Archive for July, 2011

X-THE UNKNOWN/1957/HAMMER FILMS/JIMMY SANGSTER

Posted in British Horror, Dean Jagger, Hammer, Jimmy Sangster, Science Fiction-Fantasy on July 22, 2011 by Bill Courtney
X-THE UNKNOWN
1957/Director: Leslie Norman/ Writer: Jimmy Sangster
Cast: Dean Jagger, Edward Chapman, Leo McKern, Anthony Newley, Jameson Clark, William Lucas
I was really excited to finally find a copy of this film online. Along with the Blob it is a movie that left me afraid to step out of my bed at night for fear something be lurking and oozing under it, waiting for me. Originally slated to be a sequel to Hammer’s Quatermass Experiment (released as The Creeping Unknown in the States) film but when writer Nigel Kneale refused permission to use his Bernard Quatermass character another film was put together that very much resembles the earlier Quatermass productions. American actor and Oscar winner Dean Jagger heads the cast and was an attempt to draw in an American audience. The film was the first writing product for production manager Jimmy Sangster, who would later go on to write some of Hammer’s more memorable films as well as direct a handful. Direction on X was begun by American director Jospesh Losey (see my post on The Servant) who was essentially in exile in England after having been blacklisted as a communist sympathizer. Some of his scenes are supposed to be in the film even, but after a few days he was removed from the position for what was reported to be health reasons. Actually Dean Jagger refused to work for an alleged commie lover and so Leslie Norman took over the job.

The film opens in the bleak bogs of Scotland where a group of soldiers are conducting tests looking for hidden radioactive isotopes. The testing is soon interrupted when a fissure opens up and two soldiers suffer sever radiation burns. The matter is brought to Dr. Royston who has been working in his little hideaway on experiments involving radioactivity. When he inspects the fissure he concludes it very well could be bottomless and the area is sealed off. Later two boys are out on a dare and while creeping into the decrepit lodgings of a local hermit one of them encounters something and suffers lethal radiation burns. A canister of Royston’s radioactive experiment is found there, much to his consternation. There is a lot of talking and scientific explanations between the films genuinely creepy moments. Later a medical Lothario sneaks a very willing young nurse into what appears to be the x-ray room and one of the film’s best moments occurs when the flesh melts off his face after he encounters the thing. The nurse goes into one of the best horror film screams on record, so good the scene earned a place on my site’s banner. There is a lot more talking and explaining of theories but the films moves along well enough. The creature is not revealed until the last part of the film and it is not bad really. This is a couple years before the blob and the movie was obviously pinched in the budget department. But when your monster is a pile of radioactive mud you are not worried too much. The thing oozes around and over things in believable fashion and I suppose I wish we had seen more of the mass. The beast is done in of course by a quick scientific method that makes little sense but in all these old movies science is both the monster and savior.
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The film is bleak and done in a pretty serious tone. Even the obligatory comic relief provided by two soldiers (one played by Anthony Newly) is nipped when they are consumed by the pile of slithering radioactive mud. It is a movie typical of the times in most ways and the evil was something in part man made and in part unknowable. The thing is basically unstoppable, but like the Blob there was a way to destroy it if you only thought hard enough and could hang on until the last fifteen minutes of the film. Hammer of course will always be remembered primarily for their lushly staged and designed horror films, but they did some other things as well and I think X the Unknown is one of their truly hidden gems. Hidden in a pile of radioactive sludge. A really good movie in my opinion and I think all regular readers of the Café would not be disappointed with it.

OUTRAGEOUSLY VIOLENT AND PERVERSE COMIC MAGAZINE COVERS FROM MEXICO/OSCAR BAZALDUA

Posted in Comic Books-Magazines-Fanzines, Oscar Balzaldua on July 21, 2011 by Bill Courtney
When I say that these covers from Mexican comic book magazines are outrageous I am it is at best an understatement. Most (if not all) of he covers I posted here are drawn by illustrator Oscar Bazaldua who seems to be the reigning king of this type of artwork. I tried to find a few samples of the interior artwork but I really could not find much. If anyone knows of a link where I can see samples of the b/w drawing on the inside please send that to me. I would be much indebted to you. Also not a lot of information on these titles is available with a superficial investigation and I will see what I can dig up when I do a follow up post to this one since I have some many cover samples. Depending on your outlook on things these are simply vulgar and disgusting or they are actually a little funny, in the same way that the old Eerie Publications covers were a little funny. The themes here, as far as I can make out, are not so much horror as they are macho adventure stories and sexual escapades. The male characters are ruthless and gun toting as are the females ones, but the females tend to scantily clad and smoldering to the point of being untouchable. The violence is graphic and exaggerated and consistently over the top.

