The Black Cat: 31 Days of Horror

the black cat 31 days of horror

31+ Days of Horror. 33 Horror Movies. 33 Reviews. Hooptober Challenges and Bonus Tasks.
View my 2017 Cinema Shame/Hoop-Tober Watch Pile Shame-a-thon Statement here.

Nature Shame:
Long overdue for a rewatch shame.

Hoop-tober Challenge Checklist:
Decade: 1930’s
Pre-1970’s

 


 

#8. The Black Cat (1934)

the black cat 31 days of horrorThere’s a limitation to the kind of horror films I can watch while the wife goes to sleep. Silent are great. Gothic are good. Likewise for old Universals. “The bad” involve lots of screaming, slashing, and general gore.

Trust me when I say you don’t want your wife waking up and seeing eyeball stabbings on the television. She will not “just go to sleep” and she will not abide.

So when I was scanning some acceptable options to fulfill some #31DaysOfHorror requirements, I landed on the Universal Bela Lugosi Collection because it was there and likely contained few examples sonic protuberances and few eyeball stabbings.

I last watched The Black Cat when I wrote a term paper on the inability to properly translate Edgar Allan Poe to film during my freshman year at Emory University. To clarify, I suggested that the only way to properly translate Poe was through silent cinema. I cited Jean Epstein’s La chute de la maison Usher from 1928 as the pinnacle of cinematic Poe.

La chute de la maison Usher (1928)
A still from Epstein’s La chute de la maison Usher (1928)

I wish I still had a copy of that essay. I bet I could learn a thing or two from the obsessive research of 19-year-old me. Alas, I can merely recall fondly the dozens of hours I sat up watching every cinematic adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe. They were many. Few stood out as honest representatives of the text. The short list contained not The Black Cat.

The Story

“Based” on Edgar Allan Poe’s The Black Cat, Edgar G. Ulmer’s 1934 The Black Cat concerns the scheming machinations between two psychologically scarred World War I veterans, Werdegast and Poelzig, played respectively by Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff.

the black cat 1934

Here’s the maniacal backstory: Poelzig betrayed 10,000 of his men. He then built his gothic, shadowy mansion of excess over their mass grave. Werdegast, one of the battle’s survivors, has returned to the scene of the crime after 15 years of imprisonment to seek his revenge. It turns out that Poelzig also stole away Werdegast’s wife and daughter during his prison sentence, further fanning the flames of Werdegast’s fury. And then an innocent couple, mere vacationers, gets caught up as pawns in the duo’s sick and twisted bloodsport.

Ulmer’s direction embraces the supernatural and impressionistic elements of the palatial house itself as a main character in the drama. The elongated staircases, the madness contained within the visual bleakness of glass and cold steel. In many ways, the film reminded me of a reverse negative of the original German impressionists. Where there would have been shadow there was stark white. The collision of these dark themes and Poelzig’s vapid minimalism creates an imbalance in the viewer and a purgatorial mise en scene where lost souls congregate, one step away from hell itself.

Unless I’m utterly mistaken, the connection to Poe’s short story “The Black Cat” happens in the metaphorical connection between Poe’s black cat (that he walls up in the basement) and the 10,000 dead soldiers upon which Poelzig has built his house. The cat represents the human conscience, the regret that cannot be suffocated by time or tide or walls or floorboards.

The Black Cat (1934)

Meanwhile Ulmer relies on genre conventions to make the oddly weighty metaphor palatable for mass consumption. He presents Karloff’s Poelzig through the already established “mad scientist” trope. There’s a mute and cro-magnon man-servant. The innocent couple trapped in a situation beyond their control — which trades on the spooky house blueprint established in films such as The Old Dark House (1932), The Cat and the Canary (1929), etc.

Karloff, per his usual, turns in a terrific performance, but it’s the purposeful and restrained Lugosi that most surprises. As the two old warriors dance around each other, it almost feels as if The Black Cat is the most Universal horror of all the Universal horrors. Two masters of the genre facing off without makeup, without capes or monster trickery, within a house built of chiaroscuro and latent evil.

