Ten things I learned from The Devil Doll

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1964

1-Cheesey hypnotists/ventriloquists were all the rage in 1964.

2-Cheesey hypnotists/ventriloquists like to wear thin, shaggy, fake facial hair

3-Hypnotizing people is easy for evil performers.

4-Ventriloquist dummies can turn on you if you put an unwilling human soul into it.

5-Top newspapers don’t have anything better to do than to cover cheesey hypnotist/ventriloquist acts.

6-Don’t take your girlfriend to see a hypnotist or else he’ll hypnotize her and try to steal her away.

7-In 1964 women apparently went to bed wearing false eyelashes.

8-Being the assistant to a cheesey hypnotist/ventriloquist will likely lead to your death.

9-Putting a human soul into a ventriloquist dummy is easier than you’d think.

10-Switching souls from a ventriloquist dummy with a mean cheesey hypnotist/ventriloquist is even easier than number nine.

*Bonus from the “continental version”-Don’t go on stage with a cheesey hypnotist or he’ll turn you into a stripper.

This isn’t a great film by any stretch of the imagination. It’s tedious, the script is fairly rotten and the mannequin/doll coming to life idea has been done better by other people. The positives are it was smart to film it in black and white and actually much of the camera work is quite solid, the on stage performances were not great but the attempt was decent and casting Yvonne Romain was always a good choice. It’s far from a great film and if hadn’t have been for my love of British horror from the 50’s to the 70’s I likely wouldn’t have tracked it down. Still I do tend to watch maybe once a year.

Also for a lesser known film Image did a fine DVD release years ago with both versions of the film, a commentary, still gallery and a trailer.

The Gorgon

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1964

You know Medusa from mythology (or Clash of the titans)? Yeah, the snake haired woman  that turns people to stone. So let’s say Medusa had a sister who was human at times and let’s say she was living in some European village full of frowning types who hated outsiders and fun. Okay that’s where this Hammer film is coming from. So we get a mythological monster plopped into a gothic setting. Young women are being turned to stone and then it happens to dudes too. This one poor sap Paul loses his brother and his daddy and then he comes to this village to see how al that happened. On top of that he falls for this pretty, but odd acting nurse Carla (Barbara Shelley). Odd enough to be…?  Yeah, could be. Anyways Hammer regulars Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee are in this. Only this time around Cushing plays a doctor named Nameroff who is a real cold fish and a bit of a snake while Lee (under a shag wig and ridiculous mustache) is a professor by the name of Meister. Meister is friends with Paul, okey dokey so far. While in Gorgon land Paul views (or thinks he does) a gorgon or snake headed woman by way of reflection first in the water and then in a mirror. So it’s a like a double dose of second hand sightings of a beast that can turn you stone. So Paul doesn’t get turned to stone but he gets some grey hairs and some wrinkles. Hus buddy Meister shows up to help and tells him he looks like crap. Meanwhile Carla tells Paul she wants to get away from Nameroff even though he likes her. Paul plans to take Carla away, but Meister and everyone watching this films has already realized what Carla really is. Carla leaves Paul waiting, oh what a cold hearted woman or is something else behind this? Eventually Paul, Nameroff and Meister all descend on these old ruins. Paul and Nameroff battle but both catch site of old snakey head and boom they are both down. Meister being a professor uses a sword and a mirror to WHOP off the head of the gorgon and plunk it falls and poof hey Carla was the gorgon. Almost everyone is dead but hey roll the credits.

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The negatives-The plot stretches things a bit and the pace can be slow.

The positives-The film looks pretty good for it’s small budget. The lighting, sets and costumes are all reasonably good. The film is also helped out by a very capable cast.

I first saw this on AMC on Halloween in the late 90’s and loved it and have ever since. It took a while to get a proper DVD release here in the states, but I watch it maybe twice a year at least.

