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

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.

Film Review: Don’t Torture a Duckling (1972)

Also known as: Fanatismo (Italy – alternative title), Voodoo (Greece – alternative title), Paperino (France – alternative title)
Release Date: September 29th, 1972 (Italy)
Directed by: Lucio Fulci
Written by: Lucio Fulci, Roberto Gianviti, Gianfranco Clerici
Music by: Riz Ortolani
Cast: Florinda Bolkan, Barbara Bouchet, Tomas Milian, Irene Papas, Marc Porel, Georges Wilson

Medusa Distribuzione, 105 Minutes

Review:

“Which would you prefer, a kiss or money?” – Patrizia

This isn’t a giallo that I had seen but being that I like the films I’ve seen from Lucio Fulci, I really had to give this a watch. And man, I’m glad I did, as it is a damn good motion picture and possibly Fulci’s best out of the movies I’ve seen.

It does what the best giallos do and that’s tapping into a noir structured narrative with a grittier, harder edge and elements of horror. Fulci would go on to be one of the best Italian horror directors and this film really shows the guy experimenting with his stylized violence and fairly gory practical effects.

What I liked best about the film is that even if you figure out who the killer is early on, which I did, the movie still throws so many curveballs that the reveal doesn’t matter as much as the journey. This is well structured and well written with several layers that enrich the the larger story and give it a lot of depth.

There’s a lot to take away from this movie and a lot of prime meat to chew on.

I don’t want to get too much into the plot, as I don’t want to spoil anything. However, it does do a lot of taboo things that are designed to make you feel uncomfortable. But it’s those moments of discomfort that really show you how great of a visual storyteller that Fulci is. He conveys pretty stark messages in his moving imagery and not much has to be explained. That’s real talent, especially when compared to many of the films today, which insult their audience’s intelligence and have to spell out everything and usually more than once.

The cinematography is superb, as were the locations used in the film. As an American watching this, it feels otherworldly or like it is set in a time much earlier than when it actually takes place.

The musical score by Riz Ortolani is also one of my favorites of his that I’ve heard. The music really gives a major assist to the visuals and they work in harmony like a perfect marriage: conveying emotion, tone and texture.

Plus, the acting is great. It’s hard not to crush on Barbara Bouchet, let’s be honest, but man, she’s so damn good in this. But then, so is Tomas Milian, who I mostly know from the spaghetti westerns he did in the ’60s and ’70s. They had real chemistry together and both of them enhanced each other’s performances. It’s a pairing I wish I could’ve seen more of in other films.

All in all, this may be the best of Fulci’s pictures that I’ve seen and it makes me want to delve headfirst into his other giallo offerings.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: other giallo films, primarily those by Fucli, Argento and Bava.

Film Review: Ben (1972)

Release Date: June 21st, 1972 (Los Angeles premiere)
Directed by: Phil Karlson
Written by: Gilbert Ralston
Based on: characters by Stephen Gilbert
Music by: Walter Scharf
Cast: Lee Montgomery, Joseph Campanella, Arthur O’Connell, Rosemary Murphy, Meredith Baxter, Bruce Davison (archive footage)

Bing Crosby Productions, Rysher Entertainment, Cinerama Releasing Corporation, 94 Minutes

Review:

“[singing while showing his Ben marionette to the real rat, Ben] Start the day, oh come along now, Ben. Come on out, before I count to ten. If you stay, you will miss all the fun and there’s room for everyone.” – Danny Garrison

Well, this is a very different movie than its predecessor. But I think a lot of that is due to the main character being a young, sick boy who has a passion for making marionettes and singing his own show tunes.

It’s a weird film in that the tone is completely inconsistent throughout, as on one hand, it feels like a dramatic kids movie about a sad boy that likes being creative and theatrical, while on the other hand, it’s about rats that eat people. These two things can work together but in this film, they don’t.

Also, coming off of how dark the first film ended, this comes off as even stranger and not really sure of what it’s supposed to be building off of.

That being said, I still kind of enjoyed it. Not to the point that I’d probably ever watch it again but it’s such a unique and disjointed picture that it’s hard not to be somewhat lured into it.

Also, the kid is really charming and you do feel for him and his situation, even if there are moments where he show signs of being a totally evil little shit.

This also feels more like a TV movie than an actual theatrical motion picture. It felt like a two-hour pilot to a TV series sequel of the first film. Weirdly, it plays like its trying to appeal to kids.

Anyway, a boy finds Ben, the leader of the rat army from Willard, befriends him and sees him as his only friend because the only other kid in the movie is a bully. The kid lies to his sister and mother about what’s actually going on and he even covers up for the rats when they try to eat the bully kid.

