THE URANIUM CAFE NECROFILES/VIOLENT MIDNIGHT/CURSE OF THE CRIMSON ALTAR /FROGS/BAMBOO SAUCER
1963/Director: Richard Hilliard/Writers: Richard Hilliard, Robin Miller
Cast: Lee Philips, Shepperd Strudwick, Jean Hale, Lorraine Rogers, Dick Van Patten, James Farentino
This is a really decent early slasher/stalker style film produced by Del Tenney, who would go on to direct films like The Horror of party Beach, I Eat Your Skin (Zombies) and Curse of the Living Corpse. The direction by Richard Hilliard is stylish and atmospheric. It came out at a time when a spat of films where showing the influence of Hicthcock’s 1960 masterpiece Psycho. But the film is a cut above the rest in terms of story, acting and imagery. We have a pretty decent police style mystery (with none other than Dick Van Patten, from prime-time’s Eight Is Enough, as the tough talking detective who has two men suspected of some slashing murders in the local college town. There is the tortured artist type (Lee Philips) who paints nude women and has anger issues and a incorrigible punk (James Farentino) who seems the logical suspect but we are thrown a surprise ending that seems more like a Giallo style ending. In fact the film has a few Giallo elements, including a black leather gloved stalker and lots of strange camera shots but the film in fact predates the Giallo genre by a year or two. Bava’s trend sitting Black and Black Lace had yet to be released. Shot in sharp b/w with a good music score it is a must for any fan of stalker/slasher styled films but before they became an actual film genre.
CURSE OF THE CRIMSON ALTAR (aka THE CRIMSON CULT, THE CRIMSON ALTAR)
1968/Director: Vernon Sewell/Writers: Mervyn Haisman, Henry Lincoln
Cast: Boris Karloff, Christopher Lee, Mark Eden, Barbara Steele, Michael Gough, Virginia Wetherell, Rosemarie Reede
Barbara Steele plays the evil witch Lavinia who has placed a curse on the descendants of the small village where she was executed centuries before during the witch trial of Europe and Britain. She looks great all painted green and wearing some sort of horned witches hat. Of course the curse has finally found it way down the line to last of the descendants Robert Manning (Mark Eden) who has come to the village, during the time of the year when it celebrates its wicthy history, to find his missing brother. He attempts to enlist the help of Christopher Lee and Boris Karloff in his search and I think you can imagine how that turns out. The film has that psychedelic feel of the period with mod dances and groovy parties. Sexy women run around in skin tight clothes and the acting is great, of course, but the film over all is not what you might have wanted from all the talent involved. Karloff was ill during the production and I am not sure if his character being confined to a wheelchair was part of the script or was necessary for the ailing actor. Torture chambers and scenes bordering on S/M make this a must see for fans of the 60’s and 70’s witch films.
1972/Director: George McCowan/Writers: Robert Hutchison
Cast: Ray Milland, Sam Elliott, Joan Van Ark, Adam Roarke, Judy Pace, Lynn Borden
One of the first eco-horror or animal attack films API’s Frogs is not really that spooky in any real way and the Frogs themselves pose no threat to anyone except to a wheelchair bound Ray Milland at the films end. Millionaire Jason Crocket (Milland) is not going to let anything ruin his annual 4th of July celebration on his plantation style mansion in the Florida swamps. The celebrations are joined by a recently boatless, and sometimes shirtless, Picket Smith (Sam Elliot). Smith was knocked into the swampy lake waters by Crocket’s typically drunken son Clint, played by Adam Rourke who made some of the better biker films of the late 60’s like Hells Angels on Wheels with co-star Jack Nicholson. Also running around in an extremely tight little yellow 70’s style suit is Jason’s daughter Karen (Joan Van Ark of the Dallas spin-off Knot’s landing). While nothing much ever happens in the film I still found it fun to watch. Sam Elliot is good in his super-macho way in this early role. The deaths actually occur by rebelling against destructive mankind animals like snakes, spiders, alligators and even lizards who can somehow figure out the right combinations of poisons to knock over to kill one party-goer in the hothouse. An interesting synthesizer score that sounds like someone just a new Moog or Arp and was pluncking around on the keys and turning the dials to see what would happen. Strangely interesting film overall.
1968/Director: Frank Telford/Writers: John P. Fulton, Frank Telford
Cast: Dan Duryea, John Ericson, Lois Nettleton , Bob Hastings, Vincent Beck
Not one of those films too many people have ever heard of and so all the more deserving of a mention here at the Cafe. A cold war period sci-adventure that is mostly for cheese lovers. While the film is campy from the get-go the film makers were trying to make a real science fiction with a message. The American military has information that the Red Chinese are holding onto a downed alien space craft which they are keeping in the super secure location of a run down old church in the undeveloped countryside. A team led by Hank Peters (Dan Duryea in his last role) sneaks into China with little trouble and there run into a team of Russians who are on the same mission. The film focuses not so much on the threat of the aliens but on the message that we have to cooperate as a species in order to survive (too bad, I wish a big bug had jumped out and eaten a Red myself) and the Ruskies and Yanks unite to use the UFO escape the more evil of the three Chinese. The acting is pretty bad and the camera work and editing are worse, but I enjoyed this one anf recommend it.