Saturday, October 31, 2015


#1: The Mad Doctor
Vincent Price
Well, here we are again, and Happy Halloween to all! For our final post on The MonsterGrrls’ Thir13en For Halloween, we will look at one of horror’s true Renaissance men, the great Vincent Price. Though he is known for his roles in horror films such as the Edgar Allan Poe cycle with Roger Corman, Price also appeared on stage, radio and television, was an art collector and arts consultant with a degree in art history, and was also a noted gourmet cook.

Born on May 27, 1911 in St. Louis, Missouri, Price came from a notable family; his father was president of the National Candy Company, and his grandfather was Vincent Clarence Price, who invented the first cream-of-tartar-based baking powder, thus securing the family’s fortune. In 1933 he graduated with a degree in English and a minor in Art History from Yale University. He taught for a year and then entered the Courtald Institute of Art in London, where he intended to gain a master’s degree in fine arts, but found himself drawn to the theatre. First appearing on stage professionally in 1934, he began a full-scale acting career in 1935, performing with Orson Welles’ Mercury Theatre.

Beginning in films as a character actor, he debuted in Service De Luxe (1938) and established himself in the film Laura (1944) with Gene Tierney, directed by Otto Preminger. His first venture into horror was the Boris Karloff film Tower Of London (1939). The following year, Price portrayed the title character in The Invisible Man Returns (1940), but then reunited with Tierney in Leave Her To Heaven (1945) and Dragonwyck (1946) and took a number of villainous roles in film-noir thrillers such as The Web (1947) and The Long Night (1947).

From 1947 to 1951, Price was also active in radio, playing the role of Simon Templar in The Saint. In the 1950’s, he moved into more regular horror roles, playing the leading role in the classic House Of Wax (1953), which was the first 3-D film to hit the box-office top ten that year. He also appeared in The Fly (1958) and its sequel Return Of The Fly (1959). That same year, he also appeared in William Castle’s House On Haunted Hill and The Tingler.

Price as Egghead, a Batman rogue
In the 1960’s, Price hit his stride with horror, appearing in the now-classic Poe series directed by Roger Corman for American International Pictures. Beginning with the role of Roderick Usher in House Of Usher (1960), Price appeared in The Pit And The Pendulum (1961), Tales Of Terror (1962), The Comedy Of Terrors (1963), The Raven (1963), The Masque Of The Red Death (1964) and The Tomb Of Ligeia (1964).
Price also starred in The Last Man On Earth (1964), the first adaptation of Richard Matheson’s novel I Am Legend, and portrayed witch hunter Matthew Hopkins in Witchfinder General (a.k.a. The Conqueror Worm, 1968). He also portrayed the comic villain Dr. Goldfoot in the spy spoof Dr. Goldfoot And The Bikini Machine (1965) and its sequel Dr. Goldfoot And The Girl Bombs (1966).
On television, Price made guest-star appearances in many shows of the decade, such as his well-known portrayal of the villain Egghead in Batman, F Troop, Get Smart, The Man From U.N.C.L.E., and Voyage To The Bottom Of The Sea, sometimes playing a tongue-in-cheek “horror” role.

In the 1970’s, Price appeared in The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971) and its sequel Dr. Phibes Rises Again (1972), and also in Theatre Of Blood (1973), portraying a Shakespearean actor who takes revenge on the critics who ruined his career. Another notable production from this period is An Evening Of Edgar Allan Poe, in which Price performed a one-man showcase of four Poe tales, The Tell-Tale Heart, The Sphinx, The Pit And The Pendulum and The Cask Of Amontillado.
Price also recorded a number of dramatic readings of Poe stories and poems, and several records for the Caedmon label that included A Graveyard Of Ghost Tales, A Hornbook For Witches and A Coven Of Witches’ Tales. He was also seen on Canadian television as a narrator on the now-classic children’s show The Hilarious House Of Frightenstein.

