Film Review: The Mummy (1959)

Release Date: August 1st, 1959 (Japan)
Directed by: Terence Fisher
Written by: Jimmy Sangster
Music by: Franz Reizenstein
Cast: Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, Yvonne Furneaux, Michael Ripper

Hammer Films, 97 Minutes (original), 86 Minutes

Review:

“He who robs the graves of Egypt dies!” – Mehemet Bey

Since I’ve reviewed the entirety of Hammer’s Dracula and Frankenstein films, I figured that this classic monster reboot series also needed to be revisited.

Coming off of the heels of The Curse of Frankenstein and The Horror of Dracula, Hammer got the same creative team back together and took a shot at resurrecting The Mummy in their own, original way.

It also helped that they brought back both Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee for this one, making it feel like the third part in a trilogy of films where Hammer was showing tribute to the Universal Monsters franchise that kicked off in the 1930s.

I actually love that this is its own thing and it’s not trying to remake 1932’s The Mummy with Boris Karloff. It just takes the concept and gives the audience a fresh, new story. Sure, there are obvious similarities but this picture has a unique visual aesthetic and frankly, it’s one of the best looking Hammer movies of all-time. I also say that as someone that already loves the visual style of the studio’s classic films.

While I would rank this below the first Dracula and Frankenstein films, it’s still pretty damn good and it’s certainly the best of the Hammer Mummy series.

I enjoyed the characters and I especially liked the look of Christopher Lee’s mummy. The makeup was impressive for 1959 and Lee is such a good physical actor that his mummy is one of my favorites of all-time. While I don’t feel that he gets the same level of admiration as Karloff’s version of the monster, I’d say that his is on the same level and possibly a bit better due to his size and how imposing he is. Lee’s mummy just looks and feels stronger than Karloff’s and there is just something more sinister about him.

Ultimately, this is a solid Hammer horror flick. For fans of the studio and classic monsters, it is definitely worth checking out.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: the other films in Hammer’s Mummy series, as well as other Hammer films of the time.

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: And Now the Screaming Starts! (1973)

Also known as: I Have No Mouth But I Must Scream (alternative title)
Release Date: April 27th, 1973 (New York City premiere)
Directed by: Roy Ward Baker
Written by: Roger Marshall
Based on: Fengriffen by David Case
Music by: Douglas Gamley
Cast: Peter Cushing, Herbert Lom, Patrick Magee, Ian Ogilvy, Stephanie Beacham

Amicus Productions, 91 Minutes

Review:

“Ghosts galore. Headless horsemen, horseless headsmen, everything.” – Charles Fengriffen

An Amicus horror film that isn’t an anthology? Oh, yes!

I’ve never seen this one, which is surprising, as it features Peter Cushing and Patrick Magee in it. It also stars a young Stephanie Beacham, who I loved in a TV show no one but me remembers anymore called Sister Kate.

This is the story of a newlywed couple who move into the groom’s mansion which is haunted due to a curse placed on it, following a terrible thing that happened on the property years earlier.

It’s fairly predictable but the story is solid with good layers to it. The film also benefits from better acting than pictures like this tend to have.

More than anything, I liked the creepiness of this and in that regard, it felt like it was on a different level than your standard Amicus fair.

loved the effects, especially how they pulled of the severed hand that crawled across the floor. It looked real, effective and for the time, was damn impressive.

In the end, I can hardly call this a horror classic but I do like it better than most Amicus movies. And since that’s a studio whose output I really enjoy, I guess I was somewhat impressed by this.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: other non-anthology gothic horror films of the ’60s and ’70s.

Film Review: The Creeping Flesh (1973)

Release Date: February 9th, 1973 (New York City premiere)
Directed by: Freddie Francis
Written by: Peter Spenceley, Jonathan Rumbold
Music by: Paul Ferris
Cast: Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, Lorna Heilbron, Jenny Runacre, George Benson, Kenneth J. Warren, Michael Ripper

World Film Services, Tigon British Film Productions, Columbia Pictures, 92 Minutes

Review:

“Unfortunately, in the state of society as it exists today, we are not permitted to experiment on human beings. Normal human beings.” – James Hildern

Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee did nearly two dozen movies together. Out of all the ones that weren’t Hammer films, I always thought that this one was one of the coolest.

