Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Giant Behemoth (1959)

Genre: Horror, Monster

Source: TV (Channel TCM )

Grade: B

This movie was seriously Great Britain's  answer to Japan's Godzilla! Yeah, both boasted very similar themes such as Atom-Age monsters provoked by a nuclear bomb, both had prehistoric monster designs, and both monsters lay waste to their countries biggest cities (Godzilla`s being Tokyo and The Giant Behemoths being London). Besides all that when you boil down to it 1959s The Giant Behemoth is a cool entertaining monster movie, but by no means at all a masterpiece.

           In a nutshell the movie`s story is about a prehistoric monster that is disturbed by all the dumping of radioactive waste in the ocean, so it rises from the sea and terrorizes the English coast. Oh and did I mention it can shoot electric shocks and radioactive beams from its mouth? Well, as a matter of fact it does! To make that even better the army cant destroy the monster by means of conventional weaponry because that would just cause radioactive contamination to spread across the entire country. Oh yes the plot thickens....anyways as you can probably see on par with other monster movies this one is pretty badass.
One thing though about this movie was it took them way to long to getting around to actually appearing. The movies only about 1hour 20 mins long and good half hour is spent before the monster actually shows up. Instead they fill that gap with boring filler charecter arguments and discussions and other pointless boring things. But when they finally get done screwing around and bring in the monster it is oh so awesome! They did not hold back either, the devastation this monster causes is just awesome, people get crushed under falling bricks, get burned to a crisp by the Behemoths radioactive breath, and are drowned after there boat is capsized by the Behemoth. Despite its setbacks the monsters wake of destruction makes the movie totally worth watching.

            The most notable person who worked on this film was without a doubt special effects wizard Willis O`Brian. The man who provided the ground breaking special effects in such movies as 1933s King Kong, 1957s The Black Scorpion, and 1922s The Lost World. He was also the very person who served as the inspiration for Ray Harryhousen among countless other filmmakers. Anyhow that being said I am sorry to say that this was not one of his best pieces of work. His giant Behemoth just didnt have the same awesomeness factor that his other monsters had like King Kong and The Black Scorpions. Don`t get me wrong now, the monster looked great in comparison to other monster movies of the time but it just wasn`t as good in comparison to O`Brian`s other monsters he`d done. And hey its still way better then any of that CGI crap that pollutes our movies today.
           I would also like to complement the movies Cinematography and Direction. Very good use of shadows, as well as a few cool close ups of the monster. Actor wise I was not very familiar with any of the movies stars but none the less they all put in straight forward, serious performances that helped make the movie even more watchable.

     Alright now so in all 1959s The Giant Behemoth was a fairly decent B grade movie. The storys fairly good, despite its obvious cash off's to previous monster movies of the decade such as Godzilla and The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms. The monster itself is pretty sweet looking, only wish they featured more of it. Then finally the movies ending was just great! I`m not even going to say what it is but trust me its one of those "Oh dang that sucks for them" endings. You`ll just have to see it for your self.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Happy Birthday Peter Lorre

