Die, Monster, Die! aka Monster of Terror (1965)

directed by daniel haller
american international pictures/alta vista film productions

For the first half-hour or so, this sumptuously appointed fable seems as though it’s going to be a vastly rewarding romp through B-movie silliness, complete with Boris Karloff adding plenty of dramatic intrigue. Unfortunately, it soon descends into choppy pointlessness, though the inane and repetitious dialogue might bolster things for a while if you’re in the right mood. The story kinda feels cobbled together as it goes along, and even the requisite expository scenes don’t much help to clarify matters. A few startling moments crop up here and there, though only the first earns its reaction, and it goes nowhere. Based on “The Colour Out of Space” by H. P. Lovecraft, though how or why Arkham, MA, is transplanted to England is a question best left to others.

why did i watch this movie?

I found it under the title “Monster of Terror,” which … I mean, what more do you need? The presence of Boris Karloff and some glowing (pun definitely intended) nostalgia offered by commenters sealed the deal.

should you watch this movie?

I will table that question until I’ve watched a couple other filmed interpretations of the classic story.

highlight and low point

Boris Karloff’s clearly dissembling patriarch and his myopic assistant Merwyn are a hoot, and our hero Reinhart’s difficulties with the locals in Arkham set the picture up rather nicely. By far the best effects are achieved when Stephen and Susan are creeping downstairs in the dark guided by one lighted candle … which brightly illumines absolutely everything in the vicinity, and looks suspiciously like a spotlight trained right on them. Again, there are a few genuinely unsettling moments, but they’re wasted  – along with the lavish set dressing – by a flimsy screenplay.

rating from outer space: C−

And Soon The Darkness (1970)

directed by robert fuest
associated british productions ltd.

The sort of very British suspense film wherein almost nothing is revealed straightaway until very far along in the programme, where events suggest the audience’s guesswork is the main impetus, the most effective thing this production had going for it was that its tale of English ladies touring the French countryside exhibited no translation. Hence, the viewer was not to be informed of what the natives were saying, rendering that viewer as helpless – and perhaps as clueless – as the protagonist. Unless said viewer were to possess some command of the French language, that is, in which case he or she likely deduced where this case of mysterious identities and shifting suspicions would conclude. Pacing presented the major problem – though establishing a setting and a mood is important, those factors probably didn’t need quite so much development, especially in the interminably plodding final third. I mean, here’s the plot: A girl goes missing.

why did i watch this movie?

A while back I was scanning blurbs for ’70s flicks and saw this one described as an atmospheric something something with a chilling blah blah blah, and I was persuaded.


should you watch this movie?

I did not find it particularly noteworthy.


highlight and low point

I’ll tip my cap to the almost completely pointless diversion in the middle of this muddle, where the lead encounters a deaf war veteran in a farmyard of sorts, to no apparent purpose. It was also intriguing that for a movie contrived around birds on a bicycle trip, neither young lady seemed particularly adept at riding. The ongoing attempts to cast doubt as to the perpetrator’s identity eventually approached crisis proportions. A potent moment: when the whereabouts of the missing companion were revealed.

rating from outer space: C+

The Vampire Lovers (1970)

directed by roy ward baker
hammer film productions/american international productions

This soundstaged costume drama takes a while to build up any steam, but when it eventually does, it rips bodices with the best of ’em. Figuratively, I mean; despite the robust sapphic undertones of this first-of-a-loosely-formed-trilogy of films derived, again, from J. Sheridan Le Fanu’s Carmilla, no clothes are torn away in any frenzies of lust. Suitably gothic, and chockablock with little details we all should recognize from the classic Dracula legends, the film shows admirable restraint in not unleashing the deadlier side of Ingrid Pitt’s enigmatic evil paramour until it’s nearing its torrid climax. That may make this picture sound a little more exciting than it is, but it does redeem itself rather nicely.

why did i watch this movie?

This is the picture I intended to see when I instead watched Kiss of the Vampire, which was probably provoked by my experience with Vampire Circus, which I viewed because of its name.

should you watch this movie?