For example one of the first two covers, Realtos de Presdidio, – which contains some of the most violent cover artwork by Bazaldua – simply shows some dead guy who has flown through a windshield in graphic detail. Nothing more than that. Opening up the article –where the best stuff is hidden away- are twp more Realto de Presidio covers that are more typical of Bazaldua’s approach. One is common theme on some of the covers and shows a macho guy who appears to part of some drug cartel blowing out the brains of some guy who is haplessly crawling away on the floor. The guys getting blasted in these types of covers usually look defenseless and frightened. Draped over him is a dead woman with blood censoring her nipples. Thank god for that, wouldn’t want to see any nipples here and be corrupted. The cover next to that has some guy serenading and fondling a buxom gal while they sit over yet another dead guy with his brains all over the floor. But the next cover for Champeadoras is really the freakiest of the lot and worthy of reviving Frued’s dark theories about what is buried in a man’s psyche. Or what is buried in a woman’s toilet bowel I guess is more accurate. The covers only get more extreme in content and execution. They are drawn and colored in a realistic style that only makes them all the more shocking and grotesque. Probably more of these cover –and maybe some interior artwork- coming in the future once I can find out a little more about the books and the people who create them.

FRANKENSTEIN AND THE MONSTER FROM HELL/1974/TERENCE FISHER/PETER CUSHING

Posted in Anthony Hinds, British Horror, Hammer, Peter Cushing, Terence Fisher on July 20, 2011 by Bill Courtney
FRANKENSTEIN AND THE MONSTER FROM HELL

1974/Director: Terence Fisher/Writer: Anthony Hinds

Cast: Peter Cushing, Shane Briant, Madeline Smith, David Prowse, John Stratton, Michael Ward, Elsie Wagstaff, Norman Mitchell   

This was the last of the Hammer Frankenstein series and it actually takes up where Frankenstein Must be Destroyed left off as the prior film, The Horror of Frankenstein, broke the continuity of the films by going back to when Frankenstein was younger. Horror also suffered a bit by the absences of Terrence Fisher as director and Peter Cushing as Victor Frankenstein, but more on that film another post. Cushing and Fisher are both back for this 1974 film, as are Anthony Hinds (writing as James Elder) and Hammer composer James Bernard. In a couple more years Hammer would see itself all but out of business as the British film company that revived gothic horror and with Monster from Hell they ended on a pretty good note. The only flaws for me are the title that does not really suit the film’s atmosphere and the rather shoddy monster played by David Prowse (Darth Vader) who also played the creature in Horror of Frankenstein as well. There were understandable budget constraints with the film since Hammer itself was going under. The idea of some sort of Neolithic monster is not in and of itself that bad and certainly the monster here is one of the most unique in the annals of Frankenstein films. I think it could have worked better really with less rubber makeup and fakey body hair. But it is easily over looked after a while really. Some people have criticized Madeline Smith’s as the mute assistant Angel but I liked it. The close ups of her face are beautiful and the innocent character’s charm may have been soiled by exploiting her ample endowments with a title corset as is known to be the attire of most Hammer queens.

In Monster from Hell it is now some seventeen years since we have been introduced to Cushing’s generally maniacal and unsound Victor Frankenstein. In this final chapter he is the now resident doctor Carl Victor and treats the inmates of an insane asylum where he himself was initially housed as a resident. He has since gained his position of power by having information that would spell the nasty end of the current director Herr Klauss (played with superb sleaze by John Statton). Soon admitted into the asylum for “sorcery” is the brilliant young doctor Simon Helder (Shane Bryant of Captain Kronos-Vampire Hunter) who has long admired the works of Victor Frankenstein. His acts of sorcery involves the creation of life, or of the reanimation of the dead more accurately. He is carted away after the drunken grave robber he employed spilled his guts to the local constable.

