Legends of Horror, Disc 1

This may be an odd voyage, because I’m not much of a horror-movie fan, and probably won’t even watch movies with contemporary gore or torture approaches. I would not have purchased this set, but Mill Creek sent it to me for free—and my loyal readers voted that I should watch it before the other (purchased) sets. Since the 50 movies include all 20 from the Alfred Hitchcock set (most of them not horror movies by any plausible definition), that means watching no more than 30 others—so we’ll see how it goes.

Jamaica Inn.

[Previously reviewed: $1.50]

The Demon, 1979, color. Percival Rubens (dir.), Jennifer Holmes, Cameron Mitchell, Craig Gardner, Zoli Marki. 1:34.

The sleeve description is almost entirely wrong. The deranged killer doesn’t kill a family and abduct the daughter: He does such a sloppy job of killing the mother that the father is able to free her unharmed. The town may be terrified, but in fact we see nothing of town attitudes. The psychic (a former Marine) is the parents’ only hope; the town isn’t involved. This is, I guess, set in South Africa—it was filmed there.

Maybe the blurb-writer got confused because this flick is an incoherent mess. There are essentially two slightly-overlapping plots, both featuring “the demon”—a brutally strong guy who never talks, wears a face mask and gloves with claws when out on the prowl, and who seems to favor killing people by suffocating them with plastic bags (except that, in his first attempt here, he doesn’t bother to tighten the rope at the base of the bag around the mother’s neck) and carrying off young women, who wind up dead. The first plot features a guy (Cameron Mitchell) with the “gift of ESP,” who chews the scenery fiercely, hands out random clues and mostly gets the father killed—and himself, when he comes back to apologize to the mother and she shoots him on the spot. That does include the one good bit of dialogue in the entire movie.

The second plot involves two young women, sisters or cousins, who both work in a preschool and seem to spend a lot of time nude from the waist up (and, for one of them, entirely nude—for reasons that might have moved the plot forward but not in any way I could discern). The “demon” is stalking one of them and winds up killing the other one and her newfound lover…and gets killed in a climax that’s even stupider than the rest of the flick. (I’d describe it, but you’d think the film was a comedy, which it isn’t.)

What did I conclude? South African front doors have great locks but no peepholes, and the inhabitants gladly open the door for any knocks. Oh, and once the doors are locked, they can’t be opened from the inside. Apparently a bunch of shots of a shore with waves breaking over rocks are supposed to mean something, but I could never figure out what. Apparently young South African women of the era (they’re white, and one is apparently a visiting American) do their hair and makeup while half-dressed (and, if attempting to climb out the roof through those readily-removable tiles to escape, drop their robes as a matter of course—I dunno, maybe being mostly nude saves weight?). Otherwise…well, the print and digitization are lousy, with soft focus and night scenes that turn into vast arrays of gray. I’m being very generous in giving this one $0.50.

Murder in the Red Barn (orig. Maria Marten, or The Murder in the Red Barn), 1935, b&w. Milton Rosmer (dir.), Tod Salughter, Sophie Stewart, D.J. Williams, Eric Portman, Clare Greet. 1:10 [0:58]

After the lead characters are introduced as part of a stage play, we get a melodrama of sorts. Handsome Gypsy Carlos is in love with farmer’s daughter Maria—but she plays up to the wealthy Squire Corder. When she sneaks out of the house to see him, he Has His Way With Her, leading—well, where does this always lead? Meanwhile, Corder has gambled away large sums that he does not have, but knows of a way to get through marriage to a spinster.

When Maria’s father discovers her condition, he does what you’d expect in a melodrama (never darken my door again!), she goes to Corder for help…and we get the title of the flick. Although Corder does his best to frame Carlos, things unravel.

Overacted, to be sure (Tod Slaughter as Corder chews the scenery with gusto), and primitive—but not bad in its own way. Based on a true story, supposedly. Still, as presented here, it’s barely a B picture. I’ll give it $0.75.

The Ape Man, 1943, b&w. William Beaudine (dir.), Bela Lugosi, Louise Currie, Wallace Ford, Henry Hall, Minerva Urecal. 1:04.

Bela Lugosi stars as Dr. Brewster, reported missing but actually turned into a half-gorilla through his own experiments. He concludes that the only way to reverse the process is with human spinal fluid—but that can only be obtained by killing people. Oh, and he has an ape or gorilla sidekick who’s helping him kill people when Brewster isn’t beating up on the animal. That’s the horror part of it. Otherwise, it’s an odd combination of bad comedy (there’s a strange little guy that keeps pushing people toward the story—and I won’t give away the one sad little surprise in this movie by saying what his deal is), reporter byplay and—well, it’s just not a very good picture. Badly acted, done on the cheap, just plain poor.

Add to that frequently-distorted soundtrack making dialogue difficult to understand and just enough missing frames to be annoying, and it’s hard to give this more than $0.75.

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