Six Months of Movie Morlocks: May – Oct. 2016

It’s been an interesting, busy and to be honest, an extremely stressful year due to some ongoing medical issues I’m dealing with that you can read more about here: Vertigo: Hitchcock was wrong.

In turn, I’ve been terribly lax about updating the blog but due to looming work related developments that I’ll be sharing soon, I thought it was time to finally play catch up with Cinebeats’ readers. What follows are links to some of the most interesting (in my estimation) writing I’ve done for TCM’s Movie Morlocks blog during the past six months.

bsteele0

Spotlight on AIP with Roger Corman
Mistress of Menace: Barbara Steele in The Pit and the Pendulum (1961)
Sexual Revolution on Campus – Three in the Attic (1968)
Robert Fuest & His Abominable Creations
Revisiting The Terror (1963) on Blu-ray
TCM Star of the Month: Olivia de Havilland @ 100
Summer Reading Suggestions

mc01

The Whole World is Watching: Medium Cool (1969)
Poster Gallery: Remembering Jack Davis 1924-2016
Fay Wray: The Clairvoyant (1934)
Roddy McDowall: Celebrity Photographer
Angie Dickinson in Cry Terror! (1958)
A Grand & Moving Thing: The King and I (1956)

jm000

Offbeat Otto: Tell Me That You Love Me, Junie Moon (1970)
52 Films By Women: #52FilmsByWomen
Out of the Closet: Tab Hunter Confidential (2015)
My Visit to the Francis Ford Coppola Winery
Paranormal Police Procedural: Nothing But the Night (1972)
The Amazing, Amazing Mr. X (1948)

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Bewitching Movies October 1-31 @ Cinebeats

crimsoncbanner
By the pricking of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes.” – Witch
(from William Shakespeare’s Macbeth)

Horror films are currently trendy. There’s just no getting around that fact. But something seems to be amiss between the teenage vampires, 3D piranhas and countless remakes of classic horror films that Hollywood churns out month after month. I think this trend mirrors something deeply troubling that is echoed in the hollow entertainment filling up our multiplexes as I type this. We live in fearful times. People are afraid of their neighbors, their politicians, their doctors and their own shadows. They’re afraid of losing their jobs, losing their freedoms, losing their homes and losing their minds. Our televisions transmit fear daily to remind us that we’re too fat, too skinny, too old and too young. People seem content to live in a state of fear and they remain in that state continually. I love horror movies. I love the rush of excitement I feel whenever I spot a ghost floating across my TV screen during a William Castle production or the thrill that I get every time I see Christopher Lee rise from a coffin. But I don’t live my life in fear. Maybe that’s why I don’t follow trends? I’m not afraid of being slightly out of step with the rest of the world. I watch more old movies than new ones. Most of the music I listen to was released before 1989 and I prefer buying second-hand goods instead new things whenever possible because the world is producing too much crap. But I digress.

The point of this post is to announce that Cinebeats is going to be trendy this October and indulge in all things spooky and scary. As I’ve said countless times before, horror is my favorite film genre but I don’t write about horror films enough. In an effort to satisfy my cinematic cravings and celebrate one of the best months of the year I’m going to be joining many of my fellow film bloggers including Arbogast on Film, Greg at Cinemastyles and Bob at Eternal Sunshine of the Logical Mind; and for the next 31 days I’ll be spending all of my free time writing about horror movies. But not just any horror movies. I’m going to focus all of my attention on witches. Not scary politicians, mother-in-laws or your friendly neighborhood Wiccans. I’ll be writing about movie witches that enchant me, fascinate me and frighten me. I probably won’t be able to post something every day but when I’m able to I will. You can expect to see more than one weekly update at Cinebeats during the month of October.

You’ll find my first post about movie witches over at TCM’s Movie Morlocks blog. Today I shared some thoughts about one of my favorite H.P. Lovecraft adaptations; The Crimson Cult (aka Curse of the Crimson Altar; 1968), which features the fabulous Barbara Steele as a beautiful green skinned witch called Lavinia. Want to know more? Check out It’s Lovecraft Season.