In the young Helder Frankenstein sees the opportunity to return with full vigor to his life’s dream of creating not only a living human being from the rotted and mangled parts of dead bodies, but a literal superman endowed with genius and artist talent. The film at times makes note of the Baron’s own lack of refinement in these areas. He admits he is tone deaf and unable to appreciate beautiful music and he shows no interest in higher mathematics. He sees these are the necessities his creation must possess in order that his own brilliance will be revealed. Before the arrival of young Helder the Baron had to rely on the hands of Angel to do the intricate surgical work required to bring a collection of corpses back to life as his own hands were burned and crippled. This no doubt is a tie in to the ending of Frankenstein Must be Destroyed were his creation in that film (played excellently by Hammer regular Freddie Jones) walks into a burning house with Victor thrown over his shoulder.
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In Monster from Hell Frankenstein selects as his subject the body of a inmate who recently attempted suicide. The man is Neolithic in appearance and is easily driven to violence and shows particular interest in dicing up people with broken glass. Victor soon is sewing on the hands of a sculptor and making ¡°arrangements¡± to acquire the brain of the melancholy (though not insane) Professor Durendel (Charles Llyod pack). In this sequence we can see how obsessed and ruthless Frankenstein has become regarding his goals and the gaunt faced and wild eyed portrayal by Cushing is one of his best. The film version I have is the DVD version released in the states which is from their original edited and censored prints. I understand there is a foreign version fans are waiting for that contains a few extra minutes of gore that is unusual for Hammer. In one scene during surgery Frankenstein becomes frustrated with his useless hands and takes a severed bleeding artery in his mouth to clamp it. There are a few other quick scenes in the operating room that do not appear in this American version.

The monster, as in most Hammer Frankenstein films, is a tortured creature who is more than vaguely aware of his dire situation. While I did not care much for the appearance of the cave man type monster in this addition to the series I certainly felt it was one of the most suffering. A musical and mathematic genius’ brain trapped inside the body of a grotesque and suicidal apeman. The thread that connects all Frankenstein films is that the monster turns on its creator and rather than give the doctor the worldwide acclaim he seeks it sets about to destroy him.

In the final scenes the monster runs amok in the madhouse and kills Herr Klaus in a scene that, according to my research, was edited by a few seconds of some spurting blood from a throat wound. The film ends in a most bizarre and un-Hammer style when the inmates, for some reason, turn on the monster and rip it to shreds. They literally disembowel the beast and in yet another edited out scene are supposed to trample its entrails underfoot. Certainly extreme for a Hammer scene that would often show blood but not delve much into actual gore. The movie seems to end on at tone that may have been a set up for yet another sequel with the Baron perhaps assuming total control of the madhouse and young Helder becoming his protrogee and successor. It was not to be the case and the Hammer Frankenstein saga ended here. One closing thought I have about the film is that it captured the feeling and atmosphere of the early films one last time. Though made in 1974 the movie, through Fischer’s able direction, retains the appearance of Hammer’s early glory days. My only criticism of this film might the monster but it is a small criticism really when held in light of the movie’s entirety. Not the greatest film to ever come out of Hammer but still one of its better horror offerings.
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COLOSSUS AND THE AMAZON QUEEN/1960

Posted in Adventure-Action, Camp-Cheese, Peplum, Rod Taylor on July 18, 2011 by Bill Courtney

A brief mention here about this remarkably odd movie called Colossus and the Amazon Queen (La Regina delle Amazzoni) directed by Vittorio Sala who also co-wrote the script with six other writers. If you brave this piece of cheese you may wonder why it took a total of seven men to scramble this story up. The gist of the story is about a couple heroes named Pirro (Rod Taylor from The Birds) and Glauco (body builder Ed Fury) who wind up being tricked to becoming house boys  on the island of the Amazons. The woman of the island is populated  by the said Amazon Queen herself (Gianna Maria Canale) and her bevy of beauties (Dorian Gray and Daniela Rocca among them) who are supplied by rogues with unwitting men who become effeminate acting house slaves. Clashes develop between some of the gals over who will be queen and who get what man, especially hunky Glauco whose presence has set the cold Amazon hearts all a flutter. The usually macho acting Rod Taylor has one the strangest roles of his careers here as he plays the prissy acting brains of the duo. His voice is dubbed by another English speaking actor who makes him sound like a real sissy boy.

