Film Review: Beware! The Blob (1972)

Also known as: A Chip Off the Old Blob (script title), Beware the Blob, Son of Blob, Son of the Blob, The Blob Returns (alternative titles)
Release Date: June 10th, 1972 (San Antonio, TX premiere)
Directed by: Larry Hagman
Written by: Anthony Harris, Jack Woods, Richard Clair, Jack H. Harris
Music by: Mort Garson
Cast: Robert Walker Jr., Carol Lynley, Godfrey Cambridge, Gwynne Gilford, Richard Stahl, Richard Webb, Marlene Clark, Gerrit Graham, J. J. Johnston, Danny Goldman, Dick Van Patten, Cindy Williams, Burgess Meredith (uncredited), Sid Haig (uncredited)

Jack H. Harris Enterprises, 87 Minutes

Review:

“Hippie, schmippie!” – Unidentified Rabblerouser

This is a strange fucking movie.

That doesn’t mean that I didn’t like it, though.

I mostly found it entertaining and amusing but taking the concept of The Blob and making a sequel that’s a comedy was an odd choice. But I get it, the monster is basically just killer toxic snot.

While the humor is borderline slapstick and lowest common denominator stuff, it’s still funny because the actors really committed to some of the more absurd things and it just worked because of that.

This also featured some notable people with a very young Gerrit Graham, Burgess Meredith as an old hippie, Cindy Williams of Laverne & Shirley fame, Dick Van Patten and Sid Haig in a small role.

Still, at its core, this is a really goofy movie and it doesn’t really add anything new to The Blob concept other than comedy and drug use.

Rating: 5.25/10

Film Review: Your Vice Is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key (1972)

Also known as: Il tuo vizio è una stanza chiusa e solo io ne ho la chiave (original Italian title), Irene, Excite Me, Eye of the Black Cat, Gently Before She Dies (alternative titles)
Release Date: August 18th, 1972
Directed by: Sergio Martino
Written by: Ernesto Gastaldi, Adriano Bolzoni, Sauro Scavolini, Luciano Martino
Based on: The Black Cat by Edgar Allan Poe
Music by: Bruno Nicolai
Cast: Edwige Fenech, Anita Strindberg, Luigi Pistilli, Ivan Rassimov, Franco Nebbia, Riccardo Salvino

Lea Film, Titanus, 97 Minutes

Review:

Sergio Martino did this film a year before his most famous one, Torso.

While he’s not my favorite giallo director, he has done some really memorable work that probably deserves its place alongside the giallo masters like Mario Bava and Dario Argento.

Many giallo aficionados seem to like this one too and while I do enjoy the first act of the movie, it drags on and falls kind of flat for me. Although, I do like the ending, as it homages Edgar Allan Poe quite nicely and in the most Italian way possible.

I enjoyed the three main actors in this and seeing Luigi Pistilli was kind of cool in that his character is truly the antithesis of what I think is his most famous role as the priest brother of Tuco in The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.

The other two leads are Edwige Fenech and Anita Strindberg, who both put in believable performances even when the story calls for some over the top antics.

My main issue with this film is the pacing. It’s only 97 minutes but those 97 minutes felt like two hours. There are some minor side characters and side plots that simply existed to give the killer more kills. That’s not necessarily a bad thing in a slasher-esque giallo but most of this just felt like soulless filler in a movie that could’ve been more fine-tuned in dealing with the core actors and their dynamic.

I do like the look of the movie, even if it isn’t as opulent and vivid as the work of the better giallo filmmakers.

Ultimately, this was okay but it’s not Martino’s best work and with that, it’s not anywhere near the upper echelon of ’70s giallo.

