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Horror Classics Collection: 50 Movie Pack [12 Discs] [DVD]

  • SKU: 6681922
  • Release Date: 01/20/2004
  • Rating: R
  • 4.0 (2)
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Overview

Ratings & Reviews

Overall Customer Rating:
4.0
100% of customers would recommend this product to a friend (2 out of 2)

Synopsis

The Ape
This painfully-bad Monogram feature wastes the talents of two of horrordom's finest -- star Boris Karloff and co-writer Curt Siodmak (who would write the horror classic The Wolf Man for Universal the same year). The goofy plot involves the efforts of one Dr. Adrian (Karloff) to procure human spinal fluid for his polio-vaccine research by donning the pelt of a slain circus ape and slaughtering innocent people. The fact that he's snapping spines in the interest of medicine doesn't really help to clear the moral waters (he never does find a cure, anyway). Filmed during a particularly grueling year for Karloff, this marks the end of his lengthy stir with Monogram (after a tedious string of Mr. Wong potboilers). Without Karloff to kick around, the studio concentrated their humiliating efforts on Bela Lugosi, who appeared in a virtual remake, The Ape Man, three years later. ~ Cavett Binion, Rovi

Nosferatu
F. W. Murnau's landmark vampire film Nosferatu isn't merely a variation on Bram Stoker's Dracula: it's a direct steal, so much so that Stoker's widow went to court, demanding in vain that the Murnau film be suppressed and destroyed. The character names have been changed to protect the guilty (in the original German prints, at least), but devotees of Stoker will have little trouble recognizing their Dracula counterparts. The film begins in the Carpathian mountains, where real estate agent Hutter (Gustav von Wagenheim) has arrived to close a sale with the reclusive Herr Orlok (Max Schreck). Despite the feverish warnings of the local peasants, Hutter insists upon completing his journey to Orlok's sinister castle. While enjoying his host's hospitality, Hutter accidently cuts his finger-whereupon Orlok tips his hand by staring intently at the bloody digit, licking his lips. Hutter catches on that Orlok is no ordinary mortal when he witnesses the vampiric nobleman loading himself into a coffin in preparation for his journey to Bremen. By the time the ship bearing Orlok arrives at its destination, the captain and crew have all been killed-and partially devoured. There follows a wave of mysterious deaths in Bremen, which the local authorities attribute to a plague of some sort. But Ellen, Hutter's wife, knows better. Armed with the knowledge that a vampire will perish upon exposure to the rays of the sun, Ellen offers herself to Orlok, deliberately keeping him "entertained" until sunrise. At the cost of her own life, Ellen ends Orlok's reign of terror once and for all. Rumors still persist that Max Schreck, the actor playing Nosferatu, was actually another, better-known performer in disguise. Whatever the case, Schreck's natural countenance was buried under one of the most repulsive facial makeups in cinema history-one that was copied to even greater effect by Klaus Kinski in Werner Herzog's 1979 remake - Nosferatu the Vampyre. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Atom Age Vampire
A less-stylish variant on Franju's classic Les Yeux Sans Visage, this low-budget Italian production borrows heavily from that film's plot to tell the tale of a scientist who employs a radical new procedure to restore the beauty of a young hoochie-koochie dancer disfigured in a car accident. All goes well after the bandages come off... but after all, this is a horror film, and it's only a matter of time before the young lass begins transforming into a monster -- which, despite the title, is not really a vampire, but more like something resembling an overcooked pizza roll with eyes. In order to return her to normal, the loony doc sets out to "borrow" the faces of other young women without their permission. Released in its native country (where the dubbing might have been a bit less painful) as Seddock, L'Ereda de Satana or Seddock, Heir of Satan. ~ Cavett Binion, Rovi