My Favorite Scream Queen

Fall has finally arrived in all its gold and copper splendor. As I’ve mentioned many times before, Autumn is my favorite season. Summer be damned! I’m more than happy to see it go and I look forward with unabashed glee to dark mornings, cold evenings and watching lots of horror movies during the month of October.

Over at the TCM Movie Morlocks’ blog Richard Harland Smith has gathered together a nice collection of links to other blogs that are spending the month focusing on all things spooky and scary. I personally recommend making some time to visit The Groovy Age of Horror, Arbogast on Film, Frankensteinia, Cinema Styles and Final Girl where the fun never ends and the dead never rest!

I hope to find some time to write about a few of my favorite horror films that are in desperate need of a DVD release before the month is over, but in the meantime I thought I’d share some lovely pictures that I recently came across of my favorite Scream Queen, the beautiful and terrifying Barbara Steele from a 1958 issue of Life magazine.

Barbara Steele (1958)

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The Eyes Have It

My blogging buddy Peter Nellhaus over at Coffee, Coffee and more Coffee has asked me to contribute my own list of “20 Favorite Actresses” to a new film meme making the rounds of the blogosphere. Frankly I was just going to blow him off and ignore his request because these meme things tend to make me nuts but Peter is too nice a guy to ignore. I tried to throw caution to the wind and just quickly put together a list of 20 of my favorite actresses, but as usual I spent way too much time thinking about this and managed to give myself a headache in the process. This meme madness must end! But at least it gave me an excuse to post a bunch of fabulous photos of some of my favorite actresses.

Naturally I ignored the rules and decided to post a list of 23 40 favorite actresses instead of limiting myself to only 20. My list could have been even longer and I’m sure I’ll regret forgetting to include a few more favorites but over time I felt the need to keep adding to the list and finally just doubled the size. Some of these talented and lovely women were never offered the better roles they so richly deserved, while others are acclaimed Academy Award winners and celebrated Hollywood legends. They do have a couple of things in common though; they’ve appeared in a lot of great movies and I never get tired of watching them!

So without further blabbering, here are 20 50 Women I Love Watching . . .

etaylor
Elizabeth Taylor

monicav
Monica Vitti

sarahmiles
Sarah Miles

juliechristie
Julie Christie

bsteele
Barbara Steele

crampling
Charlotte Rampling

kimnovak
Kim Novak

annakarina
Anna Karina

cbaker
Carroll Baker

meikokaji
Meiko Kaji

cdeneuve
Catherine Deneuve

isebellea
Isabelle Adjani

bbardot
Brigitte Bardot

nwood
Natalie Wood

deborahkerr
Deborah Kerr

sophialoren
Sophia Loren

genetiereny
Gene Tierney

glendajackson
Glenda Jackson

avagardner
Ava Gardner

uesulaabdress
Ursula Andress

delphinesedge
Delphine Seyrig

annmargret
Ann-Margret

edwigef
Edwige Fenech

ingrid
Ingrid Pitt

judy
Judy Garland

florinda
Florinda Bolkan

marisa
Marisa Mell

kate
Katharine Hepburn

soledad
Soledad Miranda

Barbara
Barbara Shelley

bette
Bette Davis

pamela
Pamela Franklin

barbra
Barbra Streisand

claudia
Claudia Cardinale

anita
Anita Ekberg

paula
Paula Prentiss

Geneviève
Geneviève Bujold

marlene
Marlene Clark

diana
Diana Rigg

Elke Sommer
Elke Sommer

Alida Valli
Alida Valli

Jenny Agutter
Jenny Agutter

Sharon Tate
Sharon Tate
Pam Grier
Pam Grier
Gayle Hunnicutt
Gayle Hunnicut
Linda Hayden
Linda Hayden
Samantha Eggar
Samantha Eggar
Raquel Welch
Raquel Welch
Suzy Kendall
Suzy Kendall
Ewa Aulin
Ewa Aulin

Happy Holidays!

Barbara Steele and her vespa!
Barbara Steele, December 1963

Happy Holidays!

