Tuesday September 17, 2013 at 10:33

A WALK WITH LOVE AND DEATH (1969)
Written by Dale Wasserman, adaptation by Hans Koenigsberg from his novel  Directed by John Huston
 
During the 100 Years War, Heron of Foix (Assaf Dayan), a young student, decides to walk from Paris to the sea. During his journey he encounters Lady Claudia (Anjelica Huston), a young noblewoman, and they fall in love. I first saw this movie many years ago on the CBS Late Night Movie, edited and interrupted every few minutes by commercials, but even viewed that way it had a strong effect, so much so that I sought out the novel its based on. I’ve been waiting since the dawn of the VHS era for it to turn up again, and now finally the Fox Movie Channel has shown it several times recently. In a long career filled with big masterworks like TREASURE OF THE SIERRA MADRE, MOBY DICK, and KEY LARGO, A WALK WITH LOVE AND DEATH shares with Huston’s final masterpiece THE DEAD a quiet, subtle mastery that is enthralling. The two young protagonists live in a world that doesn’t care about them; they have only each other, and for them and, I believe, for their director, that is sufficient - although it won’t protect them from the harsh realities of the world.The director’s daughter in her first role is quite good, impossibly young and beautiful, and Moishe Dayan’s handsome son Assaf is likewise the personification of youthful idealism. Zefferelli’s ROMEO AND JULIET may be the more famous example of late Sixties doomed young love, but Huston’s film is more truthful, simultaneously compassionate while viewing mankind with clear eyes. Though Michael Gough is billed in the opening and closing credits as “Mad Monk”, he was nowhere to be seen. (Viewed on Fox Movie Channel, whose full screen print is old and unrestored, but looks pretty good and doesn’t appear to be overly cropped.)
- Robert Deveau

A WALK WITH LOVE AND DEATH (1969)

Written by Dale Wasserman, adaptation by Hans Koenigsberg from his novel  Directed by John Huston
 
During the 100 Years War, Heron of Foix (Assaf Dayan), a young student, decides to walk from Paris to the sea. During his journey he encounters Lady Claudia (Anjelica Huston), a young noblewoman, and they fall in love. I first saw this movie many years ago on the CBS Late Night Movie, edited and interrupted every few minutes by commercials, but even viewed that way it had a strong effect, so much so that I sought out the novel its based on. I’ve been waiting since the dawn of the VHS era for it to turn up again, and now finally the Fox Movie Channel has shown it several times recently. In a long career filled with big masterworks like TREASURE OF THE SIERRA MADRE, MOBY DICK, and KEY LARGO, A WALK WITH LOVE AND DEATH shares with Huston’s final masterpiece THE DEAD a quiet, subtle mastery that is enthralling. The two young protagonists live in a world that doesn’t care about them; they have only each other, and for them and, I believe, for their director, that is sufficient - although it won’t protect them from the harsh realities of the world.The director’s daughter in her first role is quite good, impossibly young and beautiful, and Moishe Dayan’s handsome son Assaf is likewise the personification of youthful idealism. Zefferelli’s ROMEO AND JULIET may be the more famous example of late Sixties doomed young love, but Huston’s film is more truthful, simultaneously compassionate while viewing mankind with clear eyes. Though Michael Gough is billed in the opening and closing credits as “Mad Monk”, he was nowhere to be seen. (Viewed on Fox Movie Channel, whose full screen print is old and unrestored, but looks pretty good and doesn’t appear to be overly cropped.)

- Robert Deveau
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Thursday August 15, 2013 at 13:24

THE THING THAT COULDN’T DIE (1958)
Written by David Duncan Directed by Will Cowan
 
Jessica (Carolyn Kearney) is using a divining rod to find water on her Aunt Flavia’s (Peggy Converse) farm, when she discovers evil: a chest buried deep in the ground, containing the still living head of Gideon Drew (Robin Hughes), who was decapitated but sentenced to a “living death” by Sir Frances Drake 400 years ago. The early scenes of this film are atmospheric and eerie, with wind, the desolate location and the music from THIS ISLAND EARTH used nicely. But once the head is let out of the treasure chest, the ludicrous humor of it being carried around, placed on window ledges, boulders, and hiding on a closet shelf in a hat box, dissipate the atmosphere considerably. The lengthy, talky flashback establishes that Drew’s body and head will live until they are reunited, but when that happens at the film’s climax he feels better than ever. With familiar faces James Anderson and Charles Horvath as slimy Boyd and mindless Mike. Not to be confused with THE BRAIN THAT WOULDN’T DIE, which was originally titled THE THING THAT WOULDN’T DIE. (TCM’s print is clean but soft.)

