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Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Dante's Inferno (1911) - Francesco Bertolini, Adolfo Padovan, and Giuseppe De Liguoro

I didn't know what to expect from this movie going into it. However, I was really intrigued. I haven't read Dante Alighieri's work but I know parts of the story. It wasn't too unfamiliar. Turns out I really enjoyed it. If you want to know about Inferno then check out this link.

L'Inferno, as it's called in native Italy, is the first full-length Italian feature film. It is a fantastic movie and one of the greatest silent pictures. The directors do a great job of making this movie seem so much larger than it actually is. Inferno draws little from the actual text of Dante but it follows the illustrations of Gustave DorĂ©. 

The 'Divine Comedy' of Dante was inspired by a little girl,only nine years of age, when her beauty first impressed the poet.  Beatrice died at the age of twenty-four, and Dante's plan to immortalize her, resulted in one of the most stupendous achievements of human genius -- the Inferno.

The film has some amazing scenes and effects. The directors really worked hard. Apparently it took three years to complete this piece. It shows. The hard work shines though. It has amazing cinematography and tells a story really well. The effects they utilized are genius. Different effects for all of the different levels of hell.

The camera is stationary and our characters just move about. However, it doesn't take away from anything. The directors show a vast amount of creativity in solving the problem of making this all look good in that little box. 

This movie isn't scary but it deals with some really terrifying themes. Stronger themes than the silver screens were used to at that time. The main story line revolves around hell and the various tortures that happen there. It's weirdness is bound to give a weak willed individual some strange nightmares. 

Country: Italy
Style: Classic Tale

Did ya know...
The film was first screened in Naples in the Teatro Mercadante on March 10, 1911. The film had a budget greater than 100,000 Lire. According to "The People's Almanac Guide to the 20th Century", this is the very first movie to ever show male front nudity, well over half a century before it turned up again in Women in Love (1969).

Sunday, February 22, 2015

H.P. Lovecraft's: Necronomicon (1993) - Brian Yuzna, Christophe Gans, and Shusuke Kaneko

H.P. Lovecraft is a true horror icon in every sense of the word. His timeless classics can be told to generation after generation and still be entertaining and wonderful. His legacy lives on through directors/writers like John Carpenter, Stuart Gordon, Stephen King, Brian Yuzna, Christophe Gans, and Shusuke Kaneko. Jeffery Combs has proven to be the quintessential Lovecraftian actor and rightly has a proper seat in this film. The stories selected are fantastic and they serve this movie very well. The whole concept of bringing different directors together to tell Lovecraft stories really interests me and I hope it would interest you too.  

The film is broken into multiple stories with a wraparound story to hold it together. Jeffery Combs plays H.P. Lovecraft who is doing research on his stories? Combs apparently didn't enjoy his portrayal but I think he does pretty well. Lovecraft stays late at one of these elaborate mausoleum-type libraries that are open apparently twenty-four hours. It's run by some strange druids.

The first tale is a really neat period piece that features Bruce Payne as Edward De LaPoer a rich, spoiled inheritor that receives an old family hotel. His families history is tragic and this hotel houses most of the tragedy. Jethro De La Poer, the great grandfather had lost both his wife and child, when they drowned after a boat crash. Jethro uses the Necronomicon to bring back his wife and child but they come back as hidious, unholy creatures! 

The second story is about a strange series of murders being investigated by some shifty little gonad, Dale Porkle. Porkle smarms his way into an interview with the supposed daughter of the heroine of our tale. The story talks about her mother and a Doctor Richard Madden that had been experimenting with extending life itself by using the fresh spinal fluid from his victims. 

The third story is about police officers that are on the case of murderer named "The Butcher". While on a chase, The Butcher seeks refuse in a warehouse after apparently knocking out and dragging off one of the officers. While the other officer, Sarah, investigates the warehouse and comes upon Mr. Benedict the "caretaker" of the facility and his flamboyant "wife." She demands that Benedict take her around the facility to find her partner and The Butcher. This is where it gets weird. Aliens. Tunnels. Mass Graves. It's pretty neat. 

The film wraps up with the wraparound story of Lovecraft and his library. The final segment plays out more like Indiana Jones than anything it was building to. We get giant monsters and a ton of adventure in a great little piece. 

The film is pretty fantastic. I can't find any flaws other than the obvious ones left by the monetary restrictions. Other than Re-Animator it is the greatest Lovecraftian film I have reviewed to date. It really delivers the gore and keeps your interest all the way through. 

Directors: Brian Yuzna, Christophe Gans, and Shusuke Kaneko
Country: USA
Style: Classic Anthology Horror

Did ya know...
Necronomicon was well received upon its initial VHS release in the USA, but did substantially better in European and Asian markets.[citation needed] With regards to the acting, one reviewer said that 'Payne is especially effective because of his suppression of his tortured grief, adding considerable power to his scenes'. The film won the award for the best special effects at the 1994 Fantafestival. In their book Lurker in the Lobby: A Guide to the Cinema of H. P. Lovecraft, Andrew Migliore and John Strysik write: "Unfortunately, it does not deliver on what should have been a great idea. In fact the film loses focus, speed, and atmosphere after the first segment, "The Drowned," almost as though the production had run out of money and time."

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Son of Ingagi (1940) - Richard C. Kahn

This film is the first all-African American horror movie. This peaked my curiosity. Upon viewing it I noticed that it seems to be a mash-up of bits and pieces from horror movies that had been popular in the past. It has some great sequences and is thoroughly
enjoyable. It has some really cool musical pieces by a group known as The Four Toppers. 

