Horror movies


REVIEWED BY JONATHAN LEWIS:


THE FUNHOUSE. Universal Pictures, 1981. Elizabeth Berridge, Kevin Conway, William Finley, Cooper Huckabee, Miles Chapin, Sylvia Miles. Directed by Tobe Hooper.

   This stylish, if somewhat mediocre, horror film might as well have been entitled The Good, the Bad, and The Very Ugly. Because let me tell you: the monster in this Tobe Hooper directed feature is not just ugly; he’s very ugly. Hideous actually.

   Unfortunately, aside from the shock value of the creature’s disfigurement and the crisp photography, there’s not all that much that makes Funhouse an overly memorable horror film. That’s not to say that it’s a particularly bad film. It’s just that, overall, the film lacks both the character development and requisite memorable dialogue that could very have made it something that stood out from the pack.

   There were just so very many horror films released in the 1980s, many of which followed the standard plot of a final girl facing off against some sort of evil figure that it’s difficult to consider each one without reference to all the others. Indeed, in this particular regard, the plot of Funhouse doesn’t stray too far from the proverbial straight and narrow. There’s a female protagonist who, against her better judgment, gets caught up in a life-or-death situation and who, despite her meek nature, ends up defeating the evil antagonist. She is, in every respect, the final girl. The one who ends up surviving all the mayhem that transpires throughout the course of the film.

   Amy Harper (Elizabeth Berridge) is a small town girl who lives with her parents and her kid brother. The latter is a prankster and something of a brat, it would appear. Against her better judgment, she ends up going with her friends to the carnival that has recently arrived in town. There, she and her date, as well as another couple, will make the fatal decision to spend the night in the funhouse.

   But, alas, something lurks – and drools – in the funhouse. And it’s not fully human. And it kills. This is essentially the entire plot. One, it should be noted, that doesn’t truly come into fruition until at least thirty or forty minutes into the film.

   Now again, don’t let me make you believe that Funhouse isn’t worth seeing. In many ways, it is. It’s actually, believe it or not, a fun movie, one that thankfully relies far more on atmosphere than gore to convey a general air of creepiness at the carnival.

   Harper, along with Sylvia Miles who portrays a fortuneteller, are strong female characters in a movie filled with overall unpleasant or just plain dull male characters. So the movie’s got a few things going for it. Just not enough to make it one that’s especially compelling, or one that stays in your mind for any length of time after you’ve left the movie theater. If you like horror movies set at carnivals, however, this one’s definitely worth checking out.

REVIEWED BY JONATHAN LEWIS:


TWO ON A GUILLOTINE. Warner Brothers, 1965. Connie Stevens, Dean Jones, Cesar Romero, Parley Baer, Virginia Gregg, Connie Gilchrist, John Hoyt, Russell Thorson. Producer-director: William Conrad.

   Two on a Guillotine, a decidedly uneven Gothic horror movie, features two esteemed character actors who will be quite familiar to anyone who watched more than their fair share of theatrical films and television from the 1960s; namely, Cesar Romero (perhaps best remembered now for portraying The Joker on Batman) and Dean Jones (star of The Love Bug in the movies and Ensign O’Toole on TV). The third star in Two on a Guillotine is singer-actress Connie Stevens, the lead female protagonist, a role that was meant to be a more serious, adult one than the parts she played in largely teenage exploitation fare in the late 1950s (Dragstrip Riot).

   In Two on a Guillotine, a film that well-known character actor William Conrad both produced and directed, Connie Stevens has a dual role. She portrays two different, but related, characters – a mother at the very beginning of the film and then later, her daughter. When we are first introduced to Stevens in her role as Melinda Duquesne, wife of the magician, Duquesne (Cesar Romero). She’s also a star in his show, playing the role of a damsel in distress with the seemingly magical ability to escape from the horrible fate that Duquesne sets out for her as part of his theatrical act. As the movie begins, we see her tied up with her arms around her head, with a man pushing a sword into her. But it is all an illusion, a trick. For she was never really in danger and the whole thing, as the camera soon demonstrates, was merely part of a stage act.

   Things seem all right between Duquesne and his wife, although there apparently are some difficulties in balancing their professional lives with caring for their young daughter. It’s not that their daughter is physically ill; it’s just that in his life, she seems to be something of any afterthought to the magician. He seems far more concerned with his newest and latest magic trick: a guillotine – with a razor sharp blade, no less. It’s an instrument of death and terror straight out of revolutionary France.

