Archive for the b movies Category

The entire history of Horror cinema in one go

Posted in b movies, bela lugosi, drive in horror, frankenstein, HORROR MOVIES, killer b's, STEPHEN KING, the creature, universal creature features on 05/16/2011 by vincentstark

No other site would even attempt it, no else would be so bold, but here at Scary Motherfucker we are not known for a lack of boldness, nor common sense, and so in one post, a few minutes reading, we will present the entire history of horror cinema in one go.

Readers with weak nerves are asked to leave this site now.

You have

been

warned!

Horror has been around since the dawn of cinema – in 1910 the Edison Company produced an unofficial version of Frankenstein called Der Golem. Der Golem like Baron Frankenstein was concerned with the creation of life . Shit let’s call a spade a spade, it was actually a copyright avoiding version of the Frankenstein story.  Nosferatu (1922) used the vampire mythos, borrowing from Stoker’s Dracula, and is perhaps one of the best remembered silent horror movies.

However it was the coming of sound that brought in the Golden Age of horror films. King Kong in 1933 showed what could now be done with the wonders of the motion picture camera. The 30’s and 40’s were indeed a special period with Universal’s mostly excellent series of creature features, as well as countless cheap and cheerful drive-in shockers, keeping fright fans happy. There are several all time classics among the many films Universal produced, Dracula, Bride of Frankenstein, The Mummy, The Wolfman to name but three.

The 50’s was the age of paranoia and horror cinema reflected this – creatures were no longer spawned by the occult but by this new terror called radiation, and the Communist threat came not from Russia, but from outer space.  British studio Hammer did however continue to make money with the likes of Dracula, Frankenstein and other monsters of the golden period. Interestingly Hammer also produced sci-fi/horror hybrids with the Quatermas films being among them.

The 60’s was a far more cynical time in terms of horror – Hitchcock gave us environmental horror with the Birds, Rosemary’s Baby brought the supernatural into the real world. Roger Corman was the king of the low budget horror flick and produced a string of Poe adoptions usually with Vincent Price. British shockers, Hammer were at this time in their most inventive period and 1966’s Plague of the Zombies is a classic. It was during the early part of this decade that the blueprint of the slasher movie was set down with Hitchcock’s Psycho. Another notable film of the decade was Romero’s Night of the Living Dead – a low budget masterpiece that defined cinema zombies.

The 70′ s saw taste go out of the window and demons come back into the room. The Exorcist heralded a slew of demonic films – The Omen being only one in a series of movies based on the concept of the Antichrist. Speilberg took horror to the seaside and invented the event movie with Jaws. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) brought in a new wave of violent horror. And the Italians were reinventing the horror movie, as they had previously with the western, and selling it back to us. At the tale end of the decade John Carpenter gave us the classic  Halloween – surely the best of the modern slasher movies. The decade was also notable for birth of the Stephen King movie with Carrie which was a massive success and ever since movie makers have not been able to leave Stephen King books alone. Indeed Stephen King is now the horror author with the most films made from his work.

The 80’s was a period of technical highs and repetition – many classics came from this period – Evil Dead, The Thing, The Elm Street Series. There were more serial killers at work in the cinema during this period than ever before and horror film sequels became the order of the day. The decade also saw big name directors such as Steven Speilberg and John Landis working in the genre. The 80’s also saw the rise of the home video market and the video nasty scare – that’s something for a future article.

The 90’s – post-modern time, folks.
Scream parodied everything else and then itself. Seven dressed itself up in class so as not to appear like a horror film. Frankenstein and Dracula became respectable in the hands of Francis Ford Coppola and Kenneth Branagh – shit De’niro even took over the old Karloff (Karloff was better, though.) role and Gary Oldman made a cool Dracula but again Christopher Lee was better. Silence of the Lambs dominated the box office and although not marketed as a horror movie it was certainly structured  like one.

The 00’s brought us more remakes, some good, some bad and a fair few classics – The Orphanage was astounding, as was The Ring. And the Blair Witch Project told its story in a minimalist fashion  and scooped the big bucks as a reward. There was also gentle horror with The Six Sense but Saw brought back the gore by the bucket. The decade also saw some inventive and original twists on the zombies on the rampage genre – 28 Days Later took it all seriously and gave us hyped up zombies, while Shaun of the Dead gave us one of the most entertaining brain munching films ever.

And that’s it folks – with more than a million omissions, the entire history of horror cinema. There’s no telling what the future will bring for the genre but one thing is certain – there will always be horror movie….

