And what a life it was! Maureen O’Hara, the most beautiful actress to ever grace the Silver Screen (in my opinion), passed away today at age 95. Star of such Hollywood classics as THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME, HOW GREEN WAS MY VALLEY, MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET, and of course THE QUIET MAN, Maureen was featured in this rare 1957 edition of TV’s THIS IS YOUR LIFE. I’ll be taking a break from my ‘Halloween Havoc’ series to polish up my post on THE QUIET MAN, which I was going to save for St. Patrick’s Day. Until then, enjoy Maureen and some surprise guests with Ralph Edwards on THIS IS YOUR LIFE:
Speaking of werewolves (as I did in yesterday’s Werewolves On Wheels, let’s not forget about Paul Naschy. The Spanish horror star played lycanthrophy victim Waldemar Daninsky (aka El Hombe Lobo) in 11 freaky films (there was a 12th that is apparently lost forever). Naschy has a lot of fans, including your humble correspondent! So without further ado, here’s the 1970 FURY OF THE WOLFMAN:
I love horror movies. I love biker flicks, too. Co-writers David Kauffman and Michel Levesque (who also directed) put the two together and came up with WEREWOLVES ON WHEELS, an exploitation mash-up that’s hard to resist. I’m surprised it took so long for someone to combine the two genres. Filmmakers like Roger Corman and Al Adamson must’ve kicked themselves for not thinking of it first!
What starts off like a typical biker movie, with a hard-partying gang called The Devil’s Advocates delivering a brutal beatdown to some rednecks who ran one of them off the road, veers into terror territory when the club stumble upon an old church out in the desert. Only this church has a Satanic symbol in place of a steeple. Bad mojo ahead, guys! Monks in hooded robes surround them and offer bread and wine (“Free wine, man!”) The cult leader, named One (as in The One) plucks a hair from the leader’s chick Helen’s head. Soon the bikers drift off to slumberland, and One and his cult sacrifice a black cat, summon Helen, and partake in a ritual that has her dancing naked with a snake, about to become “the bride of Satan”. Soon Helen becomes a werewolf and starts picking off the gang members.
The cast isn’t very well known, but does include some interesting actors. Club leader Adam is played by Stephen Oliver, best known for his stint on 60’s primetime soap PEYTON PLACE. D.J. Anderson (Helen), also known as Donna Anders, had a brief career in movies (COUNT YORGA VAMPIRE, DREAM NO EVIL). Character actor Severn Darden (One) was the preacher in Vanishing Point and played in the final two PLANET OF THE APES films. Barry McGuire (Scarf) was a singer who scored big with the protest hit “Eve of Destruction”. Billy Gray (Scarf) gained fame as a child star, costring in THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL, and as Bud on TV’s FATHER KNOWS BEST. And Deuce Berry (the card reading Tarot), after appearing in RUN ANGEL RUN and THE VELEVT VAMPIRE, was off the screen for 33 years before returning as Jesus (under the name Gene Shane) in THE COPPER SCROLL OF MARY MAGDELENE!
The movie features a great rock score by Don Gere, which is available on Amazon (and worth picking up). Director Michel Levesque worked with both Roger Corman and Russ Meyer as a production and set designer. He only has two directorial features to his credit, this one and the “Women in Prison” exploiter SWEET SUGAR. I’ll be on the hunt for that one soon. If it’s anything like WEREWOLVES ON WHEELS, it’s gotta be worth watching!
Danny’s Meet and Greet is on again!!
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“You just can’t keep a good man down” states the poster’s tagline for 1968’s DRACULA HAS RISEN FROM THE GRAVE, and how right they were! This fourth entry in Hammer’s Dracula series (and third with Christopher Lee as the Count…1960’s BRIDES OF DRACULA had Peter Cushing’s Van Helsing battling a different bloodsucker) takes up where DRACULA- PRINCE OF DARKNESS left off. Dracula’s still buried under the ice, but the villagers are still fearful of living in “the shadow of evil” cast by Castle Dracula. Monsignor Muller (Rupert Davies) rides into town, berating the citizens for not attending church, and their priest (Ewan Hooper) for letting them. The Monsignor and the reluctant priest trek up to Castle Dracula to perform an exorcism of the evil, but the cowardly priest won’t go all the way up. While Monsignor performs the Latin rites, bolting the castle door with a golden cross, the priest (who remains nameless, by the way) tumbles downhill to the frozen water, cracking the ice. Blood dripping from his forehead makes contact with the dead vampire’s lips and…Dracula lives!