   The film quickly shifts in time to some two decades later, with the next scene at Duquesne’s funeral in sunny California. A young woman rushes up to the area where the coffin is located and the mourners are gathered. She looks just like Melinda Duquesne as we saw her earlier, but that’s impossible, for she hasn’t aged a day. The viewer attentive to the tropes of Gothic horror movies such as the one utilized in The Tomb of Ligeia (1964) will quickly recognize what’s transpiring here. Namely, that this beautiful young woman isn’t Melinda at all, but she is Duquesne’s daughter, Cassie portrayed now by Stevens in her second role.

   Among those noticing Cassie at the funeral is intrepid reporter Val Henderson (Dean Jones), who soon learns that Duquesne’s last will and testament specified that his daughter Cassie inherit a fortune on the condition that she agrees to stay in his Hollywood mansion for seven nights. This leads us to the basis for the crux of the film: why would Duquesne want his estranged daughter to stay in his house? Is it possible that he’s really not really dead after all and has a magician’s trick up his sleeve?

   Those familiar with haunted house movies surely know the basic outline of what comes next. At first, Cassie decides that she will stay in the house – after all, she feels as if she deserves her estranged father’s fortune – and initially appears to give little regard to what might happen next. Soon, with Val and an adorable white house rabbit at her side, Cassie begins to encounter weird goings-on in the house. So much so that Val, who has fallen in love with her in the meantime, becomes determined that no harm come to her.

   Unfortunately, as the story continues to unfold, the tone of the movie becomes increasingly uneven. Shifting from moments of light, innocent romance between Cassie and Val to moments of tension and fright, Two on a Guillotine ends up suffering from an identity crisis. Is it a horror movie with light, comic overtones or a quirky, offbeat feature more indebted to René Claire’s I Married a Witch (1942)? Or was it intended to be a darker, more psychologically brooding horror films such as the similarly themed The Mad Magician (1954), starring Vincent Price in the title role?

   One possibility that may help explain the film’s tonal unevenness of this film is that the movie’s screenwriters, John Kneubuhl and Henry Slesar, are known to have worked primarily in television, a medium where one needed to be particularly cautious how far one could push the envelope. Indeed, there is definitely a flat, television feel to Two on a Guillotine. Cinematographer Sam Leavitt had a prolific career in Hollywood, but he didn’t lend this story the type of exceptional photography that would have elevated it from competent to something more memorable.

   One notable exception is found in the film’s singular dream montage sequence. Distraught and confused, Cassie has a bizarre, hallucinatory dream in which she images various scenarios that might explain, at least in part, what is transpiring all around her. It’s an experimental sequence in an otherwise lackluster film, at least in terms of photography.

   In terms of the film’s direction, credit goes to veteran character actor William Conrad who imparts the movie with a workmanlike quality. Although he was better known for his achievements in radio and as a television actor (Cannon, Jake and the Fat Man) who often portrayed a heavy or, in the case of exceptional, albeit nearly forgotten, film noir Tension (1949), in which he portrayed a Mexican-American police detective, William Conrad also worked as a behind the camera as a director as well.

   His primary work in that regard was in television rather than in cinema, directing episodes of genre-based series, both well known and obscure, including Highway Patrol, Bold Venture, The Rifleman, Bat Masterson, Route 66, and Naked City. Still, Conrad directed three other feature films: a western entitled The Man from Galveston (1963) starring Jeffrey Hunter, Preston Foster, and James Coburn, and the thrillers The Blood Runs Cold (1965) and Brainstorm (1965).

   In contrast to Conrad’s rather prosaic direction, the movie’s score works well quite with the subject matter at hand. Max Steiner, the legendary Hollywood composer whose work include such classic works of American cinema as King Kong (1933), Gone With the Wind (1939), Casablanca (1942), and The Searchers (1956) is credited with a score which is neither too intrusive nor overwrought. The film’s initial scene (discussed above) in which Duquesne “stabs” Cassie’s mother is accompanied by music that fits the mood perfectly. Foreboding and chaotic, Steiner’s musical accompaniment to this scene opens the movie with an intensity that fits the on screen happenings to a hilt.

[WARNING] In the next two paragraphs, more of the story may be told than perhaps you would care to know, especially if you have not seen the film and think you might like to, someday.

   Unfortunately, there’s then little excitement and intensity in the movie until the ending when the big reveal happens, and Cassie learns that that her father is still alive. She also finds out that her mother died in a gruesome guillotine accident when she and her father were attempting to prepare for his next big act decades ago. And to make matters worse for her, Duquesne has come to believe that Cassie is really her mother, Melinda. Apparently he has brought her to the mansion so that he can “perfect” his guillotine trick.

