Film Review: Planet of the Vampires (1965)

Also known as: The Demon Planet (US TV title), Planet of Blood, Space Mutants, Terror In Space, The Haunted Planet, The Haunted World, The Outlawed Planet, The Planet of Terror, The Planet of the Damned (alternative titles) 
Release Date: September 15th, 1965 (Italy)
Directed by: Mario Bava
Written by: Ib Melchior
Based on: One Night of 21 Hours by Renato Pestriniero
Music by: Gino Marinuzzi Jr.
Cast: Barry Sullivan, Norma Bengell, Angel Aranda, Evi Marandi

Italian International Film, Castilla Cooperativa Cinematográfica, American International Pictures, 88 Minutes

Review:

“I’ll tell you this, if there are any intelligent creatures on this planet… they’re our enemies.” – Capt. Mark Markary

While Mario Bava is mostly known for his horror and giallo pictures, I really liked when he did more ambitious, larger scale things like this and Danger: Diabolik.

Bava was really good at making Italian blockbusters that looked more epic in scale and production cost than a typical ghost story or murder mystery. But I guess he was just a superb director all around because even his misses are still enjoyable and have enough positives to make them worthwhile.

It’s been a long time since I’ve seen this specific Bava film. So long in fact, that when I had seen it previously, I didn’t really know who Bava was and I certainly wasn’t as acclimated to his work, as I am now.

This was a favorite late night film of mine, as a kid, though. I remember it being on late night cable quite a bit when late night cable was still really fucking cool when you weren’t going down the rabbit hole of infomercials.

I always loved the look and style of this film and I didn’t even realize it was Italian/Spanish back then. While it looked like your typical ’50s and early ’60s sci-fi epic, it was a lot more colorful and vibrant. I think it’s visual allure is what drew me to it and it’s that visual allure that would eventually become the visual style of giallo.

Beyond that, though, I loved the costumes of the crew, I loved the design of the ships, the simple but unique and stylized sets, as well as the look of the planet and all its weirdness.

The scene where we see a giant alien skeleton was so ominous and cool that it asked more questions than it answered and I’ve always kind of felt like it might have inspired the “Space Jockey” from Alien.

Planet of the Vampires is just a really cool, great, old school sci-fi/horror thriller. It’s one of my favorite Mario Bava pictures and honestly, it’s something I should revisit more often.

Rating: 6.5/10

Film Review: Curse of the Fly (1965)

Release Date: March 31st, 1965 (Phoenix premiere)
Directed by: Don Sharp
Written by: Harry Spalding
Based on: The Fly by George Langelaan
Music by: Bert Shefter
Cast: Brian Donlevy, Carole Gray, George Baker

Lippert Films, 20th Century Fox, 86 Minutes

Review:

“You’re not God, you’re not even human. You murdered those men and you made me a murderer too.” – Albert Delambre

Out of all The Fly movies ever made, this one is the worst.

However, it also has some of the coolest ideas by allowing the experiments to evolve in logical directions that see new monsters come into existence.

The story starts with a guy crashing his car because a very scantily clad babe runs out in the middle of a dark backroad. As the story rolls on, the guy falls for the babe but there is something wrong with her other than the fact that she escaped from a nearby mental asylum.

There are ties to the previous movies in this series but it essentially retcons that continuity. Plus, Vincent Price is nowhere to be found, so the film kind of suffers from that.

Anyway, we discover that there are all these other failed experiments locked away in these stables that are essentially prison cells. We get to see what’s happened to those who were experimented on once this new technology had run amok.

While it’s cool having all these other monsters, the movie is poorly executed and I don’t feel like it really recognized the potential it had with all these bonus terrors the writers and director had in their back pocket.

With that, I also felt like this film franchise really got away from itself. It could’ve and should’ve evolved into something new and fresh but it honestly just fired off a bunch of blanks and didn’t really seem to know what it was even aiming at.

Curse of the Fly isn’t terrible but it isn’t necessarily good, either. But I do like that it seemed to have some creativity in the story even if it was poorly capitalized on.

Rating: 5.25/10
Pairs well with: the previous two movies in The Fly film series, as well as the ’80s remakes and other creature features of the ’50s and ’60s.

