Category Archives: 30Hz Cinema

The 30Hz movie-related ramblings

The Legend of Hell House (1973): 31 Days of Horror

#12. The Legend of Hell House (1973)

Nature of Shame:
Unwatched Blu-ray, I suppose. I needed a semi-scary spook flick for my wife and sister-in-law who aren’t “down for anything,” contrary to their claims.

Hooptober Challenge Checklist:
Decade: 1970’s

A couple years ago, I made these non-horror-watching hooligans watch John Carpenter’s The Fog. They still talk about The Fog and I’ve struggled to repeat that performance. This year I presented Night of the Comet, Night of the Creeps and The Legend of Hell House as possible viewings. Much to my surprise, they picked Hell House. So here we go.

the legend of hell house

The Legend of Hell House Elevator Pitch

An eccentric millionaire hires a physicist to prove life after death by sending him into the Belasco House, “the Mount Everest of haunted houses,” for a week. He brings along his wife, two mediums and unbridled skepticism.

In the Haunted House of Bloody Narcissism

I last watched The Legend of Hell House many years ago by myself in an old Boston apartment. My wife was in law school and I spent many nights up alone watching movies. It spooked me a little bit. Not Session 9-level turn-on-all-the-lights-and-invite-every-living-person-over-for-a-nightcap grade spooked, but unnerved nonetheless.

Upon this viewing, perhaps because of the mixed company (read: any company), I paid as much attention to the reactions of the viewers as my own tingler.

legend of hell house

Based on Richard Matheson’s Hell House, The Legend of Hell House wasn’t the super straight A-to-Z ghost story and retelling of the Shirley Jackson novel that I remembered. Due in large part to Roddy McDowall, the film serves up just enough light comic relief to dull the overall fright factor. Some of it seems rather silly, like 2018’s imitation of a traditional 1970’s horror movie. This makes it a very strong choice for someone looking to dip their toe into the deeper waters of horror. The tenor and pacing of the 70’s might create distance in a viewer more accustomed to modern cinematic conventions.

So. Uh. You Mentioned Ghosts?

This is no Scooby-Doo pull-off-the-sheet style “haunted” house tale. Although Dr. Lionel Barrett (Clive Revill) dismissed the possibility of life after death as a self-induced psychological manifestation, there’s no part of you, as the viewer, that sides with the skeptical doctor. It’s clear from the beginning of this film that Dr. Lionel is going to get these people killed. The only question — as Roddy McDowell suggests — is how many.

legend of hell house

Director John Hough uses gloomy skies, minor keys and ominous daily time stamps create a mood. The music (or lack thereof) contributes most effectively to this mood as there’s no sonic distinction made between the score or ambient sound effects. They are one and the same.

The house blocks out all incoming light. The rooms, cluttered and claustrophobic, convey a sense of the owner’s (and suspected haunt’s) personality without ever giving Emeric Balasco a voice. Set design and lighting suggest his voice, his backstory. As the team digs further into the history of Balasco, the sordid and previously latent details become revealed.

legend of hell house roddy mcdowall

If not for McDowall’s eccentric medium, Benjamin Franklin Fischer, The Legend of Hell House might have been too straight, too sinister. Even though Ben’s the most scarred of the characters in the film (he’s been through this experience before), Roddy McDowall can’t help but inject affability into his performances. He’s a broken man, but his nervous energy provides relief from the stoic seriousness.

Ghosts Can Kinda Die! #SpoilerAlert

Since the audience knows the truth that Dr. Barrett seeks, The Legend of Hell House’s mystery becomes not whether the house is haunted, but who’s actually doing the haunting. We’re given the run around by the sordid spook(s) inhabiting Belasco House.

legend of hell house pamela franklin

Dr. Barrett becomes the target of particular rage. His wife Ann goes on midnight lust walks and demands sex from Ben. The mental medium Florence Tanner (Pamela Franklin) has ghost sex. When Ben finally opens himself up to receive the ghost transmissions, we’re relieved to finally get some answers (which confirm our suspicions all along).

That said, the mystery isn’t entirely effective. Confirmation allows us to focus back on what works so well in The Legend of Hell House. Mood. The traditional haunted house scares of Hell House work because they’re back up by delicious production design and a singular focus on low-level tension. With each passing day the veracity of the ghost’s behavior increases. With each new timestamp our own expectation for violence grows.

legend of hell house

Arguably the actual events don’t even live up to our anticipation of the events. Anticipation fuels almost all of the horror in The Legend of Hell House. The curation of expectation of what might happen leads us from narrative beat to narrative beat. The best horror films understand how to build this tension so that the actual horror event serves only to punctuate the anticipation. Bad horror films focus too much on the horrific elements themselves. A punchline without the setup.

