Legends of Horror, Disc 10

This disc really points up why I probably shouldn’t be doing these reviews. I loathe gore flicks and what now seems to be standard slasher horrorshows, with their oodles of “blood” and crazed killers. I almost stopped watching the first flick 20 minutes in—and that might have been the right decision. So if you’re a fan of stupid bloody horror, just ignore these reviews. If you’re a true connoisseur of “holiday axe murderers” and the like…I really don’t want to know about it.

Silent Night, Bloody Night, 1974, color. Theodore Gershuny (dir.), Patrick O’Neal, James Patterson, Mary Woronov, Astrid Heeren, John Carradine, Walter Abel. 1:28 [1:21]

The idiocy starts right at the beginning, as a man whose coat is on fire runs from a house into a snow-covered field—and doesn’t drop-and-roll, even by accident. Nope. No matter how often he falls down, it’s always forward and he gets back up and keeps running as he’s burning to death.

But that’s a flashback. Today, we have a long-abandoned house about to be sold. The devil-may-care adulterous lawyer up with his hot French girlfriend to sell it for quick cash, by order of an owner he’s never met—and, of course, staying the night in the abandoned house, not in the motel the town council suggests. People always respond to mystery messages by going, one at a time, usually unarmed, to meet their fates. And, if you want to stretch things far enough, you could conclude that Only The Good Survived…

Awful, awful, awful. Badly filmed, poorly acted (John Carradine doesn’t help matters and Patrick O’Neal is a joke), crappy direction, poor production and a worthless screenplay. Maybe the one good thing it has going is the opening music—a minor-key arrangement of Stille Nacht, Heilige Nacht that’s surprisingly unsettling. I’m being exceedingly generous by my own standards to give this piece of trash $0.25.

Horror Express (aka Panic in the Trans-Siberian Train), 1972, color. Eugenio Martin (dir.), Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Alberto de Mendoza, Julio Pena, Angel del Pozo, Telly Savalas. 1:28.

This is a cross between science fiction and horror, beginning with an expedition in China but with all the action taking place on the Trans-Siberian Express. A British anthropologist has discovered a “fossil”—some sort of caveman or missing link encased in a block of ice. Another scientist is returning with his assistant. The train also includes a count, countess, their crazed Russian priest, a beautiful spy, and a police chief—and an engineer who studied under Tsiolkovsky, the early Russian rocket theorist.

All of which comes into play as we get one corpse and another, in both cases with wholly white eyes. After one scientist (who’s also a medical doctor) notes that the eyes on a steamed fish at dinner are wholly white, he does an autopsy on the second victim—and finds that the brain is entirely smooth, which (he intuits) means that their memories have all been sucked out. Okay…well, things continue, and we learn much more along with quite a few deaths along the way, all with the same briefly-horrible eye-bleeding/eye-whitening scene, always in the dark or near-dark. I won’t give more of the plot away, such as it is, except to note that it ends with a deliberate train crash but also most potential victims saved. We get mind/being transfer and even blind zombies of a sort.

Telly Savalas as a scenery-chewing Cossack. A strong cast (Lee and Cushing are the two scientists), interesting script and decent acting. It’s entirely on a train ride (after the first few minutes)—always a good thing for enhancing mystery and suspense. The print is a little wonky at times and never all that good. All in all, $1.50.

The Nightmare Never Ends (orig. Cataclysm), 1979, color. Phillip Marshak (and others, dir.), Cameron Mitchell, Marc Lawrence, Faith Clift, Richard Moll, Maurice Grandmaison. 1:34 [1:28]

Life really is too short. I gave this half an hour, which is probably 15 minutes too long. Given the miserable quality of the print (soft, with bad colors—and it’s not clear whether the bad colors are deliberate), lousy production (from what I could see) and incoherent plot, direction, script and acting, I just couldn’t see going through the whole thing.

What I could get of the plot up to that point: There’s a famous (Nobel laureate!) professor who’s an atheist and has just published his most important work, God is Dead. (There’s a problem here: A proper atheist wouldn’t write such a book because a nonexistent being can’t die.) His beautiful wife is a doctor and a devout Catholic, who firmly believes in God and Satan. Let’s see. There’s a Las Vegas fake clairvoyance act, where the admittedly-phony clairvoyant dies (or is murdered) immediately after getting the wife to visualize her nightmare around a Nazi dinner party. There’s an old Jewish Nazi hunter who’s almost entirely incoherent, but who believes a young man is actually one of his targets from 35 years previous—and who gets his face ripped off as he’s being killed (and, of course, the corpse ends up with the doctor/wife).

I’m sure there’s lots more, but I found it unwatchable both because of the print and the movie itself. Cameron Mitchell’s cop isn’t terribly well played but stands out among the rest of this. Looking at IMDB, it appears that it isn’t just a bad print or digitization; it’s a lousy film with bad production values and terrible acting and plot. It gets a rare $0.

Count Dracula and His Vampire Bride (orig. The Satanic Rites of Dracula), 1973, color, widescreen. Alan Gibson (dir.), Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Michael Coles, William Franklyn, Freddie Jones, Joanna Lumley, Richard Vernon, Barbara Yu Ling. 1:27.

The final Hammer film with Christopher Lee as Count Dracula and Peter Cushing as Dr. Van Helsing, presented in wide screen (not anamorphic, but a zoom mode should work) and in a decent print (with damage at a few spots). Contemporary setting, with Dracula as an industrialist poised to unleash a much more deadly version of The Plague, developed by a scientist (who won the Nobel for “science and humanity,” one of the more obscure categories). Some nudity (mostly as part of a Satanic ritual), some violence, lots of female vampires, and evil in high places.

Pretty good as these things go—after all, with Lee and Cushing in a Hammer film, how far wrong can you go? Some of the plot is a little bizarre (why would Dracula want to destroy the entire world?) and the addition of hawthorne trees as deadly to vampires seems odd, but, well… As to the title: It involves Van Helsing’s beautiful granddaughter (Joanna Lumley) and is a little misleading, but there you go—the original title makes more sense. $1.50.

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