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Horror Cinema: 13 Features [3 Discs] [DVD]

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Overview

Synopsis

A Bucket of Blood
A fine example -- perhaps the best available -- of "B"-movie overlord Roger Corman's "Weekend Wonders" from the producer/director's early career (see also the original Little Shop of Horrors), this horror-comedy was also the first of beloved actor Dick Miller's dozen-odd portrayals of the character Walter Paisley. A geeky waiter and busboy at a happening Beatnik café, Walter is intensely jealous of the swinging social lives of the artistic types who hang there. A bizarre twist of fate changes everything; when Paisley accidentally kills his landlady's cat, his frantic attempts to hide the body lead him to encase it in a layer of clay, creating a morbid sculpture -- which is eventually discovered and hailed as an artistic triumph by the unwitting Bohemian art crowd. (When asked what he's named the piece, the befuddled Walter stammers, "Uhh... Dead Cat?") Beset by numerous requests for similar "truthful" works, the moronic Paisley is forced to find inspiration -- a matter which is readily solved when a nosy undercover cop tries to slap a heroin-possession charge on him and finds himself on the business end of a cast-iron skillet. Before long, the creative urge prods Walter to narrow the competition by whacking his peers with various blunt or sharp implements, and the demand for more sculptures just keeps growing. Miller's tour-de-force performance, writer Charles B. Griffith's hilarious "Daddy-O" dialogue, and Corman's emphasis on the story's more lurid aspects raise this bargain-basement production (ultra-cheap even by Corman's standards) to classic status. ~ Cavett Binion, Rovi

Mutant
A muscular pair of Yankee brothers visit a backwater Georgia town and end up involved with rednecked mutant zombies. The campy horror begins when brother Mike suddenly disappears. Puzzled brother Josh, with the help of Sheriff Will Stewart and schoolmarm Holly begin a desperate search. Unfortunately more trouble ensues when they find that toxic waste has transformed their normally peaceable neighbors into scary monsters. ~ Sandra Brennan, Rovi

Count Dracula and His Vampire Bride
The final installment in Hammer Studios' Dracula series is also the least interesting of the lot. A fairly direct follow-up to Dracula A.D. 1972, this sequel finds the Count (Christopher Lee) developing a potent strain of bubonic plague which he and his devil-worshipping disciples plan to release from 1970's London to wipe out nearly all life on earth. His efforts are challenged once again by the dedicated Dr. Van Helsing (Peter Cushing), leading to a rather uninvolving climax. Despite the always-welcome presence of Lee and Cushing, this installment plays too flagrantly with the time-honored Hammer Gothic formula, giving Dracula actual dialogue and surrounding the leads with a dull, amateurish supporting cast -- with the possible exception of Joanna Lumley (later of BBC-TV's Absolutely Fabulous). This also marked Lee's final performance as the Count and signaled the beginning of the end for Hammer's horror heyday. Also known as Satanic Rites of Dracula and Dracula is Dead and Well and Living in London. ~ Cavett Binion, Rovi

Dead Men Walk
This painfully cheap but wildly entertaining PRC production stars a hammy George Zucco in a dual role as the Clayton Twins -- both doctors, one good, one evil. Elwyn Clayton, a practitioner of the black arts, is murdered by his brother Lloyd and returns from the dead as a vampire to seek revenge with the aid of his leering, hunchbacked assistant (Dwight Frye -- who else?). He exacts his vengeance by brutally murdering Elwyn's associates, with all evidence pointing to the only living twin. Jungle Siren director Sam Newfield makes the most of the paltry budget, helped greatly by Zucco's typically flamboyant performance -- which threatens to out-camp even that of legendary eye-roller Frye (who would die of a heart attack some months after this film's completion). ~ Cavett Binion, Rovi

I Bury the Living
Unjustly ignored by many books on the horror film, I Bury the Living is a bone-chilling little mood piece, almost completed dominated by Richard Boone. Expertly avoiding the obvious throughout the film, Boone gives a thoroughly credible performance of a troubled man who labors under the misapprehension that he is God. Boone plays the new chairman of a large cemetery; in his office is a map of the grounds, with black pins representing the occupied plots, and white pins representing plots that have been purchased but not yet filled. When Boone inadvertently mixes up the black and white pins, several of the plot owners suffer untimely deaths. Inevitably, Boone becomes convinced that he has the power of life and death--a conviction that doesn't completely dissipate once the secret behind the sudden deaths is revealed. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Horror Hotel
George Baxt scripted this extraordinarily good chiller from a story by Milton Subotsky, who also co-produced. A college student (Venetia Stevenson) with an interest in witchcraft goes to the Massachusetts town of Whitewood. It's a foggy, spooky town which gets even scarier when Stevenson discovers that the owner of the Raven's Inn, Mrs. Newlis (Patricia Jessel) is in fact a 268-year old witch. Jessel sold her soul to the Devil to regain her life after being burned at the stake. The whole town is her coven, including Stevenson's kindly history professor (Christopher Lee). Stevenson's boyfriend and brother arrive to look for her and discover human sacrifices and all sorts of evil goings-on. One of the few horror films of the period which still has the power to frighten, Horror Hotel is required viewing for genre fans. ~ Robert Firsching, Rovi