- Robert Deveau
THE THING THAT COULDN’T DIE (1958)
Written by David Duncan Directed by Will Cowan
 
Jessica (Carolyn Kearney) is using a divining rod to find water on her Aunt Flavia’s (Peggy Converse) farm, when she discovers evil: a chest buried deep in the ground, containing the still living head of Gideon Drew (Robin Hughes), who was decapitated but sentenced to a “living death” by Sir Frances Drake 400 years ago. The early scenes of this film are atmospheric and eerie, with wind, the desolate location and the music from THIS ISLAND EARTH used nicely. But once the head is let out of the treasure chest, the ludicrous humor of it being carried around, placed on window ledges, boulders, and hiding on a closet shelf in a hat box, dissipate the atmosphere considerably. The lengthy, talky flashback establishes that Drew’s body and head will live until they are reunited, but when that happens at the film’s climax he feels better than ever. With familiar faces James Anderson and Charles Horvath as slimy Boyd and mindless Mike. Not to be confused with THE BRAIN THAT WOULDN’T DIE, which was originally titled THE THING THAT WOULDN’T DIE. (TCM’s print is clean but soft.)
- Robert Deveau
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Friday August 02, 2013 at 9:16

CONFESSIONS OF AN OPIUM EATER (1962)
Written by Robert Hill  Directed by Albert Zugsmith

 
"I am…  DeQuincey. I dream…  dreams."  A descendant of the writer Thomas DeQuincey arrives in San Francisco in the early 19th Century and gets involved in Tong wars and the fight to stop the trade in Chinese Picture Brides. When Vincent Price introduces himself in voice over, it sounds like his name is Gilda DeQuincey, but the imdb reports the name as Gilbert DeQuincey; actually, having a brawling hero named Gilda would be more in line with the weirdness of this, what is surely director Albert Zugsmith’s masterpiece. Taking a break from the aesthetes of the Corman Poe films, Price spends the entire movie in pea coat and captain’s cap, tossing off hard-boiled one-liners and philosophical musings with equal aplomb ("I felt like the abacus of fate had my number." "You wear as many masks as there are stars reflected in a gutter.")From the moment a white stallion suddenly appears to stop a Tong man from killing an escaped picture bride, never to be seen again, to the 5 minute opium dream shown entirely in slow motion and nearly silent, to the climax in which Price drifts away down a sewer, the movie combines surrealism and pulp adventure in equal measure. With a terrific score from Albert Glasser, noirish cinematography from Joseph Biroc, and dreamlike production design from the great Eugene Lourie. Featuring Linda Ho as Ruby Low, Richard Loo, Philip Ahn, Victor Sen Yung, John Mamo, Angelo Rossitto, Yvonne Moray as Price’s midget sidekick, and a cameo from the titular monster from VOODOO WOMAN. I’ve liked this movie ever since first seeing it on late night TV, and am very happy that it’s at last readily available in a nice, widescreen DVD from Warner Archives.
 
— Robert Deveau
CONFESSIONS OF AN OPIUM EATER (1962)
Written by Robert Hill  Directed by Albert Zugsmith
 
"I am…  DeQuincey. I dream…  dreams."  A descendant of the writer Thomas DeQuincey arrives in San Francisco in the early 19th Century and gets involved in Tong wars and the fight to stop the trade in Chinese Picture Brides. When Vincent Price introduces himself in voice over, it sounds like his name is Gilda DeQuincey, but the imdb reports the name as Gilbert DeQuincey; actually, having a brawling hero named Gilda would be more in line with the weirdness of this, what is surely director Albert Zugsmith’s masterpiece. Taking a break from the aesthetes of the Corman Poe films, Price spends the entire movie in pea coat and captain’s cap, tossing off hard-boiled one-liners and philosophical musings with equal aplomb ("I felt like the abacus of fate had my number." "You wear as many masks as there are stars reflected in a gutter.")From the moment a white stallion suddenly appears to stop a Tong man from killing an escaped picture bride, never to be seen again, to the 5 minute opium dream shown entirely in slow motion and nearly silent, to the climax in which Price drifts away down a sewer, the movie combines surrealism and pulp adventure in equal measure. With a terrific score from Albert Glasser, noirish cinematography from Joseph Biroc, and dreamlike production design from the great Eugene Lourie. Featuring Linda Ho as Ruby Low, Richard Loo, Philip Ahn, Victor Sen Yung, John Mamo, Angelo Rossitto, Yvonne Moray as Price’s midget sidekick, and a cameo from the titular monster from VOODOO WOMAN. I’ve liked this movie ever since first seeing it on late night TV, and am very happy that it’s at last readily available in a nice, widescreen DVD from Warner Archives.
 