There’s not much to really sink your teeth into with this one and honestly, it’s probably most famous for the theme song Michael Jackson provided and simply because it’s the sequel to a cult classic film. 

Rating: 5.25/10
Pairs well with: it’s predecessor Willard, as well as the 2003 Willard remake with Crispin Glover.

Film Review: The Way of the Dragon (1972)

Also known as: Fury of the Dragon (European English title), Revenge of the Dragon (US cable TV title), Return of the Dragon (US dubbed version)
Release Date: June 1st, 1972 (Hong Kong)
Directed by: Bruce Lee
Written by: Bruce Lee
Music by: Joseph Ko
Cast: Bruce Lee, Nora Miao, Paul Wei, Tony Liu, Unicorn Chan, Chuck Norris, Malisa Longo, Robert Wall, Hwang In-shik, Jon T. Benn 

Golden Harvest Films, Concord Productions, 99 Minutes, 133 Minutes (extended cut), 86 Minutes (censored cut)

Review:

“Let him know. If I ever see him here again… he won’t leave alive!” – Tang Lung

While this is my least favorite of the trilogy of martial arts films that Bruce Lee made before the legendary Enter the Dragon, this one does have the best finale of the three, as it pits Bruce Lee against Chuck Norris and then shows him kick the f’n shit out a bunch of gangsters.

The story takes place in what was modern 1970s Rome. Lee and his family’s restaurant is terrorized by local mafiosos, so he takes it upon himself to beat them all to a bloody pulp for 99 minutes.

The plot is fairly weak and generic but I like most of the characters from Lee’s family to the evil mob boss to Chuck Norris’ Colt.

If one were to pull the action sequences from this film, it’d be dreadfully dull. However, the action and Lee’s presence keep the film afloat.

In fact, the fight choreography in this movie is stunning but that should probably go without saying, as Lee never disappointed in that regard. Adding Chuck Norris to the mix only maximizes the awesome action sequences.

Ultimately, this is a pretty fun movie to watch for its high points but it still pales in comparison to Enter the Dragon, which followed.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: the other Bruce Lee martial arts films of the ’70s.

Film Review: Horror Express (1972)

Also known as: Pánico en el Transiberiano (original Spanish title), The Possessor (US re-issue title), Panic in the Trans-Siberian Train (alternate title)
Release Date: September 30th, 1972 (Sitges – Catalonian International Film Festival)
Directed by: Eugenio Martin
Written by: Arnaud d’Usseau, Julian Zimet
Music by: John Cacavas
Cast: Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Telly Savalas, Silvia Tortosa

Granada Films, Benmar Productions, 91 Minutes

Review:

“The two of you together. That’s fine. But what if one of you is the monster?” – Inspector Mirov

It’s been at least a decade since I’ve watched Horror Express but I really didn’t like it the few times I saw it, even though it is one of the 22 motion pictures that teamed up real life best friends Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing. It also features another one of my favorite actors, Telly Savalas.

I’m not sure why I wasn’t a fan of it, as I liked it this time around but maybe I’m older, more mature, have a better palate and thought that this thing was a bit of a fine wine with just the right amount of cheese to accompany it.

I think that one of the reason’s I never liked it was due to the fact that all the prints and releases of this film are in pretty poor quality. I hope it gets a proper remaster, at some point. But I was able to not let that bother me this time, as I got caught up in the story, most of which I hadn’t remembered other than this being a mummy on a train movie.

There’s a weird twist though, this mummy is actually an alien and he has this power where he uses his glowing eyes to peer through his victims’ eyes and murder them with some sort of brain crushing ability. However, the alien mummy has to kill people to regain his form and his strength but he also can control them like an undead army.

This movie feels like a mix between Agatha Christie’s Murder On the Orient Express and a classic Hammer horror film. But it looks more like the ’70s visual style of an Amicus production. Strangely, this is neither a Hammer or Amicus film but it was able to lure in the talents of Lee and Cushing.

I liked the setting and how the environment was used so well. A train kind of limits what one can do in a horror movie but it never wrecked the plot here and it actually made you feel just as confined as the characters.

The movie uses miniatures for the exterior train shots but they come off really well. That could be due to the poor quality of the print hiding the imperfections but even the big finale, which sees part of the train go over a cliff was pulled off nicely.

I’m glad that I revisited this. I didn’t expect to actually dig it as much as I did this time but sometimes you can revisit something you weren’t fond of and see something new or worthwhile that you may have missed before.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: Amicus and Hammer Films of the early ’70s, especially those featuring Peter Cushing or Christopher Lee.