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Nightmare

 

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1964

So this young girl Janet is away at boarding school and have some problems because when she was younger she saw her mom kill her dad. Nasty, very nasty. She is sent home to her guardian Henry who is also the family lawyer. Janet is assigned a nurse named Grace. All seems okay but not for long because we need kind of plot to get this going. Janet starts having what she thinks are nightmares where she sees this dark haired woman with a scar on her face in the house, but no one sees her and when she follows Janet cannot locate the woman. So she must be nuts. Anyways it calms down and there is to be a party. Henry brings his wife with him who turns out to be the woman with the scar on her face aieeeee! Janet does what any off kilter person would and stabs the woman with the knife that was meant to cut the cake slash! Janet is taken away to the asylum in hysterics. The end…oh wait I think there’s more. Turns out this was all a set-up by Henry and Grace to A-get Henry’s wife out of the way so they could be together and B-get Janet out of the way so Henry as her lawyer would get the huge house and her money. Those skunks! So they marry and move into Janet’s place and keep all the helpers as well who frown upon this but mind their places. All goes well for a while but odd things start to happen to Grace like odd phone calls and Henry going other places that have her thinking he is having an affair-the cad. Soon Grace is seeing a figure moving around in the house but can’t catch it/her when she gives chase. She becomes convinced that Henry has gotten Janet out of the asylum and is plotting with Janet to drive her (Grace) mad. Oh what a tangled web or some such thing. So Grace does the sensible thing and kills Henry while planning to blame it on Janet so rip she offs Henry. Then goes to call the cops. The servants show up and she tells them Janet killed Henry. To which they say no way, Jose as they call the asylum and let Grace hear that Janet is still there and doing well with therapy so well that she will soon be released. Well who did Grace see? Oh wait the servants liked Janet and they realized what Henry and Grace did so they set all this up to get back at the couple. So now Henry is dead, Grace will go to the jail for murder and Janet will get out soon to take her house and her life back. Hooray and roll the credits.

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The negatives-Not so much, it doesn’t get much credit but I think that’s only do to the small name cast.
The positives-I saw this one for the first time maybe 15 years ago without knowing much about it other than it was from Hammer and it was suspense. It had me glued right away. The acting is tight, the story is strong and it looks great with a fine use of the black and white images. Definitely worth seeing.

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Christmas specials week- Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer

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1964

Hard to believe this classic Rankin and Bass Christmas special will be 50 years old next year. Then again it has been a tradition to watch it in many homes for decades and a number of adults like myself enjoy watching it with our kids.

So Rudolph is a young reindeer living at the North Pole and the son of Donner a veteran reindeer who pulls Santa’s sleigh. He also has a nose that glows and it’s red as a rose and uh can I add something about a garden hose? Perhaps not. Donner is ashamed of this nose and Santa doesn’t care for it either so Rudolph gets mud slapped on his nose to cover up his shame-bad nose, bad nose. Santa is all skinny from worry and for some reason Mrs. Claus seems to be Italian in this special even though she isn’t in later  Rankin-Bass specials. Well reindeer aren’t the only ones with troubles as we see the plight of Hermey the elf. An elf who wants to be a dentist instead of making toys “a dentist?”. What a freak I mean what a free-spirit. So Rudolph eventually gets laughed at by his peers although he does make a connection with a girl deer name Clarice. Rudolph the red nosed freak and Hermey the wannabe tooth inspector end up going off together to avoid being laughed at and to get some action rolling in this show. They run into a greedy prospector named Yukon Cornelius who I always suspected smelled like BO and old cheese. Meanwhile they are in fear to some extent of the abominable snow monster/bumble (see a monster means I can review this show here on my blog). So Rudolph, Hermey and Yukon Cornelius end up trying to seek refuge at the Land of misfit toys, but this trio are such bizarre pieces of junk that they are not allowed to stay more than one night. Rudolph leaves in the middle night likely because Yukon Cornelius had horrible room clearing gas while he slept. Rudolph goes off alone, but Clarice and Rudolph’s mom go looking for him and eventually get trapped by the abominable snow monster/ bumble who looks kind of like an albino King Kong only with eyes that bulge out even more. Eventually Yukon Cornelius helps save them from the big white creature but we think both have died in the struggle. Rudolph and the rest head home and Rudolph is semi-accepted, Yukon Cornelius and a now tame and toothless Abominable snowman/bumble come in too and finally Santa gets a little less grumpy and smarter as he asks Rudolph to guide his sleigh. Rudolph talks Santa into picking up the misfit toys and giving them to kids. Everything turns out okay. Roll the credits.

