Gods of the Hammer Films: Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, and THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1957)

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When Britain’s Hammer Films began in the early 1930’s they were just another movie production company. After finding some success with the 1955 sci-fi adaptation THE QUARTERMASS EXPERIMENT, they chose to make a Gothic horror based on Mary Shelley’s classic 1818 novel about a man obsessed with creating artificial life. FRANKENSTEIN had been filmed many times before, most notably Universal’s 1931 version that brought eternal fame to Boris Karloff. This time however, the producers shot in vibrant color, with blood and body parts on gory display. Tame stuff compared to today’s anything goes horrors, but in the fifties it was considered quite shocking.

Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee had appeared in two films before, Lawrence Olivier’s 1948 HAMLET and John Huston’s 1952 MOULIN ROUGE, though not as a team. Once CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN was unleashed upon the public, they were paired another nineteen times, making Cushing and Lee terror’s all-time tandem. HORROR OF DRACULA came next, with Lee as the Immortal Count and Cushing his nemesis, Van Helsing. There followed THE MUMMY, THE GORGON, DR TEROR’S HOUSE OF HORRORS, HORROR EXPRESS, and their final film together, 1983’s HOUSE OF THE LONG SHADOWS, with fellow horror icons Vincent Price and John Carradine. But it was THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN that started it all off, one of the best fright films of all time.

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The Devil Made Me Do It: EQUINOX (1970)

equinox2I remember seeing this movie on a double bill at the old Olympia Theater in my hometown of New Bedford, Massachusetts. It was the main attraction, while the second feature was a little black and white zombie opus by some guy named George Romero. NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD was the title. Romero’s film has since been hailed as a modern day horror classic, endlessly written about, analyzed and overanalyzed. EQUINOX has pretty much faded into well-deserved obscurity.

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CLEANING OUT THE DVR Pt1: Five Films from Five Decades

I record a LOT of movies. Probably around ten per week, more or less. And since I also have to do little things like work, exercise, cook, clean, breathe,  etc etc, I don’t always have time to watch  them all (never mind write full reviews), so I’ve decided to begin a series of short, capsule reviews for the decades covered here at Cracked Rear Viewer. This will be whenever I find my DVR getting cluttered, which is frequent! I’ll try to make CLEANING OUT THE DVR a bi-weekly series, but there are no guarantees. Monthly is more realistic. Anyway, here are five films from the 1930s to the 1970s for your reading pleasure.

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Moon Madness: INVISIBLE INVADERS (1959)

invade1 Edward L. Cahn (1899-1963) was one of those unsung Hollywood minions who had long careers. Beginning as an editor in the waning days of the silent era, Cahn steadily worked his way up to director, helming 26 of MGM’s later Our Gang shorts. Moving from the majors to the seedy world of low-budget filmmaking, Cahn’s feature film output found him at poverty stricken studios like PRC and for a number of years American International Pictures. He worked mainly in the science-fiction realm, but labored on everything from teen delinquency pics (DRAGSTRIP GIRL) to war dramas (SUICIDE BATTALION) to westerns (FLESH AND THE SPUR) and noir (WHEN THE CLOCK STRIKES). Cahn’s features were interesting. Not very good mind you, but interesting.

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Starlin Trek: WARLOCK BY JIM STARLIN:THE COMPLETE COLLECTION (book review)

warlock1I usually write about old movies here, but they’re not my only interest. When I was younger, back in the 70s, I collected comic books. I had stacks and stacks of them: Marvel, DC, Charlton, Atlas, undergrounds. Even the oversized Warrens and of course, Mad. Now that I’m slightly older (well, okay maybe more than just slightly), I’ll occasionally pick up a trade paperback that grabs my nostalgic interest. While browsing through the local Barnes & Noble recently, my gaze came upon one that screamed “Buy me now”! That book was WARLOCK BY JIM STARLIN: THE COMPLETE COLLECTION.

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Bad Blonde: TOO LATE FOR TEARS (1949)

Too_Late_for_Tears_DVDI just finished viewing the 1949 feature TOO LATE FOR TEARS on TCM. The title may sound like a weepy tearjerker, but this is film noir dynamite. Once incomplete due to falling into public domain, the UCLA Film & Television Archive have restored it to its black & white glory. I’d never seen this one before, and it was time well spent. It’s based on a Saturday Evening Post serial by screenwriter Roy Huggins, who later went on to produce television classics like MAVERICK, RUN FOR YOUR LIFE, and BARETTA. TOO LATE FOR TEARS can hold it’s own with the better known noirs of the era.

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Benny’s From Heaven: Jack Benny in THE HORN BLOWS AT MIDNIGHT (1945)

horn1Jack Benny claimed 1945’s THE HORN BLOWS AT MIDNIGHT killed his movie career. After rewatching it, I can’t understand why. This comedy/fantasy is just as good as any Bob Hope or Red Skelton film of the era. Yet the critics of the time savaged it, and Benny spent the rest of his life cracking jokes about what a turkey the movie was. I disagree, and think THE HORN BLOWS AT MIDNIGHT deserves a second look.

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