The Monster Walks
It is difficult to believe that this ultra-cheapie ever actually scared anyone; it's just possible that audiences laughed as loudly at the film in 1932 as they do today. On a dark and stormy night, Hero and heroine Rex Lease and Vera Reynolds head to Reynolds's ancestral mansion to claim her inheritance. Everyone in the house takes great delight in informing the girl that her scientist father died suddenly (the word is repeated at least 20 times in the first two reels). Soon our heroine discovers that she, too, has been marked for death by her maniacal uncle Sheldon Lewis, who is using his deranged son Micha Auer, Auer's housekeeper-mother Martha Mattox, and a huge and surly ape as his vessels of wrath. The climax finds Auer binding Reynolds to a post as he exhorts the ape to tear her apart; unfortunately for him, the big beast chooses to rend the villains asunder. Black comedian Willie Best (here billed as Sleep 'N'Eat) is supposed to be the comedy relief, but Mischa Auer is heaps funnier unintentionally. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Little Shop of Horrors
Perhaps the greatest movie ever shot in two days, Little Shop of Horrors was originally conceived as a followup to Roger Corman's black comedy A Bucket of Blood (1959). Jonathan Haze plays Seymour Krelboin, a schlemiel's schlemiel who works at the Skid Row flower shop of Mr. Mushnick (Mel Welles). Experimenting in his spare time, Seymour develops a new plant species that he hopes will lead him to fame and fortune. Unfortunately, the mutated plant -- named Audrey Junior, in honor of Seymour's girlfriend Audrey (Jackie Joseph) -- subsists on blood and human flesh. It also talks, or rather, commands: "Feed Me! FEEEEED ME!" Before long, the luckless Seymour has fed his plant the bodies of a railroad detective, a sadistic dentist, and a flashy trollop. Meanwhile, Mr. Mushnik, who has stumbled onto Seymour's secret, has inadvertently offered up a burglar (played by Charles Griffith, who also wrote the script and supplied the plant's voice) as a midnight snack for the voracious, ever-growing Audrey Junior. (When the plant blooms, the faces of its various victims are reproduced in its flowers.) Ignored on its initial release, Little Shop of Horrors began building up a cult following via repeated TV exposure in the 1960s. By the mid-1970s, it had attained classic status, spawning a big-budget Broadway musical (and followup feature film) in the 1980s and a Saturday morning cartoon series in the 1990s. Enhancing the original Little Shop's reputation was the brief appearance by star-in-the-making Jack Nicholson as a masochistic dental patient (Nicholson is often incorrectly referred to as the star of the film, though in fact he barely receives billing). Much as we love Nicholson, our vote for the most memorable Little Shop cast member goes to the ubiquitous Dick Miller ("No thanks, I'll eat it here"). ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
In 1920, filmgoers were treated to no fewer than two different film versions of Robert Louis Stevenson's Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. In this one, John Barrymore plays the humanitarian Dr. Henry Jekyll, who becomes obsessed with the notion of separating the good and evil impulses within every man. To this end, he develops a potion which unleashes his own darker side: the demonic Mr. Hyde. This was the adaptation which established the cliché of having both a "good" and "bad" leading lady, to parallel the doppelganger aspects of the Jekyll/Hyde personality. Martha Mansfield is the good girl, while Nita Naldi, wearing costumes that were daring indeed in 1920, is the bad one. The adaptors also borrowed the character of Lord Henry from Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray in order to provide Jekyll with an evil mentor/blackmailer. Sadly, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde proved to be one of the last starring films for leading lady Martha Mansfield: she died horribly during filming of The Warrens of Virginia (1924) when her costume touched a discarded match and burst into flame. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

White Zombie
In this haunting low-budgeter, Bela Lugosi stars as Murder Legendre, a shadowy character who exercises supernatural powers over the natives in his Haitian domain. Coveting Madge Bellamy as his bride, wealthy Robert Frazier enters into an unholy agreement with Lugosi, whereby Madge will die, then be resurrected as a zombie. ~ Iotis Erlewine, Rovi

The Hunchback of Notre Dame
The Phantom of the Opera
Lon Chaney stars as Erik, the Phantom, in what is probably his most famous and certainly his most horrifying role. Produced by Universal, the film shot in 1923 and shelved for nearly two years, and was subjected to intensive studio tinkering. While many expected a disaster, the film turned out to be a rousing success. It was both the stepping off point for Chaney's run as a superstar at MGM and the prototype for the horror film cycle at Universal in the 1930s. The story concerns Erik, a much-feared fiend who haunts the Paris Opera House. Lurking around the damp, dank passages deep in the cellars of the theater, he secretly coaches understudy Christine Daae (Mary Philbin) to be an opera star. Through a startling sequence of terrors, including sending a giant chandelier crashing down on the opera patrons, the Phantom forces the lead soprano to withdraw from the opera, permitting Christine to step in. Luring Christine into his subterranean lair below the opera house, the Phantom confesses his love. But Christine is in love with Raoul de Chagny (Norman Kerry). The Phantom demands that Christine break off her relationship with Raoul before he'll allow her to return to the opera house stage. She agrees, but immediately upon her release from the Phantom's lair, she runs into the arms of Raoul and they plan to flee to England after her performance that night. The Phantom overhears their conversation and, during her performance, the Phantom kidnaps Christine, taking her to the depths of his dungeon. It is left to Raoul and Simon Buquet (Gibson Gowland), a secret service agent, to track down the Phantom and rescue Christine. ~ Paul Brenner, Rovi

The Fatal Hour
The Fatal Hour was the fourth entry in Monogram's "Mr. Wong" series, based on the gentlemanly oriental detective created by Hugh Wiley. Boris Karloff returns as Wong, supported by Grant Withers as dyspeptic police captain Street and Marjorie Reynolds as brash gal reporter Bobbie Logan. On this occasion, Mr. Wong investigates the murder of a police officer, nearly ending up murdered himself during a climactic jewelry-store robbery. The principal suspect is Belden (Craig Reynolds), the son of a crooked businessman (John Hamilton) whose perfidy has apparently caused all the trouble in the first place. The Fatal Hour was scripted by Joseph West, a pseudonym for director George Waggner (who didn't direct this one). ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