Film Review: Die! Die! My Darling! (1965)

Also known as: Fanatic (original title)
Release Date: March 21st, 1965 (UK)
Directed by: Silvio Narizzano
Written by: Richard Matheson
Based on: Nightmare by Anne Blaisdell
Music by: Wilfred Josephs
Cast: Tallulah Bankhead, Stefanie Powers, Peter Vaughan, Maurice Kaufmann, Yootha Joyce, Donald Sutherland

Hammer Films, Columbia Pictures, 97 Minutes

Review:

“Stephen? Stephen? She’s here in this house, my darling… but of course you know… you know…!” – Mrs. Trefoile

So this was another Hammer film that flew under my radar for years. I didn’t discover it until I recently got this twenty film Blu-ray box set.

For a straight up Hammer style horror flick, this was really damn good and enjoyable as hell. It doesn’t feature any of the classic literary monsters, so it had to rely on good storytelling, good direction and solid acting.

The story is interesting and engaging while the performances by Tallulah Bankhead and Stefanie Powers were damn exceptional. So much so, I was enthralled and pulled in by their acting and I easily ignored all the missed opportunities the victim had at escaping or defeating the villain.

You have to suspend some disbelief in how easily this woman is held captive by a cranky, crazy old lady and her hired help around the house. But regardless of that, this is still superb in its execution and man, you just want to see that old lady get her just desserts.

Tallulah Bankhead was intense and sinister. She gave a top notch performance and what makes it even more impressive is that she got really sick during production. So much so that she had to forego her salary and promise to finish the film, regardless, just so her role wasn’t recast. In the end, she pulled off something remarkable.

It’s also worth mentioning that a young Donald Sutherland plays one of the villain’s minions. However, he’s kind of an innocent character, as he’s mentally handicapped and doesn’t really understand the reality of what’s happening around him.

Die! Die! My Darling! is much better than I assumed it would be. It’s a mesmerizing thriller that sucks you in rather quickly and holds your attention until the final frame.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: other Hammer pictures of the ’50s through ’70s, especially ones like this that don’t feature the more famous literary monsters.

Film Review: Ironfinger (1965)

Also known as: Hyappatsu hyakuchu (original Japanese title), 100 Shot, 100 Killed (literal English title)
Release Date: December 5th, 1965
Directed by: Jun Fukuda
Written by: Michio Tsuzuki, Kihachi Okamoto
Music by: Masaru Sato
Cast: Akira Takarada, Mie Hama, Ichiro Arishima, Jun Tatara, Akihiko Hirata, Sachio Sakai, Susumu Kurobe, Toru Ibuki, Chotaro Togin, Naoya Kusakawa, Koji Iwamoto, Mike Daneen, Haruo Nakajima

Toho Co. Ltd., 93 Minutes

Review:

Jun Fukuda is most famous for being the second best Godzilla director after the legendary Ishiro Honda. However, being number two behind a legend like that, a guy who gave us the first Godzilla film, is still a hell of an achievement. Plus, many other directors have come and gone but Fukuda’s films have still stuck out in the people’s conscious.

However, Fukuda didn’t just do big monster movies. He did some spy comedy parody films for Toho when they weren’t looking at him to pump out more Godzilla sequels.

This is the first of those movies and I have never seen it, so I was kind of excited to check it out. Especially, since I also love the spy genre, as well as ’60s Japanese crime cinema and noir-esque visuals.

This also has Mie Hama in it, so that’s a massive plus, as I was crushing hard on her back in the day from her appearances in Godzilla films, as well as her most famous role as a Bond Girl in 1967’s You Only Live Twice.

The film’s story is similar to a ’90s American teen comedy I recently reviewed, If Looks Could Kill, which saw a high school student on a class trip to France get mistaken for a secret agent. Funny hijinks ensued and the inexperienced regular Joe had to find a way to save the day. While the main character in this film isn’t a high school student, he’s just as inexperienced and a bit of a goof.

The lead, played by Toho regular Akira Takarada was energetic and pretty hilarious. It was hard not to like the guy and to cheer for him to beat the baddies and impress the girl.

Ironfinger is a funny, stylish picture that was lighthearted and endearing. It was neat seeing what else Fukuda did for Toho that wasn’t sci-fi related. It also got me excited and motivated to check out its sequel, Golden Eyes.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: it’s sequel Golden Eyes and other Japanese crime films of the ’60s.

Film Review: Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine (1965)

Release Date: November 6th, 1965
Directed by: Norman Taurog
Written by: Elwood Ullman, Robert Kaufman, James Hartford
Music by: Les Baxter
Cast: Vincent Price, Frankie Avalon, Dwayne Hickman, Susan Hart, Jack Mullaney

American International Pictures, 88 Minutes

Review:

“Igor, you idiot, why must you listen to me when I’m wrong?” – Dr. Goldfoot

Can you have a beach movie without the beach? Well, this certainly feels like it, as it features a ton of scantily clad beauties, as they try and steal the fortunes of rich tycoons. They’re also robots created by a mad scientist and a criminal mastermind in an effort to fund their evil doings.