Mainly, it has a pretty cool and unique monster that had a neat look.

I also just liked the origin of the monster and how he was born from his skeleton that was pulled out of the Earth, so deep that his species predates any intelligent life that this planet has ever known.

Additionally, I also thought the effects that were employed to actually show “the creeping flesh” were really well done for the time and the budget of the picture. Plus, it just adds a lot to the film’s creepy factor.

One interesting thing about this film is that it wasn’t made by Hammer or Amicus but it does a splendid job of emulating the atmosphere of those studio’s films. In fact, I’d say that it does it better than almost any other Cushing-Lee collaboration not done by those better known studios.

Apart from that, this is a bit slow but it’s still a fairly engaging picture.

But ultimately, this is carried by the inclusion of Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee, as well as the coolness of the creature. While that might not be enough for some people, fans of these sort of movies and these legendary horror icons, will probably enjoy this quite a bit.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: other films with Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee.

Film Review: Night Creatures (1962)

Also known as: Captain Clegg (UK)
Release Date: June 13th, 1962
Directed by: Peter Graham Scott
Written by: Anthony Hinds
Music by: Don Banks
Cast: Peter Cushing, Yvonne Romain, Patrick Allen, Oliver Reed, Michael Ripper

Major Pictures, Hammer Films, Universal-International, 82 Minutes

Review:

“Well if you’ve all done staring.” – Imogen, “If it’s all the same to you miss I’d like a few minutes more.” – Jack Pott

A movie featuring pirates should always feature a good amount of swashbuckling. This one doesn’t but it actually doesn’t hurt it, as it is a Hammer horror picture and there’s more emphasis on the creepy and weird than any sort of pirate action. For this film, non-swashbuckling pirates just work. But adding in some swashbuckling would’ve made it even cooler.

Also, this features three heavy hitters for Hammer with Peter Cushing, Oliver Reed and Michael Ripper. All three of these guys did multiple Hammer movies and their performances were always up to snuff and typically exceeded it.

That being said, I love this movie and I especially loved the concept of it, as well as how the monsters looked, what they actually were and how it all played out visually onscreen.

While Hammer was most known for their re-telling and re-imagining of classic monster stories, they’d always fill in the blanks with cool motion pictures like this that have an original, haunting story and also fit perfectly fine within the larger Hammer horror oeuvre.

The plot here is about a small town that sits near a marsh where the ghosts of men on ghostly horses haunt the area. There is also a creepy scarecrow that seems to appear in different places, watching those who pass through the marshes.

The town’s leader is a minister played by Peter Cushing but we soon learn that he is a famous pirate that has faked his own death and hid within this small community. The other men in the town were also his crew and they have to protect themselves when a hard-nosed naval commander comes to the village in search of the pirate Captain and the truth about what happened to him.

Night Creatures isn’t a complicated film and even the twists aren’t that surprising but honestly, they don’t need to be, as this is just a cool picture with a neat premise and great monsters.

The movie has a very eerie vibe and yet, it’s still a lot of fun and pretty lighthearted. While this might not be very high up on classic horror fans’ lists, it’s always been one of my favorite Hammer movies ever made.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: other Hammer horror films of the era, especially those starring Peter Cushing.

Film Review: Scream and Scream Again (1970)

Also known as: Doctor Diabolic (France – video title), Screamer (Germany – alternative title)
Release Date: January, 1970 (UK)
Directed by: Gordon Hessler
Written by: Christopher Wicking
Based on: The Disorientated Man by Peter Saxon
Music by: David Whitaker
Cast: Vincent Price, Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Alfred Marks, Michael Gothard, Judy Huxtable, Yutte Stensgaard

Amicus Productions, American International Pictures, Warner Pathe, 95 Minutes

Review:

“Fastest transition in the world: from human to corpse. It doesn’t do to get the two confused, or you’ll never be successful.” – Professor Kingsmill

While I’ve always seen Amicus as the poor man’s Hammer, I’ve still found most of their films to be really enjoyable, especially those starring Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee or Vincent Price. Now throw any two of those guys together and it’s usually going to make the picture much cooler. Throw all three of them into the mix, however, and you might break my classic horror-loving mind.

Sadly, this does not cut the mustard, whatever that even means. I don’t know, it’s an old adage people say.

