Film Review: Return of the Fly (1959)

Release Date: July, 1959
Directed by: Edward Bernds
Written by: Edward Bernds
Based on: The Fly by George Langelaan
Music by: Paul Sawtell, Bert Shefter
Cast: Vincent Price, Brett Halsey, David Frankham, Danielle De Metz, John Sutton

Associated Producers Inc., 20th Century Fox, 80 Minutes

Review:

“[voice over] Here passes from this earth Helene Delambre, widow of my brother, Andre, whom I loved deeply, hopelessly. She was destroyed in the end by dreadful memories, a recollection of horrors that did not dim as the years went on, but instead grew monstrously, and left her mind shocked and unsteady, so that death, when it came, was a blessed release.” – Francois Delambre

Return of the Fly was rushed into production pretty quickly after the immense success of its predecessor.

That being said, it’s not as good as the first film and it also lacks color but I thought that the story justified its existence and it added something fresh to what would become a franchise starting with this movie.

The story follows the young son of the Fly from the first movie. Except now, he’s a full grown adult that has studied science and wants to follow in his father’s footsteps in an effort to honor him and prove that he was a genius that just took one terrible misstep.

It’s kind of odd that the kid is now a grown man and Vincent Price looks like he hasn’t aged a day but this is a 1950s atomic age horror flick, so suspending disbelief isn’t too difficult.

The son gets into bed with a business partner that has criminal aspirations and with that, comes a grave double cross that sees the son become a human fly like his father.

The finale of this picture isn’t as tragic, however.

While this does follow some of the same beats of the first movie, once the man becomes a fly, the people working to solve the problem have more success, here.

All in all, I enjoy this chapter in the series. It found a decent way to milk the original film and to keep this concept going. Still, it’s not as good of a movie and the scientist’s fate as a fly never feels as permanent in this one.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: its predecessor, as well as its sequel Curse of the Fly and the ’80s remakes.

Film Review: The Fly (1958)

Release Date: July 16th, 1958
Directed by: Kurt Neumann
Written by: James Clavell
Based on: The Fly by George Langelaan
Music by: Paul Sawtell
Cast: Al Hedison, Patricia Owens, Vincent Price, Herbert Marshall, Kathleen Freeman

Regal Films, Twentieth Century Fox, 94 Minutes

Review:

“I shall never forget that scream as long as I live…” – Inspector Charas

People love the hell out of the 1986 remake of The Fly but with that, they really sleep on this one. Plus, this also features Vincent Price, so that alone makes it worth a watch.

Anyway, this is pretty damn good for its time. Price isn’t the main character and his role is sort of a bookend to the larger story, as he appears early in the film to inspire the wife of The Fly to tell her story and then is there at the end, just in time for the big climax.

The story follows a scientist, who is working on teleportation technology in the basement of his large house. As the film rolls on, he gets more and more reckless with his experiments and takes risks he shouldn’t. Eventually, he ends up experimenting on himself but accidentally lets a fly into the machine and turns himself into a half man/half fly monster. Also, there is a fly with a white head flying around. Once we see that fly up close, we discover that the scientist’s human head is attached to it.

The main character is really the wife, played by Patricia Owens, who had to really carry the picture, as the scientist becomes The Fly and thus, has his face obscured, as he hides in the basement. It’s the wife that you really connect to, as she tries to be supportive and help her husband but ultimately, has to deal with heartbreak and desperation as things continue to spiral out of control. All the while, she’s trying to be protective of her young son.

Owens did a solid job in this and she really turned the drama up, which worked like glue, holding the picture together but also making the film feel more legitimate than just a simple 1950s creature feature.

The ending is really f’d up and kind of terrifying in how it was shot and presented on the screen. The sound of the little fly screaming is pretty effective and still disturbing. Sure, the effects look hokey now but it’s all just kind of surreal and gruesome.

The Fly is one of my favorite movies with Vincent Price in it before he started hooking up with Roger Corman on their Edgar Allan Poe adaptations.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: its sequels and ’80s remakes, as well as other ’50s creature features.

Film Review: The Snorkel (1958)

Release Date: June 18th, 1958 (Boston premiere)
Directed by: Guy Green
Written by: Anthony Dawson, Peter Myers, Jimmy Sangster
Music by: Francis Chagrin
Cast: Peter van Eyck, Betta St. John, Mandy Miller

Clarion Films, Hammer Films, Columbia Pictures, 90 Minutes

Review:

“You think I’m mad, don’t you? They all thought I was mad when I said he killed my daddy.” – Candy Brown

This is another Hammer film I have never seen but was introduced to through a beefy Blu-ray box set I recently purchased, which features some lesser known gems by the greatest horror studio that ever existed.