In a lot of ways, this feels very similar to the Matt Helm movies with Dean Martin, which also featured scantily clad beauties, diabolical mad men and spy shenanigans.

Coming out at the height of the spy and beach movie genres, this utilizes both and also adds in horror legend Vincent Price and beach movie icon Frankie Avalon.

The movie is over the top to the point of being outright parody but it is a strange, amusing picture that may not have been a massive hit but has since developed a good cult following for those who like the varying genres this attempts to mash up. It also got a sequel, which I will review in the near future.

For the most part, this is good, mindless fun. Turn off your brain, kick back and enjoy the awesome batshittery. Plus, for ’60s cinephiles, it’s just really neat seeing Price and Avalon in the same flick.

For some, this will seem like an outdated relic without much in it worth giving a shit about. But those people can have their Academy Award nominated bores. Cool people would rather watch this and leave Ordinary People to the pretentious intellectuals.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: its sequel and other Vincent Price pictures that he did for American International.

Film Review: The Skull (1965)

Release Date: August 25th, 1965
Directed by: Freddie Francis
Written by: Milton Subotsky, Robert Bloch
Based on: The Skull of the Marquis de Sade by Robert Bloch
Music by: Elisabeth Lutyens
Cast: Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, Jill Bennett, Patrick Wymark, Nigel Green, Patrick Magee, Michael Gough

Amicus Productions, 83 Minutes

Review:

“All I can say to you is keep away from the skull of the Marquis de Sade!” – Sir Matthew Phillips

I felt like I was going through Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee withdrawals, as it’s actually been awhile since I got to kick back and watch one of their many collaborations. I mean, there were 22 of them and I’ve already reviewed several but I just felt the need to spend some time with two of my three favorite horror legends, especially during this trying COVID-19 self-imposed social exile.

Anyway, I really love The Skull. It’s not the best film with these guys in it and frankly, they don’t share enough scenes but this picture is full of so many great actors from the era, that it is hard not to love. I especially liked seeing Patrick Magee, Nigel Green and Michael Gough pop up in this.

The plot is an interesting one, as it sees Cushing come into possession of the skull of Marquis de Sade. The skull itself is possessed by an evil force, presumably de Sade, and it makes those around it do evil acts. Cushing is driven mad and we even get a moment that shows him murder his best friend, Christopher Lee.

What’s really fun about this movie is how some scenes are shot in regards to the skull. While this is a low budget production and a product of its time, where effects were still fairly primitive, the skull truly becomes its own character because of the simple tricks the filmmakers did.

I love how you see through the skull’s eye sockets in many shots, giving you a first-person perspective of the evil force, as it enchants and takes control of its human vessels. The use of colored light within the skull added a certain mystique to these shots. Also, the way that they made the skull physically float through the air was done to great effect. Even though modern HD televisions make the strings more visible, it still works and most of these effects look really smooth, especially for the mid-’60s.

The tone and atmosphere of the film are also well crafted. The cinematography is effective, especially in regards to the lighting and shot framing. And even though most of the story takes place in what was modern times, it still has a very Victorian feel to it.

Most importantly, this is well acted from all the key players, as they gave this film their all and made it better than it needed to be.

Like most old horror, this relies on the imagination of the viewer. It’s a “less is more” suspenseful thriller that uses your own imagination as its real monster.

While Amicus wasn’t quite at the level of Hammer, the best of their pictures, this being one of them, definitely stood proudly alongside their closest competition.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: other Amicus and Hammer horror films. Specifically, those starring Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee.

Film Review: Invasion of Astro-Monster (1965)

Also known as: Godzilla vs. Monster Zero, Monster Zero (alternative US titles), Battle of the Astros, Invasion of Planet X, The Great Monster War (alternative Yugoslavian titles)
Release Date: December 19th, 1965 (Japan)
Directed by: Ishirō Honda
Written by: Shinichi Sekizawa
Music by: Akira Ifukube
Cast: Akira Takarada, Nick Adams, Kumi Mizuno, Akira Kubo, Jun Tazaki, Keiko Sawai, Yoshio Tsuchiya, Yoshifumi Tajima

Toho Co. Ltd., 93 Minutes, 74 Minutes (re-issue)

Review:

“[about the victory over King Ghidorah, while Godzilla is outside dancing] A happy moment.” – Controller of Planet X

This is the last Godzilla film of the Shōwa era that I had left to review. While I didn’t watch the movies in order, I did save one of my favorites for last. But honestly, I like all these movies and don’t think there is a bad one in the bunch. Nope, not even All Monsters Attack a.k.a. Godzilla’s Revenge.

