Thirty Hertz Rumble

A bl-g about movies, music and nostalgia by James David Patrick

Author: jdp (Page 18 of 57)

31 Days of Horror: She-Wolf of London

she-wolf of london 31 days of horror

31+ Days of Horror. 33 Horror Movies. 33 Reviews. Hooptober Challenges and Bonus Tasks.
View my 2016 Cinema Shame/Hoop-Tober Watch Pile Shame-a-thon Statement here.

Nature of Shame:
Unseen Universal Horror.

Hoop-tober Challenge Checklist:
Decade – 1940’s
Classic Universal Horror


 

The Advance Word: None. Nobody talks about She-Wolf of London, which is why I’ve probably never bothered to watch it. Or why I never finished the entire Wolf Man Legacy Collection DVD set.

#6. She-Wolf of London
 she-wolf of london

I watch and enjoy Universal horror movies indiscriminately. They’re comfort cinema. Therapy through high-contrast black and white cinematography. German Expressionism for the Moviewatcher’s Soul. My parents introduced these movies to me as a wee lad; The Invisible Man being the one that hooked me. The films aired non-stop on AMC (if I remember correctly) during the week of Halloween, and I’d cram as many as I could onto a stack of VHS tapes. As a result, I could hardly be expected to keep track of what I’d seen.

When I received the brand new collection of Universal Wolf Man flicks on Blu-ray, I scanned the titles, looking for an unseen gem to add to my CinemaShame/Hoop-Tober Watch Pile Challenge. The final flick on the collection, She-Wolf of London, caught my eye. Most certainly I’d remember June Lockhart turning into a werewolf. I mean… wouldn’t you?

she-wolf of london 31 days of horror

Lockhart plays Phyllis Allenby, an heiress whose parents named her with the express intent of giving her agoraphobia or anthropophobia or at the very least making her an insufferable introvert. Phyllis lives in an old estate with her aunt Martha, cousin Carol, and servant Hannah. She is to be married to the in-demand bachelor Barry Lanfield. All seems well with the Allenbys. Except for the fact that Phyllis believes that at night she turns into a wolf and kills people in the park.

Without touching upon the film’s troublesome suggestion that Phyllis just needs a man in her life to make all her problems disappear, we’ll get right to the heart of She-Wolf of London‘s damning problem. There’s no werewolves in the film. Not one. Not even the shadow of one. The best we get is someone — clearly a human — barking behind some bushes in the park. If you’ve seen Curse of the Cat People, you’ll recognize the narrative at approximately the 15-minute mark. Trust me when I say I’m not spoiling the film here. She-Wolf of London might as well have made werewolf shadow puppets. That’s how much effort it put into the false assignation of crimes to lycanthropy.

She-Wolf premiered at the decadent end of Universal’s horror cycle hoping to capitalize on a slice of that Wolf Man name recognition. Familiarity might be the film’s best asset. The impressive, ornately furnished estate allows for typically above-average contrast and shadowy cinematography, but the set feels overly familiar. It would make sense that by the late 1940’s, Universal would have been recycling just about everything to strangle the last few dollars out of their goldmine horror franchises.

she-wolf of london

There’s novelty in seeing 21-year-old June Lockhart in one of her first starring roles. Dennis Hoey (Lestrade in the Basil Rathbone Sherlock Holmes films) stops by for an appearance as the Inspector that won’t fully buy into the werewolf nonsense. She-Wolf of London offers a couple of nuggets for Old Movie Weirdos to catalog in the back of their mind, but beyond that you’ll just be grateful that this toothless film lasts no longer than 70 minutes and offers a few unintentional laughs during the convoluted climax.

Technical Notes:

To satisfy my curiosity I sampled the transfer of She-Wolf of London on the original Wolf Man DVD collection and then jumped around the Wolfie Blu-ray titles on the rest of the set. You’ll find the expected difference in clarity from the DVD to the stepped-up Blu-ray but no extra clean up. She-Wolf of London apparently didn’t warrant the same care as the other titles, though I certainly can’t blame them for focusing their attentions elsewhere.

