Science Gone Wrong, Cutting Edge Haunts and the Dawn of Torture Porn

Looking for good horror to watch on this cool fall Saturday night? I have three eclectic films for you. I love science gone wrong movies the first up, I have two of the best. The I have one of the best horror films of the 1980s (that’s not a slasher movie), and finally, the the progenitor of torture porn.

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1958/1986

I am going to group two films into one here. I very much enjoyed the original 1958 version with David Hedison as the doomed scientist whose transporter machine splices his with a housefly. Vincent Price stars as well. The scene when the fly with the human head trapped in the spider web is the stuff of horror movie legend.

David Cronenberg’s direction and Jeff Goldblum’s performance turned the 1986 version into a horror masterpiece. Goldblum’s “Brundlefly” transformation is disgusting and tragic all at the same time. Geena Davis also stars.

Both of the these films deal with teleportation and recombinant DNA. The 1958 movie focuses more on the trials and tribulations of the scientist’s wife as she grapples with her nwo reclusive fly/husband. The 1986 film is more concerned with the scientist’s transformation into a human/fly hybrid. This is the epitome of body horror. There are sequels to both.

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1982

I forgot how good this movie is. I watched it again just last night. How Tobe Hooper could direct The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and then this is beyond me. Craig T. Nelson and JoBeth Williams star in this haunted house film. Heather O’Rourke made the Carol Anne role an iconic one before her untimely death after the filming of the third installment. We’ve all quoted Carol Anne’s, “They’re here.”

This is the movie that made me hate clowns … forever. There are plenty of movies and TV clowns that followed to reinforce that, but this movie’s clown toy scene is what did it. The special effects in this one were cutting edge for 1982 and most of them hold up today.

A word to those in charge of such things, if you’re going to move a cemetery, move the coffins and bodies too.

MV5BMjE4MDYzNDE1OV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNDY2OTYwNA@@._V1_SY1000_SX675_AL_44. Saw
2004

Carey Elwes, Danny Glover, Tobin Bell, Dina Meyer and Shawnee Smith star in this shocker that is considered the progenitor of a sub-genre of horror film – torture porn. James Wan directed this very original movie that kicked off a series of seven.

Bell stars as Jigsaw, an engineering genius who designs and builds deadly traps. The folks imprisoned in these traps are chosen for some moral reason and have specific opportunities to escape. However, if the victims don’t figure it out in time…well…yeesh.

The first three films are very good, but the series lost me after that. Saw also spawned the Hostel movies and a bunch of low-rent knock-offs.

Barbara Crampton Night

Yes, I know the headline reads “Barbara Crampton Night” and we’ll get to my two favorite Crampton films in just a second, but first a chainsaw-wielding maniac. We are into the Top 50, more than halfway there, and I swear we’ll get there by Halloween.

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1974

Tobe Hooper’s finest horror work involves grave-robbing cannibals and a chainsaw wielding character that has also become iconic in the genre – Leatherface. His first appearance defines the horror movie jump scare. This film is gritty and nasty, and you almost feel like you need to take a shower after watching it.

There’s a remake and sequels and prequels – and entire universe of Texas Chainsaw Massacre films. Never mind them, watch this, it’s all you need. This film’s impact on the horror genre has been felt for years. It has been emulated, copied, and borrowed from but never duplicated.

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1985

This movie was released 34 years ago today.

Loosely based on H.P. Lovecraft’s Herbert West: Reanimator, Jeffrey Combs cements himself as an 80s Lovecraft adaptation regular. Dr. Herbert West (Combs) works to perfect a serum that will re-animate the dead. As usual, this isn’t the best idea and predictably has disastrous results. Several sequels followed. Another Lovecraft adaptation veteran, scream queen Barbara Crampton, also stars.

Secretive Dr. West starts small, with a cat. But soon, his experiments graduate to recently deceased human beings. Dr. West isn’t too particular when it comes to how they came to be deceased either. Stuart Gordon directs this cult classic. Think Frankenstein meets Night of the Living Dead.

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1986

A year after Re-Animator we went From Beyond.

