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
“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.
Also known as: Dr. Phibes (promotional title), The Curse of Dr. Phibes (Yugoslavia) Release Date: May 18th, 1971 Directed by: Robert Fuest Written by: William Goldstein, James Whiton, Robert Fuest Music by: Basil Kirchin Cast: Vincent Price, Joseph Cotton, Peter Jeffrey, Virginia North, Hugh Griffith, Caroline Munro
American International Pictures, 94 Minutes
“A brass unicorn has been catapulted across a London street and impaled an eminent surgeon. Words fail me, gentlemen.” – Waverley
Being that I haven’t seen either Dr. Phibes movie in at least a dozen years, I forgot how funny this film is. It’s not overly comedic, “ha ha” funny, it’s just very cheeky and dry in a uniquely British way.
The film stars the legendary Vincent Price but instead of having him star alongside another horror legend or B-movie leading man, he actually stars alongside the great Joseph Cotton, who is a legend in his own way, especially due to his stupendous work with one of the greatest cinematic visionaries that ever lived, Orson Welles.
The film is also filled with some recognizable British character actors of the time but it is also worth mentioning that the mesmerizing and perfect Caroline Munro is in this. However, she plays Phibes’ deceased wife and is only really seen in photographs and as a corpse.
Phibes also has a female assistant, played by Virginia North, and she is pretty damn good in this up to her terrible, painful end.
The plot is about a madman who has been disfigured by acid. Beyond that, he wants revenge against the nine men he deems responsible for his wife’s death on the operating table. In order to exact revenge, Phibes murders the men in very elaborate ways that are inspired by The Ten Plagues of Egypt. Watching each of these play out is really cool.
The film itself is also visually stunning, as it employs an art deco style with vibrant colors that almost resemble an Italian giallo film. It’s an opulent and vivid looking picture and mixing that with the elaborate murders makes these come across as more high brow and artistic that Price’s typical movies made by American International.
On top of that, Price is superb in this film and it is one of his best and most iconic performances.
Ultimately, this is a damn fine horror picture for its day. It’s creative, alluring and strangely enchanting in spite of its dark subject matter.
Rating: 8.25/10 Pairs well with: its sequel, as well as other ’60s and ’70s Vincent Price movies.
Also known as: The Fanatic (UK), Love to Kill (Germany), Fanatico (Spain), Fanatismo Letal (Venezuela), Fanatical Extreme (US video title) Release Date: October 9th, 1982 (Spain – Sitges Film Festival) Directed by: David Winters Written by: Judd Hamilton, Tom Klassen, David Winters Music by: Jeff Koz, Jesse Frederick Cast: Caroline Munro, Joe Spinell, Judd Hamilton, Filomena Spagnuolo, David Winters, Susanne Benton
Shere Productions, Winters Hollywood Entertainment Holdings Corporation, Troma Entertainment, 87 Minutes
“I’ve seen enough fake blood to know the real thing when I see it.” – Jana Bates
I recently revisited Maniac, which starred Joe Spinell and Caroline Munro. I knew about this movie, which also starred both of them and came out just two years later. I’ve never seen it but since I cherish both actors, I figured that seeing this was long overdue.
I wasn’t sure what to expect, I just knew that a New York City cab driver goes to the Cannes Film Festival in France due to his obsession over a film starlet.
One thing I didn’t expect from this was the comedy element. But I actually enjoy it quite a bit, as it lets Spinell really ham it up. The scenes between him and his mother, who is played by his real life mom, were funny as hell and their personal chemistry comes through in a very charming way.
Side note: For those that don’t know, Spinell was really close to his mom and despite his life as a character actor and party animal, he always kept his mom close. Little did I know that he actually included her in one of his films.
Beyond that, I really like Spinell and Caroline Munro when they’re together. This is the third time they’ve been in the same movie after Maniac and the cheap Italian Star Wars ripoff, Starcrash.
The really cool thing about this movie, is that like Maniac, it almost has giallo notes to it. Plus, setting it in Cannes and filming it during the festival created an awesome and unique atmosphere for something so dark, violent, gory and borderline slasher-y.
Additionally, the filmmakers rely on your knowledge of Spinell’s past characters, specifically his role in Maniac, to play off of and to set up a really good twist ending that you won’t see coming.
Seeing this, I was surprised to find out that I actually prefer it to Maniac, even though it’s nowhere near as well known and was sort of lost to time for a few decades before Troma decided to dust it off and distribute it on DVD.
Rating: 7.5/10 Pairs well with:Maniac, which also stars Joe Spinell and Caroline Munro, as well as other late ’70s and early ’80s horror and slasher films.