I’m afraid that I’ve been really busy this month so I haven’t had a lot of free time to write, but I’ve got a two week vacation planned so you should be seeing a lot more from me soon.

If you’re in the mood for some vintage holiday fun check out these links:
Ultra Swank’s Retro Christmas Music Compilation
Christmas A Go Go!
The Flickr Vintage Christmas Group

And last but not least, here’s a great video worth watching:

The lovely Mina sings White Christmas in Italian (1968)

31 Films That Give Me the Willies


Top: House with Laughing Windows (1976), Deep Red (1975)
Middle: The Seventh Victim (1942)
Bottom: Black Sabbath (1963), Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975)

I wasn’t going to participate in Ed Hardy’s 31 Flicks That Give You the Willies List due to suffering massive list-making burnout following the recent Favorite Foreign Language Film poll (which I still want to write about in more detail), but at the last minute I decided to send him a list of nominees. As I’ve mentioned before, horror is far and away my favorite film genre so I had an incredibly hard time narrowing down my list of favorite films to a mere 31.

I will confess that I cheated a bit since I deliberately left off any film that I knew had already gotten 3 votes and wouldn’t need mine to make the final list of nominees. Some of those films included Suspiria (1977), Martin (1977), The Wicker Man (1973), Dellamorte Dellamore aka Cemetery Man (1994), The Shining (1980), The Exorcist (1973), Psycho (1960), Alien (1979) and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974). With that confession out of the way, here are the . . .

31 FILMS THAT GIVE ME THE WILLIES (Listed by release date)

1. Frankenstein (1931; James Whale)
2. The Seventh Victim (1942; Mark Robson)
3. The Uninvited (1944; Lewis Allen)
4. Night of the Demon (1957; Jacques Tourner)
5. Blood and Roses (1960; Roger Vadim)
6. The Brides of Dracula (1960; Terence Fisher)
7. The Innocents (1961; Jack Clayton)
8. Night Tide (1961; Curtis Harrington)
9. Carnival of Souls (1962; Herk Harvey)
10. The Haunted Palace (1963; Roger Corman)
11. Black Sabbath (1963; Mario Bava)
12. The Haunting (1963; Robert Wise)
13. Castle of Blood (1964; Antonio Margheriti)
14. Blood on Satan’s Claw (1971; Piers Haggard)
15. Daughters of Darkness (1971; Harry Kumel)
16. Lizard in a Woman’s Skin (1971; Lucio Fulci)
17. Short Night of the Glass Dolls (1971; Aldo Lado)
18. Tombs of the Blind Dead (1971; Armando de Ossorio)
19. All the Colors of the Dark (1972; Sergio Martino)
20. Don’t Look Now (1973; Nicolas Roeg)
21. Deep Red (1975; Dario Argento)
22. Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975; Peter Weir)
23. The Tenant (1976; Roman Polanski)
24. House with Laughing Windows (1976; Pupi Avati)
25. Full Circle (aka The Haunting of Julia, 1977; Richard Loncraine)
26. The Brood (1979; David Cronenberg)
27. Possession (1981; Andrzej Zulawski)
28. Zeder (1983; Pupi Avati)
29. The Reflecting Skin (1990; Philip Ridley)
30. Cure (1997; Kiyoshi Kurosawa)
31. Audition (1999; Takashi Miike)

After sending Ed my list I was surprised and annoyed with myself because I managed to forget to include films like Georges Franju’s Eyes Without a Face (1960) as well as my favorite horror anthology, Spirits of the Dead (1968) and lots of early Japanese and Spanish horror films that I love. I also neglected to include any films with Peter Lorre, Christopher Lee and Klaus Kinski who all appeared in some of my favorite thrillers. Where did my head go? I have no idea.

Some conclusions I came to after making my list:

1. Sexually repressed women, ghosts, the supernatural, vampires and devil worshipers/cults give me the willies. Since I’m not a religious person, I find it extremely amusing that so many satanic horror films made my list but I think it’s more about the esoteric elements of these films and the constant mystery of the unknown than the actual “devil” that gives these types of movies their edge. I’m also just plain frightened by cults or large masses of of people with a ‘group think’ mentality that causes them to harm others.