As much as I love my H.P. Lovecraft, I enjoy many of the film adaptations, even if they aren’t always 100 percent faithful to the source material, and this is my favorite. It’s horrifying and ridiculous at the same time. And I learned what the brain’s pineal gland is in the process.

Jeffrey Combs and Barbara Crampton star in this as well. Crampton in a dominatrix outfit is almost worth the watch alone. A machine called the “resonator” enables people to see another dimension or universe. It wouldn’t be a horror film if murderous creatures didn’t exist in the void. Unfortunately, those creatures can see into our world when “resonated.”

Stuart Gordon directed this too, and Ted Sorel plays Dr. Edward Pretorius (a name you may know from Bride of Frankenstein), horror veteran Ken Foree (The Devil’s Rejects, Dawn of the Dead) also stars.

A Whole Lot of Stephen King, Plus the Most Accurate Dracula Adaptation

If you haven’t figured it out by now, I am a fan of Stephen King. However, his film adaptation are, shall we say, hit and miss. I have quite a bit of King tonight, plus the most ambitious attempt at bringing the novel Dracula to life.

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1990, 2017, 2019

Okay, I am really torn about this. All three of these belong together somehow. However, if I were to split them up, the 2017 film, IT: Chapter One, would be much higher on the list. I recently read the book, finally. The goal was to read it before IT: Chapter Two was released in September. I accomplished this goal and the story affected me. It was a tale we were all familiar with, either through Stephen King’s novel or the 1990 mini-series.

The 1990 mini-series stars some of the top TV drama sitcom actors of its day – Harry Anderson of Night Court, Tim Reid of WKRP in Cincinnati, Richard Thomas of The Waltons, John Ritter (Three’s Company), Richard Masur, plus the great Tim Curry as Pennywise, Annette O’Toole and child actors Seth Green (does he ever age?) and Emily Perkins (Ginger Snaps franchise). The titular Loser’s Club battles the demonic clown Pennywise in a watered down version of the novel. It is fairly faithful to the book, however. Since it was made for TV it had to go light on the gore. It’s enjoyable and it’s better and scarier than you remember.

The 2017 film focuses on the Loser’s Club as kids, whereas the novel and the mini-series shift back and forth from kids to adults. The time frame is shifted forward so the 2019 film could take place basically today. Sophia Lillis (Sharp Objects) and Finn Wolfhard (Stranger Things) headline a wonderful cast of child actors. Bill Skarsgard takes up the mantle as Pennywise and does a wonderful job. The aesthetic and casting are pitch perfect. The movie captures the tone and the themes of King’s novel very well. It’s scary, funny, well-written and well-acted. There are some subtle changes from the book, and some things left out, but it doesn’t hurt the movie at all.

The 2019 movie was a disappointment and that’s why IT isn’t further up the list. Instead of focusing on the adults’ backstories, the film spent way too much time on flashbacks to the Loser’s Club as kids in order to further that narrative or fill in blanks from Chapter One. The casting, on the surface, looked to be spot-on. Then the movie started. James McAvoy is miscast as stuttering Bill, Jessica Chastain does not capture the spirit of Beverly, Isaiah Mustafa portray’s Mike as a raving lunatic, Jay Ryan is just misplaced as the adult Ben Hanscom. Bill Hader and James Ransone are wonderful as Richie and Eddie respectively. My biggest problem with this movie was the portrayal of Pennywise as a big-headed spider monster. Skarsgard is wasted. The movie is at its best when Pennywise is human-sized and Skarsgard is in full make-up and costume luring and eventually murdering his victims.

Quite a few people enjoyed the latest movie. I expected something more. If you watch the 2017 movie, you probably should see the latest to see how the story ends. Or you could just read the damn book.

MV5BMTYyOTM5NzU3Nl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwOTQxNjAxNzE@._V1_51. Bram Stoker’s Dracula
1992

Oh, how I crave of a faithful adaptation of my favorite horror novel. I’ve never gotten one. A couple have come close. Francis Ford Coppola helmed this ambitious picture that tries to stay very true to the novel with a few major differences. I do not know why so many screenwriters and directors want to inject a love story into Dracula. There is no love story in the book. There is no reincarnated princess from Dracula’s days as the Prince of Wallachia.

