Monday, July 25, 2016

NEITHER THE SEA NOR THE SAND

Fred Burnley, 1972
Starring: Susan Hampshire, Frank Finlay, Michael Petrovitch

An unhappily married woman, Anna (Susan Hampshire of Malpertuis), is taking some time alone to sort out her thoughts about her husband on the isle of Jersey, when she meets the brooding, handsome Hugh (Michael Petrovich of Tales That Witness Madness). They are drawn together and begin an affair, to the dismay of Hugh’s controlling brother George (Frank Findlay of Twisted Nerve and Lifeforce). To get some time alone, they take a short, romantic trip to Scotland, where Hugh suddenly falls dead of a heart attack on the beach. Anna is distraught, but it seems there was some medical mistake, as Hugh returns to her the next day, though he doesn’t seem quite right. As he becomes increasingly distant and strange, Anna begins to wonder if maybe he didn’t really die after all…

Essentially “The Monkey’s Paw” reimagined as a Gothic romance — though it is based on a novel by Gordon Honeycombe — Neither the Sea Nor the Sand once again belongs on the list of films from Tigon that everyone seems to hate but that I really love. It was also sadly one of their last, and is obviously representative of the kind of genre-bending weirdness that is impossible to sell to any kind of mass audience. Much like Doomwatch, it was unfairly marketed as a horror film and I think that’s the cause of much of the vitriol directed at it. For example, in the United States, it was renamed The Exorcism of Hugh and, though there is a scene where his brother declares that exorcism is the only cure for Hugh’s condition and they must go see a priest, throwing that in the title is grossly misleading.

The sole directorial effort from editor Fred Burnley, this strange romance has plenty of horror genre undertones — including some poetic but laughable philosophical musings between the two lovers, a first date in a tomb, and some Gothic trappings surrounding Hugh’s ancient family that are never fully addressed — and while I’ve seen it described as dull or slow-moving, it merely takes its time to develop a story that is at once simple and complex. In general, I dislike films that trip over themselves to deliver an abundance of exposition and explain away every element of the action. Neither the Sea Nor the Sand is absolutely not in any hurry to make rational sense, particularly when it comes to Hugh’s undead state. Burnley and company don’t bother to define or even explain the cause of this state, though it’s hinted that his obsessive love for Anna acts as sort of a supernatural force, one which has compelled him to resist the finality of death.

While I could see some viewers being frustrated with these nonsensical elements, I found them to be oddly satisfying in a dreamy, poetic sort of way, but then I do have a wide berth of tolerance for utter nonsense. There are some genuinely eerie scenes, such as one where the undead Hugh violently does away with someone who attempts to come between he and Anna. The moment is both sudden and unexpected, and does mark a change in Hugh, one where his humanity truly begins to fade and he is introduced to the idea of violence to achieve his sole purpose: to be with Anna. To my dismay, the film sort of skirts around the issue of necrophilia, though there is a scene where a lingerie-clad Anna clearly has sex with a hollow-eyed, mute Hugh.

Granted, the film isn’t perfect. It goes on a bit too long in some parts and would probably have done better as a fifty to sixty-minute made-for-TV film or BBC teleplay. There is some genuinely laughable dialogue, particularly where it concerns Hugh’s brother. In an absolutely hilarious scene (unintentionally so), upon first seeing Hugh, he immediately jumps to the conclusion that Hugh has returned from the dead, explains the whole thing to Anna, blames her in the bitchiest way possible, and then demands that they go see a priest for an exorcism. The only plot element that genuinely bugs me is that fact that the couple travels from a foreboding beach in Jersey to a different foreboding beach in Scotland… and then back.

I’m not sure whether to recommend Neither the Sea Nor the Sand. Anyone who has read Wuthering Heights as many times as I have will probably want to check it out immediately (thank god Anna is not nearly as much of a bitch as Cathy). It’s available on DVD, and I suspect you’re either going to love this film or be totally bored by it. There are elements of Deathdream, Bob Clark’s masterpiece that I deeply love, and the ending — spoiler alert — involves the lovers giving themselves to the sea, sort of like Zuławski’s Mes nuits sont plus belles que vos jours, though admittedly the power of nature is depicted more violently here.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

