Cinema, Month of Madness

One Weak Week

In trying to write about the movies I viewed this past week, I’ve run into a rather sticky problem: I cannot for the life of me remember what I watched Monday.

Oh dear.

I remember Tuesday (10/12) well.   I watched The Terror (1963), a real beast of a film which I thought was going to be a whole lot better than it was.  I’d barely started the film when I had a bad feeling.  Something’s wrong here, I thought.  What is it?

Picture 1

Ah yes, that it explains it.

The Terror has a somewhat intriguing story: a French soldier is separated from his regiment somewhere in Germany, and stops a mysterious girl he meets on an obvious California beach along the German ocean, I guess, to ask for directions.  She is so beautiful, he falls in love on sight (as you do), and when she disappears suddenly, he tracks her to a creepy castle (of course) inhabited by a very depressed Boris Karloff, who insists she does not exist.

The first problem here is that the soldier is played by Jack Nicholson, who, though very young, is pretty much playing the Jack Nicholson who all know and, er, love. Or loathe.  I mean, who is less French than Jack Nicholson?

Despite Jack, there are a lot of interesting elements here (is the girl real? alive? dead? a hawk? who is the scary witch lady in the hut? what’s with the mute guy that lives with her? why is Boris so sad?) that unfortunately add up to, well, not much.  Since Corman is at the helm, the mysterious plot is irrevocably and improbably wrapped up in the last 5 minutes or so, with a talky, truly unbelievable reveal.  Oh Roger, I want to like you but you make it so hard.

The moral here? Don’t believe the poster:

the-terror

Wednesday was a revisit of a classic Month of Madness entry: The Manster (1962) I’m not sure I can add much to my review from 2005:

Wow. A perennial Month of Madness favorite in my house, this film has earned a place close to my heart because it is so earnest in its suckitude. It is so bad, yet everyone involved seems very committed to making the best film they can, and you have to admire that. The production values are surprisingly good, and the performances are quite decent. Peter Dyneley’s tortured journalist working in Japan and caught in a descending madness chews the scenery with a stunning, forceful mediocrity. The scares in this one come way before the actual Manster shows up, and at least one is somewhat ghastly. The Manster himself? Well… He’s what you’d expect from a film with Japanese scientists named “Robert” and “Tara” who don’t seem to speak Japanese. A scream and a half.

Yeah, it’s pretty fabulous in a Manster-y kind of way.  I guess I can add this for you: Here’s Peter Dynley, doing his thing.

manster07

Inspiring, right?  And the man can bellow like a sea cow.  It’s impressive, and you can hear for yourself.  Manster is apparently in the public domain now (which explains the horribly edited copy I found – the whole ending was missing!), and can be viewed in its entirety (or downloaded) at The Internet Archive.  I love that site.

So that was Wednesday.

Thursday, last night, D and I settled in for something really…special.  Have you seen 1988’s Waxwork? Words fail me, they really do.

waxwork

Let me start with a plot: a group of carefully stereotyped teens visits a “private showing” at a neighborhood waxwork museum, owned by David “I’ll-do-anything-for-a-paycheck” Warner.  Predictably, some of the teens go missing.  The leftover teens investigate, Scooby-Doo style, and learn that there’s a Satanic thing going on with the wax museum, something about each display representing the most evil people in all of history who each need to kill one vicitim in order to come alive again and, yawn, take over the world.  This leads me to wonder who the most evil person form history was represented by the alien baby display.  Or the faux Night of the Living Dead display (Romero?).

Zach Galligan, of Gremlins fame, stars here as our petulant hero, along with a perpetually moistened Deborah Foreman (Valley Girl) who has a Marquis de Sade fixation that pops up in inconvenient moments.  Their performances are a tad better than the rest of the nameless teens, which really isn’t saying much.  Basically, this film was a stinkburger.  The DVD also has Waxwork 2 on it, so, give me strength, you’ll probably be hearing about that soon.

Today (10/16), I watched a really decent Lugosi flick, The Return of the Vampire, from 1944.  It was Universal’s attempt to revive the flagging Dracula franchise, with a totally non-Dracula story.  On its own, it has a lot of appeal.

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Lugosi is restrained and even a little chilling as ancient, evil Count Tesla (awesome name, eh?), who was killed many years ago by a Lady Jane Ainsley, (Frieda Inescort) and accidentally brought to life after the Germans bombed the cemetary where Lady Jane buried his staked body.  The WWII setting gives it a different flavor than a lot of vampire mopvies, and the lead vampire hunter, Lady Jane, is a surpisnlgy strong female character for the time.  She’s a sort of Rosie the Riveter Van Helsing kind of a gal.

It was a delightful way to end a week of wobbly films. But what the heck did I watch Monday?  Oh dear.

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