Movie Review: The Bat (1959)

The Bat (1959)
Directed by Crane Wilbur
Starring Agnes Moorehead, Vincent Price, Gavin Gordon, John Sutton, Lenita Lane, Darla Hood, Elaine Edwards

Let’s be straight right from the start. This is not a horror film. BUT . . . if you’re a fan of the ‘old dark house’ types and dark thrillers, then you are going to want to watch this anyway. It’s got a great cast and not to mention it is a fun little picture.

The Bat stars Agnes Moorehead, not yet famous playing the witchy mother on the TV show Bewitched in 1964, but here she plays Cornelia van Gorder, a mystery writer that has rented an old house that has a past of murder by a masked character named The Bat. Because of its reputation, the staff doesn’t stay long so it is up to her and her secretary to fend for themselves. Bodies start to pile up, plenty of red herrings, hidden passageways, all the while Cornelia tries to figure out how she would have written this mystery in order to discover who the killer is.

While Vincent Price’s name is usually all over the place, he really is a supporting character, but nonetheless, any time he shows up onscreen, it’s always a plus. Also in the cast is Gavin Cordon, who’s voice might be more recognizable than his face. He played Lord Byron in the opening segment of The Bride of Frankenstein (1935). John Sutton, who plays the butler, appeared with Price in The Invisible Man Returns (1940). And Darla Hood, all grown up for her stint with the Little Rascals in the Our Gang shorts, appears as one of the houseguests. This would be her last film appearance.

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Friday Favorites: Trilogy of Terror

As most of us know, the 26th & 27th of this month was the birth date of three of the biggest icons in the horror genre (though one is probably still not happy about that!). Of course, it would be Peter Cushing (born May 26, 1913), Vincent Price (born May 27th, 1911), and Christopher Lee (born May 27th, 1922). Whether it is because of the multiple titles from Hammer Studio, the work with AIP, or William Castle, these three actors have given us horror fans countless hours of chills, shivers, and entertainment. I couldn’t let these two days go by without posting something in honor of these iconic actors.

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Horror History: Hazel Court

hazelcourtHazel Court
Born Feb. 10th, 1926 – Died April 15th, 2008

While the gorgeous Hazel Court really got horror fan’s attention when she starred opposite of Peter Cushing in Hammer’s Curse of Frankenstein (1957), she had already appeared in couple of horror titles, such as Ghost Ship (1952) and Devil Girl from Mars (1954).  But it was Curse that made her known as an early Scream Queen. 

She would appear in Hammer’s The Man Who Could Cheat Death in 1959, in the underrated film Doctor Blood’s Coffin in 1961, before hitting it big with Roger Corman fans in three of his Poe films, Premature Burial (1962), The Raven (1963), and The Masque of the Red Death (1964), where she got to work with other horror icons like Boris Karloff, Vincent Price, and Peter Lorre.

Not only very appealing to the eyes, Court was a fine actress that could play the villainess just as easily as the heroine. In 2008, she released her autobiography entitled Hazel Court: Horror Queen.

Soundtrack Review: Edgar Allan Poe Suite / Horror Express

Edgar Allan Poe Suite - Horror ExpressEdgar Allan Poe Suite / Cry of the Banshee / Horror Express
Released by Citadel
14 Tracks, with a total running time of 61:58 min.
Composed & Conducted by Les Baxter and John Cacavas

This release is a real gem and a treat for horror fans. First it has the music from a series of four different one-man stage plays starring Vincent Price, each based on a story from Poe: The Pit and the Pendulum, The Sphinx, The Cask of Amontilado, and The Tell-Tale Heart. Then it also has a suite from Cry of the Banshee that is almost 20 minutes long. These were both composed by Les Baxter, who did a lot of work for AIP and their Corman/Poe series. Then we also have the score for Horror Express by John Cacavas. Continue reading

Rest in Peace: Hilary Dwyer & Honor Blackman

The horror genre lost two actresses that only made a few appearances in the genre but still made an impact.

Honor Blackman, probably best known for her role as Pussy Galore in Goldfinger (1964), as well as in the Avengers TV series, she did appear in a few horror films, such as the underrated Fright (1971), starring a young Susan George, Hammer’s To the Devil a Daughter (1976), and even in the more recent Cockneys vs Zombies (2012), which I was amazed how entertaining that one actually was! Blackman passed away on April 5th at the age of 94.

Hilary (Heath) Dwyer appeared in even fewer horror films, all appearing alongside Vincent Price! Her first role was in Witchfinder General (1968), where she runs up against Price as the evil Matthew Hopkins. She then appeared with Price again in The Oblong Box (1969) and Cry of the Banshee (1970). She left acting to start a talent agency and then into producing. She passed away last week due to complications with Covid-19.

Two familiar faces that will always be kept alive and remembered because of their work in these films. Our thoughts go out to their friends and family during this difficult times.

Soundtrack Review: Dr. Phibes Rises Again

phibes2coverDr. Phibes Rises Again
Released by Perseverance Records
29 Tracks, with a total running time of 45:10 min.
Composed and Conducted by John Gale

For fans of the Dr. Phibes movies, how could you not love to have this in your collection? Perseverance Records did an incredible job bringing this to fans with this release. From the opening Main Title track, you can just about picture the good Doctor being resurrected from his sleep! Then when the next track, Vulnavia’s Theme kicks in, it really is like a dream!