Though Price is remembered as a horror star, he was also an art lover and collector. In 1957, Price and his second wife Mary Grant Price donated 90 pieces from their private collection and established the Vincent Price Art Museum at East Los Angeles College in Monterey Park, California. This became the first “teaching art collection” owned by a community college in the United States, and the Prices would ultimately donate some 2000 pieces to this collection.
Seeing the importance of fine art being made accessible to the general public, Price also worked as an art consultant for Sears-Roebuck. From 1962 to 1971, Sears offered the “Vincent Price Collection Of Fine Art,” which included prints of works by Picasso, Rembrandt and Dali. Price was also an active gourmet cook, authoring several cookbooks with Mary Price. These included A Treasury Of Great Recipes, Mary And Vincent Price’s Come Into The Kitchen Cook Book, and Cooking Price-Wise With Vincent Price, which was also the title of a cooking show he hosted on Britain’s ITV/Thames Television network.

Price remained active in horror throughout the Eighties, narrating the 1982 Tim Burton short Vincent, and providing the now-famous spoken-word sequence on Michael Jackson’s 1982 hit single “Thriller.” In 1983, he appeared in the British horror spoof Bloodbath At The House Of Death, and worked in House Of The Long Shadows with John Carradine, Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee. From 1981 to 1989, Price regularly hosted the PBS television series Mystery! and in 1985, he was the voice of Vincent Van Ghoul in Hanna-Barbera’s The 13 Ghosts Of Scooby-Doo. In 1986, he was the voice of Professor Ratigan in Disney’s The Great Mouse Detective, one of his favorite roles. His last significant role was as the inventor in Tim Burton’s Edward Scissorhands (1990). During this time he was suffering from emphysema (Price was a lifelong smoker) and Parkinson’s disease, which also contributed to his retirement from Mystery in 1989. On October 25, 1993, Price died of lung cancer at UCLA Medical Center. He was 82.

Throughout his life, Vincent Price remained committed to a populist belief system, wanting to share art, fine cooking, and tales of mystery and horror with the general public rather than only a select audience. He was and still is an introduction for many people into the world of classic horror, and his life and career show a person who believed that the good things in life (and horror) were for everyone, regardless of their place in society. It is not for nothing that we at the Monster Shop refer to him with great affection as “Uncle Vinnie.”

And so we close this session of The MonsterGrrls’ Thir13en For Halloween. To paraphrase our Uncle Vinnie's ending Frightenstein monologue, the castle lights are growing dim, and there’s no one left but me… and them.

Happy Halloween, dear fiends...

 Happy Halloween From The MonsterGrrls!!

Friday, October 30, 2015


#2: Frankie Franken
Hello, everybody! This is Frankie Franken reporting for
The MonsterGrrls’ Thir13en For Halloween, and we’re almost to the day! Today I’m taking a look at a movie called Frankenstein Unbound, which puts a sci-fi spin on the Frankenstein legend. Mary Shelley has been called the mother of science fiction, but this film, based on a novel by Brian Aldiss, takes it to a new level.

The film opens in 2031, where Dr. Joe Buchanan (John
The good--er, bad--doctor at work
Hurt) is working to develop an energy beam weapon so powerful that it will end all war, while causing no damage to the environment. Unfortunately, his weapon causes rifts in space and time that cause people to disappear, and Buchanan ends up driving into one of these rifts, which takes him back to 1817 Switzerland. While there, Buchanan meets none other than Percy Shelley (Michael Hutchence), Lord Byron (Jason Patric) and Mary Shelley (Bridget Fonda), who is writing a story inspired by her mysterious and well-to-do neighbor, Victor Frankenstein (Raul Julia). Sure enough, Dr. Frankenstein has created a Monster (Nick Brimble) who is already wreaking revenge on his creator, and it isn’t long before Buchanan is trying to stop Frankenstein’s Monster and find his way back to his own time.

The Monster has a few words with Buchanan
While there’s an obvious parallel between the experiments of Buchanan and Frankenstein, this film is a fun twist on the traditional Frankenstein tale. The Monster, rather than cribbing from Boris Karloff’s iconic performance, takes its cues from Shelley’s original novel. Director Roger Corman, who is famed for his low-budget filmmaking, makes a practical-effects showcase that is pretty refreshing when compared to the CGI epics of today. Check this film out if you’re a Frankenstein fan; it’s pretty neat.

Gosh, it's nearly time for Halloween! Come back tomorrow for the end to The MonsterGrrls’ Thir13en For Halloween, and join us for the party! Happy Halloween, everybody!

