Film Review: The Hound of the Baskervilles (1959)

Release Date: May 4th, 1959 (UK)
Directed by: Terence Fisher
Written by: Peter Bryan
Based on: The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Music by: James Bernard
Cast: Peter Cushing, André Morell, Christopher Lee

Hammer Film Productions, United Artists, 87 Minutes

Review:

“I warned him! What could have possessed him to come out here alone?” – Sherlock Holmes

The Sherlock Holmes franchise is possibly the biggest of all-time, as the character has had more literary stories than I care to count and an endless stream of movies and television shows going back to the invention of celluloid. Maybe there are more live action Dracula adaptations but one can’t deny that Holmes has owned pop culture before the term “pop culture” entered the mainstream lexicon.

It’s only natural that Hammer would take a crack at a Holmes story after their success at adapting Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and Bram Stoker’s Dracula, along with their versions of The Mummy and their other horror successes. Plus, they had the uber talented Peter Cushing at their disposal, who was definitely Hammer’s perfect man to play the world’s most famous detective. Add in Cushing’s best friend and the man he worked with the most, Christopher Lee, and you’ve got a solid cast. However, this also teamed the great duo up with Hammer’s third best male lead, André Morell. And then on top of that, this was directed by Hammer’s premier director, Terence Fisher. To put it simply, Hammer assembled their dream team to give life to the literary work of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

What I most enjoyed about this film, is that even if it takes some liberties, it doesn’t do what you would expect Hammer to do. What I mean is that it doesn’t give the story a supernatural twist. It could have been easily turned into a werewolf movie or had a bunch of black magic stuff but it kept things grounded in reality and honestly, that made for a better picture than conjuring up some sort of unnatural threat.

While I always loved seeing Cushing and Lee together, Cushing spends more time with Morell, which is fun stuff to watch, as I love both men and wish that they got to play off of each other more often. Morell should have been in more films with Cushing and Lee, as the three men are sort of Hammer’s Holy Trinity.

This is a very straightforward Holmes picture that does the material some justice and is a nice experience, overall. It has that standard late ’50s/early ’60s Hammer visual aesthetic, which just makes this cooler and helps to make it fit within their catalog of horror titles from that time.

I love Holmes pictures and I love Hammer, so this is certainly a film I really enjoy and appreciate for a myriad of reasons.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: Other early Hammer films starring Cushing and Lee. Also, the Hammer film with André Morell that deals with the undead: The Plague of the Zombies. I also like pairing this with another Hammer classic that stars the super cool Oliver Reed: The Curse of the Werewolf.

Film Review: Daleks’ Invasion Earth: 2150 A.D. (1966)

Release Date: August 5th, 1966 (UK)
Directed by: Gordon Flemyng
Written by: Milton Subotsky
Based on: The Dalek Invasion of Earth by Terry Nation
Music by: Barry Gray, Bill McGuffie
Cast: Peter Cushing, Bernard Cribbins, Ray Brooks, Jill Curzon, Roberta Tovey, Andrew Keir

AARU Productions, British Lion Films, 84 Minutes

Review:

“[over the radio] Surrender now and you will live. Resist and you will be exterminated. Show yourselves in the streets immediately and obey the orders of your masters, the Daleks!” – Dalek

I know that these non-canonical Doctor Who movies get a really bad wrap, as they exist in their own universe and ignore some of the established continuity of the television show, but I have always liked them for what they are, B-movie sci-fi adventures with hokey effects and the legendary Peter f’n Cushing as this version of The Doctor.

Like its predecessor, this theatrical and colorized Doctor Who adventure is a remake of a famous Dalek serial from the William Hartnel era of the television series. Where the first Cushing movie was a re-imagining of the first ever Dalek story, this picture is a re-imagining of the second Dalek story. Where the first film took place on the Dalek homeworld of Skaro, this one brings the Daleks to a future version of Earth, where they have invaded and conquered humanity. The Cushing Doctor and his companions have to outwit and outright battle the Daleks in an attempt to survive the proceedings and to return to a much safer place like the Earth of their present time.

One really cool thing about this movie is that it also stars Bernard Cribbins, who would go on to play the much beloved companion Wilfred Mott from the David Tennant era, some forty years later. In this film, Cribbins plays a beat cop that stumbles into the TARDIS and ends up in the future with the Doctor and his other companions: Louise, his neice, and his young granddaughter from the first movie, Susan.

This film has a larger budget than the first one and its apparent, even if this feels like an old B-movie. Where the first one was on closed sets in a bizarre forest and a Dalek fortress of boring corridors, this one took to the streets of London and felt much more like it was on location in the real world. Granted, I liked the vivid and otherworldly feel of the previous picture.

Still, this one is a bit better. It feels more refined and even though Cushing was ill during filming and it was rewritten to use his character less, the other characters held their own and made the film a worthwhile experience for fans of this sort of thing.