Posted in b movies, the creature, universal creature features with tags on 05/16/2011 by vincentstark

Now that’s a cool  double bill – The Creature from the Black Lagoon, the 1954 creature feature that introduced the Gill-Man and it’s 1955 follow up Revenge of the Creature – the latter which featured a small role by the then unknown Clint Eastwood.

It’s interesting to note that prior to starting his remake of King Kong, director Peter Jackson was actually considering doing a remake of the Creature from the Black Lagoon. That he opted for King Kong instead is telling, since both movies rely on a retelling of the Beauty and the Beast story in a fantasy/horror setting.

The Creature from the Black Lagoon, at age 15 million years old, is the last survivor of its species – a mixture of amphibian and man. When his habitat in the Amazon is disturbed, he attacks those who try to capture it.  Unlike Frankenstein and Dracula who had their roots in Gothic literature, the gill-man was an all original creation by Universal Pictures. Actor Ben Chapman played the creature in the land scenes and  Ricou Browning played the creature for the underwater scenes –  but neither actor achieved the same level of name awareness as other stars of the Universal horror movies, names such as Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff. Maybe because the Gill-Man required a suit rather than extensive and inventive make-up techniques. That’s not to rubbish the suit, though – the creature looks stunning and has been referenced many times in pop culture. The Gill-Man was also the first screen monster known to teenagers in the 1950’s, since earlier creations like Frankenstein, the Wolf Man and The Mummy had long since finished their cinema runs and not yet made it to television.

The DVD of The Creature from the Black Lagoon, part of the Universal Creature Features Collection – my edition comes as a double pack, alongside The Mummy. Watching the film these days on a decent set up and you’re actually getting a better viewing experience that original cinema audiences. Back in the day they wouldn’t have had the crisp digital picture and booming soundtrack. The disc comes in 2.0 Mono but put through a surround system really delivers. And the black and white transfer in incredibly crisp.

The disc is also heavy with special features with a great all original documentary and a fascinating commentary from film historian Tom Weaver.

But what about the movie?

Well modern viewers will either love it or find it too corny – but if you can sit back and allow yourself to become lost in the movie, a great experience is waiting. The acting style is very much of its period, bigger than modern screen acting and almost theatrical, the locations used like a stage set. That the film was largely made on a Universal back lot doesn’t show and the Amazon of the movie truly looks like a dark and mysterious place. Most of the underwater scenes were filmed in Florida because of the clarity of the water.

One famous scene where the monster swims unseen below the lovely Julia Adams is very daring and almost simulates lovemaking. The scene in excellently out together and it is this scene maybe more than any other that humanises the Gill-Man.

Lead actor, Richard Carlson is very affective as the 1950’s square jawed, heroic scientist and there’s a lot of this character in Indiana Jones and indeed both Spielberg and George Lucus have both mentioned the influence of this movie on their creation. Spielberg’s Jaws also owes a lot this this all time classic and the early appearances of the giant shark are presented in the same way as Gill-Man in introduced – first we get the odd shot of a webbed hand or a fin before eventually seeing the full magnificent creation.

The original movie was in 3D and it’s a pity we can’t see it this way today – hopefully one day a 3D version will be released onto DVD or Blu-Ray.

Revenge of the Creature which hit cinemas a year later – by the same director, Jack Arnold it doesn’t quite match the original but it’s a good enough movie. The law of diminishing returns seemed to have applied even way back then.

It’s basically the same plot – creature gets the hots for attractive young woman and goes on a hormone fuelled rampage. Only this time the creature is at loose in the big city.

As mentioned previously Clint Eastwood turns up early in the movie – he may have been a future superstar but back then he was unknown and his small scene is unremarkable. It, like the original movie, was also shot in 3D but the current DVD release is the standard version.

There was also another movie – 1956’s, The Creature Walks Among Us – as of yet I’ve not seen this movie, but have just ordered the box set from Amazon so expect a review here soon.

The original is the best but both movies hold up well (indeed the ecological subtext is perhaps even more relevant today)  and the creature is truly an important part of fantasy cinema. They sure don’t make em like this anymore…more’s the pity.

The Icons – Bela Lugosi

Posted in b movies, bela lugosi, drive in horror, HORROR MOVIES on 05/15/2011 by vincentstark

When Dracula came to England

‘Mr Lugosi, is it true you suck blood oranges?’ one reporter asked.

‘All the time. I often eat six at a time.’ replied Lugosi with  a mischievous grin.

‘And raw steaks?’ the reporter continued.

‘When I can get them,’ Lugosi laughed.

