Kbatz: Dragonwyck

Frightening Flix

Dragonwyck A Spooky and Charming Little Old Film

By Kristin Battestella

 

I was a bit surprised when I stumbled upon this 1946 title starring Gene Tierney and Vincent Price, for I had never heard of it before. Based upon 1944 novel by Anya Seton, Dragonwyck is a creepy little gothic tale of frightful mansions and murderous tendencies.

Miranda Wells (Tierney) dreams of bigger things than her family’s Connecticut farm, much to the chagrin of her devout parents Ephraim (Walter Houston) and Abigail (Anne Revere). When a letter arrives from Abigail’s distant and wealthy cousin Nicholas Van Ryan (Price), Miranda takes the offered opportunity to serve as companion to Nicholas’ daughter Katrine (Connie Marshall, Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House) at the Van Ryan’s legendary Hudson Valley estate Dragonwyck. Once at the mansion, however, tales of hauntings, local unrest, and the uneven relationship between Nicholas and his wife Johanna (Vivienne Osborne) can’t deter Miranda from falling in love with Nicholas. But of course, he is married, and spends far too many nights in his secret tower room…

Though not a horror movie or thriller per se, Dragonwyck has many fearful moments and suspense-filled sequences, largely due to the simplest suggestions of intrigue. The black and white cinematography, creepy angles, spooky lighting, and haunting score by the famed Alfred Newman (How the West Was Won, The King and I, Camelot) give just the right amount of suggestion that not all is well at Dragonwyck. Screenwriter and first time director Joseph L. Mankiewicz (All About Eve, Guys and Dolls, Cleopatra) makes great strides in giving us the basis of the novel’s complex time and place, but some sequences in Dragonwyck do seem ill edited. Quick references to a change of time and place aren’t enough to indicate the move-sometimes it seems like you’re watching a film ‘edited for content and cut to run in the time allotted.’ Thankfully, performance and story win out with the help of great costumes and gothic sets.

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I don’t know much about Prince Aly Khan, except that he seemed to mentally ruin not one, but two Hollywood ladies- Rita Hayworth and Gene Tierney. Perhaps more well known today for her many romances, Tierney (Laura, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, Leave Her To Heaven) was pretty and she could act. Maybe her beauty draws the viewer in, but Tierney’s expressions of innocence, naiveté, and love keep us interested in Miranda. We want her to find joy and happiness-even if the high society life at Dragonwyck clearly spells doom. Likewise, parents Walter Huston (Yankee Doodle Dandy, The Treasure of The Sierra Madre) and Anne Revere (National Velvet, The Song of Bernadette) are stern and respectable parents with only the best interests at heart. Observant viewers will also see a young Jessica Tandy (Driving Miss Daisy) as Peggy, the crippled Irish maid with a good heart.

It’s pretty plain to see that the ‘low’ farming folk have more values and morals than the ‘high’ Hudson folk, but Vivienne Osborne (Tomorrow at Seven) earns a piece of sympathy as Nicholas’ wife Johanna. She seems chubby and more interested in food than her daughter, but we feel that in some ways, this snotty style is not her fault. Her callous upbringing and lack of attention from her deceitful husband help blur the lines between this detailed look at the early Victorian lifestyle and Hudson society. But of course, Vincent Price (The Ten Commandments, The Pit and the Pendulum) plays a man who is not always what he seems. He’s thinner and more subdued than what we expect from the maniacal old horror maven to come in later films. Price’s Nicholas looks the waistcoat and top hat society man, we believe he can be respectable and a good love for Miranda-and yet we should know better. Price shows his range through Nicholas’ love, flagrant callousness, addictions, and other… nefarious… tendencies.

Dragonwyck is not a perfect film, and it is a little dated in some respects. Mankiewicz’ inexperience as a debut director also hampers some scenes. Nevertheless, gothic lovers and fans of classic suspense can enjoy Dragonwyck. Younger audiences may not understand some of the historical back-story about patroon landowners keeping tenant farmers in feudal like arrangements, but the spooky air is just right for a youthful scare or two. But of course, the DVD edition of Dragonwyck is now out of print. Thankfully, fans of Vincent Price can pick up a copy in several horror sets. It’s a strange placement, but fans of the cast and viewers who love a little bit of Bronte suspense will enjoy getting their hands on Dragonwyck. I’m tempted to find the book now, too!

It Came From the Vault: Vincent and Me – Garth Von Buchholz

 

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Vincent and Me
By Garth Von Buchholz

I wanted to meet Vincent Price. In the late ‘80s, Vincent was in his ’70s but still famous to my generation as for all his kitschy horror cameos in music, movies and TV. His voice was heard in Alice Cooper’s music, he narrated the early Tim Burton animated film Vincent, and he even appeared on Scooby-Doo cartoons, Sesame Street and TV commercials, such as the one for the bug zapper device. His last major film role was the Inventor in Edward Scissorhands. Vincent was everywhere, and all his tongue-in-cheek, campy horror, carried off with a metaphoric wink of the eye and the chilling laugh, made him into an iconic pop culture personality.