The Screaming Skull
For reasons best known to local TV programmers, the modest shocker The Screaming Skull was telecast on what seemed to be a daily basis in the 1960s. The hero-villain is Eric (played by John Hudson, who later billed himself as William Hudson), the husband of neurotic millionairess Jenni Peggy Webber. By strategically placing miniature skulls all over the house, Eric hopes to drive Jenni into madness so that he can take control of her fortune. The police suspect that Mickey the gardener Alex Nicol, who also directed the film) is the man behind the campaign of terror, but the truth finally surfaces in the last reel, wherein Eric gets what's coming to him-and more besides. Perhaps it's worth noting that the 10-minute abdridgement of Screaming Skull, made available to the 8-mm home movie market in the 1970s, is just as entertaining as the full-length feature. ~ 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

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

Carnival of Souls
A drag race turns to tragedy when one car, with three young women inside, topples over a bridge and into the muddy river below. The authorities drag the river, but the search is fruitless and the girls are presumed dead until a single survivor stumbles out of the water with no recollection of how she escaped. Mary Henry (Candace Hilligoss) decides to forget her strange experience and carry on with her plan to move to Utah to accept a job as a church organist. She rejects the notion that because her profession leads her to work in the church, she is obligated to worship as part of the congregation, and this cold approach to her work unnerves many around her. While driving to the new city, she experiences weird visions of a ghoulish man who stares at her through the windshield, and passes an abandonded carnival on a desolate stretch of highway outside of town to which she feels strangely drawn. Mary tries to live her life in private, ignoring invitations to worship by the minister of her church and the leering propositions of a neighbor in her rooming house. Soon the ghostly apparition from the highway is appearing more often, and she experiences eerie spells in which she becomes invisible to people on the street. A doctor tries to help, but he too is rejected, and eventually Mary realizes that the deserted carnival holds the secret to her destiny. ~ Fred Beldin, Rovi

Nightmare Castle
Known in U.S. distribution as Nightmare Castle, this eerie Gothic thriller offers two Barbara Steeles for the price of one. Steele first portrays the wife of a deranged scientist (Paul Muller) whose latest experiments involve electro-stimulation of human blood. When the mad doctor discovers his wife is having an affair, he tortures, disfigures and kills her alongside her lover, then removes and preserves the hearts of the victims, using their blood to restore youth and beauty to his own lover. When the madman discovers that his late wife left all her wealth to her mentally unstable sister (Steele again, a blonde this time), he quickly sets about courting and marrying the poor girl, then proceeds to drive her completely mad in order to inherit her fortune. It may be an easier task than he predicted -- too easy for comfort, in fact -- since the honeymoon is attended by the spectral presence of the murdered lovers who have risen from their own ashes to avenge their deaths. This film's pervasive feeling of impending doom is aided by shadowy, low-contrast cinematography and a robust score from Ennio Morricone, and features a riveting performance from Steele, whose large eyes pierce the screen with dangerous beauty. ~ Cavett Binion, 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 Last Woman on Earth
This weak sci-fi, post-disaster drama is about three people left alive after everyone else has been killed on earth. The trio is comprised of Harold (Antony Carbone), Martin (Edward Wain), and Evelyn (Betsy Jones-Moreland) who were underwater scuba diving when a mysterious glitch in the atmosphere depleted all available oxygen for a short period of time -- enough to kill off earth's population. The ambiance is at first eerie and increasingly ominous as the divers surface and slowly discover that no one is alive out there. Then the interaction of the two men with each other and with Evelyn (Eve?), takes over and the story veers into an odd romance drama as the two machos each try to seduce the last woman left on earth. The story was a first effort by scripter Robert Towne, whose muse was dozing at the moment, but was definitely back in form on later efforts (Chinatown, The Last Detail). Towne also co-starred here as Martin, using the pseudonym of Edward Wain. ~ Eleanor Mannikka, Rovi

