Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Horror! The Horror! (Or: Getting the Dr. Phibes Vibe)

The mighty, mighty Dennis Cozzalio of the infinitely awesome—but far too infrequent—Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule has sprung another of his patented magical mystery movie quizzes—this one inspired by the Fab Vinny the P.’s 100th movie, The Abominable Dr. Phibes

And The United Provinces of Ivanlandia has taken the bait!

(Don’t worry, faithful followers, we’ve done this before)
(And NO, we never did find out what happened to Konan the Vegetarian!)
[Meanwhile, not even Dr. Phibes Clockwork Wizards will make me read anybody else’s answers till I’ve completed mine!]
[BTW: Photos are not necessarily genuine representations of films under discussion, but establishers of mood. 10-Q.]

Gentlemen, start your engines!
Favorite Vincent Price/American International Pictures release.

AIP released The Conqueror Worm, but did it produce Witchfinder General?

I’m also a big fan of Price’s turn as the murderous drunken, poverty-stricken undertaker in The Comedy of Terrors.

And while it’s mack-daddy Peter Lorre who steals the show in Corman/Matheson’s Poe-spoof The Raven, Price gives one of my favorite reaction shots in cinema in that flick:
Early in the film,
he’s heading down through subbasements to the crypt, with a raven perched on his upheld arm, when a prop skeleton hanging nearby suddenly falls—
It’s probably a mistake, but cheapskate Corman kept it in—besides,
Price’s reaction, as the skeleton clattered and the startled raven freaks out, is CLASSIC double take hysterics: hair flips, “what the hell” expression, the near-ubiquity of genuine offense being taken—
This pure shock of SOMETHING REAL in the most artificial of presentations—
an obvious film set that lets you know that these are sets that have been used in films before—meta-cinema meltdown.

(In praise of Price, continued: Let us not forget his stellar work with that exploitation goliath William Castle! My fave? The Tingler, especially the scene where Price injects himself full of LSD-25 and has the first cinematic acid trip! Scream for your life, indeed!)

What horror classic (or non-classic) that has not yet been remade would you like to see upgraded for modern audiences?

If you must do a remake, go for
Peter Lorre’s incredible Mad Love (1935), with Paul Giamatti in Lorre’s role; with Steve Buscemi as Colin Clive, and Philip Seymore Hoffman as the wiseguy reporter—and let them overact WILDLY. (Get John Waters to direct? Have him amp up the madness and give zing to the dialog.)
If you really want to keep with one of Mad Love’s themes, a supermodel should be cast as the female love interest—y’know, ’cause she’s gonna be just standing there mainly anyway.
Just rent the film and marvel at the moody weirdness.

I’d love to see a splatterpunk version of 1977’s The Car
I mean more gore, more realistic gore, really show what Satan’s Supersonic Cadillac can do to a human body!
Vroom! Crunch! Splat! Aaargh!

3) Jonathan Frid or Thayer David?
Thayer David, for such an extensive body of work, including Mr. Dragon, the ex-Nazi albino espionage expert from The Eiger Sanction.

4) Name the one horror movie you need to see that has so far eluded you.
I hate to admit that my knowledge is far from encyclopedic—Jeez, I don’t think I’ve ever even seen a Jess Franco flick, or any Italian horror beyond the Bava-Argento-Fulci trinity—
But one flick that I’ve been meaning to catch, and since it’s finally been released some friends have copies and have even invited me over to watch it, but something always keeps me from seeing These Are the Damned.

I’ve known about the flick for years, either from the writings of John Brosnan or Philip Strick—or The Monster Times (the BEST friend a preadolescent monster fan could want)—but it hasn’t been available until recently.

With the exception of The Servant, most of director Joseph Losey’s films have been snoozers, so I don’t feel like rushing it—but this great post at the always awesome Monster Movie Music has piqued my interest in These Are the Damned again.

But a flick I’ve been DYING to find is a French short stop-motion animation film from 1968, titled
“Certain Prophecies”
What I remember is: a couple of aliens arrive in a flying saucer—but it’s the size of a makeup compact, and they have landed on a table at a restaurant after a meal has been finished.
The aliens, looking like cute robo-bug-lizards, wander the apocalyptian wreckage of earth’s civilization, or so they think.
Half-empty wine flutes are scanned and thought to be sources of energy, a fly is mistaken for an atomic mutation and is zapped with ray guns; the bones of the fish dinner are regarded in awe…and horror.
A waiter shows up, and the saucer dudes have to make a getaway.