To most people, Vincent was no longer scary. He didn’t start his career trying to be scary. In the ‘40s, he was a handsome leading man in gothic romance potboilers such as Laura (1944) and Dragonwyck (1946). By the ‘50s he was doing television roles and appearances, then began his descent into the maelstrom of pop horror by starring in such classics as The Fly (1958), Return of the Fly (1959), and, of course, the Edgar Allan Poe adaptations by Roger Corman (1960-64). He brought his old world Hollywood gravitas to these sensational flicks, but even though he was creating a niche for himself, he was also losing credibility as a serious actor. Hollywood proper wouldn’t come calling until years later when Tim Burton wanted him.

By the ‘60s, Vincent was already becoming parodied, and in fact, he helped parody himself to the younger generation in Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine (1965)and in his famous role as Egghead in the old Batman TV series (1966-67). By the ‘70s, Vincent was everywhere, a true journeyman actor. He appeared in the brilliant monologue series An Evening of Edgar Allan Poe (1972), the black comedy Theater of Blood (1973) and even on an episode of The Brady Bunch (1972) and The Love Boat (1978). Clearly, Vincent liked to work, had no pretensions about himself as an actor, and had a very dry sense of humor. He simply wanted to pay the bills and earn enough money to support his two true loves: his wife, Australian actress Coral Browne, and his extensive art collection.

As a fan of Poe, I had tremendous respect for the work he did on An Evening of Edgar Allan Poe, which you can still see in clips on YouTube. When I heard that he would be appearing in my city to perform poetry by Edgar Allan Poe on stage, accompanied by live music, I decided I had to meet him. As a young writer and journalist, it wasn’t difficult for me to arrange complimentary tickets and a backstage pass to meet him before the show.

On the night of the show, I was ushered backstage to his dressing room. He was sitting at his dressing room table applying stage makeup under the bright globe lights above the mirror. When he caught sight of me, he turned with a broad smile and stood up, like a gentleman, to shake my hand.

“Hello, I’m Vincent Price,” he said, as if an introduction was necessary. His skin pallor was very pale because he had not completed his makeup yet, but his eyes were remarkably clear, and he was a tall, elegant man who stood more than six feet in height (I am six feet tall). It was like meeting a crown prince or duke from Europe. He was the personification of noble grace and elegance. I felt like a thick-tongued commoner in his presence.

I gave him a copy of my own book of poetry as a gift and an introduction (how unembarrassed I was to do that shameless bit of self-promotion!) I explained that I had been a fan of his for many years, and loved his work in the Poe stories. He said that he very much enjoyed doing them as Poe was a wonderful writer. He told me he was looking forward to his performance that evening, although it would require some effort because he had to modulate his voice so the orchestra would not drown him out during some key moments.

As I knew he was preparing to go on stage soon, I thanked him profusely and bid him farewell so that I wouldn’t be in the awkward position of having the stage manager appear to shoo me away. His performance that evening was breathtaking, made even more voluptuous and dramatic because of the orchestra’s choice of atmospheric works such as the spooky Night on Bald Mountain. I can still recall him intoning the words from Poe’s Alone, The Raven and The Conqueror Worm, the last of which made the greatest impression on me. Whenever I re-read The Conqueror Worm, I can still hear his voice.

A few weeks later, the venerable Mr. Price sent me a postcard with a contemporary painting on the front and a few words on the back, thanking me for my book of poetry. This correspondence was an unexpected pleasure, a final goodbye from a famous acquaintance who had endeared himself to me not only for his talent, but for his gentility and generosity. Did he actually read the book or simply toss it on a pile in his library? I believe he did read it. There was an honesty and forthrightness in his reply.

Vincent Price died on October 25, 1993, after completing his final work—ironically, it was voiceover work for an animated movie called The Princess and the Cobbler. He never lived long enough to see how the World Wide Web would become a new medium to perpetuate his legacy as an actor, performer, entertainer, and pop culture persona.

No need to say goodbye. Your ghost is still with us, Vincent.

Garth Von Buchholz is an author of dark fiction, poetry, drama and non-fiction. His new book of dark poetry, Mad Shadows, was published in June. Garth is the founder of the Dark Fiction Guild (http://DarkFictionGuild.com) and Poe International (http://PoeInternational.com). He is also the Editor and Publisher of Dark Eye Glances, the eJournal of dark poetry.  Garth lives on Vancouver Island on Canada’s west coast.  Visit his website: http://VonBuchholz.com

HorrorAddicts.net 126, Writer’s Workshop Winner

HA tag

Horror Addicts Episode# 126
SEASON 11!

Horror Hostess: Emerian Rich & Stacy Rich

Intro Music by: Valentine Wolfe

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writer workshop winner | valentine wolfe | tomb of liegia & an evening with poe

Find all articles and interviews at: http://www.horroraddicts.net

 

162 days till halloween

adam sandler, murder, halloween, costume, interview with the vampire, anne rice, lestat, tom cruise, brad pitt, queen of the damned, prince lestat, blood paradise, universal, akasha, vampire, chronicles, robert downey jr., rutger hauer, feast of all saints, pandora, david watson, the box jumper, lisa mannetti, free fiction, alex s. johnson, clowns, mcdonalds, creepy, japanese commercials, once upon a scream, dj tryer, shannon lawrence, facebook release party, the rose garden, wicked gardens, through dolls eyes, jesse orr, kids, horror parenting, r l stine, s e hinton, outsiders, rumblefish, that was then this is now, the bloody inn, chantal noordeloos, ghastly games, firefly games, monster high uno, morbid meals, dan shaurette, silence of the lambs, liver, beef kidney, nightmare fuel, d j pitsiladis, robert the doll, creepy doll, band pool, valentine wolfe, crystal connor, victorville massacre, a tricky treat, firghtening flix, kbatz, kristin battestella, tomb of liegia, and evening with poe, vincent price, the tell tale heart, dream within a dream, facebook, stacy rich, dead mail, jane, mimielle, elder goth, fashion, jeff, stephen king, dr. sleep, the shining, the good marriage, the stand, storm of the century, langoliers, artistic license, mice?, adam, the walking dead, dice, friday the 13th, ladder, bianca, anthologies, blog editor, what we are looking for, lynn mcsweeney,  writer’s workshop, j. malcolm stewart