2. Only four American directors made my list. British and Italian directors dominate it. This isn’t a surprise since I really don’t care for American horror films all that much.

3. 1960 and 1971 were two of the most amazing years for horror cinema. At some point during the list making process I had six or eight films from each of those years on my list.

4. The only director that has more than one film on my list is the greatly under-appreciated Italian director Pupi Avati who makes some of the most fascinating and chilling films I’ve ever seen. Unfortunately I’m clearly in the minority when it comes to my affection for Avati since none of his movies made it on the final list of 180 Nominees. And as far as I know I’m the only person who even bothered to nominate any of his films for inclusion.

Last but not least…

I hope to write about some of the lessor seen films mentioned above that didn’t make the Official Nominee List in the future.

News Flash


Barbara Steele in Fellini’s 8½ (1963)

The Results Are In . . .

The results for Edward Copeland’s Foreign Language Film Poll are now online. Four films from my own Top 25 didn’t make the Top 100, but six of my picks managed to make the Top 25. I personally think the most grievous omission is Luchino Visconti’s Rocco and His Brothers, which I hope to write about in greater length soon. In the meantime you can find the final results at Edward’s blog, which he has officially called The Ray Memorial 100 in honor of the great director Satyajit Ray who oddly enough didn’t have one film nominated for inclusion on the final ballot.

The Ray Memorial 100

Blog-a-thons Are Overrunning the Blogosphere . . .

Blog-a-thons seem to be overrunning the Blogosphere at the moment, but I’ve been trying to keep track of the ones I’m most interested in participating in. Unfortunately I highly doubt that I’ll be able to contribute to them all. If you’ve got the free time and are feeling inspired by any of the themes, I highly recommend participating in Blog-a-thons. They’re a great way to meet other like-minded bloggers and they bring together various opinions on a particular topic, which are often fascinating to read. You can find the list of Blog-a-thons that I currently find the most compelling below.

Cinema Blog-a-thons

A Picture Is Worth a Thousand Words . . .

Last but not least, the very nice Tom Sutpen who runs the excellent If Charlie Parker Was a Gunslinger, There’d Be a Whole Lot of Dead Copycats blog was kind enough to ask me to become a regular contributor and I happily accepted the invitation. I hope you’ll stop by the blog often and check out my various contributions whenever the inspiration strikes.

If Charlie Parker Was a Gunslinger, There’d Be a Whole Lot of Dead Copycats

The Ghosts of Antonio Margheriti

Castle of Blood/Web of the Spider

Recently I had the pleasure of viewing two of Italian director Antonio Margheriti’s wonderful ghost films. The original black & white 1964 version of Castle of Blood (aka Danza Macabra) which was recently released on DVD by Synapse and Antonio Margheriti’s 1970 remake of the same film re-titled Web of the Spider (aka. Nella Stretta Morsa Del Ragno). Both versions of the Margheriti’s movie are well worth a look so I thought I’d review them together.

The scripts for both films were written by different writers but they follow the same plot. Celebrated spaghetti western director Sergio Corbucci (Django, The Great Silence, Companeros, etc.) co-wrote the original screenplay for Castle of Blood with Giovanni Grimaldi and Sergio’s brother Bruno Corbucci wrote the screenplay for Web of the Spider, which was later revised by the film’s producer Giovanni Addessi. The plots of both films tell the same tale which begins with the renowned American author Edgar Allan Poe drinking at a pub and telling a mesmerizing story about a local haunted castle owned by his friend Sir Thomas Blackwood. At the pub Poe is approached by a journalist named Alan Foster who questions the validity of Poe’s tale. Soon after Foster becomes involved in a peculiar wager between himself, Poe and Thomas Blackwood who bet that Foster cannot survive an entire night in the haunted castle alone. After Foster accepts the bet and enters the castle he soon discovers that it is inhabited by ghosts.