A Shriek in the Night
The second of two low-budget murder melodramas starring Ginger Rogers and Lyle Talbot, A Shriek in the Night is not quite as good as the first (The Thirteenth Guest), but it far outclasses most other poverty-row thrillers of its period. The titular nocturnal shriek is heard just before a wealthy philanthropist falls from his penthouse balcony to his death. Virtually everybody in the apartment building comes under suspicion when it is determined that this "accidental" death was no accident. Rival reporters Pat Morgan (Rogers) and Ted Rand (Talbot) spend most of the picture snooping around where they don't belong, the better to outscoop one another. Meanwhile, the already baffled police become more flummoxed when three additional murders occur -- each preceded by a cryptic letter sent to the victim, stating "You Will Get It!" The method of execution turns out to be asphyxiation, but how is this being done? And better yet, why is this being done, and by whom? The solution was unfortunately tipped off in the film's lobby posters, which showed the unconscious heroine being carried off by the actor who turns out to be the killer. Even so, A Shriek in the Night remains an entertaining whodunit, with a pre-Fred Astaire Ginger Rogers doing a great job exhibiting stark, screaming terror. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Doomed to Die
In his final "Mr. Wong" mystery, Boris Karloff solves the case of who killed shipping magnate Cyrus P. Wentworth (Melvin Lang). Wentworth's flagship "The Wentworth Castle" had tragically caught on fire with a tremendous loss of life. Near suicidal, the shipping tycoon is helped into the next world by persons unknown but dunderhead police captain Bill Street (Grant Withers) points the finger at Dick Fleming (William Stelling), the son of a rival tycoon and in love with Wentworth's daughter Cynthia (Catherine Craig). Promising to eat his hat if young Fleming isn't the killer, Street can only watch as enterprising cub reporter Bobby Logan (Marjorie Reynolds) assigns Mr. Wong (Karloff) to solve the case. Which the eminent Oriental sleuth does to the point where Bobby can gleefully add salt to Street's less than edible headgear. The burning of the fictional "Wentworth Castle" was actual footage from the infamous 1934"Morro Castle" fire, a tragedy that took the lives of 137 passengers. ~ Hans J. Wollstein, 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 Brain That Wouldn't Die
An arrogant scientist brings his fiancée back from the dead in this vintage cult horror film. Dr. Bill Cortner (Jason Evers, here billed as Herb Evers) performs medical experiments despite the trepidation of his surgeon father (Bruce Brighton); transplantation is Bill's main area of interest, but he's also had some success using electric shock to restore life to the recently deceased. When Bill causes a car crash that decapitates his fiancée, Jan Compton (Virginia Leith), he spirits her head off to his secret laboratory and keeps it alive with the help of an experimental new serum. Soon, the doctor begins scouring the dives, strip clubs, and suburban streets for an attractive woman whose body he can steal to restore his lady love to her full, ambulatory glory. Meanwhile, back at the lab, Jan grows to hate Bill for refusing to let her die. Developing telepathic powers that allow her to communicate with one of Bill's failed experiments -- a snarling creature kept locked up under the stairs -- she begins to plot her revenge. Things come to a head when Bill returns to the lab with his intended victim: a bitter, disfigured, man-hating figure model (Adele Lamont). The promotional tagline for The Brain That Wouldn't Die was "Alive...without a body...fed by an unspeakable horror from hell!" The film helped provide the inspiration for '80s horror/comedy director Frank Henenlotter's Frankenhooker and Basket Case 2. The former includes a decapitated woman restored to life by her lover, while the latter features both a cameo from Brain star Jason Evers and another character who looks like the twin brother of the monster under the stairs. ~ Brian J. Dillard, Rovi

Bluebeard
Bluebeard casts the saturnine John Carradine as Gaston, a popular painter in 19th century Paris. Unbeknownst to the authorities, Gaston is also the serial killer of beautiful young women who they have been seeking for several months. Whenever a girl fails to come up to Gaston's standards of perfection, she is summarily strangled to death. Gaston's latest model is the gorgeous Lucille (Jean Parker), who once she learns her employer's horrible secret courageously vows to bring him to justice. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Monster from a Prehistoric Planet
The sole foray into the giant-monster arena from Nikkatsu Studios (producers of the classic The Burmese Harp) presents a cutesy clone of Toho's Rodan with a plot lifted from British city-stomper Gorgo. Unfortunately for monster fans, there is little of the earlier films' creativity on display. An infant version of the title creature (only one of an apparent species) is found on Obelisk Island by a group of Japanese reporters, caged and spirited away to Japan to become a media attraction. Naturally, this incurs not only the ire of the island natives, but the wrath of Baby Gappa's full-grown parents, who storm off to Tokyo to inflict rubber-suited mayhem on some particularly cheap-looking model buildings. Nikkatsu's lack of experience with the genre shows in the goofy-looking monster suits, shoddy effects and exaggerated cuteness. It's also evident from the film's tongue-in-cheek approach that the producers had no illusions about the inherent silliness of this project -- an attitude somewhat less prevalent in Toho's monster series. Also known as Monster from the Prehistoric Planet. ~ Cavett Binion, Rovi

The Last Man on Earth
In a post-epidemic nightmare world, scientist Robert Morgan (Vincent Price) is the only man immune to the plague which has transformed the entire population of the Earth into vampire-like creatures. He becomes the monster slayer that vampire-society fears. Curing one of them, Ruth (Franca Bettoja), with a transfusion of his blood gives him hope for the future. It is a short future, however, since the other vampires quickly find and kill him. This dark tale, based on Richard Matheson's even darker novel "I Am Legend," was later remade as The Omega Man with Charlton Heston in the Vincent Price role. ~ Lucinda Ramsey, Rovi

Metropolis
Swamp Women
Swamp Diamonds is the family-trade title for the sweaty Roger Corman crime melodrama Swamp Women. Policewoman Carole Mathews dons her torpedo bra and tight jeans to infiltrate a dangerous all-female criminal gang, currently serving time in a Louisiana Prison. The ladies escape and head to the swamp, where they've hidden a fortune in diamonds. Along the way, they kidnap geologist Touch Connors (later known as Mike Connors). For a while, it looks as though the girls will get away with their perfidy and Connors will end up as alligator bait, but Mathews saves the day. The supporting cast of Swamp Diamonds is a roll-call of 1950s "tough broads": Marie Windsor, Beverly Garland, Susan Cummings, Jil Jarmyn. Watch for Jonathan Haze, future star of Little Shop of Horrors, and Ed Nelson, future talk-show host and politician, in minor roles. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