I have done a fair bit of research into Bram Stoker’s process for writing the book and I can say with confidence that he did not “base” the Dracula character on Vlad the Impaler. He borrowed some elements, most notably the name, but the creature itself owes more the Countess Elizabeth Bathory and the Irish vampire legend of the Dearg Due that it does the once time prince known for his sadistic methods for dealing with enemies.

An all-star cast featuring Gary Oldman, Anthony Hopkins, Winona Ryder, Keanu Reeves, Cary Elwes and Tom Waits bring Stoker’s story to life in ways never seen before. Too bad Reeves is not far enough removed from Ted ‘Theodore’ Logan. Hopkins seems to be in a different movie from everyone else. I love the film for it’s music, costumes, effects and most of the acting. It is the truest adaptation of the book and that’s probably why I like it so much.

MV5BMTk1MDg0NTU0OV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMTM1NDk0MQ@@._V1_50. 1408
2007

Another Stephen King adaptation, and this is a really good one. John Cusack and Samuel L. Jackson star in this haunted hotel room thriller. Again, I find haunted anything movies difficult to do well and this one is done extremely well. I watched it again not that long ago and it scared the crap out of me – again.

Cusack plays a writer who debunks haunted phenomenon. He checks into the Dolphin Hotel’s famed room 1408 thinking he would expose the accounts as fraud. He couldn’t be more mistaken.

Stylish and stylized, Cusack is fantastic in this movie and the ending is, well, chilling. The story appeared in the 2002 short story collection Everything’s Eventual.

 

German Expressionism, Neighborhood Ghouls and Denzel Washington

I have an eclectic selections of films for you tonight as the countdown rolls on. We are almost halfway and we are now officially beyond the point at which I quit last year, so … progress.

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1920

You gotta love German expressionism. The set pieces alone in this silent masterpiece are reason enough to watch it. You’ll also get an education. I love words (I have the best words). I had occasion to drop “Scholomance” in my second novel. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari taught me somnambulist – sleepwalker.

In the film, Dr. Caligari is a bit of a sideshow showman and he uses his charge, Cesare (played by Conrad Veidt), to commit murder at his behest, or does he? This is an early example of the unreliable narrator concept. It’s hard to get your head around that part of it because it is a silent film. This movie inspired a lot of early Gothic horror, and definitely had influence on F.W. Murnau who made Nosferatu two years later.

Veidt went on to star in The Man Who Laughs (1928), which is widely considered the model and inspiration for the look of iconic Batman villain, The Joker. Veidt also played a significant role in 1942’s film noir classic, Casablanca.

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1991

Wes Craven crafted a really good dark film with this one. Weirdos in the neighborhood kidnap and collect children. If a child doesn’t behave, he/she ends up mutilated and sent to the basement.

Urban legend says the creeps are loaded and Ving Rhames plays the neighborhood crook who is going to get that money. A young neighborhood boy saves the young girl, Alice (A.J. Langer), destined to be the next to be sent to the basement. There is some great dark humor in this film and it is thoroughly enjoyable.

Everett McGill and Wendy Robie play the miserly brother and sister who have been terrorizing the neighborhood for years. Sean Whalen is a treat as Roach.

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1998

Oh, what a treat this is. Denzel Washington plays a man who goes from cop to demon hunter as he is terrorized by the singing demon Azazel, who travels from person to person and comes to enjoy tormenting Washington’s character.

John Goodman, Donald Sutherland and Embeth Davitz (Army of Darkness, Bicentennial Man) star in this pleasant surprise. Don’t let the title or the Rotten Tomatoes review score scare you off on this one. Washington’s Detective John Hobbes comes up with a plan to rid the world of Azazel once and for all, but as always, the best laid plans of mice and men … this is my favorite Denzel Washington film.

Directed by Gregory Hoblit and written by Nicholas Kazan, Fallen explores demonology, theology, and good old-fashioned detective work. There are some gut-wrenching deaths in this one. You really feel for Hobbes and his inner circle.

An Ancient Shape-Shifter, Rage Zombies and Another Stephen King Adaptation

We are just about at the point in the countdown where I abandoned it last year. So, as long as I drop the next installment tomorrow night, we should be good. I have a selection of three very different films for you tonight.