I first—and only—caught it on Chuck Jones’ wonderful Curiosity Shop (which will NEVER be on DVD because of various licensing issues)—probably around 1971 or 1972.

Philip Strick has mentioned "Certain Prophecies" in his collection of essays Science Fiction Films but I haven’t seen it mentioned anywhere else--ever.
Do YOU know something? Let me know.

There are also flicks I saw once, a long time ago, usually on some local TV channel, that I’ve never been able to see again—many of which I don’t remember the names of—but some are
The Crawling Eye, Island of Terror, and I’m dying to see The Beginning of the End again: grasshoppers vs. cardboard cutouts! (see question #18)

5) Favorite film director most closely associated with the horror genre.
John Carpenter—LOVE his Apocalypse Trilogy!
(followed by that master trickster, Brian De Palma)

6) Ingrid Pitt or Barbara Steele?

Babs, FTW!

7) Favorite 50’s sci-fi/horror creature.
Go go Godzilla!

8) Favorite/best sequel to an established horror classic.
The Bride of Frankenstein, of course.
But I have a special place in my heart for Larry Cohen’s Island of the Alive, the third of his mutant babies flicks, and the one that expands on the critters and their lives.
Several killer babies get exiled to a deserted island and grow into huge beasts—just add one of Michael Moriarty’s goofiest performances—and you get magic!

9) Name a sequel in a horror series which clearly signaled that the once-vital franchise had run out of gas.
Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein

10) John Carradine or Lon Chaney Jr.?
Carradine was the better actor, but I have no memory of him bringing pathos to ANY of his horror perfs, unlike Chaney Jr., who brought deep melancholia to his roles.

11) What was the last horror movie you saw in a theater? On DVD or Blu-ray?
Theater: Insidious (2011)—which kicked ass!
DVD: Mario Bava’s Kill, Baby… Kill! (1966)
Streaming: Paul Morrissey’s Blood for Dracula (1974)

12) Best foreign-language fiend/monster.
Dr. Mabuse

13) Favorite Mario Bava movie.
Black Sunday, natch—

14) Favorite horror actor and actress.
Boris Karloff
Dick Miller
William Shatner

Barbara Steele
PJ Soles
Martine Beswick (in Dr. Jekyll & Sister Hyde)

15) Name a great horror director’s least effective movie.
John Carpenter’s Village of the Damned

16) Grayson Hall or Joan Bennett?
What’s with the Dark Shadows obsession? For some of us, it never aired in our particular region. Besides, isn’t this post supposed to be centered on Dr. Phibes? Stop mixing metaphors!

17) When did you realize that you were a fan of the horror genre? And if you’re not, when did you realize you weren’t?
I grew up on horror (and sci-fi and fantasy and weirdness in general)—my stepdad was a fan
and horror movies were playing in the house before I could think rationally.

18) Favorite Bert I. Gordon (B.I.G.) movie.
The Mad Bomber
The Beginning of the End
War of the Colossal Beast

19) Name an obscure horror favorite that you wish more people knew about.
Filipino horror movies in general (Go see The Twilight People! Pam Grier’s in it!)

And here are 20 horror movies that I think more people need to know about (in no particular order):

The Horrors of Malformed Men
The Todd Killings
The Hellstrom Chronicle
Let Sleeping Corpses Lie
Tales From the Hood
Herzog’s Nosferatu
Five Million Years to Earth
Alien Abduction: Incident in Lake County (1998) Unseen since it was first broadcast, this “found footage” pseudo-documentary scared the CRAP outta me back in the day.

The Brain That Wouldn’t Die
Yokai Monsters: Spook Warfare (1968)
Burn Witch Burn!
The Flesh Eaters
The Possession of Joel Delaney
The Call of Cthulhu (2005)
The Amazing Screw-On Head (2006) (horror-comedy animated short from Mike “Hellboy” Mignola—totally brilliant)

SALVAGE (2006)
Turkey Shoot
The Night Stalker—Dan Curtis’ TV movie, scripted by horror grandmaster Richard Matheson, was the most watched TV movie in history when it aired—it was also the first time that the vampire was brought to a contemporary US city: Las Vegas.

