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Stroke of Midnight

Is it Scary?

Archive for September, 2008

Tom Conway

Monday, September 15th, 2008

Happy Birthday Tom Conway…no not Tim Conway.  Tom Conway was a leading man in the Falcon film series, did voice work for Disney starred in three Val Lewton horror masterpieces and even played Sherlock Holmes on the radio.

He was born in 1904 and died in 1967.  His face and voice will be more familiar than his name to most genre fans.  He appeared in Voodoo Woman (1957), The She-Creature (1956),  Bride of the Gorilla (1951), but is best remembered for his rouge-ish characters in Val Lewton’s Cat People (1942), I Walked with a Zombie (1943) and The Seventh Victim (1943).

Nazi Zombies!

Wednesday, September 10th, 2008

Nazis are scary. Zombies are scary. So zombie Nazis should be extra scary, not always. It seems that the evil of the Third Reich might has some lingering effects and has popped up a different times and in differing quality through out the years.

Revenge of the Zombies

Revenge of the Zombies is not only the earliest Nazi Zombie movie, actually made during World War Two, but is also high on my list of under-rated zombie films. It was, of course, made long before the gut munching gore fests of George Romero and Lucio Fulchi so gore is not part of the equation. Plot wise it is similar to White Zombie (1932), mixed with the standard spy/detective films of the time with the stalwart hero, his affable sidekick and a wise cracking black chauffeur, investigating the death of his sister, only to discover his brother in law is a Nazi scientist trying to create a zombie army in the swamps of Louisiana. THe film is highlighted by spooky locales, and shuffling zombies. The comic relief of Mantan Moreland is actually humorous and doesn’t overwhelm the rest of the proceedings. The leading man is wooden and John Carradine chews the scenery quite nicely as Dr. Max Henrich von Altermann. With a name like that who couldn’t know he was a Nazi???

Revenge of the Zombies is available in a cheap 3 film dvd called Horror Classics, from Edi Video.

Night of the Zombies

Not only my personal favorite Nazi zombie movie, but also the best zombie flick starring porn star, and good friend of Penn Jilette from Penn & Teller, Jamie GIllis. The plot revolves around a CIA agent (Gillis) in the German Alps investigating the murders of some historians researching a mysterious lost battlefield, where the undead soldiers are still fighting the battle. The cause of the zombieism is the chemical Gamma 693 that the US was transporting through the region in WW2. The whole thing has a charm and isn’t shy on the gore, which should be a surprise to anyone familiar with the work of director Joel M Reed. Reed is best known for the barf bag classic, Bloodsucking Freaks.

Be careful as Bruno Mattei’s Hell of the Living Dead has been released on DVD as Night of the Zombies, and bears no relationship to this film and is nearly unwatchable.

My big question on Night of the Zombies is: Why, why, why is this not on DVD?!?! Can anyone give me an answer?

Shock Waves (1974)

Easily the most popular Nazi Zombie film of all time. Plenty has been written about this film so I’ll give it less space, but I do love the underwater zombies coming to the surface, although it was done better in The Ghost Galleon (Dir: Amando de Ossorio, 1974). The film features John Carradine (also the star of the original Nazi zombie flick, Revenge of the Zombies), Peter Cushing, and the lovely Brooke Adams. The film is an effective bit of fear cinema, light on the gore, and a lot of fun. It’s nice to see two old horror legends like Cushing and Carradine work together.

Shock Waves is available in a great DVD from Blue Underground

Zombie Lake (1980)

Possibly the worst movie ever made. Shockingly direction is credited to Jean Rollin, the French director who made some great surreal vampire films in the 60’s and 70’s.

If you think you need to see this for laughs or to say you’ve seen it, please don’t. Do you really need to have a root canal without anesthesia to know it’s painful? This is a film without plausible special effect, a story, acting, and it features lots of nudity, but it is ugly and repulsive at every turn.

Zombie Lake is available as part of Image Entertainment’s Euroshock Collection.

Oasis of the Zombies (1981)

Unwatchable dreck from Jesus Franco, about a battalion of Nazi zombies in the Sahara, or something like that. The film never goes anywhere and probably killed the Nazi zombie sub-genre. But it is still better than Zombie Lake.

Oasis of the Zombies is available as part of Image Entertainment’s Euroshock Collection.

Rosemary’s Remake…I’m Rooting for the Devil.

Friday, September 5th, 2008

The why oh why remake alert is now buried in the red and the needle may have broken off.