Francesca “Frankie” Franken

MAD DOCTOR’S NOTE: Frankenstein Unbound is available on DVD from Amazon. Check it out.

DRACULA A.D. 1972 By Bethany Ruthven

#3: Bethany Ruthven
Good evening, darlings, and thank you for reading. Welcome back to our little Halloween soiree, and today we take a look at another of the Big D’s films, albeit a rather odd entry. The Big D is, of course, Count Dracula, and the film in question is Hammer Films’ Dracula A.D. 1972. While this entry is not well liked by many fans of Hammer’s Dracula oeuvre, one man’s nonsense is another man’s rationale. And the rationale of this film’s existence is that Hammer wanted to set a Dracula film in modern times, due to the success of the 1970 Warner Bros. film Count Yorga, Vampire, which had
done the same.

The poster

The film opens in 1872, with the Big D (Christopher Lee) and his nemesis Lawrence Van Helsing (Peter Cushing) locked in battle on top of a runaway coach. Neither of them survive their battle, but a disciple of Big D (Christopher Neame) shows up and collects Dracula’s ring and ashes, burying them near Van Helsing’s grave in the churchyard of St. Bartolph’s for safekeeping.

Dracula and his dinner date

Exactly one century later, in swinging London, a group of young hipsters (I can’t really call them “hippies” because they have money and wear clean clothes—England always seems to do a few things better than you Yanks), which includes the descendant of the former Dracu-disciple, the laughingly named Johnny Alucard (Neame again), is looking for a new kind of kick after successfully wrecking a somewhat staid gathering in the city. Said group also includes the descendant of Van Helsing, Jessica Van Helsing (Stephanie Beacham), who unlike the others seems to have a good relationship with her grandfather/parental guardian Lorrimer (Cushing again), thus setting her up as the obvious Good Girl among them. Bad Boy Johnny suggests a black magic ceremony at the now-ruined Bartolph’s, which has been abandoned and desecrated, ostensibly due to modern development. Breaking into the old place, Alucard And Gang proceed with a typically bloodsoaked ritual involving Laura (Caroline Munro), a member of their group who is more or less The Girl Who’s Up For Anything. Because such things never go well, the results of mucking about in Things Man Wot Not Of cause the group to flee in terror, and shortly after, Big D arrives and claims Laura as his first victim. From there, a police investigation and other highjinks ensue, eventually spurring Lorrimer to action in order to save his granddaughter and stop Alucard and The Big D, who plots revenge on Van Helsing once he learns that Jessica is a Van Helsing descendant.

Neame as Alucard, junior vampire in training

Regardless of what its detractors say, Big D In Moderne Times 1972 isn’t a terrible movie. It moves bracingly along, not too fast or too slow, and the story is the typical Hammer Big D plot formula (Big D comes back to life, highjinks ensue, blood, murder, Van Helsing or other Vampire Hunter to rescue, etc., etc.). One major problem is that the prologue begins the film in 1872, with what is supposed to be the final battle between Helsing and Dracula. However, the beginning of Hammer’s Big D cycle, Horror of Dracula (1958) begins all that preceded this film in 1885, which means that the other five films before this one never happened at all. Since Hollywood seems to be currently given to assembling universes, I suppose we could say the Big D has his own universe somewhere where vampires and vampire hunters run around after each other all night long, but it’s still rather a stretch.

Continuing, the cast turns in fine performances, with Cushing’s somewhat weary Van Helsing and 
The weary but faithful Van Helsing and his granddaughter

Lee’s ever-violent Big D being high points regardless of the plot’s modernized silliness. Because Big D seems to be confined largely to Bartolph’s once he shows up in 1972, Cushing winds up carrying the film, which he does with his usual grace. While neither actor really comes out of their respective wheelhouses (everything in these particular roles was probably old hat to them by this time), they are still a treat to watch, especially at this time of the season. Beacham is pleasingly fresh-faced as the new generation of Van Helsings, Munro (in her first film for Hammer) carries on the required toothsomeness for Big D’s victims, and Neame is more than over-the-top in his evil, almost cribbing from Malcolm McDowell in the previous year’s A Clockwork Orange.

But even so, Johnny Alucard? Really? Who isn’t going to pick up on that? However, Dracula Goes Disco 1972 is now as much of a period film as all its Victorian/Edwardian predecessors in the cycle, so perhaps it’s right in line with the continuing Legend of the Big D.