Audio/Visual notes:

The version included on the Lugosi collection could use some TLC. It’s hazy and without sharp contrast. It’s perfectly reasonable for a lesser Universal shocker, but The Black Cat deserves better. It deserves “monster” treatment. Far lesser films have been given a deluxe revitalization just because the title contained the name “Frankenstein.”

Final Thoughts:

Whether you view The Black Cat with an eye toward genre or an eye toward the symbolic placement of World War I and the failure of humanity there’s something for everyone in the family! It’s only when the appreciation of the two schools come together into a melange of respect and kitschy thrills that you’ll mine The Black Cat for all it’s worth. It’s not a successful Poe translation, but it is effective at using Poe’s text as an inspiration for something completely other.

30Hz Movie Rating:

 


Availability:  

the bela lugost collection universal

The Black Cat (1934) is available on the Universal Bela Lugosi Franchise Collection. The set also features Murders in the Rue Morgue, The Raven, The Invisible Ray, and Black Friday.


amazon-buy-button

 

 

 

.

2017 Cinema Shame/Hoop-Tober Watchpile Shame-a-thon

#1. Caltiki The Immortal Monster (1959) / #2. The Devil Doll (1936) / #3. The Velvet Vampire (1971) / #4. Mill of the Stone Women (1960) / #5. The Initiation (1984) / #6. Poltergeist (1982) / #7. Night of the Lepus (1972) / #8. The Black Cat (1934)

 

2016 Cinema Shame/Hoop-Tober Watchpile Shame-a-thon

#1. Vampyros Lesbos / #2. A Chinese Ghost Story / #3. The Haunting of Morella / #4. Delirium (1972) / #5. A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin / #6. She-Wolf of London / #7. Son of Frankenstein / #8. Killerfish / #9. The Bride of Re-Animator / #10. A Bay of Blood / #11. The Seventh Victim / #12. The Fly (1958) / #13. The Fly (1986) / #14. Deep Red / #15. Dracula’s Daughter / #16. Day of the Animals / #17. The Unknown / #18. Kuroneko / #19. Komodo / #20. Tremors / #21. Tremors 2 / #22. A Nightmare on Elm Street / #23. A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge / #24. A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors / #25. Tenebrae / #26. Salem’s Lot / #27. Veerana / #28. House of Wax / #29. The Bird with the Crystal Plumage / #30. Dead and Buried / #31 Ghost and Mr. Chicken

Please follow and like us:
RSS
Facebook
Facebook
Google+
http://thirtyhertzrumble.com/black-cat-31-days-of-horror/
YouTube
Instagram
Follow by Email

Night of the Lepus: 31 Days of Horror

night of the lepus 31 days of horror

31+ Days of Horror. 33 Horror Movies. 33 Reviews. Hooptober Challenges and Bonus Tasks.
View my 2017 Cinema Shame/Hoop-Tober Watch Pile Shame-a-thon Statement here.

Nature Shame:
Moldy, Unseen DVR’d TCM programming

Hoop-tober Challenge Checklist:
Decade: 1970’s

 


 

#7. Night of the Lepus

night of the lepus posterNight of the Lepus has a reputation, so when I viewed my DVR’d broadcast from TCM and witnessed a Ben Mankiewicz introduction that included the phrase “one of the most effective horror films of the period,” I paused.

Was I watching the movie I thought I was watching?

It only took a few minutes to realize that Ben was overselling his feature presentation.

Rest assured… Night of the Lepus contains every advertised ounce of unintentional humor. I tried to take it seriously. I tried to abide the Chewbacca “rabbit” arms reaching out to slice a victim’s jugular. I tried to accept that 3/4 of the film’s runtime seems to be occupied with slow-mo rabbit leaping.