The Human Monster
In this horror movie, a freaky physician bilks insurance money from blind patients by offing them in gruesome, but creative ways. The film is also titled "Human Monster." ~ Sandra Brennan, Rovi

The Terror
In this horror chiller, an intriguing, beautiful woman (Sandra Knight) keeps re-appearing to early 19th-century Lt. Duvalier (Jack Nicholson), and he is led to a castle where he finds an imposter of Baron Von Leppe (Boris Karloff). He becomes trapped in the ancient castle and tries to make sense of the eerie situation. Director Roger Corman (with the help of a few other directors, including Francis Ford Coppola) shot most of this within a few days after finishing The Raven--utilizing the same set. ~ Kristie Hassen, Rovi

The Ape Man
The Devil Bat
This campy, entertaining cheapie from PRC Pictures features Bela Lugosi as a chemist who plots an elaborate revenge scheme on his business partners, whom he feels have cheated him out of his share. To this end he develops a mutant breed of vicious, oversized bats and trains several of this breed to home in on a special chemical which he then blends with shaving lotion. Presenting gifts of the lotion to his partners as a peace offering (and browbeating them into splashing it on themselves while in his presence), he subsequently unleashes his monstrous pets to tear them to pieces. Believe it or not, this was one of PRC's more successful horror programmers, spawning a the sequel Devil Bat's Daughter. ~ Cavett Binion, Rovi

The Gorilla
When Fox bought the rights to Ralph Spence's warhorse stage mystery-comedy The Gorilla for the Ritz Brothers, they walked out en masse, refusing to work on the picture until their contracts were renegotiated and the script heavily rewritten. The finished product features an escaped circus gorilla apparently perpetrating a series of murders. Imperiled lawyer Walter Stevens (Lionel Atwill) may well be the next victim, so he summons detectives Garrity, Harrigan and Mullivan (Jimmy, Harry and Al Ritz) to provide protection. It turns out that (a) the murderer is human rather than simian, (b) Stevens is hardly a paragon of virtue, and (c) the person really in danger is young heiress Norma Denby (Anita Louise). Long unavailable for reappraisal, The Gorilla resurfaced on the public-domain market in 1976. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

The Invisible Ghost
Invisible Ghost is far from the best of Bela Lugosi's Monogram vehicles (if indeed there is such a thing), but with Joseph H. Lewis at the controls it is far and away the best directed. Lugosi is cast as Kessler, an otherwise normal gentleman who goes balmy whenever he thinks about his late wife (Betty Compson). It gets worse when Kessler is transformed via hypnosis into an unwitting murderer, apparently at the behest of his wife's ghost. An innocent man (John McGuire) is executed for Kessler's first murder, but the victim's twin brother (also John McGuire) teams with Kessler's daughter (Polly Ann Young) to determine the identity of the true killer. Though cheaply made, The Invisible Ghost maintains an appropriately spooky atmosphere throughout, with Lugosi delivering a full-blooded performance as a basically decent man controlled by homicidal impulses beyond his ken. Best of all is the non-stereotypical performance by african-american actor Clarence Muse as Lugosi's articulate, take-charge butler. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

The Devil's Hand
A mystery woman leads an ordinary man down an evil path in this intriguing horror story. Rick Turner (Robert Alda) is a man haunted by a recurring dream in which a beautiful woman in a flowing white gown dances for him. The dream is robbing Rick of his sleep and driving a wedge between him and his fiancée Donna (Ariadna Welter), so he's startled when one day he passes a shop window and sees a doll that looks just like the woman in his dreams. The owner of the shop, Frank Lamont (Neil Hamilton), informs Rick that the doll was custom-made for a client, and Rick arranges to deliver it to her himself. Rick arrives at the luxurious apartment of Bianca (Linda Christian) to discover she is the very image of the woman in his dream, and she appears to know him already. Rick learns that both Bianca and Frank are members of a mysterious satanic cult that uses the dolls as part of their ceremonies; Rick becomes a regular visitor to their meetings and becomes deeply involved with Bianca after Donna is suddenly bedridden. But does Bianca have a plan for Rick that he doesn't yet suspect? The Devil's Hand was also released under the title Live To Love. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi

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