And so we come to the end, alas. Well, perhaps not. At any rate, we are almost to the day, and I do invite you back for the rest of our increasingly novel Thir13een For Halloween. Do enjoy yourselves safely and stay out of old abandoned churches.

Bethany Ruthven

Thursday, October 29, 2015


Punkin Nightshade
Hey there, y'all!  This is Petronella Nightshade, what am Punkin, and I am bringin you another Easy-Bake Coven recipe for The MonsterGrrls' Thir13en For Halloween.  Most folks like to do things with their younguns on Halloween and build them up some good memories of happy times, which is a right smart to do, specially round a holiday time.  This here is called Swamp Mud Munchies, but it don't use no actual swamp mud, and it's real easy to make.  If you got one of them microwave ovens, why you can make this in no time at all, and it is especial good to do with little bitty ones as a first-
time cookin recipe.

What's In It:
9 cups of Corn Chex, Rice Chex, Wheat Chex or Chocolate Chex cereal (or a combination of em.  This here is that little biscuit cereal what folks use to make party mix and such, but this is a sweet recipe.)
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup peanut butter
Swamp Mud Munchies (also known as Muddy Buddies to humans)
1/4 cup butter or margarine(I like butter best, and usin about half a stick here)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
What You Got To Do:
There is not nothin at all to this.  Measure out all that cereal in a big old bowl, and hold it aside.
Get you a bowl you can use in the microwave gadget, what'll hold about a quart.  Put all your chocolate chips, your peanut butter and your butter or margarine in it and melt all that up in the microwave on High for about a minute.  Do about 30 more seconds or until you can stir it up smooth.  (Don't get no water in the chocolate or it'll seize up.)  
Stir in the vanilla and pour it over the cereal, and stir it all up good to coat the cereal evenly with the chocolate mixture.  Get a resealable 2-gallon plastic bag and put your mixed-up cereal and stuff in it, then pour in the powdered sugar, seal up the bag and shake it good to coat it all up.  Spread it out on some waxed paper to cool it off and then store it for eatin in an airtight container.  
And that is it.  Like I said, ain't nothin to it.  If you uncommon like peanuts you can use peanut butter chips instead of chocolate, and use cashew or almond butter if you like em better, or if you are one of them folks who's allergic to peanuts.  There is all kind of ways to do this.

Be sure you come back soon for the rest of The MonsterGrrls' Thir13en For Halloween, cause we's almost there!  Blessings be on you!

Petronella "Punkin" Nightshade

Wednesday, October 28, 2015


Harriet Von Lupin
OW-WOOOOOOOO!!  Hi there!  This is Harriet Von Lupin, your roving reporter for The MonsterGrrls' Thir13en For Halloween, and I hope it's been a happy one for you!

Frankie and Bethany have already done some posts on here about horror movies that feature Creatures and vampires, so I thought I'd do something like that.  Besides, if your favorite monster is the werewolf (like mine!!), you might have wondered to yourself where all of this comes from.

All cultures in the world have stories of werewolves, or people who could change into some kind of animal.  (It isn't just wolves, y'know.)  The earliest known descriptions of werewolves go back all the way to the early Greeks, whose literature depicted men who took on the form of wolves for a few days each year, or men who were transformed after they ate human flesh.  (Of course, we don't eat humans anymore--with all that prepackaged food and fast-food stuff you eat now, you guys taste terrible!  You really are what you eat, y'know!!)  But when motion pictures came into vogue, people didn't gravitate to making movies about werewolves right away, mainly because there wasn't as much literary pedigree.  Vampires had Bram Stoker's Dracula and Creatures had Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, but werewolves didn't have their own books or anything like now.

Wolf Blood, 1925
The earliest known werewolf film is a lost film called The Werewolf, made in 1913.  Although nobody today has ever seen it, records about it still exist.  The story is about a Navajo woman who uses witchcraft to change herself into a wolf so she can avenge her dead lover, and it was directed by Henry McRae, who had a 20-year career of filmmaking and racked up over 160 films!  But even though nobody's seen this film, there was another film made in 1925 called Wolf Blood.  This was directed by George Chesebro, a silent-film star of Western movies who also was the star of this film.  In it, a lumberjack gets assaulted by other guys from a rival logging company and left for dead.  A doctor saves him, but has to give him a blood transfusion from a wolf.  Soon Lumberjack Guy starts having dreams about running with a pack, and then the bad loggers start getting attacked by wolves, which makes everyone think that Lumberjack Guy is a werewolf!  This one is the earliest known werewolf film that still exists.