The Bat
This fourth film version of the Mary Roberts Rinehart-Avery Hopwood stage chestnut The Bat is so old-fashioned in its execution that one might suspect it was intended as "camp" (though that phrase wasn't in common usage in 1959). Agnes Moorehead plays mystery novelist Cornelia Van Gorder, whose remote mansion is the scene for all sorts of diabolical goings-on. The "maguffin" is a million dollars' worth of securities, hidden away somewhere in the huge and foreboding estate. Vincent Price is seen committing a murder early on-but he's not the film's principal villain. Others in the cast include Gavin Gordon as an overly diligent detective, and former Our Gang star Darla Hood as a murder victim. The Bat was adapted for the screen by its director Crane Wilbur, himself a prolific "old dark house" scenarist and playright. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Attack of the Giant Leeches
This hysterical drive-in favorite pits a community of swamp-dwelling yokels against the silliest-looking monsters since the shag-rug aliens of The Creeping Terror. Despite the strange sucker-marks found on a dead trapper's blood-drained body, and a man's story of seeing his unfaithful wife and her lover dragged into the swamp by the creatures, the police refuse to acknowledge that something freaky is going on. Only after more trappers disappear does the local game warden decide to take action, which he does with a vengeance. When the leech lair is discovered in a cave beneath the swamp, explosives are employed to blow them to little rubber bits. It's hard to be too critical of this early film from prolific TV-director Bernard L. Kowalski (Night of the Blood Beast), since executive producer Roger Corman allocated a budget for this production that would hardly cover the catering bill on a major studio film -- even in 1960! Look carefully to spot the scuba tanks beneath the leech costumes. ~ Cavett Binion, Rovi

The Killer Shrews
Ken Curtis, former singing cowboy and Gunsmoke's Festus, joined right-wing radio's Gordon McLendon in producing this hilariously bad monster movie about a horde of outsized rodents run amok on an isolated island. The creation of mad scientist Baruch Lumet (father of acclaimed director Sidney Lumet), the monster shrews (portrayed by collies in goofy rubber masks!) escape the lab during a hurricane and devour nearly every other animal on the island before seeking human prey -- including star James Best and girlfriend Ingrid Goude (1957's Miss Universe), who are stranded on the island by the same storm. The survivors manage to escape to safety thanks to some goofy contraptions constructed from trash cans. This one is best remembered by bad-film buffs for its tail-wagging canine stars and a multitude of famous names on both sides of the camera. Curtis and McLendon's companion film The Giant Gila Monster is slightly less ridiculous. ~ Cavett Binion, Rovi

Tormented
In this low-budget, campy horror film, a murderous pianist pays for his crime when body parts from the lover he pushed from a lighthouse come back to haunt him just before he is to marry a prominent socialite. ~ Sandra Brennan, Rovi

Black Dragons
After an opening scene at a Washington DC cocktail party where it is demonstrated that "loose lips sink ships", the plot proper gets under way, wherein a group of six men conspire to undermine America's war effort. What is the connection between these six men, all of them outwardly respectable members of Washingtonian society? Hero Don (Clayton Moore) and heroine Alice (Joan Barclay) suspect that the answer lies with the mysterious, wryly philosophical Dr. Melcher (Bela Lugosi), a world-famous plastic surgeon. It turns out that Melcher is part of an elaborate espionage scheme hatched by the dreaded Black Dragon Society of Japan. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Revolt of the Zombies
Designed as a follow-up to the Halperin Brothers' phenomenally successful White Zombie, Revolt of the Zombies unfortunately isn't nearly as good. The story is set in Cambodia in the years following WWI. Evil Count Mazovia (Roy D'Arcy) has come into possession of the secret methods by which dead men can be transformed into walking zombies and uses these unholy powers to create a race of slave laborers. An expedition is sent to the ruins of Angkor Wat, in hopes of ending Mazovia's activities once and for all. Unfortunately, Armand (Dean Jagger), one of the members of the expedition, has his own agenda. Stealing a set of secret tablets, he sets about to create his own army of zombies, targeting those whom he considers to be enemies. But Armand is hoist on his own petard when the zombies rebel and turn against him. The anachronistic moviemaking techniques which contributed so much to the atmosphere and entertainment value of White Zombie are totally out of place in Revolt of the Zombies; also, Dean Jagger's performance lacks the conviction necessary for this sort of horror fare. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Maniac
Dementia 13
A young Francis Coppola was given the job of directing this moody low-budget chiller after begging producer Roger Corman for the opportunity to reuse the sets for another film which Corman was shooting in Ireland. The story centers on the dysfunctional Haloran family, who live in a state of perpetual sorrow in a spooky Irish castle. Still mourning the death of her young daughter Kathleen -- who drowned in the lake seven years ago -- Lady Haloran (Ethne Dunn) tortures herself regularly by visiting the girl's grave (when she's not shrieking and collapsing in anguish every five minutes). When daughter-in-law Louise Haloran (Luana Anders) loses her husband to a heart attack, she manages to conceal the body for fear of being cut out of Lady Haloran's will. To further complicate matters, a mysterious interloper begins prowling the grounds with an axe to grind... a very big axe. This enjoyable, quirky psycho-thriller is enlivened by Coppola's inventive camera setups, atmospheric locations and Patrick Magee's over-the-top performance as the leering family doctor. Despite some ragged editing (probably not Coppola's doing), this has relatively high production values for a spare-change Corman project. ~ Cavett Binion, Rovi