Now this movie is really so bad it took me three settings to finish it. I was watching the much better peplum film The Minotaur at the same time. While some of the cheese is fun I just had to take a break from it eventually. I am assuming the film is a deliberate comedy and in that respect is an oddity among pepla. The Amazons are sexy enough in that robust Italian fashion. The film has certainly one of the strangest dance sequences ever to grace a pepla. The choreography and music almost seem like they belong in a West Side Story inspired juvenile delinquent film. A couple Amazons even engage in a Medieval style jousting match. Strange since the story is suppose to take place at the time of the Battle of Troy and over a thousand years separate the film’s bout and the earliest recorded jousting matches in Western Europe. Well, if you are curious the film is available on all over the net. I think if you just give the credits a go and the first few minutes of the film you will that this is one odd ball of a film. Not for any one with discerning taste. But if you had discerning taste in the first place why the heck would you be here right?
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KONGA/1961/HERMAN COHEN/MICHAEL GOUGH

Posted in AIP, British Horror, Gorillas-Yetis-Bigfoot, Herman Cohen, Michael Gough on July 17, 2011 by Bill Courtney

KONGA

1961/Director: John Lemont/Writers: Herman Cohen, Aben Kandel

Cast: Michael Gough, Margo Johns, Jess Conrad, Claire Gordon, Austin Trevor, Jack Watson, George Pastell   

Producer/writer Herman Cohen is a name that will be popping up here at the Cafe on a regular basis. Eventually there will be posts on his great dirve-in classics The Bride of the Gorilla, Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla, his AIP classics like I Was a Teenage Werewolf, and How to Make a Monster,  and Horrors of the Black Museum. In fact Konga is not our first introduction to the works of this dedicated film-maker. I reviewed Trog starring Joan Crawford and Michael Gough, a few posts back and it, like Konga, was one of the color films Cohen made while in England during the 60’s and 70’s. He would also make the thriller Berserk (I do not even know if I have that film here or not. I need a hunchbacked, mute assistant to sort out all the stuff I have on DVDs or on my hard-drive) with Crawford while in England and I understand most people like it more than Trog, but I thought Trog was pretty darned entertaining. Appearing in five of his British productions was actor Michael Gough who seems to have been given free reign with his roles and he had the time of his life hamming them up to the extreme. While some consider his ultimate over-the-top achievement to be the insane curator and scientist Edmond Bancroft in Horrors of the Black Museum I think he is utterly hysterical as Dr. Charles Decker in the sadly underrated Konga.

During the late 50’s and into the 60’s giant animals and insect swarmed over the surface of the planet, usually the products of atomic radiation or explosions. Most of these unruly brutes were confined to downtown Tokyo or the deserts of the Southwest United States. But for a brief periods some giant monster decided to vacation in Europe and we were treated to some fairly intriguing films like 20 Millions to Earth, Reptilcus, Gorgo, The Giant Behemoth and a couple others before the creatures all had their visas revoked and sent back to Japan and the States. Cohen seemed to have an ongoing interest in killer ape type films and with Konga he made perhaps his best man-in-a-monkey suit ever. The title obviously is a reference to King Kong and in one poster I saw online the title was given as King Konga. Konga is a movie that is really savaged online and is undeserving of the venom it receives. But then maybe these film viewers never grew up with Saturday afternoon Tarzan films or late night creature feature fare. It may be unimaginable to people born after at least the invention of the VCR, mush less DVDs and computer media players, that there was a time when there were basically three TV stations to choose from and the programs on those stations represented the totality of what you were going to see on the tube at any given moment. Of course there were affordable drive-ins and matinees back then but when you a kid with no money and no car you learn somehow to make the best of what you have before you. I grew up in a world where huge Styrofoam boulders hurled by Hercules always bounced off people before they slowly collapsed. In real life they would be flattened to a pulp instantly. I also grew up on more than a few men-in-monkey suit adventures. And come to think I do not know if I have ever seen a genuine gorilla run amok in a movie. The costumes either got better after 2001: A Space Odyssey and Planet of the Apes or they began using computer graphics after that technology developed. What actor would actually want to deal with a real gorilla in a rage?

