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 Dunwich Horror (1970)

Also known as: Scarlet Friday (working title), Voodoo Child (Germany)
Release Date: January 14th, 1970
Directed by: Daniel Haller
Written by: Curtis Hanson, Henry Rosenbaum, Ronald Silkosky
Based on: The Dunwich Horror by H.P. Lovecraft
Music by: Les Baxter
Cast: Sandra Dee, Dean Stockwell, Ed Begley, Talia Shire (as Talia Coppola)

Alta Vista Films, American International Pictures, 90 Minutes

Review:

“Come back, Old Ones… Princes of Darkness… and repossess the earth.” – Wilbur Whateley

Over Halloween weekend, I wanted to watch some Lovecraftian horror. So I figured, why not watch an actual adaptation of Lovecraft’s work. An adaptation that I both love and haven’t seen in a really long time.

So that thought brought me to The Dunwich Horror, a film put out by American International Pictures, which feels very close to their Edgar Allan Poe adaptations of the ’60s.

While this sadly doesn’t feature Vincent Price, I love Dean Stockwell and he made a great villain in this. Plus, he’s so damn young that it’s just cool seeing him this youthful.

The film also stars Sandra Dee, Ed Begley Sr. in one of his last roles, as well as a very young Talia Shire when she was still going by Talia Coppola.

The film has a tremendous atmosphere that feels like those Poe films but even more evolved and refined. I’m nowhere near as versed in director Daniel Haller’s work, as I am in Roger Corman’s, but he borrowed from Corman’s style while at AIP and gave us something that looked a little more pristine and as if he really took his time and didn’t rush through the production as quickly as Corman typically did.

The sets and the town in this look lived-in and genuine and even the stuff made on sets just fit well within the total presentation and came across as authentic locations.

I loved the lighting and how it almost has a giallo type feel in the more fantastical moments.

While this is far from perfect, it’s pretty well acted for a low budget horror movie and it tells an enthralling story that at least feels consistent with the tone of Lovecraft’s literary work.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: the Edgar Allan Poe adaptations by Roger Corman for American International Pictures.

Film Review: Dr. Goldfoot and the Girl Bombs (1966)

Release Date: July 29th, 1966 (Italy)
Directed by: Mario Bava
Written by: Castellano & Pipolo (Italian version), Louis M. Heyward & Robert Kaufman (US version)
Music by: Les Baxter (US version), Lallo Gori (Italian version)
Cast: Vincent Price, Fabian, Franco Franchi, Ciccio Ingrassia, Laura Antonelli, Mario Bava (cameo – uncredited)

Italian International Film, American International Pictures, 82 Minutes

Review:

“That’s not Rosanna. That’s a jigsaw puzzle.” – Bill Dexter

I haven’t seen this film in a long time and the two Dr. Goldfoot movies blended together in my memory. I was a bit intrigued to check this one out, though, as I noticed that it was directed by giallo and horror maestro, Mario Bava. He’s a director that has a fantastic style.

Sadly, this was a bit of a let down. That’s not to say that the first movie was great by any stretch of the imagination but it was entertaining and full of charming whimsy. This picture is a big step down.

I think that this may just be a problem with the American version of the film, however, as the jokes and gags don’t seem to land. This could be due to this being an Italian production, unlike its predecessor, and some of the humor got lost in poor translation.

The film does seem more concerned with showcasing gags than any sort of interesting, coherent story though.

I still enjoyed Vincent Price in this but his performance is weaker, overall, because he didn’t have his assistant from the first movie, who was a good goof for Price to play off of. They had good banter and decent chemistry but in this film, the new henchman barely speaks and just sort of follows orders.

The film’s humor is also goofier, as it relies pretty heavily on slapstick and people falling all over the place like a Benny Hill sketch.

Still, this isn’t a complete waste of time if you like ’60s era spy parodies and Vincent Price. He’s surrounded by a weaker cast but at least he’s still fun to watch when he gets to ham it up.

Rating: 4.5/10
Pairs well with: its predecessor, as well as the Dean Martin starring Matt Helms films.

Film Review: Hell Bound (1957)

Also known as: Cargo X, Dope Ship (working titles)
Release Date: October, 1957
Directed by: William J. Hole Jr.
Written by: Richard H. Landau, Arthur E. Orloff
Music by: Les Baxter
Cast: John Russell, June Blair, Stuart Whitman, Margo Woode, George E. Mather

Bel-Air Productions, Clark Productions, 69 Minutes

Review:

Someone, but I forgot who, told me that Hell Bound was a hidden noir gem at the end of the classic film-noir era. While it’s okay, I thought it was hardly a gem.