The Snorkel also has one of the coolest posters I’ve ever seen but sadly, the movie doesn’t live up to its awesomeness. But that’s not to say it’s bad, it’s actually pretty good with a unique story, good performances and beautiful scenery.

The plot of the film is about a murderer that wears a diving mask equipped with air and then hides while he kills his victims with gas. He likes to knock his victims out, then turn on the gas lamps without flame, letting the gas fill the room to asphyxiate his victim. All the while, he hides under a trapdoor in the floor, breathing in clean air through his mask, where he can also listen to the conversations of the police investigating the scene.

Initially, he kills his wife but her daughter alludes to the fact that he also killed her father, previously. The girl isn’t sure how and no one believes her, so she starts snooping around. As the film rolls on, the killer attempts to kill the girl a few times, which culminates in him trying to murder her the same way he did her mother.

The film primarily takes place in a coastal Italian villa. The sets are pretty impressive and just look cool and exotic, especially for what Hammer usually did, which was Victorian horror stories set in England or Germany, in the case of the Frankenstein movies, and various Eastern European places, in the case of the Dracula films.

This is presented in black and white but it’s pretty stylized, which is also bolstered by the exotic locale.

In the end, this movie was a pleasant surprise and I enjoyed it. I thought it was a cool concept, even if it was a bit hokey and odd. The film is held together by the performances by its leads and it did a good job of separating itself from the standard Hammer formula and excelled at doing its own, unique thing.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: other Hammer horror films of the ’50s through ’70s.

Film Review: The People Against O’Hara (1951)

Release Date: September 1st, 1951
Directed by: John Sturges
Written by: John Monks Jr.
Based on: The People Against O’Hara by Eleazar Lipsky
Music by: Carmen Dragon
Cast: Spencer Tracy, Pat O’Brien, James Arness, Diana Lynn, Yvette Duguay, Charles Bronson

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 102 Minutes

Review:

“[Near the eel tank] One thing about eels… give ’em air.” – Eddie

The People Against O’Hara is strangely the first movie I’ve reviewed with Spencer Tracy in it. It’s also a classic film-noir, so merging these two things should lead to an enjoyable experience.

Sadly, this isn’t as good as I had hoped but it does feature a great performance by Tracy, showing the audience what a truly virtuous hero is.

In this, Tracy plays a retired criminal attorney named James Curtayne. When Johnny O’Hara, someone from his neighborhood, is accused of murder, Curtayne decides to take the case after the pleas of O’Hara’s loving parents. This all leads to Curtayne investigating the murder and uncovering details that O’Hara had been set up by a gangster named Knuckles because O’Hara had been messing around with his young wife, Katrina. O’Hara doesn’t do himself any favors by not giving the full truth. The reason being, he wants to protect Katrina. In the end, while trying to take Knuckles down, Curtayne goes into a situation where he knows he’ll probably die. But to him, justice is more important than his own life.

I don’t want to spoil too many of the plot details but I did want to illustrate the type of man that Curtayne is. Spencer Tracy, in the role, did a fine job of making Curtayne a believable and authentic hero.

The rest of the cast was good but the scenes with Yvette Duguay as Katrina really stood out to me. I really liked her and she has that old school, majestic, starlet quality. It made me wonder why I hadn’t really seen her before and although she has a lot of credits to her name, she never seemed to be the star of anything, which is unfortunate.

As far as the look of the film, it was pretty standard. It wasn’t an overly stylized noir and was filmed without much artist flourish added in. I feel like it could’ve used some creative cinematography and lighting, as in these sort of films, that can take something average and make it into something much better.

The People Against O’Hara has some solid character moments and the plot is decent. However, when compared to the best films of the classic noir genre, it doesn’t stand shoulder-to-shoulder with them.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: other classic film-noir pictures of the ’40s and ’50s.

Film Review: The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956)

Also known as: Into Thin Air (working title), Alfred Hitchcock’s The Man Who Knew Too Much (complete title)
Release Date: April 29th, 1956 (Cannes)
Directed by: Alfred Hitchcock
Written by: John Michael Hayes, Charles Bennett, D. B. Wyndham-Lewis
Music by: Bernard Herrmann
Cast: James Stewart, Doris Day, Brenda de Banzie, Bernard Miles, Christopher Olsen, Daniel Gelin, Reggie Nalder, Carolyn Jones

Filwite Productions, Paramount Pictures, 120 Minutes

Review:

“Remember, you will only have time for just one shot. If you need another, the risk is yours.” – Edward Drayton

I think that the 1950s were my favorite decade for Hitchcock movies and this is another really enjoyable one that just adds to that hefty pile of cinematic greatness.

This one also stars two of my mum’s favorite leading stars: James Stewart and Doris Day. That being said, this is also the first really dramatic role I’ve seen for Doris Day, as I mostly saw her comedies and musical movies as a kid.

