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

Martin Scorsese, The Big Picture & Content Culture

Martin Scorsese, The Big Picture & Content Culture

Let’s get make one thing clear, though. Martin Scorsese shouldn’t have to defend his suggestion that contemporary superhero movies aren’t “art.” (They’re not. They’re entertainment.) The attacks on his status as a supposed senile guardian of cinema is patently absurd. He’s one of the greatest filmmakers in the history of cinema and one of the art form’s most sincere champions. But that doesn’t mean he wants to influence *your* taste in movies. He wants to make a point about how far the business has strayed. 

If you want a picture of where we are as a cinematic (content?) culture, read Martin Scorsese’s Opinion in the New York Times and the longer form analysis in Ben Fritz’s The Big Picture, which is equal parts hopeful and horrifying. Fritz uses the Sony email hack to take a peek behind the contemporary Hollywood decision-making process — which has more to do with potential profits from China and mass merchandising than it does with making good movies.

hollywood sign (made in china)

Hollywood — now built for China.

In highlighting the decline of the mid-budget movie in Hollywood, Ben Fritz stopped short of making one point that I thought was staring us in the face the whole time. Fritz described the failure of Sony’s mid-budget star vehicles that contributed to their decline as a profitable film studio. (Most of them starred Will Smith.) He didn’t pass any value judgments, however, and that speaks directly to something Scorsese said in his New York Times Opinion.

And if you’re going to tell me that it’s simply a matter of supply and demand and giving the people what they want, I’m going to disagree. It’s a chicken-and-egg issue. If people are given only one kind of thing and endlessly sold only one kind of thing, of course they’re going to want more of that one kind of thing.

Audiences miss the boat on certain movies. They always have. Whether it’s poor marketing, poor release timing, poor titles — quality has never equalled box office performance. That said, I believe recent audiences have been conditioned by the decided lack of quality in these mid-budget studio offerings. Excellent mid-budget slickly-produced entertainment like Edge of Tomorrow (2014) and The Man from U.N.C.L.E (2016) failed to find their deserving audiences, but can you blame audiences from being wary of buying a ticket for After Earth (2013)? Consider the kinds of movies we were watching at the box office 30 years ago and ask yourself if these would ever get made today. 

If you didn’t see THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. (2015) it might be because studios failed to adequately recognize the value of the product. Or you hate fun.

I don’t believe it’s a coincidence that as Hollywood has further distanced itself from a system of centralized artistic control — the producer or the director — it’s failed to deliver a consistent mid-budget product. Ben Fritz paints a picture of a system catering to the whims of its ego-driven stars rather than the filmmakers themselves. Fritz’s list of failures — with only a few exceptions — consists of objectively bad movies. It represents an industry that’s so afraid of short term losses it refuses to cede control to anyone but its biggest stars — as if Adam Sandler or Will Smith would carry the torch to a brighter future.

Between studio risk aversion and a crippling stream of abysmal star vehicles, fewer mid-budget movies were produced. The ones that did see the light of day drove the existing audience to TV and Netflix and Amazon Prime where they could find content driven by the kind of creative vision that once fueled a large portion of mainstream cinema. It’s an anti-communal version of the cinema Scorsese’s recalling with fondness and pure nostalgia. So when Martin Scorsese says he’s filled with “terrible sadness” about the state of our modern moviegoing culture, he’s not just posturing as a holier-than-thou artist. He’s looking back on his midnight trip to see Psycho and recognizing that that experience may have become extinct. 

Stranger Things Netflix

Watching STRANGER THINGS at home on your couch is nice, but are you going to remember that experience 60 years from now?

Scorsese goes out of his way to say Marvel movies just aren’t for him. Martin Scorsese also wants you to know that there’s other beautiful, imaginative, engaging cinema out there that has nothing to do with men in tights and/or capes — and those movies are in danger of disappearing from the mainstream entirely. That’s the crisis here — not that one of our greatest filmmakers doesn’t care about Captain America. 

I just needed to get that off my chest.

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