Castle of Blood and Web of the Spider are both memorable films that should please fans of Italian horror films who appreciate the gothic atmosphere of Roger Corman’s films. Director Antonio Margheriti was obviously inspired by the Corman’s Poe adaptations such as the wonderful Pit and the Pendulum (1961) and The Tomb of Ligeia (1964). Although Corman’s influence is obvious, Margheriti’s films have an erotic and stylish Italian flavor that is all their own. Both versions of his movie are very compelling and the story they tell is unusual since the ghosts also posses vampire-like traits.

The 1964 version of Castle of Blood was filmed in moody black and white and stars French actor George Riviere (The Virgin of Nuremberg, etc.) as journalist Alan Foster, Silvano Tranquili (who would also appear in Web of the Spider) as Edgar Allen Poe, lovely Barbara Steele (Black Sunday, 8 1/2, The Pit and the Pendulum, etc.) as Elizabeth and Margarete Robsahm as Julia. Castle of Blood relies heavily on the wonderful gothic atmosphere of its setting to conjure up its spooky moments. If you like your horror movies filled with lots of blood and visceral frights you may find Castle of Blood a little slow moving but if you enjoy spooky ghost films like The Haunting and The Innocents you’ll probably enjoy Castle of Blood. When the films were first released they claimed to be based on stories by Poe but this this is false. They’re merely “inspired” by Poe but fans of the writer should still enjoy them.

Barbara Steele dominates Castle of Blood with her haunting performance as Elizabeth. The movie also features one of the earliest erotic scenes in a horror film between two women, which is thoughtfully played out. It’s easy to see why the male and female characters in the film are passionately drawn to Steele’s Elizabeth since she’s charismatic as well as extremely beautiful. Overall Synapse Films did a wonderful job with their Castle of Blood DVD release. The film looks terrific and for the first time in the US it has been released in widescreen, uncensored and uncut. DVD extras include the original US trailer and opening sequences, extensive liner notes by Tim Lucas and a nice still gallery. Unfortunately the same can not be said for the Web of Spider DVD released by Brentwood Home Video. The quality of the film transfer is rather terrible at times which is really a shame. Personally I think Web of the Spider deserves the same uncut/widescreen treatment that Castle of Blood got. It would be wonderful to see it restored and released by a distributor like Synapse.

Before watching Web of the Spider my expectations were very low since I had read a lot of bad things about it from various critics and even the director himself was unhappy with his remake and said that it couldn’t compare to the original. I completely disagree and happen to think that the color version is just as effective as the black white version of the film and both movies can be enjoyed for different reasons. Web of the Spider boasts some terrific color photography at times that fans of Mario Bava will appreciate. The great Klaus Kinski (Fitzcarraldo, The Great Silence, Nosferatu the Vampyre, etc.) plays Edgar Allen Poe in this version but he’s in the movie all too briefly. Thankfully he gets more screen time than the previous actor who played the role and Kinski gives an over-the-top and frenzied performance as Poe. It’s easily one of his most unforgettable screen moments and makes the film a must-see for Kinski fans. Anthony Franciosa (Tenebre, Fathom, The Swinger, etc.) plays Alan Foster and the lovely actresses Michele Mercier (Angelique, Black Sabbath, etc.) and Karin Field (Cave of the Living Dead, The Mad Butcher, etc.) take over the roles of Elizabeth and Julia.

Web of the Spider has some genuinely creepy moments and even if Michele Mercer doesn’t exactly steal the show like Barbara Steel did in the original, she does a great job of trying. She’s incredibly beautiful and she looks terrific in the her costumes. The equally compelling performances by all the actors involved in this version give the film a slightly more balanced feeling in my opinion, which moves the story along a little quicker. Anthony Franciosa seems a bit out of place here since he can’t seem to master the mannerisms of a man in the 1800s and his modern approach to the role of Alan Foster is awkward at times but still entertaining.

The Synapse Castle of Blood DVD is well-worth picking up now and hopefully Web of the Spider will receive a better quality DVD release in the future. (Note: Originally written Jan. 2003)