Final Thoughts:

If you never get around to the end of this Wolf Man set, I wouldn’t worry much about it unless you’re a die-hard June Lockhart fan.

30Hz Rating:

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Wolf Man Legacy Collection Blu-rayBlu-ray Verdict:
 It’s a collection of Universal horror movies from the 30’s and 40’s. Of course you should own it. Everyone should own it. The only caveat here is that if you’ve religiously purchased all of the Universal Horror Blu-ray sets the only new-to-Blu titles in this set are She-Wolf of London and Werewolf of London.

Availability: Universal’s brand new Wolf Man Complete Legacy Collection Blu-ray is available everywhere. And this here linky connects to Amazon.

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Earlier 31 Days of Horror entries: #1. Vampyros Lesbos / #2. A Chinese Ghost Story / #3. The Haunting of Morella / #4. Delirium (1972) / #5. A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin

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31 Days of Horror: A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin

a lizard in a woman's skin 31 days of horror

31+ Days of Horror. 33 Horror Movies. 33 Reviews. Hooptober Challenges and Bonus Tasks.
View my 2016 Cinema Shame/Hoop-Tober Watch Pile Shame-a-thon Statement here.

Nature of Shame:
Unwatched Mondo Macabro LE Blu-ray. Regularly recommended Fulci.

Hoop-tober Challenge Checklist:
Decade – 1970’s
Country of Origin – Italy
Master Classers: Fulci


 

The Advance Word: Many claim this to be Fulci’s finest film. I knew nothing but the film’s elevated reputation.

#5. A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin
 a lizard in a woman's skin poster

 

Lucio Fulci has never connected with me. When I first dove into Italian horror I picked up The Beyond as a result of many enthusiastic recommendations. It would become my first impression of Fulci. I didn’t dislike it, per say, but I’ve not felt the need to toss it into the DVD player again. The Anchor Bay tin resides at the bottom of a pile consisting of many special iterations of Evil Dead and Evil Dead 2. I’ve seen some Fulci since, but not one of those so-called Fulci “essentials” has swayed my opinion that Lucio Fulci’s most popular films were exercises in tossing goop at the camera.

I know! Sacrilegious. Calling “the Godfather of Gore” a goop tosser. I oversimplify perhaps. I’ve found more value in his westerns and his oddball comedies like Four of the Apocalypse and The Eroticist. But I haven’t given up on you, Lucio.

When Mondo Macabro, my favorite boutique distributor of Euro-trash, announced a very special A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin Blu-ray releaseI decided to once again dabble in Fulci. A giallo, no less!

a lizard in a woman's skin 31 days of horror

A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin checks into that cozy little giallo sub-genre that merges the genre’s psychosexual elements with a poliziotteschi. Part slasher, part police procedural, Lizard dives into the damaged psyche of Carol (Florinda Bolkan), a respected daughter of an even more respected politician. Carol finds herself experiencing vivid, dreamlike hallucinations consisting or orgies, LSD use and, ultimately, a bit of bloodletting. These dreams feature the hedonistic neighbor woman (Anita Strindberg) whom she openly claims to despise. Nice respectable modern women do not condone such behavior! After one such dream, Carol wakes to find herself at the center of a homicide investigation for the murder of the woman in her dream. Trippy.

Without traveling too far down the rabbit hole that is A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin, I’ll just say that it seems rather clear that Fulci hates hippies and psychoanalysis, perfectly understand the tenants of the giallo genre (even if he finds pleasure in undermining them) and loves exploring the cinematic art of unified atmosphere. It’s this constant, unsettled atmosphere — the cockeyed and unpredictable camera angles and movement, Ennio Morricone’s score, the way color palettes shift from the realm of fantasy to reality — that makes this movie a special slice of horror cinema. If indeed it could be called “horror” — A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin errs more toward Agatha Christie than Dario Argento.