Rating: 5.75/10

Film Review: Across 110th Street (1972)

Release Date: December 19th, 1972 (New York City premiere)
Directed by: Barry Shear
Written by: Luther Davis, Barry Shear
Based on: Across 110th Street by Wally Ferris
Music by: Bobby Womack, J. J. Johnson
Cast: Anthony Quinn, Yaphet Kotto, Anthony Franciosa, Paul Benjamin, Ed Bernard, Richard Ward, Anthony Fargas, Norma Donaldson, Gilbert Lewis, Marlene Warfield, Nat Polen, Tim O’Connor, Burt Young, Charles McGregor, Paul Harris, Ric Mancini

Film Guarantors, 102 Minutes

Review:

“Look at me, huh. Look at me! You’re looking at a 42 year old ex-con nigga with no schooling, no trade, and a medical problem! Now who the hell would want me for anything but washing cars or swinging a pick? You gotta get your mind out of that white woman’s dream!” – Jim Harris

While many consider this blaxploitation, I thought it was a bit light in that regard. However, this also came out before that subgenre of film really pushed the envelope. This, honestly, has strong noir vibes and with that, it’s kind of interesting seeing early blaxploitation and a ’70s neo-noir flavor come together.

This also stars Yaphet Kotto just before he did Live and Let Die and Truck Turner, two films I love him in, the former being the one that really brought him a new level of notoriety and a pretty solid future, as an actor.

Kotto is solid as hell in this as the cop that wants to do the right thing, even though he is surrounded by rampant crime, violence and police corruption. Through all of that, he finds a way to win the day and to wreck the nefarious efforts of the Italian mafia and the black criminals who run Harlem.

This is a pretty decent movie from top-to-bottom, especially considering its limitations due to budget. It’s filmed in a lot of tight feeling spaces and while I’m not sure if that was due to the limitations or if it was intentional but it creates a sort of stifling atmosphere that actually adds to the tension of the movie.

The film is also greatly helped by the soundtrack and themes that were provided by Bobby Womack. The title theme would later be re-recorded and that better version was used by Quentin Tarantino in Jackie Brown.

All in all, Yaphet Kotto truly carries this picture, once he arrives on the scene. Without Kotto, the picture wouldn’t have been nearly as good. But he does make it work and it’s a pretty unique movie to begin with.

Rating: 6.25/10

Film Review: The Mechanic (1972)

Also known as: Killer of Killers (reissue title)
Release Date: November 17th, 1972 (New York City premiere)
Directed by: Michael Winner
Written by: Lewis John Carlino
Music by: Jerry Fielding
Cast: Charles Bronson, Jan-Michael Vincent, Keenan Wynn, Jill Ireland

Chartoff-Winkler Productions, Carlino Productions, United Artists, 100 Minutes

Review:

“He has 100 ways to kill… and they all work!” – tagline

As much as I like Michael Winner’s Death Wish films with Charles Bronson, until now, I had never seen The Mechanic.

While it’s not as good as the first three Death Wish pictures, it’s still pretty fucking solid and isn’t afraid to walk around with its testosterone-filled balls blowing in the wind.

This one doesn’t just star manly man Charles Bronson, it also stars pretty manly man Jan-Michael Vincent.

The two leads have damn good chemistry. So much so, I wasn’t a fan of the twist ending because I could’ve watched these two badasses murder the crap out of shit for five or six movies. I’m actually kind of surprised that Vincent didn’t make his way into any of Winner’s Death Wish movies, unless they just didn’t get along or Vincent had issues with Bronson.

As far as the story goes, Bronson is an international assassin. He’s pretty damn good but with his lifestyle comes certain rules and it’s these rules that have sort of deprived him of a better life and real human connection. Vincent shows up at a weird time in Bronson’s life and Bronson had just killed Vincent’s dad. Still, Bronson sees something in Vincent and decides to train him to become an assassin, even if it breaks the code he’s supposed to follow.

Breaking this code draws the ire of higher ups and I feel like this plot point trickled down through movies over the years and led to the weird world of the John Wick universe, among other entertainment franchises.

By the time you get to the end, there’s a double twist. I don’t want to spoil what that is but you kind of see it coming while watching the movie. And if it wasn’t a trope of these sort of stories in 1972, it’s certainly become one since.

The Mechanic is pretty raw and it boasts decent cinematography, great action for its era and it has two legit stallions ready to murder scumbags. What’s not to like?

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: other Charles Bronson films of the ’70s and ’80s.