— Robert Deveau
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Friday July 19, 2013 at 13:37

SEX KITTENS GO TO COLLEGE (1960)
Written by Robert Hill  Directed by Albert Zugsmith
 
When Dr. Mathilda West (Mamie Van Doren) arrives at Collins College, everyone is shocked and dismayed to see that this scientist, medical doctor and psychiatrist who speaks 17 languages looks like Mamie Van Doren. This is a movie I’ve been curious about nearly my entire life; despite the fact that Allied Artists movies were everywhere on TV in the Sixties, this one never showed up. Now that my curiosity has been satisfied, I wish I could say that the film was worth watching, but it isn’t. You would think a film that features Mamie Van Doren, Jackie Coogan (doing a W.C. Fields impression for the entire film), John Carradine, Louis Nye and a chimp doing high kicks on the bar of a nightclub called The Passion Pit while Conway Twitty plays would be worth seeing. You would think that a movie that features bombshell Van Doren cast against type as a genius, with Tuesday Weld and Vampira and Brigitte Bardot’s sister and a giant robot would be worth seeing. But you would be wrong. With its mix of teens and sex and older character actors and bland rock it reminded me of the AIP beach movies, which were at least occasionally amusing. The funniest thing in this is Carradine’s delivery of the line “oodles and oodles of peaches” as he leers at Van Doren’s patella. The humor is on the level that one sees in the little 60s mens magazines with titles like “Wink” and “Cue.” (TCM’s print looks fine, though.)- Robert Deveau
SEX KITTENS GO TO COLLEGE (1960)
Written by Robert Hill  Directed by Albert Zugsmith
 
When Dr. Mathilda West (Mamie Van Doren) arrives at Collins College, everyone is shocked and dismayed to see that this scientist, medical doctor and psychiatrist who speaks 17 languages looks like Mamie Van Doren. This is a movie I’ve been curious about nearly my entire life; despite the fact that Allied Artists movies were everywhere on TV in the Sixties, this one never showed up. Now that my curiosity has been satisfied, I wish I could say that the film was worth watching, but it isn’t. You would think a film that features Mamie Van Doren, Jackie Coogan (doing a W.C. Fields impression for the entire film), John Carradine, Louis Nye and a chimp doing high kicks on the bar of a nightclub called The Passion Pit while Conway Twitty plays would be worth seeing. You would think that a movie that features bombshell Van Doren cast against type as a genius, with Tuesday Weld and Vampira and Brigitte Bardot’s sister and a giant robot would be worth seeing. But you would be wrong. With its mix of teens and sex and older character actors and bland rock it reminded me of the AIP beach movies, which were at least occasionally amusing. The funniest thing in this is Carradine’s delivery of the line “oodles and oodles of peaches” as he leers at Van Doren’s patella. The humor is on the level that one sees in the little 60s mens magazines with titles like “Wink” and “Cue.” (TCM’s print looks fine, though.)

- Robert Deveau
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Wednesday June 26, 2013 at 13:11

SANDOKAN THE GREAT (1963)Written by Victor Andres Catena, Fulvio Gicca Palli and Umberto Lenzi  Directed by Umberto LenziQueen Victoria’s military occupies Malaya, executing or subjugating its citizens. Rising up against his oppressors is Sandokan (Steve Reeves), leader of a small but dedicated band of rebels. I applaud the makers of this movie for setting it in an unusual time and location, but nearly everything that would make for dramatic tension occurs off-screen and the problems of our small band of heroes are mostly solved without any genuine struggle. Examples: Sandokan’s personal motivation -  the murder of his mother and sisters - happens before the film begins; these are murders of characters who mean nothing to us occcur and we never see their effects on Sandokan; Sandokan kills a tiger with his bare hands suffering only a few decorous scratches; a chimpanzee conveniently appears to assist the rebels in getting out of prison in classic Chetah style and subsequently vanishes; and the execution of Sandokan’s father, the Sultan of Moulker, is also a character we never see. I wanted to like this lavish epic more than the film itself would allow me to. That being said, it looks good, it has a few action-packed scenes and exotic scenery, and Reeves looks heroic in his blue tunic and red turban. Its sequel, PIRATES OF THE SEVEN SEAS, is a superior entertainment; hopefully Warners will release that also. (Viewed on Warner Archives’ letter-boxed DVD, which looks terrific.)— Robert Deveau