Hull and Oland fighting over the mariphasa
Now I bet all you guys were thinking that Universal Studios' The Wolf Man was the first werewolf film, huh?  Wrong!!  Even though it's a great film, it wasn't the first, and it wasn't even the first werewolf film that Universal did.  That one is Werewolf Of London, in 1935, while Wolf Man was made six years later, in 1941.  Werewolf Of London starred Henry Hull as a botanist (that's a plant doctor) who gets bitten by a werewolf in Tibet while searching for a rare plant called a mariphasa.  Soon after, another guy, played by Warner Oland, shows up and tells him that the mariphasa can be used as a cure against lycanthropy.  Henry kinda blows him off, but he suddenly discovers that Oland might be right, because when he's exposed to moonlight, Henry starts turning into a werewolf!  The makeup stuff in this movie was done by Jack Pierce, the same guy who did the makeup later for Lon Chaney, Jr., when Universal made The Wolf Man.  (Henry could only take four hours at a time in the makeup chair, which is why his Werewolf looks the way it does.)

The Wolf Man, 1941
Werewolf Of London wasn't so successful at the box office, so it took awhile before Universal came out with the alpha of werewolf movies, The Wolf Man.  This was the one that fully established a lot of what is now tradition with werewolves, including the silver allergies and the transforming at the full moon, all of which was written by scriptwriter Curt Siodmak.  (He wasn't far off!)  Wolfie appeared four more times in Universal's horror movies, in Frankenstein Meets The Wolf Man (1943), House of Frankenstein (1944), House Of Dracula (1945) and Abbott And Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948).

Return Of The Vampire, 1944
However, that wasn't the end of werewolves in movies.  The 1940's were kind of a big year for werewolves, because in 1942, just a year after Wolfie came out, PRC did a movie called The Mad Monster, and 20th Century Fox did a werewolf film the same year called The Undying Monster!  Columbia Pictures did a film called Return Of The Vampire (1944) which had Bela Lugosi doing his Dracula thing as a vampire named Armand Tesla, who had a werewolf assistant.  Columbia also did another film that same year called Cry Of The Werewolf, about a Gypsy girl (Nina Fuch) who discovers she's got some lycanthrope in her bloodline.
I Was A Teenage Werewolf, 1957

After that, werewolves kinda disappeared for a little while.  But in 1957, werewolves came back with Michael Landon starring in a teen horror flick called I Was A Teenage Werewolf, in which a troubled kid (Landon) who's got some problems is experimented on by a doctor, who makes him into a werewolf!  In 1961, Hammer Films released the super-cool Curse Of The Werewolf, starring Oliver Reed.  This one meant that werewolves finally ended up with a literary pedigree, because this movie was based on Guy Endore's 1933 novel The Werewolf Of Paris!

Werewolves On Wheels, 1971

Werewolves got really goofy in the Seventies, though.  (It was a goofy time, but still...)  In 1971, we had the first werewolf biker film, Werewolves On Wheels, which became a favorite with those who like so-bad-it's-good movies.  (Kinda like our Mad Doc!)  Spanish horror star Paul Naschy created a looong series of films that was all about a werewolf named Valdemar Kanisky, but it's generally accepted that one of the best ones was his 1972 film Fury Of The Wolfman.  (Of course, he kinda got it wrong, because that film says that werewolves come from Yetis...)  And another English film studio called Amicus Productions, which featured a lot of the old Hammer stars, released The Beast Must Die in 1974.  But when the Eighties rolled around, werewolves had a banner year in 1981, which saw the release of some of the most famous werewolf films there are: An American Werewolf In London, The Howling, and Wolfen!
The Beast Must Die, 1974

So if you're looking for a cool film to watch for Halloween, just remember there's plenty of werewolf movies to watch, and maybe with this offering we've given you an appetite for some!  And speaking of appetites, I gotta go grab a snack before doing some more Halloween prepping, but we'll be back soon with more cool stuff for The MonsterGrrls' Thir13en For Halloween!  See you soon!  OWWW-WOOOO!!!