In his giallo guide So Deadly So Perverse, Troy Howarth says that while Fulci considered Argento’s films “sloppy in their construction but brilliant in their execution,” he considered his own attempts at gialli to be too mechanical. While I agree with the “mechanical” criticism of A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin, Fulci’s film does not lack style. Lizard benefitted from the balance between the luxurious, flesh-filled dream sequences and the real-world investigation of the crime. As a result Fulci created a baseline series of oppositions in the movie: style vs. substance, the fanciful vs. the grounded, the uninhibited vs. the repressed.

forinda bolkan a lizard in a woman's skin

Florinda Bolkan in A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin. Her wardrobe in the film reinforces the character’s social and sexual repression that ultimately causes her psychological schism.

Bolkan’s performance anchors the film. Without her wildly vacillating but still stoic center (and perhaps her wardrobe), A Lizard doesn’t convey the necessary emotional and psychological fragility. The old Welsh thespian Stanley Baker holds down the skeptical investigator role without too much wasted energy. His appearance surprised me as I wasn’t aware he ever ventured into genre work or international productions.

Technical Notes:

I have no prior experience with A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin, but Mondo Macabro’s release looks damn sharp. Nice contrast throughout, stable colors with expected grain levels. I noticed one minor instance of soundtrack hiss. The disc offers plenty of extras to dig through as well, including three documentaries, trailers, radio spots, an alternate opening, and an audio commentary from Fulci-doc filmmaker Kit Gavin.

Final Thoughts:

Ultimately, I appreciated A Lizard more than I enjoyed it, at least at first glance. Fulci’s packed this film with elements ripe for dissection. The constant opposition of clashing forces, his personal thoughts on psychoanalysis, the social and moral upheaval of the late 1960’s. As opposed to The Beyond or House by the Cemetery, however, I look forward to revisiting A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin. It feels like one of those films that will improve with subsequent viewings. Also, I won’t tell you what the hell the title means — to do so would be the ultimate spoiler of spoilers.

30Hz Rating:

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a lizard in a woman's skinBlu-ray Verdict:
 Mondo Macabro’s releases have all been keepers. A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin deserves the same fate. Back on the shelf with you to await your next summons.

Availability: Mondo Macabro’s Region-Free Blu-ray release of A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin can be purchased on Amazon or Mondo Macabro’s Big Cartel site.

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Earlier 31 Days of Horror entries: #1. Vampyros Lesbos / #2. A Chinese Ghost Story / #3. The Haunting of Morella / #4. Delirium (1972)

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31 Days of Horror: Delirium (1972)

31 days of horror delirium 1972

31+ Days of Horror. 33 Horror Movies. 33 Reviews. Hooptober Challenges and Bonus Tasks.
View my 2016 Cinema Shame/Hoop-Tober Watch Pile Shame-a-thon Statement here.

Nature of Shame:
Unwatched DVD.
Picked it up after reading a blurb in Troy Howarth’s Giallo guidebook, So Deadly So Perverse.

Hoop-tober Challenge Checklist:
Decade – 1970’s
Country of Origin – Italy


 

The Advance Word: I knew only what I’d read about Delirium in Howarth’s giallo guide, which was that Delirium was a trippy, unique entry in the giallo genre.

 delirum 1972 31 days of horror

 

“There is nothing quite like a Renato Polselli film. You may take that as a good thing or a bad thing, but there is no denying it: the man had a style and sensibility which was uniquely his own. And Delirium is truly one of his most, well, delirious and absurd films.”

After reading this introduction to Delirium in Troy Howarth’s So Deadly So Perverse, I hopped on my phone’s Amazon app and ordered Polselli’s Delirium. Shortly thereafter I found myself in a Twitter conversation with someone who mentioned Delirium as one of his favorite giallo films. For whatever reason, I was not aware of the Lamberto Bava Delirium (Le foto de Giola) so when I engaged him in conversation, thinking we were talking about Polselli’s Delirium, he returned a mighty confused tweet because he didn’t know about Polselli’s film. We shared a good virtual laugh about that, and then I went onto Amazon and added Bava’s Delirium to my order.

