The Creature From the Black Lagoon: 31 Days of Horror

The Creature From the Black Lagoon: 31 Days of Horror

creature from the black lagoon poster#16. The Creature From the Black Lagoon (1954)

Nature of Shame:
Unwatched Universal Blu-ray set

Hooptober Challenge Checklist:
Decade: 1950’s
Pre-1970
Universal horror

Last year I began hosting spooky outdoor movies around Halloween and inviting my daughters’ friends and their families. This year we projected The Creature From the Black Lagoon. Would it go over as well as last year’s screening of The Blob (1958)?

For me, it was my first Creature viewing in nearly thirty years.

Sidenote: Now begins the furious, get-it-done approach to Hooptober/31 Days of Horror review blurbing. 

‘The Creature From the Black Lagoon’ Elevator Pitch

An expedition to the Amazon hopes to find more fossilized evidence of the link between man and fish.

the-creature-swims-in-the-lagoon

The underwater spectacle of The Creature From the Black Lagoon must have been a miraculous moviegoing experience.

Watching Creature With Kids and Their Adults

An interesting phenomenon developed halfway through the film. Kids were cheering for the monster, and the adults (who hadn’t seen it) were worrying more about the archaeologists who were trying to kill the creature.

Like most of the classic Universal horror films, the studio tapped into a unique sense of pathos for the “monster.” The monster became the aggressor when it felt threatened by the aliens who’d invaded its secluded home along the Amazon river.

The simple premise played well with the kids who kept cheering for the Creature as he dispatched one unlikable human after another.

Final ‘The Creature from the Black Lagoon’ Thoughts

Creature never become an essential for me in the same way as the Mummy or the Invisible Man. This viewing allowed me to focus on the gorgeous underwater cinematography and balletic swimming sequences that must have thrilled audiences in 1954. As a technical achievement The Creature From the Black Lagoon is a marvel of B-movie entertainment.

 

 

Creature from the Black Lagoon BlurayThe Creature From the Black Lagoon is available on Blu-ray from Universal along with its two sequels on the Complete Legacy Collection

2019 @CinemaShame / #Hooptober Progress

#1. Shocker (1989) // #2. Etoile (1989) // #3. The Phantom of the Opera (1989) // #4. Blacula (1972) // #5. Scream Blacula Scream (1973) // #6. Jaws: The Revenge (1987) // #7. Blood Bath (1966) // #8. Friday the 13th Part V (1985) // #9. Friday the 13th Part VI (1986) // #10. Friday the 13th Part VII (1988) // #11. Dracula: Prince of Darkness (1966) // #12. Pet Sematary (1989) // #13. Eaten Alive (1976) // #14. Friday the 13th Part VIII (1989) // #15. A Bucket of Blood (1959) // #16. The Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954) // #17. Revenge of the Creature (1955) / #18. The Creature Walks Among Us

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

 

A Bucket of Blood: 31 Days of Horror

A Bucket of Blood: 31 Days of Horror

#15. A Bucket of Blood (1959)

a bucket of blood movie posterNature of Shame:
Beatnik horror/comedy? Yes, please.

Hooptober Challenge Checklist:
Decade: 1950’s
Pre-1970
A Dick Miller jam

I’ve hit that mid-point. I no longer care about writing these reviews. This is a shame because I’ve watched all the damn Hooptober movies, but I’ve only logged half of my reviews. I should care less, write less and just finish. Eventually, you’ll probably get the totally half-assed rundown (fundown?) of everything else I watched this past October, but I haven’t yet reached that point. A Bucket of Blood arrived from Netflix DVD just in time for my Crystal Lake palette cleanse. Anything but Jason, please and thank you.

I don’t mean to spoil this review entirely, but as soon as I finished A Bucket of Blood, I went ahead and ordered the Olive Films Signature Edition Blu-ray. Either it pushed all the right buttons or I was destined to fall in love with the next movie that wasn’t about a machete wielding force of supernatural evil.

A Bucket of Blood from Netflix DVD

‘A Bucket of Blood’ Elevator Pitch

Dig this, man. This square cat, a busboy at a swingin’ cafe, eyeballs the scene and the chicks, but he’ll never cop a feel. After he accidentally wigs out and kills a stoolie pig he becomes made in the shade after turning the dead cop into a sculpture. After he gets hip to the scene, he needs to feed the beast to maintain his status as a certifiable Daddy-o. 

a bucket of blood

Walter Paisley (Dick Miller) unveils his final masterpiece.