I tried… but in the end, you know what? It’s better just to give in, make the wrong turn at Albuquerque and embrace the terrible movie on its own terms.

night of the lepus title

The Story

Bunny rabbits have taken over a small Arizona town after residents eliminated their natural predator — the coyote. Rancher Cole (Rory Calhoun) approaches a couple of college smartypants of rectifying the problem without the use of poison. College president Elgin (Deforest Kelley) enlists researchers named Roy (Stuart Whitman) and Gerry (Janet Leigh) to come up with a solution.

night of the lepus

They begin experimenting with hormones intended to disrupt the rabbits’ hyperactive breeding cycle. They inject a birth-defect serum into a test group, but oooops, the researchers’ daughter falls in love with one of the injected animals and switches him into the test group so she can keep him as a pet. This is why we can’t have nice things, kids.

The rabbit, of course, escapes and commands a scourge of bloody terror across the southwest. If these chupacabras are Night of the Lepus‘ Godzilla, then this 8-year-old girl is atomic radiation. Anyway, Rory Calhoun running all over Arizona pumping hot lead into these cow-sized rabbits placed him approximately one half step away from full-on Elmer Fuddness.

And how much better would Night of the Lepus have been with Elmer Fudd leading the charge? But I digress.

hunting wabbits

The humans in the film become window dressing. They’re wallpaper, the cogs necessary to spout exposition and move the narrative forward. The star of Night of the Lepus? Slow-motion rabbits galloping through scale models of towns and the countrysides. Rabbit paws taking swipes at screaming humans.

night of the lepus

And best of all, rabbits just chillin’ in a grocery store turned diner, waiting for a slice of pie and drinking coffee but god forbid they order anything with real substance so the waitstaff can actually earn a goddamn living.

night of the lepus

 

 

Audio/Visual notes:

The fuzzier the better. That’s my motto regarding 1972 monstrous rabbit movies.

Final Thoughts:

Best viewed in .gifs and stills, Night of the Lepus leaps off the screen as less than the sum of its individual clips. I paused scenes to see how the rapidly cut images fit together and what kind of absurdity could be revealed. (The below .gif does a great job of simulating that experience.)

Rabbit attack paws and countryside frolics make for good laughs, but the nature-gone-wild/evils-of-meddling-with-mother-nature storyline offers little reward. Night of the Lepus qualifies for the I’ll-watch-it-drunk video store banner, but just barely. And don’t get me started on the way the film resolves its stampeding rabbit issue.

…wait for it….

It’s hare-brained to say the least.

night of the lepus gif

30Hz Movie Rating:

 


Availability:  

Night of the Lepus has been released by Warner Archive, presumably to fuel the Interwebs’ requirement of bloodthirsty rabbit .gifs.

night of the lepus warner archive
amazon-buy-button

 

 

 

.

2017 Cinema Shame/Hoop-Tober Watchpile Shame-a-thon

#1. Caltiki The Immortal Monster (1959) / #2. The Devil Doll (1936) / #3. The Velvet Vampire (1971) / #4. Mill of the Stone Women (1960) / #5. The Initiation (1984) / #6. Poltergeist (1982) / #7. Night of the Lepus (1972)

 

2016 Cinema Shame/Hoop-Tober Watchpile Shame-a-thon

#1. Vampyros Lesbos / #2. A Chinese Ghost Story / #3. The Haunting of Morella / #4. Delirium (1972) / #5. A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin / #6. She-Wolf of London / #7. Son of Frankenstein / #8. Killerfish / #9. The Bride of Re-Animator / #10. A Bay of Blood / #11. The Seventh Victim / #12. The Fly (1958) / #13. The Fly (1986) / #14. Deep Red / #15. Dracula’s Daughter / #16. Day of the Animals / #17. The Unknown / #18. Kuroneko / #19. Komodo / #20. Tremors / #21. Tremors 2 / #22. A Nightmare on Elm Street / #23. A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge / #24. A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors / #25. Tenebrae / #26. Salem’s Lot / #27. Veerana / #28. House of Wax / #29. The Bird with the Crystal Plumage / #30. Dead and Buried / #31 Ghost and Mr. Chicken

Please follow and like us:
RSS
Facebook
Facebook
Google+
http://thirtyhertzrumble.com/night-of-the-lepus-31-days-horror/
YouTube
Instagram
Follow by Email

Poltergeist: 31 Days of Horror

poltergeist 31 days of horror

31+ Days of Horror. 33 Horror Movies. 33 Reviews. Hooptober Challenges and Bonus Tasks.
View my 2017 Cinema Shame/Hoop-Tober Watch Pile Shame-a-thon Statement here.