MV5BMjMwNzM2OTk3OF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNjExOTU0NDE@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,675,1000_AL_58. Spring
2014

Just when you thought I was just recycling movies from previous countdowns, I throw you a curveball. The term “Lovecraftian” gets bandied about whenever a movie features a monster with tentacles, but in this case, the moniker applies. My best friend, Jean-Paul, recommended this and considering we formed the bond of our friendship in part over H.P. Lovecraft stories, I had to give it a whirl.

Directed by Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead, a young man (Lou Taylor Pucci) on the run from the law skips the country and heads to Italy. He meets and falls for a young woman who is much more than she seems. Nadia Hilker plays an ancient shapeshifter who has become the stuff of myth and folklore.

This film was definitely a pleasant surprise and I had to watch it more than once, it was that good.

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2002

This is a very entertaining and different take on a zombie apocalypse. Cillian Murphy stars as a man who wakes up 28 days after London is pretty much wiped out except for small pockets of survivors. Naomie Harris (the most recent Moneypenny in the James Bond film series) also stars as one of the survivors.

These zombies aren’t plodding or methodical, they are lightning fast and full of “rage.” Our heroes come across a band of soldiers and believe they have been saved. Of course, the soldiers have the wrong idea about how to get through the crisis.

You do develop an affinity for the characters and root for them as they try to find ways to survive. I didn’t care much for the sequel, 28 Weeks Later. It was predictable and the pacing was bad.

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1980

Jack Nicholson, Shelly Duval and the incomparable Scatman Crothers (Hong Kong Phooey) star in another Stephen King vehicle. If Carrie is the best adaptation, this is a close second, even if King himself doesn’t like it. Crothers plays recurring King character Dick Hallorann.

Nicholson goes cuckoo with cabin fever (it was a short walk) and terrorizes his family as they care for a snowbound hotel during the offseason. The underlying themes are abuse and addiction. Jack spends a lot of time talking to folks who aren’t there as he decides to take their advice and murder his wife and young son.

There are several key differences between this and the book. The sequel, Doctor Sleep (which I read recently), is hitting the theater November 8.

Ghost Stories – Truly Frightening Ghost Stories

Everything comes in cycles. The ghost or haunted house story is no exception. From Vincent Price in House on Haunted Hill to Eddie Murphy in The Haunted Mansion, there are plenty of good ones and even more bad ones. Tonight I offer you three legitimately terrifying haunted house/ghost stories.

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1981

Talk about an all-star cast. Not just a good ensemble cast, we’re talking about cinematic legends here – Fred Astaire, John Houseman, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., and Melvin Douglas star opposite Alice Krige, who makes her second appearance in the countdown (Sleepwalkers).

Four gentlemen fall in love with the same woman and kill her in a tragic accident. Rather than be honest about it and report it to the authorities, they cover it up to save their prep school, or Ivy League, or whatever reputations and high-falutin’ career aspirations. Sound familiar? Krige comes back to haunt her suitors turned killers.

I have an affinity for this because it was one of the first horror films I saw when my family first got cable in the early 1980s, and it has haunted me ever since. Spoilers be damned, this is one creepy movie. And one helluva ghost story.

MV5BMTM3NjA1NDMyMV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMDQzNDMzOQ@@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,674,1000_AL_60. The Conjuring
2013

I gave this a chance and I am glad I did. I watched it on a flight and landed before the movie was over and I couldn’t wait for the return trip to finish it. I was very skeptical at first because I am not a Lily Taylor fan. She was awful in The Haunting and didn’t add much to the Netflix original series Hemlock Grove. However, Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga are fantastic as paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren. The sound editing is phenomenal and there are some legitimate jump factor moments. A demonic spirit of a witch attaches itself to the matriarch (Taylor) of a large family and the Warrens come to the rescue.

This film launched what has become known as the Conjuring universe. Director James Wan has re-invented the ghost story, a genre that was practically dead in the water. The Conjuring, The Conjuring 2, Anabelle, Anabelle Creation, Anabelle Comes Home, and The Nun make up this mythos. The other films are hit and miss. But The Conjuring was unexpected and is truly frightening. Ron Livingston (Office Space) is excellent as the patriarch of the afflicted family.