‘Sculpting With Dead Things’ Doesn’t Have the Same Ring To It

Produced and directed by Roger Corman, A Bucket of Blood looks like a movie made for $50,000 in five days. The production even shared sets with Corman’s Little Shop of Horrors. Viewers unacquainted with Roger Corman’s oeuvre might consider this a detriment to the film’s production or entertainment values. There’s a distinct different between “cheap” and “crap.” “Crap” can come in any budget. Just as cheap can come in any flavor.

The movies Roger Corman made with screenwriter Charles B. Griffith, marked a new direction for the producer who’d never before dabbled in comedy. A Bucket of Blood not only satirizes Corman’s own filmography and the illogical world of art, but also the teen films of the era. Unlike many of those other beatnik teen films of the 1950’s, Blood doesn’t feel like a mimeographed movie made about kids by adults; it feels like a reasonable facsimile of the culture made without contempt.

a bucket of blood (1959)

Walter’s ascendency to king of the hepcats coincides with his newfound talent for “sculpting.”

At only 66 minutes, A Bucket of Blood‘s barely a main course. Corman’s purposeful pursuit of story in the name of efficiency eliminates the fat and focuses on our busboy’s accidental ascendance and ultimately fall from grace. AIP had given Corman the budget, a shooting schedule, and leftover sets from Diary of a Teenage War Bride (1959). Corman and Griffith concocted premise after a night of drifting in and out of beatnik coffeehouses. They married the culture with 1933’s Mystery of the Wax Museum and begat A Bucket of Blood.

Final ‘A Bucket of Blood’ Thoughts

Rapid-fire fun with a thoroughly engaging lead performance. Roger Corman’s low-budget zinger is the perfect #31DaysofHorror entry when fatigue sets in after too many soulless slashers.

The performances, particularly that of Dick Miller, carry the film’s comedic tone without resorting to redundancies like winking at the audience. I never thought I’d use the word measured to describe a Roger Corman production, but A Bucket of Blood moves forward at a measured pace that maintains consistent humor and its pithy commentary on the New York art culture.

 

 

A Bucket of Blood is available on Blu-ray from Olive Films.A Bucket of Blood Blu-ray from Olive Films

2019 @CinemaShame / #Hooptober Progress

#1. Shocker (1989) // #2. Etoile (1989) // #3. The Phantom of the Opera (1989) // #4. Blacula (1972) // #5. Scream Blacula Scream (1973) // #6. Jaws: The Revenge (1987) // #7. Blood Bath (1966) // #8. Friday the 13th Part V (1985) // #9. Friday the 13th Part VI (1986) // #10. Friday the 13th Part VII (1988) // #11. Dracula: Prince of Darkness (1966) // #12. Pet Sematary (1989) // #13. Eaten Alive (1976) // #14. Friday the 13th Part VIII (1989) // #15. A Bucket of Blood (1959)

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

Disclaimer: I earn rewards from DVD.Netflix.com, which has thousands of movies to choose from, many that you won’t find on streaming services. I do this because the availability of physical media is important. The popular streaming notion of “everything available all the time” is a myth. We are always our own best curators. #PhysicalMedia #DVDNation #ad

Friday the 13th Part VIII (1989): 31 Days of Horror

Friday the 13th Part VIII (1989): 31 Days of Horror

#14. Friday the 13th Part VIII (1989)

Friday the 13th Part VIII Jason Takes Manhattan posterNature of Shame:
YET ANOTHER UNSEEN FRIDAY THE 13TH. 

Hooptober Challenge Checklist:
Decade: 1980’s
#Watch1989

AT LAST. I’ve reached my goal. I had to watch through Part VIII to satisfy my personal requirements for my #Watch1989 marathon. (Thanks, DVD Netflix, for fueling this madness.) Huzzah. Calling this a pyrrhic victory would be generous. I spent 20 minutes at a bar struggling to differentiate between all 8 Friday the 13th movies. I had to rewind for some do-overs, but I hit my stride after the second pint of Imperial Stout.

friday the 13th part viii netflix dvd

‘Friday the 13th Part VIII – Jason Takes Manhattan’ Elevator Pitch

Right — lovely. So based on the title, Jason’s unleashed in Manhattan. What a wonderful premise! I can’t wait to hear more. 