Howarth speaks the truth, my friends. I’ve seen a good chunk of gialli, but I’ve never seen a film quite like Renato Polselli’s Delirium.

Everything about the film feels slightly askew. From the jarring guitar-driven score (by Gianfranco Reverberi) to the often uncomfortably brutal sadism and masochism to an intermittently tender husband/wife relationship between our main character/pervert/psychiatrist and the woman who apparently loves him. The actors overplay and underplay scenarios with equal measure. Some are even prone to those dastardly hysteria-driven comas. Polselli seems aware that he’s written and directed something awesomeful. Awesomeful in a way, however, that suggests that every objective misstep is in fact intentional. The frenetic editing, the stilted dialogue, the hyperbolic acting, disquieting episodes of S & M — all of it feels like Polselli constructed Delirium with the intent of receiving side-eye for 100 minutes. The following trailer for Delirium should give you a sufficient dose of said crazy.

The movie opens with our main character, Dr. Lyutak (the bodybuilder Mickey Hargitay), ogling and then murdering a young girl in a fit of psychosexual depravity. He returns home where his marital impotence interferes with conjugal sexy times. His wife Marcia (Rita Calderoni) begs him to do whatever he wants. This brings out a dose of strangulation and a hint of murder before Lyutak dials it back… because he loves and respects her too much. Later he gives her a late anniversary card. His heartfelt words involve being a failure as a man but a supremely successful scientist. That’s just pillow talk, baby.

Lyutak becomes a primary suspect of the initial murder. As you would when you’re a COMPLETE F’ING LUNATIC. He’s cleared of charges, however, when someone else commits a similar murder while Lyutak’s being questioned. (Isn’t that how it always goes?) This means there’s another deranged psychosexual killer on the loose, and poor Marcia’s still a virgin. The body count piles up, and the investigators continue to look the other way while Lyutak becomes ever more unhinged. The fact that nobody identifies him as a stark-raving lunatic becomes increasingly more comical.

Technical Notes:

Blue Underground’s DVD does a nice job of presenting a film that’s likely never been treated very kindly. I’d comment further on the intermittently harsh soundtrack, but for all I know Polselli intended it that way.

delirium 1972 31 days of horror

Final Thoughts:

I don’t know if I can outright recommend Delirium, but I found it to be an intermittently brilliant, often comical head trip. Recommended, with reservations. If you can handle the brutal scenes of violence against women — not necessary gory, mind you, but wholly unsettling — then you might find plenty to enjoy in Delirium’s psychosexual depravity. From a certain angle, this could be an uneven, underrated giallo masterpiece. From another angle, it could be bungled trash. As Black Sheep said, “The choice is yours.”

30Hz Rating:

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delirium 1972 dvdDVD Verdict: Plenty layers of weirdness to dig through. I can see myself revisiting this to further investigate the burning question on everyone’s mind regarding Polselli’s Delirium: WTF? 

Availability: Blue Underground’s DVD is available from Amazon and wherever fine trash is sold.

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Earlier 31 Days of Horror entries: #1. Vampyros Lesbos / #2. A Chinese Ghost Story / #3. The Haunting of Morella

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31 Days of Horror: The Haunting of Morella

the haunting of morella

31+ Days of Horror. 33 Horror Movies. 33 Reviews. Hooptober Challenges and Bonus Tasks.
View my 2016 Cinema Shame/Hoop-Tober Watch Pile Shame-a-thon Statement here.

Nature of Shame:
Unwatched Blu-ray. David McCallum deserves my time.