 

 

Wicked Gardens
http://www.lulu.com/shop/rogue-planet-press/wicked-gardens/paperback/product-22628390.html

 

Once Upon a Scream

https://www.createspace.com/6137489

 

 

“Broken Pieces” by Valentine Wolfe

http://valentinewolfe.bandcamp.com/track/broken-pieces

HorrorAddicts.net blog Kindle syndicated

http://www.amazon.com/HorrorAddicts-net/dp/B004IEA48W/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1431022701&sr=8-1&keywords=horroraddicts.net

 

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Write in re: ideas, questions, opinions, horror cartoons, favorite movies, etc…

horroraddicts@gmail.com

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h o s t e s s

Emerian Rich

s t a f f

David Watson, Stacy Rich, Dan Shaurette, KBatz (Kristin Battestella), Mimielle, Killion Slade, D.J. Pitsiladis, Jesse Orr, A.D. Vick, Mimi Williams, Lisa Vasquez, Alex S. Johnson

Want to be a part of the HA staff? Email horroraddicts@gmail.com

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Kbatz: Tomb of Ligeia and An Evening with Edgar Allan Poe

Frightening Flix

Tomb of Ligeia and An Evening with Edgar Allan Poe Surprisingly Good

Several months ago, I saw an interview with Cassandra Peterson-aka Elvira-discussing Tomb of Ligeia, one of her favorites in the American Pictures International’s Poe series by director Roger Corman. Unfortunately, for the life of me I couldn’t recall having seen this final adaptation starring Vincent Price. When the 1969 film came on out on a double billed DVD with An Evening with Edgar Allan Poe, I gave the set my full attention. Perhaps it’s not a total shocker since I like the rest of Corman’s Poe series, but Tomb of Ligeia and An Evening with Edgar Allan Poe are surprisingly good.

Verden Fell (Price) vows that his late wife Ligeia (Elizabeth Shepherd) will defy death. He becomes reclusive and keeps away from sunlight with his dark colored glasses-until the beautiful Rowena (also Shepherd) erroneously comes to his ruined abbey. The couple falls in love, despite Rowena’s previous attachment to Verden’s friend Christopher (John Westbrook). They marry, but Rowena is ill at ease in Ligeia’s former home. Ligeia’s Egyptian antiques are everywhere; her spirit seems to linger over Verden during the night, and there’s a nasty black cat about that makes her displeasure known.

Director Roger Corman (House of Usher, The Pit and the Pendulum) takes a few departures from his earlier Poe films by brightening up Tomb of Ligeia with natural locations and a little more romance than usual. Adapted by Robert Towne (Shampoo, Chinatown, Tequila Sunrise) from Poe’s short story, the analysis of mind and will power over death itself weaves the film together with ancient Egyptian allusions and plenty of ambiguity towards black cats. Each plot resolves satisfactory, but Poe’s twists and Corman’s interpretations leave the viewing thinking longer than prior pure shock conclusions.

Even though this is the last of the Poe pictures, Vincent Price looks younger here. His Verden is a little more sympathetic than his earlier, often evil roles. Not only is Price not as over the top as we love, but he’s actually sad sometimes, even pathetic with his dependence on his little glasses. But of course, Tomb of Ligeia does have the bizarrity we’d expect, including some ambiguity about necrophilia. Ew! Thankfully, Price looks good with Elizabeth Shepherd (Bleak House, Side Effects, Damien: Omen II). Any age difference doesn’t seem to factor in; they match well, and have nice, genuine chemistry. The more romantic tone between Verden and Rowena isn’t so tough to believe amid the scares. Nice as it is to have the sweet emotion amid the creeps; Shepherd is freaky in the duel bits as Ligeia. It’s obvious it is she, of course, but the showdown with Ligeia and the dream sequence with the ladies are well done. John Westbrook’s (The First Churchills) Christopher is in the odd middleman position in this love triangle, but his outside, sane perspective helps the audience balance out some of the horrors.

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While not as stylized as its Poe predecessor The Masque of the Red Death, Tomb of Ligeia has some beautiful natural locals and production. There’s a hefty amount of daylight scenes here-and they all work in the spooky, gothic, Early Victorian setting. There are some great ruined abbeys, the English countryside, and even a romantic stroll through Stonehenge. You might think these pieces don’t go together, but the morbid set interiors match the abbey in gothic look and spooky tone. The Victorian costumes are also early in style, alluding to a bit of the Bronte Sisters, Wuthering Heights, and Jane Eyre. And of course, there’s a very disturbing classic Corman dream sequence that scares better than some of the stranger, more bizarre visual dream trickery previously done.