It’s probably more faithful to the novel than The Blood Spattered Bride, should that matter to you. (I cannot confirm or deny that supposition, as I haven’t read the source material … yet.)

highlight and low point

Kate O’Mara’s governess and Madeline Smith’s Emma are delightfully rendered portrayals, and Kirsten “Betts” (Lindholm) gets the magnificent credit of “1st Vampire.” Scenes shift abruptly at times, some lack of communication is both unfortunate and somewhat unlikely, and there’s a mysterious, portentous onlooker whose role doesn’t amount to anything. As before, the revelation of the identity of the vampiress lends itself to mirth (her various names are anagrams, and it only dawns on folks after it’s far too late). The deaths of the familial vampires are remarkably easy to effect.

rating from outer space: B−

Bloodbath at the House of Death (1984)

directed by ray cameron
wildwood productions

This intermittently amusing English spoof may well have struck me funnier were I British, or approximately 10 years old. (I believe you call an affair such as this one a “broad farce.”) The production is rife with personalities and/or characters that did not resonate with me, and the less said about much of its sense of humour, the better. That being said, it had its good points, with Vincent Price’s absurdly campy centuries-old malevolent priest being a particular highlight. Although a few gags are repeated until maddening, and the overall story – once it eventually (almost) coheres – appears to belie its original aim, this film might hold dimwitted appeal to fans of … lowbrow British television. Not really my spot of tea.

why did i watch this movie?

By now you know I will watch anything with a title such as this.

should you watch this movie?

Anglophiles might enjoy placing the various performers in context of their larger careers, I guess.

highlight and low point

Vincent Price’s initial monologue is so delightfully overwrought it surpasses parody and becomes a true work of comic art; indeed, it is hilarious enough a moment that it sustained me throughout the rest of the film, which is largely lazy and witless. A few other vignettes – an S&M-tinged religious flashback and a scene involving phantom sex among them – are curious enough to add further impetus to the viewing urge, but even the more successful tropes feel halfhearted at times, and a handful of random contemporary allusions (among them Star Wars and E.T. ) either feel misguided, serve little purpose, or frankly are just kind of baffling. Oh, and the ending curries (sorry) more than a bit of a Rocky Horror vibe as well.

Rating from outer space: D+

“ha, ha, very droll”

The Kiss of the Vampire (1963)

directed by don sharp
Hammer film productions

Wellnow, this production was obviously made before Hammer decided to up its game for the ’70s, as it’s a staid affair that owes more to classical horror depictions than to the more adventurous era that immediately followed. Without much in the way of suspense and featuring very little that could be regarded as action, the most interesting thing about this flick are the godawful interior sets. Actually, Noel Willman as “Dr. Ravna,” the, uh, head vampire, also occasionally imitates Bela Lugosi’s oddly cadenced speech from the original Dracula … but only occasionally. It’s very subtle. Edward de Souza and Jennifer Daniel are the leads here, which is too bad, and the possibly intriguing subplot – the vampires are essentially just a weird cult – is basically ignored. Perfunctory and negligible.

why did i watch this movie?

It was an accident. I intended to watch Hammer’s 1970 The Vampire Lovers, but I wound up with this instead.

should you watch this movie?

You do appear to be in need of a soporific.

highlight and low point

Frustrations pile up throughout the proceedings, as motivations of key characters remain unclear or undeveloped and a backstory fails to develop … and when we finally get an explanation for what compels a major character to mount an offensive, it sheds no light whatsoever on his inability or unwillingness to have been proactive much, much earlier. (I would say they should have expounded on many of these themes at greater length, but who would be interested in any more of this slog?) One upside is the hilariously offhand display of totems and fetishes and whatnot, which also go largely without illumination, and the bizarre demise of the weirdo clan (oops, sorry, spoiler) features spectacularly crude FX.

rating from outer space: D+

Matriarch (2018)

written and directed by scott vickers
new light films

For a picture with nary an original idea, this production set in Scotland ended up being a taut, gripping, well-paced story, with a twist here and there – some interesting, some incredulous, and some superfluous – to differentiate it from the pack … slightly. Overall, however, very little happens in this flick that you haven’t experienced before, except for maybe the nearly impenetrable Scotch accents of a pair of extremely minor characters. (Seriously, I could have used English subtitles for their dialogue.) On the plus side, it’s very well filmed, acted and directed and all that. But c’mon, this is the synopsis: “An expecting mother and husband crash their car in the countryside and are offered shelter by a farmer and his wife. Soon they realize,” etc. I suppose the intense Christianity of the rural family qualifies as an innovative attempt, but let’s face it, twisting the orientation and bearing of religions and the religious isn’t exactly a brand-new concept for a horror movie, either.

why did i watch this movie?

Well, it didn’t seem to involve demonic possession, so that was a plus.

should you watch this movie?

I mean … it has its moments, but it just kinda follows the template, really.

highlight and low point

a tense and gripping scene

The isolated family is very effectively creepy, particularly the taciturn father played by Alan Cuthbert, who expresses malevolence with naught but his baleful silence at times. What could have been an overwhelmingly terrifying sequence was mostly spoiled by a dire lack of acceptable realism, however, and what may have been intended as a SHOCKING twist at the conclusion just falls flat. One minor unexpected revelation manages to be humorously chilling, and the dismal ambience is effectively sustained.

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−