Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Sunday, 1 November 2015

Stylish horror for Halloween ...

We don't do tortureporn or slasher moves or teen frightmares here at the Movie Projector, but we do like  good stylish horror fantasy, particularly if starring one of our favourite French ladies - or Vincent Price, or a deliciously twisted item from Roman Polanski .... Let's recap a few favourites:   
We had to re-visit the deliciously camp BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN from 1935 too, a James Whale classic, lovingly spoofed by Mel Brooks in YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN in 1974 where Madeline Kahn, Cloris Leachman, Terri Garr and Marty Feldman are all ace.
THE HUNGER. It was nice to have another look at Tony Scott's THE HUNGER too, that popular vampire flick from 1983, capturing that early '80s look nicely. That terrific opening scene at the nightclub looks like the old Heaven club in London, as our vampires prey on urban clubbers and pick up another couple, while Bauhaus intone "Bela Lugosi's dead" on the soundtrack ..... David Bowie and Deneuve are perfect casting - Bowie though is ageing rapidly and will have to be placed with the ageless Miriam's past lovers locked away in their caskets - I liked that quick flashback to Ancient Egypt with Miriam in full vampire mode. 
Then there is that great scene with Susan Sarandon who asks the piano-playing Miriam if she is making a pass at her to which Miriam cooly replies "Not that I am aware of, Sarah" .... love that final shot too of the new ageless vampire looking out over her new domain ... its a glossy exercise in style of course, but it certainly satisfies the eye. Deneuve's vampire is the equal of Delphine Seyrig's countess in DAUGHTERS OF DARKNESS (see item below). Sarandon was amusing in that THE CELLULOID CLOSET documentary, noting that her character had to be drunk to allow herself to be seduced by Catherine Deneuve, one of the great beauties of the movies!  

Roman Polanski's 1967 (though I think it was 1969 when it played in British cinemas) spoof DANCE OF THE VAMPIRES or THE FEARLESS VAMPIRE KILLERS is still an absolute delight - and should really be seen on a large screen as it's widescreen images are just marvellous - I particularly like that moment when Polanski (he plays Alfred, the bumbling rather dim-witted assistant to Professor Abronsius himself) is fleeing from Count Von Krolock's son ("a sensitive youth" as his father, the leader of the vampires, says) and he - Polanski - runs all around the four sides of the castle cloisters to return to the point he started from where the vampire son [Iain Quarrier] is waiting for him .... delirious stuff.
This was Polanski still in English movie mode, after REPULSION and CUL-DE-SAC before heading to America and ROSEMARY'S BABY, so it was made with his usual collaborators, writer Gerard Brach and composer Krystof Komeda. Veteran actor Jack McGowran is the dotty professor hunting for vampires in Transylvania with his assistant Alfred. They stay at an inn where everyone is superstitious and afraid of vampires. Alfred gets to meet and fall for the inn-keeper's daughter Sarah (Sharon Tate, quite lovely here) who has also come to the attention of the mysterious Count whose eerie castle is outside the village. Sarah is addicted to taking baths and during one the Count enters and takes her away. Alfred and the Professor follow but not before the inn-keeper (who is Jewish, played by Alfie Bass) also falls victim to the vampire, as does his busty barmaid/mistress Fiona Lewis.
This is all spendidly realised with great sets for the inn and the castle. They find the resting places of the count and his son but it too late as the sun goes down ... Count Von Krolock materialises and has his own plans for the Professor and Alfred who can provide some intellectually stimulating company for them during those long winter nights as the centuries pass by. The son Herbert takes a shine to Alfred and there is that delicious scene as Alfred sitting on the bed as Herbert gets closer realises his is the only reflection in the mirror ... hence that chase around the castle. So we have a Jewish vampire and a gay vampire, both hilariously done, and Ferdy Mayne is a perfect arch vampire.
Sarah will be initiated into the vampires during the great ball held once a year and there is that great eerie moment as ancient tombs covered in snow open as the rather decrepit vampires emerge for their ball. The ball is a delight with everyone dancing but the large mirror only shows Alfred, Abronsius and Sarah .... they manage to get away as the vampires give chase in some very funny scenes and the ending is quite nice, while Komeda's score is just right.... It is all just a perfect delight from start to finish and one I can relish any time - a key Polanski movie too, before those later darker movies like his MACBETH and CHINATOWN or THE TENANT, or THE GHOST (WRITER) (see Polanski label). Back in '69 or '70 when I was living around Chelsea I turned from Sloane Square into Kings Road and there was Polanski in front of me talking to someone - you could never mistake him for anyone else!

We have already covered Harry Kumel's 1971 perverse delight DAUGHTERS OF DARKNESS here, see recent post below, and we reviewed Franju's 1959 EYES WITHOUT A FACE too. 

Roger Vadim's 1960 BLOOD AND ROSES delighted me when I saw it in my early teens, when living in Ireland, and it has eluded me since, but I now sourced a copy, and it is a mysterious and erotic as I remembered. 
Made after his Bardot films and before the Jane Fonda ones, it featured his then wife Annette Stroyberg, a rather passive beauty - who also featured in his previous film, LES LIAISONS DANGEREUSES in 1959, but Jeanne Moreau and Gerard Philipe walked away with that one. BLOOD AND ROSES is adapted from Sheridan Le Fanu's "Carmilla" by Vadim who creates a perverse darkly romantic love story with that Gothic atmosphere. Elsa Martinelli and the dull Mel Ferrer are the engaged couple, but her friend Annette is jealous ... It is simply one of the best vampire movies ever made, miles better than those silly Hammer soft core items of the early 70s. The best Hammer vampire is BRIDES OF DRACULA in 1960, with the marvellous Martita Hunt - as per my review, Horror Label. 

Also in the '60s of course we had Roger Corman producing in the UK those two Vincent Price classics THE MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH with its great imagery and sets, and colour by Nicholas Roeg, with Price in his element as evil prince Prospero with those rooms in different colours, and the lovely young Jane Asher as well as stalwart Hazel Court, and the stylish THE TOMB OF LIGEIA was just as good. Price though was utterly terrifying as the THE WITCHFINDER GENERAL in 1968, a grim look at life back in the Civil War with superstitious villages isolated from each other. It's young director was Michael Reeves whose early death was surely a great loss to the horror genre, but Vincent was soon back in high camp mode in THEATRE OF BLOOD and the DR PHIBES films. WITCHFINDER GENERAL though is terrifying in its depiction of sheer cruelty as old women are dragged away to be hanged as witches or ducked in rivers to see if they sink or swim - either way they are doomed. The Witchfinder Matthew Hopkins is making money from it all as he goes from village offering his services as a persecutor of witches, and soon alights on the village where Rupert Davies is the priest and Hilary Dwyer his comely daughter who is in love with solder young Ian Ogilvy, whose sidekick is young Nicky Henson. It builds to a terrific climax as the Witchfnder is hacked to death by the enraged Ogilvy after seeing his girl tortured by his sadistic helper, who also gets his. It remains a savage disturbing film. 

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