Noooooo, no no no. Wait. This is even better. Jason’s stuck on board a high school party river cruise. Fish in a barrel!

Wait. So he’s not in New York City? 

Not until the very end! But trust me on this river cruise thing. It’ll be perfect. Die Hard on a river cruise! Except not Die Hard, but Friday the 13th!

Tell me one thing. Does Jason at least maul a boombox blasting rap music once he’s in New York City?

You know it!

Friday the 13th Jason Takes Manhattan skyline

Jason shakes his machete angrily at the skyline.

‘Jason Takes a Party Cruise’ Doesn’t Have the Same Ring To It

But then again, maybe “Jason Takes a Party Cruise” would have been appropriately reflective of how little Jason actually “takes” because it’s definitely not Manhattan. It also speaks to the dearth of creativity found in this eighth entry in the series. While I’m no apologist, I also can’t abide the critics who lament a rapid and steady decline of Friday the 13th from its glorious heights.

First of all, what glorious heights? And second of all, the original wasn’t well made nor was it all that entertaining. You want a solid slasher flick? Try Part II. If you want wild and entertaining, try Part VI. You want trashtastic? Part VII‘s got your number. If you’re a masochist, I recommend Part V.

If you’re looking at this series as a steady decline, you’re not actually watching the movies.

Reverting back to tired old teenage “types” and putting them aboard a party cruise for Jason to pick off one by one isn’t a bad premise. It at least tries to push the series beyond Crystal Lake. (If you’re a camper or vacationer aren’t you steering clear of that place by now?) Friday the 13th Part VIII seems content to go through the motions in the new and shiny locale that serves as a stand-in for invention.

Tom Caldecott and Jensen Daggett in Friday the 13th Part VIII

Jim (Tom Caldecott) and Rennie (Jensen Daggett) take on Jason in a nonsensical sewer throwdown.

The teenagers have no personality. Jason does Jason things. Worst of all, director Rob Heddon seems perfectly content to invoke a Freddy Krueger brand of illusionary, red herring dreamscape terror. Our “final girl” sees visions of young Jason around every corner. Heddon’s trying to humanize our inhuman evil, but it rings false because he does so in a way that invokes A Nightmare on Elm Street and concedes that Jason’s run out of momentum.

In Friday the 13th Part VIII Jason Takes Manhattan -- or does he?

In Friday the 13th Part VIII Jason Takes Manhattan — or maybe just a souvenir, like a I Heart NY t-shit.

Final ‘Friday the 13th Part VIII’ Thoughts

By the time Jason actually makes it to Manhattan, there’s no saving this movie. We’re only treated to this one image that hints at the promise of a movie called Jason Takes Manhattan. There’s no tension, no thrills, and no surprises. It’s a 100-minute slog that wears out its welcome after the first 30 and Jason doesn’t even sniff the ripe garbage of New York City until the one-hour mark.

 

 

friday the 13th blu-rayFriday the 13th Part VIII is available on Blu-ray and DVD.

2019 @CinemaShame / #Hooptober Progress

#1. Shocker (1989) // #2. Etoile (1989) // #3. The Phantom of the Opera (1989) // #4. Blacula (1972) // #5. Scream Blacula Scream (1973) // #6. Jaws: The Revenge (1987) // #7. Blood Bath (1966) // #8. Friday the 13th Part V (1985) // #9. Friday the 13th Part VI (1986) // #10. Friday the 13th Part VII (1988) // #11. Dracula: Prince of Darkness (1966) // #12. Pet Sematary (1989) // #13. Eaten Alive (1976) // #14. Friday the 13th Part VIII (1989)

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

Disclaimer: I earn rewards from DVD.Netflix.com, which has thousands of movies to choose from, many that you won’t find on streaming services. I do this because the availability of physical media is important. The popular streaming notion of “everything available all the time” is a myth. We are always our own best curators. #PhysicalMedia #DVDNation #ad

Eaten Alive (1976): 31 Days of Horror

Eaten Alive (1976): 31 Days of Horror

#13. Eaten Alive (1976)

eaten alive italian posterNature of Shame:
Unseen Tobe Hooper

Hooptober Challenge Checklist:
Decade: 1970’s
There Must Always be a Tobe Hooper
Reptile rampage (tribute to Crawl)

Just rounding out my Tobe Hooper filmography with one I haven’t seen because, per Cinemonster’s rules, there must always be a Tobe Hooper. I knew nothing about this one except it featured an alligator or a crocodile or some such beast and it also, fortuitously, satisfied the “reptile rampage” requirement.