The flick inspired a sequel, and the short-lived TV series, where hardboiled, proto-gonzo journalist Carl Kolchak (played by Darrin McGavin, a god!) tangles with the supernatural weekly. I think a lot of people have heard about the show, but haven’t seen it—the must-see episode, “The Horror in the Heights” was written by Hammer Horror vet Jimmy Sangster.

That said, I’m including The Night Stalker on this list because it’s a damn fine horror movie that I think people have forgotten about—mainly because it was overshadowed by the TV show.
And Dan Curtis created Dark Shadows—thus tying us back in to Dennis C.’s sick obsessions.

20) The Human Centipede-- yes or no?
I haven’t seen it, and probably won’t—I hear it’s pretty bad—not the gross stuff, just that it’s stupid and dull.

21) And while we’re in the neighborhood, is there a horror film you can think of that you felt “went too far”?
Since I’m a gorehound, going too far is never about blood & guts, but rather themes:
as such, Frank Darabont really screwed the pooch with the ending of The Mist.
Darabont “tweaked” Stephen King’s original ending, and made it into a sick, awful joke that leaves a bad taste in the mouth, and defies logic as well.

Meanwhile, Mario Bava’s Rabid Dogs (while technically it’s not a horror flick, it was directed by Bava!) is a flick SO mean and nasty that I still haven’t been able to finish watching it.

22) Name a film that is technically outside the horror genre that you might still feel comfortable describing as a horror film.
The Power of Nightmares

The Todd Killings
Night of the Hunter
High Plains Drifter
Dear Zachary
United 93
The Devils
Orson Welles’ Macbeth

23) Lara Parker or Kathryn Leigh Scott?
Kathryn Leigh Scott, because she was on Space: 1999.
Now knock off the Dark Shadows stuff!

24) If you’re a horror fan, at some point in your past your dad, grandmother, teacher or some other disgusted figure of authority probably wagged her/his finger at you and said, “Why do you insist on reading/watching all this morbid monster/horror junk?” How did you reply? And if that reply fell short somehow, how would you have liked to have replied?

This never happened; I was a feral child with few social skills dropped off at the movies routinely from the age of seven, until I turned nine, when, after bugging mom to take me to the movie theater, she gave me some money and told me to take the bus. Nine!

25) Name the critic or Web site you most enjoy reading on the subject of the horror genre.

Vulnavia Morbius
DVD Savant

26) Most frightening image you’ve ever taken away from a horror movie.
Honestly, it’s when the acid-blood splattered the front of Hicks’ armor in Aliens, and he’s freaking out and shrieking “Get it off me! Get it off me!” as the armor is melting into hot slag that’s dripping onto his flesh! Ow-ow-ow-ow!
That scene gets me every time I see it (perhaps due to personal phobias: bad plastic burns on my arm when I was a kid).

27) Your favorite memory associated with watching a horror movie.
Seeing Romero’s Dawn of the Dead when it first came out in 1978—I was either 12 or 13—and the flick so freaked me out, I began laughing uncontrollably, SHRIEKING
(like Vik in Steve Erickson’s Zeroville, when he sees The Exorcist for the first time).

It was like I’d been given some deranged nitrous oxide and LSD cocktail.

28) What would you say is the most important/significant horror movie of the past 20 years (1992-2012)? Why?

Scream brought us self-referential snark (which I hate); The Blair Witch Project popularized “fake found footage” (which I like) and gore made a comeback, like it’s supposed to.

And as such, I want to give a big shout-out to Hostel 2, for its ferocious raw meat look at capitalism: I love that the girl survives because she’s rich—it’s a blatant, heavy-handed message, but in an insane flick with so much bloodletting? Why not.

29) Favorite Dr. Phibes curse (from either film).
From Phibes the First:
The vampire-bat shred is super-creepy, thanks to close-ups of vampire bats, and the green goop on the face, followed by locusts has a certain amount of groinal units,
but it’s the frog-mask murder that rules: it can stand alone as a gruesome little short film.