Film Review: Frogs (1972)

Release Date: March 10th, 1972
Directed by: George McCowan
Written by: Robert Hutchinson, Robert Blees
Music by: Les Baxter
Cast: Ray Milland, Sam Elliott, Joan Van Ark, Adam Roarke, Judy Pace, Lynn Borden, Mae Mercer, David Gilliam

Thomas/Edwards Productions, American International Pictures, 91 Minutes

Review:

“I still believe man is master of the world.” – Jason Crockett, “Does that mean he can’t live in harmony with the rest of it?” – Pickett Smith

After revisiting this for the first time in a few decades, I was surprised to see how many different animals this film featured. Honestly, it shouldn’t have been titled Frogs. They should’ve called it Swamp Critters or Florida On A Tuesday, as it reminded me of a regular afternoon hike in my home state.

This movie is weirdly drab, even though it’s pretty eventful and features a lot of zany deaths. I wouldn’t say it’s boring but it does feel like the filmmakers barely took this seriously and tried their best. It certainly feels like a rushed production where they had x-amount of hours to film in a Florida State Park, so everything had to be done in a few takes: perfect shots, good effects and attention to detail be damned!

Now I did enjoy a very young Sam Elliott in this and I actually forgot he was the hero of the story. His environmentalist banter with the evil capitalist played by Ray Milland was enjoyable and it was cool seeing these two legends ham it up and try to turn this shoddy production into a film with a meaningful message. There are just so many other films that tell the “science run amok on nature” story much better, though.

This had the makings of something that could’ve been much better in an era where animal horror was really popular. However, for every Jaws you get ten Night of the Lepus.

Rating: 5.25/10
Pairs well with: other animal horror films of the ’70s.

Film Review: The Night Stalker (1972)

Also known as: The Kolchak Papers (working title), Kolchak: The Night Stalker (long title)
Release Date: January 11th, 1972 
Directed by: John Llewellyn Moxey
Written by: Richard Matheson
Based on: The Kolchak Papers by Jeffrey Grant Rice
Music by: Bob Cobert
Cast: Darren McGavin, Simon Oakland, Carol Lynley, Barry Atwater, Ralph Meeker, Claude Akins, Elisha Cook Jr.

Dan Curtis Productions, ABC Circle Films, ABC, 74 Minutes

Review:

“Rumor has it that the day Anthony Albert Vincenzo was born, his father left town. The story may be apocryphal, but I believe it. The only point I wonder about is why his mother didn’t leave too.” – Carl Kolchak

I was a pretty big fan of the Kolchak television series when it was in syndication back when I was a kid. It originally aired before I was alive but I remember my granmum having it on her television set in my younger, most impressionable years.

Sadly, I hadn’t seen it since the ’80s and I never saw the two television movies that predate the single season show. So I figured I’d start with the original Night Stalker movie and go from there.

I’m glad to say that this was pretty close to my memories of the show and seeing Darren McGavin ham it up while monster hunting was a sight to behold and enjoy, once again!

More than anything, watching the original film, which I found in HD on YouTube for free (as long as that lasts) motivated me greatly to continue on with the second film and twenty-ish episode series.

McGavin is great in this and it’s my favorite role that I’ve ever seen him play. It’s like it was tailor made for his specific talents, as it maximizes his strengths and charisma. I’m not sure how close the Kolchak TV material is to the original novel but it’s a hell of a lot of fun.

In this story, ace reporter Carl Kolchak is investigating strange murders that appear to be vampiric in nature. No one wants to believe what Kolchak starts to uncover and even after the vampire gets into a skirmish with police while stealing blood bags from the hospital, those in power try to suppress Kolchak’s narrative.

Eventually, we get a showdown with the vampire and the end result sees Kolchak having to leave Las Vegas or be charged with murder for killing the bloodsucking fiend.

While the picture can feel hokey and dated, I mean, it is a ’70s television movie, it’s still an energetic, charming, entertaining ride and pretty solid shit for its time and production limitations.

Plus, Darren McGavin is stupendous.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: its sequel The Night Strangler and the television show Kolchak: The Night Stalker.

Film Review: Dr. Phibes Rises Again (1972)

Release Date: July, 1972
Directed by: Robert Fuest
Written by: Robert Blees, Robert Fuest
Music by: John Gale
Cast: Vincent Price, Robert Quarry, Peter Jeffrey, Valli Kemp, Fiona Lewis, Hugh Griffith, Peter Cushing, Caroline Munro, Milton Reid

American International Pictures, MGM-EMI, 89 Minutes

Review:

“Phibes! I beg of you, let me come with you! Phibes, for once have mercy!” – Biederbeck

As great as The Abominable Dr. Phibes was, replicating its awesomeness would be a hard feat to achieve. Still, the sequel is a pretty fun followup that might not live up to its predecessor but it still builds off of it and justifies its existence in how it sees Phibes rise from the dead to complete his most important objective.