Make no mistake that the most enjoyable aspects of Konga are Gough’s take no prisoner style of overacting and the corny ape costume. The dialog is hokey but not in an American B-movie style, but in a British B-movie style and I have come to see that is certainly a difference in the way Americans approach a low budget horror film compared to their British counterparts. While Yanks seem to realize they have a turkey on their hands they have some fun with it, the Brits really seem to want to raise even something as ludicrous as Konga to some higher level. Luckily director John Lemont (born in Canada but lived and worked in England) and Gough follow Cohen’s B-movie instincts and Konga never becomes anything too serious. If what I just said sounds like some sort of criticism of British cinema let me be clear that some of my favorite films of all time were British films of the late 50’s to early 70’s. I do not mean only horror films but the social dramas that starred great actors like Terrance Stamp, Tom Courtenay, Dirk Bogarde and James Fox. These are some of the best movies ever made. But we are here to discuss Konga aren’t we?
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Konga is more about the maniacal obsessions of one Dr. Charles Decker than a giant ape. The King Sized gorilla does not really appear until the last fifteen minutes of the movie actually. There are actually four stages of development for Konga: a baby chip, a grown chimp, a grown gorilla and then a giant gorilla that actually does little damage to downtown London. Not as much as Godzilla would do in his sleep in Tokyo or Osaka anyway. Botanist and University Professor Decker was presumed dead in the jungles of Africa after his small engine plane went down and burst into flames. He suddenly appears from the wilds of deepest, darkest Africa one day with a little chimpanzee in tow. Now this scene is simply marvelous. Actor Gough looks utterly uncomfortable with the little chimp and as he is giving an interview at the airport he is holding the chimp and compulsively rubs the darned thing nearly bald. In one scene he is leaning forward in the chair and rubbing the chimps ear thoughtlessly. This scene is mentioned by a few other reviewers of the film so I am not alone in my amazement at how unrelaxed Gough seems to be with the little guy. Anyway, during the interview Dr. Decker explains that he stayed in the jungles and lived with natives of his own accord for one year in order to pursue experiments with some of the insect eating plant life there, that he calls insectivorous with a mad twinge in his voice, and that he has discovered some sort of genetic link between the plants and human beings and that soon his discoveries will have many biology textbooks rewritten. With no further delays he is back to his post at Essex College and his extremely nice campus housing with a laboratory in the basement. He shares the details of his adventures with his assistant Margaret over a warm glass of brandy. As the conversation progresses it becomes clear in a vague British way that Decker and Margaret (Margo Johns) were once more than just friends. Decker is as cold and distant and just down right callus as any pompous snob could be and yet Margaret seems to the desperate type who fears being an old lonely spinster. Her feathers are ruffled still more by all the attention and concern Decker lavishes on Konga, the baby chimp. Decker is clear that Konga is crucial to his experiments in genetics and that the chimp will change forever the world when he helps to prove that there is an evolutionary link between plants and animals.

While he lived with the natives I the jungles of Uganda he discovered that certain plants had properties that when concocted into the proper potion can make life forms grow larger. Exceptionally larger. And if that weren’t enough the potion also puts the receiver under the mental control of the person who administers it to them. That is down right convenient. The first thing to do, after shooting the house cat who licked up a little of the potion, is to give little baby Konga an injection in his rump. I wonder what Gough was thinking as he had to bend down behind this little chimpanzee and, I assume, pretend to stick a hypo in its arse. After some worbly visual effects Konga is now an adult chimpanzee who is soon serving tea on a platter to Margaret, who has now warmed up to the furry fella a bit more. Decker’s greenhouse is now filled with fantastic insectivorous plants. One looks like a huge egg plant with its tongue hanging out. Another is a huge Venus Fly Trap, the type you used to be able to order out of the back of comic books, only much larger.

Well Decker must still pay the bills and he back in the classroom showing a film documentary he made while living with in native village. He explains how lucky he was to rescue all of the photographic equipment from the quickly descending aircraft before he bailed out, and let the pilot plummet to a fiery death. He has some after class words with his curvy, bombshell student named Sandra Banks (Claire Gordon), who not only fills out a sweater quite nicely but is also his most promising and dedicated student. He wants Sandra to assist him with his class more and with some outside projects as well. She is tickled to no end to help the professor in his studies but Decker is simply oozing with lechery. None too happy about the situation is Bob (Jess Konrad) who is smitten with Sandra, but she has made it clear to him that her studies and career come first. The guy would probably be portrayed as jock in an American film but here is simply some awkward nice guy who is sure he can win the girl if he is given the chance. Later Decker has a meeting with Dean Foster who read some about Decker’s claims of standing modern evolutionary theory on its head in the newspaper interview form the airport. The Dean and Decker are soon in a heated debate where basically Decker is called a madman and told he will have to take some time off to rethink his position on established school approved theories. Decker is a guy who easily gets pissed off and when you  take a egomaniac with a volatile temper and mix it in with a super-growth serum that also gives the administer mind control abilities and I think you may have some serious problems on your hands.