SANDOKAN THE GREAT (1963)
Written by Victor Andres Catena, Fulvio Gicca Palli and Umberto Lenzi  Directed by Umberto Lenzi

Queen Victoria’s military occupies Malaya, executing or subjugating its citizens. Rising up against his oppressors is Sandokan (Steve Reeves), leader of a small but dedicated band of rebels. I applaud the makers of this movie for setting it in an unusual time and location, but nearly everything that would make for dramatic tension occurs off-screen and the problems of our small band of heroes are mostly solved without any genuine struggle. Examples: Sandokan’s personal motivation -  the murder of his mother and sisters - happens before the film begins; these are murders of characters who mean nothing to us occcur and we never see their effects on Sandokan; Sandokan kills a tiger with his bare hands suffering only a few decorous scratches; a chimpanzee conveniently appears to assist the rebels in getting out of prison in classic Chetah style and subsequently vanishes; and the execution of Sandokan’s father, the Sultan of Moulker, is also a character we never see. I wanted to like this lavish epic more than the film itself would allow me to. That being said, it looks good, it has a few action-packed scenes and exotic scenery, and Reeves looks heroic in his blue tunic and red turban. Its sequel, PIRATES OF THE SEVEN SEAS, is a superior entertainment; hopefully Warners will release that also. (Viewed on Warner Archives’ letter-boxed DVD, which looks terrific.)
— Robert Deveau

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Monday June 03, 2013 at 13:32

MINISTRY OF FEAR (1944)Written by Seton I. Miller, from the novel by Graham Greene
Directed by Fritz LangWhen Stephen Neale (Ray Milland ) is released from Lembridge Asylum after two years, his biggest wish is to spend time among crowds of people. His wish is immediately granted when he attends a small fair next to the local train station. But when he is told the weight of a prize cake by a fortune teller, his possession of the cake begins a chain of events that make him a marked man. This most Hitchcockian of Lang’s American thrillers is a superb example of the director at his best, with each shot meticulously framed to evoke subtle unease, an excellent cast, including Milland subtly underplaying his role’s potential hysterics, Marjorie Reynolds as the woman who believes in him, Carl Esmond as her brother, Hillary Brooke as a high society woman who is not what she appears to be, and a great cast of mid-century Hollywood supporting players like Erskine Sanford, Percy Waram, Dan Duryea, Alan Napier, Byron Foulger, Cyril Delavanti, Lester Matthews, and Eustace Wyatt. Featuring superb noirish cinematography by Henry Sharp and a script by producer Miller that emphasizes the theme of trust and betrayal of a loved one, while being ahead of its time in presenting a lead character accused of murdering his wife who is completely innocent of the crime; to say more about these last two topics would give too much away. Even a 70 year-old film has delights and surprises that shouldn’t be spoiled for a first time viewer. (TCM’s print is old but perfectly acceptable.)
- Robert Deveau

MINISTRY OF FEAR (1944)
Written by Seton I. Miller, from the novel by Graham Greene

Directed by Fritz Lang

When Stephen Neale (Ray Milland ) is released from Lembridge Asylum after two years, his biggest wish is to spend time among crowds of people. His wish is immediately granted when he attends a small fair next to the local train station. But when he is told the weight of a prize cake by a fortune teller, his possession of the cake begins a chain of events that make him a marked man. This most Hitchcockian of Lang’s American thrillers is a superb example of the director at his best, with each shot meticulously framed to evoke subtle unease, an excellent cast, including Milland subtly underplaying his role’s potential hysterics, Marjorie Reynolds as the woman who believes in him, Carl Esmond as her brother, Hillary Brooke as a high society woman who is not what she appears to be, and a great cast of mid-century Hollywood supporting players like Erskine Sanford, Percy Waram, Dan Duryea, Alan Napier, Byron Foulger, Cyril Delavanti, Lester Matthews, and Eustace Wyatt. Featuring superb noirish cinematography by Henry Sharp and a script by producer Miller that emphasizes the theme of trust and betrayal of a loved one, while being ahead of its time in presenting a lead character accused of murdering his wife who is completely innocent of the crime; to say more about these last two topics would give too much away. Even a 70 year-old film has delights and surprises that shouldn’t be spoiled for a first time viewer. (TCM’s print is old but perfectly acceptable.)