What’s great about this is that Phibes does indeed complete his objective and all along the way, he outwits those trying to stop him.

He goes on another clever murder spree but his plot isn’t as cool or as well thought out as the previous film. Still, it’s neat seeing him do what he does best and while this may come across as more of the same, it doesn’t try to completely replicate the original and the overall story moves in a new direction.

Additionally, the film stays true to the art deco aesthetic and style of the previous movie and it also taps into a vivid giallo-esque color palate, once again. I really love the kaleidoscope-styled mirror hall that they used to introduce Phibes’ assistant in this. It was just a great one-point perspective shot that really stood out.

More than anything, I loved the final act of this picture and how it ended. Unfortunately, though, it brings the larger tale to a close and there isn’t much else for Phibes to do other than float to victory, achieving his goal.

Another sequel or two may have been equally as fun but they probably ended this series at the right moment.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: its predecessor, as well as other ’60s and ’70s Vincent Price movies.

Film Review: Tales from the Crypt (1972)

Release Date: March 8th, 1972 (New York City premiere)
Directed by: Freddie Francis
Written by: Milton Subotsky
Based on: Tales From the Crypt & The Vault of Horror by EC Comics, Johnny Craig, Al Feldstein, William M. Gaines
Music by: Douglas Gamley
Cast: Joan Collins, Peter Cushing, Roy Dotrice, Richard Greene, Ian Hendry, Patrick Magee, Barbara Murray, Nigel Patrick, Robin Phillips, Ralph Richardson

Amicus Productions, Cinema Releasing Corporation, Metromedia Producers Corporation, Twentieth Century Fox, 92 Minutes

Review:

“[reading Arthur Grimsdyke’s revenge letter written in the dead James Elliot’s blood] “You were cruel and mean right from the start, now you can truly say you have no… heart”.” – Father

As a fan of Amicus Productions and Tales From the Crypt, I don’t know how I didn’t discover this film sooner. I just assumed that the ’80s television series and the few films that followed were the only live-action versions of the franchise, which started in the ’50s as a comic series put out by publisher EC.

Furthermore, this has Peter Cushing and Patrick Magee in it. It also has Joan Collins, who would go on to have great fame a decade later.

This is an anthology movie like many of the films that Amicus put out. It’s not their best effort but it is still cool seeing them recreate EC Comics stories from Tales From the Crypt and The Vault of Horror.

Like most anthologies, the stories are a mixed bag. What’s interesting about this one, however, is that it crams five stories and several bookend/bridge scenes within its 92 minutes. Most of these movies would give you three tales.

That being said, some of the segments feel rushed and too quick. However, the ones that are good are pretty fun and cool.

As a film on its own, without the Tales From the Crypt branding, this just feels like another Amicus anthology lost in the shuffle with most of the others.

In the end, it’s just okay but the high points saved it from being a dud.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: other horror anthologies of the ’70s and ’80s.

Film Review: Night of the Lepus (1972)

Also known as: Rabbits (working title, Germany, Austria)
Release Date: September th, 1972 (Ireland)
Directed by: William F. Claxton
Written by: Don Holliday, Gene R. Kearney
Based on: The Year of the Angry Rabbit by Russell Braddon
Music by: Jimmie Haskell
Cast: Stuart Whitman, Janet Leigh, Rory Calhoun, DeForest Kelley, Paul Fix, Don Starr

A.C. Lyles Productions, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 88 Minutes

Review:

“Attention! Attention! Ladies and gentlemen, attention! There is a herd of killer rabbits headed this way and we desperately need your help!” – Officer Lopez

This movie, in my opinion, has a lot of unjustified hatred towards it. People have trashed it for years and talked it down like it’s a blight on early ’70s cinema.

Well, those people don’t have taste, a real appreciation for killer animal horror and don’t have the keen eyesight to spot a diamond in the rough.