Side B of our set offers more Vincent Price in a one-man show called An Evening with Edgar Allan Poe. Price showcases four tales from Poe in various stage settings, beginning with “The Tell Tale Heart.” I imagine you’re familiar with the tale, and Price is delightfully over the top here. His crazed style suits the story. The production here looks a little low and bare, but theatre fans can certainly enjoy this spirited Poe dramatization. “The Sphinx” is actually a Poe story that’s new to me. Price changes his looks and time period for each tale, strengthening his suave approach to the audience. He is clearly enjoying the punch line here, and this tale is better dressed than “The Tell Tale Heart.” Some might think a one-man production is stale and boring, but swift camera movement keeps things fresh. Not the crazy angles and dizzying modern zooms, but there’s just enough cuts and close ups to create the illusions needed.

So, that’s how “The Cask of Amontillado” is pronounced! I was never quite sure. The older Price is made up even older here for this unusual interpretation. You’d expect to see this one played out, not in effect told as perhaps “The Tell-Tale Heart” can only be. Price, however, does the voices of both men involved, playing on the amusement of the story and the unreliable status of the narrator. The camera again moves with him, cutting from several sides and using duel tricks almost like Gollum and Smeagol in The Two Towers. It’s a simple maneuver, but it works with the very handsomely dressed dining room stage.

It’s strange that director Kenneth Johnson (V, Alien Nation) would do “The Pit and the Pendulum” here in 1972 when Roger Corman did the feature length film ten years earlier. Nevertheless, Price looks the old and crazy part. Each tale has progressed his age, the time period, and the story’s deceit. This short here is more abstract and dream like than Corman’s back story filled movie. The fire and brimstone effects in this Pit go for more frights rather than a Twilight Zone twist ending. You would think Vincent Price effectively reading books line for line onscreen would be boring, but no. The stories dramatized in these readings are all told in the past tense with Poe’s great unreliable narrator telling his askew interpretation to the audience. Even though it may look old or too theatre to modern audiences, An Evening with Edgar Allan Poe is perfect for Vincent Price fans, film students, or literature teachers looking for a short and sweet visual accompaniment for the classroom.

The DVD set of Tomb of Ligeia and An Evening with Edgar Allan Poe is relatively simplistic, with only a commentary of Roger Corman and Elizabeth Shepherd. It’s a little slow in pacing, but fun and informative for the die-hard fan. The subtitles for Ligeia are great, too. Fans of the previous Poe pictures or sixties horror films can enjoy Tomb of Ligeia, but period piece and gothic fans should tune in, too. However, hardcore viewers looking for a blood fest and straight horror should skip these stylized tales. Likewise, I also don’t know about cat lovers enjoying Tomb of Ligeia. Feline folks will delight in the pesky cat scenarios, but cat enthusiasts won’t like some of the black cat bashing, either. Ah, it’s the beauty of Poe, something for everyone!

Kbatz: Madhouse and Theatre of Blood!

Frightening Flix

Madhouse and Theatre of Blood A Twisted Good Time!

By Kristin Battestella

 

Give me an excuse to watch some more Vincent Price!

 

In the 1974 murder and mayhem tale Madhouse, Price is Paul Toombes, the aging star of the Dr. Death horror movies penned by Toombes’ longtime friend and former actor Herbert Flay (Peter Cushing). Flay has coaxed Toombes out of semi retirement for a new television show produced by the sleazy Oliver Quayle (Robert Quarry). Unfortunately, the suspicious murder of Toombes’ young fiancée and the time he spent institutionalized thereafter continues to haunt ‘Dr. Death’. Cast and crewmembers on his new series are soon found dead in copycat crimes styled from the Dr. Death films, and Toombs slowly succumbs to a returning mental instability. Can he solve the crafty murders nonetheless? Is he the killer or Dr. Death’s next victim?

Oscar winning editor turned director Jim Clark (The Killing Fields, The Innocents) opens Madhouse with a fun use of footage from The Haunted Palace, solid pre-title festivities, and a juicy crime. In many ways, Clark’s crafty editing experience is perfect for the task at hand. The visual blending of Price’s earlier AIP films, old production photos, nods to other film work, and their intercutting use for this Amicus co-production wonderfully establishes Madhouse’s neat premise. Where does the actor Toombes’ reality end and the fictional killer persona of Dr. Death begin? Are we watching a film about Toombs or the Dr. Death TV show? Did these two great titans of horror “need the work” onscreen and off perhaps? This sly touch of dark comedy and ability to laugh at one’s genre comes across beautifully, and the intermingling with killer viewpoints, seventies zooms, and extreme angles keeps the lines between actuality and stability appropriately askew. It’s not overdone as we lay it on today- there’s just the right amount of stylized play within a play identities, illusions, and good fun. After all, we’re seeing a horror show within a horror film supported by clips of other horror movies like The Raven, Tales of Terror, and The Pit and the Pendulum. Madhouse doesn’t take itself so seriously, and neither should we. One should probably be a fan of Big V’s film catalog to appreciate such shrewd killer use of stock footage, yes. The seventies mixing and sixties styles will seem dated- even obvious in revealing the killer as the picture goes on. The more that you think about the scenes of the crimes; plot holes and confusions become apparent, indeed. Fortunately, the traditional horror film design, tight photography, and simple smoke and mirrors work their best. The death scenes are first-rate, with creative uses of the set within set themes. The film splicing, fade ins and outs, and great uses of sounds effects and screams from both within the used footage and the film itself create a complete drive-in or late night film experience. I’m not sure that the title has to do with anything, and the logistics of Madhouse’s inept Scotland Yard men will make your head hurt if you think too hard on it, but who cares?