This was originally supposed to be the middle chapter in a trilogy of Dalek movies but it did not get a sequel and would be the last of the non-canonical Doctor Who stories.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: Dr. Who and the Daleks and the William Hartnell era of Doctor Who.

Film Review: Dr. Who and the Daleks (1965)

Release Date: August 23rd, 1965 (UK)
Directed by: Gordon Flemyng
Written by: Milton Subotsky
Based on: The Daleks by Terry Nation
Music by: Malcolm Lockyer, Barry Gray (electronic music)
Cast: Peter Cushing, Roy Castle, Jennie Linden, Roberta Tovey

AARU Productions, British Lion Films, 82 Minutes

Review:

“How interesting! This is most interesting!” – Dr. Who

Dr. Who and the Daleks is a pretty interesting piece of pop culture. Really, it is an adaptation of the Doctor Who episode The Daleks. It was made in color and released theatrically but this Dr. Who, is not the Doctor Who.

Horror and sci-fi legend Peter Cushing plays this version of the Doctor but he is not an alien Time Lord, he is a human scientist that somehow built his own TARDIS. This isn’t canon with the rest of the Doctor Who mythos but it did get a sequel, which was also an adaptation of a classic Doctor Who episode featuring the Daleks.

This movie gets a pretty bad rap but I think it’s just because it exists as its own thing. Truthfully, it isn’t that bad, if classic cheesy science fiction is your thing. It certainly looks better than the Doctor Who that was on television, at the time. This is in color, unlike the show and it is actually pretty damn colorful, almost like an Italian giallo film from the late ’60s or early ’70s. There is a great vivid use of colored lighting between the emerald green petrified forest to the hokey yet opulent looking base of the Daleks. Plus, the Daleks are colorful and each seems to have its own unique visual flair. Even the humanoid aliens were colorful.

This is the type of film you’d expect to see pop up on an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000 but it would definitely be one of the better films they could feature. The former MST3K guys who run RiffTrax recognized this, as they did lampoon this film and its sequel.

I have always really like Dr. Who and the Daleks. I get why other people don’t but I feel as if they aren’t giving it a fair shot because it has major differences with its source material. The film, like the show, is full of fun and adventure and well, it has Daleks.

Film Review: Madhouse (1974)

Release Date: May 22nd, 1974 (San Francisco)
Directed by: Jim Clark
Written by: Ken Levinson, Greg Morrison
Based on: Devilday by Angus Hall
Music by: Douglas Gamley
Cast: Vincent Price, Peter Cushing, Robert Quarry, Adrienne Corri, Natasha Pyne, Michael Parkinson, Linda Hayden, Barry Dennen

Amicus Productions, American International Pictures, 91 Minutes

Review:

“Miss Peters, as they say in horror movies, you will come to a bad end.” – Paul Toombes

American International Pictures and Amicus Productions, two great B-movie horror studios of their day, teamed up to bring us Madhouse. It also teams up two of their biggest horror stars, Vincent Price and Peter Cushing. It doesn’t end there though, as the film features Count Yorga himself, Robert Quarry, and Hammer Horror ladies Adrienne Corri and Linda Hayden.

Coming out a year after the Vincent Price starring Theater of Blood, this film shares a lot of similarities with it. Both movies deal with an actor that is tied to the murders of several people around him. In Theater of Blood Price played a stage actor. In this, he is a horror movie icon most known as a character called Dr. Death. The people who die in this film are killed by someone dressed as Dr. Death. Is it Price committing the crimes or is it someone else trying to drive him mad?

While this isn’t the best work Price or Cushing did in their long careers, it is still a fun and entertaining ride for ninety minutes. Plus, seeing Price and Cushing share the screen is never a bad thing.

I really like the character of Dr. Death and it would have been cool seeing this spinoff into some Dr. Death movies but they never really thought like that back in the 1970s. The filmmakers created a character that could have been a cool brand, all to himself. Plus, at this point, Price didn’t have a permanent vehicle like he did in the 1960s with those Edgar Allan Poe pictures he cranked out annually with Roger Corman.

This is a violent whodunit mystery and it very much plays like an Italian giallo picture but without the vivid colorful flourishes. Still, it feels giallo in spirit, as it is a good prototype for the slasher formula and features a cool mysterious killer with an even cooler outfit. And like a giallo, it has hints of noir in its story, although it is lacking the noir visual style. Had this film been a bit more stylish, it could have actually been something exceptional.

Madhouse is still pretty good and I like it a bit more than the more popular Theater of Blood. But really, the two films are just good companion pieces to one another and also play well as a double feature.

Ranking Every Doctor of Doctor Who

This is a hard list to compile, as I haven’t disliked a single Doctor in the long history of Doctor Who. However, some were better than others and this is my attempt to quantify that in some fashion.

Just because someone ranks in at the bottom spot, doesn’t mean they weren’t worthy of the role. The people behind the show have always done a great job in finding people that fit The Doctor.

Some of the ones at the bottom are also only there because they made only a few appearances and didn’t have the time to really shine in the role over a season or more.