‘Eaten Alive’ Elevator Pitch

There’s this motel located deep in the south of Texas where guests check in, but they don’t always check out because some of them get fed to the gator by a wild-eyed Jack Elam-looking coot played by Neville Brand.

And the protagonist of your story?

The gator, obviously.

The man-eating alligator that lives off the porch is going to be your hero of the picture? You’re pulling my leg.

Not a bit. The girl you think is the main girl gets eaten. And then the next one gets eaten, too — also the dog — and so on and so forth until the sister of the one that gets eaten shows up and she becomes the focus of the story.

And the alligator?

You’ll just have to see, won’t ye?

Hold on. Did you say the dog gets eaten?

Eaten Alive's Starlight Motel, the epicenter of nefarious goings on.

Eaten Alive’s Starlight Motel, the epicenter of nefarious goings on.

No One Suspects the Starlight Motel

And I have to ask why. It looks like people have been murdered there, with regularity. Anyone stopping by thinking they’re in for a good night’s rest must have a seriously problematic home life. When the naive prostitute Clara gets evicted from her brothel for refusing Robert Englund “butt-stuff” she turns to the Starlight Motel for accommodations. I questioned her judgment.

She’s met immediately by the proprietor, the grizzled Judd, more cured meat with a woman’s wig than man, who attempts some sort of kooky blend of murder and #MeToo crime before hacking her to pieces with a scythe before — you guessed it — making her gator meat.

a bloody Roberta Collins in Tobe Hooper's Eaten Alive (1976).

Clara Wood (Roberta Collins) getting prepped to be gator food in Tobe Hooper’s Eaten Alive (1976).

Put Eaten Alive’s so-called narrative on the back burner for just a second so we can take a look at how Tobe Hooper presented this wild (inept?) premise for public consumption. Eaten Alive has no definitive structure. Hooper’s cobbled together a series of murders by placing a madmen and his pet alligator at the center of a Southern Gothic nightmare. Whereas something like Texas Chainsaw Massacre felt rooted in a nightmare version of reality, Eaten Alive feels more like straight nightmare.

Low budget single-location set design shrouded in fog. Caustic, unnatural lighting techniques. Stilted dialogue and unnatural pauses. Dutch angles and numerous POV shots. While Tobe Hooper’s fingerprints remain all over the blood and morbidity, you wouldn’t be faulted for thinking that maybe David Lynch had a hand in this production as well.

Neville Brand handles a scythe in Tobe Hooper's Eaten Alive

Jud (Neville Brand), the “mentally disturbed” proprietor at the Starlight Motel, keeps a scythe on hand for feeding time.

Surrealistic, Twilight World

Contemporaneous critics couldn’t help but compare this film to Texas Chainsaw Massacre and more often than not faulted Eaten Alive‘s hyperreality as the reason why it failed to live up to Hooper’s past precedent. I won’t go as far as to suggest that Eaten Alive is some overlooked classic because it’s too sloppy and shapeless to be a masterpiece, but it is indeed a special viewing experience and not the supposedly “inept” and worthlessly trashy horror flick. Scratch that last bit — it is definitely trashy.

Filmed entirely around an indoor pool on a sound stage at Raleigh Studios in Hollywood, California, Hooper achieved his goal of creating a “surrealistic, twilight world” through the apparent artifice of the set-bound production. The story had been adapted by Texas Chainsaw Massacre co-scribe Kim Henkel and based loosely on the story of Joe Ball (known as the Bluebeard from South Texas or the Alligator Man). Ball owned a bar with a live alligator attraction during the 1930s and also murdered several women. Though rumors persisted that he disposed of their corpses by feeding them to the alligator, it was never proven.

