Movie Review: The Reptile (1966)

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The Reptile (1966)
Directed by John Gilling
Starring Noel Willman, Jennifer Daniel, Jacqueline Pearce, Ray Barrett, Michael Ripper

As a young horror fan, when you page through enough of the classic horror reference books, you’re bound to come across a shot of the title terror from this movie. I know I had seen it many, many times before I got to see the actual film. Each time I saw the image, my mind raced to imagine what kind of movie this could be with a monster like this, with large fangs and even larger bulging eyes! It is also one of the movies that would never live up to those high expectations that your mind had set, waiting to see this snake creature slithering about throughout the whole movie. Sadly, it doesn’t, only get to see it a few times, in short quick shots. None the less though, once you get over that and really watch the film for what it is, you’ll find a very strange story. And like most Hammer pictures, a highly enjoyable one as well as memorable. Continue reading

Movie Review: Greasepaint and Gore

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Greasepaint and Gore (2004)
Directed by Russell Wall

Tom Savini. Rick Baker. Rob Bottin. Steve Johnson. All of these names are pretty well known to most horror fans. What about Phil Leakey and Roy Ashton? I’m sure you’re familiar with the films put out by Hammer Studios throughout the 50’s to the 70’s, right? If so, then even if you might not know their names, you know the work of Leakey and Ashton. Continue reading

Horror History: Les Bowie

lewbowieLes Bowie
Born Nov. 10th, 1913 – Died Jan. 1979

Bowie was one of the men responsible for making Hammer Films, as well as plenty of other films, look as good as they did. While he did work on a varying type of special effects, he was mainly known for working on matte paintings and models. A lot of the shots in the films where you see a mountainous landscape was due to Bowie. The first film he worked on for Hammer was The Quatermass Xperiment (1955), where he created the title monster. But he also worked on some of their classics like Horror of Dracula (1958), Plague of the Zombies (1966), and many more films.

He also worked on the original Superman (1978) movie, where he would eventually win both an Oscar and a BAFTA for his work. Unfortunately, he passed away on the same night that the rest of the team that worked on the special effects for that movie had won. So he never knew.

Bowie’s work was one of those little things in the movie that might only be shown on screen for a few seconds, but really made an impact on the look of the movie. So that is the reason that he needs to be remembered for the hard work that he would go through, for very little money, for something that is only glimpsed at.

Horror History: James Bernard

James Bernard2James Bernard
Born: Sept. 20th, 1925 – Died: July 12th, 2001

There are some composers that make a cinematic impact, just as much as an actor or director. James Bernard is one of them. The music he created for films, especially the ones he did for Hammer Films, became part of the movie’s unique look and feel. When the music started, you knew you were watching a Hammer picture, just from the sound of it. It was always able to grab your attention and never let go.

His score for Horror of Dracula (1958) will be remembered as one of the greatest opening titles ever known to fans of cinematic music. It is still as powerful today as it was then. But he also created music for films like Curse of Frankenstein (1957), The House of the Baskervilles (1959), The Plague of the Zombies (1966), as well as the first two Quatermass films.

Most composers are hidden figures in the movie world, with only a few making a name where film fans would actually recognize. When it comes to horror fans, Bernard’s name is right up there at the tope. Thankfully a lot of his work has been archived on CD so we can still enjoy it, as well as fans to come. Truly a great and talented man.

Hammer’s Plague Hits Blu-Ray

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Plague BlurayYeah, I know this was all over Facebook yesterday, but damn if I’m not going to help spread the word a bit more! While I may be a huge Hammer fan, their 1966 film The Plague of the Zombies is one of my all time favorites of theirs. So I am more than thrilled to see this hit Blu-ray, thanks to Shout Factory!

This was Hammer’s only movie that dealt with zombies, though these are the voodoo type, not the flesh-eating type. Maybe because Romero didn’t unleash his until two years later. But this is a prime example of what Hammer did best. They had an great cast with two powerful leads, André Morell as Sir James Forbes and John Carson as Squire Hamilton. Morell is so much fun to watch, being so proper and the whole stiff upper lip, but yet still has a dark sense of humor. Carson, who plays the villain, was born to play this part. Whether it is his voice, which is very similar sounding to James Mason, or his evil stare, that can easily hide behind a smile. Of course, throw in Michael Ripper in a minor role, and it makes it even better!