   This is where the film’s tone most strikingly shifts from playful to intense. Duquesne’s reappearing act, as it were, reveals a dark, sinister underbelly at the heart of this film. He truly is mad and maniacal. The lighthearted, albeit contrived, romance between Cassie and Val disappears under the weight of the revelation that Cassie’s mother’s body is buried out somewhere in the yard and that her father is a homicidal maniac.

   Even though Romero was a highly competent character actor, his portrayal of Duquesne is not nearly as memorable as Vincent Price’s portrayal of Gallico in John Brahms’s aforementioned The Mad Magician. Also of note: Romeo himself does a disappearing act of sorts during most of the film, and has probably less than a total of ten minutes of screen time. Indeed, for most of the film, we just are witness to Cassie and Val investigating the strange goings-on in Duquesne’s seemingly abandoned mansion.

   In conclusion, Two on a Guillotine had the potential, at least on paper, to be a stronger, more sinister feature. The decision to play up the romance between Cassie and Val, not to mention the casting of Dean Jones who had a career of playing particularly non-threatening characters, made it nearly impossible for the film to end up being the fright fest that the movie posters portrayed it to be.

   Instead, the movie remains an historical curiosity at best, a black and white horror film produced a time when most were being released in color and a vehicle for Connie Stevens to pursue a more serious and mature acting career, one that never successfully got off the ground in the way that she had intended. While it has its moments, this decidedly quirky movie, by attempting to package lighthearted romance with psychological horror, ends up being an uneven mélange of genres and a rather average horror film, albeit one not without some charm.

REVIEWED BY JONATHAN LEWIS:


THE NIGHT VISITOR. Universal Marion Corporation, 1971. Max von Sydow, Trevor Howard, Liv Ullmann, Per Oscarsson, Rupert Davies, Andrew Keir. Director: László Benedek.

   Before there was such a thing as the slasher film genre, there was The Night Visitor. Directed by László Benedek (The Wild One), this English-language Swedish film is a brooding psychological thriller, albeit one punctuated by moments of extreme, brutal violence. Set in a small, somewhat isolated Swedish town beset with winter snow, the story follows the devious scheme hatched by Salem (Max Van Sydow in an standout performance), an inmate at an asylum for the criminally insane, to wreak havoc and to exact revenge on those who framed him for a crime he did not commit.

   Salem isn’t a particularly bright man, but he’s devised an ingenious, if highly implausible, method to escape from his cell at the asylum. He does so in such a methodical and successful manner that he is able to leave his cell, abscond into the Swedish landscape, and to avenge himself upon those who he — rightfully — believes have wronged him two years ago when he was framed for the murder of a farmhand. When he returns to his cell, however, he has an iron-clad alibi.

   Among Salem’s targets are his sister Ester (Liv Ullmann), and her husband, Anton (Per Oscarsson). He also targets three other people: Anton’s sister, his former lover, and the lawyer who was bribed into changing Anton’s plea into not guilty by reason of insanity.

   Once bodies start showing up in his small town, the local police inspector (Trevor Howard) begins to investigate whether it is just possible that Salem is the one committing the crimes after all. But he’s not entirely convinced that Anton is innocent either. Howard is nearly flawless in his portrayal of an elderly, somewhat cynical, policeman who isn’t so easily impressed by or intimidated by any one who comes between him and his quest for the truth.

   Overall, The Night Visitor isn’t a superb movie, but it’s a good one. The tension is palpable throughout and the stark, wintry Scandinavian landscape lends the film an atmosphere that is hard to beat. Although one may end up finding Salem’s nearly magical escape methods to be somewhat laughable, the movie’s bleak, brooding nature makes up for whatever implausible plot devices are utilized to tell the story of a man who literally went crazy when he was unjustly imprisoned in an asylum.

REVIEWED BY JONATHAN LEWIS:


THE SHE BEAST. Miracle Films, UK, 1966; Europix Consolidated Corp., US, 1966, as She Beast. Barbara Steele, John Karlsen, Ian Ogilvy, Mel Welles, Jay Riley, Richard Watson. Screenwriter-director: Michael Reeves.

   Sometimes, flying by the seat of your pants has long-term consequences. Say, for instance, when you take part in a lynch mob and, without following proper procedures and taking necessary precautions, you drown a witch in a lake. Maybe it’s a pardonable sin.

