The Vampire Doll (1970)
Director Michio Yamamoto
Starring Kayo Matsuo, Akira Nakao, Atsuo Nakamura, Yukiko Kobayashi, Yôko Minakaze
In 1970, director Michio Yamamoto released the first film in what is now called the Blood Thirsty Trilogy, which has recently been released on Blu-ray by Arrow Video. They all have somewhat of a vampire theme to them, using the feeling of traditional gothic horror and the usual vampire trappings that was being made famous by Hammer studios in the UK, as well as in America. But these are kept in a modern day Japan setting and still putting their own little touches in there.
Fangs of the Living Dead (1969)
Directed by Amando de Ossorio
Starring Anita Ekberg, Gianni Medici, Diana Lorys, Rosanna Yanni, César Benet, Carlos Casaravilla, Adriana Ambesi, Julián Ugarte
There are times when you sit down with a movie and maybe you’re just not in the right mood, or frame of mind to really watch it. As the saying goes, you can never watch the same movie twice with the same eyes, and my experience with this title is a perfect example of this. I had seen this years ago, from a grainy old VHS tape, mainly because it was the same director as the Blind Dead series. But I didn’t remember that much of it at the time. When it came out on DVD, I course added it to the collection. I’m sure I watched it at some point, but just didn’t have a strong memory of it, meaning that if I had thought it was that great, I would have remembered it. Then the recent Blu-ray from Shout Factory came out and I was going upgrade to this new version when realized I remembered not caring for it that much. So I sat down with the DVD to refresh my memory and realized that I think I was okay with just this DVD version. Nothing really jumped out at me, so no reason to upgrade. But then I read that this new Blu-ray is actually the European cut which is a bit longer than the version I had. Then the “collector” part of me kicked in and decided I had to have this version now … I mean, it’s longer which means maybe I’m missing all the good parts! So I had to have it. Once it arrived, I sat down with it again, to see if this version was going to be another boring repeat viewing. Oh, how I was wrong.
The Crawling Eye (1958)
Directed by Quentin Lawrence
Starring Forrest Tucker, Laurence Payne, Jennifer Jayne, Janet Munro, Warren Mitchell, Frederick Schiller, Andrew Faulds, Stuart Saunders, Colin Douglas
The Trollenberg Terror originally was a TV serial from 1956, with writer Peter Key trying its best to replicate what Nigel Kneale had been doing. Unfortunately, none of this original series exists so it’s hard to judge it, but damn wouldn’t it be cool to see now? In 1958, a film version was made, this time written by Hammer’s own Jimmy Sangster. It was released in the UK under the same title, but here in the states, it got re-titled to a much more appropriate moniker…The Crawling Eye! I mean, let’s face it, what sci-fi/monster kid wouldn’t be lined up to see that film back then?
The Last Shark (1981)
Directed by Enzo G. Castellari
Starring James Franciscus, Vic Morrow, Joshua Sinclair, Giancarlo Prete, Stefania Girolami Goodwin, Gian Marco Lari, Chuck Kaufman, Gail Moore, Joyce Lee
It was not uncommon for a foreign film studio to make their own version of a popular US film. I’m not talking remakes, mind you, since that would imply buying the rights for it. I’m just talking on using the same ideas, storyline, or theme, but changing them enough to make it their own. Just look at when William Friedkin’s The Exorcist came out … there were tons of rip-offs … sorry, films made that were “inspired by” just in Italy alone. Now this wasn’t a bad thing, and we’re not complaining, since we love a lot of those … variations. But when a new film called Great White hit the US shores in March of 1982, Universal Pictures filed a lawsuit against the producers of the film, stating that it was too similar to their film Jaws and Jaws 2. After only a month on the screen, it was pulled. Of course, that didn’t stop the producers from making a reported $18 million for that single month. Not too bad for a rip-off, huh?
Directed by Norman J. Warren
Starring Barry Stokes, Sally Faulkner, Glory Annen
Back in the VHS days, back when we sought these tapes because of the actual movies instead just because they were collectable, one title that if you came across on the video shelf you would immediately have to rent, was the big box version of Norman J. Warren’s Prey, or Alien Prey as it was known on the VHS release here in the states. With some sort of human-beast creature, chewing on the flesh and meat of a naked girl in bed, blood and gore everywhere, if that didn’t get to you rent it, then you were in the wrong section, especially if you were a young and eager horror fan. Now thanks to Vinegar Syndrome, over 40 years after its initial release, Norman J. Warren’s little alien invasion flick hits Blu-ray!
For any filmmaker starting out, this is a perfect title to watch to see just how you make a film with hardly any money. There are so many things here that Warren does that is so creative that was done because of simply no money. For example, the opening shot when you have the spaceship coming to earth, all we get to see is a black screen as we hear the communications between the alien and his command. Then the “landing” is just a bunch of flashing lights coming in through a bedroom window. There are many more elements in the film that were done for the very same reasoning.
Hammer Horror: The Warner Bros. Years (2018)
Directed by Marcus Hearn
Starring Veronica Carlson, John Carson, Steve Chibnall, Joe Dante, Jonathan Rigby, Peter Sasdy, Madeline Smith, Caroline Munro, Christopher Frayling, Wayne Kinsey, Denis Meikle
So…a new documentary on Hammer Studios? I’m there. Simple as that. Add to the fact that when the producers of this documentary started a Kickstarter fund to get this project off the ground, I immediately signed up. Honestly, I don’t remember which level I put in for, but I did get a nice poster print as well as the Blu-ray. Being a huge fan of this famous British studio, this review might be a little jaded, but I will try to be as honest and straight forward as I can.
If you ever wondered just what happened to Hammer Studios, as to why they went under, then this feature length documentary will either answer that, or at least give you some very strong contributing factors that might have caused it. Even though this studio was very successful in the late ’50s and ’60s, by the time the ’60s were coming to a close, things were starting to change. Not with just the audiences, but the ratings boards, other movies the studios were releasing, as well as where Hammer was getting their funding from.
The Twilight People (1972)
Directed by Eddie Romero
Starring John Ashley, Pat Woodell, Jan Merlin, Charles Macaulay, Pam Grier, Ken Metcalfe, Tony Gosalvez, Kim Ramos, Mona Morena, Eddie Garcia,
If you’re a fan of Filipino cinema, then you really don’t need to read any further other than to know that this movie came from Eddie Romero and John Ashley. Those two names alone would get any fan of the Blood Island movies to sit down with this one with open arms. If you’re not familiar with the plethora of titles to come from this little Southeast Asian country, and are a fan of cult cinema, then you now have a chance to experience a whole new sense of wonder when you take a cinematic journey there.