Harriet Von Lupin


Cheapskate Horrorshow
Welcome back to The MonsterGrrls' Thir13en For Halloween. 

It goes without saying that we in the Monster Shop love Hammer Films.
The poster
The Studio From Across The Big Pond turned out some undisputed classics in the world of horror and presented Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing to the world.  Today I'm taking a look at a film that's not as well-known as their Frankenstein and Dracula cycles, but is still a great suspense film nonetheless (something Hammer was also known for in their native England).  The film is Night Creatures, released in England as Captain Clegg.

The story of this film actually comes from a series of novels that began in 1915, written by Russell Thorndike, about Doctor Syn, a vicar from the village of Dymchurch who pursues revenge after his wife is seduced by his best friend.  In the course of his adventures Syn turns to piracy and becomes the most feared pirate of his day.  Upon his eventual return to Dymchurch, Syn takes leadership of the local smuggling ring (which is operating against a corrupt government) and takes on the identity of the ghostly Scarecrow Of Romney Marsh to protect the people of Dymchurch.  Much of this may be remembered by Disney fans as the story of the film Dr. Syn, Alias The Scarecrow, which also came from these novels.
The Disney version

The bad guys, and the badder guys...
Night Creatures opens with a crewman mutilated and left to die by notorious (and unseen) pirate Captain Clegg, as punishment for the rape and murder of Clegg's wife. (Nope, not very Disney.)  Several years later, the officious and by-the-book Captain Collier of the Royal Navy (Patrick Allen) is assigned to investigate reports of "Marsh Phantoms" in Romney Marsh, as well as enforce the excise tax on liquor trades there.  After discovering the dead body of a local townie named Ketch (Sydney Bromley, who dies of fright after being run down by said Marsh Phantoms), Collier begins throwing his weight around, which makes the townspeople very unhelpful in his quest for justice.  (This is one of those byproducts of having your local businesses seized and searched by unruly soldiers.)  The only person who treats Collier with any civility is the local parson, Dr. Blyss (Peter Cushing), who turns out to be the leader of the local smuggling ring, and cue the highjinks.  Said highjinks include the question of whether or not Captain Clegg is really dead (there's a grave in Dymchurch, and someone's in it, but still...), a deafmute in the employ of Collier, who goes nuts whenever he's around Parson Blyss (I'll leave
Participants in the obligatory romance
you to connect the dots on this one) and the obligatory love story between townie beauty Imogene (Yvonne Romain) and favorite son Harry Cobtree (Oliver Reed) which is endangered by Mr. Rash (Martin Benson), the jealous cohort of Parson Blyss.  And of course, there's the ongoing mystery of those pesky Marsh Phantoms.

The Marsh Phantoms
If you're used to Hammer being the home of horror, then this film is an introduction to some of Hammer's other output; in addition to horror, Hammer also produced comedies and thrillers like this one.  Night Creatures isn't a horror film in the traditional sense, but it is a suspenseful Gothic film with a bit of supernatural dressing, and the very busy if somewhat convoluted plotline keeps you interested in what's going to happen next.  Most modern horror films have eschewed this for buckets of gore and creative death, so if you're interested in seeing some old-fashioned ghostly mystery this Halloween, Night Creatures is a good place to start.

Join us again for The MonsterGrrls' Thir13en For Halloween, coming soon...

MAD DOCTOR'S NOTE: Night Creatures is available in The Hammer Horror Series 8-Film Collection, which is available here.


Hello, everybody!  This is Frankie Franken with the next installment of The MonsterGrrls' Thir13en For Halloween, and I hope that so far it's been a happy one for you!

The poster (1932)
These days, people are doing all kinds of remakes of stuff, whether it's movies or TV shows, and this is  happening in horror films too.  Recently there were remakes of both Nightmare On Elm Street and Friday The 13th, and even though there's a lot of demand for original content, Hollywood still keeps doing remakes.  Today we'll take a look at a recently rediscovered classic horror film, The Old Dark House, which was originally made in 1932 by James Whale, who directed Frankenstein and The Bride Of Frankenstein.  This same film was remade in 1963 by horror auteur William Castle, who directed 13 Ghosts and The House On Haunted Hill (both of which got remakes, too!).