DOOMWATCH

Peter Sasdy, 1972
Starring: Ian Bannen, Judy Geeson, John Paul, George Sanders

Dr. Dell Shaw, a member of the environmental agency Doomwatch, travels to a remote Cornish Island known as Balfe to take some wildlife samples in the wake of an oil spill. But the secretive, sometimes violently unwelcoming locals accidentally reveal to Shaw that something is going on with their community and he soon recognizes signs of a hormonal disease, acromegaly, which causes pronounced deformities (and here, violent behavior). Despite their resistance — and with the reluctant assistance of a young schoolteacher who is also a newcomer to the island — he begins collecting research. He sends this back to Doomwatch and the teams learns that there may be a connection between the islanders’ deformities and an unauthorized chemical dump that may have spread to the local fish population…

One of the last films made by Tigon Pictures, Doomwatch was based on, and is sort of a spinoff of, a British TV show with the same name. I’ve never seen the show, which is perhaps why I was able to enjoy this strange and unfairly maligned little film that is compellingly made but straddles a number of genres, which made it difficult to market upon its release (and makes it somewhat difficult to recommend now). Much like the two Doctor Who films produced by Amicus, this is a baffling departure from the show and probably frustrated loyal fans. Not only are the show’s main characters relegated to supporting roles, but Doomwatch was misguidedly marketed as a horror film, whereas it’s better described as sci fi-tinged, ecological suspense.

Doomwatch is a bit of a mixed bag, because it’s roughly split into two parts. The first half is a bit reminiscent of The Wicker Man, in the sense that an investigator (in this case a doctor and not a police inspector) arrives on a strange, insular island and is instantly struck by a sense of claustrophobia, even paranoia, as the islanders manipulate him into ignoring their true purpose. And like The Wicker Man, events revolve around a dead or missing body; in this case, Shaw finds the body of a young girl or a child in the woods, but as soon as he draws the island’s lone police officer back to investigate, it is gone and has been reburied elsewhere.

The second half is a completely different beast. Shaw returns to the mainland to brainstorm with the rest of Doomwatch and they confront a naval commander, played by the always magical George Sanders, here in one of his last roles. This wasn’t the first time he appeared in a Tigon film, though I have to say that Doomwatch is a marked improvement over The Body Stealers (1969). But not even Sanders is given the screen time to do much to spice up the conclusion, most of which is largely concerned with three different kinds of conversations: either Doomwatch is wrapped up in scientific investigation (they’re trying to find who dumped some experimental growth hormones into the sea); Shaw is trying to convince the islanders that their problem is medical and not divine retribution/inbreeding; and there are many shots of British people shouting at each other over the telephone, as should be expected.

And yet, despite its sort of glum reputation, I really have a soft spot for Doomwatch. No, it’s not a horror film, though it does have some delightfully Lovecraftian touches and plenty of atmosphere. It’s not even really a sci-fi film, but straddles a pleasant line between the two genres, adding in a hefty dose of what I would describe as moral responsibility drama. And the cinematography from Ken Talbot — shot on actual Cornish locations and not on a soundstage — goes quite a long way, as does the moody score from John Scott. 

Finally, I have to admit my real, abiding love for director Peter Sasdy, who was an undeniably bright note in British horror with enjoyable titles like Taste the Blood of Dracula (1970), the mediocre but lovely Countess Dracula (1970), sleazy cheese-fest The Devil Within Her (1971) — about a bitchy exotic dancer who is being stalked by a Satanic dwarf, who may have possessed her unborn child (I could not make this shit up) — and classics like his masterpiece, Hands of the Ripper (1971), The Stone Tape (1972), and so on. I’m a little reluctant to recommend this, based on the rather intense hatred it seems to have experienced critically, but I really think you’ll be pleasantly surprised if you give it a shot and don’t expect The Wicker Man, Dunwich-style. Pick it up on DVD here.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

VIRGIN WITCH

Ray Austin, 1972
Starring: Ann Michelle, Vicki Michelle, Patricia Haines

Two sisters, Christine (Ann Michelle) and Betty (Vicki Michelle), hitchhike to London so that Christina can find a modeling job, which she does in record time, thanks to her secret psychic powers. Her new boss, Sybil (Patricia Haines), orders her to strip down for an inspection and then books her for a weekend shoot in the country at an estate known as Wychwold. Christine, Betty, and Sybil head out to the countryside, and though the house makes the virginal Betty nervous and paranoid, Christina fits right in. It turns out Gerald (Neil Hallett), the owner of the manse, and Sybil are the head of a coven of witches and Christine is eager to join. Unfortunately for the jealous, possessive Sybil, Christine’s hidden powers begin to emerge and a struggle for power begins.