Final The Legend of Hell House Thoughts

Delivers moderate scares — and would certainly work as an introduction to another level of horror film. The Legend of Hell House finds its groove and rides it to a conclusion. Some, including those in my viewing party, felt that the ultimate payoff felt underwhelming. True. The Legend of Hell House lacks the proper payoff of other, better haunted house films like The Haunting, which parallels this film in more ways than one.

I don’t necessarily agree that it undermines the film, but I understand the point. The ending’s a bit bonkers at face value. I won’t spoil the final scene for anyone idly checking in on my 31 Days of Horror progress, but suffice to say that the film concludes with a bizarro twist of character. If you let it simmer, however, I think you’ll warm to my idea that it’s an abstractly disturbing moment of humanization. It speaks to the power of myth and legend — the power of a deranged man to endure long after his death.

legend of hell house

The Legend of Hell House Rating:

Availability:

Shout Factory released an excellent Blu-ray of The Legend of Hell House back in 2014.

Some  scenes look rather soft, but Hough used so much soft focus and diffusion filters throughout the film that I’d be surprised if the film *could* look better than this. The film grain remains and looks remarkably natural.

 

2018 @CinemaShame / Hooptober Progress

#1. Deep Rising (1998)
#2. The Mist (2007)
#3. Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948)
#4. Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man (1951)
#5. Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy (1955)
#6. Maniac Cop (1988)
#7. Nightbreed (1990)
#8. The Hound of the Baskervilles (1959)
#9. In the Castle of Bloody Desires (1968)
#10. Chopping Mall (1986)
#11. The Kiss of the Vampire (1963)
#12. The Legend of Hell House (1973)

James David Patrick is a writer. He’s written just about everything at some point or another. Add this nonsense to the list. Follow his blog at www.thirtyhertzrumble.com and find him on TwitterInstagram, and Facebook.

The Kiss of the Vampire (1963): 31 Days of Horror

#11. The Kiss of the Vampire (1963)

kiss of the vampireNature of Shame:
Unseen Hammer Horror!

Hooptober Challenge Checklist:
Decade: 1960’s

While I can’t consider myself a Hammer Horror completist, I’m certainly an aficionado. Anything unseen is worth watching. Anything recommended by THE Hammer authority on Twitter, @CushingLee, requires immediate attention.

This may or may not be my homework for an upcoming episode of the Cinema Shame podcast. Okay it is. We have a Hammer Horror Shamedown scheduled for release the week of Halloween. If we can just get our schedules aligned to record the damn thing. Here comes the Hammer. Insert obligatory MC Hammer gif below.

hammer gif

The Kiss of the Vampire Elevator Pitch

When car trouble strikes a pair of honeymooners motoring across a small “southern European” village, an aristocratic local family offers assistance… with dire consequences! The dire consequences, of course, is that the patriarch an overly cool cat by the name of Dr. Ravna becomes smitten with the new bride and wants to have her over for lunch.

In the Honeymoon of Bloody Desires

Hammer titles outside the Dracula and Frankenstein franchises don’t seem to get much attention, no matter the quality of film. If pressed to give the name of my favorite Hammer Horror films I don’t think I’d offer either a Dracula or Frankenstein in my Top 5. Is that shocking? I’d go as far to say that Hammer’s best horror work comes about as the result of the absence of these iconic monsters. They’re unencumbered by the source material and free to be thoroughly…. Hammer. Gothic scenery, busty women and languid pacing with a central focus on character, set design and broaching the aesthetic norms.

kiss of the vampire title

There’s an ideological clash at the center of the best Hammer films. The dated, Victorian-era settings coming into conflict with the studio’s desire to push the contemporary envelope regarding on-screen depictions of sex and violence. As a result, even the most lurid depictions of Hammer sexuality feel, however, like a gleeful reaction to an easement of stuffy patrician repression.

By the time Hammer hit the 1970’s, their cinematic sexual revolution felt entirely unencumbered. Films like Vampire Lovers (1970), the regrettable Lust for a Vampire (1971) and Twins of Evil (1971) — known collectively as the Karnstein Trilogy — positively reveled in “bloodshed and bosoms.” The out-there Hammer of the 70’s replaced the barely-veiled, but still subversive Hammer of the 1960’s.

vampire lovers
Ingrid Pitt and Madeline Smith in Roy Ward Baker’s Vampire Lovers (1970).