Horace and Rebecca Femm:  There's one in every family...
The Old Dark House is the film that more or less invented the "old dark house" genre of horror movies, and has a lineage that includes such diverse films as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Rocky Horror Picture Show, and certainly more than one episode of Scooby Doo, Where Are You!  Three travelers, Philip and Margaret Waverton (Raymond Massey and Gloria Stuart) and their friend Roger Penderel (Melvyn Douglas) are caught in a rainstorm and arrive at a remote, decaying old mansion looking for shelter.  The house belongs to the Femms, a family of recluses that seems more than a little crazy.  The Femm family includes craven, fearful Horace (Ernest Thesiger), his fanatical sister Rebecca (Eva Moore), their mute butler Morgan (Boris Karloff) and their brother Saul (Brember Wills) who spends most of the film locked in the attic.  The Femms are reluctant to entertain the travelers, but bring them out of the storm
...but in this one there's several: Morgan Femm and Margaret Waverton
anyway.  Soon, Sir William Porterhouse (Charles Laughton) and his mistress Gladys DuCane Perkins (Lillian Bond) arrive at the house, which seems to make the Femms behave even more strangely.  Things come to a head when Morgan, who is unfortunately alcoholic, gets drunk and releases Saul, who turns out to be a psychopath and a pyromaniac.

Upon its release in 1932, TODH was not well reviewed.  Although most New York reviewers praised the film for its wealth of talent (including horror luminaries Karloff, Thesiger and Laughton), the film was panned by Variety and The Hollywood Filmograph, and suffered negative word-of-mouth.  For several years it was considered a lost film, until a print was found in the Universal Studios vaults in 1968 and restored.  Today it is considered a cult film and enjoys a reputation as an interesting landmark in the career of director James Whale.

The poster (1963)
In 1963, William Castle remade The Old Dark House as a joint effort with Universal Studios and Hammer Films, starring Tom Poston, Mervyn Johns, Robert Morley, Janette Scott and Fenella Fielding.  The remake deviates from the original in many ways: apart from being in color, the remake is the story of Tom Penderel (Poston), an American car salesman traveling in London who delivers a car to an old mansion in Dartmoor, the family home of his eccentric roommate Casper Femm (Peter Bull) who has told Tom that he must return to the mansion each night before midnight.  Upon arriving, the car is damaged in a storm and Tom is invited to stay at the Femm house, where he meets Jasper, Casper's twin brother (also Bull), his two nieces Cecily (Scott) and Morgana (Fielding), gun-obsessed father Roderick (Morley) and Uncle Potiphar (Johns) who is building an ark in anticipation of another Great Flood.  Though initially frightened upon discovering that Casper is dead, Tom is attracted to Cecily, and ends up staying the night.  Tom is drawn into the Femms' weird world and soon discovers himself in the midst of a murder plot against the Femms, where someone is attempting to gain the family estate by killing all the living heirs.

Tom finds a fiend
Poston, Scott and Morley
TODH '63 is considered inferior to TODH '32, despite the fact that TODH '32 was kind of an oddball film all its own.  Though the stories are basically variations on the theme of outsider trapped in an old house with strange people, I think TODH '63 has a few merits of its own.  The macabre comedy is played up, bringing a kind of Addams Family feel to the picture (the film's credits even feature drawings by Addams himself!), and the actors for TODH '63 were pretty talented too: Morley was a well-known and established actor in film and theatre, Johns was a distinctive character actor in England who was known for his Bob Cratchit to Alastair Sim's Scrooge, Poston was a noted comic actor in both film and TV, and Fielding was a popular actress who had appeared in several films, most notably to horror fans in the comedy Carry On Screaming.  All in all, TODH '63 is a very different film, and shouldn't be judged for its connection to the original.  The Mad Doctor said this about the Dark Shadows movie, if you'll remember, and I kind of feel the same thing is going on here.  So if you're interested in seeing either (or both) of these films, they're worthy additions to your viewing experience, especially at this time of the year.

Well, that's it for me, and I'll see you soon.  Come back for the next installment of our Thir13en for Halloween!