(BTW, has anybody ever noticed that Fincher’s Seven is essentially a humorless cop-centric remake of The Abominable Dr. Phibes? Uh-huh, that’s right.)

(Additional BTW: I feel Dr. Phibes is a psychedelic movie—like Barbarella or Silent Running, it is not necessarily about “Hippies,” or “Acid,”
it’s the zeitgeist allowing its production designer and art directors to run wild—to be phantasmagorical!)

30) You are programming an all-night Halloween horror-thon for your favorite old movie palace. What seven (that’s right, Dennis C., I added two more! Bwah-hah-hah-HAH!) movies make up your schedule?

6pm: The 1970s “I smelllll…children!” Double-Feature—
It’s Alive (1974)
The Brood (1979)

10pm—the Rarity Showcase—
A Cold Night’s Death (1973) Totally forgotten because it’s totally unavailable
Altered (2006) I wasn’t just going to put this on question #19’s list! This is the best, goriest Outer Limits episode never made! Ya gotta see it!

Midnight—New Asia GORE—
I Saw the Devil (2010; Korea)
Dream Home (2010; China—splatteriffic socio-economical satire that is very bloody and sickly funny. With really, really, really disgusting sound effects!)

The New Dawn 6am show—“See the Devil Again!” (with free coffee and doughnuts in the lobby, too!):
The Prophecy (1995; with Christopher Walken, and an awesome cameo by Viggo Mortensen as Lucifer)



  1. So very frickin' true about what Frank Darabont did (of all people) with THE MIST. Thinking he could come up with a better ending than Stephen King's original? Really? Even if he did have SK's blessing, it just wasn't going to work for those fans who remember that great King novella. I loved the way you phrased it too, Ivan. Kudos, as well, for adding A Cold Night's Death to your horror-thon programming (if only some studio, even if it's just a MOD, would release it to disc). Great read. Thanks

    p.s., Viggo turned 53 last week and he did make a fine Lucifer in THE PROPHECY.

  2. I'm so glad I clicked on that "groinal units" link. Excellent work, Professor. Smells like a hit, indeed!

  3. Hey All! Glad you liked this post!

    —Toestubz: Heh-heh, glad you checked the link!

    —LeOpard13, was it you who included Michael Winner’s The Sentinel (1977) as well as Exorcist III is your answer to #19?
    Damn, I wish I’d remembered to include those! I also should’ve given a shout-out to Coffin Joe’s first movie (at least), AT MIDNIGHT I’LL TAKE YOUR SOUL.

    Before I forget: A big thanks to the Audio-Visual Archives of the Otto Mannix Research Institute—several of the photos used in this post were passed on to us from them.

    BTW, since this is “Horror Time,” I have to mention that I disagree strongly with Slant Magazine’s “The 25 Best Horror Films of the Aughts”—
    and when I do agree with their selection, I disagree with their reasoning behind that selection.
    Long story short, I found it to be a very frustrating read.

    Much better for me was “24 Hours of Horror with Edgar Wright” from The AV Club
    Wright doesn’t go through mental gymnastics for liking the flicks he does, and comparatively you can tell he’s unashamed—unlike the Slant crowd that still oozes subconscious shame at liking something so tawdry as…gasp…Horror!

    Thanks for letting me rant (at my own site!)

  4. Yep, that'd be me that had that distinct pair for those questions. I need to check out AMITYS. Thanks for the recommendation, Ivan.

  5. >>(BTW, has anybody ever noticed that Fincher’s Seven is essentially a humorless cop-centric remake of The Abominable Dr. Phibes? Uh-huh, that’s right.)


  6. That short film "Certain Prophecies:"

    I didn't know the title, but I've been trying to figure out what that was for some time. I saw it at maybe age 5, 1971, apparently on that CURIOSITY SHOP show.

    I finally posted a query on usenet

    And they came up with the title, which googling on that led me here...

    Oh well, maybe one day it'll somehow show up on YouTube or something.

  7. Planet Tom:
    Finger's crossed about "Certain Prophecies" showing up! One would hope the Chuck Jones estate would work out whatever legal hassles to release "Curiosity Shop," but who knows? I'm just surprised that something that looks like it was *so* complicated to make would disappear so completely! Are its creators all dead?
    Thanks for writing/please keep reading!