Dracula demands to know who put the cross upon his unholy castle. The priest, now under the Count’s command, is forced to tell him, and Drac and his new minion head out to Klienenberg, where the monsignor lives with his sister Anna (Marion Mathie) and her beautiful daughter Maria (the beautiful Veronica Carlson). Maria’s boyfriend Paul (Barry Andrews) is an atheist, which doesn’t sit well with the Monsignor. Dracula originally planned to turn his wrath on Monsignor Muller, but when he discovers there’s a beautiful niece, his vengeance takes a different, more sinister, route.
Freddie Francis directed this outing, taking the reigns from Terence Fisher. Francis was a distinguished cinematographer (ROOM AT THE TOP, THE INNOCENTS) whose horror credits include DR. TERROR’S HOUSE OF HORRORS, THE SKULL, TORTURE GARDEN, the truly twisted GIRLY, and TALES FROM THE CRYPT (he’s also responsible for the abysmal Trog, but hey, let’s cut the guy some slack). Francis’s DP on this film, Arthur Grant, used some special lenses to give the scenes with Dracula a colored spectrum around the edges, adding a nightmarish quality. Francis, who died in 2007, won Academy Awards for his cinematography on SONS AND LOVERS (1960) and 1989’s GLORY.
Hammer Films were getting a bit more randy by this time, with Carlson and Barbara Ewing (barmaid Zena) showing plenty of cleavage. The blood quotient went up, too, especially in the finale with Dracula ending up impaled on that huge golden cross. Christopher Lee was crueler than ever as The Count, snarling out what few lines he had. Lee’s beastial interpretation set the standard for vampires to come, for better or worse. Sporting those bloodshot eyes, imposing his will on the weak, Christopher Lee has a field day in DRACULA HAS RISEN FROM THE GRAVE. Would he return from the dead in yet another sequel? Like the tagline says, “You just can’t keep a good man down”!
Christopher Lee returns to the role of the undead Count in this direct sequel to Horror of Dracula. The movie even begins with that film’s climactic battle between Dracula and his arch-nemesis Professor Van Helsing (Peter Cushing, who also played Hammer’s Dr. Frankenstein). DRACULA- PRINCE OF DARKNESS takes place ten years later, and while not as good as the original, it does have some scary moments.
Four English tourists are traveling through the Carpathian Mountains, heading to Carlsbad. Father Sandor (Andrew Keir) warns then to steer clear of “the castle”. Their coach driver refuses to take them any further when darkness begins to fall, leaving them stranded. A riderless horse and carriage appears out of nowhere, and they commandeer it to travel the rest of the way. But the horses instead take them straight to the forbidden castle. The door has been left open, and they find a table for four awaiting them. Helen (Barbara Shelley) has an ominous feeling about the place. She screams when she sees a creepy, gaunt figure enter the room. He states his name is Klove (Phillip Latham) and his Master has left instructions to serve all weary travelers. When the quartet ask if the Master will be joining them for dinner, Klove intones, “He’s dead….his name was Count Dracula.”
Now the fun really begins, as Helen’s husband Alan (Frances Matthews) snoops around at night, discovering a secret crypt room. Klove murders him and hangs him by his feet, adds ashes to the sepultcher, then slits Alan’s throat. The blood comingles with the ashes, and Count Dracula is reanimated! Klove leads Helen to Alan’s body, where Dracula is waiting. Sporting a pair of blood-shot eyes, he puts the bite on Helen. The other couple, Charles and Diana (no, not THAT Charles and Diana!) manage to escape by brandishing crosses.
Charles and Diana (Charles Tingwell, Suzan Farmer) come across Father Sandor in the woods, who takes them to his monestary. The good Father recounts the legend of Count Dracula to the frightened couple, and introduces then to Ludwig (Thorley Waters), a seemingly harmless former victim of the Count. Ludwig likes to eat flies (shades of Dwight Frye!). Things begin to heat up when Dracula and Klove arrive at the monestary and, with the aid of Ludwig, kidnap Diana. Charles and Father Sandor trek to Castle Dracula to hunt the fiend down, in a unique ending involving “running water” (one of the many ways to stop a vampire, according to legend…in this movie, anyway).