So. Uh. You Mentioned Sex?

Sexuality comes part and parcel with any vampire film worth its weight in salt(y blood). Kiss of the Vampire didn’t get its name based on all the rampant cuddling. Kiss of the Vampire proves to be as much about sex as the far more lascivious Karnstein trilogy.

Consider the basic premise of the film. Newly married couple Gerald (Edward de Souza) and Marianne (Jennifer Daniel) arrives at a aristocratic home housing a vampire cult led by a charming Dr. Ravna. Dr. Ravna abducts Marianne and thrusts Gerald into a Kafka-esque nightmare. His wife’s existence has been erased; Gerald had been traveling alone.

kiss of the vampire 1963

Marianne has been emancipated from the shackles of her marriage. The biggest threat that these vampires pose to a button-down British society is the sexual liberation of their women. Dr. Ravna’s vampiric cult suggests no threat to Gerald other than disorientation and the expectation that he’ll just away.

Gerald enlists the help of a Van Helsing figure in Professor Zimmer. More so than other vampire films of the era, the viewer notes the lack of imminent danger. The Kiss of the Vampire pulls no punches; it’s all about power and sex. Power goes to the patriarchy that controls the women and has the sex. Gerald represents the prudish British status quo, while Dr. Ravna represents sexual transgression, polygamous, free, unencumbered.

kiss of the vampire 1963

“Vampires” Don’t Die (Kinda) #SpoilerAlert

The Kiss of the Vampire stands out because of the viewer’s ability to question his/her allegiances. The Ravnas appear face value creepy, but the seed for Marianne’s little transgression appears to have been planted long ago. The Kafka-esque puzzle in which Gerald finds himself feels curiously underscripted, but no less interesting.

There seems to be no reason for Dr. Ravna to engage  in such a plot unless he hope the weakminded everyman (as a stand-in for the Institution) would just wander away in a stupor, leaving the cult to enjoy their sexual deviancy without the prying eyes of outsiders.

kiss of the vampire 1963

Final The Kiss of the Vampire Thoughts

Whether or not you support the above interpretations, The Kiss of the Vampire offers plenty of those aforementioned Hammer pleasures. Immaculate, overstated set design, vibrant colors and heaving vampire bosoms populate the landscape. If it were just another vampire movie from Hammer Films, The Kiss of the Vampire would still entertain like a cozy Halloween blanket. As it is, however, Don Sharp’s film offers plenty of throat-sucking (read: food) for thought as an eccentricity in the broader vampire genre. Plus you’ll wonder how you lived this long without the gleefully low-budget bat attack finale.

kiss of the vampire 1963

The Kiss of the Vampire Rating:

Availability:

kiss of the vampire blu-ray

The 8-Film Hammer Horror Collection contains The Kiss of the Vampire plus a bunch of other mismatched titles. 

Tracking down all the best Hammer Films weights quite heavily on completists. Because of their distribution eccentricities there are a number of collections and individual titles for sale from Universal and Warner Bros. Nevermind that two of Hammer’s most notable releases, Dracula and Curse of Frankenstein remains unavailable on Blu-ray in the United States while very nice editions have been released in the UK.

Other Hammer collections of note:

Warner Brothers Horror Classics Vol. 1 
Mill Creek Double Feature: The Revenge of Frankenstein / The Revenge of the Mummy’s Tomb
Mill Creek Double Feature: The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll / The Gorgon
Indicator Hammer Volume One – Fear Warning

2018 @CinemaShame / Hooptober Progress

#1. Deep Rising (1998)
#2. The Mist (2007)
#3. Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948)
#4. Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man (1951)
#5. Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy (1955)
#6. Maniac Cop (1988)
#7. Nightbreed (1990)
#8. The Hound of the Baskervilles (1959)
#9. In the Castle of Bloody Desires (1968)
#10. Chopping Mall (1986)
#11. The Kiss of the Vampire (1963)

James David Patrick is a writer. He’s written just about everything at some point or another. Add this nonsense to the list. Follow his blog at www.thirtyhertzrumble.com and find him on TwitterInstagram, and Facebook.

Chopping Mall (1986): 31 Days of Horror

#10. Chopping Mall (1986)

chopping mallNature of Shame:
I’m at a loss. We’ll just go with Barbara Campton Shame!