Nature Shame:
25+ year overdue rewatch

Hoop-tober Challenge Checklist:
Decade: 1980’s
Tobe Hooper

 


 

#6. Poltergeist

 

poltergeist posterOne major component of Cinema Shame that often gets overlooked in the drive to right unwatched wrongs is the joy of rediscovering movies you thought you remembered or understood. I’m not necessarily talking about my Godfather III guffaw from earlier this year (which was an egregious oversight), but rather the movies you actually have seen but just forgotten.

Let’s do some simple math. I’m pretty sure this was covered in Pre-Calc.

Time + tide = erosion. (Time + tide) x omnipresent imagery = erasure. My memories of Poltergeist had been boiled down to a few select images. The girl in front of the television (poster artwork). Also, the clown. Some latent memories of the Spielbergian nature of the production remained. Boisterous adventure scoring and pre-teen thrills.

That’s Poltergeist in a nutshell, right? Silly scares and a girl becoming too attached to her Saturday morning cartoons, which in 1982 was, what, Scooby-Doo, Richie Rich, The Smurfs, and Laverne and Shirley in the Army? Why I recall the latter show is anyone’s guess.

Poltergeist 31 days of horror
The horrors of a girl who can’t find a clicker to watch her Saturday morning cartoons.

The Story

I only remembered the first third of Poltergeist and conveniently overwrote the rest of the film with my own prime time TV edit. I’ll break it down in terms you can understand. After watching the film this past Saturday night, my eyes started darting to every creak and thump. I wasn’t consciously jumpy, but Poltergeist clearly affected my subconscious.

In short, I was pretty wrong about all things Poltergeist — except the Jerry Goldsmith score, which wants to let you know you’re watching a goddamn exciting film, okay? OKAY? (It didn’t help that the mixing on the Blu-ray foregrounds the score, but maybe I’ll get back to that later.)

A young girl (Heather O’Rourke) begins talking to the television, and her parents, Diane and Steve (JoBeth Williams and Craig T. Nelson) think she’s being a cute, eccentric whippersnapper. So she’s taken up talking to the spirits of the dead across an ethereal plane. Everyone’s got to have a hobby. During the first spiritual breach, the girl disappears into the television and becomes trapped by the malignant spirits beyond. Steve and Diane call in a team of paranormal experts to find their little girl.

Tobe Hooper proves mastery over pacing and high concept. Poltergeist could have easily been series of flatulent jump scares and fallen back on cheap haunted house tricks to spook an audience. The story demands these things, after all. What he does instead is abide the jump scares and haunted house tropes in order to craft a film that forces the view to identify with parental anxiety.

The trees flying through the window, cantankerous clowns, spectral hands reaching forth from the television — these things are required to put the audience in the fear register. We’re all numb to these types of scares by now, but in order to place the viewer in the position of uncertainty, Hooper allows for anything to happen. The evil — while initially on broadcast through the television — can eventually come from anywhere.

It’s not these “horror beats” that create tension — it’s the breaths in between. It’s the moments when Diane and Steve sit in silence and worry about what might come next, worry if they’re going to see their daughter again. In many respects, this film isn’t about the haunted house at all. It’s about the daily horrors of parenting. The decisions they have to make, the regular fear that comes along with watching children grow up and becoming their own people and making their own choices.

Of course, it’s also about the soulless existence of suburban living and modern technology as anesthesia, but all this ties back into the choices made by adults to protect their family from the potentially scary world.

poltergiest 31 days of horror

An early scene depicts Steve and Diane smoking weed, escaping for a moment to their own retreat. A child, of course, invades this privacy and makes the moment about them. Parenting is a surrender of the self, which is of course what ultimately happens when Diane and Steve argue about which one of them will breach the plane in order to attempt a rescue of Carol Anne.