- Robert Deveau

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Friday May 24, 2013 at 10:46

PHANTOM OF THE RUE MORGUE (1954)
Written by Harold Medford and James R. Webb  Directed by Roy Del Ruth

A series of gruesome murders in Paris’ sleazy Rue Morgue has police baffled. What with the conflicting reports of witnesses (“The killer spoke German.” “The killer spoke Italian.” “The killer was short.” “He was tall.”) and the savage violence of the murders, Inspector Bonnard (Claude Dauphin) is happy to arrest young university teacher Pierre Dupin (Steve Forrest) though evidence against him is entirely circumstantial. This adaptation of the classic Poe story opens with great speed and energy and continues this way for most of its first third, with killings - still surprisingly gory for a major studio movie of the mid-Fifties - and music hall entertainment (Paul Richards’ knife-throwing act is a highlight), then quiets down for most of its remaining screen time. Its a shame that Richards disappears after his arrest and release as a prime suspect, because he is a lot more interesting and engaging a character than Forrest’s earnestly dull blond professor. Karl Malden as Professor Marais takes center stage once Forrest is behind bars, and though his performance is nuanced and psychologically rich, he is missing the edge that Vincent Price (for example) would have brought to the proceedings. He is ably supported in his villainous obsessions by eye-patched sailor Anthony Caruso. While Patricia Medina does what she can with her role as the object of Malden’s obsession and looks beautiful as usual, the part is seriously underwritten. The best scenes remain those that depict the nightlife of Rue Morgue and the murders themselves, which are staged with vigor and edited to dynamic effect. In addition to those already mentioned, in supporting roles are Allyn McLerie as Richards’ assistant, Merv Griffin as a student, and the always welcome Erin O’Brian-Moore, Paul Brinnegar, Virginia Brissac, Henry Corden, Henry Kulky, Frank Lackteen, George J. Lewis and Charles Gemora as Sultan the Gorilla - the last seven of whom are uncredited in the cast list. (TCM’s print looks good but could stand a restoration.)
— Robert Deveau
PHANTOM OF THE RUE MORGUE (1954)
Written by Harold Medford and James R. Webb  Directed by Roy Del Ruth

A series of gruesome murders in Paris’ sleazy Rue Morgue has police baffled. What with the conflicting reports of witnesses (“The killer spoke German.” “The killer spoke Italian.” “The killer was short.” “He was tall.”) and the savage violence of the murders, Inspector Bonnard (Claude Dauphin) is happy to arrest young university teacher Pierre Dupin (Steve Forrest) though evidence against him is entirely circumstantial. This adaptation of the classic Poe story opens with great speed and energy and continues this way for most of its first third, with killings - still surprisingly gory for a major studio movie of the mid-Fifties - and music hall entertainment (Paul Richards’ knife-throwing act is a highlight), then quiets down for most of its remaining screen time. Its a shame that Richards disappears after his arrest and release as a prime suspect, because he is a lot more interesting and engaging a character than Forrest’s earnestly dull blond professor. Karl Malden as Professor Marais takes center stage once Forrest is behind bars, and though his performance is nuanced and psychologically rich, he is missing the edge that Vincent Price (for example) would have brought to the proceedings. He is ably supported in his villainous obsessions by eye-patched sailor Anthony Caruso. While Patricia Medina does what she can with her role as the object of Malden’s obsession and looks beautiful as usual, the part is seriously underwritten. The best scenes remain those that depict the nightlife of Rue Morgue and the murders themselves, which are staged with vigor and edited to dynamic effect. In addition to those already mentioned, in supporting roles are Allyn McLerie as Richards’ assistant, Merv Griffin as a student, and the always welcome Erin O’Brian-Moore, Paul Brinnegar, Virginia Brissac, Henry Corden, Henry Kulky, Frank Lackteen, George J. Lewis and Charles Gemora as Sultan the Gorilla - the last seven of whom are uncredited in the cast list. (TCM’s print looks good but could stand a restoration.)
— Robert Deveau
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Friday May 17, 2013 at 6:51




