Film Review: The Night Strangler (1973)

Also known as: The Time Killer (working title), Kolchak: The Night Strangler (long title)
Release Date: January 16th, 1973
Directed by: Dan Curtis
Written by: Richard Matheson
Based on: The Kolchak Papers by Jeffrey Grant Rice
Music by: Bob Cobert
Cast: Darren McGavin, Simon Oakland, Jo Ann Pflug, Richard Anderson, Margaret Hamilton, John Carradine

Dan Curtis Productions, ABC Circle Films, ABC, 74 Minutes, 90 Minutes (extended syndication version)

Review:

“I just saw your “so-called killer” wipe up the street with your so-called police force!” – Carl Kolchak

In my last Kolchak related review, I talked about my love of the show but also mentioned that I had never seen the television movies that predated it. This is the second and final film and I’ve got to say that I liked it a hair bit better than the very entertaining and charming first one.

I guess the consensus is that they were pretty equal in quality but I felt like Darren McGavin and Simon Oakland were much more in-sync together, as well as more comfortable with their characters.

This story doesn’t see our crack reporter trying to take down a vampire, instead, he’s trying to stop an alchemist that is killing young women and using their blood to stay immortal. I guess the baddie is similar to a vampire, in a way, but he’s more like a Jack the Ripper type of killer with an extra twist.

The film also takes place in Seattle, after Kolchak was chased off from Las Vegas due to the events of the previous story. He’d also have to leave Seattle at the end of this where the heroes mention that they’re moving to New York City. The TV show that followed the next year put them in Chicago, however.

Anyway, this is solid, cool yet hokey ’70s fun and I like that it didn’t stay focused on vampires and allowed itself to be more open with weird monsters and phenomena. In fact, this franchise was a big inspiration on the creation and format of The X-Files, two decades later.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: its predecessor The Night Stalker and the television show Kolchak: The Night Stalker.

 

Film Review: Dishonored Lady (1947)

Also known as: Sins of Madeline (US reissue title)
Release Date: May 16th, 1947
Directed by: Robert Stevenson
Written by: Edmund H. North
Based on: Dishonored Lady by Edward Sheldon, Margaret Ayer Barnes
Music by: Carmen Dragon
Cast: Hedy Lamarr, Dennis O’Keefe, John Loder, Margaret Hamilton

Hunt Stromberg Productions, Mars Film Corporation, United Artists, 85 Minutes

Review:

“I only earn $100 a week and you know I can’t live on that.” – Freddie

The high point of any Hedy Lamarr movie is Hedy Lamarr. She’s a better actress than she was given credit for during her time but at least she left behind a great legacy and has stood the test of time, as an old school starlet that is probably more beloved by film aficionados now than she was back in her heyday.

Beyond acting, she was also a film producer and an inventor. In fact, she was a genius and one of her inventions was an early version of FHSS (Frequency-hopping spread spectrum).

In Dishonored Lady, she might be at her best. Granted, I like the film The Strange Woman more but here, she really transcends the film and it is hard not to fall head over heels for her character, Madeline.

In this film, she finds herself in a terrible situation where her past comes back to haunt her after changing her identity and finding a new love. Needless to say, this is a story with a lot of layers and some pretty dastardly characters.

Overall, though, I think the picture itself is pretty weak. Lamarr’s performance is great, as is the always enjoyable Dennis O’Keefe. The narrative just feels somewhat disjointed and the pacing is a bit wonky.

Additionally, this isn’t a great looking film-noir when compared to the others from the classic era. It’s shot pretty straightforward and doesn’t have too much artistic flourish.

Still, this is a mostly enjoyable picture and it really showcases how good Lamarr was in her prime.

Also, the film features Margaret Hamilton in a supporting role and it’s always cool seeing the Wicked Witch of the West pop up in other things.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: other noir films of the ’40s and ’50s, specifically those with Hedy Lamarr like The Conspirators, The Strange Woman, A Lady Without Passport and The Female Animal.

Film Review: 13 Ghosts (1960)

Also known as: Thirteen Ghosts (German English title), 13 Fantasmas (Brazil, Mexico, Portugal)
Release Date: July, 1960
Directed by: William Castle
Written by: Robb White
Music by: Von Dexter
Cast: Charles Herbert, Jo Morrow, Rosemary DeCamp, Margaret Hamilton, Donald Woods, Martin Milner, John van Dreelen

William Castle Productions, Columbia Pictures, 85 Minutes, 82 Minutes (black and white version)

Review:

“[making a birthday wish] I wish we owned our own house, and all our furniture that nobody could take away. [wind blows through the windows and blows out the candles, somebody knocks at the door]” – Buck Zorba

From memory, 13 Ghosts was a movie I wasn’t too incredibly fond of. I mean, I liked it. It just didn’t make much of an impact and I always thought it was kind of cheesy, even when I was a kid.

However, this is the first time I’ve seen the film in at least twenty years. I’ve got to say, I have more appreciation for it now and I enjoyed it quite a bit. That could also be due to recently revisiting the 2001 remake, which was a total turd.

This was just a lot of fun and for the subject matter, kind of wholesome. Even if there is a supernatural death at the end of the movie.

I thought that the cast was actually good and the kid wasn’t even that annoying, especially for a child actor circa 1960. You actually kind of feel for the kid when you know he is being taken advantage of by the villain of the story.

For the time, the special effects are really good and they work. I like that there is a bit of a comedic tone with a lot of the ghosts’ antics.

The thing with William Castle movies is that they were interactive experiences when seen in theaters. I think that the whole experience would have been pretty cool to be a part of. That being said, I think it makes the movies suffer a bit on their own but this one was still lighthearted, fun and fairly jovial.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: other gimmicky William Castle horror movies.