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Naturally, Our Man Price is the classy old pimp we expect, oh yes. He begins Madhouse as a suave Hugh Hefner-esque silver fox with young Bond Girl blonds abound. Today we might expect this sexy mismatch in horror, but it’s a true guilty pleasure to see Toombes taking down the dames here. Although Price plays the degrading sanity seriously, there are hints of that over the top innuendo and tongue planted firmly in cheek design. Certain scenes are both personal parody and honest homage to his earlier scaries, and we’re meant to enjoy the self-reverent ride. It’s as if the character of Dr. Death is more alive that the aptly named Toombs. He’s older, sympathetic- we feel for this terrorized former star- yet the Dr. Death scenery is no less suspicious or sinister in quality. Besides, many viewers would presume Price himself was spooky onscreen and off, creating another blur between the actors and personas within Madhouse. These dual imageries and creepy soliloquies create quite a haunting portrayal indeed.

At only ninety minutes, fellow horror mavens Peter Cushing (must I?) and Robert Quarry (Count Yorga, Vampire) don’t get too much time to steal the show, but their spooky support is spot on nonetheless. Cushing is so suave, a slick, classy ex-actor turned writer that’s almost too good a friend to be true. Likewise, Quarry is the perfect greasy television executive looking for dames and dollars. Both men also wear vampire costumes at a celebrity party- again playing on the theme with Quarry’s Yorga and Cushing’s Helsing personas. Basil Rathbone and Boris Karloff are credited for their stock footage uses, which is kind of strange but also a fitting tip of the hat for the bent reality that is Madhouse. Natasha Pyne (Father Dear Father) is also an interesting and unexpected touch as TV assistant Julia. Blonde and seemingly insignificant like the other ladies, but again, nothing in Madhouse is what it seems.

 

Adrienne Corri (A Clockwork Orange) is also wonderfully disturbed and loads of fun. Those spiders of hers, shudder! Madhouse looks both swanky with modern mid-century design and Old Hollywood with fallen graces and decrepit sets. The creepy British locales add on lots of candles, statues, and spooky gardens. Old film projectors, flat phonographs, eerie sixties scoring, ironic music cues sang by Price himself, and a few scary storms layer the frame within a frame nostalgia nicely. Hip London cars, debonair accents, mod turtlenecks and ascots add some flair, too. Not to be outdone of course, 1973’s Theatre of Blood sets its scene with demented and dirty vintage London locations. Believed dead after his suicide attempt, Edward Lionheart uses thespian facades and Shakespearean inspiration to seek revenge on the critics association who denied him ongoing review praise and their top year-end award. Inspector Boot (Milo O’Shea, Romeo and Juliet) and the police question Lionheart’s daughter Edwina (Diana Rigg) as one by one Horace Sprout (Arthur Lowe), Chloe Moon (Coral Browne), and the rest of their circle meet their theatrical ends. Will critic Peregrin Devlin (Ian Hendry) be able to stop the deranged actor and his meth drinking street troupe before he’s Lionheart’s next victim?

Unfortunately, the low and uneven voices- it seems like no one’s microphones worked- create a poor and dated feeling for Theatre of Blood. If you’re expecting high horror production, the wasted, worn, and depressing dressings can look like a sub par play made on the cheap. Compared to the whimsical homage of Madhouse, Theatre of Blood appears more like a straight crime thriller; and in some ways, I wish it did have some deserving, grandiose, even gaudy psychedelic Corman color. Longer at almost 1 hour 45 minutes, director Doug Hickox (Brannigan) works with the similar themes of fallen actors, stage facades, play within a play styling, and flashback frameworks. The fun, ye olde silent film opening credits montage suggests the dark humor that is to come, too. However, Theatre of Blood feels slow to start, with standard stuffy Brit types and more bungling policemen who shockingly don’t realize the Shakespearean connections to the crimes. Some of the foreboding is obvious as well, and revenge kinship to The Abominable Dr. Phibes is evident. The editing and cutting styles do build suspense, but some of the early death scenes aren’t as theatrical as they could be. The first hour’s melodrama lacks creativity, and these deadly theatre politics can seem too pompous and dry to be believed. All this just because they gave him a few bad reviews and no trophy?

 

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Theatre of Blood isn’t that scary and feels hollow enough for those expecting a major horror film to turn out. We always see Lionheart in character and don’t get the essential pieces to his motivation until flashback exposition later in the picture. Frankly, these lovely over the top establishments should have been the opening to Theatre of Blood, and the poor choice to stick character importance so late can even create some player confusion. Thankfully, there’s a great ironic use of classic music, and what may appear to be a bland and dark tale slowly builds into a farcical delight. The fun here is in guessing who is going to die next and in what Shakespearean method. The abnormal build up to the humor, farce, and intentionally exaggerated theatrics increase masterfully as Theatre of Blood goes on, complete with wit, panache, and a hysterical Othello twist. The low values and weak start may seem like a faulty execution not worth the viewing, yes. Theatre of Blood does take half of the picture to get to it, indeed. Fortunately, once it does step up the mayhem, Theatre of Blood does so wholeheartedly- literally!