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I never knew until recently that when this was first shown that they did not have Santa come back for the misfit toys. It was after the first showing that people wrote in to the network saying that Santa did not come back for the misfit toys and he needed to. So these parts were filmed and added in for the second year that the special was shown.

A classic Christmas special that has held up well over the years. The songs are just as memorable as many of the lines. Rankin and Bass made numerous Christmas specials but this is likely their biggest one.

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The Evil of Frankenstein

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1964

Peter Cushing as the Baron you know Frankenstein. This was the third of six times that Cushing played the Baron for Hammer films.

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What’s this about?

Remember the first two Hammer Frankenstein films? If you don’t that’s okay, but this film kind acts like most of those two films never happened either. Frankenstein and his assistant Hans (aren’t all the secondary guys in this films either Hans or Karl?) get caught accepting a stolen corpse and they flee town only to run back to another town that the Baron was run out of. Not a popular gent that Frankenstein. Anyways in this town the Baron owns a residence. He is returning because he needs cash and he left furniture and artwork there so he hope to sell it off to get money to keep funding his bizarre research. So they get to the castle and find nothing, we’ve been robbed! Oh, well this gives the Baron a chance to fill us in on a back story and pad the film’s length. He tells of a monster he created in the past. The monster loved to eat human flesh ewww yucky. The monster got out which wouldn’t have happened if the baron had a leash on him or a better fence up. Anyways the locals gave chase. The Baron was shot and thrown in jail while the monster was shot and then vanished. Back to present day and the Baron and his assistant put on masks and go in to town where they are having a festival of sorts. The Baron sees the Burgomeister wearing his ring and he freaks out, the police go after the Baron but he gets away. The two run into a deaf girl with poofy carrot colored hair. She leads them to her home in a cave where they discover a monster pop well actually it’s Frankenstein’s old monster only frozen. So they pull out a blow drier and thaw him out. Oh, wait no electricity so they use fire to thaw him out. Dagnabbit the monster won’t respond. Maybe he’s upset about looking like a third rate version of Karloff’s block head style monster or maybe that gunshot years ago hurt him. Anyways the Baron employees a sideshow hypnotist to try and revive the monster. Nothing but the best for the Baron and his creature. However it works but the hypnotist has some power over the monster which he uses to get back at people he doesn’t like. The monster is though of as a uh monster. The Baron socks the hypnotist and throws his hide out of the castle. Unfortunately the Baron soon gets nabbed by the law. Hans and the mute girl try to calm the monster without much luck. The Baron gets free and goes back to the castle where he has a wrestling match with the monster (fitting since the monster is played by a wrestler). The Baron tells Hans and the girl to flee. They go and the castle goes blooey. Roll the credits.

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The negatives-I didn’t care for monster’s make-up. They tried to a Universal style monster and it’s rather poor. The plot point with the hypnotist trying to revive the monster seems a bit thrown together. The film seems like a step back in the series compared to the previous two films. It’s not bad, but it lacks the darkness of the previous films and comes across as being a bit too basic.

The positives-Peter Cushing just about always delivers and this movie is no exception. He gives his best. The sets and scenery are mostly quite good.

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The Munsters-Low cal Munster

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1964

Guests-Paul Lynde as Dr. Dudley who can’t see much without his glasses. If you watched Hollywood Squares during the 70’s you would remember him. He was also of course Uncle Arthur on Bewitched, the voice of Templeton the rat in Charlotte’s Web and seemed to be everywhere in the late 60’s-1970’s.

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What’s this about?