Hooptober Challenge Checklist:
Decade: 1980’s
Barbara Campton
Inanimate Object Comes to Life

I recognize that a robot isn’t letter-of-the-law inanimate, but gaining sentience is on the same wavelength. I wasn’t thrilled with my other options for the “inanimate object come to life” category and this satisfied the Babs Crampton requirement as well. Bonus Babs!

chopping mall

Chopping Mall Elevator Pitch

Mall security robots go haywire and terrorize the janitorial staff and a group of frisky teenagers who’ve locked themselves in the mall to, you know, fornicate after hours.

In the Mall of Bloody Desires

I don’t know if anyone’s following along with my 2018 31 Days of Horror odyssey, but if you are, you may or may not have noticed that I’m editing the sub-headings organically. Okay. I don’t even know what that means. Practically, it means that I’m using the subheadings from my prior bl-g post to reflect the new movie. My last writeup subheadings for In the Castle of Bloody Desires have shifted to accommodate the horny teenagers in Park Plaza Mall. For example “In the Castle of Bloody Simple Pleasures” became simply “In the Mall of Bloody Desires.” Just something to look forward to. It pays to subscribe.

Also, this is called word padding. Here’s my ID. Don’t revoke my license to bl-g.

Chopping Mall reflects a beautiful filmmaking simplicity. Introduce obviously bad robots. Lock teenagers in a mall. Unleash robots. You need something else out of your horror movie? While the film starts slow, like a cheap sex comedy, it quickly becomes a low-budget Dawn of the Dead with Johnny Fives instead of zombies once lightning strikes the mall and scrambles the robots’ digital brains.

So. Uh. You Mentioned Gog?

Well, no. I didn’t, but thank you for the segue-way. The kitschy robot design in Chopping Mall doesn’t reflect 1980’s technology. It seems that the filmmakers and legendary special effects man Robert Short wanted to pay homage to the robot design aesthetic of the 1950s. These particular Chopping Mall models, however, have the kind of firepower Reagan wanted to develop for his Star Wars space defense program.

(Reagan-era reference. CHECK.)

So that brings us to Gog (1954), a science fiction gem that I first saw in 3D at midnight at the 2016 Turner Classic Movie Film Festival. Documentation below:

Our rowdy row before the Gog (1954) in 3D midnight presentation on Saturday night.

Gog concerns the haywire central control system of a state-of-the-art space station. The central brain sends the station’s robots out to do its murderous bidding. It seems entirely likely that Chopping Mall director Jim Wynorski had absorbed and appreciated the robotic malice of Gog. Unfortunately flame-throwing Herbert Marshall seems to have slipped through the cracks.

not chopping mall's herbert marshall with a flamethrower
Not Chopping Mall’s Herbert Marshall with a flamethrower.

So what does Chopping Mall have, if not Herbert Marshall?

chopping mall dick miller

I’m so glad you asked. Chopping Mall has electrocuted Dick Miller. It also has one of the best exploding heads this side of Scanners (poor Suzie Lynn aka Babs Crampton) and a terrifically banal robot voice punchline, “Have a nice day.”

The “Virgins” Don’t Die #SpoilerAlert

Chopping Mall doesn’t stray especially far from Slasher 101. The robots pick off oversexed teenagers one by one until the final virginal girl… or in this case, couple… manage to fend off their mechanical menace. This excess of robot-killing guile apparently stored up alongside their raging, unsatisfied libido.

Being untethered and unsexed also prevents the final girl and final guy from doing idiot things like driving a motorized cart into a robot pulsing with deadly electrical current in a Shakespearean suicide in the name of love. Hey, it happens.

Chopping Mall’s Simple Pleasures

As I’ve suggested, this is not a complicated film. It does, however, roll along at a breakneck clip and delivers a number of inventive kills along the way. The production quality of a film like this also seems undeserved. I say that, but the first time someone gets electrocuted you’ll question my sanity.

The mall setting provides plenty of opportunity for Wynorski to play with space and framing. While Chopping Mall refrains from becoming a broad horror comedy, it’s certainly not without a sense of humor. The dire sincerity of the robots as they execute their victims should be good for at least a few laughs.

Final Chopping Mall Thoughts

If you don’t care to take a robot slasher 80’s slice of life mall comedy too seriously, I bet you’ll have a good time with Chopping Mall.  Wynorski sets the right tone and just let the good times roll. Get it? Because the robots are on rolling treads. It’s a joke. Whatever, you guys. Have a nice day.

chopping mall final duo
The unlikely final duo of Kelly Maroney and Tony O’Dell.