Film Review: Sisters (1972)

Also known as: Blood Sisters (Ireland)
Release Date: November 18th, 1972 (Filmex)
Directed by: Brian De Palma
Written by: Brian De Palma, Louisa Rose
Music by: Bernard Herrmann
Cast: Margot Kidder, Jennifer Salt, William Finley, Charles Durning, Olympia Dukakis, Art Evans (uncredited)

American International Pictures, 92 Minutes

Review:

“I saw a murder, and I’m going to prove it!” – Grace Collier

Brian De Palma is a very talented director. This early film from him has him tapping into Alfred Hitchcock territory. While De Palma is no Hitchcock, this is as good as Hitchcock’s ’70s films, after he moved on from his prime.

Funny enough, De Palma got Bernard Herrmann to do the score for this film. For those that don’t know, Herrmann was a regular collaborator with Hitchcock. He also did the scores for Citizen KaneThe Magnificent Ambersons, The Day the Earth Stood Still and a slew of other classic pictures.

Herrmann’s score here is incredible and this wouldn’t be the same movie without Herrmann’s melodic, enchanting and otherworldly music. Sometimes the score is slow and beautiful, other times it is pounding, a bit shrill but always interesting.

De Palma channels his inner Hitchcock in his style and narrative structure. This is like a Hitchcockian thriller turned up to 11. This is a murder mystery story but it has very dark and unusual twists. In fact, I had never seen this before and having now seen it, I can see where all these other films and novels I’ve enjoyed have taken cues from the story’s twist.

The visual style is also heavily borrowed from Hitchcock but De Palma does it so well that this is much more of a strong and respectful homage than the director simply emulating a master.

The dream/hallucination sequence towards the end is majestic and nightmarish.

De Palma also taps into Hitchcock’s cinematic obsession of voyeurism. There are elements of Rear Window and Psycho in this but De Palma pulls this all off without a hitch.

This was a really cool film, which makes me appreciate the early work of De Palma even more.

Plus, Margot Kidder was absolutely superb in this. Jennifer Salt was a lot of fun too.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: other early De Palma films: Obsession, Dressed to Kill, Phantom of the Paradise and The Fury.

Film Review: The Last House On the Left (1972)

Also known as: Bad Company, Grim Company, Krug & Company, Night of Vengeance, Sex Crime of the Century (working titles)
Release Date: August 30th, 1972
Directed by: Wes Craven
Written by: Wes Craven
Music by: David Alexander Hess
Cast: Sandra Peabody, Lucy Grantham, David A. Hess, Fred Lincoln, Jeramie Rain, Marc Sheffler, Martin Kove

Sean S. Cunningham Films, The Night Co., Hallmark Releasing, 84 Minutes, 64 Minutes (heavily cut), 91 Minutes (original cut), 82 Minutes (R rated cut)

Review:

“How’d we get into the sex-crime business anyway? My brother Saul, a plumber, makes twice as much money as I do and gets three weeks vacation, too.” – Fred “Weasel” Podowski

I’ve never liked this film. To be honest, I’m not a huge Wes Craven fan, even though A Nightmare On Elm Street is one of my favorite horror films of all-time. Outside of the Nightmare series, Craven just hasn’t resonated with me.

This isn’t a good film but hardcore exploitation and grindhouse fans like to convince people that this is some sort of masterpiece. While I don’t mind gore and horrible things and I actually like grindhouse movies, I’ve never been a fan of gore for the sake of gore or shock just to shock. These are cheap parlor tricks and without substance surrounding them to give them purpose or more meaning, these tricks really don’t mean anything.

The Last House On the Left is a rather pointless film that just uses its time to try to disgust you for no other reason than it came out in a time where filmmakers could really do anything that they wanted and young filmmakers, especially, had to push the bar as high as they could just to get noticed. But when everyone is doing the same thing, you’ve got to push the bar so high that the average person on the ground will never see it.

The film is comprised of two halves, which completely ignores a three act structure but hey, Wes Craven is the king or something.

The first half is a long drawn out torture and rape sequence that takes up more than half of the film. The second half is the parents of one of the victims getting revenge on the psychos. Somehow, these parents turn psycho themselves, instead of just calling the cops when these evil people are actually just squatting in their house.

Nothing in this film makes much sense. It’s supposed to freak you out by showing people just being psychotic for no other reason than psychos gonna psycho.

The acting is terrible, the camera work is worse than terrible and the film’s music almost made me go psycho.

Some people think that this is a classic. It’s far from a classic. It’s gratuitous and even then, I’ve seen much worse in that department. Most of all, the film is really fucking slow and boring. Maybe it was effective in 1972 but considering it only appealed to an audience of miscreants jacking off in rundown Times Square porno and grindhouse theaters, this probably was just a regular Tuesday for them.

Rating: 4/10
Pairs well with: Other exploitation films of the era with a high emphasis on gore and horror: I Spit On Your Grave, Cannibal Holocaust, The Hills Have Eyes, Cannibal Ferox.