House on Haunted Hill
A perennial favorite of the "Shock Theatre" TV circuit, House on Haunted Hill stars Vincent Price as sinister gent (you're surprised?) Frederick Loren, who resides in a sinister mansion on a sinister hill, where seven murders have occurred. He makes a proposal to several strangers, offtering $10,000 to anyone who can last the entire night. Loren festively gives each of his guests a tiny coffin containing a loaded handgun, designed to protect them from the spooks that emerge in the house over the course of the night. The picture hinges on its surprise ending, which packs in several by-now-familiar twists. When originally released to theaters, House on Haunted Hill was accompanied by one of those gimmicks so beloved of producer/director William Castle: the gimmick was "Emergo," and it involved a prop skeleton that "emerged" from the side of the screen at a crucial moment to frighten the audience. Like most of Castle's best films, House didn't really need the gimmick, but its presence added to the fun -- especially when second- and third-time viewers responded to "Emergo" by bombarding the skeleton with popcorn and empty soda bottles. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

The Giant Gila Monster
In The Giant Gila Monster, most of the plot is given over to a group of hot-rod enthusiasts, headed by nice-guy Chace Winstead (Don Sullivan), who sometimes breaks into song. Before long, the titular gila monster, which is just that -- a real gila monster -- is lumbering about on miniaturized sets terrorizing the community, killing at random, knocking over trains and barns, and in general making a nuisance of itself. When the monster threatens to devour Chace's kid sister, he attempts to dispatch the beast with a hot rod full of nitroglycerin. The Giant Gila Monster was originally released on a double bill with The Killer Shrews. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

One Body Too Many
Another of Jack Haley's comedy vehicles for Pine-Thomas productions, One Body Too Many casts Haley as timid insurance salesman Albert Tuttle. Much against his better judgment, Tuttle makes a business call at a sinister old mansion, intending to sell life insurance to the owner. He proves a bit late, inasmuch as the owner has just kicked the bucket. The mansion is full of avaricious relatives, who are obliged by the dictates of the decedent's will to remain in the house until the authorities claim the body. Realizing that dead man's niece Carol (Jean Parker) is a damsel in all kinds of distress, Albert decides to stick around to keep Carol from meeting her uncle's fate. Though there's a murder-mystery angle in One Body Too Many, the audience knows who didn't do it the moment Bela Lugosi shows up as a butler. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

The Beast of Yucca Flats
This groaner from profoundly untalented "auteur" Coleman Francis involves the scenario (one couldn't exactly call it a 'story') of a tubby Soviet scientist (Tor Johnson -- who else?) who is pursued by nefarious agents into a nuclear testing area, whereupon an A-bomb blast infuses him with enough radiation to power a small Midwestern town. Supposedly transformed into a rampaging monster, Tor looks exactly the same, albeit with tattered clothing and a constipated expression. In the fine tradition of The Creeping Terror and Coleman Francis's own Red Zone Cuba (starring the director himself, who resembles Tor's scrappy older brother), this is shot with virtually no dialogue and overlaid with hilariously pretentious and obtuse narration... the phrase "a flag on the moon" pops up so often it could be used in a drinking game. The most enjoyable aspect of this movie is its remarkably short running time. ~ Cavett Binion, Rovi

The Vampire Bat
Bloodsucking winged creatures who may take human shape appear to have returned after centuries of dormancy to the middle-European municipality of Kleinschloss in this atmospheric, low-budget thriller from small-scale Majestic Pictures, and the burgomaster (Lionel Belmore) demands answers. With victims scattered everywhere, all bearing the distinctive puncture marks, police detective Karl Brettschneider (Melvyn Douglas) finds himself completely stymied. Brettschneider, who refuses to accept what he considers mere superstition, is not pleased when that eminent physician Dr. Otto Von Niemann (Lionel Atwill) hints that there may indeed be such things as murderous human bats. Herman Gleib (Dwight Frye), the village idiot, meanwhile, just happens to have a fondness for the nocturnal creatures -- "They're so soft!" -- and the villagers, as they are wont to do, grab their torches and commence a manhunt. Poor Herman is destroyed, but there is another killing. And this time the victim is Georgiana (Stella Adams), Dr. Von Niemann's housekeeper, who failed to serve the physician his late-night coffee. ~ Hans J. Wollstein, Rovi