Release Date: May 10th, 1980 (Cannes) Directed by: William Lustig Written by: C. A. Rosenberg, Joe Spinell Music by: Jay Chattaway Cast: Joe Spinell, Caroline Munro, Tom Savini, William Lustig
Magnum Motion Pictures Inc., 87 Minutes
“I told you not to go out tonight, didn’t I? Every time you go out, this kind of thing happens.” – Frank Zito
William Lustig made some really interesting horror films in his heyday. While I knew about Maniac Cop first, I spent a lot of my time in mom and pop video stores in the ’80s and discovered this at a pretty young age. It was one of those horror movies that left a lasting impact on me because I was much more scared of the real and plausible than I was of supernatural monsters or ghosts.
I definitely saw this film at a much younger age than I should have but us ’80s kids didn’t have great supervision and a lot of video stores would rent anything to anyone because society wasn’t overly pussified back then.
Anyway, this always had a special place in my mental nostalgia locker due to its impact on me, the fact that it has the mesmerizing Caroline Munro in it and because Joe Spinell was one of the coolest actors of his era. That could also be because I knew Spinell from the Rocky films and because he just has a very unique and memorable appearance. He, along with Dick Miller, were the two character actors that I started to notice in all the cool movies.
The one thing that is really cool about this picture is that it is American but it really has an Italian giallo style to it. Granted, it’s not as vivid, visually, and relies more on the gritty realism of New York City, at the time, but it still feels like it belongs in that very specific, short-lived genre.
I’ve talked before about how giallo kind of gave birth to the American slasher movie. This might actually be the best example of that. And while this isn’t specifically a slasher flick, as the killer uses guns and other tools, it really sort of bridges the gap between the two genres or styles.
Honestly, it just feels like it is both parts, a product of it’s influences and something that was a wee bit ahead of the cinematic horror trends. I don’t think any of that was something that Lustig thought about or planned for but it’s the way I see it and it really cements this film as one that is eternally relevant due to its significance to the larger picture.
Plus, this also has an awesome cameo by special effects maestro Tom Savini. The scene where he blows up his own head is one of the absolute best head splatter shots in motion picture history.
Also, this has an ending that is absolutely bonkers and kind of surprising.
Maniac isn’t a great film by any stretch of the imagination but it is a culturally significant one for those who love these sort of flicks.
Rating: 7.25/10 Pairs well with: other William Lustig films, as well as late ’70s/early ’80s slasher flicks and Italian giallo.
Also known as: Kronos (US short title), Vampire Castle (alternative title) Release Date: April 7th, 1974 (UK) Directed by: Brian Clemens Written by: Brian Clemens Music by: Laurie Johnson Cast: Horst Janson, John Carson, Caroline Munro, John Cater
Hammer Films, 91 Minutes
“What he doesn’t know about vampirism wouldn’t fill a flea’s codpiece.” – Kronos
After revisiting and reviewing Hammer’s The Karnstein Trilogy of films, I wanted to go back and watch Captain Kronos, as it features another Karnstein vampire but it isn’t considered part of the other three films. I went into this in my Twins of Evil review, so I won’t rehash it here.
Another reason why I wanted to watch this again was Caroline Munro, who was one of my earliest crushes and frankly, that crush has never worn off. I love her and she’s a lot of fun in this vampire swashbuckler.
This film is pretty great, especially for those who like not just classic Hammer-style horror but also for those who love adventure and a little bit of swashbuckling. Granted, there are no pirate ships and tropical locales here. But our hero, Captain Kronos isn’t afraid of crossing swords with evil.
Kronos, who is a cool character, isn’t alone in his quest to vanquish undead evil. He actually has a small group that works with him, my favorite of which is played by John Carson, a guy who should have been in more Hammer movies because he always has a great presence. While I most associate him with his role as the villain in The Plague of Zombies, a damn enjoyable film, his role here is more fleshed out, more heroic and he just nails the part so well that his death onscreen stings a bit.
We also get a lot of Caroline Munro in this movie and she’s striking gorgeous and always exciting to watch, as she has real charm and she can ham it up in the right way. And that’s a necessary skill in this picture, as it is lighthearted and fun, even if it exists within the sphere of Hammer horror.
This was a cool concept and I assume that it was supposed to be the start of a new vampire-centric franchise for Hammer, as they had just wrapped up the Dracula and Karnstein series of films.
Unfortunately, there weren’t anymore Kronos movies after this one and the world didn’t get to see any further adventures of this awesome hero. I kind of feel cheated.
Although, there would be a comic book miniseries, several years later. One of these days, I’ll round up all the issues and review them.