Chopping Mall Rating:

Availability:

chopping mall blu-rayThe resuscitated Vestron Video line of Blu-ray releases released Chopping Mall as its very first offering. 

Why not?

I say this a lot, but it bears repeating. This movie looks better than it ever should and the care taken to produce a Criterion level package for Chopping Mall cannot be overlooked. It might be unwarranted, perhaps, but it can’t be overlooked.

2018 @CinemaShame / Hooptober Progress

#1. Deep Rising (1998)
#2. The Mist (2007)
#3. Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948)
#4. Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man (1951)
#5. Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy (1955)
#6. Maniac Cop (1988)
#7. Nightbreed (1990)
#8. The Hound of the Baskervilles (1959)
#9. In the Castle of Bloody Desires (1968)
#10. Chopping Mall (1986)

James David Patrick is a writer. He’s written just about everything at some point or another. Add this nonsense to the list. Follow his blog at www.thirtyhertzrumble.com and find him on TwitterInstagram, and Facebook.

In the Castle of Bloody Desires: 31 Days of Horror

#9. In the Castle of Bloody Desires (1968)

VHS artwork for In the Castle of Bloody Desires, aka Castle of the Creeping Flesh. This image has nothing to do with anything that happens in the film.

Nature of Shame:
Shame! and Im Schloß der blutigen Begierde are not exactly bedfellows. I purchased the Blu-ray because Germany’s Subkultur label released the Blu-ray and why would anyone do that? Therefore, I must view it.

Hooptober Challenge Checklist:
Decade: 1960’s
Pre-1970’s
Anniversary Film (’68)

Imagine if Mario Bava produced a Jesus Franco joint on a Roger Corman budget and you’ve have something resembling Im Schloß der blutigen Begierde aka In the Castle of Bloody Desires aka The Castle of Creeping Flesh aka The Castle of Bloody Lust aka The Castle of Unholy Desires. Buy five names and get a guy in a bear suit for free!

(This will make sense momentarily. Or not. It’s out of my hands.)

in the castle of bloody desires

In the Castle of Bloody Desires Elevator Pitch

A mad scientist/grieving father conducts unholy experiments in order to bring his dead daughter back to life. [Insert ECU of inanimate statue here.] When he runs out of body parts, he runs out of hope… until a group of drunken assholes stumble across his castle! Part supply problem solved?

In the Castle of Bloody Desires Nobody Can Hear You Lust

Every so often a movie flummoxes me. I mention this now because I am, indeed, flummoxed, but not unable to carry on describing the things I’ve witnessed… Im Schloß der blutigen Begierde!! (It’s more dramatic to say it in German.)

In the Castle of Bloody Desires boasts about 45 minutes of actual narrative film. The rest is padded with extreme close ups of gothic statues and surgical footage. Yes. Surgical footage. Like this garish, latex torso:

in the castle of bloody desires

Around the art history and the grotesque subplot about rearranging a poor girl’s innards, In the Castle of Bloody Desires displays some of the most profoundly banal innuendo you’ve ever heard. James Bond’s crack about Christmas Jones doesn’t even hold a candle.

My personal favorite takes place while the group of drunken aristocrats joy ride through the forest on horseback. The six beautiful and extraordinarily wealthy humans talk idly and discuss their “romantic” ride. Two of them, the Baron Brack (Michel Lemoine) and Elena (Elvira Berndorff), race ahead, giggle pompously, and utter things like “You ride harder and much more vigorously!” The playful mood then turns rapey as the Baron forces himself upon Elena. (She resists his advances by calling him a “dirty swine” but does very little to actually discourage the event.)

Even though I wrote only that one line down in my notebook, this was the sequence that caused me to make my “whoa” face. In lieu of actual footage of my “whoa” face, I’ll recreate it below with the help of Keanu Reeves, who probably helped inspire the vague lip curl and open-mouthed disbelief.

hold the phone

So. Uh. You Mentioned a Bear?

I said, we’ll get back to the bear momentarily.

It’s no wonder this film was called In the Castle of Bloody Desires because that’s some amazing cinematic pleasure and pain all mixed together. On one hand, you can’t help but enjoy the terrible freeform innuendo, but on the other, even absurd rape-based narratives are hard to stomach when handled incompetently. This unfortunate aspect of the narrative becomes a motif.

Once the rest of the party catches up, they arrive at Camp Exposition. They have s’mores (they don’t) and talk of the crazy Earl of Saxon and the legend of his raped and murdered daughter. Then the talk turns, obviously, to a circus bear that the Earl once released into the woods to hunt and kill the rapist. We’ll call the bear Chekhov and move on. Okay, maybe we won’t movie on because I can’t get over this plot twist. The crazy mad doctor / Earl of Saxon (played by Howard Vernon, regular stock player for Jesus Franco) released his pet bear. To catch his daughter’s killer. There’s no way that could go sideways!