I would say these reduced budget faults necessitate a proper nuHammer remake- if not for the simply irreplaceable Vincent Price that is! Lionheart begins white haired and crazy- an entertaining, once upon a time high thespian with a marked disconnection from reality. Some of the makeup is iffy, but most of the disguises are great genius. Price’s voice, position, and stature may give him away, but the joy is in seeing what warped Bard plan he has next. The demented Shakespearean soliloquies are- I must pun- Priceless. We shouldn’t doubt that Big V could do a straight high-class film by any means, but his pseudo Shakespeare intensity steps up as Theatre of Blood goes on. The multi-layered performance is laced with wit, sadness, class, and sociopathic grace. Oh, the sweeping music and forehead dabs as the faux doctor goes to work! Price is clearly having fun with this man of a thousand faces gone awry, and you can see why this is one of his personal favorite performances. Love it or hate it, Theatre of Blood is almost worth the ‘Price of admission’ just for the kinky Othello scene! I mean, he even sports a fake afro- Bob Ross meets Carrot Top, anyone? Yes, I’ll say it- that burgundy velvet pimp suit is to die for! Price’s nuanced and well faceted portrayal is both spot on and perfectly ironic. I love the Inspector’s “It’s not a comedy!” claim right before an Austin Powers-esque inept police pursuit and the simply exceptional Titus serve-uppance. Oh, yes.

 

She’s up to the challenge and Diana Rigg (The Avengers) looks good, of course; but we don’t see her prettied up much for Theatre of Blood. Her “amateur actress” Edwina begins dry as well, with some seemingly unimportant playful seduction. Fortunately, her position as the good daughter becomes more ingenious as Lionheart’s plans unfold. There’s not a lot of the famous Emma Peel innuendo to bounce off, naturally, as we have no overt attempt for a sexy young thang here. Rigg fans, however, will certainly enjoy her almost see through white mini skirt and sans bra potential. The victimized cast- including future Mrs. Price Coral Browne (Auntie Mame), Arthur Lowe (Dad’s Army), Ian Hendry (Get Carter), Robert Morley (The African Queen), and the rest of the somewhat interchangeable critics – create a very uptight, pompous, and annoying board, indeed. That is partly the point of their latent villainy- they’re asses- but not all of their motivations are explained. We can hate them one by one or enjoy their deaths because we are bemused by Price as Lionheart. Otherwise, the critics aren’t that interesting in themselves, and the audience isn’t given much reason to care. Perhaps there’s supposed to be another level of sinful humor or irony at work- that would be the opposite of the meaningless, unending buffet of blondes and bosoms usually being diced up in horror film today. However, the secondary support in Theatre of Blood just comes off as too lightweight and underdeveloped. The be-furred meth drinking hepcats working with Lionheart are also just too stupid and weird; the flashback explaining their presence comes too late. Although, I do confess, I did fall for one of Theatre of Blood’s now fairly obvious twists on my first viewing!

Uninhibited Shakespeare fans can have a jolly good tongue in cheek viewing with Theatre of Blood, indeed. Study how the seventies deaths mirror the plays, or test up on Bard Quotes and Know Your Will games. It may see meandering to start and too low quality for anything to matter, but this one is definitely worth the viewing investment. The Netflix streaming subtitles are absolutely necessary in catching all of Price’s stage glory, and a dual DVD edition of Madhouse and Theatre of Blood is available for further warped comparisons. Yes, longtime horror viewers will spot the errors in Madhouse and some predictable twists in Theatre of Blood- some audiences may even be confused by the witty, double play finale in Madhouse or Blood’s OTT ending. Nevertheless, classic horror and kitschy Price fans can delight in the solid mystery fun and thespian mayhem in both Madhouse and Theatre of Blood.

My Life My Horror: On the Dearth of Black Characters in Horror Movies

My Life My Horror:

 On the Dearth of Black Characters in Horror Movies
by
James Goodridge

7c0a4462-4171-4f56-839a-7e1ab7dc9672You can say I am old school when it comes to the genre of horror.My thing was the old Universal movies of the 1930’s and 40’s. A love for Hammer Studios,with their naughty but classy out put of films during the late 1950’s up until their fall back in the 70’s were stuff of legend.William Castle, Vincent Price, Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee and John Carradine were the go to guys when it came to macabre reruns for me as a child growing up in New York in the late 1960’s. Not understanding why Las Musarañas Asesinas - The Killer Shrews - Ray Kellogg - 1959 - 003 (1)the six o’ clock news would show soldiers shooting into jungle brush in a place called Vietnam, people holding card board placards protesting civil rights, stop the war, and definitely the day my family gathered in our living room to watch Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s funeral (seeing my parents cry together the first time) horror strangely enough, sports and more extensively science fiction was an escape. Like a drink I like my horror neat not too bloody. But reality caught up to me one Summer night inPOSTER_-_BLACULA 1969. I am changing the channel back and forth on our floor model black and white television between Creature Features, a television show that showcased horror and science fiction, (other cities had their version) on WNEW channel 5 and what other network I can not remember. The Bride of Frankenstein is on, and then I ask myself, “Why are there no people like myself in these movies?”  The period piece movies like The Bride I could understand things were not good for our people in the 19th century and before, but what about now (1969),progress was slow.