Decker takes none to kindly to being called mad and having his tenure threatened so he hightails it home and injects the tea serving Konga with yet another dose of the serum and after some more worbly visual effects Konga transforms into a full grown gorilla, or a full grown man in a fairly decent (for the time) gorilla suit. No point in splitting hairs here over the fact that a gorilla and chimpanzee are two different species since this is a minor flaw in most all ape films. And anyway, what would a giant chimp look like? A gorilla most likely.  Now this leads to another issue most all ape flicks had, and that is how in the hell can a full grown gorilla get around town without causing a commotion. Now I suppose here Konga only had to get from Decker’s dwellings on Essex College campus to Dean Foster’s place but it still stretches the imagination a tad that someone would not notice the brute lumbering about. Needless to say he bursts ungraciously into the Dean’s study and kills him. Decker is a suspect because the heated argument (which he terms a debate between professionals) was over heard by Dean Foster’s secretary. Decker is as arrogant and pompous as any man can be while being interviewed at Scotland Yard but is released because the police are looking for either an animal or incredibly strong man.

Decker holds a cocktail party later for friends and faculty and there meets Professor Tagore (George Pastell from the excellent Hammer version of The Mummy) who it just so happens is conducting almost identical experiments as Decker and is at the point where he is ready to announce his finding to the scientific community. Decker has not worked this hard to be robbed of glory now and so later he pays Tagore a visit at his laboratory and brings Konga along with him to make sure his point is clear. The scene where Gough orders Konga to attack is simply fantastic. He bellows the command in a maniacal fashion that perhaps on he or Richard Burton could have pulled off. Now that Decker has found a way to handle problems with anyone who stands in his way he decides to use Konga to remove the obstacle between him and the luscious Sandra; duffy Bob. Any ambivalence Decker may had about how to settle matters with Bob are erased when Bob basically assault him and kicks his academic ass while Decker’s and some of his class are on a field trip. Bob is simply jealous and lets Decker know he does not want him interfering in his romantic plans for Sandra (though she has basically blown him off repeatedly). Well Konga shows up and kills poor Bob right in front of his own home. I think all these murders takes place in a span of time of just a few days. Decker just cannot control himself. Margaret has let Decker know too that she is absolutely aware of what he is doing and yet she will not go to police so long as he agrees to make an honest women of her finally, to which he agrees with the utmost sincerity, until her back is turned and it is plan that Decker is not the least bit interested in Margaret as anything other than someone to fill up his syringes.

In what is the most unsettling scene of the movie Decker invites Sandra to his place to show her his research and offers her the position of his assistant. He shows her the hot and humid green house with all his strange plants and then loses all control and then starts manhandling her in a scene that Gough must have decided had to be utterly over the top to work. He plants the most awkward and sloppy series of slobbery kisses ever put on film on her reluctant face while proclaiming his love for her. Poor guy must have really gotten lonely out in the jungles. Margaret over hears the entire nauseating conversation and in a jealous rage runs down to poor Konga’s cage and inject him yet again and gain control of him. Problem is she gives him just a wee bit too much and he grows to King Kong size proportions and crashed through the roof of the house. He picks up an immobile rag doll version of Margaret and throws it to the ground and kills her. Sandra has her arm caught by a huge Venus Fly Trap plant and is, presumably since we never see it happen, killed by it in some grisly fashion. Outside Konga grabs Decker, who keeps yelling “let me down Konga” and heads off on a less than climatic rampage into downtown London. I cannot think of another giant ape film where a man is held by the beast and not a beautiful female that the ape has become enamored with. Actually nothing much happens to London at all and Konga is actually killed by machine gun fire from the British Army who arrive on the scene in mere minutes. Konga hurls Decker to the ground before dying and in the final scene reverts back to a baby chimp in a pretty strange looking closing shot. One of Gough’s “greatest” performances in my humble opinion.
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THE ALLIGATOR PEOPLE/1959/BEVERLY GARLAND/LON CHANEY JR.