Hooper perfectly captures the isolated eccentricities of a grisly and desperate carnival of weirdos parading through the Texas swampland. Eaten Alive provides a grotesque and singular hallucinatory grindhouse experience. To watch Eaten Alive is to bathe in a mosquito-infested pool of the trashy macabre. It’s leering and sticky and no amount of showering can wash it away.

Robert Englund plays one of those trashy weirdos tucked away in Tobe Hooper's freak show attraction.

Robert Englund looks and acts like gator bait.

Final ‘Eaten Alive’ Thoughts

But I do not believe, however, that Eaten Alive displayed narrative ineptitude. Narrative indifference, on the other hand, sounds far more likely. Hooper doesn’t even attempt to create a traditional cinematic story. In order for a narrative to be inept, one must exist. In many ways, Eaten Alive reflects cinematic horror influenced by the giallo through garish colors and a foregrounding of a distinct visual style over substance. The violent vignettes become substance in lieu of traditional narrative.

Since the film’s backloaded resolution comes together during the final fifteen minutes it’s fair to suggest the film would have been better served without it. I wouldn’t call it unnecessary, but the film crawls to a halt when it most closely resembles narrative.

Trashy, gruesome and hyper-stylized, Eaten Alive provides an unforgettable experience for gorehounds and fans of David Lynch’s otherworldly, artificial milieu. Tobe Hooper’s production challenges the viewer to submit to his scattered whims. I can see why some would be turned off by the bizarre construction and lack of character development but why struggle? Sit back, get sweaty and enjoy the feast. Eaten Alive‘s a mile short of being called a masterpiece, but at times I couldn’t keep the word from popping into my head.

 

 

Eaten Alive is available via and Arrow Films Blu-ray.eaten alive arrow blu-ray

2019 @CinemaShame / #Hooptober Progress

#1. Shocker (1989) // #2. Etoile (1989) // #3. The Phantom of the Opera (1989) // #4. Blacula (1972) // #5. Scream Blacula Scream (1973) // #6. Jaws: The Revenge (1987) // #7. Blood Bath (1966) // #8. Friday the 13th Part V (1985) // #9. Friday the 13th Part VI (1986) // #10. Friday the 13th Part VII (1988) // #11. Dracula: Prince of Darkness (1966) // #12. Pet Sematary (1989) // #13. Eaten Alive

 

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

Disclaimer: I earn rewards from DVD.Netflix.com, which has thousands of movies to choose from, many that you won’t find on streaming services. I do this because the availability of physical media is important. The popular streaming notion of “everything available all the time” is a myth. We are always our own best curators. #PhysicalMedia #DVDNation #ad

Pet Sematary: 31 Days of Horror

Pet Sematary: 31 Days of Horror

#12. Pet Sematary (1989)

pet sematary 1989 posterNature of Shame:
Unseen Stephen King adaptation from 1989. 

Hooptober Challenge Checklist:
Decade: 1980’s
Female Directed

Much anticipated first-time watch of a seemingly beloved Mary Lambert film. Scheduled for viewing in my concurrent #Watch1989 marathon, I’d held off on this screening for Hooptober reasons. I’d had it in my Netflix DVD queue all year, and it was finally time to move it to the top of the list.

pet sematary 1989 netflix dvd

‘Pet Sematary’ Elevator Pitch

A Chicago M.D. Louis Creed (Dale Midkiff) and his family arrive at their new, rural Maine home. The local “coot” (Fred Gwynne) warns them about the “pet sematary” (sic) located behind their house. A newly dead jogger also warns the Doc about the cemetery (appearing in a dream) because the land has gone “sour.” Since that wasn’t enough warning, the guy goes and buries his daughter’s dead cat back there. When the cat comes back bad, he tries his luck a second time when his infant son is run over by a truck. This time it’ll work out for the best! Promise!

No One Expects the Spanish Inquisition Cats to Return From the Grave Evil

The horror genre often relies on ordinary people making bad decisions. They place themselves in bad situations, go down in that basement to check on the bump in the night, say Candyman five times, and have sex at Crystal Lake. In many ways the knowing that a character is making bad decisions intensifies the anxiety we might feel as that character’s situation grows increasingly more dire.