It is said the reason Lee remains mute during DRACULA- PRINCE OF DARKENESS is because he thought the dialogue sucked (yes, pun intended). I didn’t find the rest of the cast’s dialogue too bad, so I wonder just what the problem was all about. Even mute, Lee is an imposing Count, commanding attention in every scene he’s in. Barbara Shelley (VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED) makes a damned good vampire herself, while Phillpi Latham as Klove is appropriately creepy. The movie’s definitely got atmosphere, but it wasn’t sufficiently gory enough for me. DRACULA- PRINCE OF DARKNESS is a minor entry in the Lee/Hammer canon, but worth a look nevertheless. Especially during this Halloween season!
SAVAGE INTRUDER (aka HOLLYWOOD HORROR HOUSE) is the psychotronic slasher version of SUNSET BOULEVARD, with a dash of PSYCHO thrown in for good measure. Glamorous 30s star Miriam Hopkins plays Katherine Packard, an alcoholic has-been, but this is no WHATEVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE. It’s demented, sleazy, unsavory, and a good time!
We start with some stock footage of Hollywood’s Golden Era, then the credits roll over shots of the decrepit Hollywood sign). (If you think you recognize the film premiere of THE DANCING CAVALIER, you’re right! It’s lifted from the film-within-a-film in SINGIN IN THE RAIN). The next scene shows us a young man following a middle-aged woman from a bar. He breaks into her home, conks her on the noggin, and starts sawing off her hand with an electric carving knife! When she wakes up screaming, he pulls out his hatchet and chops her to bits. He’s a serial killer who’s been terrorizing Tinsletown, and he’s played by John David Garfield, son of the late actor. While young Mr. Garfield has his dad’s looks and voice, he’s no chip off the acting block. In fact, he later went behind the cameras to work as an editor. But on with the show….
A tour bus takes us to the estate of retired actress Katherine Packard (and yes, that’s ex-Stooge Joe Besser as your tour guide). The psycho-killer debarks and introduces himself as “Laurel N. Hardy”, looking for a job as nurse for Miss Packard. The old dame got drunk and fell down the stairs, breaking her leg in the process. Leslie (former SPIDER WOMAN and Oscar winner Gale Sondergaard), the mistress of the house, interviews Hardy, who’s real name is Vic Valance. Vic ingratiates himself with Katherine, and the elderly ex-star falls in love with him (croaking the tune “Taking a Chance on Love” in a scene I hope is supposed to be funny…cause it is!) Vic’s also involved with younger housemaid Greta (Virginia Wing), scandalizing Leslie and cook Mildred (Florence Lake, who costarred opposite Edgar Kennedy in a series of comedy shorts, and was older sister to Dagwood Bumstead himself, Arthur Lake).
Vic shoots some dope, and has a flashback about his youth. It seems he was an abused child, whose mother was an alcoholic prostitute. He sees her with three or four skeezy dudes slobbering all over her, and takes a hatchet to them. In fact, Vic takes a hatchet to everybody by the end of the movie, leaving him alone in the house with a mannequin made up like Miriam Hopkins. This was Miss Hopkins last role, and she’s a hoot! Chewing the scenery with the best of them, Miriam overacts and plays to the back row, but somehow it works. The scene where Vic takes her to a Hollywood hippie party is high-camp, especially when a midget drug dealer offers her some acid (“The only trips I take are to Europe”, she deadpans). Producer/writer/director Donald Wolfe must’ve been tripping himself when he concocted this vulgar stew. It’s got some suspenseful moments and plenty of gore, and is a perfect time capsule of late 60s/early 70s Hollywood debauchery.
Worth seeing for the cast alone, SAVAGE INTRUDER is a unique low-budget shocker that will please any Grindhouse fan. It’s far from the best in the “Aging Star Does Horror” genre, but you won’t be disappointed by this raunchy romp, filmed inside the Norma Talmadge Estate. Put it on your late-night Halloween list, while the kiddos are sleeping, and dive into the delightful decadence of SAVAGE INTRUDER.