The World Gone Mad
Plodding through the dialogue-heavy script, this is still a timely movie topic. Dealing with white collar crime, this is the story of a reporter who discovers that the District Attorney is going to be murdered by some high-rolling Wall Streeters. ~ Tana Hobart, Rovi

Creature from the Haunted Sea
This early bit of "B"-movie fluff from Roger Corman and company is a hastily slapped-together melange of crime thriller and monster flick, laced with enough ham-fisted satire to make the entire mess enjoyable. The plot centers on a two-bit crook (Antony Carbone) who offers to transport a band of exiles from a war-torn Caribbean country -- along with a coffer of cash, which he intends to keep for himself. After killing his charges and dumping their bodies in the ocean, he blames their deaths on a sea monster told of in local legends -- a beast which eventually shows up for real. The lush tropical settings of this weekend wonder are the same lush tropical settings seen in Corman's Last Woman on Earth, which employed most of the same players as well. Corman protégé Monte Hellman served here as second unit director before embarking on his own low-budget film career. ~ Cavett Binion, Rovi

The Corpse Vanishes
Despite the typical Monogram drawbacks -- murky photography, stolid staging, ramshackle sets -- The Corpse Vanishes remains one of the more deliciously outrageous horror exercises of the 1940s. Bela Lugosi, as hammy as ever, stars as Dr. Lorenz, a European horticulturist whose octogenarian wife (Elizabeth Russell) needs fluids from the glands of young virgins to remain forever young and beautiful. Jumping to conclusions, the insane medico's rationale seems to be that the best place to find a virgin is at the altar. Consequently, seven young women are in short order poisoned by a mysterious orchid just before their "I do's" and brought in a catatonic state to Dr. Lorenz' mansion in Brookdale. Cub reporter Pat Hunter (Luana Walters) is on to the scheme and visits the Lorenz estate under the pretense of researching an article on orchids. With a typical sound-stage storm brewing up, she agrees to spend the night, and what a night it proves to be. Not only is poor Pat awakened by a visit from Dr. Lorenz' slobbering, hunchbacked helper, Angel (Frank Moran, who stalks her while eating a drumstick), the reporter is also slapped in the face by the disagreeable countess, snubbed by a nasty dwarf (Angelo Rossitto), and nearly suffers the same fate as the poor brides when rescued in the nick of time by an enraged housekeeper (Minerva Urecal) and her boyfriend, Dr. Foster (Tristram Coffin). ~ Hans J. Wollstein, Rovi

Bloodlust
Richard Connell's story The Most Dangerous Game has offered a big, fat target for dull low-budget thrillers since the dawn of movie-making itself, and this is truly one of the dullest. The first (and apparently the last) directorial effort from Ralph Brooke was saved from cinematic obscurity only through its movie-trivia value, thanks to the presence of Brady Bunch dad Robert Reed as the thick, hunky non-hero in upsettingly-tight clothing. There is little variation on the timeworn theme of a wealthy madman (Wilton Graff) hunting shipwreck survivors for sport -- perhaps aside from this villain's tendency to store his human trophies in cleverly-designed, glass-walled dioramas which presaged the popular horror model kits of the 1960's. ~ Cavett Binion, Rovi

The Indestructible Man
Lt. Dick Chasen (Casey Adams) narrates the strange story of Charles "Butcher" Benton (Lon Chaney, Jr.), a condemned man who came back for revenge. In prison, Butcher refuses to reveal to his crooked lawyer Lowe (Ross Elliott) where he hid $600,000 from a bank robbery. Even though he's due to be executed, Butcher vows revenge on Lowe and his partners, Squeamy (Marvin Ellis) and Joe (Ken Terrell). Lowe visits stripper Eva (Marion Carr), to whom Butcher has sent a map of the spot in the Los Angeles sewer system where he hid the loot, but Lowe opens the letter first, and secretly takes the map. After the execution, Butcher's body is taken to San Francisco scientist Prof. Bradshaw (Robert Shayne) who's trying for a cure for cancer, but instead his experiments bring Butcher back to life. His cellular structure has been increased to the point where he's nearly indestructible, and he is incredibly strong. He kills the scientist and his assistant, and heads for Los Angeles. When stripper Eva turns out to be very different from the person he was expecting, Dick becomes attracted to her. Butcher, who can no longer speak, arrives and learns she doesn't have the map. Aware of Butcher's vow, he tries to inform Squeamy, but Butcher kills both Squeamy and Joe. The panic-stricken Lowe punches a cop and gets tossed in jail as a way of hiding from Butcher; when the cops threaten to release him, he talks and reveals the map. Butcher overhears Dick and the others planning to take care of him with flamethrowers, but just as he finds the loot, he's hit with a bazooka and blasted with the flamethrowers. Hideously burned, he leaves the sewers and climbs to the top of a big crane, which runs into high tension wires, and Butcher is disintegrated. And in the end, Dick and Eva get together. ~ Bill Warren, Rovi