It’s natural to attribute bad decisions to spur-of-the-moment, stress-induced decision-making. Who thinks properly when being chased by a chainsaw-wielding madmen? Certainly not this guy. There’s a limit, however, to the number of bad decisions a viewer should tolerate from an otherwise sane human.

pet sematary pascow

I’d listen to this guy. I don’t know about you.

The effectiveness of the horror elements in Pet Sematary rely on the viewer to feel something for a dullard that knowingly buries a cat in a cursed graveyard because he can’t deal with breaking news of the cat’s death to his daughter. When the cat comes back “bad” that should have been a solid warning sign about the powers within the graveyard. But it wasn’t enough for Doc Lou.

He and his wife then — through total negligence — allow their toddler to wander out onto a busy road. The kid gets hit by a truck and so we begin the portion of the program that feels like Lou sticking his finger into a light socket to see if the result changes.

fred gwynne pet sematary

But Let’s Try Children Instead!

I haven’t read the book, and therefore I can’t comment on the efficacy of the Stephen King adaptation. I can only comment on the movie in front of me. Louis has ignored visceral warnings about the power of the cemetery and he’s witnessed the negative effects of reanimation on the cat. While I understand how the movie wants to treat the emotional aftermath of traumatic loss, I also can’t feel sympathy for a family as irresponsible as this. I don’t feel any kind of connection or proximity to their pain that would allow me to consider the steps taken to be rational ones. As Kenny Rogers once said, “You’ve got to know when to fold ’em / know when to walk away / know when to run the &#*$ away from the Pet Sematary.”

It’s possible that before I became a parent myself I might have thought differently. Now, however, as I’m older and wiser with a little gray in my beard and two daughters of my own I watch this movie and I feel nothing but annoyed with Lou. When the negligence of these two parents contributes to the death of their son, I’m unable to feel any more tension or suspense. That’s a distinct problem for a horror movie. Making bad decisions with a cat corpse is one thing, trying to convince me that Doc Lou would put his son in there is an entirely trickier matter.

cat pet sematary 1989

Final ‘Pet Sematary’ Thoughts

I’ve seen some bad movies this Hooptober season, but none that left me as cold and disappointed as Pet Sematary. I’d read and heard so much about how the movie handles grief that maybe I’d come to expect something else. When I should have been on the edge of my seat, I couldn’t muster anything but a time-check to see how much more of this I had to endure. Instead of just making a good movie, it seemed that Lambert over-sanctified the text. Do you know why The Shining is such a great movie? Stanley Kubrick didn’t give a damn about the book. He cared about telling a compelling story through potent imagery.

Prose offers so much more of the inner-life of a character, it may have provided enough context to lend Lou’s bad decisions some merit. Cinematic shorthand doesn’t allow the time to finesse these moments. Domestic horror films require a connection. I didn’t have it.

 

 

Pet Sematary is available on Blu-ray everywhere.

2019 @CinemaShame / #Hooptober Progress

#1. Shocker (1989) // #2. Etoile (1989) // #3. The Phantom of the Opera (1989) // #4. Blacula (1972) // #5. Scream Blacula Scream (1973) // #6. Jaws: The Revenge (1987) // #7. Blood Bath (1966) // #8. Friday the 13th Part V (1985) // #9. Friday the 13th Part VI (1986) // #10. Friday the 13th Part VII (1988) // #11. Dracula: Prince of Darkness (1966) // 12. Pet Sematary (1989)

 

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

Disclaimer: I earn rewards from DVD.Netflix.com, which has thousands of movies to choose from, many that you won’t find on streaming services. I do this because the availability of physical media is important. The popular streaming notion of “everything available all the time” is a myth. We are always our own best curators. #PhysicalMedia #DVDNation #ad

Dracula: Prince of Darkness: 31 Days of Horror

Dracula: Prince of Darkness: 31 Days of Horror

#11. Dracula: Prince of Darkness (1966)

Nature of Shame:
It’s been so long since I watched through the Hammer Dracula films that I can’t distinguish this one from any other. That sounds pretty shameful, but there’s so much out there I need to watch for the first time…

Hooptober Challenge Checklist:
Decade: 1960’s
Year Ends with ‘6’

“There must always be some Hammer” is a motto fit for everyone’s Halloween viewing regimen. I re-watched Dracula last year so let’s pick up the Hammer vampire series rolling with the next appearance of Christopher Lee as the titular Count. I skipped a rewatch of the second movie in the series, The Brides of Dracula, because it didn’t feature Christopher Lee, but — who am I kidding? — I’ll probably just watch that one, too.