This is also the second film that Alfred Hitchcock made with the name The Man Who Knew Too Much. This isn’t a remake of the black and white ’30s version of the picture, as both are very different. I’m not sure why we reused the name and it probably creates some confusion for those who haven’t seen them. I plan to watch that ’30s one in the near future though, so I can compare the two and because it features Peter Lorre, a favorite actor of mine.

Anyway, this is a story about a husband and wife traveling to Morocco with their son. They initially get confused for another married couple, who are there as spies. In this confusion, a good guy is murdered and the husband is taken into the police station for questioning. The couple leaves their son with another couple they met on the trip but soon realize that this was a grave mistake and that their friends were actually the spies. The son is held hostage, as the couple does everything they can to try and get him back.

This is a great thriller in the way that any fan of Hitchcock’s work should expect. While it’s not my favorite of this era or with James Stewart, it’s still a damn fine picture that keeps you on the edge of your seat once the real plot kicks in about a half hour into the proceedings.

It’s superbly acted but that should go without saying. Doris Day was really impressive in this and I’m glad that I got to see her outside of the type of roles she’s most known for. I also really liked Stewart kind of being a real fish out of water but rising to the occasion and being a real hero to his son.

1956’s version of The Man Who Knew Too Much was a solid ride that wasn’t predictable and ended up giving the viewer a very satisfying and emotional finale.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: other Alfred Hitchcock thrillers.

Film Review: The Bat (1959)

Release Date: August 9th, 1959
Directed by: Crane Wilbur
Written by: Crane Wilbur
Based on: The Circular Staircase by Mary Roberts Rinehart, The Bat by Mary Roberts Rinehart, Avery Hopwood
Music by: Louis Forbes
Cast: Vincent Price, Agnes Moorehead, Darla Hood

Liberty Pictures, 80 Minutes

Review:

“This is the Oaks, a house in the country which I’ve rented for the summer. As an author I write tales of mystery and murder, but the things that have happened in this house are far more fantastic than any book I’ve ever had published.” – Cornelia van Gorder

In a way, this movie almost plays like a proto-slasher film, even though it predates the genre’s peak by over twenty years. But it does feature a killer in the house, trying to get to two women holed up in the master bedroom.

Now there’s more to the story than just that but I kind of like how this hits those beats and does them fairly well, even though it’s hard to imagine that a person that wants to do these ladies harm would have much trouble getting to them, even with a bedroom door in the way. Also, the mysterious stranger has many opportunities that aren’t exploited.

The murderer in this film is actually really cool. It’s said to be a faceless man that murders women at night by using his steel claws to rip out their throats. The concept is gruesome for 1959 and it really sets a brooding tone. The visual look of the killer lives up to expectations, as he is shrouded completely in black, except for his claws.

Of course, the film wants you to suspect that the doctor character, played by horror icon Vincent Price, is The Bat. It’s a red herring, though, as the killer is revealed to be someone else.

I think that the best thing about this film is the acting. Agnes Moorehead proves she’s still got the chops and Price is as superb as always. Darla Hood is decent but she’s overshadowed by the mere presence of Moorehead. This would be Hood’s last movie and she was most known for playing Darla in the classic Our Gang short films.

All in all, this isn’t a great horror film but it boasted solid performances, a cool killer and it’s certainly entertaining.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: other Vincent Price horror films of the late ’50s.

TV Review: Abbott and Costello Meet the Creature From the Black Lagoon (1954)

Also known as: The Colgate Comedy Hour
Release Date: 1954 (originally aired)
Cast: Bud Abbott, Lou Costello

Colgate-Palmolive-Peet, NBC, 59 Minutes

Review:

I bought this pretty sure that it had never actually been a movie. I was right. But considering that I love the Gillman more than any monster to come out of the Universal Monsters franchise, I had to buy it.

Plus, I also love Bud Abbott and Lou Costello and every time they cross paths with horror icons, it makes for really good results.

This is actually an episode of the comedy/variety show The Colgate Comedy Hour, which was a very early variety show in the earliest days of television.

You have to sit through about forty minutes of comedy skits, interviews, ice skating and dancing routines but you do eventually get to the section that stars Abbott and Costello.

Their segment is less than fifteen minutes and while it is rather funny, it only features the Gillman for maybe five seconds. The segment actually features more of Frankenstein’s Monster than it does the “creature” from the Black Lagoon. While that’s underwhelming and disappointing, the skit is still funny.

I wouldn’t call this a waste of money, by any means, as it was like five bucks. However, it’s packaging and title are pretty misleading and I can see where most people will end up with a product that pisses them off. For me, it’s just some weird novelty that’s been added to my classic horror collection.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: the Abbot and Costello monster movies.