   After all, you’re just a peasant and what do you know. I mean: how could you possibly be aware that the deceased witch will, some two hundred years later, come back to life? Well, other than the fact that, just before dying, she tells you that she’ll come back and have her revenge.

   That’s the premise of The She Beast, a rather clumsy and at times overwrought horror film starring the legendary British scream queen Barbara Steele. She portrays Veronica, the new wife of an Englishman named Philip (Ian Ogilvy). Vacationing in Transylvania on their honeymoon, the couple first has to deal with a broken down car, then a perverted innkeeper.

   Things get worse. Veronica dies in a car accident. This leaves Philip distraught. But he, with the help of an elderly Von Helsing (John Karlsen), soon learns that Veronica isn’t dead. Her soul has been temporary been taken by the one and only she beast, the ugly witch that the local peasantry killed centuries ago.

   And that’s about it. That’s the plot in a nutshell. There’s some creepy Gothic imagery at work here, but by and large, the performances aren’t particularly good. Steele isn’t in the movie for very long, although her screen time is memorable and she is undoubtedly the main attraction.

   Also look for the bizarre scene in which a sickle gets thrown to the ground and lands on top a hammer. The Soviet symbolism is obvious. Given the fact that the local police are all bumbling communist apparatchiks, I’d say there was some not too subtle mockery of communism going on in this otherwise truly mediocre European horror film.

REVIEWED BY JONATHAN LEWIS:


THE MONSTER OF PIEDRAS BLANCAS. Vanwick Productions / Filmservice Distributors Corporation, 1959. Les Tremayne, Forrest Lewis, John Harmon, Frank Arvidson, Jeanne Carmen, Don Sullivan. Director: Irvin Berwick.

   This is not a high-end creature feature. Filmed on a super low budget, The Monster of Piedras Blancas is a rather talky and amateurish production. Still, there are some great moments, including a rather bold – for its time anyways – scene in which the viewer witnesses a crab crawling across a decapitated head. And there’s a noir like sequence in which the eponymous monster chases threatens people on a spiral staircase.

   But overall, this science fiction and horror hybrid remains a secondary, if not third rate, imitation of The Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954). There’s the girl who the creature seemingly ends up falling for, and the locals who are befuddled as to what is transpiring in their midst.

   The story unfolds in a California beach community. When people start disappearing and then dying in a horribly gruesome manner, the town’s physician and police chief join forces to investigate. They soon learn that it isn’t a man that’s responsible for the recent beheadings. No. It’s a monster that they are after. With the technical assistance of a local scientist in training, the men devise a rather half-baked plan to capture the creature by means of throwing a net on him. I kid you not.

   Not all that much else happens in the movie. Well, that’s not entirely true. There’s a backstory to the monster’s emergence, one that includes a father-daughter story that is as melodramatic as it cliché. There’s also a romance in the mix between the aforementioned daughter and the young scientist.

   I wouldn’t particularly recommend your going out of your way to track this one down, although Olive Films recently put it out on BluRay and I must say, for an ultra low budget film, it looks absolutely fantastic. Trivia fact: the film’s cinematographer, Philip Lathrop, went on to an illustrious career and was twice nominated for the Academy Award for Best Cinematography. Despite the plodding pace and the clumsy dialogue, this creature feature is extremely well photographed.

REVIEWED BY JONATHAN LEWIS:


I EAT YOUR SKIN. Cinemation Industries, 1971. William Joyce, Heather Hewitt, Walter Coy, Dan Stapleton, Betty Hyatt Linton, Robert Stanton. Screenwriter-Director: Del Tenney.

   Forget the title because it has almost nothing to do with the movie itself. There’s no skin eating, let alone full-on cannibalism in this low budget independent horror film. Originally titled Zombie Bloodbath and then later Voodoo Blood Bath, I Eat Your Skin wasn’t released to theaters until several years after it was made and then only under a title meant to allure drive in theater moviegoers. Paired on a double bill with the gory grindhouse feature I Drink Your Blood (1971), this was the rather tepid, clunky one that apparently disappointed those seeking the same intensity as the main feature.

   For that reason, along with a title that suggests it’s something other than what it is, I Eat Your Skin has received a bad rap. Now don’t allow me to give you the impression that it’s somehow a neglected gem or a great horror movie just waiting to be rediscovered. It’s neither of those things.

   But it’s an actually fun, almost innocently so, mid-1960s horror movie that never takes itself too seriously and has a great calypso vibe.