STEAM WARS NEWS
Happy to announce I’m partnering with entrepreneurs/producers Jeremy Frommer and Rick Schwartz of Jerrick Ventures to produce, basically, all things STEAM WARS: action figures, graphic novels, trading cards, games, and more.… To kick things off we’ve created three trading cards, one to be given away, signed by me, at each of the next three Wizard World/Comic Cons (Philadelphia, New York and Chicago) with a different one in each city. If you’re in the Philly area at the end of this month (5/30—6/2, see link below), please say hi to me, get your free card signed (plus anything else) and—what the heck—say hi again. PS: still moving forward with LS3, please bear with us. This has been a hand-typed announcement.http://www.wizardworld.com/home-pa.html
STEAM WARS NEWS

Happy to announce I’m partnering with entrepreneurs/producers Jeremy Frommer and Rick Schwartz of Jerrick Ventures to produce, basically, all things STEAM WARS: action figures, graphic novels, trading cards, games, and more. To kick things off we’ve created three trading cards, one to be given away, signed by me, at each of the next three Wizard World/Comic Cons (Philadelphia, New York and Chicago) with a different one in each city. If you’re in the Philly area at the end of this month (5/30—6/2, see link below), please say hi to me, get your free card signed (plus anything else) and—what the heck—say hi again. PS: still moving forward with LS3, please bear with us. This has been a hand-typed announcement.

http://www.wizardworld.com/home-pa.html
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Friday May 10, 2013 at 10:58

LEMORA: A CHILD’S TALE OF THE SUPERNATURAL (1973)Written by Richard Blackburn and Robert Fern  Directed by Richard Blackburn
 
Lila Lee (Cheryl Smith) is a ward of the church in a small southern town in the Thirties. Her father Alvin (William Whitton) is a gangster who is abducted by the mysterious Lemora (Lesley Gilb). When Lila receives a letter from Lemora  informing her of her father’s whereabouts, she undertakes a perilous journey to see him in the town of Asteroth. This is exactly the kind of movie that makes wading through the vast sea of cinematic mediocrity worthwhile. Though low budget and with acting that is mostly on an amateurish level, the film is intelligently written and shot and is bursting with ideas and unique perspectives. Lila’s journey and what happens to her once she arrives at Lemora’s home can be viewed as straight-forward horror film, a fairy tale for adults or even a metaphor for puberty, and it works satisfyingly on all those levels as well as others I’ve probably not thought of. The over emphatic amateurishness of most of the acting works in the film’s favor, making it’s events all the more strange and unreal, and placing in sharp relief the naturalness of Cheryl Smith (later known as Cheryl “Rainbeaux” Smith and, unfortunately, a heroin addict who died before her 50th birthday). Lesley Gilb as Lemora has a riveting presence, resembling a Photoshop collage of Barbara Steele, Karen Black and Martine Beswicke, and is as odd and otherworldly as the film that bears her character’s name. The print shown by TCM is very dark, losing detail in the abundance of night-for-night shots; Synapse has released the film on DVD mastered from a 35mm print, so TCM’s is probably an old 16mm reduction print. At any rate, there are scenes that are better for their visual vagueness, including several in which a child’s whimpers are heard but we can’t quite make out what is happening. If you think you’ve seen it all and are open to the unusual, I can’t recommend LEMORA more highly.
— Robert Deveau
LEMORA: A CHILD’S TALE OF THE SUPERNATURAL (1973)
Written by Richard Blackburn and Robert Fern  Directed by Richard Blackburn
 
Lila Lee (Cheryl Smith) is a ward of the church in a small southern town in the Thirties. Her father Alvin (William Whitton) is a gangster who is abducted by the mysterious Lemora (Lesley Gilb). When Lila receives a letter from Lemora  informing her of her father’s whereabouts, she undertakes a perilous journey to see him in the town of Asteroth. This is exactly the kind of movie that makes wading through the vast sea of cinematic mediocrity worthwhile. Though low budget and with acting that is mostly on an amateurish level, the film is intelligently written and shot and is bursting with ideas and unique perspectives. Lila’s journey and what happens to her once she arrives at Lemora’s home can be viewed as straight-forward horror film, a fairy tale for adults or even a metaphor for puberty, and it works satisfyingly on all those levels as well as others I’ve probably not thought of. The over emphatic amateurishness of most of the acting works in the film’s favor, making it’s events all the more strange and unreal, and placing in sharp relief the naturalness of Cheryl Smith (later known as Cheryl “Rainbeaux” Smith and, unfortunately, a heroin addict who died before her 50th birthday). Lesley Gilb as Lemora has a riveting presence, resembling a Photoshop collage of Barbara Steele, Karen Black and Martine Beswicke, and is as odd and otherworldly as the film that bears her character’s name. The print shown by TCM is very dark, losing detail in the abundance of night-for-night shots; Synapse has released the film on DVD mastered from a 35mm print, so TCM’s is probably an old 16mm reduction print. At any rate, there are scenes that are better for their visual vagueness, including several in which a child’s whimpers are heard but we can’t quite make out what is happening. If you think you’ve seen it all and are open to the unusual, I can’t recommend LEMORA more highly.
— Robert Deveau
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Thursday April 18, 2013 at 11:16