1. Fourth Doctor (Tom Baker)
2. Tenth Doctor (David Tennant)
3. Third Doctor (Jon Pertwee)
4. Twelfth Doctor (Peter Capaldi)
5. Fifth Doctor (Peter Davison)
6. Seventh Doctor (Sylvester McCoy)
7. Eleventh Doctor (Matt Smith)
8. Second Doctor (Patrick Troughton)
9. Ninth Doctor (Christopher Eccleston)
10. Sixth Doctor (Colin Baker)
11. First Doctor (William Hartnell)
12. Movie Doctor (Peter Cushing)
13. Eighth Doctor (Paul McGann)
14. War Doctor (John Hurt)

Film Review: The Beast Must Die (1974)

Also known as: Black Werewolf (US video title)
Release Date: April 22nd, 1974 (UK)
Directed by: Paul Annett
Written by: Michael Winder
Based on: a short story by James Blish
Music by: Douglas Gamley
Cast: Calvin Lockhart, Peter Cushing, Michael Gambon, Marlene Clark, Charles Gray, Ciaran Madden, Tom Chadbon, Anton Diffring

Amicus Productions, British Lion Films, 92 Minutes

Review:

“One of our guests is a werewolf, I know it.” – Tom Newcliffe

While Amicus was never the great British horror studio that Hammer was, it often times utilized Hammer’s top stars and the company did a fine job of filling in the void that started to appear as Hammer cooled down in the 1970s.

Like many Amicus horror pictures, this one features Hammer legend Peter Cushing. He plays his typical role of scientist or doctor or just general boffin type who could be evil or could be the hero. The thing with this film, is it is a whodunit mystery in the same vein as The Orient Express or Clue. However, the killer here is a werewolf.

A group of people, all suspects, are gathered at the house of an eccentric big game hunter played by Calvin Lockhart. The suspects are an interesting cast of characters that features Michael Gambon, Anton Iffring, Charles Grey, Marlene Clark and a couple others. As can be expected, as the film roles on, people get picked off by the wolf.

The Beast Must Die is pretty standard fare for Amicus. I like the premise more than a typical Amicus film but the execution isn’t spectacular. It’s good enough to enjoy on a rainy afternoon but even with an extra twist at the end, the movie is pretty predictable and doesn’t offer up anything too interesting.

It isn’t well shot and it is poorly lit but the acting is better than decent for this kind of picture. However, the music is distracting and overbearing. It is a jazzy almost funk score that was the trend in early to mid-70s British horror, which probably started with Dracula 1972 A.D. It tries to make the film come off as modern and hip but now, over 40 years later, it really dates the movie and does more harm than good. It doesn’t fit the tone or the visual style of the picture either.

The Beast Must Die is good enough to watch if you are into Amicus’ work. It’s not exceptional, it’s not horrible but it does have Peter Cushing, a werewolf and Calvin Lockhart is really entertaining as the rich hunter.

Film Review: Shock Waves (1977)

Release Date: July 15th, 1977
Directed by: Ken Wiederhorn
Written by: Ken Wiederhorn, John Kent Harrison
Music by: Richard Einhorn
Cast: Peter Cushing, Brooke Adams, John Carradine, Luke Halpin

Laurence Friedricks Enterprises, Zopix, Blue Underground, 90 Minutes

Review:

I was talking to a friend about Peter Cushing and then he asked, “Hey, have you ever seen the one where he’s an SS commander on an island that has Nazi zombies and the kid from Flipper?” And I said, “How the hell did I miss that?” So then I had to watch it. Granted, this was a few years ago but I decided to watch it again to review it and to just experience it one more time.

Shock Waves is not a good movie, even for an old school zombie flick but it had a lot of cool elements mixed together. It also features horror icon John Carradine for a bit.

You also get Luke Halpin from Flipper, except he’s all grown up now. Brooke Adams stars in this as the female lead. She would go on to be pretty good in the 70s take of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, which is my favorite version of the many Body Snatchers films.

Ultimately, this film isn’t too exciting. It has zombie Nazis, years before that became a fad in video games and modern cinema with films like Dead Snow. However, there aren’t a lot of them and they seem pretty easy to get away from.

It’s like the Romero zombie films, the monsters aren’t hard to deal with alone or in a small group, it is getting surrounded by many and swarmed that is the real issue. In Shock Waves there’s like four or five of them and a lot of wilderness to run away in and a lot of ocean to hightail it out on the seas.

Peter Cushing is about the only decent thing in the picture but I can name two dozen better films with him in it. Also, John Carradine is amusing as the boat captain but he’s only in this long enough to be the first one killed. Also, the two horror icons don’t share any screen time together which is a big missed opportunity.

It is kind of cool though to see films that have been shot close to where I’m from. This was shot in South Florida and chances are, I’ve run around the same island forest at some point or another. But geography alone doesn’t make a film good and this thing just isn’t.

Although, it isn’t so bad that it deserves to be run through the Cinespiria Shitometer. I will let it keep its dignity.