Despite this having the Holy Trinity of Price, Lee and Cushing, it’s a really bad movie that just barely keeps its head above water simply because it has these three great actors in it, hamming it up and looking like they’re enjoying what they had to know was a terrible picture.

One problem with the film is that the three legends are barely in it. Cushing is in it the least while Price and Lee are sort of just there for the added star power. Their roles are really just glorified cameos. But you do get an interesting finale that features Lee and Price together.

This is a really weird film and the middle act is bogged down by an overly extensive car chase and manhunt sequence. While I kind of enjoyed that part of the film, I just don’t see how it will connect with people that don’t already love this sort of schlock.

For a film about a mad scientist and super soldiers, this is pretty boring. I still weirdly like it but when I think about popping on a film starring any of these legends, this one is usually pretty damn low on the list. In fact, I only watched it this time to review it and because I hadn’t seen it in about twenty years.

Rating: 5/10
Pairs well with: other films featuring Vincent Price with either Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing or both. Also, other Amicus horror movies.

Film Review: Twins of Evil (1971)

Also known as: Twins of Dracula, The Evil Twins, The Virgin Vampires, The Gemini Twins (alternative titles) 
Release Date: October 3rd, 1971 (UK)
Directed by: John Hough
Written by: Tudor Gates
Based on: characters by Sheridan Le Fanu
Music by: Harry Robertson
Cast: Peter Cushing, The Collinson Twins, Dennis Price, Damien Thomas, Katya Wyeth

The Rank Organization, Hammer Films, 87 Minutes

Review:

“[pointing to ancestral portraits] They knew! They didn’t play at being wicked. They worshipped the devil and he taught them delights that you will never know! Of punishment: inflicting and receiving it. Of torture. And death. Yes, of death and of pleasures beyond the grave. Something you could not even comprehend! But I know.” – Count Karnstein

Well, we have reached the third and final chapter in Hammer Film’s The Karnstein Trilogy. It is also my favorite of the three films.

I think that my love of this movie comes from seeing it at a really young age and being captivated by the nude beauty of the Collinson Twins, who were the first twins to be Playboy Playmates. As a pervy little kid in the ’80s, just like every other boy from that decade, my impressionable young mind always liked watching this. But who doesn’t enjoy gorgeous, nude women?

Anyway, personal perviness aside, I like the story in this, as well as how one twin becomes a vampire and actually tries to sacrifice her sister to the witch/vampire hunters that are looking to kill her.

Additionally, Peter Cushing, a fucking legend, just nails his role in this. He plays the head of the witch/vampire hunters and he finds himself torn by the fact that his niece is a vampire that has been seduced by the evil Count Karnstein, his (im)mortal enemy.

I also really liked Damien Thomas as this film’s version of the Count, a different Karnstein than the ones we’ve met in other films but he’s still a part of the same lineage.

The only thing really missing from this movie that was a large part of the previous two was the Carmilla character. I guess she’s run her course and technically she’s dead but how many times did Dracula die in a Hammer movie? Part of me just wishes that Yutte Stensgaard could’ve been back after being the real centerpiece of the previous film. Hell, seeing Ingrid Pitt return to work with Cushing again would’ve been great.

I also like that this film came out in a time of flux for Hammer. It still feels like it could fit in with the visual tone of their ’60s pictures but also has that extra edginess that they’d unleash in the early ’70s. It just feels like it is a perfect bridge between the two eras.

There weren’t any official Karnstein chapters after this but many people consider 1974’s Captain Kronos – Vampire Hunter to be the unofficial fourth film, as it features another vampire from the Karnstein lineage. Although, it takes place in England, as opposed to Central Europe. But hey, Dracula traveled.

I’ll review Captain Kronos in the near future.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: the other parts of The Karnstein Trilogy and Countess Dracula, as well as Vampire Circus and Hammer’s Dracula films.

Film Review: The Vampire Lovers (1970)

Release Date: October 4th, 1970 (UK)
Directed by: Roy Ward Baker
Written by: Harry Fine, Tudor Gates, Michael Style
Based on: Carmilla by Sheridan Le Fanu
Music by: Harry Robertson
Cast: Ingrid Pitt, George Cole, Kate O’Mara, Peter Cushing, Dawn Addams, Madeline Smith, Pippa Steel

Fantale Films, Hammer Films, 91 Minutes

Review:

“They were all evil and remain evil after death.” – Baron Joachim von Hartog

While the most famous vampire films to come out of Hammer are the ones featuring Christopher Lee as Dracula, there was also The Karnstein Trilogy, which focused on lesbian vampires that didn’t have the weaknesses of sunlight and fire.