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Jacqueline Pearce – Rest in Peace

Jacquline Pearce RIPOne of my favorites from Hammer Studios is one of their 1966 “Cornish Horrors”, Plague of the Zombies, made back to back with The Reptile. From the incredible look of the zombies, to the bad-ass villain played by John Carson, to the straight-laced hero played by André Morell, it always delivers the goods, each and every time I watch it. Another one of the reasons is the rest of the stellar cast, including Jacqueline Peace, who plays the doomed Alice. Pearce’s performance gives the viewer such a feeling of dread because we all know what is going to happen to her and we can’t stop it. And then in The Reptile, she gives another performance to draw the audience in with her pathos.

In both of these films, not only did she have to create these characters and grab hold of the audience, she also had to endure quite some time in Roy Ashton’s makeup chair. But she not only played a couple of iconic Hammer characters, she caught the attention of many fans. So we are very sadden to hear of her recent passing.

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Movie Review: Plague of the Zombies

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Plague of the Zombies (1966)
Directed by John Gilling
Starring Andre Morell, John Carson, Diane Clare, Alex Davion, Jacqueline Pearce, Michael Ripper

In a small Cornish village, strange happenings are a foot! Some sort of deadly disease is creeping through the town and the local doctor is clueless as to what is the cause. He sends a letter of distress to Sir James, his former teacher, for assistance in this grave matter. Cutting short his vacation, Sir James travels to the village with his daughter to see if he can be of any assistance, but has no idea the evil deeds he is about to uncover there.

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Cinevent: Part 2 – The Dealer’s Room & Fantastic Finds

Now, before you get all excited and run out to this show, let’s cover a few things first. The prices on some of the items you’ll find run the spectrum. Some dealers will have a table full of one-sheets or stills with a big sign stating “$1 EACH”. Of course, you have to go through each and every stack because you never know if you’re going to come across a real gem in there! You just never know. I have to say from experience, after that first stack, your back is killing you and you start to wonder if it is even worth it! But $1 posters is hard to pass up.

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On the other end of that, you have some dealers with items on the slightly high side. You have to remember that these are original pieces of film memorabilia, which can go for big bucks. Such as an insert for the 1951 film Them!, which had a price tag of $1000. Or even a lobby card for the 1957 film Curse of the Demon that was going for $650…just for the single card! There are posters and even the bigger 3-sheet kind of stuff, but those are so high that I don’t even ask. I’m not saying that these are overpriced, but those are the going rates. You need to be a dealer/collector with some serious cash to be playing in that field, one that I know I never will.

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Horror History: André Morell

andremorellAndré Morell
Born Aug. 20th, 1909 – Died Nov. 28th, 1978

André Morell is a British actor that made his name in the horror genre, mainly thanks to Hammer Films. Appearing in such titles like The Shadow of the Cat (1961), She (1965), The Mummy’s Shroud (1967), and of course, he role as Sir James in Plague of the Zombies (1966), made him a very familiar face to Hammer horror fans. This is probably my favorite of his roles, playing the witty British gentleman, but knows when it’s time to get down to business! He also appeared in non-Hammer films like the underrated The Giant Behemoth (1959) and a bit part in 10 Rillington Place (1971). And while not a horror film, his performance in the 1961 film Cash on Demand, c0-starring Peter Cushing, is just incredible and so much fun to watch.

But even before those films, he had become well known from his work on British televsion, especially working with Nigel Kneale’s 1954 adaptations of George Orwell’s 1984, doing some nasty things to his co-star Peter Cushing. Then in 1959, he appeared as Professor Bernard Quatermass in the BBC broadcast of Kneale’s Quatermass and the Pit. This was such a success that fans started calling him Quatermass. He would have been in Hammer’s movie adaptation had he been available at the time they went into production.

He would later appear alongside Cushing again, in a much more friendlier role as Dr. Watson to Cushing’s Sherlock Holmes in Hammer’s The Hound of the Baskervilles (1959).

Morell was always there to give a memorable characterization as the typical prim and proper British man. Always the gentleman, whether in the hero role or as the villain, as always a joy to watch him perform.