Fast forward to the fall of 1971, it’s a Friday Blackensteinnight moms asleep, dad has gone to hang out with his buddies after work,my brother Barron is god knows where as a member of the Reapers Bronx street gang it’s a round midnight and I’m hanging out with my big sister Brenda and her husband Allen, they are spending the night in the Bronx then will head home to Brooklyn in the morning. They are channel surfing. Which back then consisted of me being the remote control, you know getting up and change the channel, yes a channel knob, we also had three networks, three local stations and public TV. Back then we thought we were brand new! Any way my sister is going through the TV Guide and lets out a oh wow !

“Allen you know what’s coming on?” ThingPoster

“ What babe?”

“ Night of The Living Dead!” my sister said.

“ Nice!” Allen said in his best cool jazz head voice.

“ Whats that?” I ask nothing for nothing.

“ Oh your going to like it.” my sister said with a sly look on her face.

“ But what…” I say.

“You not going to be scared are you ?” Allen asks.

“ No I ain’t no chump!” I say not trying to be a afraiddy cat. The lights are turned out and I turn to WABC Channel 7, by coincidence the mood is set by the howl of the wind rushing through the building hallways from an open roof door on the 14th floor of our building in Bronx River Houses which was to become 220px-Candymanposteryears later one of the Meccas of Hip Hop, but that’s another story. We all know the opening sequence with Barbara and Johnny in the cemetery of this classic by George Romero, I slowly getting hyped, Barbara Duane Jones as the hero/protagonist just blew me away!

Keep in mind this picture had made its delayed premiere Back in 1968,I say delayed because according to Mr. Romero the week they wanted to showcase it at a grind house on Time Squares in New York was the same week of Dr. Kings death.That night I found myself engrossed in this movie and also grossed out, but that’s the fun of horror the fear of mortality and the feeling of beating out death, or at least knowing we can leave the movie theater or get up from the couch knowing its just a movie, cheering on the hero or shero as he or she fights the good fight for existence to save the human race,or thyself.Seeing the220px-Hoodposterbrother go through all the issues of trying to survive and be the anchor to a bunch of people who would have been zombie food had it not been for him was euphoric for me.The only other horror movie I could recall seeing, with another black character before Night of The Living Dead was a B movie titled The Killer Shrews (1959)starring James Best,in it the black character “Rook Griswald” a ships mate to Best’s character played by Judge Henry Dupree lasts,maybe ten minutes in to the movie, before he’s shewed up by mutant shrews.Back to Duane Jones,he fought the good fight to the end, but in the end which I later viewed as a metaphor for being black in America ,Duane’s character gets shot in the head mistaken for one of the living dead. No matter what we do America screws us in the end, a feeling and opinion that has ebbed and flowed with me over the years I would submit to the reader,that for some time back then African-Americans did not gravitate to horror not only because of neglect by the movie industry, but also the everyday life,of horror just trying to make it through the week goes on even now in different configurations.

The Blaxploitation boom, of the early to mid 70’s or BJ (Before Jaws)showed that yes a black audience was out there. Blacula (1972), Scream Blacula Scream (1973),Blackenstein(1973),Ganja & Hess (1973) starring Duane Jones and remade as Da Sweet Blood of Jesus in 2014 by Spike Lee)Voodoo Black Exoicist (1973),Abby (1974)and J.D.’s Revenge (1976)which featured black stars such as William Marshall,Pam Grier and Carol Speed among others showed promise. But in 1975 the original Summer block buster and movie game changer JAWS premiered and the black horror movie as a stand alone genre dried up. The 1980’s saw black characters reduced to token parts in the horror movie genre. In my DVD collection I have the rare Blood Tide(1982) featuring James Earl Jones as an ethics challenged relics Hunter.Keith David did show hope for black folk surviving to the end in The Thing(1982)remake and in my opinion whether you call it a short film or a long video Micheal Jackson’s Thriller featuring Vincent Price did some good for people of color in horror. The struggle to scream continued. The same feeling I felt back in 1971 I relived in 1992 watching Candyman the first of a trilogy of movies(1999,2003) starring Tony Todd,while his body of work is not as extended the legendary Mr.Price he still earns the same level of respect in my book. Today even with the recent Oscar’s awards lack of color, with effort we do not have to look to the Hollywood powers that be to be creative Spike Lee’s executive producing of Tales From The Hood(1995) and the use of the INTERNET for web series like Alex Fernandez’s vampire saga Dawn (2015).We are in historic times for horror with the flow of books , INTERNET ,movies, wo etc… the struggle to scream continues.

 

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Born and raised in the Bronx, James is new to writing speculative fiction. After ten years as an artist representative and paralegal James decided in 2013 to make a better commitment to writing.jamesgoodridge headshot Currently, he is writing a series of short “Twilight Zone” inspired stories from the world of art, (The Artwork) and a diesel/punkfunk saga (Madison Cavendish/Seneca Sue Mystic Detectives) with the goal of producing compelling stories

 

 

Kbatz: Dickensian Macabre!

Dickensian Macabre!

by Kristin Battestella

For those Addicts unaware, dear old Kbatz was born on February 7 – the same day as Charles Dickens! No, not in 1812, of course, but I don’t need further excuse to embrace some classic Victorian bleak and holiday macabre. Woohaa!