This was the first of those three movies, which sort of helped kick off a trend, as other studios in other parts of the world tried to also bank on the vampire lesbian craze, which was pretty racy stuff for 1970.

The story is loosely based off of the second most famous literary vampire story, Carmilla by Irish writer Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu, which was originally published in 1872.

While that novel would serve to give a narrative tone and inspiration to The Karnstein Trilogy, the films really kind of just do their own thing beyond the initial setup.

I’d say that this is the weakest of the three movies within the trilogy but it is still entertaining and it goes to show just how good Ingrid Pitt was in her prime. The woman is stunning, seductive and she has the acting chops to convincingly stand beside some of the other Hammer legends. In this film, she has to share space with the legendary Peter Cushing but the two were able to play off of each other quite well.

The film also stars Madeline Smith, another Hammer regular, in a smaller role. But she always had a certain charisma that made the movies she was in better.

Ultimately, this is an interesting and overtly sexual motion picture. It’s all done as classy as a Hammer movie is capable of but it’s honestly pretty tame when compared to films that borrowed these themes later on. And without this picture, we wouldn’t have gotten the sequels, which I enjoy more, and the knockoffs which kind of became their own subgenre within the vampire subgenre of horror.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: the other parts of The Karnstein Trilogy and Countess Dracula, as well as Vampire Circus and Hammer’s Dracula films.

Film Review: The Skull (1965)

Release Date: August 25th, 1965
Directed by: Freddie Francis
Written by: Milton Subotsky, Robert Bloch
Based on: The Skull of the Marquis de Sade by Robert Bloch
Music by: Elisabeth Lutyens
Cast: Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, Jill Bennett, Patrick Wymark, Nigel Green, Patrick Magee, Michael Gough

Amicus Productions, 83 Minutes

Review:

“All I can say to you is keep away from the skull of the Marquis de Sade!” – Sir Matthew Phillips

I felt like I was going through Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee withdrawals, as it’s actually been awhile since I got to kick back and watch one of their many collaborations. I mean, there were 22 of them and I’ve already reviewed several but I just felt the need to spend some time with two of my three favorite horror legends, especially during this trying COVID-19 self-imposed social exile.

Anyway, I really love The Skull. It’s not the best film with these guys in it and frankly, they don’t share enough scenes but this picture is full of so many great actors from the era, that it is hard not to love. I especially liked seeing Patrick Magee, Nigel Green and Michael Gough pop up in this.

The plot is an interesting one, as it sees Cushing come into possession of the skull of Marquis de Sade. The skull itself is possessed by an evil force, presumably de Sade, and it makes those around it do evil acts. Cushing is driven mad and we even get a moment that shows him murder his best friend, Christopher Lee.

What’s really fun about this movie is how some scenes are shot in regards to the skull. While this is a low budget production and a product of its time, where effects were still fairly primitive, the skull truly becomes its own character because of the simple tricks the filmmakers did.

I love how you see through the skull’s eye sockets in many shots, giving you a first-person perspective of the evil force, as it enchants and takes control of its human vessels. The use of colored light within the skull added a certain mystique to these shots. Also, the way that they made the skull physically float through the air was done to great effect. Even though modern HD televisions make the strings more visible, it still works and most of these effects look really smooth, especially for the mid-’60s.

The tone and atmosphere of the film are also well crafted. The cinematography is effective, especially in regards to the lighting and shot framing. And even though most of the story takes place in what was modern times, it still has a very Victorian feel to it.

Most importantly, this is well acted from all the key players, as they gave this film their all and made it better than it needed to be.

Like most old horror, this relies on the imagination of the viewer. It’s a “less is more” suspenseful thriller that uses your own imagination as its real monster.

While Amicus wasn’t quite at the level of Hammer, the best of their pictures, this being one of them, definitely stood proudly alongside their closest competition.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: other Amicus and Hammer horror films. Specifically, those starring Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee.