Archive for the halloween movies Category

The Ultimate Hammer Collection – The Nanny

Posted in halloween movies, the ultimate hammer collection, Uncategorized on 06/19/2013 by vincentstark
She's got Bettie Davies eyes

She’s got Bette Davies eyes

This is the second title in the massive Ultimate Hammer Collection  and out of the 21 films contained in the set  it is the only one in black and white. Made in 1965, the studio made a good choice in deciding to make the movie in old school black and white – there are some effectively blocked shots here, shadows dancing over Bette Davies’s face, caressing and highlighting her bone structure, that just wouldn’t be the same in colour, especially the blood red tones Hammer are known for.

The movie is not the standard horror picee that Hammer became famous for, but rather a clever psychological thriller that will keep new viewers guessing right up to the very last reel.

“Is it Master Joey who is actually mad? Or is he right about his seemingly gentle nanny? Is she actually a barmy fruitcake with murder in mind?

When I placed the disc in the player, I was of the impression that I’d never seen this movie before but a few minutes in and I realised that I had seen the film before, though long ago on a TV viewing and I’d not realised the film was done by Hammer who I associated with Dracula, Frankenstein and other gothic chillers. Mind you I didn’t really remember that much, just had the vague impression that I’d seen it somewhere. sometime. And so I was not sure how things would turn out and then cleverly laid aura of mystery completely enveloped me.

When we are first introduced to Master Joey (William Dix) we are shown a troubled, though clever little boy who has a very black sense of humour. He scares one of the teachers at his home for disturbed children, by rigging up a device that makes it look as if he has hung himself, within the first few minutes of the movie. And as soon as he returns home to his family he is shows as cheeky and incredibly naughty, while his nemesis, the titular Nanny, comes across as all sweetness and light. If anything the old woman, played by Bette Davies, comes across as having the patience of a saint in the way she deals with the boisterous  Joey.

the nannyThe movie contains a commentary from Jimmy Sangster,  Marcus Hearne (author of The Hammer Vault) and Rene Glynne and for a commentary recorded  41 years since the film was made, the anecdotes come thick and fast – it seems both Sangster and especially Glynne who possesses an incredible memory. Sangster tells us that Greer Garson was Hammer’s first choice for the role of the Nanny but when the actress turned the role down, Bette Davies was approached.

Besides the Hollywood weight of Bet Davies, we have British actress Wendy Craig as Joey’s mother. I found it unusual to find Craig in such a dramatic role since I was brought up watching her playing variations of a dizzy middle aged Wendy Craig The Nannymum in sitcom after sitcom. And although her part isn’t that substantial, she seems to spend most of the movie lounging about half wasted, she certainly comes across well – through subtle use of her eyes she clearly shows the anguish of the woman who is still mourning the accidental drowning of her daughter. The young actor playing Joey is William Dix and the Internet Database tells us that he made one more film in 1967 and then didn’t make another until 2001. The rest of the cast are made up those familiar British faces that often turn up in old movies or TV shows.

joey and creepy doll

I really enjoyed this movie – Bette Davies and her young co-star William Dix are particularly good, and the plot is paced so the suspense runs right up until the final denouncement.

A creepy movie, excellently directed, written and acted…and you can’t really ask for more than that.

Halloween Countdown: The Spandex wearing Undead

Posted in halloween, halloween countdown, halloween movies, marvel zombies, the dead walked, the dead weekend, the undead, the walking dead, vincent stark, walkers walkers everywhere, WALKING DEAD, zombies on 10/27/2012 by vincentstark

Imagine a world where the iconic superheroes are all zombies – it’s made possible because of the Marvel Multiverse. You see there are many different worlds in the multiverse, each of them with a different versions of Marvel’s beloved characters. I’m only a occasional comic book reader so here’s an explanation of the multiverse courtesy of the WIKI –

“Within Marvel Comics, most tales take place within the fictional Marvel Universe, which in turn is part of a larger multiverse. Starting with issues of Captain Britain, the main continuity in which most Marvel storylines take place was designated Earth-616, and the multiverse was established as being protected by Merlyn. Each universe has a Captain Britain designated to protect its version of the British Isles. These protectors are collectively known as the Captain Britain Corps. This numerical notation was continued in the series Excalibur and other titles. Each universe of the Multiverse in Marvel also appears to be defended by a Sorcerer Supreme at nearly all times, appointed by the mystic trinity of Vishanti to defend the world against threats primarily magical in nature from within and beyond and bearing the Eye of Agamotto.”
Sounds complicated but you don’t really need to know any of that to enjoy this graphic novel which collects together the five issue mini series, Marvel Zombies. An introduction gives is some of this background and also explains how the Marvel Zombies mini-series came about. When Mark Miller wrote a Fantastic Four arc set on an alternative world where Marvel heroes and villains had been turned into flesh-eating zombies, Marvel where so taken with the concept that they decided to continue it in other titles. The Walking Dead writer, Robert Kirkman was brought in and the resulting mini-series, collected in this graphic novel, is a truly gruesome horror story with some sick and twisted black humor. It’s also unpredictable and many heroes and villians are killed off in the story. This is a crazy world where Spider-Man hates himself for eating both his wife and Aunt May and Bruce Banner finds that whatever he ate as zombie Hulk quite often bursts through his stomach when he transforms back into zombie Banner.

It’s a crazy concept that works wonderfully and Kirkman brings us much of the same gore filled storytelling that made his Walking Dead title such a success, only this time in vivid full colour art by Sean Phillips. Of course we’ve had many variations of zombies – from the shuffling undead of Romero to the speeded up versions in films such as 28 Days Later, but Marvel here provides us with a new and original take on the genre – zombies with super powers who can also talk and think. It sounds absurd and I guess it is but nevertheless it works perfectly and provides a read you’ll want to chomp down on.

Marvel Zombies is available now as part of the Ultimate Graphic Novel Collection

Countdown to Halloween – The Horror of Sherlock Holmes

Posted in halloween, halloween countdown, halloween movies, HAMMER FILMS, hammer horror, HORROR MOVIES on 10/15/2012 by vincentstark

Hammer’s Hound of the Baskervilles (1959)

So suitable for the British horror studio was Conan Doyle’s, The Hound of the Baskervilles that it could have been written with Hammer Films in mind. Indeed following their success with revamping the Dracula and Frankenstein franchises Hammer turned to the most famous fictional detective of them all, Sherlock Holmes for this movie which was intended to be the first in a new series with Peter Cushing in the title role. Alas the movie didn’t perform as well at the box office as expected and plans for the series were scrapped while Hammer concentrated on more gothic material. Pity really – I would have loved to have seen Hammer tackle The Giant Rat of Sumatra.

The film looks like a Hammer movie – the colour is excellent, garish in places with all that over saturated red and the gothic elements that the studio did so well, are brought out in Doyle’s story like never before. Of course they were always there, even in the original story but Hammer emphasise these parts of the storyline without really altering the original. There are some differences to the original story – Stapleton’s webbed hands for one thing, the tarantula attack for another but these work well within the story and indeed the  webbed hands carried by one line of the Baskerville clan is inspired and is a nice little macabre touch.

Peter Cushing here gives an excellent performance as Sherlock Holmes – the actor was a Sherlockian himself and he brings his knowledge of the character to the role. Andre Morell is a more than suitable Watson. It is also nice to see Christopher Lee playing a romantic lead role and one wonders what would have happened had he played more such roles. He is certainly convincing here. All in all this is a great Sherlock Holmes movie and under the direction of Terence Fisher the ponderous middle section so obvious in most productions of this story moves along at a great pace.

Why wasn’t it a big box office hit then? Well the blame for this lies with Hammer themselves. They promoted the movie as a big horror flick in the style of their successful Dracula and Frankenstein movies, with hardly any mention that this was in fact a Sherlock Holmes movie. The advertising posters suggested a kind of werewolf but when we see the hound on screen it is nothing more than an over sized Great Dane. Movie fans back in the day may have been disappointed – after all, they were going to see a film starring Hammer’s two biggest horror icons with a large slavering hound in the advertising posters and what they got  Sherlock Holmes adventure. A damn thrilling one nonetheless but word of mouth could have harmed the movie after its strong opening weekend.  SEE THE ORIGINAL CINEMA TRAILER EMBEDDED BELOW TO SEE HOW THE FILM WAS MARKETED.

Still the movie’s stood the test of time and this is a great version of the much filmed story – it’s also nice to see the current DVD version showing such an impressive looking cut of the movie. The colours are vibrant and the sound booming. It is only a pity that it is a full frame 4.3 version on the UK release when I believe the American market get a true widescreen version.

Peter Cushing would of course go onto play Holmes for the BBC, but his performance as the detective here is perhaps his definitive stab at the part. Christopher Lee also got a stab at playing both Watson and Holmes in future Holmes movies but the less said about them the better.

Halloween Countdown – the great directors – George A Romero

Posted in george a romero, halloween countdown, halloween movies, night of the living dead, the dead walked, the dead weekend, video nasties, vincent stark, walkers walkers everywhere, WALKING DEAD, zombies on 10/12/2012 by vincentstark

Few directors can claim that they invented a genre but George A. Romero is someone who can make such a wild boast. Sure we had zombie movies, before Romero’s low budget 1968, Night of the Living Dead but Romero completely reinvented the genre and every single zombie movie since owes much,if not all, to the ultra low budget shocker that was, Night of the Living Dead.
Romero’s style was revolutionary – he tackled very real social issues in the form of gruesome entertainment. He followed up Night of the Living Dead with There’s Always Vanilla (1971),  a romantic comedy which the director himself calls, “a total mess.” After that he gave us, The Crazies (1971) which didn’t do well at the box office but has since become a cult classic and was remade 2010. Then he delivered  Jack’s Wife (AKA Season of the Witch) which showed a bored housewife dabbling with the occult. After that we had Martin (1978) which next to the zombie flicks may be Romero’s best movie.

Romero’s has influenced just about anybody who is anybody in the horror field. Stephen King was such a fan that the writer was thrilled to work with Romero on the 1982 anthology movie, Creepshow. But it is for his zombie trilogy – Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead and Day of the Dead that Romero will be most remembered. He returned to the undead with a fourth zombie movie, Land of the Dead in 2005 and  since then he’s given us Diary of the Dead and Survival of the Dead, but it is the original living dead trilogy that displays his best and most revolutionary movie-making.

Halloween Countdown – the great directors: Terence Fisher

Posted in dracula, halloween, halloween countdown, halloween movies, HAMMER FILMS, Uncategorized on 10/11/2012 by vincentstark

Terence Fisher is the most famous of the Hammer films directors – he started off directing low budget thrillers such as Colonel Bogey, Stolen Face and Four Sided Triangle and it wasn’t until he helmed Hammer’s first full colour gothic horror, The Curse of Frankenstein in 1957 that he became a superstar. The movie starred Peter Cushing as the devious Baron Frankenstein and Christopher Lee as the sympathetic though horrifying creature. Fisher collaborated with screenwriter, Jimmy Sangster and with producer, Anthony Hinds they became a team that would go onto rule horror cinema for a great many years. They followed up Frankenstein with the even more successful, The Horror of Dracula (1958) which gave is arguably the finest ever screen Dracula.
Fisher’s style can be traced back to the old Saturday Morning cliffhangers that were so popular in the cinema when he was growing up – his sense of pacing is legendary and his films, particularly those done for Hammer, are provide real edge of the seat viewing. In the same year as Horror of Dracula, Fisher also directed  The Revenge of Frankenstein which saw Cushing return as the baron and this time he is a true evil character, driven by his own selfish needs. And then in 1960 Fisher returned to Dracula, this time without Lee for The Brides of Dracula – this time the film made the eroticism, which was evident in The Horror of Dracula, much more explicit. Again the movie is an energetic romp with a widely inventive climax in which Cushing, bitten by a vampire, cauterizes the wound himself before tackling the vampire. The film remains great fun but suffered without Lee as Fisher was pleased when Lee returned as Dracula for Dracula: Prince of Darkness.


Given their subject matter and lurid approach, Fisher’s films, though commercially successful, were largely dismissed by critics during his career. It is only in recent years that Fisher has become recognised as an auter  in his own right. His films are characterised by a blend of fairy-tale, myth and sexuality. They may have drawn heavily on Christian themes, and there is usually a hero who defeats the powers of darkness by a combination of faith and reason.


Fisher worked on a production line basis, often directing three films in a year, but no matter how flimsy the material his sense of style, pacing and use of bold saturated colours always resulted in an enjoyable picture. Many of the Fisher directed Hammer movies are classics – The Hound of the Baskervilles, The Mummy, The Curse of the Werewolf are all movies that feature the Fisher trademarks. During the mid-Sixties Fisher was offered directing duties on the James Bond movie, You Only Live Twice but he refused and instead remained with Hammer Pictures. And although he continued to work solidly for the rest of the decade he would never recapture the glory of the early films he made for Hammer.