That’s Poltergeist — not a silly thing with ghost hands and crazy clowns.

Audio/Visual notes:

The Blu-ray looks great — I noticed a very nice, natural grain with clarity and contrast throughout — but the mixing is all over the board. I had a hard time hearing characters whispering, but a moment later I’d would get blown off my seat by a swell of Goldsmith score. When the tree branch came crashing through the window, my cat (who is well used to boisterous moviewatching by now) jumped off his furniture and sprinted upstairs. After that I kept a finger on my receiver’s volume controls at all times. It sounds great, though, so maybe we should just rattle the windows and scare the cat and be done with it.

Final Thoughts:

I found the difference between my memory and the reality of the film striking. Maybe I just wasn’t old enough to appreciate the true nature of the horror in the film. As a kid, the haunted house stuff (especially the clown) seemed silly — and those images stuck with me. Not JoBeth Williams (who is excellent in this film, by the way) plunging into the unknown to rescue her daughter or Craig T. Nelson sitting by himself at the kitchen table trying to put the pieces of his family back together. It’s the rare pleasure — a scary movie that pulls you into the human drama with fantastic performances.

Zelda Rubinstein as Tangina — the heroine of this here picture.

One final thought. Can I just say how much I love Zelda Rubinstein? Between Tangina in Poltergeist and Madam Serena in Teen Witch, she’s my favorite 80’s character actor of the moment.

30Hz Movie Rating:

 


Availability:  

Poltergeist is available everywhere because it’s Poltergeist. Your only danger is picking up the 2015 version instead.

poltergeist blu-ray
amazon-buy-button

 

 

 

.

2017 Cinema Shame/Hoop-Tober Watchpile Shame-a-thon

#1. Caltiki The Immortal Monster (1959) / #2. The Devil Doll (1936) / #3. The Velvet Vampire (1971) / #4. Mill of the Stone Women (1960) / #5. The Initiation (1984) / #6. Poltergeist (1982)

 

2016 Cinema Shame/Hoop-Tober Watchpile Shame-a-thon

#1. Vampyros Lesbos / #2. A Chinese Ghost Story / #3. The Haunting of Morella / #4. Delirium (1972) / #5. A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin / #6. She-Wolf of London / #7. Son of Frankenstein / #8. Killerfish / #9. The Bride of Re-Animator / #10. A Bay of Blood / #11. The Seventh Victim / #12. The Fly (1958) / #13. The Fly (1986) / #14. Deep Red / #15. Dracula’s Daughter / #16. Day of the Animals / #17. The Unknown / #18. Kuroneko / #19. Komodo / #20. Tremors / #21. Tremors 2 / #22. A Nightmare on Elm Street / #23. A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge / #24. A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors / #25. Tenebrae / #26. Salem’s Lot / #27. Veerana / #28. House of Wax / #29. The Bird with the Crystal Plumage / #30. Dead and Buried / #31 Ghost and Mr. Chicken

Please follow and like us:
RSS
Facebook
Facebook
Google+
http://thirtyhertzrumble.com/poltergeist-31-days-of-horror/
YouTube
Instagram
Follow by Email

The Initiation: 31 Days of Horror

the initiation 31 days of horror

31+ Days of Horror. 33 Horror Movies. 33 Reviews. Hooptober Challenges and Bonus Tasks.
View my 2017 Cinema Shame/Hoop-Tober Watch Pile Shame-a-thon Statement here.

Nature Shame:
Unwatched Arrow Films Blu-ray

Hoop-tober Challenge Checklist:
Decade: 1980’s

 


 

#5. The Initiation

the initiation 31 days of horror

It’s about time! I was worried I’d just ceased to be discriminating.

The Initiation was a blind buy based on the Arrow Films pedigree, but mostly the Daphne Zuniga-ness and in that last respect I was not disappointed. Daphne’s big screen debut satisfies with enough Zuniga for two. But maybe I’ve said too much.