Rating: 7.25/10 Pairs well with:The Karnstein Trilogy and Countess Dracula, as well as Vampire Circus and Hammer’s Dracula films.
Release Date: July 7th, 1977 (London premiere) Directed by: Lewis Gilbert Written by: Christopher Wood, Richard Maibaum Based on: the James Bond novels by Ian Fleming Music by: Marvin Hamlisch Cast: Roger Moore, Barbara Bach, Curd Jürgens, Richard Kiel, Caroline Munro, Bernard Lee, Desmond Llewelyn, Lois Maxwell
Eon Productions, United Artists, 125 Minutes
“Mmm, maybe I misjudged Stromberg. Any man who drinks Dom Perignon ’52 can’t be all bad.” – James Bond
It has been a really long time since I’ve seen this particular James Bond movie, which is why I wanted to pop it into the DVD player. My memories of it weren’t spectacular but I really enjoyed it this time around and I now rank it really high in the Roger Moore era.
But what’s not to like?
You have Roger Moore, who is Roger friggin’ Moore. Then you have Barbara Bach as the female Soviet equivalent to Bond. This film also introduces Jaws, played by my favorite giant (after Peter Mayhew), Richard Kiel. Plus Curd Jürgens’ Karl Stromberg is one of the best non-SPECTRE villains in the entire Bond franchise. And I certainly can’t forget the apple of my eye, Caroline Munro.
One thing that also makes this entry into the massive Bond franchise so great is the locations. I loved all the stuff that was filmed in Egypt. The scene with Bond and Amasova tracking Jaws through the giant pillars is one of the best sequences in the entire film series. Also, the scene during the pyramid light show has some of the coolest shots and cinematography in the franchise.
Additionally, the set of Stromberg’s underwater fortress was well built and designed. The place looked sinister as hell and had a very brooding vibe, as it sprouted from the ocean surface.
This film, looking at it now, features the best tandem of Bond girls, in my opinion. Bach is perfect in her role as Major Anya Amasova a.k.a. Agent XXX. She owned the part and was much more than just a pretty face needing to be rescued. Of course, she did need to be rescued in the end. Caroline Munro, who is incredibly stunning, looked like she was having a blast as the helicopter pilot trying to kill Bond and Amasova. She had the right mix of sexual allure and sadism. I just wish she had more time to shine in the picture.
The fights between Bond and Jaws were well executed and the fisticuffs played out well. I was glad that they created Jaws as this unstoppable character that survives the craziest situations only to stand and fight, again and again. I was really glad to see him return for this film’s direct sequel Moonraker.
My memories of this movie weren’t great but this is one of the Bond films I have seen the least. I’m glad that my memory was wrong and that I got to see this in a different light. Or maybe I’ve been watching so much crap lately, that anything with a semblance of quality would’ve made me happy.
Release Date: July 1976 (US) Directed by: Kevin Connor Written by: Milton Subotsky Based on:At Earth’s Core by Edgar Rice Burroughs Music by: Mike Vickers Cast: Doug McClure, Peter Cushing, Caroline Munro
Amicus Productions, American International Pictures, British Lion Films, 89 Minutes
Being that I have now watched At Earth’s Core means that I have now gotten through the new season of Mystery Science Theater 3000, which is kind of friggin’ depressing.
Truthfully, I had already seen this, as it is an Amicus film with Peter Cushing in it. It also has Caroline Munro, a huge childhood crush of mine, who always turned my heart into putty I would have freely given her to play with. I still would. I am weak in the presence of Ms. Munro even though she’s only been on my television set. Also, I’m calling her “Ms.” to ignore whether or not she ever married.
Anyway, Caroline Munro perv rant out of the way, on to the movie itself.
The film actually isn’t too bad. Considering that it is an Amicus production and that it has a tiny budget, I can live with the results.
It stars Doug McClure, who starred in Amicus’ other Edgar Rice Burroughs adaptation The Land That Time Forgot. He’s a hammy and bulky “save the babe” sort of guy. The babe being Ms. Munro.
It also stars Peter Cushing, one of my all-time favorite actors. However, in this, he is really bizarre and overly goofy. His voice is weird and quite annoying and his mannerisms are like that of a regal British gentlemen drinking too many pints of ale and being dared by his mates to walk around like that asshole Jerry Lewis. I pretty much hate Cushing in this movie and I hate saying I hate Cushing in anything. I mean, it’s Peter F’n Cushing!