Okay, this isn’t a great film and maybe it’s not even a good one by the ridiculous standards of hoity-toity film critics. However, it’s damn entertaining for fans of the right kind of well-aged cheese and it boasts some practical special effects that just work… well, for the most part.

This film is about giant rabbits that have overtaken a small town in Arizona. It employs a lot of force perspective shots, as well as miniature models to help give regular sized rabbits some scale. While these techniques may seem outdated by 1972 (they really weren’t yet), they were actually well done and effective. And seeing this in modern HD didn’t really ruin the magic, which is something that happens way too often with movies from this era.

Honestly, the only real effects that didn’t work were probably the same ones that didn’t work in 1972. Those are the scenes where a large killer rabbit has to interact with a human actor in the same shot. These scenes are very obviously just some stuntman in a furry costume batting his fists at the victims. It’s hokey and the attacks look too human but luckily, this isn’t used too much. But I understand why they had to do it, as you had to show some flesh-on-flesh mauling because it’s the early ’70s and no one wanted the violence to be implied offscreen. The ’70s were edgier, the Hollywood Code was old news and horror got to throw some gore on the big screen.

The film isn’t well acted, despite having Janet Leigh in it, as well as Stuart Whitman, Rory Calhoun and DeForest Kelley alongside her. None of the key players are terrible but they do seem like they’re just going through the motions and dialing it in, as low budget, B-movie horror apparently didn’t require their A-game.

Still, I dig this film quite a bit and I do think it’s better than what the filmgoing consensus has led the world to believe for nearly fifty years.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: other killer animal horror movies of the ’70s; the cheesier, the better.

 

Film Review: Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (1972)

Release Date: June 29th, 1972 (New York City premiere)
Directed by: J. Lee Thompson
Written by: Paul Dehn
Based on: characters by Pierre Boulle
Music by: Tom Scott
Cast: Roddy McDowall, Don Murray, Ricardo Montalbán, Natalie Trundy, Hari Rhodes, Gordon Jump

APJAC Productions, Twentieth Century Fox, 88 Minutes

Review:

“The King is dead. Long live the King! Tell me Breck, before you die – how do we differ from the dogs and cats that you and your kind used to love? Why did you turn us from pets into slaves?” – Caesar

As a kid, this was my favorite Planet of the Apes movie. While it isn’t the best from an artistic standpoint and I’d say that I now like the third one best, it is still a superb origin story of how the apes rose up and pushed back against mankind.

In 2011, when they rebooted the franchise for the second time, that film took most of its cues from this story. While that film, Rise of the Planet of the Apes is a better picture, overall, it kind of lacked the grit of this one. A lot of that could also be due to modern films relying so much on CGI effects and pristine post-production clean up.

Regardless of that, I still enjoy watching this version of the similar story more. There’s just something about the original Apes movies that is special and unique and none of the remakes have really been able to recapture their magic.

I think the thing that I really like about this film, apart from the premise, is the look of it. Most of the big scenes take place in the heart of a metropolis and you see these apes carrying guns and burning parts of the town, as large, monolithic (and somewhat generic) skyscrapers loom overhead. It’s modern yet it’s primitive and it creates an atmosphere that shows the animalistic nature of man and ape in a world that should seem civilized and advanced. There’s a duality that exists in several layers of this picture and I’m not trying to imply that this was even done intentionally but it just adds something really genuine to the overall picture.

Additionally, Roddy McDowall has never been better in this series than he is in this chapter. The guy probably spent more time in ape makeup than any other actor, as he’s played multiple characters in the franchise but man, it’s like the other films were just there to prepare him for this stellar performance.

I also liked that Ricardo Montalbán returned for this, as the same character he played in the previous movie. He was sweet, caring and this is honestly one of my favorite roles he’s ever played after Khan Noonien Singh from the Star Trek franchise and his roles in classic film-noir movies.

Conquest of the Planet of the Apes is still damn entertaining and it’s certainly fucking poignant. It knows what message it wants to send and it does it incredibly well. Leaving a real uneasiness in your gut, as the darkest days for humanity lie ahead while also knowing that humanity is very much at fault.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: the four other Planet of the Apes movies from the original run, as well as the television show from the ’70s.