Classics for Halloween – The Wolf Man

Posted in halloween countdown, halloween movies, the wolf man, universal creature features, universal monster marathon, werewolves on 10/09/2012 by vincentstark

“Even a man who is pure of heart and says his prayers by night may become a wolf when the wolf bane blooms and the autumn moon is bright.”


For all the werewolf movies we’ve had over the years, the defining wolf-man comes from Universal’s  1941, The Wolf Man. Each and every werewolf movie since have owed less to the European folklore than the script written by Curt Siodmark. For the writer invented many of the conventions of the genre in Universal’s classic – even the rhyme that starts this article was written by Siodmark and not, as many people assume, from actual folklore.


The movie takes place in the fictional Welsh village of LlanWelly into which Larry Talbot (Lon Chaney Jnr) returns after being educated in the USA.  He visits a gypsy camp with village girl Jenny Williams, who is attacked by Bela Lugosi, a gypsy who has turned into a werewolf. Larry kills the werewolf but is bitten during the fight. Bela’s mother tells him that this will cause him to become a werewolf at each full moon. Larry confesses his plight to his unbelieving father, Sir John, who then joins the villagers in a hunt for the wolf. Larry, transformed by the full moon, heads for the forest and a fateful meeting with both Sir John and Gwen.


The reason this movie still works so well is totally down to Lon Chaney Jnr’s performance – the actor effectively portrays guilt, torment and sentiment and his wolf man, like Karloff’s Frankenstein, is  a pitiful character. The movie had originally been intended for Karloff but Chaney was cast at the last moment, and so good was he that it is difficult to imagine another actor as the Wolf Man.

There are several well known goofs in the movie – Talbot refers to Captain Montford, when the credits show him as Colonel Montford – When the wolf man is caught in a trap and falls over a log, the arm of his shirt raises, revealing a gloved hand – When Larry Talbot sits on the chair of his room and first changes into the Wolf Man, you see only his feet change. However, when the Wolf Man stands up, the pant legs ride up from his furry Wolf Man feet and you can see bare skin on his legs above the top of the “Wolf Man feet” boots he is wearing – When Maleva, the Gypsy woman, asks to see Larry Talbot’s wound from the wolf bite, he unbuttons and spreads his shirt front (with his bared chest outside the camera’s view). Talbot then proceeds directly home where he begins to change clothes. He removes his shirt to reveal that he is wearing a T-shirt underneath.


The film is available both as a standalone DVD and as part of the Universal’s Monsters set. The special features are the same on both versions with a documentary, trailer, commentary and a picture archive. The restoration of the transfer is up to the high standards expected from such a big name studio, and the film’s never looked or sounded better.



Top Ten Essential Halloween Horror Films (7) Friday 13th

Posted in friday13th, halloween movies, HORROR MOVIES on 10/31/2011 by vincentstark

This is not a list of what we consider to be the ten best horror movies, but merely a list of ten movies that are guaranteed to entertain and have proven important to the genre, must see movies if you like. I have limited the list to English language films and will cover foreign horror in a later post.


I don’t really rate this movie myself, finding it derivative of Halloween which had come out the year previously, but as I said this isn’t exactly a best of list, but more a listing of films that have shaped the genre, and Friday 13th certainly did that and created another modern day horror icon in Jason. That the movie may have been a cut price Halloween didn’t matter to movie goers at the time and this film actually out-grossed John Carpenter’s classic movie.

The plot – is there a plot? Well yeah but it can be summed up as a group of teenagers in the woods, a mad killer on the loose, one by one they get slaughtered until the very end  the tables are turned. The writers must have looked at John Carpenters Halloween and though of another date in the calender that was associated with terror and what better than that most dreaded of dates, Friday 13th. It’s a great title for a horror film and must have excited movie goers back in the day – it excited then enough to pack them into the cinemas in any case.

Another point about this movie is that it holds a greater claim than Halloween to having popularized the slasher genre – Halloween was a superbly crafted suspense movie while this film doesn’t really try for suspense but instead delights itself  in gory killings, each more inventive than the last. And of course it spawned a string of direct sequels plus a crossover with the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise. There has been talk of another crossover for the franchise, this time with Jason meeting both Freddy and Halloween’s Michael Myers but at the time of writing this is looking  unlikely.

Not a great film but a landmark movie in horror cimema