Today Marks the 108th birthday of one of the all time greatest most underrated and imitated actors of all time! The great Peter Lorre born on June 26th in the country of Hungry, Lorre got his big start playing the child murder in the classic Fritz Lang movie M, eventually he went to England were he actually got to work with Alfred Hitchcock in two of his movies the first being the thriller THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH in 1934 were he played the bad guy Abbott, and the second being the spy movie SECRET AGENT in 1936 were he played The General who supposed to be a good guy but was more of a anti hero, you just got to see it to understand what I mean. The two movies were phenomenal both in the sense of Lorres performance and Hitchcock`s directing. A bit of trivia on the first movie, when Lorre did it he hardly knew any English at all and pretty did all his lines phonetically,so had got the role by just nodding and laughing at everything Hictchock said.
      Lorre has also become a icon in the Horror movies. My personal all time favourite of his was the 1935 horror film MAD LOVE, this movie is one the best horror films i`ve ever seen and Lorre is at his all time best in it. Its just simply a crazy one of a kind horror film. Other horror films of his included THE BOOGIE MAN WILL GET YOU a comedy horror film that also stared Boris Karloff, THE BEAST WITH FIVE FINGERS a great psychological horror film, and THE COMEDY OF TERRORS yet another horror comedy that also starred Basil Rathbone, Boris Karloff, and Vincent Price. And thouse are just a few of his many great horror films that he starred in.  
       Peter Lorre didn't just get type-casted in Horror films like his fellow country man Bela Lugosi, his roles branched into many different genres such as Science Fiction in movies such as VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA and 20,000 THOUSAND LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA. Mystery's and Crime movies such as THE MALTESE FALCON, CRIME AND PUNISHMENT and YOU`LL FIND OUT. Not only that he`s had a role in the timeless classic CASABLANCA and he`s even gotten a Looney Tunes character made after him!
         Yes, Peter Lorre is a one of a kind actor, who`s just an incredibly interesting person and who`s filmography is so vast. He worked with some of the greatest minds in Hollywood such as Alfred Hitchcock, Fritz Lang, Boris Karloff, Humphrey Bogart, Vincent Price, Basil Rathbone, and many others. He`s been countlessly imitated from his time to the present. But everyone knows there will always be one Peter Lorre.

                           PETER LORRE BORN JUNE 26th 1904- DIED MARCH 23rd 1964

Sunday, June 19, 2011

The Funhouse (1981)

Genre: Horror, Slasher

Source: Netflix (Instant View)

Grade: B

 One thing i`d like to say before I get started is, I for one am not crazy about slashers. I`m some what critical of them and they very rarely make my priority list. That being said my utmost approval of this movie and the fact that i`m reviewing it is actual saying a lot!
   Though true this movie isn't one of the greatest horror movie`s ever, but i`d have to say it was one of the best slashers, but that's mainly having to do with its well made, interesting, creepy story.  

         Yes, the first thing i`d like to talk about is the movie`s awesome story. Which in a nutshell consists of four teenagers who decide it`d be cool to spend the night in a travelling carnivals infamous Funhouse. But after witnessing a murder and stupidly stealing some of his money behind his back, the furious carnie sends his huge son who wears a Frankenstein mask to go and kill them all. Plus to make it better they are locked inside this big old Funhouse with no escape. As for characters they are all your typical teens from a slasher movie, and that's all to be said about that. Now but whats interesting is the masked killer, well actually he`s only masked for about a quarter of the movie, and the main reason he wore a Frankenstein mask is since this movie was distributed by Universal studios they wanted director Tobe Hooper to use one of there "monsters" as the mask. Anyhow when the killer takes off the mask its not exactly what you`d expect, but its definitely Shocking! 
           One of the films biggest pluses is its set design! I mean wow, these sets were extremely well put together. They truly added a sense of fear that you'd usually only get in like a Halloween maze at Knott`s Scary Farm. Then the brilliant set design just really added to the movie`s atmosphere, giving it this creepy, run-down, suspenseful atmosphere. Not something you typically find in a slasher movie.

  Well keeping this review brief, its definitely worth checking out, even if your just mildly interested. Its not as bloody as I thought it`d be but instead it was way more suspenseful then I thought it was going to be. Then Tobe Hooper puts in a swell job of with his directing style in all the areas of the movie,(atmosphere,shock value, etc.). Plus with the superb set design that adds so much suspense and atmosphere, it will over shadow the movies semi predictable ending, which i`m not even going to get into. So bottom-line Tobe Hoopers The Funhouse is a movie that's definitely be worth a view 

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Tarantula (1955)

Genre: Horror, Monster

Source: TV ( Channel TCM )

Grade: B+

In case you didnt know already I am a HUGE fan of the Giant Insect Genre, especially that of the ones from the 50s. For example 1954s Giant Ant movie "Them!" is my all time favourite from the subgenre, not only that but Them! is one of my favourite movie`s ever made. Another Gem from the the giant insect subgenre would have to be Bert I.Gordons Earth Vs.The Spider from 1958, a terrific and utterly terrifying giant spider movie. Anyway`s back to Tarantula as you can probably imagine i`d been really looking forward to seeing this movie, reason being other then the obvious I love Giant Insect Movies, I heard a great deal of praise regarding this movie from various sources online and from my friend Mike who had a lot of good things to say about this movie and highly recommended it to me.

