenji we see a mutant woman Dr. S refers to as Emiko. Care to guess the connection between Dr. S and Emiko?

Well Larry and Dr. S start hanging out together and soon become best buds. They go to bars and out to dinner and soon end up at the geisha houses. Gallons of sake gets consumed and who knows how many geishas get to know Larry. In fact Larry starts to ignore his work and has not thought of his wife Linda back in The States in weeks. Originally, Larry was going to go home after interviewing Dr. S, but now he wants to stay in Japan a while. Dr. S takes note of the fact that Larry seems to be interested in Tara. So, like all good male friends do, he tells Larry that Tara is interested in him and is a – ahem – “fun girl.” Wink wink, nudge nudge. So naturally, they all end up going to the bathhouse together and Dr. S slips away to give Larry and Tara some alone time. Larry hits it big time!

Well, after a night out on the town, Larry takes Tara back to his place and they meet Ian (Van Hawley), Larry’s boss and Linda (Hylton), Larry’s wife! Whoops! Linda is a dumb blond with a horrible Brooklyn accent who says, “Darling I … I came here so’s I could see you! So’s you could see me!” The fact that Jane Hylton can not act at all makes the Linda character even more annoying! Linda tells Larry he has to choose. Larry leaves with Tara which is understandable after we have experienced the horror of Linda!

Larry walks Tara home and she tells him he must tell Linda their marriage is over. Then she kisses him goodnight and sends him on his way. Larry goes home, has a fight with Linda and notices some subtle physical changes, like excessive hair on his arms and an eye growing out of his shoulder! Larry freaks out and is soon out at night killing, well just about anybody he meets really. He tries to confess to a Buddhist monk who simply ignores him, so Larry kills him. Larry kills several women who I think are supposed to be prostitutes, but it is never explicitly stated that that is their profession, and even ends up killing the shrink Ian has advised him to visit.

Dr. S has been keeping track of Larry, with Tara’s help of course, and analyses his behavior and concludes that when Larry kills he is actually another species! Soon he will become another being. Tara says that what they are doing is not right but Dr. S thinks she is letting emotions cloud her scientific intellect. After all, it is the research that is important, not the subjects. Didn’t he use his own brother as a subject? Didn’t he use his own wife Emiko?!!! Did you guess correctly? Bwahhahahahaha!

Ian suspects Larry is behind the killings and goes to the police. The cops chase Larry – now with two heads! – throughout the Tokyo streets at night. Larry kills a surprising number of cops before he makes his break toward Mt. Fuji and Dr. S’s lab. Dr. S knows Larry will come to the lab, just like Kenji did. He thinks the volcano’s heat may cause Larry to split into two different creatures. Yeah, well oookay. Tara can’t take it any more and gives Dr. S a tanto dagger so that he can commit seppuku and at least die with honor, then she leaves. Dr. S asks Emiko for forgiveness, then shoots her!

Mt. Fuji starts to erupt – you knew it would didn’t you? And Larry finds Dr. S in hs lab and kills him with the tanto. Larry smashes up the lab and takes Tara to the top of Mt. Fuji as the police close in. Then we see what we were all waiting for – Larry splits in two! Oh yeah! Suddenly we have good old solid guy Larry and an ugly ape beast running around. Larry saves Tara from the beast, but ends up nearly getting killed until Tara saves Larry from the beast! The beast then throws Tara into the volcano which pisses Larry off so he knocks the beast into the lava too!

Larry makes up with Linda (uhg!) and goes to the hospital. The end.

Goodies:

Babeage: Terri Zimmern who plays Tara is a hottie who does not seem to be Asian. Maybe Amerasian? Who knows, but I would take her over Jane Hylton any day! As I noted above Ms. Hylton could not act and frankly did not impress me beauty wise either. Maybe she agreed to work cheap. And Lord knows how little that would be in a flick like this!

Sleazeploitation: Several scenes with geishas and Tara in the bathhouse. Like most b-movies of this time period there is a high tease factor and little else.

Beasts, Freaks and Weirdoes: Two headed Larry, the beast, Dr. Suzuki and of course Linda.

