Thursday, October 27, 2022
|Unraveling: Terry O'Quinn
|Jill Schoelen and Terry O'Quinn
Author John Verney (Richard Widmark), who frequently writes on the occult, is importuned by a frightened man named Beddows (Denholm Elliott) to look after his daughter, Catherine (Nastassja Kinski), after she arrives in London. Catherine is a nun who belongs to the Church of the Children of the Lord, a sect that worships Astaroth. The leader of the church, Father Michael (Christopher Lee), is anxious to get his hands on Catherine because of certain bloody rites that must be performed. Initially sweet and compliant, Sister Catherine eventually becomes a danger to Verney's friends, including his literary agent Anna (Honor Blackman) and her boyfriend David (Anthony Valentine). Catherine makes her way to Father Michael as her own father writhes in terror and Verney learns what he can do to fight against the god -- or devil -- Astaroth's entry into earth via Catherine (or something like that).
To the Devil a Daughter is a co-release of Hammer Studios but don't expect a Hammer classic with this atrocious movie. Most of the actors give it their all (one suspects Widmark wishes he had stayed in America) but they're fighting a losing battle with a hopelessly erratic script and sequences that are so bad they have to be seen to be believed. The last quarter of the film is hilarious, especially a sequence when a character is embroiled in fire and reduced to ashes so quickly that it is more comical than frightening. A bit of business in which a woman commits suicide by draining all of her blood into those special plastic bags turns hysterical when Chris Lee intones with consummate understatement: "she gave her life's blood." An orgy sequence is equally laughable. It's hard to imagine how anything could have been made out of this awful movie, which even Chris Lee can't save.
Verdict: One of the worst Hammer movies ever made. *1/2.
35 years ago Count Regula (Christopher Lee) murdered 12 virgins in an attempt to gain immortality. For his trouble, he was drawn and quartered as his two chief accusers stood watching. Now the descendants of these people, Roger Mont Elise (Lex Barker) and Baroness Lillian (Karin Dor), have received an invitation to the crumbling old Castle Regula, both unaware of what transpired in the past. Accompanying them by coach are Lillian's maid Babette (Christiane Rucker) and the rather shady Father Fabian (Vladimir Medar).
The first half of the film is a protracted journey through a creepy forest in which trees have limbs growing out of them and skeletons are hanging from nooses. At the castle the group run into the long-dead Anatol (Carl Lange), the count's major domo, who plans to bring the count back to life. Wanting his revenge, the revived count places Roger under a slowly descending pendulum even as Lillian is nearly thrown into a pit full of writhing snakes. Yes, this is a very loose adaptation of Poe's classic The Pit and the Pendulum.
|Pitiful victim of "Dr. Sadism"
Verdict: Fun horror film from West Germany that has some of the qualities of Italian horror features. ***.
Diane Sullivan (Roz Kelley) is a famous Los-Angeles based DJ known as "Blaze." During a New Year's Eve celebration at a hotel, she gets a phone call from a man with a disguised voice who tells her that he will kill one person each time it strikes midnight in a different time zone (he himself stays in Los Angeles). Blaze isn't certain whether or not to take the call seriously but calls in the police, who tell her that a dead body was discovered just where the killer said it would be. As cops try to track down the maniac and guard Blaze, the killer proceeds to put on one disguise after another as he dispatches women and the occasional man who gets in his way.
New Year's Evil is a fairly zesty slasher that relies on some suspense and interesting developments instead of extreme gore. There's a clever bit involving a dumpster, an amusing protracted sequence when the murderer has to run from a gang of motorcycling morons, and a good twist as to the identity of the mad slasher. A decided weakness is the lackluster performance of Roz Kelly, who isn't even convincing when she is supposedly dangling from the bottom of an ascending elevator car. She is best known as Fonzie's girlfriend Pinky Toscadero on Happy Days, although she only appeared in three episodes. After this film, she had only five more credits. Kip Niven and Grant Cramer [Killer Klowns from Outer Space] are better as Blaze's neglected husband and son.
Verdict: Minor but entertaining psycho-thriller with some exciting sequences. **3/4.
Charles Kessler (Bela Lugosi) lives in his creepy mansion with his daughter, Virginia (Polly Ann Young), and a household staff which includes the black butler Evans (Clarence Muse). Kessler's wife (Betty Compson of Escort Girl) ran off with a lover who was killed in an accident even as Mrs. K's body disappeared. She is presumed dead, but actually the gardener (!), Jules (Ernie Adams), has somehow managed to hide the woman in a chamber below the garage. Periodically she escapes confinement, and when her husband spots her poking in the window or prowling the grounds, he has a psychotic episode, throws his cloak over his victim, and suffocates or strangles them. (This is revealed very early on in the film.) As the movie opens there have already been a number of murders and the latest is of the maid, Cecile (Alice Dahl). Virginia's very handsome fiance, Ralph (John McGuire, who also plays Ralph's twin brother), becomes a suspect when it is discovered that he argued with Cecile, a former girlfriend, shortly before her death. There are tragic consequences to this but the murders continue.
|Lugosi in a contemplative mood
Verdict: Lugosi gives this a professional gloss but the script is hopeless. *1/2.
Thursday, October 13, 2022
|On the moors with Holmes and Watson
|Bill Carter and Catherine |McLeod
|Dorn and McLeod at Carnegie Hall
Verdict: Beautiful concert sequences tied to a rather contrived and foolish plot. **1/2.