The Phantom From 10,000 Leagues
A series of mysterious deaths of fishermen and swimmers along a stretch of beach attract the attention of scientist Dr. Ted Stevens (Kent Taylor) and government investigator William Grant (Rodney Bell) -- they both want to know why the victims and their boats all show signs of exposure to atomic radiation, and if there's a connection between the deaths and the nearby Pacific College of Oceanography, run by Professor King (Michael Whalen); and they're also interested in why King's assistant, George Thomas (Phillip Pine), is always lurking around the beach, often armed with a spear gun. Stevens establishes a friendship with King's daughter Lois (Cathy Downs) that turns to romance, but he's principally concerned with finding out about an apparent source of radiation on the ocean floor, and what its connection might be with the unearthly sea creature rumored to be stalking that section of the beach. Helene Stanton hangs around in a fairly revealing (for the time) bathing suit, waiting on the beach for some top-secret information, and Vivi Janiss overacts nicely as a woman with too much on her mind for her own good. ~ Bruce Eder, Rovi

King of the Zombies
Set in the Caribbean shortly before the U.S. was drawn into WWII, this zombie chiller tells the tale of an American special agent who, along with his butler and a pilot, is sent out to find a missing American Admiral, whose plane crashed on one of the islands. Unfortunately, the hero's plane also crashes. Fortunately, a suave but sinister German doctor with a very strange wife is there to help them. The doctor explains that his spouse is in a strange trance and he is trying to find a cure. The butler soon discovers that she is not the only one; the island is teeming with zombies. When the butler tries to tell his employer, the employer refuses to believe in "voodoo hocus pocus." The butler and the pilot find themselves entranced. Fortunately, the agent is still around to solve the mystery of the zombies and to confront the culprit, an enemy spy. ~ Sandra Brennan, Rovi

The Mad Monster
Bland former child actor Johnny Downs earns top billing in this low-budget horror film, but the real star is that most psychotic of all the mad doctors George Zucco. The British-born character actor plays Dr. Lorenzo Cameron, a discredited -- and quite mad -- medico who has discovered a way to turn his helper, Pietro (Glenn Strange), into a wolf man. The lycanthropic experiments succeed only too well and although Dr. Cameron spouts plans of turning his discovery into a weapon in defense of the civilized world ("men who are governed by one collective thought, the animal lust to kill without regard for personal safety! Such an army will sweep everything before it," Dr. Cameron promises), he instead unleashes his creation on those fellow scientists who had engineered his ouster from academia in the first place. Before long, however, the good doctor is unable to control the wolf man, who threatens to kill everything in his past, and only newspaper reporter Tom Gregory (Johnny Downs) and Lenora (Anne Nagel), Cameron's innocent daughter, may be able to stop the monster. A perennial cult favorite, The Mad Monster was released on the heels of The Wolf Man (1941), but cost a fraction of Universal's elaborate lycanthropic exercise. ~ Hans J. Wollstein, Rovi

Night of the Living Dead
When unexpected radiation raises the dead, a microcosm of Average America has to battle flesh-eating zombies in George A. Romero's landmark cheapie horror film. Siblings Johnny (Russ Streiner) and Barbara (Judith O'Dea) whine and pout their way through a graveside visit in a small Pennsylvania town, but it all takes a turn for the worse when a zombie kills Johnny. Barbara flees to an isolated farmhouse where a group of people are already holed up. Bickering and panic ensue as the group tries to figure out how best to escape, while hoards of undead converge on the house; news reports reveal that fire wards them off, while a local sheriff-led posse discovers that if you "kill the brain, you kill the ghoul." After a night of immolation and parricide, one survivor is left in the house.... Romero's grainy black-and-white cinematography and casting of locals emphasize the terror lurking in ordinary life; as in Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds (1963), Romero's victims are not attacked because they did anything wrong, and the randomness makes the attacks all the more horrifying. Nothing holds the key to salvation, either, whether it's family, love, or law. Topping off the existential dread is Romero's then-extreme use of gore, as zombies nibble on limbs and viscera. Initially distributed by a Manhattan theater chain owner, Night, made for about 100,000 dollars, was dismissed as exploitation, but after a 1969 re-release, it began to attract favorable attention for scarily tapping into Vietnam-era uncertainty and nihilistic anxiety. By 1979, it had grossed over 12 million, inspired a cycle of apocalyptic splatter films like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974), and set the standard for finding horror in the mundane. However cheesy the film may look, few horror movies reach a conclusion as desolately unsettling. ~ Lucia Bozzola, Rovi

The Amazing Mr. X
Also known as The Amazing Mr. X, The Spiritualist stars Turhan Bey as the title character, a mysterious mystic named Alexis. Making a comfortable living by fleecing the gullible wealthy, Alexis' latest target is grieving young widow Christine Faber (Lynn Bari). Hoping to communicate with her husband, who supposedly died in a car crash two years earlier, Christine submits to Alexis' crystal-ball act. Our hero finds out more than he bargained for when the "deceased" Mr. Faber (Donald Curtis) turns up very much alive as the central figure in an elaborate fraud scheme. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

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