   Think of it as a throwback to the zombie movies of the 1930s and 1940s wherein an intrepid protagonist seeks to investigate the strange things happening on a remote island. The special effects are lousy and the dialogue isn’t memorable, but there’s everything you would expect in such a movie including a madman employing a scientist to create an army of the living dead.

   As a late night – make that a very late night – feature movie, this one isn’t half bad. Definitely recommended for zombie fans.


REVIEWED BY JONATHAN LEWIS:


THE CURSE OF THE DOLL PEOPLE. Mexico, 1961. Originally released as Muñecos Infernales. Elvira Quintana, Ramón Gay, Roberto G. Rivera, Quintín Bulnes, Nora Veryán. Directors: Benito Alazraki and Paul Nagle.

   Apparently they made two versions of this black and white Mexican horror film. The original Mexican production, entitled Muñecos Infernales (“Diabolical Dolls” is a good translation and one I think that works pretty well in describing the movie), and the made for American release, The Curse of the Doll People, which I understood to be a rather disjointed production.

   So it was the former production that I recently watched, albeit with the necessary English subtitles. And I have to tell you: it’s a strange one, through and through. It’s not just that the atmosphere is at times uncannily creepy or that the soundtrack works perfectly for an early 1960s horror movie.

   No. It’s also the subject matter which you’ve probably guessed by now revolves around dolls. And not just any dolls, but devilish little fiends that come to life and then proceed to murder you in your sleep with tiny little daggers. That is what makes Muñecos Infernales worth watching. It actually successfully pulls off the whole “evil dolls come to life” without once slipping into self-parody or light comedy.

   But where did these dolls come from and what do they want? Well, there’s a backstory to that. A group of wealthy Mexican professional friends reveal to another friend, a female physician named Karina (Elvira Quintana), that they went on a trip to Haiti and while there, violated the sanctity of a voodoo temple and stole an ancient relic.

   Why Karina? Well, she’s familiar with archaeology and the occult, her father being an archaeologist who took her to far-flung places in her youth. (Marion Ravenwood comes to mind.) When members of the traveling party start dying in mysterious ways, it doesn’t take long for Karina to surmise that they were cursed. Her fiancé, Dr. Armando Valdés (Ramón Gay) thinks all this superstition is hokum.

   That is, until he learns that his friends have indeed been killed for their transgressions and that the murderers were devil dolls. If that sounds like a lot to take in for one feature, that’s because it is. There’s voodoo, a sorcerer, devil dolls, and last but not least, a zombie.

   But the whole thing’s oddly captivating nonetheless. Not a great horror film, but it’s certainly on par with some of the better British and Italian films from the same era.

REVIEWED BY JONATHAN LEWIS:


DAYBREAKERS. Lionsgate, 2009. Ethan Hawke, Willem Dafoe, Sam Neill, Claudia Karvan, Michael Dorman, Isabel Lucas. Screenwriter-directors: Michael & Peter Spierig.

   The Australian-American horror movie Daybreakers opens with an intriguing premise: what if there’s a catastrophic plague that transforms most of the human race into vampires, leaving humans an endangered species. The vampires live essentially like humans used to, driving cars and working in offices. They can’t go out in the sunlight, of course. Most importantly, they need a steady stream of human blood to survive. This poses a significant problem, seeing that humanity is slowly fading away into the dustbin of history.

   That’s why the people at Bromley Marks, a pharmaceutical company run by the nefarious Charles Bromley (Sam Neill) are desperately working on a blood substitute, a synthetic creation that would allow vampire society to thrive without human blood. Hematologist Edward Dalton (Ethan Hawke), a “good vampire” who doesn’t drink human blood and even has sympathy for the humans, is passionate about the project. But he seems to have doubts about what Bromley’s true intentions are.

   When a chance encounters leads Dalton into the arms of an underground movement of humans, he decides he’s willing to risk everything in order to help build a different world than the one is living in. He begins a scientific project with ex-vampire Lionel “Elvis” Cormac (Willem Dafoe) who has seemingly done the impossible: he’s turned from human to vampire and back to human.

   This is where the movie’s captivating premise begins to fall apart. Dalton and Elvis learn that somehow quick exposure to the sunlight followed by oxygen deprivation allows vampires to regain their human status. Yet, some thirty minutes later in the movie, it turns out that the real cure to vampirism is for vampires to drink the blood of ex-vampires.

