TV Review: 100 Years of Horror (1996-1997)

Original Run: 1996 – 1997
Created by: Ted Newsom, Dante J. Pugliese
Directed by: Ted Newsom
Written by: Ted Newson, Jeff Forrester (uncredited)
Cast: Christopher Lee (presenter), Roger Corman, Hugh Hefner, Fred Olen Ray, Richard Denning, Bela Lugosi Jr., Hazel Court, Robert Wise, Beverly Garland, Gloria Talbott, Sara Karloff, Dick Miller, Caroline Munro, John Agar, Ralph Bellamy, John Carpenter, Richard Matheson, Linnea Quigley, various

Multicom Entertainment Group, 26 Episodes, 22 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

I’m glad that this documentary television series was made when it was, in the mid-’90s, as it allowed for the children of multiple horror icons to be involved and to tell stories about their fathers, their careers and their personal lives outside of the public eye.

Additionally, I love that this was able to include a lot of the filmmakers, writers and actors that were involved in a lot of classic horror films. Had this been made today, a lot of these people wouldn’t have been able to tell their stories in their own words, as they’re no longer with us.

Also, I love that Christopher Lee was the presenter of this series, as there wasn’t a more perfect choice available.

This series features 26 episodes, roughly 22 minutes apiece. Each episode tackles a different subject, be it a type of monster or a legendary horror actor. Plus, each episode covers a lot of ground for its running time, jumping through history and trying to show the audience everything it possibly can on the subject.

There really isn’t a dull episode, as there are so many different things that can be covered. There could’ve been more episodes and there still would’ve more topics to explore.

I like that this just dives right in and delivers so much. In fact, every episode showed me something I wasn’t aware of and helped me expand my list of old school horror movies that I still have left to watch and review.

All in all, this was pretty great and classic horror fans will probably find themselves lost in each episode, traveling through time and seeing things they still haven’t seen before.

Rating: 7.5/10

Film Review: The Golden Voyage of Sinbad (1973)

Also known as: Sinbad’s Golden Voyage (working title)
Release Date: December 20th, 1973 (London premiere)
Directed by: Gordon Hessler
Written by: Brian Clemens
Based on: Sinbad the Sailor from One Thousand and One Nights
Music by: Miklos Rozsa
Cast: John Phillip Law, Tom Baker, Caroline Munro, Takis Emmanuel, Douglas Wilmer, Martin Shaw, Robert Shaw (uncredited)

Morningside Productions, Ameran Films, Columbia Pictures, 105 Minutes

Review:

“Trust in Allah, but tie up your camel!” – Sinbad

I’ve got to be honest, I didn’t expect to love this movie as much as I did. I honestly just wanted to check it out because it had Caroline Munro in it. I mean, I was also sold on the fact that it had Ray Harryhausen stop-motion special effects, as well as Tom Baker and John Phillip Law in it.

I still figured that this would just be slightly better than meh.

To my surprise, this movie was a heck of an adventure that was packed full of action and charming characters that had solid and jovial camaraderie.

This really has the same spirit as a classic swashbuckler while also adding in some cool fantasy elements and special effects that were, honestly, some of the best I’ve seen from this era. Had I been a kid in 1973 and seen this in the theater, I would’ve loved the hell out of it.

I like Sinbad movies and frankly, I should actually watch more of them. Especially, the others that also feature Harryhausen’s work. His creatures in this were friggin’ great. I was most impressed by the six armed statue and her sword fight with the film’s hero.

I thought that the story was pretty good too and I really liked the casting.

John Phillip Law was enjoyable as Sinbad but Tom Baker was intriguing as hell as the evil sorcerer. It’s really cool seeing Baker play such a bastard when he’s most known for playing one of the most popular incarnations of The Doctor on Doctor Who.

If you’ve ever read any of my reviews of movies with Caroline Munro in them, then you know how I feel about her in everything. As far as I’m concerned, she should’ve been the leading woman in every film from the ’70s and into the ’80s.

The Golden Voyage of Sinbad is an entertaining popcorn movie and that’s all it needed to be. Luckily for us, the filmmakers went the extra mile and gave us something fairly exceptional.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: other Sinbad movies, especially those with special effects by Ray Harryhausen.

Film Review: Slaughter High (1985)

Also known as: April Fool’s Day (working title), The Last Laugh (alternative title)
Release Date: May 10th, 1985 (Cannes)
Directed by: Mark Ezra, Peter Litten, George Dugdale
Written by: Mark Ezra, Peter Litten, George Dugdale
Music by: Harry Manfredini
Cast: Simon Scudamore, Caroline Munro, Carmine Iannaconne, Gary Martin, Billy Hartman, Michael Saffran, Donna Yeager, Josephine Scandi, John Segal, Kelly Baker, Sally Cross

Spectacular Trading International, Vestron PIctures, 90 Minutes, 91 Minutes (uncut)

Review:

“We’ll take my car. It starts every time.” – Carol

The film’s tagline on its original poster boasts “From the makers of Friday the 13th” but honestly, I don’t know what the fuck the marketing department was talking about because the three writers/directors and the two producers don’t have that film listed under their credits.

One of the producers was known for working in exploitation films and porn, so maybe he was just using one of those old school tricks like flat out lying to get his film in theaters and then hoping he could sweep it under the rug if the big wigs at Paramount Pictures ever found out.

Whatever. This film came and went like the passing of the wind and nearly no one noticed it. I guess it developed a bit of a cult following over the years but having now seen it, I have no idea why. It’s absolute shit. And I don’t say that lightly, as the love of my life, Caroline Munro, is in this thing.

Granted, I’m not sure why Caroline Munro is playing a high school student when she was thirty-five at the time of filming. Still, she’s always been damn beautiful and I’m not going to nitpick about her being in a movie… ever.

Other than Munro, the film is a complete dud. It’s your standard slasher plot about a kid getting bullied, a prank gone wrong and then he puts on a mask and starts chopping up thirty year-old teens.

While I generally like slasher movies, even bad ones, this is just on another level of sucktitude. The story takes too long to get going, once it does, it’s just dull and pretty uneventful until the home stretch.

It’s also wrecked by one of the worst film scores that I’ve ever heard. Strangely, the score is done by Harry Manfredini, who made the iconic Jason Voorhees theme for the Friday the 13th films. Hey! Maybe he’s the “maker” of Friday the 13th that the poster touts.

Slaughter High is a waste of time. Sure, you could stare in awe at the natural beauty of Caroline Munro but you could also appreciate her in far better films than this one.

Rating: 2/10
Pairs well with: other really shitty slasher movies.

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: The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971)

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

Review:

“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.

Film Review: The Last Horror Film (1982)

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

Review:

“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.

Film Review: Maniac (1980)

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

Review:

“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.

Film Review: Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter (1974)

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

Review:

“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.

Film Review: The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)

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, Milton Reid

Eon Productions, United Artists, 125 Minutes

Review:

“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.

Rating: 8/10

Film Review: At Earth’s Core (1976)

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

Review:

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.

Rating: 5/10