From a criminal scheme standpoint, the film is intriguing, as it follows a gang plotting to rob a cargo ship carrying two million dollars worth of narcotics left over from World War II. Although, by 1957, those drugs may have expired or turned extra deadly. Adjusted for inflation, though, that two million is over eighteen million in 2020.

The heist falls apart when one of the gang member’s girlfriend falls in love with an ambulance driver who has been set up to be a pawn in the scheme.

I think the only real high point in the film is the finale. It sees a big confrontation that takes place at the Los Angeles Harbor, where, at the time, it was the resting place of hundreds of scrapped trolleys.

The film is competently shot, fairly well acted but it doesn’t offer up much that is notable outside of the climax and the scope of the heist.

As far as noir pictures go, it’s not bad but it’s far from great. Mostly, it’s forgettable.

Rating: 5.5/10
Pairs well with: other film-noir pictures of the ’40s and ’50s.

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

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

American International Pictures, 88 Minutes

Review:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Film Review: Cry of the Banshee (1970)

Release Date: July 22nd, 1970
Directed by: Gordon Hessler
Written by: Tim Kelly, Christopher Wicking
Based on: a story by Tim Kelly
Music by: Les Baxter (US theatrical), Wilfred Josephs (uncut version)
Cast: Vincent Price, Elizabeth Bergner, Essy Persson, Hugh Griffith, Patrick Mower, Hilary Dwyer, Sally Geeson

American International Pictures, 91 Minutes, 87 Minutes (edited cut)

Review:

“Oona. Of course. Once I showed her mercy. I should have killed her…. Burke. I don’t care how you do it – bring Oona to me.” – Lord Edward Whitman

It’s hard not to like a Vincent Price movie but this one is really low on the totem pole of quality for me.

We already saw Vincent Price hunt down witches in Witchfinder General a.k.a The Conqueror Worm and because of that, these films sort of blend together in my head. But I do remember liking Witchfinder General quite a bit more. I’ll have to revisit and review it soon.

Regardless, this film is incredibly derivative of its similar predecessor and I feel like it was only made to try and piggyback off of that better movie. Granted, Price’s role here is a bit different but the subject matter is the same, as is the picture’s tone and style. This one just comes across as a cheap imitation, though, and I say that as someone that’s actually a fan of Gordon Hessler, this flick’s director.

The film moves along at a drunken snail’s pace and even though stuff happens, most of it isn’t all that exciting and everything in this movie has been done better in other pictures.

Cry of the Banshee isn’t terrible, it just sort of exists in this weird state of limbo. It’s certainly not the worst film featuring Price but there are two dozen or more that I’d rank ahead of it.

Rating: 5/10
Pairs well with: Witchfinder General a.k.a. The Conqueror Worm, also with Vincent Price and dealing with similar subject matter.

Film Review: The Comedy of Terrors (1963)

Also known as: The Graveside Story (re-issue title, Germany)
Release Date: December 25th, 1963 (Detroit premiere)
Directed by: Jacques Tourneur
Written by: Richard Matheson
Music by: Les Baxter
Cast: Vincent Price, Peter Lorre, Boris Karloff, Basil Rathbone, Joyce Jameson, Joe E. Brown

Alta Vista Productions, American International Pictures, 84 Minutes

Review:

“To… uh… paraphrase the venerable adage: we shall kill two birds, with one… pillow.” – Waldo Trumball

When I was a kid, I thought that the plot to The Comedy of Terrors was genius. In fact, it inspired a script outline that I wrote in high school for a movie I wanted to eventually make called Cremation.

The plot is about a funeral parlor owner who is about to lose his home/parlor due to not having any business. So he sets out to create business by killing some of the richer people in the community. Eventually, he sets his sights on his rich landlord because that would solve his biggest problem.

While the plot may sound dark and twisted, this is also a comedy and not standard 1960s horror fare.

The film also stars four great horror legends and it is directed by Jacques Tourneur, who helmed some solid horror and classic film-noir pictures in his day.

The humor is great and the tone of the film is superb. Vincent Price and Peter Lorre always had incredible chemistry and this might be the best they’ve ever been together, even though I consider The Raven to be a better film.

I also like the recurring gags in the film with Boris Karloff and Basil Rathbone, who don’t have as much screentime as Price and Lorre but they still add extra layers of awesomeness to the proceedings. Joyce Jameson is also entertaining and perfect in her role, as the object of Lorre’s affection while being married to the cantankerous and murderous Price.