If Tigon British Film Productions can be remembered for cornering the market on any particular horror trends, it’s probably satanic and folk-themed horror. In the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, they put out such classic titles as The Curse of the Crimson Altar (1968), Witchfinder General (1968), and my personal favorite, Blood on Satan’s Claw (1971). Virgin Witch (1972) is one of their more obscure entries and also one of their last — they would essentially only produce three horror films after this — and it was sadly their final satanic horror film. Though, to be fair, this one has far more of an emphasis on nudity than scares and it would be more fitting to describe it as satanic sexploitation, rather than strictly satanic horror. 

Though it is generally advertised as a satanic horror film, there is nothing particularly horrific or scary about Virgin Witch, and very little that is diabolical. It is really a tame, though enjoyable witchcraft-themed erotica film with not much in the way of plot, but loads of nudity from stars and real-life Michelle sisters Ann and Vicki. Certain comparisons can be made to Hammer’s Twins of Evil, in the sense that Virgin Witch loosely divides the pair into the good and bad sister. Christine becomes the evil twin in the sense that she wants to not only join the coven, but take it over and replace Sybil — a plot element that could have been really interesting had they done more with it. And anyone who has seen even in a single Satanic cult film should realize that the virginal Betty is set up to be some sort of sacrifice, but hilariously she is deflowered — per her request — in the middle of the woods after being chased by raving cultists… like you do. 

As for the sisters themselves, who can’t really be fairly compared to the Collinson twins of Twins of Evil, but Ann will be familiar to British horror fans for her appearance in Pete Walker’s House of Whipcord (1974) and Vicki was in the BBC’s popular ‘80s sitcom Allo Allo. Keith Buckley, who plays the boyfriend of Vicki’s character, will be familiar to horror fans for his role in Dr. Phibes Rises Again (1972), though he isn’t given a whole lot to do here. I won’t pretend that the acting is really a compelling reason to see this film, but the performances are serviceable enough to get the job done. 

Virgin Witch’s script and dialogue don’t do anyone any favors, but the Michelle sisters do spend most of their time scantily clad, though of course — and strangely I find myself writing about this subject a lot — this is yet another instance of a disappointing orgy. Here disappointing in the sense that it is implied, but absolutely none of it is shown. In general, the initial X-rating from British censors is baffling. Though there is copious nudity, some sleazy moments and a few tame lesbian scenes, there is no violence or sex. Despite these setbacks, director Ray Austin (The Saint) does a decent job with a patently ridiculous premise. Though his film is far from perfect, it is entertaining, beautifully shot, and boasts some Bava-like colored lighting. Not a whole lot happens, other than frequent disrobing, but the brief, 88-minute running keeps it from dragging too much.

Virgin Witch
isn’t the best or worst Satanic horror film from the period. The film will undoubtedly appeal more to fans of exploitation cinema or Eurotrash than anyone expecting a riff on Hammer horror, or a vampire-free version of Twins of Evil. Kino Lorber and Redemption, following in their series of horror-erotica Blu-Rays that begin with the works of Jean Rollin, have rescued Virgin Witch from obscurity and presented it in a remastered edition. Chances are, you are going to spend a fair amount of time wishing this was either Blood on Satan’s Claw or The Wicker Man, which would follow a year later, but if you keep your expectations low, there’s plenty of fun to be had.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

BLOOD ON SATAN'S CLAW

Piers Haggard, 1971
Starring: Patrick Wymark, Linda Hayden, Barry Andrews

In 17th century England, a man accidentally digs up a strange skull in a field. He contacts a local judge for help, but by then the skull has disappeared and a number of unusual occurrences take place in the village. A young woman goes mad, people begin sprouting claws, and many of the local children begin to behave very oddly, turning away from the pastor and his Christian teachings. Their group, led by a lovely young woman named Angel, begins targeting and killing non-believers. The judge is called back to deal with the supernatural evil that has gripped the town.