       So does Tarantula belong with the likes of such movie`s as THEM! and Earth Vs The Spider? Answer is yes and no, yes it is a awesome monster movie that is truly well made, but its just not as good as either Them! or Earth Vs The Spider. Nor is it a horrible 50s monster like the Giant Gilla Monster from 1959. Its just the things that held it back from being better were was the monster isn't in the movie enough! In fact you have to like wait half the movie before it actually does much. Its just to much of the movie was spent trying to figure out what was terrorizing the area, because us the audience obviously knew it was a Giant Spider that was doing all the damage so when the main character finds out it was a giant spider there was really no shock value. Then I felt to much I felt to much focus was spent on the whole love connection between the main character and the leading lady! It`s not that I absolutely hate that sorta stuff, its that I REALLY DONT CARE! I want to see a giant spider eat someone alive not John Agar and hitting on Mara Corday.

      Ok, now despite those flaws this movie still had some very unique, memorable traits. Such as first off the way the monsters created was unique and against the norm, because instead of being created by Atomic Bomb related stuff  or by a Mad scientist bent on world domination, instead its created on accident by a few well meaning scientists only looking towards the progression of medical science. Then the monster looks very realistic, and that would have to do with the fact that its a real live spider! Yes, this is one of those movie`s were they toke a real animal and as in this one a Tarantula and put him on a small scale set were then the director Jack Arnold used Air jets to make the spider move in the desired way over their little miniature landscapes. You know at the end were they naplam the spider and it burns to death, I have no doubt that was a real spider that they just lit on fire.

       The movie also features a great cast such as John Agar who went on to be quite a Sci-Fi Icon with people such as Kevin McCarthy and Peter Graves, The Mara Corday put in a great performance as the leading lady/love interest. She to went on to play in a number of other Sci-Fi / Horror films such as The Black Scorpion and The Giant Claw. But most memorable of all is the little uncredited bit part Clint Eastwood played, yep this one of his first movie`s. You wouldn't see him until the end though were he plays the Jet Pilot who kills the giant spider with Napalm. To me that was just so cool to see one of my idols playing alittle bit part in such a unexpected movie.

  Well all in all Tarantula is a great monster movie that definitely has its place among the monster movie hall of fame. With it`s great cast, awesome monster, and good  direction Tarantula is a movie that I feel I would highly recommend to the average monster movie fan. 

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Murders In The Rue Morgue (1932)

Genre: Horror, Mad Scientist

 Source: Rental (Netflix)

 Grade: A-

  Well another day goes by and once again I find myself watching a damn good Bela Lugosi movie based on an Edgar Allan Poe story. Or better put "loosely" based. Though unlike 41`s The Black Cat this one is slightly more faithful to its source material. Never the less though this movie completely strays from the original Poe story about a old detective and a macabre murder case. No instead this movie takes its own path based around a mad scientist, rage, revenge, and obsession. It strays in other aspects as well such as it isn't a mystery story at all like the original book, and Duplin rather then being an old detective is portrayed here as a young scientist.
         Now in defence of this movie it does keep a couple elements from the original book like the psycho gorilla, the two women who are assaulted in their house, and the body that gets stuffed/crammed into the chimney. All these were graciously included into this movie.
Though one thing in this movie i`d like to praise in particular is the style of directing this film took on. The director Robert Florey (who was a contender to direct the original Frankenstein!), definitely was at his best here. He brings in some insanely dark, eerie, creepy atmospheres that with Bela Lugosi work just so well. I also admittadly picked up on the very high influence of German Expressionism through out this movie, particularly that of  The Cabinet Of Doctor Caligari. Just look at the set design and you`ll see what I mean.
           The other thing I wanted to bring to light was the performance of Bela Lugosi in this. Wow, he was truly incredible in this, also it was his first Horror movie role since Dracula (which I think came out a little less then a year before this). Anyway`s  Lugosi brings in a certain amount of madness and obsession into his character that it will make you shiver a little in comfortableness!
              Sadly though upon this movie`s release it was a box office disappointment, which lead to Universal refusing to renew Lugosis oe year contract with them. Not only that but apparently this movie was drastically cut, from 80 mins to the 61 mins that we have today in order to "tone it down'' of all ridiculousness. Fortunately it does not show at all and i`d have never none otherwise unless I hadn`t read it already on Any how bottom line this movie Rocks. Its dark, its disturbing, and its got Bela Lugosi at his all time best one again. Its a true piece of artwork and an overall amazing horror film. 