Herman breaks loose from shackles and goes on a rampage, but then he stops so they can go back and tell us how all of this came to be. Herman wants to go to the reunion for his old army outfit, but he can’t fit in his uniform. Lilly says he can go if he can lose weight to fit into the uniform. The reunion is just 10 days away so Lilly tells Herman he should go to the doctor to get advice on a diet. He does, but his doctor send his glasses away to be fixed right before Herman arrives. So hilarity ensues with gags about eyesight and the doctor thinks that Herman’s comments being made from the parts of others are jokes- hahaha. Eventually the doctor gets his glasses back and falls over when he sees Herman. Herman meanwhile goes home and starts his diet. Lilly worries because he’s just eating vitamins and water. However when Herman is informed that Thanksgiving is coming up his mouth starts to water. That night Grandpa catches Herman trying to sneak food. The Doctor gets to the Munster hours to check on poor Herman. The Doctor thinks Herman is dead and the family thinks the doctor is a quack. Herman still wants to lose the weight so Grandpa ties him down in the basement while the rest of the family goes out for Thanksgiving dinner. Grandpa leaves the TV on for him. Unfortunately a commercial about having a Thanksgiving dinner delivered comes and the salesman goes into great detail about the food. Herman has had it! He breaks out, leaves the house and starts looking around the neighborhood for food. He ends up breaking in to a house right in the middle of a families Thanksgiving dinner and he eats it all. Fortunately the family doesn’t press charges. At home Herman comes downstairs in his Army uniform and everyone wonders how that could be since he ate all that food. Turns out he has grandma’s old corset under his uniform wahahahaha! Roll the credits.

A funny episode of a great series. I love the opening parts of Herman breaking loose like he’s a real Frankenstein monster for us to only find out that this is all about turkey and cranberry sauce. We watch this one every Thanksgiving season.

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Poster Postings-Tomb of Ligeia

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The last and one of the best of Roger Corman’s Poe series was Tomb of Ligeia with Vincent Price. A dark, moody film that pushes the boundaries of Corman’s low budget and looks richer than it was. Maybe one of my favorite 1960’s horror films. I bought this at least 13 years for $10 on a buy it now on Ebay. The scans don’t do this beauty justice. It looks fantastic and is in great shape for an almost 50 year old poster.

Children of the damned

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1964

Sequels week rolls on. Like Critters 4 I had never seen Children of the damned before. However that’s about the only similarity between the two.

Who’s in this?
Ian Hendry as Tom Lllewllyn who is interested in these smart kids. Hendry worked very steadily from the mid-50’s until his death in 1984. Perhaps best known for his short stint in the Avengers although my favorite role was when he played opposite Vincent Price in Theater of blood.

Alan Badel as David Neville who like Tom is interested in these kids, but not in the ruthless manner that the government soon will be interested. Badel was a solid actor in stage and screen. He was in Shogun, Day of the Jackal and tons of other things.

Barbara Ferris as Susan the aunt of one of the smart kids. She worked quite a bit in British tv for a few decades.

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What’s this about?
Not a direct sequel to Village of the damned, but this instead explores a similar situation. So this kid is tested and the UK as being a brainiac and like it turns out there are five more kids like him in the world. Eventually they are all brought to the UK, hey that way they can all be in this here movie. Now it turns out that none of these kids have dads and one even said she was doinked or bonked, actually she said she was never touched but you get the idea. Plus these kids have controlled others with their minds- whoeeee that’s a spooky power that is. The UK kid stays with his aunt Barbara because he made his rough and mean mom walk in front of a car and get all banged up. Science types Tom and Dave want to study and help the children, but the government types are all wild eyed and nervous Nellie types over these smarties so they want to get rid of them permanent like. That last plan leads to a bunch of adults with guns killed by the kids. The kids stare and barely talk, the scientists oh and ah, the government gets all mad and huffy. Eventually fear leads the adult suity types to blow up all the buildings around the kids to bury them under rubble-problem solved. Roll the credits.

The negatives-This film revolves far more around debatable issues than the first films does. With that idea this is a very talky film and it is certainly slow at times.

The positives-The acting is around the board all pretty good. The camera angles and black and white photography are strong. The story and the issues about whether a superior race should worked with or stumped out is interesting.