For my money, this is the single best film from Tigon British Film Productions, though I'm sure plenty of people will argue that Witchfinder General is superior. But, as I've said before, this smaller competitor to Hammer and Amicus have charmed me so much over the years, because they always sort of went their own way and did their own thing, often with mixed results — but they were never boring (hmn, maybe The Body Stealers has its moments). Blood on Satan’s Claw (1971) is an example of this creativity and stubbornly independent streak working out, and it represents some of the strongest satanic horror from that, or any, period. A blend of horror, exploitation, satanic cults, killer kids, religious repression, and Gothic moodiness, Blood on Satan’s Claw deserves far more recognition. 

This is an excellent collaboration between first time director Piers Haggard (who would go on to helm the fucking bonkers Venom and the Quatermass mini-series) and prolific cinematographer Dick Bush, who regularly worked with Hammer studios and director Ken Russell. The tense, rapid pace, claustrophobic shots of the lovely English countryside, and careful mix of sex, scares, and violence make this one of the best British films of the ‘70s. Though Blood on Satan’s Claw has some silly and campy moments, it is a genuinely creepy film and is one of the best examples of the British pagan horror subgenre. Aside from some wonderful performances, the cinematography and score are some of the finest from this era of horror. The utter weirdness, weirdness in the definition “relating to, or suggestive of the preternatural or supernatural,” is one of the film’s strongest points and it thankfully doesn’t fall back on a rational explanation.

Linda Hayden (Taste the Blood of Dracula, Madhouse) absolutely steals the film and gives a wonderfully sexy performance and the ringleader of the satanic gang. Aside from Hayden, there are a number of other familiar faces here: Patrick Wymark (The Skull), James Hayter (The Horror of Frankenstein), Michele Dotrice (And Soon the Darkness), Barry Andrews (Dracula Has Risen From The Grave), Tamara Unstinov (Blood from the Mummy’s Tomb), and others, with many of the actors appearing in Hammer and Amicus horror films and episodes of Doctor Who

There are some issues with the plot, due to the fact that this was originally intended to be an anthology film. The stories were woven together seemingly at the last minute and some of the characters can be difficult to keep track of. The weakest link is the final confrontation with the judge, who deserved to be a more developed character. After the careful subtlety exercised throughout most of the film, the conclusion that involved sword fighting and what appears to be a papier-mâché demon are unfortunate at best. The dialogue and accents are often annoying and overwrought, but the powerful atmosphere and eeriness overcomes this. Though the film is occasionally over the top, there are some genuinely terrifying scenes that push taboo lines much harder than other horror movies from the period, such as scenes of a young girl’s ritualized rape and murder. 

There are a number of very nice extras that make this Blu-ray superior to previous releases. There’s a brand new 2012 interview with director Piers Haggard, a featurette about Linda Hayden, An Angel for Satan, and also included is the excellent 2004 making-of documentary, Touching the Devil, which came with the previous DVD release. The two audio commentary tracks are well worth listening to and make this release worth picking up for all fans of ‘70s horror. The first track is with director Haggard, star Hayden, and write Robert Wynne-Simmons. The second track, my favorite thing about this release, includes commentary from horror lover, Doctor Who writer, and Sherlock creator Mark Gatiss, along with Jeremy Dyson and Reece Sheersmith, his costars from League of Gentlemen. Gatiss previously discussed Blood on Satan’s Claw alongside Wicker Man and Witchfinder General in his excellent documentary A History of Horror. Finally, there’s a theatrical trailer and a stills gallery. 

Though it has some flaws, Blood on Satan’s Claw is one of the finest rural/satanic horror films of the ‘70s and deserves to be seen by a much wider audience. I’m not sure why it mostly faded into obscurity, but it should be known alongside the only slightly superior Wicker Man and Tigon’s other masterpiece of witchcraft and pastoral repression, Witchfinder General