The film is colorful, I like the cinematography even if it feels really dated for 1976. The colors and sets look like something out of a 60s Roger Corman sci-fi picture. I love the colors, actually but the film feels like it has less production value than its predecessor The Land That Time Forgot, which predates this by two years.
Additionally, the effects, in general, are also a step down. While the creatures and monsters are cooler concepts than the standard dinosaurs in The Land That Time Forgot, their rubber suits and overall construction just look really shoddy.
Don’t even get me started on the atrocious ape men.
Despite its faults, At Earth’s Core is still a fun picture to check out if you love the classic Burroughs and Jules Verne adventure films from the 1950s through 1970s.
I already covered the first four films in this series. So now on to the final four.
Taste the Blood of Dracula (1970):
Release Date: May 7th, 1970 (UK) Directed by: Peter Sasdy Written by: Anthony Hinds Based on:Dracula by Bram Stoker Music by: James Bernard Cast: Christopher Lee, Geoffrey Keen, Gwen Watford, Linda Hayden, Madeline Smith, Michael Ripper, Ralph Bates, John Carson
Hammer Film Productions, Warner-Pathé Distributors, Warner Bros., 95 Minutes (UK), 91 Minutes (USA)
This is one of the darkest of the Hammer studios Dracula films. Actually, I would say that it is the darkest.
The opening scene sees a greedy salesman stumble upon Dracula dying, as this scene is edited together with the closing moments of the previous film. When Dracula dies, this man takes all of his belongings and even collects his blood, which is now in a powder form.
The main group of characters, at least in the first half of the film, are these rich eccentric men and “model citizens” who have a secret club where they dabble in seedy behavior because they are bored with their seemingly humble and moral lives. When they get tired of brothels and their typical seediness, they meet a somewhat insane and possessed young man who leads them to Dracula’s belongings and most importantly, the vampire’s blood. The men are grossed out at the thought of drinking the evil Count’s blood but the crazed young man takes a swig, causing him to cry out in pain as the freaked out rich men beat him to death. In this mayhem, Dracula begins to resurrect.
The rest of the story follows Dracula seeking revenge on the three rich men for some reason. He also fancies all the women and one of their beaus has to become the hero.
I love the plot of this film but after a great setup, the last act is a bit anti-climactic.
Scars of Dracula (1970):
Release Date: November 8th, 1970 (UK) Directed by: Roy Ward Baker Written by: Anthony Hinds Based on:Dracula by Bram Stoker Music by: James Bernard Cast: Christopher Lee, Patrick Troughton, Dennis Waterman, Jenny Hanley, Michael Gwynn, Michael Ripper
Hammer Film Productions, EMI Films, 20th Century Fox, MGM-EMI, 91 Minutes
They didn’t waste time making this film, as it came out just about six months after the previous installment.
This chapter in the series is infamous for being the most violent entry. It isn’t full of stomach-churning gore but it is much more bloody and intense than any other film in the series. I feel like Hammer thought that they had to up the ante somehow and more gore and more blood was the easiest route.
Scars of Dracula reintroduces us to the religious protagonist once again, after we got a break from the formula in the last movie. Although his role is pretty limited to just a few scenes. The religious hero is played by Michael Gwynn. The main protagonist is a young man looking for his missing brother, who finds himself protecting his love. Classic Doctor Who fans should love the fact that the Second Doctor, Patrick Troughton, plays Count Dracula’s servant.
This is a solid film in the series. Really, none of these movies are bad. It actually does amaze me though, that the quality is still there six films deep.
Dracula A.D. 1972 (1972):
Release Date: September 28th, 1972 (UK) Directed by: Alan Gibson Written by: Don Houghton Based on:Dracula by Bram Stoker Music by: Mike Vickers Cast: Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Caroline Munro, Stephanie Beacham, Christopher Neame
Hammer Film Productions, Columbia-Warner Distributors, 96 Minutes
This film freshens things up a bit by bringing Dracula into what was then the modern world. It also brings Van Helsing back to the series (played by the great Peter Cushing once again) as he plays two versions of the character. He plays the original version of Van Helsing in 1872 and then plays his great-grandson, in 1972. Both amazingly look exactly the same.
The story follows a Dracula disciple named Johnny Alucard (“Dracula” spelled backwards) and his attempt to raise the evil count and exact revenge on the Van Helsing family by sacrificing the professor’s niece to the dark lord.
I actually enjoy this film a lot and think that the 1972 setting was great. The teens in the film weren’t annoying and actually were all pretty likable and cool characters. Even the villain, Johnny Alucard had a great presence and is still, to this day, one of my favorite vampire characters in film history. His death was a little bizarre though.