Posted in American Horror, Beverly Garland, Lon Chaney Jr. on July 17, 2011 by Bill Courtney
THE ALLIGATOR PEOPLE
1959/Director: Roy Del Ruth/Writers: Orville H. Hampton
Cast: Beverly Garland, Bruce Bennett, Lon Chaney Jr., George Macready
Lately I have been getting in lots of old – horror and sci-fi films I have always heard about but have never seen. I grew up with images in magazines like Famous Monsters of Filmland of films like Invisible Invaders, Gorgo, Not of this Earth (the original) and many others but never caught them on any creature feature shows while growing up. By the time VHS came out I seemed to have lost some interest in these old films and followed a different and often darker path for many years. Now suddenly I find myself drawn back to these often harmless and quaint little gems and recall how Forrest J. Ackerman handled them with such care despite their often corny stories and shabby production values. One film I finally got around to seeing for the first time at the ripe old age of fifty one is 1959’s The Alligator People. Of course before I ever see a film I have an image of the film in my mind and in the case of The Alligator People the actual movie just did not come close. Not for better or worse but the movie was not what I had conjured up in my mind based on old pictures I had seen in horror magazines. For one thing the film should probably be called The Alligator Person since that is about the total number of alligator people we deal with for the most part. There are people covered in odd shaped shrouds that we assume are also alligator people in some state of mutation but nothing much ever happens with them though the images are a bit creepy.

I liked the film (as I like almost all of the films here at The Uranium Café with a couple exceptions) for a few reasons. I love Beverly Garland. She adds something special to any role she played in during her time as a scream queen during the late 50’s and early 60’s. She can act better than most of the gals in this category. She usually played the roles straight and had no problem hamming it up in situations that a bit ludicrous (such as facing off against the celery stalk from Venus in Roger Corman’s It Conquered the World). The film also has Lon Chaney Jr. in one of his most memorable roles as a sleazy, one armed, alcoholic gator hating swamper who tries to slime himself all over Miss Garland in his swamp shack.  The film also features some of the early work of make-up maestro Dick Smith. Smith is known for his work on films like The Exorcist and Taxi Driver but he did not start off at the top. This should be kept in mind as you stare in amazement at the final result of the cobalt treatment fusing man and alligator into one‘horrifying’ monstrosity. The cinematography by 1929 Oscar winner Karl Strauss in the film is exceptional for the genre with high contrasting black and whites that gives it a film noir quality at times. Director Roy Del Ruth did not usually work in the horror sci-fi area and did well enough with a story that could, in the final analysis, only end up a fine cheese classic.
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Garland plays Jane Marvin, a woman with a secret past trapped in her repressed memories. The wonders of modern psychology in the form of hypnosis unravel these secrets little by little. Her true identity is that of Joyce Hatton. Joyce was dumped on a train while on the way to her honeymoon by her husband Paul Webster (Richard Crane) after he receives a mysterious telegram. Could the telegram be connected to Paul’s miraculous recovery from devastating injuries he received in a plane crash during the war? Does my stating the matter in the form of question give the answer away? Joyce finally traces Paul’s possible location to a plantation style manor in the Louisiana bayous where Dr. Mark Sinclair has been conducting tissue and limb regeneration research using reptiles, alligators, humans and radiation. In these 50’s and 60’s horror/sci-films radiation was at the root of almost all evils. The house is also occupied by Paul’s protective mother, a bunch of studly guys in tight white t-shirts that keep the patients in line and drunken, bitter handy man Manon (Chaney). Manon simply hates gators and the one thing he hates more is gator people. There are great scenes of laboratories with lots of dials and lights, swamps and snakes and Paul as the result of Manon’s drunken revenge: the Alligator Man. The make up for the creature really is not as bad as most people make it to be. It does not reek of Smith’s later genius either but I sort of liked it. I sort of wish we had seen more of it to be honest and that it was a little more evil. Good guy Paul wrestling with the gator’s carnivorous instincts. But like many films from the period we are treated more to long winded dialogs and scientific theories than to actual monsters. However  The Alligator People is a film that I would watch again because I sort of like those melodramatic dialogs and scientific musings on the benefits and evils of radiation.

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THE URANIUM CAFE MATINEE: MESA OF LOST WOMEN

Posted in Mad Doctors and Scientists, Matinee, Ron Ormond, Tandra Quinn on July 15, 2011 by Bill Courtney

They Were All a Man Could Desire, 
But Deadlier Than a Black Widow! 

SEE MESA OF LOST WOMEN RIGHT HERE >>

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MESA OF LOST WOMEN