Francesca "Frankie" Franken

MAD DOCTOR'S NOTE: Both versions of
The Old Dark House are available from Amazon and Netflix.  Check them out.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015


Cheapskate Horrorshow
The poster
Welcome back to today's edition of The MonsterGrrls' Thir13een For Halloween.  Today we're cranking up the Cheapskate Horrorshow to present a review of the movie Ouija.

In 2012, a movie called Battleship was released, loosely based on "the classic board game."  When Hollywood is willing to mine board games for movie ideas, you know something's wrong, but the notion was enthusiastically received among some of the suits, and rumors of movies based on such games as Monopoly and Candy Land began to circle.  (It was only because common sense prevailed that no one mentioned Scrabble: The Quest For the Triple Word Score.)  Horror movies, however, don't really have anything except... the Ouija board.  So, cue short history lesson:

"Weird" William Fuld and his equally weird sister Katherine
Ouija boards, or "talking boards" as they were once known, have been around since the 1890's, when the Spiritualist movement began to rise in America.  As Spiritualists attempted to communicate with the Great Beyond, businessman Elijah Bond had the idea to package together a planchette (a device used for automatic writing) and a board with the full alphabet and numbers on it, so that Spiritualists would have a better way of communicating.  Bond's employee William Fuld took over production and eventually started his own production of these boards under the name "Ouija," which Fuld claimed was an Egyptian word meaning "good luck" that he got from using the board to communicate with a spirit.  (Actually, it's the French word "oui" and the German word "ja," both of which mean "yes," put together to create "oui-ja.")  Fuld eventually sold the business to Parker Brothers (now owned by Hasbro, which actually has a film division who is responsible for this movie) and it wasn't long before Ouija boards were terrorizing parlor gatherings and slumber parties everywhere.

Neither the MonsterGrrls nor the Monster Shop advocate use of Ouija boards (Punkin has stated that they "don't even make a good cheese-cuttin' board"), and this movie is, in part, a whole series of reasons why. Opening with a flashback of best friends Debbie (Shelley Hening) and Laine (Olivia Cooke) playing with an Ouija, we learn Rule One of Ouija Use: do not play alone.

Debbie, who is sweet but stupid
Shortly after, we move to the present, where Debbie is seen burning an Ouija board in the fireplace.  After turning down an offer of a night out from Laine, Debbie is possessed by an evil spirit and forced to commit suicide in her home, meaning that Rule One is often the first to be broken (at least in horror movies).  Laine, not believing that Debbie committed suicide of her own volition, recruits friends Isabelle (Bianca Santos) and Trevor (Daren Kasagoff), little sister Sarah (Ana Coto) and Debbie's grieving boyfriend Pete (Douglas Smith) to investigate the house, where they find the mysteriously unburnt Ouija board.  Deciding to contact Debbie for one last goodbye, Laine and crew instead contact something else, which starts leaving them messages... and not through the Ouija board.  Trying to shut things down, Laine is instead exposed to a deeper mystery involving the previous owners of the house and the Ouija board, which leads to her friends dying one by one and a race against time to solve the mystery behind Debbie's death and stop the evil spirits before everyone is dead.

Again, like Stay Alive (which we previously reviewed here), Ouija involves college-age protagonists rather
Debbie's stupid friends, trying to contact stupid dead Debbie
than teens, which seems to be a trend in horror movies of this age.  Unlike that movie, no one receives much character beyond Laine (who, though typically morose, is the heroine and cannot be one-dimensional by default), Sarah (who grinds the rebellious-teen archetype into our faces each scene, as if the audience cannot be bothered to figure it out) and victim Debbie, who seems to be an all-round good girl (which is meant to make her death much more tragic, but instead just makes you wonder why she started using the board in the first place).  The movie is not particularly unpleasant or boring, and moves briskly along plotwise, working its elements in as it goes and making the most of its mystery.  But do not expect to be overtly terrified; this movie is not Grand Guignol horror.  What you've got here instead is a nice Halloween-friendly potboiler that you can throw in the DVD player or stream after a trick-or-treat session.  (And of course, we do not advise using an Ouija board during the movie.  If you're that bored with it, turn the DVD off and play cards or something.)

Don't forget to come back for our next installment of The MonsterGrrls' Thir13en For Halloween!