Legends of Horror Disc 2

The natives seem restless about offtopic posts such as one about grapefruit, so let’s get back to posts that are squarely on topic…such as this one.

The Ghost (orig. Lo spetto), 1963, color. Riccardo Freda (dir.), Barbara Steele, Peter Baldwin, Elio Jotta (as Leonard G. Elliott), Harriet Medin. 1:37 [1:35].

Set in Scotland in 1910, where a doctor who’s now paralyzed is both having odd séances and, with the help of a younger doctor, experimenting with using poisons and antidotes to try to cure the paralysis. The younger doctor is carrying on with the paralyzed doctor’s younger wife—who eventually convinces him to kill the older doctor by failing to provide the antidote. Meantime, there’s a housekeeper who’s sneaking around (and channeling dead people from time to time).

Various forms of haunting start almost immediately. There’s more, because the key to the safe has gone missing—but the housekeeper says it might be in the coat the old doctor was buried in. It is, but the safe’s empty. Or is it? The young doctor was opening the safe just as the faithless widow was called away… Anyway, there’s lots more plot, leading to an ending that not only involves some twists but winds up with all the key characters either dead or paralyzed.

It’s an unpleasant film, and may be typical of why I don’t much care for horror (although there’s only one really bloody scene). I guess there’s some psychological tension, but I mostly found the acting either overdone (Barbara Steele) or uninteresting (most everybody else). The print’s a bit choppy at the beginning. I see this was made in Italy (and, sigh, there are several other Barbara Steele flicks in the set: are these Spaghetti Horrors—or, apparently Italian Gothic horrors?) If you love horror flicks you might like this better; I’ll give it $1.00.

Crimes at the Dark House, 1940, b&w. George King (dir.), Tod Slaughter, Sylvia Marriott, Hilary Eaves, Geoffrey Wardwell, Hay Petrie, Margaret Yarde. 1:09.

The horror! The horror! Looking at the box for this 50-movie set, I see four more movies starring Tod Slaughter—six in all. I’d think my TV itself might show toothmarks given the amount of scenery-chewing going on. This time, Slaughter is an unnamed villain who, in the Australian gold fields of 1850, slays a gold prospector in his tent (in a particularly nasty way), takes his gold, discovers a letter indicating that the prospector is now a peer thanks to his father’s death—and, of course, assumes the man’s identity.

Murder follows murder as this nasty large man finds that the estate is mortgaged to the hilt, that “he” got someone pregnant (and married her) before going to Australia, that he’s now gotten another someone (a maid) pregnant—and that his only chance for financial redemption involves marrying a woman who clearly does not love him. An evil doctor who runs an insane asylum is also involved. What more to say of the plot? All over-acted (including a spectacularly absurd uncle of the young woman), all melodramatic, all very silly. Supposedly based on Wilkie Collins’ The Woman in White. One IMDB calls this “probably the best Tod Slaughter movie,” which really is a horrifying thought. Charitably, $0.75.

The Long Hair of Death (orig. I lunghi capelli della morte), 1964, b&w. Antonio Marheriti (dir.), Barbara Steele, George Ardisson, Halina Zalewska, Umberto Raho (as “Robert Rains”), Laura Nucci (as “Laureen Nuyen”), Giuliano Raffaelli (as “Jean Rafferty”), Nello Pazzafini (as “John Carey”). 1:40 [1:34]

When I started these mini-reviews of old movies, I did the reviews for all of a disc after finishing all the movies. It’s fortunate that I don’t do it that way anymore—if only because some movies, such as Crimes at the Dark House, leave so little impression that I’d have nothing to say other than “not a very good movie.” This one’s not like that and it’s also not like the earlier Barbara Steele movie, other than being dubbed and a Spaghetti Horror. This one actually is a horror film, and a pretty good one—and, fortunately, the type that gentle souls like me can watch without flinching. (No gore, lots of suspense.)