The film also features Caroline Munro as Dracula’s first sacrifice. She was a Bond girl in The Spy Who Loved Me, a few years, later and she is one of my all-time favorite girls in that film series. Here, she was a bit younger, just as beautiful and really captured the scenes she was in.
Christopher Lee didn’t get as much screen time as I would like but he still owned the scenes he was in and it was nice seeing Dracula and Van Helsing facing off once again.
The Satanic Rites of Dracula (1973):
Release Date: November 3rd, 1973 (UK) Directed by: Alan Gibson Written by: Don Houghton Based on:Dracula by Bram Stoker Music by: John Cacavas Cast: Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Joanna Lumley, Michael Coles
Hammer Film Productions, Warner Bros. Pictures, 87 Minutes
This is the final film in the Hammer Dracula series. It is also the weakest.
For the most part, this film is enjoyable because it features Christopher Lee as Dracula and Peter Cushing as Van Helsing and it is their final showdown. And frankly, I’ll watch any film with either man in it and especially any film with both of them in it.
Taking place in the modern era, like the previous film, this one misses its mark somewhat. Where its predecessor was campy and fun, this one was extremely dark, fairly gorey and was the first film in the series with lots of gratuitous nudity. In fact, I don’t think there was nudity at all in any of the previous Hammer Dracula movies.
Now I am not one to complain about nudity but the use of it in this film doesn’t really fit the vibe and style of the series. And where I would let kids watch most of the other films, I’d have to keep this one hidden on a higher shelf in my DVD library.
I feel like they should have ended the series with the previous film. This just felt forced and neither Cushing nor Lee looked all that interested in this picture when they were on screen. At least the film before this had some charm.
*There is another film with Peter Cushing as Van Helsing. It is “The Legend of the Seven Golden Vampires”. Dracula is also in the film but he is not played by Christopher Lee. Also, this isn’t a straight up Hammer Horror film, it is actually a co-produced horror/kung-fu flick that was a collaboration between Hammer and Shaw Brothers (a prominent kung-fu studio at the time). I will review this at some point, I’m sure.
Release Date: March 7th, 1979 (USA) Directed by: Luigi Cozzi Written by: Nat Wachsberger, Patrick Wachsberger Music by: John Barry Cast: Marjoe Gortner, Caroline Munro, Judd Hamilton, Robert Tessier, Christopher Plummer, David Hasselhoff, Joe Spinell
Columbia, American International Pictures, New World Pictures, 94 Minutes
Starcrash is an Italian science fiction fantasy film that came out during the height of low budget Italian ripoffs of successful American films. The copyright laws in Italy of the 1970s were pretty chill and they produced a slew of films that would’ve had filmmakers lawsuit crazy in the United States.
It is pretty obvious that this movie is a ripoff of Star Wars. From the use of lightsabers, a giant planet destroying super weapon and pretty much everything else in this movie, it is pretty clear what the Italians were trying to tap into.
Of course, being that it is an Italian film, it is sexy as hell. The movie stars a scantily clad Caroline Munro. Still to this day, she is everything I want in a woman. Okay, maybe not everything but she was my first crush as a kid and out of all my childhood crushes, is the one I still find stunning and absolutely perfect, whether it was in this film, Dracula A.D. 1972, Captain Kronos – Vampire Hunter, The Spy Who Loved Me, Maniac, The Golden Voyage of Sinbad, Slaughter High, The Last Horror Film, At Earth’s Core or as a beautiful deceased corpse in the Dr. Phibes movies. But this isn’t about me perving over the stunning Ms. Munro.
Starcrash is a really bad film. So bad that it was featured on an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000. But it is one of those bad films that is quite good for its faults.
The dialogue and situations are unintentionally funny. The characters are over the top and too bizarre to believe. And then there is the dubbing. Caroline Munro is an English speaking actress, being that she is from England, but she got a bizarre American accent dub from another actress. It just makes this film feel even more surreal than it already does.
We also get to see a very young David Hasselhoff show up in the film as a prince who needs rescuing but is actually a pretty heroic character in his own right. Joe Spinell, who would go on to work with Munro in several films and is most known as Gazzo in the first two Rocky films, plays the evil Count Zarth Arn.
The one thing that stands out above all else in this film, is the fact that it looks like 70s pop art. The bad effects and space battles are beautiful in their simplicity and color. The set design looks like something Roger Corman would’ve done twenty years prior but they work and make this film one of the best campy sci-fi movies in history.
This film has a 4.0 on IMDb, I get it. As a piece of filmmaking it is a 4.0 film. However, as far as being fun and unintentionally awesome for all its flaws, it is a much better watch than a 4.0 film.