MV5BMTc0NDMyNTU3M15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMjM0MTgwNA@@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,647,1000_AL_59. The Amityville Horror
1979

Speaking of Ed and Lorraine Warren, James Brolin and Margot Kidder star as the newlywed Lutzs in this shocking haunted house story. Written about, talked about, visited by tourists, parodied, discussed by stand-up comics, The Amityville Horror involves the most vicious haunted house story ever filmed. Based on a “true” story, the DeFeo family was brutally murdered in the house and the Lutzs moved in anyway. The house telling them to “get out” is the least of their worries.

This is not only one of the best horror films of the 1970s, it’s one of the best period. Well-acted and featuring some truly messed up practical effects, this film is truly frightening. The great Rod Steiger also stars. The mythology surrounding the house is legendary and the house scares people half to death to this day.

Avoid the remake with Ryan Reynolds. Watch the original.

Freeze-Dried Dracula, Zombie is His Name and the Candyman Can

Three more, well four, fun horror films for you tonight. I am doing pretty well with three movies a day on this year’s countdown as we get close to the halfway point. We’re just about done with the Hammer Dracula films I believe, but we still have a long walk home, in the dark, in the woods, to get to No. 1 and the best night of the year, Halloween.

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1970

More freeze-dried Dracula. But this time, a trio of gentlemen thrill-seekers get bored with their run-of-the-mill debauchery and fall in with broke-ass Lord Courtley. Courtley convinces them to purchase the dried blood of Dracula and participate in a ritual to bring the count back to life. The gentlemen panic and kill Courtley, but not before Dracula is resurrected.

Linda Hayden stars as Alice, the daughter of the leader of the trio of gentlemen. Dracula takes his revenge on those who killed Courtley, for whom he has an affinity for thanks to the resurrection. The hypocrisy of the three lords who preach chastity and piety in their households, yet engage in these occasional indulgences is the real ugliness in this film.

Apparently, Ralph Bates, who plays Courtley, was to be the next Dracula, but the American distributors insisted that Lee play the Count.

This has to be my favorite of all of the Hammer Dracula films, and probably all of Hammer Horror.

61oX7J7zdgL63. House of 1,000 Corpses and The Devil’s Rejects
2003, 2005

As I may have mentioned, including two films at the same spot in the countdown gives me the opportunity to include more than 100 movies. So, tonight we have two from Rob Zombie. Ah, the saga of the Firefly family. Deranged, seemingly backwoods, yet sophisticated, killers in the vein of Tobe Hooper’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, the Firefly family lures unsuspecting travelers and legend hunters into their lair and visit unspeakable horrors on their unassuming guests.

The recently deceased Sid Haig, Bill Mosely, and writer/director Rob Zombie’s wife Sheri Moon Zombie make up the core of the Firefly clan. Leslie Easterbrook replaces Karen Black (House of 1,000 Corpses) as Mother Firefly in Rejects.

Zombie creates quite the dark, gritty, depraved universe with two films that could work independently of each other. House plays very much like Chainsaw, and Rejects, well, the Fireflys become a sort of rag-tag band of antiheroes we’re supposed to root for. Perhaps we’ll get some closure in the long-awaited third film in the franchise, which is out but I haven’t had the chance to see yet.

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1992

As I mentioned, I like pretty much anything from the mind of Clive Barker. Tony Todd, who happens to follow me on Twitter, gives his signature performance as the urban legend – the Candyman. Don’t say his name five times or the murderer with the hook-hand will appear.

You learn about the mythology and the pathos of the Candyman as the story goes as Virginia Madsen’s college student character researches local legends and myths.

Madsen is her usual reliable self in this tale of folklore and legend. The sequel, Farewell to the Flesh is serviceable.

Saturday Night Bloodsuckers for Your Viewing Pleasure

Three different types of vampires are featured tonight, ruthless all. From a rampaging pack of spree killers to invaders from outer space, tonight’s three-pack has something for everyone, including naked space vampires.