I’ve been down on 1980’s slashers lately so in some respects I back-pocketed that malaise in order to follow through on this Watchpile Shame-a-thon entry. It just seems that they’re all beginning to run together. Not that I don’t enjoy them on some basic level… but I tend to forget everything about them almost instantaneously.

The only recent new-watch 80’s slasher that impressed me was House on Sorority Row. So let that be the bar in that it also happens to share that pledge-themed DNA.

the initiation 1984 31 days of horror

The Story

Kelly (Daphne) suffers from nightmares in which a strange man is burning to death in her childhood home and the stress of her sorority initiation has exacerbated her condition. In an odd, parallel storyline that’s meant to inform our intuition about the identity of the slasher, a bunch of convicts escape from a mental institution. Kelly meanwhile pitches a a term paper idea to her psych TA (James Read aka Murph on Remington Steele) about her nightmares, childhood amnesia, etc.

As part of her initiation, Kelly is forced to steal the keys to her father’s big-ass department store so they can complete the bizarre sorority ritual. This involves somehow scaring the four pledges witless. If I’m being honest the head sorority babe didn’t really think this through. And, as they do, things go wrong and people die when college kids start fornicating and generally being dicks in a huge abandoned department store.

the initation vera miles
Clu Gulager and Vera Miles slumming it in slasherland.

Owing to the fact that producers canned the original director because he was taking too long to film a cheap slasher film, The Initiation bears the burden of feeling both like a TV movie and an arty giallo. Unfortunately its far more of the former and less of the latter. Within the same scene, you’ll get a nifty tracking shot, a few dutch angles and a heap of static two-shots.

On top of this schizophrenia, The Initiation serves up Vera Miles and Clu Gulagher as Kelly’s bourgeois parents. Kudos to Vera for sticking it out through shooting even though she only signed on because she’d been so impressed by Peter Crane (the original director). By the time she arrived for her two days of on-set shooting, Crane had already been fired. That said, if I didn’t know she was Vera Miles, I’d have just thought she stumbled in as a Murder, She Wrote extra.

Once the slashing starts it unfolds in a rather predictable pattern. The static and uninspired camerawork negates much of the tension. The Initiation just doesn’t have any trademark moments to separate it from the rest of the slasher pack. No inventive kills and while the blood flows freely, most of it takes place off camera. The Initiation subscribes to the low-budget theory of showering a problem with blood to make up for the lack of on-screen effects work… like someone’s standing just off-camera with a CostCo-sized ketchup bottle.

the initiation 1984

Audio/Visual notes:

For a cheapy slasher shot in 28 days, The Initiation looks quite good on the Arrow Blu with a healthy color palette and grain. Certain pieces such as misty flashbacks and on-location night scenes, however, appear very grainy. Otherwise everything looks and sounds good.

Final Thoughts:

Let’s not mistake this for a newly-discovered lost masterpiece. It’s a serviceable slasher film with an interesting twist — a twist so surprising that it feels like screenwriting hail mary. I’m not sure the film earns the twist, but it’s plausible enough that you’ll stop to consider it for a few minutes before dismissal.

Daphne Zuniga fan(s) and 80’s slasher aficionados will find this a perfectly passable way to spend 90 minutes, but this cheapie won’t leave much of an impression after its over.

30Hz Movie Rating:

 


Availability:  

The Arrow Films Blu-ray for The Initiation (1984) can be purchased from any respectable media retailer near you! And by that I mean that Amazon has it. So you’re good.

the initiation arrow blu-ray
amazon-buy-button

 

 

 

.