Hoop-tober Challenge Checklist:
Decade – 1990’s
Ode to The Witch


The Advance Word: Picked up The Haunting of Morella on Blu-ray due to David McCallum. Also, the story was based on the Edgar Allan Poe short story “Morella.”

david mccallum the haunting of morella

The value of Jim Wynorski’s The Haunting of Morella — outside David McCallum clearly providing the inspiration for Bill Pullman’s character in Zero Effect — lies in the film’s earnest attempt to emulate the gothic vistas and pacing of the Roger Corman’s Edgar Allan Poe adaptations. Sub McCallum in for Vincent Price. Bingo bango.

Morella opens with the execution of woman condemned as a witch (Nicole Eggert). Her husband looks on, at peace with the mob’s decision to burn her at the stake. We’re conditioned as seasoned cinematic viewers of movies featuring these “witch roasts” to side with the ill-fated witch. As the executioner reads from her list of misdeeds however, one can’t help but think that this witchy witch is most surely an unholy abomination and probably deserves what’s coming to her.

Before she dies, Morella promises to return. I believed her, personally. It was something about her screechy tone and/or Nicole Eggert’s acting skills (lack thereof). The rest of the villagers seem skeptical, which confuses me. If you’re going as far as burning her alive, surely you believe she’s got powers to do stuff! Plus, if she doesn’t return this is a five-minute movie, you pitchfork wielding, shortsighted simpletons! Fast forward 17 years and Morella attempts to inhabit the body of her teenage daughter Lenora (also Nicole Eggert!). Morella consumes innocent bystanders and servants in order to regain her mojo.

The Poe short story “Morella” concerns a wife dying in childbirth who swaps her soul for that of the child. I’m simplifying, of course. Even as someone who reads the Poe collected works rather frequently, I had to check back in with “Morella” because it’s just not Grade-A Poe material. Corman adapted “Morella” for one segment of his anthology film Tales of Terror, and to be honest, I don’t remember that segment of Corman’s film either. The Haunting of Morella does an admirable job weaving elements of the Poe story into this material.

About two-thirds of the way through this talky melange of boobs, blood and David McCallum in full Bill Pullman/Zero Effect mode, The Haunting of Morella proves itself handi-capable of adapting Poe. Elements of a good B-movie popped up here and there, but it’s nearly impossible to overcome a full cast of stiffs and underachievers. Poor David McCallum must anchor this film alone despite Nicole Eggert’s best efforts to act herself out of a Target-brand paper bag.

 

Technical Notes:

Let’s not kid ourselves. This movie arrives on Blu-ray because of the bounty of boobage. Maybe David McCallum encouraged a few others like me to buy this movie, but I don’t know how many David McCallum fans were knocking on Scorpion’s door begging for The Haunting of Morella in 1080p. With that in mind, The Haunting of Morella is an early 1990’s low budget picture. Wynorski used a variety of soft focus and high contrast cinematography. Whites glow with an intentionally eerie haze and backdrops blend into shades of black. Scratches and scuffs from the print remain. The scratches keep it real. Regarding the audio, at a handful of points during the film I noticed the sound cut out prematurely. The soundtrack left no trace memories.

the haunting of morella skull

Final Thoughts:

For Edgar Allan Poe and David McCallum completists. I’m not going to address any Nicole Eggert completists who might be reading this. As someone fascinated by the ways that Edgar Allan Poe has been adapted into cinema, I found academic value in the viewing experience.

30Hz Rating:

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the haunting of morella blu-rayBlu-ray Verdict: I can’t imagine revisiting this any time soon unless I decide to update that term paper I wrote in college about the impossibility of adapting Edgar Allan Poe for a visual medium. Sell pile. Sorry David ‘Zero Effect’ McCallum.

Availability: Scorpion’s The Haunting of Morella Limited Edition (1500 copies) is available at Screen Archives.

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Earlier 31 Days of Horror entries: #1. Vampyros Lesbos / #2. A Chinese Ghost Story

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31 Days of Horror: A Chinese Ghost Story

31daysofhorror a chinese ghost story

31+ Days of Horror. 33 Horror Movies. 33 Reviews. Hooptober Challenges and Bonus Tasks.
View my 2016 Cinema Shame/Hoop-Tober Watch Pile Shame-a-thon Statement here.