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2007

I don’t know about you, but I like my vampires bloodthirsty. I like them homicidal. I like them violent. Anne Rice created the sympathetic, romantic vampire. Her books have sold millions of copies and have captivated readers for decades. I am a fan. And there is plenty of murder and mayhem in her stories. However, all manner of romantic vamps now fill the shelves of the “Teen Paranormal Romance” (yes, this is a thing) section of your local bookstore.

Left to my own devices, I prefer vampires more like the ones in 30 Days of Night. Based on the comic book/graphic novel series, a pack of vampires discovers it stays dark in Alaska for a whole month. The bloodsuckers descend on a small town and terrorize the local residents. Josh Hartnett plays the town’s sheriff who, along with his estranged wife (the regional fire inspector) and a small resistance band, try to prevent the extinction of their neighbors. And, oh yeah, try to survive themselves.

This is the first film featuring Josh Hartnett that I actually liked. Melissa George and her capped teeth play the estranged wife. Hollywood legend John Huston’s son Danny (American Horror Story) plays the leader of the vampires.

I like this because there is no pretense. You don’t feel for the vampires, you don’t sympathize or empathize with them. They are ruthless. They arrive in this town for one reason – the human blood smorgasbord. They are cruel and they don’t give a damn. Just stay away from the horrendous direct-to-video sequel. George is replaced as Stella and Kiele Sanchez just doesn’t fly in the role.

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1968

Christopher Lee’s Dracula always seems to be out for revenge for some reason or another. In this film, Dracula seeks retribution for the exorcism of his castle by the regional monsignor. He turns a local priest to his cause indicating a level of corruption we have yet to see from the count.

One of the things I find interesting about the Hammer Dracula films, and perhaps it starts with Bram Stoker’s novel, is how Dracula has the balls to hide right under the noses of his would-be dispatchers. In the novel, he moves in next door to his intended victims. In Horror of Dracula, he takes up residence in the basement of the Holmwoods. In this, he invades the monsignor’s home and community.

Rupert Davies stars as the monsignor as Dracula sets out to claim his niece, Maria, played by Veronica Carlson.

MV5BMTU4MTMxOTQyOV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMzU1NDk0NA@@._V1_65. Lifeforce
1985

Naked. Space. Vampires. Steve Railsback stars as an astronaut who brings back three naked space vampires, two male and one female. Directed by Tobe Hooper of Texas Chainsaw Massacre fame, this film combines science fiction and horror in a way not seen before or since. Mathilda May plays the leader of the trio of deep space bloodsuckers. Okay, well, they don’t drink blood, they drain the “life force” of their victims. Same difference.

Patrick Stewart also stars as scientists and government officials try to discern the invaders’ end game and try to stave off a global apocalypse.

May, who was all of 20 years old when this was released, and her compatriots are inexplicably nude throughout most the film. This seems to distract the authorities and May is able to mesmerize Railsback’s character. Loud, different, stylish and influential, Lifeforce is much more than naked space vampires running around London. But who really cares?

Hammering Home More Vampire Tales

Universal Studios is credited with bringing horror to the big screen with their stable of monsters that ruled the box office from 1925 into the early 1940s. Hammer Studios revived Universal’s stable of Gothic nightmares from the late 1950s through the early 1970s. Christopher Lee wasn’t the only vampire roaming the countryside in Hammer’s tales. From Baron Meinster to Countess Elisabeth, Hammer kept the undead alive for a quarter century.

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1971

Are you sensing a theme for today yet? More Hammer Horror. Twins of Evil does have Peter Cushing, but not in a role you’d expect. He plays a religious zealot convinced that witchcraft is the scourge of his community. When his voluptuous twin nieces come to live with him, they fall prey to a vampire.

Played by the Collinson twins (Mary and Madeleine), Frieda and Maria are of two minds when it comes to Count Karnstein. You would think that blood was thicker than water when it came to the twins, but you’d be wrong.

This is an interesting role for Cushing and he plays it well. The Collinson twins were Playmates of the Month for October 1970. John Hough directed and Tudor Gates penned the screenplay.

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1973

Hammer got the band back together for a few more Dracula films with Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing. Cushing plays a descendant of Van Helsing and he now has not match wits with the immortal bloodsucker. Joanna Lumley stars as Jessica Van Helsing. Quite a few horror pictures in the late 1960s – early 1970s focused on Satanism and devil worship.