2017 Cinema Shame/Hoop-Tober Watchpile Shame-a-thon

#1. Caltiki The Immortal Monster (1959) / #2. The Devil Doll (1936) / #3. The Velvet Vampire (1971) / #4. Mill of the Stone Women (1960) / #5. The Initiation (1984)

 

2016 Cinema Shame/Hoop-Tober Watchpile Shame-a-thon

#1. Vampyros Lesbos / #2. A Chinese Ghost Story / #3. The Haunting of Morella / #4. Delirium (1972) / #5. A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin / #6. She-Wolf of London / #7. Son of Frankenstein / #8. Killerfish / #9. The Bride of Re-Animator / #10. A Bay of Blood / #11. The Seventh Victim / #12. The Fly (1958) / #13. The Fly (1986) / #14. Deep Red / #15. Dracula’s Daughter / #16. Day of the Animals / #17. The Unknown / #18. Kuroneko / #19. Komodo / #20. Tremors / #21. Tremors 2 / #22. A Nightmare on Elm Street / #23. A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge / #24. A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors / #25. Tenebrae / #26. Salem’s Lot / #27. Veerana / #28. House of Wax / #29. The Bird with the Crystal Plumage / #30. Dead and Buried / #31 Ghost and Mr. Chicken

Please follow and like us:
RSS
Facebook
Facebook
Google+
http://thirtyhertzrumble.com/initiation-31-days-horror/
YouTube
Instagram
Follow by Email

Mill of the Stone Women: 31 Days of Horror

mill of the stone women 31 days of horror

31+ Days of Horror. 33 Horror Movies. 33 Reviews. Hooptober Challenges and Bonus Tasks.
View my 2017 Cinema Shame/Hoop-Tober Watch Pile Shame-a-thon Statement here.

Nature of Mill of the Stone Women Shame:
Unwatched Double Dip! Mondo DVD & Subkultur Blu-ray

Hoop-tober Challenge Checklist:
Decade: 1960’s
Country of Origin: Italy



 

#4. Mill of the Stone Women

mill of the stone women japanese poster

So far my picks for this year’s Shame-a-thon have been top notch entertainment. Four movies. Four keepers. I hope I’m not frontloading this marathon because that would make for a grueling final few weeks of horror movie viewing.

I purchased a DVD copy of Mill of the Stone Women from Mondo Macabro during one of their sales. Shortly thereafter, Mondo offered a great deal on the then OOP Subkultur Blu-ray. In addition to the improved transfer, the Subkultur disc offered a few different features to *totally* justify that unwatched double dip. Totally.

The Italian gothic shocker Mill of the Stone Women keeps the trend of top notch horror flicks going strong with a Hammer-style dose of brooding restraint and Grand Guignol. Allow me to pause one second here for a word from our sponsor.

stop hammer time

Released the same year as Black Sunday, Mill of the Stone Women actually outgrossed Mario Bava’s classic in Italy. In the years since, Black Sunday has become an essential genre staple and Giorgio Ferroni’s film slipped into relative obscurity.

Released on August 30th, 1960, Mill of the Stone women became the first color film released in Italy, which is a useful anecdote for pub trivia and the offhand dropping of impressive film nuggets. But Mill offers even more fun oddities for posterity. In the opening credits, the film gives story credit to a book called Flemish Tales by Pieter van Weigen. As far as anyone knows, no such book exists.

mill of the stone women 31 days of summer

The Story

Borrowing themes from House of Wax (1953), Mill of the Stone Women amplifies the horrific mental imagery of corpses imprisoned in a museum-like setting. A Dutch professor of fine arts and self-proclaimed “doctor” uses the blood from ill-fated women to repeatedly revive his terminally ill daughter. The victims become the centerpieces of his macabre, moving art installation.

In House of Wax, Vincent Price’s madman revives his corpses through painstaking recreation of lifelike detail. Attendees are meant to see a proximity of humanity in the wax figures. Professor Val on the other hand, turns his corpses into a legitimate, representational horror show, like Peter Pan’s Flight at Disney World gone horribly horribly wrong. The bodies are formed into horrific vignettes, rather than a reconstitution of their former selves or famous historical figures.