Nature of Shame:
Unwatched Blu-ray. Long overdue rewatch. Shame prep for A Chinese Ghost Story 2.

Hoop-tober Challenge Checklist:
Decade – 1980’s
Country of Origin – Hong Kong


The Advance Word: I remember being transfixed by Joey Wong and the amazing zombie-skeleton things in the basement of the haunted temple that clearly came from the same brand of undead as the ones from Army of Darkness, but gooier.

Wa Mu combats evil forces in A Chinese Ghost Story (1987). Later he raps.

Wa Mu combats evil forces in A Chinese Ghost Story (1987). Later he raps while training.

A Chinese Ghost Story remains one of those fine examples of Hong Kong cinema that refuses to be defined by any specific genre. Blending elements of horror, romance, slapstick, musical and wuxia, the film probably has more in common with the Marx Brothers’ A Night at the Opera any specific genre. When you think director Ching Siu-Tung (best known perhaps as John Woo’s action choreographer/stunt director) has crammed everything imaginable into this tale of supernatural romance, his demon warrior played by Wa Mu, drops a rhyme while he trains for his final battle against the Tree Devil.

Beneath the pratfalls and hilariously ineffective gooey, undead basement zombies, lies an earnest supernatural romance. Leslie Cheung’s roving collection agent stumbles across a beautiful woman near an abandoned temple. She’s radiant. Flowing black hair. Sexy little anklet. Unfortunately she’s also quite dead… and a kept spirit who lures libidinous men to their demise. It seems the Tree Devil feeds on their souls. Further bad luck, she’s also been given to another malevolent spirit as his future bride. The deck’s stacked against our bumbling, good-intentioned hero.

The chaotic finale finds Leslie Cheung and Wa Mu battling demons and other various undead creatures to rescue the lovely (but still very dead) girl from her captors. More wuxia, magic, swordfighting and breaches of the ethereal plain in order to make her not quite so dead. Critics might fault A Chinese Ghost Story for working on so many different levels but only excelling at one — when it slows down the pace to explore the romance between Cheung and Wong.

I enjoyed rediscovering the absurdities all over again. Having not seen this film since college, the lingering memories were little more than individual images. When Wu Ma begins his rap, you’re either on board with the whole endeavor or checking out for good. The best comparison I can offer for this film is Army of Darkness with a heaping tablespoon of gooey romance.

 

Technical Notes:

Hong Kong cinema has never been known for taking especially good care of its film stock, but the Kam & Ronson Blu-ray looks rather sharp. The film always had a soft feel to it so it’ll likely never look better than this. A good amount of grain remains and there’s some nice contrast where the DVD looked uniformly dull. All of this is relative. If you’re familiar with Hong Kong cinema of the 1980’s you should already have reasonable expectations. The English subtitles are generally intelligible — only a few mental leaps of translation required. This is likely the best this film will ever look or sound.

a chinese ghost story

Final Thoughts:

Ever since I first viewed A Chinese Ghost Story as part of my college class in Hong Kong Cinema, I’ve considered a favorite. It even made an appearance in my Top 100 Films Ranking for a short time. At the time A Chinese Ghost Story blew me away due to the film’s total disregard for genre convention. Was it horror? Melodrama? Comedy? Clearly nobody makes movies like this over here. Now that I’ve taken off my Hong Kong cinema training wheels, I realize this method of genre-bending isn’t as unusual as I first thought. I still revere A Chinese Ghost Story for those moments where Ching Siu-Tung spits on narrative convention for the sake of pure entertainment.

30Hz Rating: Bloody Good

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A chinese ghost story blu-rayBlu-ray Verdict: I was happy to replace that old DVD and long may A Chinese Ghost Story anchor my shelf of Hong Kong cinema.

Availability: The All-Region HK Blu-ray is now Out of Print. A Japanese box set of the three films is available at YesAsia.com.

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