Saturday, June 4, 2011

The Black Cat (1941)

Genre: Horror,Murderer,Comedic

Source: My Own Collection

Grade: A

If your wondering how much relevance this hard to find Universal movie has to the classic story by Edgar Allan Poe; the answer is very LITTLE! Yeah this movie is much more of Murder Mystery Comedy as opposed to the tale of gruesome Murder,intense Psychological Guilt,and Insanity that the story The Black Cat is really about.
    Regardless of its relevance to the classic Poe story, this movie is actually a rather funny, suspenseful, and well acted movie. Its stroy revolves around a bunch of greedy heirs who are stuck in this creepy mansion were one by one they keep turning up mysteriously dead. The reason none of them can just simply leave the house is there is a terrible storm going on outside and its completely washed away the bridge. (yes such a cliché, but hey its the 1940s so give it a break). Now to make it even better some "Abbott and Costello" like characters accidentally get stuck in the mansion. Were they provide pretty much all the comedy. One of my favourite lines was when the one main character tells Basil Rathbones character "Listen to this guy,he thinks he`s Sherlock Holmes". (For those of you who have no idea what i`m talking about Basil Rathbone played Sherlock Holmes in a ton of movie`s and to date is probably arguably the best actor to portray Sherlock Holmes).Which leads me to another thing, this movie is a "who dun it" style mystery and they do a great job in keeping you guessing on who`s culprit, because they seriously make almost everyone a suspicious character. So they definitely did a good job at keeping the murderer mysterious.
     If your wondering how at all this is anything like the story by Edgar Allan Poe, this is how; Ever time someone would get killed a black cat would mysteriously be at the scene making some creepy evil sounding meow, and then at the end of this movie the black cat sort of gives away who the murderer is somewhat but not really like in the original story. Ah yeah that is about it, so it barely qualifies as an adaptation of the classic story.

The movie`s cast is also very well set up with two of my favourite actors Bela Lugosi and Basil Rathbone. Sadly though Lugosi is hardly in it, were he plays the gardener edwardo. At least when he is on screen its an flat out awesome performance, I really just don`t understand why they couldn`t give him more Screen time. Next Basil Rathbone plays a greedy heir Monty, thankfully he has plenty of screen time and he puts that great sinister edge into his character in such a way that only he could pull off. As far as the rest of the cast, they are all pretty decent actors. Like Hugh Herbert and Broadrick Crawford make a pretty funny comedy duo, were they actually, made me laugh out loud at both their jokes and their silly slapstick routines (such as when Herberts character full on tackles  a suit of armour). I would also like to make note of Gale Sondergaard`s performance as she played the role of the house keeper Abigail, she was really good for the role. Sinister yet weirdly hot at the sametime.

  Well overall this movie was a pretty good movie.It had some good laughs, some interesting characters, and a little suspense thrown in there. The only thing is if your looking for a direct faithful adaptation to the book by Edgar Allan Poe this is not all the place to look. On the other hand if your looking for a good old Horror Comedy from the 40s with such horror icons as Bela Lugosi and Basil Rathbone then this is the movie for you!