It’s set in the time of the plague—the first few scenes in 1482, the remainder in 1499, with the plague breaking in a town toward the end of the film. A woman’s being “tried” as a witch (accused of killing a nobleman), where the trial consists of pushing her into a loose structure of hay and setting fire to the structure. You know the drill, as with water trials: If she survives (which would require divine intervention), she’s not a witch; only the guilty are killed horribly.

Ah, but her oldest daughter (Steele) goes to Count Humboldt (Raffaelli) insisting that she’s innocent—the daughter knows who the real murderer is but needs time to gather evidence. The lecherous old Count says he needs to “discuss” this with her and they won’t conclude the trial without him. As he’s Having His Way With Her, the trial goes on and her mother is burned alive—hurling an imprecation at the Count and his sons as she dies. The daughter’s upset about the Count’s betrayal; he pushes her off a cliff into a waterfall to shut her up. End of problem. And end of the 1481 segment. Oh, the non-witch’s younger daughter Elizabeth (Zalewska) becomes a ward of the court, brought up in the castle (which actually seems ruled by the priest Von Klage, perhaps the only upright male among the featured cast).

We get to 1499. Elizabeth’s all grown up and has attracted the fancy of the Count’s slimy handsome son Kurt (Ardisson)—who, as we learn a bit later, is the actual murderer, killing for political reasons. He takes Elizabeth against her will and marries her. In a storm, the dead older daughter is regenerated and shows up as a beautiful stranger, Mary. About that time, the Count dies.

One thing leads to another. The murderous handsome rapist, oh, sorry, new Count wants Mary and always gets what he wants. She half-assents, half-objects to his plan to murder Elizabeth and helps him (apparently) carry out a bizarre poisoning, burial in a crypt, removal from the crypt and return to her bed—presumably suffocated. Oone thing leads to another in a fast and furious final half hour, with the end result being…that would be a spoiler, but it’s very satisfactory all around.

I’ve talked about the plot too much, and I suppose there are spoilers there—but what it comes down to is a well-plotted, ghost-based story of revenge that works very well. The atmospherics are sound, the setting properly medieval, the acting appropriate for what it is, Steele (in two parts very good here, and the film slow-moving but in a good way. The only real flaws are some mediocre digitization and background noise on parts of the soundtrack. It’s not great, but it’s not bad: $1.25.

The Incredible Petrified World, 1957, b&w. Jerry Warren (dir.), John Carradine, Robert Clarke, Phyllis Coates, Allen Windsor, Sheila Noonan, George Skaff, Maurice Bernard. 1:10 [1:06]

I reviewed this as part of the 50 Sci-Fi Classics set in late 2005. Fast-forwarding through the whole thing, this appears to be the same print quality, although it’s a few minutes longer—and it’s a stretch to call it a horror film. Here’s what I said in the earlier review:

I suppose the diving bell (how could man ever hope to penetrate the depths of the ocean?) might count as scifi. Diving bell on its first deep-sea dive breaks loose, four inhabitants presumed crushed at the bottom of the sea (or something), but they see light, and swim up to…caverns, which have plenty of food and fresh water and air. Eventually, they meet a crazy old man who’s been trapped there—under a volcano—for 14 years. After spending most of the movie walking up and down sections of Colossal Caverns in Tucson, where this was filmed, they manage to get rescued by a rival diving bell. Losing [a few] minutes probably helps, but the flick is still awfully slow moving. The mediocre print does the film justice. $1 as a curiosity.

2 Responses to “Legends of Horror Disc 2”

  1. I love good peaches... says:

    Comment deleted by blog owner.

    Guess what? This comment–from the same IP address as previous offensive ones–falls into the policy I just posted.

    But because I just posted it, I won’t post the name of the international law firm from whose IP address this originated. Yet.

  2. Steve Kaye says:

    I admit to having a fondness for Barbara Steele sometimes out of proportion to the quality of her movies. But Black Sunday is wonderful, if you haven’t seen it.

    Jerry Warren, if I remember correctly, bought up foreign films on the cheap and added in footage, Which might explain some of the quality – he was sort of a less-talented Roger Corman.