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Tuesday, March 08, 2016

Spooks Run Wild (1941) - Phil Rosen

Spooks Run Wild is a hilarious romp. I never thought I would use that term but here we are. The East Side Kids are not as annoying as you would think. The movie feels like it was filmed years before 1941, but that is just due to a pretty low budget. Bela Lugosi stars and does a pretty decent job. I liked this movie much more than any other of his post-Dracula vehicles.

A group of teens is sent out to a camp for "special kids". A small group wanders off and gets lost. These are the East Side Kids. The Kids end up walking through a graveyard. One of them gets shot and they take refuge in the nearest home. That home happens to belong to a mysterious vampire-like stranger played by Bela Lugosi. He offers to help them and insists that they stay at his home for the night. Weird things start to happen and the East Side Kids try to escape before they meet their demise. 

This movie was incredibly surprising. I didn't expect to enjoy this as much as I did. Sometimes it gets tedious, going back and watching these old movies. Don't get me wrong. I love these old classics. It's just that this movie goes right back to the old Old Dark House theme and it's tired. That is the worst thing about these old features. They tend to just ride on that theme and it's been going on since the early 1900's. It's the one of the oldest plots. 

This is another example of Bela Lugosi not being able to shake off that vampire gimmick. The people loved it and it made his career. He was pigeonholed. No matter how much he hated it, it made him famous. His performance in this is actually really good. It's not just a throw away casting choice. He gets a really decent amount of screen-time and is intricate to the storyline. This isn't one of his best, but damn if it isn't impressive. 

This is a comedy through and through. It may have a horror theme around it, but the coating is comedy. The East Side Kids are a comedy troupe and this is just one of their showcase movies that happens to have Bela Lugosi in it. If you are looking to have nightmares than you might be disappointing. This isn't that type of film. Kids can watch this and not miss a beat of sleep. I recommend this to anyone that wants to follow Bela's career or has a love for old comedy. As I said above, it is enjoyable for all. I had a great time watching it even if it isn't scary. 

Director: Phil Rosen
Starring: Bela Lugosi, Leo Gorcey, Bobby Jordan and Huntz Hall
Style: Old Dark House Comedy Horror
Country: USA
Studio: Monogram Pictures

Did ya know? 
Filmed June-July 1941.The second of Bela Lugosi's 9 Monogram features, and the first of two with the East Side Kids.

The copyright expired and was not renewed, so the film fell into "public domain", meaning that virtually anyone could copy it and sell it without having to pay royalties. That's why there are so so many shoddy, badly cut, grainy copies of it on the market, put out mainly by companies that specialize in public-domain films.

Friday, March 04, 2016

Warlock (1989) - Steve Miner

An original idea that never really took off. The film sat on the shelves for years just waiting for me to pick it up. Unfortunately, I always dispatched the thought of watching the movie based on the idea that it would be largely disappointing. I was kinda wrong. It's a nostalgia trip for those that grew up in the late eighties, early nineties. And although it has corny elements. It has an intrigue that holds true. I enjoyed watching this one. 

Giles Redferne (Richard E. Grant) and the Warlock (Julian Sands) are transported into the future from 1691. They end up in 1991. There are some comedy elements to their adaptation to this modern culture. However, the horror starts almost immediately. The Warlock seeks to end the world by using the Devil's bible. While Giles tries to stop him. Almost like a satanic Terminator. Our other protagonist is Kassandra with a K. The young heroine of the film, who gets wrapped up in this crazy adventure. She's like Blossom and Punky Brewster were smashed together. She's a nightmare. 

The movie is a horror movie and buddy film all at once. The film is just as much about the Warlock trying to end the world as it is about Giles and Kassandra driving around and becoming friends. It's like some young adult horror novel series that never happened. It's adorable. 

The Warlock is a neat idea. However, he is flawed pretty heavily by the absence of good special effects. Some points feel comical and others are overtly horrific. It's weird. Maybe it's why this never really became anything bigger. It was an idea that just didn't make it to super-stardom. It didn't hit well with the big crowds. Warlock never made it to the Jason, Freddy, Michael Myers or Leatherface heights. Although he did have some good potential. The magic was pretty neat.  

Watching this, I noticed that I had seen parts of it before. Although I recalled it being a lot scarier than it actually was. This movie has a lot of daylight. Take that how you will. It just sort of tones down the scariness of the whole thing. The makeup isn't wonderful. In fact it's pretty terrible. The early CGI isn't amazing either. However, it's compelling and original. So enjoy it. More people should. 

Director: Steve Miner
Starring: Julian Sands, Richard E. Grant, Lori Singer and Mary Woronov
Style: Witchcraft Slasher
Country: USA
Studio: New World Pictures

Did ya know?

The film was originally completed in late 1988 and was one of the last films completed by distributor New World Pictures when they filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The film's trailer was actually shown before early 1989 theatrical releases. Instead of going direct to video, Warlock was picked up and released in theatres by Trimark Pictures in 1991. Its box office success lead to a sequel, "Warlock: The Armageddon" in which Trimark also released theatrically.

The scene in the theatrical trailer involving the Warlock as the satanic messiah was cut after negative reactions from test screenings. The channeler's death was originally much more violent. The scene involved a topless Mary Woronov being frozen after the devil's eyeballs emerged from her breasts. The Warlock then stomps her to pieces to free them. After the wrap up, the scene was redone as what remains in the film.