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Bleak House – This 2005 BBC mini series adaptation boasts a dynamite looking Gillian Anderson (Scully), Denis Lawson (Wedge), Anna Maxwell Martin (Poppy Shakespeare), Carey Mulligan (Shame), Charles Dance (Game of Thrones), Nathaniel Parker (The Inspector Lynley Mysteries), Hugo Speer (The Full Monty), and many, many more. The high-end decor, low looks, and to the hilt HD style are great- complete with a brewing, spooky atmosphere and sharp editing. Instead of spending visual time on lavish scenery and scopes, numerous up close shots and tight photography keep the focus on Dickens’ players as they chase fortunes and vices while the legalese profits from it all. The decidedly not quick, full 8-hour serial format works superbly for the hefty source material-which seems slightly less well known, but is just as complex. This is both dark cinematically, with a lack of bright and colorful Victorian cheer, and saucier thematically, with slightly obvious but nonetheless juicy and illicit soap-esque twists. If only we had ongoing miniseries like this again on American TV instead of reality junk or unintentionally short and mislaid fluff with no attention to detail. It’s bemusing to see such a large cast interconnected and inescapably tied to the system- entire lives and families rise and fall on the espionage and law here. But of course, we should not be surprised how those vile at the top use legality for their gains in the same way the unscrupulous at the bottom lean upon the establishment. The unforgiving societal consequences come to the forefront with great mystery and crime plotting just to keep things interesting, too. For as the characters themselves say: lawyers…villains…same thing!

 

The Christmas Carol – I stumbled upon this 1949 half hour on one of our new retro channels- love them- and wow, found two of my favorite things together: Vincent Price reading Charles Dickens! Price is so young indeed for this very early television production, but he’s animated, suave, and even cheeky during his onscreen transitions. He’s clearly enjoying this little holiday dramatization! Though black and white, there’s also a fittingly aged, green patina to the video, which retroactively creates a further vintage. Arthur Pierson’s (Hometown Story) adaptation has all the quintessential dialogue and memorable iconography even if the acting is the dated with the expected but put on British-ness. The direction feels stilted as well, with bare bones sets, awkward cues, some choppy editing, and simple camera filming. However, most of this is forgivable considering the budding television concepts and infancy of the medium post-war. Though few, the ghostly effects are surprisingly well done for the time. With such a short time frame, the work is considerably condensed, too. The unusual looking Ghost of Christmas Past and subsequent two ghostly visitors only receive one essential scene each. Thankfully, fun music accents the paired down design, and the quick simplicity makes this one just right for the Dickensian classroom.

 

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Great Expectations – Magwitch Ralph Fiennes (Voldemort), Miss Havisham Helena Bonham Carter (Bellatrix), and Mr. Jaggers Robbie Coltrane (Hagrid) go Dickens 2012 with Jeremy Irvine (War Horse), Holliday Grainger (The Borgias), Sally Hawkins (Happy-Go-Lucky), and Jason Flemyng (X-Men: First Class). The old time fog, bleak, and cold are felt here with threatening, dirty, up-close convict dangers and poor cruelty at home, creating a jarring juxtaposition against the potential for Christmas kindness and holding fast to doing what is right despite difficult times. Will we be rewarded at some time unknown or is there always one ready to deceive and take advantage of the goodhearted? People treat one differently when society raises him and we pretend to be something we are not. Would be lovely greenery and estates marred with decrepit cobwebs and decay accent the harsh nature and bitter nurture at play – although the chemistry between the young leads falls flat with repetitive dialogue and a Dickens-lite, Young Adult tone. Perhaps Bonham Carter seems too quirky as Miss Havisham thanks to her Burton associations, but her madcap, warped pain would be fitting if it wasn’t presented as unevenly gothic and comical – the fire scene, I hate to say it, is laughable. Big, junky jewelry and ugly hairstyles are iffy, too. Brief CGI cityscapes and modern digital saturation are unnecessary compared to appropriately crowded London streets and cramped period interiors, the score is too generic, and flashbacks on Miss Havisham’s marital cause and the Magwich back-story feel too…music video. The pace drags in time away from the elder cast, but these 2 hours move fast over the well known plot. There are better, fully envisioned adaptations – perhaps this release was simply too blink and you miss it soon after the 2011 television version – but the paired down style, elder ensemble performances, and the tough to beat story lend their appeal to contemporary eyes and a classroom discussion.

 

The Mystery of Edwin Drood – Dickens’ final incomplete tale seems to have garnered new attention with recent stage and literary off shoots- even if it is perhaps impossible to conclude this murder and romance plot befittingly of Our Man Charlie. However, this fine 2012 television attempt has the proper mood lighting and cinematography, a shadowy Victorian underbelly style, and a few twisted villainous personas for good measure. The cast- including properly pissy Tazmin Merchant (The Tudors), stuffy and fun Ian McNiece (Rome, Doctor Who), and a creepy freaky Matthew Rhys (Brothers & Sisters) – does solid as always in these imported PBS/Masterpiece period projects. There are some intriguingly modern suggestions from Dickens, with opium-addicted choirmaster Jasper and his lecherous looks upon young ladies easily garnering a shudder or two. Even with such thematic darkness, screenwriter Gwyneth Hughes adds darker complexities and contemporary suspense designs, and the approach simply isn’t as taut or interwoven as work straight from The Man Himself. The conclusion here takes what seems to be a fairly easy way out- the 21st century twist rather than Victorian happenstance, justice, and irony. Fortunately, the very unfinished circumstances that can hinder any Drood adaptation also make this one a worthy witness for any Dickensian fan or scholarly seminar.