Overall it’s a decent film and it works as a sequel in my mind because it revolves around similar characters but in a different situation rather than just re-hashing the previous film. Now when it’s said and done I prefer Village of the damned to this film. Mainly just because it’s hard to beat George Sanders and that brick wall bit.

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Santa Claus conquers the martians

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We don’t need no stinkin’ Santa Clauses!

1964

Hey, it’s Christmas in July for this review.

Who’s in this? A bunch of people who never did much else oe don’t want you to know that they did this film. Top names are actress/singer Pia Zadora as an alien girl, she was only ten here. Fans of classic tv will recorgnize the late Ned Wertimer as a tv reporter, Wertimer is most known for having played Ralph the doorman on the Jeffersons.

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What’s this about? Martian children get tv broadcasts talking about how cool this Santa guy is. Some of the green skinned adults decide to abduct Santa and bring him on over to their planet. Along the way they graba couple of kids too. Hey even Mars has soupusses as one tries to kill Santa, no presents for you this year Mr. evil killy martian guy. Santa also gets a toy facotory on his new planet. Some frowning green goobers try to mess it up-oh, the horror. Eventually there’s a big old silly lovable battle in the martian toy factory. The non-rotten apples win and it’s decided that this clumsy goon martian who likes Santa will be the martian Santa and the real Santa p0lus the two kids will be shipped back to planet Earth. Hey we got the best of that deal.

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The martians have to wear spandex wahahahahaha.

The negatives-Sure, it’s low budget. The sets are thin, the costumes were thrown together and the acting is what it is-corny down to wooden. The film is also slow at times.

The postives-The idea isn’t as bad as most people make it out to be. Why shouldn’t the martians want Santa? It combines Christmas and aliens. Silly? Sure, but remember who this was aimed at-kids. This wasn’t meant to be an action sci-fi film and too many people forget that and jump all over it. I like the silly humor and the thrown together martain costumes. It may have been better if it was a little shorter, but mostly it’s a goofy yet likable enough film if you like Santa and martians and who doesn’t?

This film makes a lot of worst films of all time lists. For me those lists should be full of stuff that’s hard to get through and this film was not like that. It has tons of holes, but it was worth a laugh and fits it good as a watch at Christmas time with the kids kind of film. Hooray for Santy Claus!

Creeping Terror AKA: The Crawling Monster and Dangerous Charter

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1964

A film starring Vic Savage, produced by Vic Savage, directed by Vic Savage, edited by Vic Savage (are you seeing the trend here). Really not a lot of use in listing who’s in this because…

A)they didn’t do much else

B)there’s a narrator over the bulk of the film so no one has many lines

C)No in there right mind should be proud of having been part of this film.

 

Things I learned from this film.

1) If you see a crashed rocket from another world your sheriff shouldn’t crawl into it right away.

2) Calling the military over an alien rocket landing will cause them to send 10 soldiers and an expert all the way from England.

3)It’s best not to tell the citizens that a people eating creature may be roaming around loose even if it means dozens of deaths.

4) It’s okay for the top law official in town to make out with his wife in a car even during a monster on the loose situation.

5)Young people may start up a hootenanny at any minute.

6) The local dance hall has crappy exits should a large monster show up.

7)A monster inside a rocket roars like a lion.

8)Officers in small towns frequently drink while on duty during monster outbreaks and within hours after their sheriff was killed by a monster.

9)If army soldiers stand real close during a monster attack they will likely all get killed.

10)Monsters from outer space can look they were made out of scrap material from a tacky dress shop only with vacum hoses sticking out of their mouths.

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It’s a..a…a…yeah, I  have no idea.

The negatives-It’s a mess of bad ideas one after the other with a low budget to boot. Never use a narrator instead of actors. I understand they may be inexperienced, but in these movies I say give everyone a chance. Even a bad performance would be more interesting than a monotone narration. The monster is really cheap and they don’t try to hide it in the shadows or with just showing partial shots as instead they show the whole thing in long, slow shots.

The positives-The first half hour is slow, but hand in there and you will be rewarded with a very funny film. Overstays it’s welcome some and they try too hard to explain everything, but it’s humorous.

 

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There’s a monster in town so let’s twist again.