   Put outside the scientific absurdities for a moment. There’s no seemingly logical consistency here, let alone a plausible explanation as to why, in all the years that have seemingly passed since the plague, that no one else has discovered these cures. Just because something is “supernatural” doesn’t mean that writers should be able to seemingly make things up on the fly.

   In many ways, this failing is a true shame. Hawke and Neill are fine actors and both put in strong performances as the movie’s hero and villain respectively. And the movie is beautifully shot, giving it a “future noir” aesthetic that must be truly a sight to behold on the big screen. (I watched it on a DVD.) But the story really doesn’t hold together. Which is why I suspect the movie ended more with a graphic bloodbath than with a resolution of the key question plaguing the heart of the movie: what caused the vampire outbreak and how will it be reversed?

REVIEWED BY JONATHAN LEWIS:


DEATH CURSE OF TARTU. Thunderbird International Pictures, 1966. Fred Piñero, Babbette Sherrill, Bill Marcus, Mayra Gómez. Screenwriter-director: William Grefe.

   To say that Death Curse of Tartu was made outside the Hollywood system is an understatement. Not only was this low budget horror film made outside of Hollywood, it was made way outside the State of California. This isn’t a West Coast production or even an independent New York film. This is a Florida production through and through.

   The product of cult film writer-director William Grefe, Death Curse of Tartu is the type of movie specifically tailored for the drive-in impresario attempting to bring in a swath of teenage spectators.

   Filmed in the Florida Everglades, this cheap production features a cast of relative unknowns, some of whom are far better actors than the others. It’s the type of movie that is valuable for the independent spirit behind it rather than for the admittedly low-rent finished product.

   The plot? It’s easily summed up in one sentence. A group of archaeology students and their teacher travel deep in the Everglades, disturb the sacred burial ground of a witch doctor (that would be Tartu), and suffer the consequences for their sacrilegious foolishness.

   If you turned on the movie in the middle, though, you wouldn’t have the faintest idea that these teenagers were being attacked by an Indian witch doctor. That’s because Tartu is able to take the form of wild animals. Pretty creative. Also, it was a great way to save money on special effects and make up.

   But I shouldn’t be so hard on Death Curse of Tartu. There’s spunk in it and some genuine heart behind it, and you do finally get to see Tartu in action. It’s just that there’s a lot of dead time (pun intended) where not much at all happens. And the soundtrack — if it could be called that — is about the most mind-numbing, repetitive thing I’ve encountered lately.

REVIEWED BY JONATHAN LEWIS:


DOCTOR BLOOD’S COFFIN. United Artists, UK/US, 1961. Kieron Moore, Hazel Court, Ian Hunter, Kenneth J. Warren, Gerald Lawson. Ditector: Sidney J. Furie.

   Kieron Moore comes off more as unhinged than diabolical at the eponymous Dr. Blood in Doctor Blood’s Coffin, a modern Gothic thriller with just enough atmosphere and suspense to keep the viewer engaged throughout. Directed by the prolific Canadian director, Sidney J. Furie, this British horror film benefits tremendously from a score composed by Buxton Orr, who also is credited with the soundtrack for the underappreciated science fiction thriller, First Man Into Space (1959) that I reviewed here.

   Set in early 1960s Cornwall, the film borrows heavily from themes Mary Shelley introduced into modern horror literature. Dr. Blood, who returns to his small Cornish village, is a stifled genius. At least that’s how he sees himself. Feeling as if only he could test his theory on living patients, he would be able to break all frontiers in medical knowledge and be able to bring the dead back to life!

   It doesn’t take a scientific genius to know where Dr. Blood’s unholy schemes are headed. Indeed, as the movie progresses, Dr. Blood amps up his narcissism as the concomitant body count rises. The only people who are able to keep him somewhat steady are his father, a local physician (Ian Hunter) and Linda Parker (Hazel Court), the nurse in his father’s employ. She’s a lonely widow who takes a shine toward the younger Dr. Blood. Soon enough, she’s come to suspect that her newfound love isn’t being exactly honest with her.

   Even though at times the movie progresses as a somewhat languid pace, Dr. Blood’s Coffin is best appreciated as a slow boiler. It takes a while to warm up, but once it’s done, Dr. Blood emerges as a truly memorable villain, one whose story is as much a tragic as it is a warning against tampering with Nature. Although there’s no breakout star performance – Moore is a fine actor, but he’s no Peter Cushing or Christopher Lee – the movie has solid acting throughout and would be likely appreciated by fans of Hammer’s crime and horror films.

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