The film focuses on a newlywed couple Robert and Eleanor Lindsay who inherit a strange old house from an old woman named Doctor Jackson. The house has a strange ape-man that lives in the basement. No doubt a product of the Doctor's experiments. The ape-man is her servant and is docile. That is until the ape-man finds an experimental potion that she had foolishly left out leading to the ape-man going berserk. Ape-Man become angry! Ape-Man smash!

The film has some really great acting supplied by Daisy Bufford. Spencer Williams, the writer for the film, also portrays a character in the movie. This is a low-budget film that makes the right decisions. It is really well shot and decently made. It isn't horrible and appears to be more palatable than other films from it's time. It feels as though it suffers from poor marketing and having a very small budget. I assume that it having an all-black cast during it's time didn't help either.  

Director: Richard C. Kahn
Country: USA

Did ya know...
The title is a take-off on the notorious film Ingagi (1930) that was made nearly a decade earlier. This is believed to be the only horror film with, what was then called, an "all colored cast."

The Devil Bat (1940) - Jean Yarbrough

Bela Lugosi was in many horror movies during this time. Still trying to shake his memorable role as Dracula. Bela Lugosi stars in this picture as a cosmetic chemist with a mean streak. He creates an after-shave lotion that attracts vicious, giant, bloodsucking bats all of which are his own creation. A couple of reporters stumble onto stories of these giant "devil" bats attacking people seemingly at random. However, they decide to follow up on all of these accusations. Someone is killing people and these stereotypical reporters are gonna get the scoop! 

Bela Lugosi is wonderful in just about everything he does. However, when I look at him all I see is Dracula. He always seemed to embrace that side of his career but at the same time hates being pigeon-holed. Unlike Karloff, Lugosi didn't really have that broad of a range while acting and kept mostly to horror/sci-fi pictures. Sad? Maybe. He has a full catalog but most of the work is all filler. 

The Devil Bat is funny and campy. It's fun to watch with friends and even better when you have a love for Lugosi's work. The movie has a far-fetched plot that seems to really go off  a deep-end. Also, the small budget didn't really give us the best effects. The bats flying around are hilarious. It's fun to listen to "Scientists" in the forties that are trying to explain things outside of their comprehension for their time. 

This movie is all-in-all pretty decent. Lugosi gives a chilling performance as a Mad Scientist and makes for a good villain. It just has a really thin plot that fades quickly. Some of the shots in the film are really interesting. The driving scene is good. I liked how raw it felt. The laboratory scenes are good. The bats aren't really scary but what do you want. Bats just are not that scary. 

Director: Jean Yarbrough
Country: USA

Did ya know...
This low-budget thriller, boosted by Bela Lugosi, was one of the biggest successes for the poverty row Producers Releasing Corporation (PRC). After the war, the studio tried to recapture this success by producing an in-name-only sequel, Devil Bat's Daughter (1946), and a virtual shot-by-shot remake, The Flying Serpent (1946).

Body Parts (1991) - Eric Red

Body Parts is really interesting. It takes the story of The Hands of Orlac and tries to make it more believable. In some ways it succeeds and in a lot of others, it doesn't. I'm a big fan of the 1924 masterpiece and an equally big fan of the 1931 remake Mad Love. Both of those movies are classics. They tell the same story in such an engaging way. This is a respectable and interesting try, but it falls short in a number of different areas. 

Jeff Fahey is a criminal psychologist named Bill. Bill loses his arm in a horrible accident. He undergoes some revolutionary surgery and he has a new arm grafted on to replace the one he lost. It just so happens that the arm he receives belongs to a psychotic killer. Bill starts to notice that his arm seems to have a life of it's own and it's ruining his own. He comes in contact with others that have gotten limb replacements and finds that they are all suffering just like he is. Just differently. Add some weird doctors and a very thin plot line and you have got Body Parts.

Firstly, this film has a really good cast. Jeff Fahey (Lapidus, the pilot from Lost), Horror icon Brad Dourif, Kim Delaney, Zakes Mokae, Lindsay Duncan, and Paul Ben-Victor all round out your top actors. Dourif and Fahey do an amazing job pulling their characters to life. Secondly, the cinematography and lighting are stupendous. Parts of this movie felt like a throwback and nod to Grindhouse classics. It was a nice little treat. Third, it is pretty generous with the gore. Certain scenes were campy and over-the-top but that only added to the creepiness of the picture as a whole. It wasn't a terrible movie. It just had a sizable amount of flaws. 

Those flaws are mostly with the story. It has tons of holes. The movie does a good job of throwing swerves in the way, but ends up not answering most of the questions it generates. The biggest flaws are with the motivations of the antagonists. It leaves me scratching my head and feels a bit thrown together. Like the director had wanted to go one way but financial restrictions made him go the other. I don't understand how that would happen when you have a $10,000,000 budget. 

This is an interesting early nineties horror movie that delivers suspense and thrills. The medical scenes and general attack scenes are pretty gory and that only adds to the picture. It has a certain cult feel and I like that. It also has some good touches of Noir. I mentioned the lighting earlier and noticed that the shadows are very Noir-ish. This is a great movie for those that are following up on any of those actors careers. It might come off as a little boring to a casual horror fan. 

Director: Eric Red
Country: Canada
Style: Body Horror

Did ya know...
Body Parts is very similar to a 1971 episode of Night Gallery titled "The Hand of Borgus Weems." Body Parts was theatrically released August 2, 1991. It was first released on home video February 20, 1992 and later on DVD September 14, 2004. Paramount pulled ads for Body Parts in Milwaukee, Wisconsin after police found dismembered bodies in Jeffrey Dahmer's apartment.