Violence: Lots of Larry beating up cops or strangling hos.

Gore & FX: Some silly make-up, that one splash of blood, the part where Larry splits in two is actually done fairly well considering the budget involved.

Great Lines:

Dr. Suzuki speaking of Kenji’s antics with the geishas, “It’s not easy to keep a thing like that from attracting too much attention!” Oh come on! Who would notice a few geisha torn to bits in the middle of Tokyo. Relax will ya!

Dr. Suzuki referring to Kenji, “He is like an animal now; he comes back to where he was fed the last time.” So do I. Does that make me an animal? I am not an animal!!

Larry upon meeting Dr. Suzuki, “I gather you’re working on the secrets of eeevo- lootion or something like that. Sounds great, but will it sell newspapers?” It don’t sound great when you say it Round Eye!

Dr. Suzuki to Tara when she questions his actions, “This is for science! For human knowledge! What happens to one man doesn’t make any difference.” Yeah and oh hey Doc, here are some fellow scientists from Germany who want to talk to you about your inferior racial heritage.

Larry wonders why Linda keeps asking questions, “Maybe it’s because I never put you in your place before, never slapped you down when you needed it!” What a swell guy!

Moral: Never, and I mean never accept a drink from an eccentric scientist with a hot assistant while visiting his remote volcano lab site.

Conclusion:

The Manster is way more fun than it has any right to be! For a low budget Japanese/American co-production from the early 60s this flick just rocks! A great if not too original mad scientist story with goofy effects and just the right amount of sex and mayhem thrown in for extra spice. This flick is one to put on when you want to relax with friends, have a few beers and some laughs. Trivia: In the movie Army of Darkness (1992, directed by Spiderman’s Sam Raimi) Bruce Campbell’s character Ash finds an eye growing on his shoulder, very quickly he splits into Good Ash and Evil Ash and ends up fighting his evil double. The conclusion of this scene has Campbell deliver the classic line, “Good, bad, I’m the guy with the shotgun!”

This is me at age nine, baby!: Eww, enough with the girls already! Oh man she is just a dink! Wow – he split in two! Cool!

Japanese / American B-Movie Checklist:

a zither
a Theramin
a geisahs
a arterial spray
a sake
a dumb American hero
a evil/mad Japanese scientist
a hot bad girl turns good
a Buddhist monk
a samurai weapon
a Japanese cops with white gloves
a Mt. Fuji

X cute little kid in shorts who knows everything (Thank God!)

Come Mister Tally Man tally me banana …

Wells Banana Bread Beer
Charles Wells Eagle Brewery, Bedford, England
Yeah, I know what you are thinking, ‘Oh man not another novelty beer!’ And that is what I thought too when I received this brew for Christmas. But first impressions can often be deceiving.

Wells Banana Bread Beer is an ale that uses both real bananas and characteristics of the hops and malt to produce a beer that really does remind one of banana bread.
ABV: 5.20% IBU: low, maybe in the 10 to 20 range

Color: A full cloudy amber with perhaps a hint of orange.
Aroma: The malt, hops and bananas combine into the scent of … well … banana bread.

Head: Fine bubbled off-white semi-persistent head with some Belgian Lace.
Taste: The start features some malt sweetness that moves to a mellow sugar middle and then to a nice hoppy tang finish with a mild aftertaste. The banana character is evident throughout the quaff from the aroma to the aftertaste, but it never masks the beer flavor. Well done, this could have been so sweet and thick with banana taste as to be unappetising, but instead the banana component although constant is balanced with the traditional light ale flavors.

Recommendation:

Wells Banana Bread Beer is a good light English ale incorporating mild malt sweetness and refreshing hop bitterness. The banana taste complements this quite well. I liked this beer, but it is an import and a bit expensive. There are better English ales on the market, but this might be the perfect beer to enjoy with Caribbean, Thai or Indian food which often have banana and or coconut flavors. Give it a try, just for fun.

Okay folks! That’s all for now. Catch you all next time.
-BigRuta
Remember: questions, comments, requests and contributions welcome.