What I liked about this film is that it is a true follow up to its predecessor Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster and also features the same lineup of monsters, minus Mothra. This also introduces the Xiliens from Planet X, who were (and still are) the best alien villains in Godzilla lore. In fact, they should’ve been regular antagonists throughout the Shōwa pictures but Toho decided to introduce new hostile aliens with almost every movie after this one. Although, I did like the ape and the cockroach aliens, somewhat. But leaving the Xiliens behind, after this film, was a mistake.

Anyway, the plot in this one is interesting, as it sees the Xiliens bring two Earth astronauts to their planet in an effort to get them to agree to let them borrow Godzilla and Rodan due to King Ghidorah being a major nuisance. It’s all a trap, however, as the aliens take control of Godzilla and Rodan and force them, along with Ghidorah, to attack Earth, leaving it defenseless. I guess King Kong, Mothra and Anguirus were taking naps on Monster Island.

Despite its hokiness, I really like the set designs and costumes in this chapter. Everything just looks really unique and seeing just one frame of this film lets avid Godzilla fans know which movie it is. Especially, in regards to any scenes involving Planet X or its people.

The special effects are great and consistent with the other films where Eiji Tsuburaya handled them.

All in all, this is just another really fun chapter in the franchise during its greatest run.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: other Shōwa era Godzilla movies.

 

Film Review: Attack of the Eye Creatures (1965)

Also known as: The Eye Creatures (original TV title), Terrors of the Dark (working title)
Release Date: 1965 (TV)
Directed by: Larry Buchanan
Written by: Paul W. Fairman, Robert J. Gurney Jr., Al Martin
Music by: Les Baxter, Ronald Stein
Cast: John Ashley, Cynthia Hull, Warren Hammack, Chet Davis, Bill Peck, Ethan Allen, Charles McLine

Aztec Pictures, American International Television, 80 Minutes

Review:

“[two radar men spy kids necking in the woods] Ain’t science wonderful?” – Culver

Attack of the Eye Creatures is the type of schlock that makes respectable schlock run for the hills. It’s basically a wet turd on celluloid, which is probably why it is only slightly remembered in modern times because it was the focal point of a fourth season episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000.

Had it not been for that great show dusting it off, this movie would have been lost to the sands of time. Granted, that might be for the best because even with it getting the MST3K treatment, it’s still a tough one to get through.

This was distributed by American International, who are synonymous with schlock even though they sometimes pushed out good pictures like those Vincent Price and Roger Corman collaborations that adapted the works of Edgar Allan Poe and H.P. Lovecraft.

However, this was so bad that it was distributed by the TV arm of the company. For American International to not have much faith in putting something in theaters, you know it’s bad.

I’m not even sure what the hell was going on in this movie, as it was hard to stay awake.

Although, the creatures are just so terrible looking that they’re at least endearing and the only salvageable thing from the film. I mean, their design and the execution of that design is pretty deplorable. Essentially, they are supposed to be humanoid creatures made up of naked eyeballs. They looks more like The Stuff from The Stuff trying to fully devour a mannequin. They should’ve titled this movie Attack of the Lumpy Marshmallow Men or Revenge of the Spooge Goblins.

As with all films like this, it is best viewed by watching the MST3K version. At least the riffing is good on this one.

Rating: 1.5/10
Pairs well with: the worst of the worst when it comes to films shown on MST3K.

Film Review: The Human Duplicators (1965)

Also known as: Jaws of the Alien (video title), Space Agent K1 (Germany)
Release Date: March 3rd, 1965
Directed by: Hugo Grimaldi
Written by: Arthur C. Pierce
Music by: Gordon Zahler
Cast: George Nader, Dolores Faith, George Macready, Barbara Nichols, Richard Arlen, Richard Kiel, Hugh Beaumont

Hugo Grimaldi Film Productions, Woolner Brothers Pictures Inc., 100 Minutes, 80 Minutes (cut)

Review:

I’ve had a lot of good luck lately with watching and reviewing films from classic episodes of Mystery Science Theater 3000. What I mean by that, is that the last few films were actually enjoyable and not total poop.

