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Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Rawhide Terror (1934) - Bruce M. Mitchell

Western's were popular in the thirties. The Internet Movie Database lists only 14 horror movies from 1934 with 72 westerns. It was only a matter of time before there was a bleed over film. This is that movie. Horribly acted and produced. This forty-five minuet short felt like it had a great deal of potential. I felt as if the filmmakers were confused when they made it. The garb was a mix of modern-for-the-era-chic and western wear. It was pretty horrible.

A band of thieves and bandits take over a town and murder their way to power. They start with an innocent family and go from there. Years later, many of the members are being murdered in some pretty vicious ways by a killer known as 'The Rawhide Terror'. Riveting, no?  

The acting is oblivious to the nature of the scenes in which they were filmed. It's like the movie has no direction. Some of the actors would over sell their lines and the others would sound too nonchalant in the delivery. The ten gallon hats were ridiculous looking. They needed a serious continuity check in their wardrobe department. It was pitiful. 

The storyline was weird too. The family is killed and then we jump ahead ten years. You have two brothers from the murdered family that survived and the gang that killed them are all now citizens of the town. When the killer starts his frenzy the entire town gets up in arms. You would think that they would be happy that the gang is dying off but they aren't. Tons of things go unexplained or just sort of happen. 

Forget about this one folks. If anyone asks don't suggest this one. It's a bomb. Not even a good one. Like I said above this movie had real potential and could have served as an inspiration for a whole genre that barely exists. Well... I guess that's why pencils have erasers.

  • This film was begun as a serial, but, after a production halt, was converted to a B-western. Just as the main titles fade to black, one can observe, however, the beginning of a dissolve to "Episode 2, The Terror Returns."
  • The Rawhide Terror has no soundtrack aside from the beginning credits.
  • The tagline is  Action . . . thrills . . . mystery . . . romance! The movie has none of these elements. 

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Black Moon (1934) - Roy William Neill

Black Moon is something else. It's not really a scary horror movie. I feel that the movie was made to make white people second guess their take on black people. The movie is highly bigoted and narrow minded. It is argued that this is just a product of the time but that's bull. Plenty of people had their heads on straight back then. Just not the majority of them. So yeah, this movie is pretty racist. 

The plot revolves around this woman named Juanita and her family. Her parents were massacred in a Voodoo ritual when she was a little girl. She narrowly escaped then. However, now she finds herself strangely drawn back to the remote island where this all took place. All of this is unknown to her husband Stephen played by Jack Lane, who sends Juanita, their daughter, and his mistress secretary to the island to help Juanita relieve stress. That's when things start to go wrong. 

If you can get past all of the blatant racist remarks then you might actually see a pretty decent horror movie. Definitely a precursor to movies like Cannibal Holocaust and Sacrifice!. This movie isn't really that scary but it does have it's moments. The Voodoo sacrifice scene is really well done and has fantastic set design. In an interesting twist our hero has a mistress. Played by Fay Wray. This is special because its the kind of detail usually left out of these quick witted thriller/horrors. Especially ones from this time period. It also pushed boundaries with gore. When a charred body is found near a lava pit what we get to see is pretty gruesome. 

Black Moon was decent, at best. I tried to get into it but couldn't let the vernacular go. I like what the movie could have been and what it could have become. It had really great potential and serves well as a great-grandfather to these other savage movies that came after it. Proceed, but proceed with caution. 

...the natives think that the 'Black Gods' must be angry with him!

  • The language spoken by the native characters, and by Juanita (Dorothy Burgess) when she addresses them directly, is Kreyol (also spelled Creole), the African-influenced dialect of French that is the common language of Haiti.
  • The film was refused a UK cinema certificate in 1934.
  • It is based on a short story by Clements Ripley that first appeared in Hearst's International-Cosmopolitan.

Monday, November 04, 2013

King Kong (1933) - Merian C. Cooper & Ernest B. Schoedsack

THE killer ape movie that actually succeeded and gave us a figure more recognizable than James Whale's Frankenstein's Monster. King Kong is one of the greatest movies about a giant ape ever made! I can say that with the utmost confidence. For the limits that the directors faced at the time, they did a really good job making the audience really believe in Kong. That is the main drawing point for this movie. The acting is just about as good as you would expect it. Fay Wray is our damsel in distress, starring in this picture masterfully alongside Bruce Cabot, Robert Armstrong, Frank Reicher, and of course Kong himself. 

A crew decides to make a movie on a remote island. While out on the island they discover Kong the giant gorilla that sets his eyes on Ann Darrow. Never one to miss an opportunity Carl Denham decides to capture the beast and bring him back to New York as an attraction. However, things go wrong and Kong goes nuts. The flashbulbs and gawking humans offend the giant and he goes on a famous rampage through the big apple. Eventually scaling the Empire State Building before being shot to death and plummeting to the streets below. 

The film gave moviegoers a peek at something tremendous. Something completely out of the world. When you went to see a horror movie in the thirties you were expecting a small scale film, that relied mostly on character development rather than substance. This movie is both. Great character devo and an amazing story. From the beginning this is much more than just another movie. King Kong is an event. Unfortunately, the hype didn't hold up over the two remakes. 

The effects are spectacular. The image of King Kong up on top of the Empire State Building is embedded in everyone's brain. That image is just as recognizable as Darth Vader's helmet and the McDonalds Golden Arches. The model work during the early scenes on the island are really great. You get the sense that this giant Gorilla exists and is the King of Skull Island.

King Kong is a classic in every sense of the word. From the acting to the characters. The movie is a true testament to its day. A time when apes were scary and haunted the dreams of babes. Check it out. 

Don't be alarmed, ladies and gentlemen. Those chains are made of chrome steel.
  • King Kong's roar was a lion's and a tiger's roar combined and run backwards but more slowly.
  • The project went through numerous title changes during production, including "The Beast" (original title of draft by Edgar Wallace in RKO files), "The Eighth Wonder", "The Ape", "King Ape" and "Kong".
  • Grossed $90,000 its opening weekend, the biggest opening ever at the time.