1971/Director: Edwin Sherin/Writers: Roland Kibbee, David Rayfiel
Cast: Burt Lancaster, Susan Clark, Frank Silvera, Jon Cypher, Richard Jordan, Barton Heyman, Hector Elizondo
I love a good western. I saw this at a cinema matinee actually when it first came out for like .35 cents if you can believe that. The film has the edgy violence a lot of action films had at the time and seems influenced not only by Sam Peckingpah but spaghetti western directors as well. In fact the film was shot in Spain using some of the same locales that Sergio Leone used for his westerns. Bob Valdez is played by Burt Lancaster and is a local constable who feels driven to collect a small amount of money to pay the widow of a man he was tricked into killing. The ruthless rancher Frank Tanner (Jon Cypher) will not hear of it and has Valdez essentially crucified. What tanner does not know is that the life weary and soft spoken Valdez was once a skilled tracker, marksman and Indian hunter and he is now pretty pissed off and is out to get even. Richard Jordan does good as the big mouth coward Davis and forgotten beauty Susan Clarke is Tanner’s wife Gay Erin who gets kidnapped by Valdez and is drug through the mountains and wilderness as Tanner’s posse pursue them and are picked off one by one with Valdez’s Sharps long rifle. All this over $100. From the book by Elmore Leonard.
THE DEVIL DOLL
1964/Director: Lindsay Shonteff/Writers: Ronald Kinnoch, Frederick E. Smith
Cast: Bryant Haliday, William Sylvester, Yvonne Romain, Sandra Dorne, Karel Stepanek, Francis De Wolff
Most ventriloquist movies, like Magic with Anthony Hopkins, have the dummy as the villain who drives the ventriloquist insane. In the not too bad Devil Doll the dummy is actually the victim and the ventriloquist the tormentor. The great Vorelli (Bryant Haliday) is not only a gifted ventriloquist but a master hypnotist as well who has earned some degree of success with a stage act. On top of all this he also dabbled in the black arts at one point in his life and learned how to transfer souls from a human body to his dummy, which he did n the case of his old assistant Hugo. A spat of murders is happening in London and American reporter Mark English (William Sylvester) soon suspects Vorelli though he always has an alibi. Vorelli becomes infatuated with rich girl Marianne Horn (Yvonne Romaine) and sets out to so some soul transferring with her but first needs to get rid of his clingy assistant and former lover Magda (Sandra Dorne). There are some spicy scenes of Dorn that revel more butt cheek than you were used to seeing in those times, especially from plump near middle aged gals. In the middle of this is the tormented dummy Hugo who has to do the bidding of Vorelli but has his revenge in the end of course. The movies is not great but, as I said, is not too bad. I saw the MST3K version and it was pretty funny. Not sure how it should stand up with on the comedic onrunning commentaries.
1995/Director: Luca Bercovici/Writers: Sam Bernard, Luca Bercovici
Cast: Stella Stevens, Shannon Whirry, Luca Bercovici, Brant von Hoffman
Granny stars former sex kitten Stella Stevens (The Nutty Professor) as an aging and rich woman whose family is hovering her like a bunch of vultures waiting to collect on her will. She is close to one of her granddaughters Kelly (Shannon Whirry) whom the rest of family ridicules and mocks. Kelly has tended compassionately to Granny in her last years and asks for and expects nothing in return. Which is good since that is what she gets later. Granny drinks an elixir of youth that was exposed to direct sunlight and thus goes bad. Rather than regaining her youth Granny turns into a demon that set abut exacting revenge on all her family members, including nice girl Kelly for some reason. The action and acting is pretty campy but this is a fun little piece of trash. The movie went to VHS pretty fast and there is ample nudity and violence to make up for the whacky script and direction. Everyone seems to playing it tongue in cheek.
1958/Director: Charles Saunders/Writers: Brandon Fleming
Cast: George Coulouris, Robert MacKenzie, Norman Claridge, Marpessa Dawn, Jimmy Vaughn
Probably the horror sub-genre I have always had the hardest time with is the man-eating plant one. I had some of the same issues with this film but it is pretty good. The problem I have is the plant is usually immobile and some evil doctors has to continually lure victims to feed the plant. The doctor here is Dr. James Moran (George Colouris) who discovered a plant in South America that produces an elixir that will return the dead to life but the plant, naturally, must be fed a diet of beautiful girls to produce the proper serum which he finds in plentiful supply in a quit London suburb. The obligatory odd assistant is Tanga (Jimmy Vaughn) who plays bongo drums with a frenzied look on his face which hypnotizes the gals allowing the doctor to escort them to the tree of doom. Lots of complications after the doctors hires a new and attractive keeper he gets the hot for upsetting his former housekeeper and, we assume, lover. I wound up liking the film and my only complaint might be that the tree creature looks cool but in only on the screen for a total of about five minutes. Great to watch the socially inept and unattractive Dr. Moran pick up some female plant food in a pub with all the ease of a Casonova.
MOTHER OF TEARS (LA TERZA MADRE)
2007/Director: Dario Argento/Writers: Jace Anderson, Dario Argento
Cast: Asia Argento, Cristian Solimeno, Adam James, Moran Atias, Udo Keir, Jun Ichikawa
Mother of Tears is supposed to be the final part of a Dario Argento trilogy that began with Supirira and then continued with Inferno. I have Inferno but have never watched it and hope it succeeds in tying the films together as I see no connection to Suspiria in this film yet. Aregento struggles to make a single coherent film and I have doubts about his pulling off a trilogy story that spans three decades. Asia Argento plays an American studying art restoration in Rome. She and her and her friend decide to forget the boss’s rules and they open an ancient urn and then figure reading some ancient inscriptions in the dark would be nice as well. Of course this moves the plot along as a ridiculously fast pace and we are treated to demons and a brutal death in less than ten minutes into the film. Soon Rome is plunged into a crime and suicide wave and Sarah (Asia Argento) must work alone to save the world from some sort of apocalyptic nightmare that I never quite understood. Udo Keir has a brief role as a priest and the deaths are fairly explicit. A woman tosses her baby over the railing of a bridge in one strange scene that rated a replay or two. The usual Argento confusion for the most part but filmed nicely with enough good moments to get a recommendation from me it but it is mostly for Argento fans.
All Necrofile selections are candidates for a more thorough article at a later point in time.