Equinox aka The Beast (1970)

written and directed by jack woods
tonylyn productions, inc.

Of the many mysteries this inspired flick presents, perhaps none is more pressing than why in hell it’s called “Equinox.” A scatterbrained adventure of sorts, it unfolds as a long and involved tale of why a guy named Dave now resides in a sanitarium. Seems Dave, his friend Jim, Jim’s girlfriend and Dave’s blind date all went out looking for a certain Dr. Waterman, only to encounter all manner of bizarre things. These include a crazy old man living in a cave; a strange forest ranger who calls himself “Asmodeus”; a disappearing castle; an ancient book of weird incantations and illustrations (which we should find very familiar); a passage to a different realm; a Kong knockoff; another giant creature; what may be intended to be The Devil himself; and lots of other fun stuff. The dialogue is of course cardboard flat and the acting no better, but this preposterous affair’s a real throwback pleasure.

why did i watch this movie?

I found it on YouTube quite by accident, and a brief inquiry made it a must-see.

should you watch this movie?

They quite literally do not make pics like this anymore, such as that cannot even be called “B” movies, and its independence alone is appealing.

 

highlight and low point

As hinted above, it seems fairly obvious that Sam Raimi and crew must have seen this film at some point before they made The Evil Dead, just as it’s obvious that Jack Woods et al. were familiar with works such as, oh, I don’t know, Earth vs. The Flying Saucers. For trivia fans, Jim is portrayed by the future Herb Tarlek, and co-producer/writer/director Dennis Muren would eventually work on blockbusters such as E.T.

rating from outer space: C+

La Terrificante Notte Del Demonio aka La Plus Longue Nuit du Diable aka The Devil’s Nightmare aka Au Service du Diable aka The Devil Walks at Midnight (1971)

directed by jean brisme’e (sic)
delfino film/cetelci s.a.

Literally titled “The Terrifying Night of the Devil” in its native Italian and “The Longest Night of the Devil” in French (it was an Italian and Belgian co-production), one might immediately suspect they’d find a mishandled feature in which nobody was too invested, but this classic European sleaze actually impressed me no end. Well, at least the middle portion did, as for a while this tale of seven travelers unwillingly spending a fateful night in an eerie castle became intriguing and stylish. The latter third is less trashy than the first third and more pedestrian than that which precedes it, though it does introduce some priceless camp elements and is not without its moments. On the whole, the picture surpasses reasonable expectations. Oh, and it disproves the widely held notion that castles don’t have phones, for those keeping score at home.

why did i watch this movie?

Well, whilst I was scouring sources for stuff to screen, I saw the English sobriquet for this picture and was immediately agog. “The devil’s nightmare?” I wondered, suspecting linguistic malfeasance. Ergo …

should you watch this movie?

A good time would be had by all, assuredly.

highlight and low point

Somewhat surprisingly, given the overall mood and orientation of this affair, it boasts the least passionate “lesbian” scene one may ever witness. (To call it “tepid” would be a wild exaggeration.) It counterbalances this shortcoming, however, with the most floridly literal depiction possible of signing a contract with the devil. Somewhere in between these extremes, it presents a panoply of themes and settings familiar from such fare as House on Haunted Hill, Clue and Se7en, to name just the most obvious. Erika Blanc’s succubine Lisa Müller is a particular treat throughout.

rating from outer space: B+

Vampire Circus (1972)

directed by robert young
hammer film productions

“Better no mother than a mother that worships the devil!” proclaims a vindictive villager as this picture comes out with all guns blazing. (Torches, actually.) I immediately wondered if I needed to start watching everything with the Hammer name from this time period. Child slaughter, nudity, lust, arson, mayhem … and that was all in the first 15 minutes, before the credits ended. Things settle down after that, once the gypsies show up with the “Circus of Nights,” although a hearty massacre of three members of a family – by a panther – does find its way in there. (The panther is rather amusingly animated and exaggerated by the FX of the day.) Despite getting a bit bogged down in the villagers’ struggle to understand what has befallen them, however, enough eldritch touches recur to keep things moving along nicely toward the expected ending.

why did i watch this movie?

Look, I try my best to keep my motives pure and my intellectual pursuits respectable, but this damn flick is called “Vampire Circus.”

should you watch this movie?

terrifying muppet gore

If you don’t find the title “Vampire Circus” deliriously fetching, then probably not.

highlight and low point

The Circus has an attraction called “Mirror of Life,” and it is within this enclosed tent that nefarious truths are revealed, of course. One of the scenes that takes place in said location is pretty impressively intimidating. Some of the moments when the main vampiric henchman Emil brandishes his fangs verge on silly. Oh, and if you’re keeping track, herein it is once again revealed that removing the stake from the undead’s heart will allow it to return to its imitation of life. So apparently I forgot that bit of mythology somewhere along the way.

rating from outer space: B−

Crucible of Terror (1971)

directed by ted hooker
glendale film productions

A daft look at the capital demands of the post-heyday Swingin’ London art scene – no, really, that’s the initial setting here – this British suspense flick takes a significant turn for the weird after little over an hour. By which I mean, a secret hidden passage that cannot possibly exist is discovered by a character who should find it incredibly disturbing, but neither she nor anybody else reacts strangely. (That our two protagonists accept a great deal of eccentricity may be another nod to their milieu.) From that point on, you expect to be surprised whenever it’s finally revealed who’s doing the killing, and you just may be, because the explanation comes out of absolutely nowhere. Then again, by that point, since the event around which the film revolves occurs before the opening credits roll, your only reaction may be a shrug.

why did i watch this movie?