Composer John Gale has created a wide variety of musical styles in this soundtrack. From the operatic Vulnavia’s Theme to the sound of the big band era, with some classic pieces thrown in for good measure, it has such an immense range of music and feelings produced for the many different elements of this movie. From tracks like Remembering Victoria is a short but beautiful little piece of music, almost sounding like a harpsichord, to the wonderful guitar sequence in the track To Egypt, but it captures the feelings perfectly. Continue reading

Movie Review: Monster! Martians! Mad Scientists! Horror in the Atomic Age!

Horror in the Atomic AgeI love documentaries on the horror / sci-fi genres, especially when you get to hear from the people that were directly involved with them. There are ALWAYS great stories that we usually never get to hear unless you catch one of them at a convention, or maybe an extra on DVD or Blu-ray. So when I first heard of this new 3-disc documentary called Monster! Martians! Mad Scientists! Horror in the Atomic Age!, it had my interests. When I discovered the price was only $15, I did have some doubts because it was so cheap, especially for 3 discs, but I figured at that price, it was worth taking the chance.

I’m glad I did!

The 3 discs are divided into time frame categories. The first one, entitled The Atomic Age, starts in the early ’50s and gives us a look back at that time and the films that were coming out. While this is about the movies, we get to hear and understand what was going on at that time period, with the constant threat of atomic destruction hovering over their heads, and how that effected the movies. The second disc, entitled A World Gone Mad, covers the second half of the ’50s with the big-bug movies, alien invasions, 3-D movies, and more. The last disc, called Fade to Red, covers the early ’60s and how times were changing, due to the Vietnam War, the Civil unrest, and how the films were reflecting that with more realistic gore and terror. Continue reading

Book News! Start Saving!

For those book lovers in your life, here are more than a few gift ideas for the upcoming holidays, or just because you want to support the print industry! I know each and every one of these titles will be added to my own personal library in the very near future! But these are a few that we’ve recently come across that sound pretty amazing.

Darkening the Italian Screen: Interviews with Genre and Exploitation Directors Who Debuted in the 1950s and 1960s by Eugenio Ercolani is a collection of interviews with names that might not be as familiar with most fans, but yet have had a huge impact on the Italian exploitation cinema. There are some of the usual suspects like actor George Hilton and director Sergio Martino, but then we’ll also get to hear from the likes of Uberto Lenzi, Alberto De Martino, Enzo G. Castellari, Franco Rossetti, among others. I can’t wait to hear some of their stories and tales from the trenches of getting some of their films made and released. Continue reading

Book Review: The Dr. Phibes Companion

Dr Phibes CompanionThe Dr. Phibes Companion
Published by BearManor Media, 2018. 274 pages
By Justin Humphreys

One of the first movies I rented when I bought my very own VCR was one of my all time favorite films, The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971), starring the amazing Vincent Price, and it still remains the same to this day. How could you not love this movie about this evil genius who sets out to get revenge of those who he believes caused the death of his wife, each one in a very creative way? It’s one of my favorite character’s that Price brought to life and is always a treat to watch. So when I first read about the news that there was going to a book dedicated to the Phibes films, I was more than a little excited.

With contributions by Mark Ferelli, Sam Irvin, and David Taylor, and a forward by Phibes co-screenwriter William Goldstein, author Humphreys has compiled so much information about the first Phibes movie, its sequel Dr. Phibes Rises Again (1972), as well as the many proposed sequels that never got off the ground. Humphreys has done an amazing job compiling information about these titles from the original screenplays, letting us know the differences between them and the final product, finding and hiring the director, the art direction, casting, makeup, the score, and just about everything you could want to know about them! As a Phibes Phan, you’ll learn more here than you thought you could.

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New Book on Dr. Phibes!

Dr. Phibes CompanionWhen I first really got into horror films, one of my favorites was The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971), starring the wonderful campy Vincent Price. Even though he was the villain, you always rooted for him! And even though he never actually “talked” in the film, he still commanded your attention each and every frame he was on screen. With a beautiful mixture of horror and humor, director Robert Fuest and Price created a highly memorable character that we got to experience in not only the first film, but its sequel, Dr. Phibes Rises Again (1972).

Last year, one of my favorite books that I read was Interviews Too Shocking To Print by Justin Humphreys. So when I discovered that he was coming out with a Dr. Phibes companion book, I was just ecstatic. BearManor Media has announced that The Dr. Phibes Companion is now available for pre-order, both in hard and soft cover editions ($32 & $22), though they don’t have a publication date on the site just yet.

Humphreys had previously written about the first Phibes movie in “The Kind of Fiend Who Wins” and now takes that and expands on it, giving us the definitive history of our favorite devious doctor, as well as a new essay on the sequel, Dr. Phibes Rises Again. There is also a new forward by William Goldstein, one of the creators of this wonderful character. Adding in interviews with many of the people involved with the films, such as director Fuest, screenwriters Goldstein and James Whiton, art director Brian Eatwell, sound designer Peter Lennard, organist Nicholas Kynaston, composer John Gale, and many others. The book will also include never-before-seen production artwork by Fuest from his personal shooting script, as well as photos that have never been published. And one part that I’m really interested in reading, the thorough history of the sequels that never came to be.

I know this will definitely be added to my library once it comes out and can’t wait to dive into it. For more information, just head over to BearManor Media’s website HERE.