The time was 10 April 1951 and Bela Lugosi was visiting England with his fourth wife, Lillian.

‘I was born in Translavania where the Dracula myth came from,’ Lugosi told reporters. ‘Though I never went down into our cellar. It was full of bats.’ Lugosi also revealed the he played football, as goalkeeper for the Translavania team.

Everywhere Lugosi went he was mobbed by both fans and the press – this surprised the actor who had not been a big name for over a decade, and he gave many interviews and posed for countless photographs. Whenever Lugosi signed autographs he would use his own special pen which contained blood red ink.

Privately Lugosi cursed his success as Dracula, claiming that the role had limited him, but in public he lived up to the image, often dressing as the Count when he went out and about. The Brighton Newspaper at the time carried an amusing story of how one man was terrified when he saw Dracula walking towards him after emerging from a public house one night.

‘I left my country in 1920 and have never gone back. I could not live under a dictatorship. I am an American citizen now.’ Bela Lugosi

‘Horror is my business – it pays off best. But I am tired of gore and I hope that over here I will find an intelligent producer who will think, let’s give Lugosi a comedy.’ Bela Lugosi

‘I do not scare the children. They known I am a pussy cat at heart.’ Bela Lugosi

The main reason for the trip to England was because of the stage play, Dracula – the first performance was on 16th June 1951 at the Royal Theatre in Brighton.

The play was not a great success and closed after a limited run.

Lugosi died in 1956 with his best days now long behind him. He was buried in the cape he wore in his most celebrated movie.

The Killer B’s – Attack of the Giant Leeches

Posted in b movies, drive in horror, giant leeches, killer b's with tags on 05/15/2011 by vincentstark

THEY CAME, THEY SUCKED

In which a bunch of 1960’s era Doctor Who monsters escape from the BBC Workshop and terrorise the good ol’ boys down in the swamps.

Yep, we’re firmly entrenched in good old B-movie territory with this cheap and cheerful shocker from 1959. The movie was directed by Bernard L. Kowaski, who was actually a big shaker in the TV scene and as well as producing the hit series, Beretta he was a co-owner of the Mission Impossible franchise. Over the years he has directed, written and produced many well known shows – Columbo, Diagnosis Murder, Airwolf, Magnum PI, Mike Hammer. And that’s only a partial list.

However back in the day, before prime time television came calling, he helmed drive in classic like Attack of the Giant Leeches which was produced by the legendary Roger Corman.

http://www.archive.org/flow/flowplayer.commercial-3.2.1.swf

The film is actually quite enjoyable in a cheesy kind of way, and for all it’s faults it is never boring. It’s in the public domain and is available on DVD from several labels, but it’s also available to view online and can be accessed above.

The actors play it dead straight and the moody photography and claustrophobic swamp settings work well in creating mood.

Was also known as Demons in the Swamp

Yvette Vickers, a Playboy centrefold, plays a great femme fatale in a film that tries to be a noir sci-fi horror film. That the film was shot in only eight days is also something to be applauded – they knew their market and threw all pretensions out of the window in a bid to make the best horror movie they could with the limited resources – ie, a budget of only Seventy Thousand Dollars – mind you in those days you could go to the movies, get a bag of chip and still have change for a bus ride home for that kind of money, or so my dad claims.

The UK title was, Demons in the Swamp

The UK title was, Demons in the Swamp

The exterior scenes were shot at Los Angeles Arboretum – the self same location would later be used for TV’s Fantasy Island and several Tarzan movies.

The movie is great fun and worth watching – the viewer just need to ignore the often bad acting, the corny lines and simply soak it all up the way audiences did back in the day.

Film Data (from B-movie central)

Attack of the Giant Leeches

Year Of Release: 1959
Running Time: 62 Minutes
DVD Released By: Madacy Entertainment
Directed By: Bernard L. Kowalski
Writing Credits: Leo Gordon
Filming Location: Los Angeles County Arboretum, Arcadia, California, Studio City, California

Starring: Ken Clark, Yvette Vickers, Jan Shepard, Michael Emmet, Tyler McVey, Bruno VeSota, Gene Roth

Tagline: “Crawling horror… Rising from the depths of Hell to kill and conquer!”

Alternate Titles:
Attack of the Blood Leeches (1959)
Demons of the Swamp (1959) (UK)
The Giant Leeches (1959) (USA: promotional title)
She Demons of the Swamp (1959)

Interesting Bits of Trivia:
Ken Clark who played Steve Benton in this film, also played in a rather large number of Italian films including several Hercules movies.