This one brings Dracula into the modern era as Scotland Yard gets involved in the fight against the legendary and infamous vampire who now finally appears to have some kind of end game.

Many vampire films up to this point, regardless of studio, were period pieces set in Victorian times. The fight between good and evil is brought into the bright lights of modern London in this one as the Lee/Cushing franchise winds down.

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1966

Two married couples on vacation get adventurous and end up at Castle Dracula. Christopher Lee, who doesn’t deliver one line of dialog in the entire movie, needs to be reconstituted by his servant, Klove. How does he do this you ask? With the blood of one of the travelers of course.

Lee is particularly menacing as Dracula in this because of the lack of dialog. He uses his eyes and facial expressions to convey his malevolent message. Suzan Farmer and Barbara Shelley star as Dracula’s female victims.

The story takes place in a vacuum despite the appearance of Father Sandor who chastises the townsfolk for continuing to believe in the local superstitions after Dracula’s supposed demise.

An Homage to the Great Ingrid Pitt and a Forgotten Hammer Classic

I owe a lot of my taste in (for what it’s worth) and knowledge of horror films thanks to Chiller Theater on Rochester, New York’s late night TV on Friday nights. It was a far cry from WOKR’s Chiller Theater of the 1960s that was before my time. Instead of a schlock program hosted by a cheesy personality, it was just spooky graphics with a voice over announcer introducing that night’s scary movie. The other was Commander USA’s Groovie Movies on the USA Network. Just about every Saturday afternoon, Commander USA would introduce that day’s fare. Movies like tonight’s selections were common and had a profound effect on me.

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1971

Another Hammer film of this era with “Dracula” in the title that was sans Dracula. Many people now believe that the legend of the infamous Countess Bathory inspired Bram Stoker when he wrote Dracula.

Horror queen Ingrid Pitt stars as Countess Eilsabeth, a crone who can make herself young by bathing in the blood of the local maidens. Very much based on Elisabeth Bathory, who allegedly killed or had killed more than 600 young girls for this very purpose.

Pitt is fantastic in this role. Her sensuality mixed with the pathos of the character almost makes her sympathetic. But her double-crossing, bloodthirsty nature wins out and she gets what she deserves in the end.

This is another lush, colorful Hammer Horror production and Pitt definitely makes it go. Directed by Peter Sasdy and written by Jeremy Paul, this is a very different kind of vampire film.

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1970

A year before Countess Dracula, Ingrid Pitt starred in The Vampire Lovers. One of the vampire stories that has influenced me is Carmilla by Sheridan Le Fanu. Hammer Films created a story arc based on Le Fanu’s novella. The Vampire Lovers is the best of the Karnstein bunch, mainly because of Pitt.

Pitt plays Carmilla/Mircalla, Marcilla, (it’s always an anagram for Carmilla), a vampire who terrorizes the local populace, usually young girls. Peter Cushing stars as a, you guessed it, vampire hunter. Okay, that’s a stretch. That’s not what he starts out as, but that is what he becomes along the way.

As much as I love Hammer’s Dracula films with Christopher Lee, I did enjoy it when they went off the rails a bit and used other source material or came up with original ideas.

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1974

This was another one of those movies I saw on a Saturday afternoon thanks to Commander USA’s Groovy Movies on USA Network. Horst Janson stars in the title role. His swashbuckling vampire slaying runs him afoul of Karnstein descendants.

Caroline Munro also stars in this rollicking adventure. I bet you didn’t know she starred in Adam Ant’s video for Goody Two Shoes. More than one vampire meets their demise at the pointy end of Kronos’ sword. Another example of an original concept, Kronos would go on to influence numerous other films, such as Van Helsing, helmed by Stephen Sommers. Kronos was refreshing after years of Peter Cushing as Van Helsing. Not that Cushing was bad, quite the contrary, it was simply a case of needing fresh ideas … fresh blood if you will.

I recently rediscovered this movie and I had forgotten how much I enjoyed it. Munro, who also went on to become a Bond girl and then later star in the disastrous Starcrash, was a treat in this one as Kronos’ love interest.