The Human Duplicators, on the other hand, is a return to form for what is the quality of the typical film riffed on MST3K.

At least this one has a cool poster, though. Also, it was trippy as hell in some parts and it featured Richard Kiel, most famous for playing Jaws in the James Bond franchise but also seen in another MST3K featured film, Eegah.

The premise is about a bunch of aliens that clone humans. I mean, I guess the film’s title gives the cloning thing away. But other than the general premise, this is such a mess of a film that it’s hard to pay attention to the shoddy details.

The acting is terrible, as is the direction and the general look of this picture. At least, as far as the cinematography and lighting go. Although, some of the sets were imaginative but that’s probably due to their trippiness and because I was on edibles while watching this. But don’t be fooled, the sets still look like they’re cheaper than a Huddle House hooker in Starke, Florida.

In the end, I can’t recommend this movie but I did enjoy it enough with Joel and the ‘Bots making fun of it.

Rating: 2.25/10
Pairs well with: other bottom of the barrel schlock that owes its continued existence to Mystery Science Theater 3000.

Film Review: Thunderball (1965)

Release Date: December 9th, 1965 (Tokyo premiere)
Directed by: Terence Young
Written by: Richard Maibaum, John Hopkins, Kevin McClory, Jack Whittingham, Ian Fleming
Based on: the James Bond novels by Ian Fleming
Music by: John Barry
Cast: Sean Connery, Claudine Auger, Adolfo Celi, Luciana Paluzzi, Rik Van Nutter, Bernard Lee, Lois Maxwell, Desmond Llewelyn, Philip Stone, Martine Beswick

Eon Productions, United Artists, 130 Minutes

Review:

“My dear girl, don’t flatter yourself. What I did this evening was for Queen and country. You don’t think it gave me any pleasure, do you?” – James Bond

After Guy Hamilton directed Goldfinger and took the Bond film franchise away from focusing on SPECTRE, Terence Young came back to direct the fourth film and made SPECTRE a focal point once again. And I’m glad because as much as I like Goldfinger, I’d rather see Connery’s Bond duking it out with Blofeld’s minions on a grand stage. Auric Goldfinger just seemed like a chump when compared to a high ranking SPECTRE agent.

This chapter in the franchise also feels a bit like a call back to the original film, Dr. No. Mainly just in aesthetic and geography though, as this film’s big finale takes place in the Bahamas, which draws some similarities to Dr. No‘s Jamaica sequences.

Also, the villain in this is Emilio Largo, one of the all-time greatest Bond villains of all-time. See, I said “all-time” twice to solidify the point. In fact, I ranked him third on a list where I did a countdown of James Bond baddies. The only villains I ranked higher were Blofeld (obviously) and Francisco Scaramanga because c’mon man, that’s Christopher Lee. Largo is just perfect as a top SPECTRE operative and “Number 2” to Blofeld, who Bond would finally face in the film after this.

In a lot of ways, this sets up the big Bond vs. Blofeld showdown that was coming in You Only Live Twice while also being a culmination of the events that started in Dr. No and From Russia With Love. This is a vital chapter in the Connery era, as it acts as a bridge linking the important SPECTRE plot points. Plus, it’s just damn good.

While this Bond film is tropical and beautiful, it also has a grittiness to it. It feels more real than the previous outing. Granted, that’s a bit undone by the hokey speed boat finale but the technology to make that sequence less cheesy, didn’t exist yet. And really, that whole stopping the super speedy boat from crashing is really my only complaint about the film.

I love Connery’s James Bond. I also love Largo, as I have already pointed out. The scenes that the two share together really take this film to a different level though. Red Grant was good in From Russia With Love and Dr. Julius No was solid in Dr. No. But there is just something larger and more threatening about Largo. Sure, he can’t physically match Bond like Red Grant but he effectively uses other tools and plays to his strengths.

Underwater sequences in movies usually suck, let’s be honest. But the ones in this film just work and there’s a lot of underwater stuff. Plus, you get to see Bond literally swimming with sharks and I mean “literally” in the grammatically correct way and I’m not using “sharks” as a metaphor. I mean actual sharks.

Thunderball is better than just being a popcorn movie set in majestic scenery. If you ever wanted to pick a handful of Bond movies to have a mini marathon with, than this should definitely be in that handful.

Rating: 8.25/10
Pairs well with: The other Sean Connery James Bond movies, as well as that George Lazenby one.