In the castle of bloody desires
Howard Vernon as the Earl Who Releases Bears to Kill Those That Wrong Him.

After talking at length of the daughter’s rape and murder, Elena flies into a tizzy and rides off into the night in order to escape her own shame. Still no plan. Everyone follows along behind because Elena’s riding off into the woods, alone, at night. In case you’re not following the highly logical A-B-C’s of this particular story, they all wind up at the crazy Earl’s castle and need to shelter there for the night. (But what about the bears?!?)

But but but wait! There’s more! The Earl notes a strange resemblance between his unexpected guests and some of his own ancestors. This digs up the supernatural tentacles old the family curse, kickstarts some squirmy invasive internal surgery and presents us very detailed views of a great many different statues.

in the castle of bloody desires

The Bear of Bloody Desire is Actually a Guy in a Bear Costume! #SpoilerAlert

As is the most often the case in this low-budget gothic tales of horror and madness, the shooting locations make terrific eye candy — elevating many other shortcomings like acting and screenwriting. “Shortcomings” seems a little generous. Though I have no frame of reference for director Adrian Hoven (as Percy G. Parker), nothing he does here suggests he’s especially competent behind the camera. Whatever successes found in In the Castle of Bloody Desires come from clumsy shot juxtaposition, tone-deaf scripting and Nino Borghi’s set design and art direction.

There’s at least an attempt to marry the darker, rape-based elements with an elevated, if derivative, sense of humor. In one scene, reminiscent of the sexy-eating scene from Tom Jones (1963), two characters ogle each other while they chomp and slobber through dinner. In the next breath, the director tries to honestly portray the origins of the family curse through the horrors of gang rape through a hazy, distorted lens. At this point all you can do is say, “Here we go again,” and embrace this movie’s version of danse macabre.

In the Castle of Bloody Simple Pleasures

I’ve highlighted the more lascivious elements of the film, but other than a few fleeting moments, In the Castle of Bloody Desires displays an otherwise innocent fascination with topless nudity. The film reflects a simpler time when castles and toplessness represented a genre all of their own. Say what you will about their motivations, but films like In the Castle of Bloody Desires were first and foremost concerned with natural beauty. Beautiful women in exotic and gothic locales. Meticulous set design lit by candelabra. High ceilings and shadowy hallways. Also, a bounty of nipples.

If that’s all In the Castle of Bloody Desires had to offer it would have been a serviceable but forgettable footnote. German filmmakers emulating a popular genre for frugal horror filmmakers. This film, however, gains a heaping measure of infamy because it dares to intercut gonzo footage of actual open heart surgery to represent the mad Earl’s attempts to repair his dead daughter. When the film vacillates between benign gothic sexy-times and rape-revenge and legitimate OMFG IS THAT REAL? surgery it feels incredibly schizophrenic.

Equal part curious and off-putting. The surgical scenes last just long enough for you to question how a film with this kind of budget managed practical effects of that quality–oh, look more sexy times! This is proper grindhouse cinema; anything goes. It lacks competency and logic and proves intermittently very uncomfortable, but In the Castle of Bloody Desires is entirely unforgettable. And I haven’t even gotten to the bear. I won’t spoil the bear’s ultimate reveal, but suffice to say that it’s every bit as horribrilliant as you could imagine.

Final In the Castle of Bloody Desires Thoughts

Listen — I can’t recommend this anyone. Some of you just know. Watch it with friends. Watch it with a bit of extra libation, just don’t tell them about the real open heart surgery. Make them question/discover it for themselves. About the bear? Well, I’ll let you decide how best to tease a man an obvious bear suit mauling someone on a cliff as the climax of the film.

in the castle of bloody desires

In the Castle of Bloody Desires Rating:

Availability:

in the castle of bloody desiresUnavailable since its VHS release, In the Castle of Bloody Desires has received a proper Blu-ray release from Subkultur Films, a German distribution company. They’re doing magical things for movies that have no business being treated with such care, but that’s the beauty of it all.

The disc has sold out on the website of U.S. distributor Mondo Macabro and Diabolik DVD. If I locate a someone selling the disk, I’ll update my post if I happen to locate a way for you to watch this film. The effort for an indeterminate number of you would be worth it.