HATCHET FOR THE HONEYMOON (1970)Written by Santiago Moncada Directed by Mario BavaJohn Harrington (Stephen Forsythe), a Paris-based designer of high fashion bridal gowns, is tormented by fragmented memories of the murder of his mother. Each time he murders a new bride, he recovers another piece of his memory. For a 1970’s European movie about a serial killer, HATCHET FOR THE HONEYMOON is remarkably restrained, with little gore and no nudity. The script by Moncada, a respected Spanish author of psychological thrillers, is much better than most co-productions of this kind (although a number of plot holes exist because of last minute re-writes, which I’ll go into later), and Bava’s direction, aided by his own cinematography, is stylish and subtly humorous. Forsythe was an experienced and talented Canadian actor who is quite believable as the trendy fashion designer with a secret life, while Laura Betti, with her round face and large eyes, is perfect as his wife, a sympathetic harridan who torments him because he is not the man she thought she was marrying. It was the sudden availability of the award-winning Betti that caused the quick re-writes; her presence added respectability to the project (she had worked with Fellini, Pasolini and De Sica, and would later work with Bertolucci and the Taviani Bros), and she adds a physical eccentricity that compliments Forsythe’s restraint. Though not Bava’s best film, it is a good thriller with some wonderful set pieces and creative photography, expressing as much through its imagery and editing as through its dialog or actions. It’s Italian title, Il rosso segno della follia (THE RED SIGN OF MADNESS), makes more sense than it’s U.S. title, if only because the killer uses a cleaver, not a hatchet, and the color red figures prominently. While it is available on a number of PD sources, Redemption’s DVD is from a beautiful 35mm print, which not only does justice to Bava’s cinematography but also has occasional slight noise on its soundtrack that makes it feel like you’re watching a film, not a digital image.- Robert Deveau

HATCHET FOR THE HONEYMOON (1970)
Written by Santiago Moncada Directed by Mario Bava

John Harrington (Stephen Forsythe), a Paris-based designer of high fashion bridal gowns, is tormented by fragmented memories of the murder of his mother. Each time he murders a new bride, he recovers another piece of his memory. For a 1970’s European movie about a serial killer, HATCHET FOR THE HONEYMOON is remarkably restrained, with little gore and no nudity. The script by Moncada, a respected Spanish author of psychological thrillers, is much better than most co-productions of this kind (although a number of plot holes exist because of last minute re-writes, which I’ll go into later), and Bava’s direction, aided by his own cinematography, is stylish and subtly humorous. Forsythe was an experienced and talented Canadian actor who is quite believable as the trendy fashion designer with a secret life, while Laura Betti, with her round face and large eyes, is perfect as his wife, a sympathetic harridan who torments him because he is not the man she thought she was marrying. It was the sudden availability of the award-winning Betti that caused the quick re-writes; her presence added respectability to the project (she had worked with Fellini, Pasolini and De Sica, and would later work with Bertolucci and the Taviani Bros), and she adds a physical eccentricity that compliments Forsythe’s restraint. Though not Bava’s best film, it is a good thriller with some wonderful set pieces and creative photography, expressing as much through its imagery and editing as through its dialog or actions. It’s Italian title, Il rosso segno della follia (THE RED SIGN OF MADNESS), makes more sense than it’s U.S. title, if only because the killer uses a cleaver, not a hatchet, and the color red figures prominently. While it is available on a number of PD sources, Redemption’s DVD is from a beautiful 35mm print, which not only does justice to Bava’s cinematography but also has occasional slight noise on its soundtrack that makes it feel like you’re watching a film, not a digital image.

- Robert Deveau

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