Film Review: Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy (1955)

Release Date: June 23rd, 1955
Directed by: Charles Lamont
Written by: John Grant, Lee Loeb
Music by: Joseph Gershenson (supervisor)
Cast: Bud Abbott, Lou Costello, Marie Windsor, Michael Ansara, Peggy King, Richard Deacon, Mel Welles

Universal International Pictures, 79 Minutes

Review:

“There is no curse that a gun or a knife can’t cure.” – Madame Rontru

This installment in the Abbott & Costello/Universal Monsters mashups is one of the best.

While I still like their Frankenstein movie the most, this one is really close to it.

Being that this one lacks the star power and all the famous monsters of the Frankenstein picture, actually makes it a bit more impressive, as it was able to almost live up to that one with far less at the comedians and writers’ disposal.

In fact, I like this movie so much, it is my favorite Universal Mummy movie ever made after the original 1932 Boris Karloff one. The main reason is that this just hits the right notes in regards to the Mummy franchise while also being loaded with great gags and clever comedy writing.

Abbott and Costello are always hilarious and perfect as a pair but they really upped the ante in this one. I also liked seeing multiple mummies on the screen, even if all the dudes wrapped in bandages at the end, weren’t actual mummies.

This did a great job with the sets and making the world feel authentic and real. Well, as much as it could with the limitations of the time.

I also really enjoyed the addition of Mary Windsor, here, and it’s one of my favorite roles she’s played as she got to ham it up with the comedy legends and was convincing in her villainous role, which probably comes from spending so much time acting in classic film-noir pictures before this one.

Ultimately, this is a fun movie that lives up to both of the brands it brought together. Frankly, it’s probably the best way that Abbott and Costello could’ve ended their series of Universal Monster films.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: the other Abbot and Costello monster movies.

Film Review: Abbott and Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1953)

Also known as: Dr. Jekyll and Mrs. Hyde (working title)
Release Date: August 1st, 1953
Directed by: Charles Lamont
Written by: Lee Loeb, John Grant, Sid Fields, Grant Garett
Based on: The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
Music by: Joseph Gershenson
Cast: Bud Abbott, Lou Costello, Boris Karloff

Universal International Pictures, 76 Minutes

Review:

“How do you like that Dr. Jekyll! He turned me into a mouse… the rat!” – Tubby

This entry into the Abbott & Costello and Universal Monsters crossovers was definitely a step up from the Invisible Man film but I still wouldn’t put it as high as the Frankenstein one.

The great thing about this picture was seeing Boris Karloff in it as the monster. He really got to ham it up and I’m a fan of him in horror comedies, as he was great in both The Raven and The Comedy of Terrors.

There are a lot of really good gags in this movie, my favorite one being the bit where Lou Costello is turned into a humanoid rat and shocks everyone in a tavern.

Honestly, this picture was pretty clever between just the verbal jokes and the physical gags. Karloff added a hell of a lot to the proceedings and I wish he had been involved in all of these horror-themed Abbott & Costello flicks.

All in all, this was fun and amusing. It was a great mix of talent, a good yet fresh adaptation of a famous and quite overused horror classic, and it certainly made up for the fairly lackluster film before it.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: the other Abbot and Costello monster movies.

Film Review: Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man (1951)

Also known as: Meet the Invisible Man (working title)
Release Date: March 7th, 1951
Directed by: Charles Lamont
Written by: Robert Lees, Frederic I. Rinaldo, John Grant, Hugh Wedlock Jr., Howard Snyder
Based on: The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells
Music by: Erich Zeisl
Cast: Bud Abbott, Lou Costello, Nancy Guild, Arthur Franz

Universal International Pictures, 82 Minutes

Review:

“The evidence says I did. When I stepped out of the shower that night, I found O’Hara beaten to death on the locker room floor. The cop outside the door swore nobody else had come in, so they pinned it on me.” – Tommy Nelson

I love the Abbott & Costello mashups with the Universal Monsters franchise, however one of the film’s has to be the weakest link and this one is it.

That doesn’t mean that it’s bad, as it’s still really enjoyable. It’s just that this one feels like it’s the least horror-y and it also just creates a new Invisible Man character, as opposed to being tied to any previous version, even after they already had the duo come into brief contact with the Vincent Price version of the character at the end of Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein.

Oddly, this is more of a comedy sports movie. Which is actually achieved pretty cleverly in that the comedic duo use the Invisible Man to help give Lou Costello an edge in the boxing ring. It’s an ingenious and hilarious scheme and even if the joke feels one-note, they stretch it out in this movie and the physical comedy is so good that it works longer than it probably should.

Abbott & Costello are both as great as usual and even if the Invisible Man character felt weak when compared to past versions, he still meshed well with the two leads and everything came together fairly well.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: the other Abbot and Costello monster movies.