‘Dracula: Prince of Darkness’ Elevator Pitch

Set ten years after the death of Count Dracula at the hands of Van Helsing in Dracula, four English tourists (the Kents) arrive at a castle formerly belonging to the Count. The caretaker informs them that Dracula had requested that the castle remain open for passing travelers. The Kents think this sounds positively idyllic and settle in for some rest and relaxation.

dracula prince of darkness

No One Expects the Spanish Inquisition Dracula to Return From the Grave

Some genres and some narratives can feel so routine that they’re more akin to slapping an abrasive alarm clock and falling out of bed to blearily brush one’s teeth. I’m not equating watching Dracula: Prince of Darkness to the drudgery of routine hygiene, but there’s a certain amount of standard exposition required to propel a Dracula story forward. Since we last saw Dracula fall to Van Helsing in 1958, director Terrence Fisher and screenwriter Jimmy Sangster must brush their fangs before distinguishing Prince of Darkness from any other Dracula yarn.

I’m not prepared to the write the essay that connects Dracula films to 1980 slasher movies, but the genre boasts striking similarities to the routine stupidity that sets the table for Jason to slaughter a camp full of horny teens. Instead of naughty teenage girls and boys, Hammer trades in the demise of haughty aristocrats. The casual tempting of fate by ignoring the warnings of locals and indeed visiting that forbidden castle. I could call it The Bloody Ignorance of Wealth and Youth — if I were indeed writing it, but I’m not. This is all you’ll get from me.

dracula prince of darkness (1966)

Even once Dracula predictably returns, Dracula: Prince of Darkness takes on the role of Hammer Horror comfort food. As much as any of the other Hammer vampire movies it unfolds at a predictable pace backed by a precise gothic charm. In order to get a better sense of whether we’ve collectively become jaded over the last 53 years or if this alway felt routine, I consulted the contemporaneous critics.

Bosley Crowther of the New York Times called it just “another repetition of the standard tale of the vampire … There is nothing new or imaginative about it.” Since Bosley is a notorious crank, I dug a little deeper, but kept reading analysis that hops back and forth across the same fence. It’s either boring because of its similarities or its comfortable predictability makes for palatable viewing.

Also, how can it be routine and boring when Barbara Shelley’s all over your screen?

dracula prince of darkness (1966) barbara shelley

Christopher Draculee

Though the story feels routine, Christopher Lee’s performance warrants return engagements. He’s the perfect embodiment of menace and red-blooded sexuality. Other less successful Draculas manage the menace but fail to smolder. In a role that requires a certain amount of carnality, Lee’s every move suggests a man (and monster) that gets precisely what he desires and his victims in turn desire him. Without the believability of that animal attraction, Dracula’s just a stiff with pointy teeth.

dracula prince of darkness artwork

Final ‘Dracula: Prince of Darkness’ Thoughts

Hammer films often reside in this realm of comfort cinema. They look great and feature wonderful on-screen personalities and talent performing in films likely beneath their abilities. They’re predictably entertaining and even the lessers, provide a solid 80 minutes of distraction. The Christopher Lee vampire films blend together because they often hover around the same placid familiarity. While I applaud the series’ later efforts to break the mold, I’m good right here — with Christopher Lee wooing and enslaving aristocratic maidens.

 

 

Dracula: Prince of Darkness is currently available on a Scream! Factory Blu-ray

2019 @CinemaShame / #Hooptober Progress

#1. Shocker (1989) // #2. Etoile (1989) // #3. The Phantom of the Opera (1989) // #4. Blacula (1972) // #5. Scream Blacula Scream (1973) // #6. Jaws: The Revenge (1987) // #7. Blood Bath (1966) // #8. Friday the 13th Part V (1985) // #9. Friday the 13th Part VI (1986) / #10. Friday the 13th Part VII (1988) / #11. Dracula: Prince of Darkness (1966)