This is a goofy but solid horror comedy in a time where films like that were rare. In the end, this really just showcases how great these actors were, all around, despite being mostly typecast as “horror actors”.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: other pictures Vincent Price did for American International. Especially those co-starring Peter Lorre and/or Boris Karloff and Basil Rathbone.

Film Review: Attack of the Eye Creatures (1965)

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

Aztec Pictures, American International Television, 80 Minutes

Review:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Film Review: The Raven (1963)

Release Date: January 25th, 1963
Directed by: Roger Corman
Written by: Richard Matheson
Based on: The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe
Music by: Les Baxter
Cast: Vincent Price, Peter Lorre, Boris Karloff, Hazel Court, Olive Sturgess, Jack Nicholson

American International Pictures, 86 Minutes

Review:

“You’ll need something to protect you from the cold. [Dr. Bedlo reaches for a glass of wine] No, I meant clothes!” – Dr. Craven

Following the success of a couple Edgar Allan Poe adaptations between producer/director Roger Corman and his star Vincent Price, the men re-teamed again but this time, they made a comedy.

They also added more star power to this film with legends Peter Lorre and Boris Karloff. Add in future legend Jack Nicholson and Hammer Horror scream queen Hazel Court and you’ve got one hell of a cast.

I’m not sure what audiences in the ’60s felt about this film going into it, as the other Poe films by this team were very dark and brooding. This one certainly has the same sort of visual tone but the lighthearted camp of the material definitely tones down the dread.

To be frank, I love this movie but I love all of these Poe films made by Corman and Price. But this one is in the upper echelon for me.

The Raven hits the right notes and the chemistry between Price and Lorre was absolute perfection. They would also bring their solid camaraderie to the film The Comedy of Terrors, a year later. But this also wasn’t their first outing together, as they stared in “The Black Cat” segment of Tales of Terror. That short tale in the larger anthology was also pretty funny.

The film also benefits from having great chemistry between Lorre and Nicholson, who played his son. Karloff also meshed well with the cast.

The highlight of this film is the wizard battle at the end. It is over the top and hokey but it’s the sort of fun cheese that I love. Limited by a scant budget and the special effects of the era, the battle between the two powerful magicians has a sort of charm to it. It’s hard not to smile and enjoy the proceedings. Vincent Price also looked like he was enjoying himself immensely in this scene.

Unlike other Poe films by Corman, this one ends on a happy note and surprisingly, none of the key players die.

This is a really unique film that works for both the horror and comedy genres of its time. It looks good when seen alongside the other Poe films and it also pairs greatly with The Comedy of Terrors, which shares a lot of the same actors and adds in Basil Rathbone.

Rating: 9.25/10
Pairs well with: the other Roger Corman directed Edgar Allan Poe adaptations for American International Pictures, as well as The Comedy of Terrors for its tone and cast.

Film Review: Untamed Youth (1957)

Release Date: May 10th, 1957 (New York City premiere)
Directed by: Howard W. Koch
Written by: John C. Higgins, Stephen Longstreet
Music by: Les Baxter
Cast: Mamie Van Doren, Lori Nelson

Warner Bros., 80 Minutes

Review:

It is hard to believe that Warner Bros. made this awful movie. Teen dancing movies were all the rage back in the ’50s and ’60s but they usually took place on the beach, not in some podunk town stuck in a barn. This is like a proto-Footloose but without Jesus ruining the kids’ high school dance.

This was also featured on the first nationally televised season of Mystery Science Theater 3000 and for good reason. It’s a stupid, shitty movie but at least it tries to be fun.

The story is about these juvenile delinquents that look thirty. The local law is sick and tired of all their partying, singing and dancing so they are forced into slavery, working on a cotton farm. For real, this is the plot.

Most of the movie just showcases these nitwits dancing like spastic jackasses to awful tunes. I don’t think that any of these “kids” were professional dancers. I mean, Mamie Van Doren is in the film, showing off her talents but it’s hardly exciting.

This is a really bad movie for a major studio, even for the time. Warner Bros. should still be embarrassed by this film, over six decades later. If this movie was any indication of their track record, this alone should have kept the DC Comics films (not controlled by Christopher Nolan or Tim Burton) out of their hands. This film left a blight so deep that even sixty years couldn’t cure it. But I’ll give Warner Bros. a pass, as I like the Police Academy movies.

Anyway, this sucks. Plain and simple.

Of course it must be ran through the Cinespiria Shitometer. The results read, “Type 7 Stool: Water, no solid pieces. Entirely liquid.”

Rating: 3.25/10
Pairs well with: Dancing beach movies from the era but even then, this will bring that horrible genre down into deeper, shittier depths.