The haunting visages of the women create a prolonged, underlying sense of unease. The dead-eyes of dolls, the smoky complexions of burned or disfigured women. These images linger and fester just beneath the surface even when they’re not on screen. The psychological horror of Mill of the Stone Women isn’t easily put into words — but it is effective, often more so than the Hammer films which it is clearly emulating.

mill of the stone women 31 days of horror

Though the film relies heavily on seasoned tropes of the genre — coffins, corpses, screaming vixens, mad science — the elements are woven and integrated so that they don’t play like a “how to do horror on a budget” playbook. It’s not that you don’t see the seams of Mill of the Stone Women, it’s that they don’t amount to anything that feels traditional. The film casts a certain enveloping spell. It’s not terror, per se, but an investment in the face-value quality of the horrific imagery.

It’s a skill the great horror filmmakers of the 1950’s and 1960’s had to have in their bag of tricks in order to convey more horror than they were necessarily able to show on screen. That which was felt became more potent than that which was seen. Watch The Innocents, Black Sunday or Carnival of Souls if you need to revisit some concrete examples. Mill of the Stone Women is unique because none of its magic was lost when color shed some light on the darker corners of the film. Less was often more in terms of graphic content and color, but Ferroni’s film plays with the texture of a black and white film — and I mean this in the best possible sense.

mill of the stone women 31 days of summer

Audio/Visual notes:

After a quick comparison of the Mondo DVD and the German Subkultur Blu-ray, there’s not a huge amount of gain in the crispness of the image — but rather the vibrancy of color on a largely grey palette. Note the above image. That yellow really pops on the Subkultur, but doesn’t have the same visual impact on the DVD. If you love Mill of the Stone Women, seek out the Subkultur, but you won’t be disappointed with the Mondo DVD. But good luck tracking down a reasonably priced copy of either.

Final Thoughts:

I’m going to stop just short of saying that I loved Mill of the Stone Women, but I am compelled to watch it again no more than 24 hours after my first viewing. That’s saying something as I’m always inclined to move on to the next new unwatched conquest. It’s just got a quality that belongs to a certain era of horror filmmaking. It’s called effective restraint and patience. Ferroni stared down “plodding” and “pedantic” and weathered poor contemporary reviews to produce a brand timeless terror that likely plays better for classic film fans in 2017 than it did to contemporary audiences in 1960.

30Hz Movie Rating:

 

 


Availability:  

The OOP Mondo Macabro DVD can still be purchased for a hefty price at Amazon. The German Subkultur Blu-ray also seems to be OOP. Your best solution for watching Mill of the Stone Women right now seems to be Youtube.

mill of the stone women subkultur
amazon-buy-button

 

 

 

.

2017 Cinema Shame/Hoop-Tober Watchpile Shame-a-thon

#1. Caltiki The Immortal Monster (1959) / #2. The Devil Doll (1936) / #3. The Velvet Vampire (1971) / #4. Mill of the Stone Women (1960)

 

2016 Cinema Shame/Hoop-Tober Watchpile Shame-a-thon

#1. Vampyros Lesbos / #2. A Chinese Ghost Story / #3. The Haunting of Morella / #4. Delirium (1972) / #5. A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin / #6. She-Wolf of London / #7. Son of Frankenstein / #8. Killerfish / #9. The Bride of Re-Animator / #10. A Bay of Blood / #11. The Seventh Victim / #12. The Fly (1958) / #13. The Fly (1986) / #14. Deep Red / #15. Dracula’s Daughter / #16. Day of the Animals / #17. The Unknown / #18. Kuroneko / #19. Komodo / #20. Tremors / #21. Tremors 2 / #22. A Nightmare on Elm Street / #23. A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge / #24. A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors / #25. Tenebrae / #26. Salem’s Lot / #27. Veerana / #28. House of Wax / #29. The Bird with the Crystal Plumage / #30. Dead and Buried / #31 Ghost and Mr. Chicken

Please follow and like us:
RSS
Facebook
Facebook
Google+
http://thirtyhertzrumble.com/mill-of-the-stone-women-31-days-of-horror/
YouTube
Instagram
Follow by Email

A bl-g about classic and not-so-classic movies, music and nostalgia by James David Patrick