2018 @CinemaShame / Hooptober Progress

#1. Deep Rising (1998)
#2. The Mist (2007)
#3. Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948)
#4. Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man (1951)
#5. Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy (1955)
#6. Maniac Cop (1988)
#7. Nightbreed (1990)
#8. The Hound of the Baskervilles (1959)
#9. In the Castle of Bloody Desires (1968)

James David Patrick is a writer. He’s written just about everything at some point or another. Add this nonsense to the list. Follow his blog at www.thirtyhertzrumble.com and find him on TwitterInstagram, and Facebook.

Hound of the Baskervilles (1959): 31 Days of Horror

#8. Hound of the Baskervilles (1959)

hound of the baskervillesNature of Shame:
Unwatched Hammer Films adaptation of Sherlock Holmes’ most horrific tale? Hound of the Baskervilles starring Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing? On an Arrow Films Blu-ray? FOR SHAME.

Hooptober Challenge Checklist:
Decade: 1950’s
Auteur: Romero, Cronenberg, Clive Barker, Terence Fisher, Sergio Martino, Bill Lustig
Pre-1970’s

I’ve never seen a Hammer Horror movie I’ve actively disliked. Some are better than others, but even the bad ones serve as comfort cinema. Garish warm and fuzzies foregrounded against shadowy Victorian set design and nightmarish things that go bump in the night. Consistent and sincere on-screen talent that inhabit even the most nonsensical premises. Horror Express, as one example, should be C-grade trash, but the stable of Hammer thespians buys into the absurd premise, legitimizing high concept drivel.

Hammer Horror takes amorphous secondhand nonsense, molds it, shapes it, and makes high-ish art. On this occasion, however, Hammer has accosted one of the most respected stories in the Sherlock Holmes canon. Though Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote pulp literature, the Holmes tales have achieved elevated literary status. What would Hammer do with respected literature? Elementary, my dear Watson.

hound of the baskervilles

Hound of the Baskervilles Elevator Pitch

A supernatural family curse threatens a stodgy nobleman on his newly inherited estate. The stodgy nobleman calls Sherlock Holmes in to investigate the mysterious howling from the moor.

Baskervilles, Baskervilles, Baskervilles!

Conan Doyle’s The Hound of the Baskervilles novel — Holmes’ first literary appearance in eight years after the character’s supposed death in “The Final Solution” — has been adapted more than 20 times for film and TV. Germany produced the first, a four-part silent serial called Der Hund von Baskerville with an actor named Alwin Neuß. The loose adaptation is now best known for Karl Freund’s cinematography and a Great dane that played the role of the menacing hound with amiable pluck and a generous tongue.

Shots from Rudolph Meinert’s The Hound of the Baskervilles (1914), photographed by Karl Freund.

Sidenote: Karl Freund photographed some notable films by the name of Metropolis (1927), The Last Laugh (1924), and Dracula (1931) among many, many others. The perpetually innovative cinematographer  invented his own film stock for shooting in low-level lighting, the unchained camera, and later in life, the three-camera setup for scripted television. He’s a deal. He also directed The Mummy (1932).

It wasn’t until 1939 that Daryl Zanuck and 20th Century Fox produced the first respectable adaptation of The Hound of the Baskervilles starring Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce — the pair’s first of 14 Holmes adaptations. Rathbone wasn’t even first-billed. That honor went to the film’s blank-slate lead Richard Greene.

The Hound of the Baskervilles (1939) starring Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce.

Peter Cushing picked up the deerstalker in this 1959 film adaptation directed by Hammer mainstay Terence Fisher. When the film went into production in 1958, Hammer Films hadn’t yet committed to the horror genre, having spent its first two decades developing comedies and thrillers. The surprise success of The Curse of Frankenstein (1957) led the company down a path of gothic retreads of moldy Universal shockers.

The Hound of the Baskervilles is Actually a Dog! #SpoilerAlert

The film embraces its literary roots with prose reading of the legend of the Hound. True to Hammer’s horror legacy, however, we’re soon treated to Sir Hugo Baskerville stabbing a servant girl on a druidic alter before being mauled by the Hound of legend. The scene serves as a quick shock, a blast of attempted gang rape, murder and dreamscape executions.

It’s unlike anything we’ve seen in a Holmes adaptation; leave it up to Hammer to push the boundaries of decorum in the opening volley of a Sherlock Holmes adaptation. Nothing else in the film registers the same key of violence — but even in 2018 it’s a shocking hook, one that must have been positively jarring in 1959.