According to the Hollywood Reporter, Michael Bay’s production company Platinum Dunes is working on a remake of Roman Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby.  Seriously what is there to remake, other than just cashing in on instant name recognition.  Rosemary’s Baby was an Oscar winning horror film, quick name another on that list!  Jessica Alba is rumored to up for the lead role, originally played by Mia Farrow. I’m certain the new film will have all of the subtlety and nuance or Polanski’s film.  One can only hope that this is a cursed production.  If this Rosemary remake is successful then perhaps they can also remake to unofficial “sequel” Look What’s Happened to Rosemary’s Baby.

Platinum Dunes is also working on new versions of Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street, and have already remade Texas Chainsaw Masacre and Amityville Horror, The Hitcher, and apparently have a remake of The Birds in the works.  The Birds, that’s a whole other discussion and Melanie Griffith’s mother is gonna be mad!

Hey I’ve got an idea Platinum Dunes…make your own damn movies, or at least remake crappy ones like The Rock or Armageddon.

Stay up Late, or set the Tivo

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2008

Apparently taking a break from endless Hepburn & Tracy movies, TCM (Turner Classic Movies) is kicking it cult style Friday night, September 5th,  with a Ray Harryhausen film, an Ed Wood Movie, and a Ray Dennis Steckler double feature.

First up at the stroke of midnight is the under-rated Ray Harryhuasen film Three Worlds of Gulliver.  Once a staple of kiddie matinees the pic doesn’t really get the love it deserves.  Granted the script strips away all of Jonathan Swift’s satire, but it is a visual treat and besides outside of English Lit who cares about 18th Century satire, Gulliver is about shipwrecks and giants and tiny people, and it all looks great.

Around 2 A.M. we get two Ray Dennis Steckler movies with perhaps the greatest titles in film history:  Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies!!? and Rat Pfink a Boo Boo.  The titles alone should tell you if you are interested, but who wouldn’t want to see what warranted these titles?  The films are clunky and amateur hour.  Personally I think they were a big influence on John Waters and even if they weren’t should appeal to fans of his early Baltimore movies.  Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies!!? is a romantic, zombie musical, and Rat Pfink a Boo Boo is a Batman spoof that pre-dates Batman Forever by decades.  Both films need to be seen if for no other reason you can say you’ve seen them.

If you’ve survived all of that, which I doubt, then you can finish off the night with my personal favorite Ed Wood film, Bride of the Monster.  Plot, schmott! It is just a lot of fun watching Bela Lugosi, Tor Johnson, and bunch of wannabe actors play monsters with an alcoholic cross dressing director.

Once that is over you can finally go to sleep secure in the knowledge there is nothing worth watching or doing on Saturday!

Fu Manchu is Coming(not the band)!

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2008

In a victory over knee jerk political correctness, Warner Home Video is releasing the best of the Christopher Lee Fu Manchu films, Brides of Fu Manchu on DVD in October.

As a fan of the insidious Dr. Fu Manchu both in the Sax Rohmer novels and various film versions, I was starting to get concerned that fears of reprisals from P.C. watchdogs had kept the Warner owned Harry Alan Tower’s produced Fu Manchus, (Face of Fu Manchu, Brides of Fu Manchu, and Vengeance of Fu Manchu) locked in the vaults never to see DVD release.  But now on of the three is seeing release as part of a double bill disc available as a Best Buy exclusive.  The other film on the disc is the 1966 version of Chamber of Horrors.  On the same day there is another Warners/Best Buy disc with The Shuttered Room and It!.  I would really have preferred Brides to be paired with It! so I only had to buy one $14.99 DVD.

The problem that people could find with the films is two fold.  One is in the depiction of all Asians as villainous, and two having a six foot five english actor playing the titular Chinese character. The issue is of course with white actors playing asian characters and the analogy is made with white actors appearing in black face.  Of course there have been many film adaptations of Sax Rohmer’s tales and none that I can recall have cast asians as Fu Manchu.  Boris Karloff, Warner Oland, and Peter Sellers have all played Fu Manchu.

There was some stink made a few years ago trying to block the release of restored Charlie Chan films on DVD, a project partially backed by Lucy Liu.  But it looks like some of that noise has died down and we now what Charlie Chan, Mr. Wong, Mr. Moto, and Fu Manchu all available for viewing on DVD.

Brides of Fu Manchu
is by no means a great film, but it is great fun.  Christopher Lee is almost always able to raise his performance a bit above the material and here is no exception.  The film has a great look, some clap trap plot and a multitude of beautiful girls.  Yet the real star of this and the other Harry Alan Tower’s Fu Manchu films is Tsai Chin who plays Fu’s coldly sadistic daughter.  I’ll be back with a review of this disc, soon.