The title of this one beckoned me with the throwback 1970s cinematic experience I was seeking.

should you watch this movie?

While it sounds as though at the very least it might provide some campy fun, or be a forgotten classic of taut suspense (or something), it’s really just a fairly boring low-budget flick with some extremely annoying characters.

highlight and low point

The absolute absurdity of the secret-passage sequence definitely qualifies it for one of these categories, if not both. Once the insufferable antagonist really finds his groove, he’s responsible for splendid pronouncements such as “The power of EVIL is always stronger than that of good.” The way a key detail eventually proves to be related to the mysterious goings-on is patently ridiculous. Oh, and Han Solo’s fate in The Empire Strikes Back is reminiscent of this picture’s underlying motif.

rating from outer space: c−

The Road Builder aka The Night Digger (1971)

directed by alastair reid
yongestreet productions/tacitus productions

Based on a novel with the unwieldy and unpromising title of “Nest in a Fallen Tree,” with a screenplay by Roald Dahl and starring his wife, this tale of suspense is very British, a study of drawing-room manners for the most part. Oh, but there’s a twist! Here we have a festering sense of resentment within the familial relationship that anchors the picture, a kinship upset and altered by the arrival of a young stranger. Now, some of what then occurs is basic dark British fodder; murders are perpetrated, suspicions are raised, and the village folk get to enjoy more of their favorite pastime (gossip, of course). Later, though, a murkier and more disturbing subplot develops, emotions are exploded, and the setting abruptly shifts entirely. An ambiguous ending completes the affair, which manages to entertain despite its lack of sensationalism.

why did i watch this movie?

I needed to balance out the recent spate of ’90s flicks – and I’ve lately covered a bunch of modern productions as well – so I sought a picture from the seventies, and this was the one I found.

should you watch this movie?

This is the sort of film that TV stations used to show on lazy weekend afternoons, as very little of it is at all lurid. It’s good, if understated, and definitely of a different era.

highlight and low point

The action takes off when a mysterious young man named “Billy” enters the tale, and I think we can all agree that’s a momentous circumstance. Actually, though, some displays of splendid acting, mainly concerning liminal expressions of emotion, are what impress most. Oddly, it appears this was an edited version of the movie, but I’m not sure any other rendition is readily available.

rating from outer space: B

Devil Dog: The Hound of Hell (1978)

directed by curtis harrington
landers-roberts-zeitman productions

Man, I do NOT remember there being any made-for-TV movies like this when I was a kid – though admittedly, in 1978 my parents most likely would not have let me stay up late enough even on Halloween night, when this aired. (They weren’t that restrictive on content, for the most part, although how they would have felt about a possessed dog is anybody’s guess.) For such an offbeat premise, unfortunately, the product can be a little underwhelming. True, I didn’t expect the main character to wind up going to Quito, Ecuador, to consult a shaman in order to defeat the Barghest his family’s unwittingly adopted, because why would anyone mix up their various mythologies that way. Ultimately, the picture is saved by suchlike casual idiocy, managing to be thoroughly entertaining despite its limitations.

why did i watch this movie?

The power of Zoltan compelled me.

should you watch this movie?

You know, I’ve often thought of the made-for-TV horror picture as kind of a lesser creation, figuring it couldn’t possibly compete with its large-screen brethren and sistren, but it turns out this isn’t always the case.


highlight and low point

“It’s a monstrous thing, a goblin dog,” the occult bookseller tells Richard Crenna’s Mike Barry – “A man … hounded by his dog,” as he described himself to her with an abashed chuckle – and boy, she ain’t kidding.

The climactic and climatic final battle between Mike and Lucky the hellhound is a marvel of multiple-exposure imagery, and the portrayals of Betty, Bonnie and Charlie Barry as they slip toward infernal fealty are quite amusing. Unfortunately, we aren’t treated to nearly enough Satanic goings-on, especially given the promising opening.


rating from outer space: c−

Dracula’s Dog aka Zoltan, Hound of Dracula aka El perro de Satán (1977)

directed by albert band
vic cinema productions

So, “Dracula” as the world knows him doesn’t really appear in this movie – but an “Igor Dracula” does, along with one last descendant, a modern family man named “Michael Drake.” The story, such as it is, is a cockamamie concoction about a canine that I. Dracula long ago enlisted for some reason or another, along with its former owner – this picture’s Renfield, essentially – a quasi-vampire that can wander around in the daylight to do his bidding. Here, having been revived and in need of a master, these servants want to deliver M. Drake to his legacy. (Did you know that if you remove the stake from the heart of a vampire or near-vampire in its coffin, it comes back to, uh, “life”? I didn’t.) I cannot possibly convince you how preposterous this film is. I would like to point out, however, that relying on dogs to be your lead actors is not the world’s greatest idea.


why did i watch this movie?

A “Dracula” flick without Dracula, but with his … dog …

should you watch this movie?

It will certainly make you laugh – though it’s debatable what kind of laughter it will provoke – but unless you really want to see how NOT to make a movie, it’s not worth it.

highlight and low point

I did mention that this pic relies on dogs to carry a lot of the action, right? Zoltan himself dismantles the roof of a cabin at one point while his comrades compromise the walls. The overdubbed dog noises are also pretty special – barking, howling, growling, you name it. Nothing, however, tops the experience of repeated shots of loyal servant “Smit” staring idiotically into the camera while a voiceover intones “ZOLTAN.”
The family RV interlude comes close, though.

rating from outer space: n⁄a

adorable vampire puppy!