After the opening scene, The Hound of the Baskervilles settles into more deliberate but sumptuous jurisprudence as Holmes and Watson first meet Sir Henry Baskerville and weigh the merits of the beguiling case.

Christopher Lee, in one of his earliest speaking roles, plays Sir Henry Baskerville with confident, detached erudition. He’s above the rumors, above the supposed curse — but something is, no doubt, amiss. It’s Cushing and Andre Morell that most impress as Holmes and Watson. Cushing’s intensity portrays a man on the edge of dark philosophical precipice, unlike the clinical Rathbone. Cushing’s inner demons paired with Morell’s military precision make for arguably the best on screen duo to portray Conan Doyle’s protagonists.

That Holmes seems fit to snap at any moment makes the character feel entirely unpredictable. The liner notes of the Arrow Blu-ray mentions that critics have noted Cushing’s Holmes straddles his Van Helsing — due to the spiritual darkness imprinted on the character. An element absent in the text. In this Hound of the Baskervilles, Holmes repeatedly references the powers of darkness, alluding to spiritual or purely evil powers outside the realm of man’s understanding.

The Baskervilles Problem

The eccentric element of Conan Doyle’s The Hound of the Baskervilles text that often plagues adaptations is the disappearance of Holmes from this Sherlock Holmes story. Once Holmes takes up the case, he sends Watson to live with Sir Henry at the Baskerville estate in order to protect and observe. This forces Watson to become the lead detective, forcing an uncommon amount of screen time on a supporting actor.

As much as I enjoy Nigel Bruce’s comic relief in the Rathbone adaptations, he’s ill equipped to carry a Sherlock Holmes film. The 1939 The Hound of the Baskervilles feels for a brief moment like a precursor to a Scooby Doo mystery with Watson bumbling around the moors. Morell meanwhile shepherds the film without guffaw until Holmes dramatically returns just past the midway point of the film.

I consider it a minor crime against humanity that Hammer never followed up The Hound of the Baskervilles with another Cushing/Morell Holmes adaptation. Anthony Hinds, son of Hammer founder Williams Hinds, claims that the studio had never intended to carry on the Holmes legacy. They had negotiated specifically with the Conan Doyle estate for the rights to The Hound of the Baskervilles precisely because it was the only Holmes story that fit their aesthetic.

Fans of The Hound of the Baskervilles would do well to seek out Hammer’s Plague of the Zombies, for which screenwriter Peter Bryan reworked his own Hound of the Baskervilles screenplay. Fisher also directs Christopher Lee as Sherlock Holmes in 1962’s Sherlock Holmes and the Deadly Necklace, an Italian-German-French co-production — definitely not Hammer related, but interesting nonetheless.

Final The Hound of the Baskerville Thoughts

Beyond Cushing’s Holmes portrayal and the tempered fits of blood and violence, The Hound of the Baskervilles adds a few notable Hammer-style film elements to the source material. It’s fun to play “What did Hammer add?” as you watch along with the film to see how well you remember the novel or the earlier adaptations.

Certain detractors call this one a “bore,” but I vehemently disagree. Hammer Horror rarely relies on outright violence or titillation to thrill the viewer. They focus on character and the build to catharsis through dialogue and mood. Set design and cinematography plays as integral a role in The Hound of the Baskervilles as any overture to sex or violence. Does anyone use the color green better than Hammer?

Obviously latter Hammer Horror put it all out there  — and that’s a different brand of entertainment — but in 1959, outside that opening flourish, it’s about the art of the tease — and the thrill of the hunt.

The Hound of the Baskervilles Rating:

Availability:

Twilight Time released Hound of the Baskervilles on Blu-ray in Region A. You can purchase these directly from Twilight Time or from Screen Archives. (You’d do well to wait for a sale.) You can also pick up some used ones on the Amazon site. 

hound of the baskervilles twilight time

I viewed the Region B Arrow Films Blu-ray, which can be procured more cheaply from the Arrow site (especially during their sale throughout the month of October). 

hound of the baskervilles arrow films

 

2018 @CinemaShame / Hooptober Progress

#1. Deep Rising (1998)
#2. The Mist (2007)
#3. Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948)
#4. Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man (1951)
#5. Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy (1955)
#6. Maniac Cop (1988)
#7. Nightbreed (1990)
#8. The Hound of the Baskervilles (1959)

James David Patrick is a writer. He’s written just about everything at some point or another. Add this nonsense to the list. Follow his blog at www.thirtyhertzrumble.com and find him on TwitterInstagram, and Facebook.