Friday, July 8, 2016

THE BEAST IN THE CELLAR

James Kelley, 1970
Starring: Flora Robson, Beryl Reid, John Hamill, Tessa Wyatt
In a small English village near a military base, soldiers are being gruesomely murdered by what at first seems to be an escaped panther or some sort of animal. But when the killings escalate, it becomes clear that they’re looking for a human perpetrator. Meanwhile, two sweet old ladies, Joyce and Ellie, have a dark secret hidden in their cellar: they’ve kept their brother penned up for decades and believe he may have broken out and might be responsible for the crimes. When one sister has an attack and must be put under bed rest with a nurse by her side, their carefully controlled routine begins to unravel and they fear their secret will get out... Embarrassingly, The Beast in the Cellar is one of those films that I had heard about for years, but never got around to watching until relatively recently, despite the fact that I had already seen nearly every other horror film made by Hammer, Amicus, or Tigon before I began this British horror series. And I really don’t know what I was waiting for, because The Beast in the Cellar is amazing — though be forewarned that most people seem to not agree with me. Also known as Are You Dying, Young Man? (come on) and Young Man, I Think You’re Dying (seriously), this very strange, unsettling film often works despite itself. It’s very dialogue heavy and is primarily set in the parlor room of two old ladies, the controlling Joyce (Flora Robson) and her batty sister Ellie (Beryl Reid). Plenty about the film is unbelievable, but the two women deliver such strong performances that you come to take everything at face value, or at least I was able to. In a sense, this reminds me of some of the films of Pete Walker, who I will explore later in my British horror series. Parallels include aged protagonists, definitely a rarity in genre cinema with the exception of older, white male doctors, family issues that include abuse and dark secrets, repressed sexuality, and the result of what happens when moral concerns are allowed to progress to their most psychotic extremes. The love the two sisters feel for their father and brother has something of an incestuous tone, something else loosely in common with a few of Walker's films, and notably his final horror film, House of the Long Shadows (1983), with Vincent Price, Peter Cushing, and Christopher Lee, involves a brother boarded up in the family home by his fearful siblings. At its heart, this is an antiwar film, weighty subject matter for a low budget horror film. It becomes obvious quite early in the film that the “beast” is their brother, who they have horrifyingly locked in the cellar for decades, but this revelation doesn’t actually take away from the film’s effectiveness or from the impacting conclusion, which reveals several twists in a row. They are essentially trying to save their brother, Stephen (Dafydd Havard), from the same fate as their father, who returned home all wrong from WWI. Called shell shock then but now known as post-traumatic stress disorder, their beloved father was transformed into an abusive monster. “Daddy was strange,” is how Ellie describes him, clearly viewing the world through rose-colored glasses that her more canny older sister does not share. This idea of hiding away or trying to uneffectively deal with a psychotic relative can be found everywhere from Shadow of a Doubt (1943) to Arsenic and Old Lace (1944), but takes on an interesting connotation around this period specifically in terms of war-themed films. It’s a bit of a stretch to connect The Beast in the Cellar with Vittori de Sica’s earlier The Condemned of Altona (1962), but both involve a sister (or sisters) with an incestuous love for their brother who they hide away in the family home. In the case of the latter, more of a dark psychological drama than a horror film, the brother in question was an SS officer and his aristocratic family is hoping to spare him from prosecution (and an implied execution). They convince him that the war is still raging outside the walls of the family estate, a disturbing theme also found in the much later Polish film In Hiding (2013). Again, it’s a bit of a stretch to really compare this film with something like The Condemned of Altona or In Hiding, as it has a number of issues that separate it from more serious arthouse fare by several thousand miles — not that that stops me from loving it in any way. The attempts at “flashback” make absolutely no sense and are seemingly shots of nonsensical stock footage that was within budget, and while I want to say that there are some eye-popping effects (a joke that you will have to watch the film to understand), the gore is very, very low budget and generally is just represented by sprays of fake blood. There’s an unintentionally comic sequence almost straight out of Arsenic and Old Lace where Joyce forces her sister to bury a body they find in the garden, just as a nurse (Tessa Wyatt) shows up to care for the injured Joyce. This shoehorns a clumsy attempt at a romantic subplot into the film, as the sisters’ loyal friend, Corporal Marlow (John Hamill), is obviously sweet on the nurse. But the real crown jewels of the film are the murder sequences with ridiculous electronic music (additionally, everyone seems to have theme music in this film for some reason) and the camera shakes so violently that you can’t really tell what’s happening. Words cannot possibly do it justice. Though it’s available as an all-region DVD, I really hope someone restores The Beast in the Cellar and gives it a proper Blu-ray release sometime soon with plenty of special features. I have no actual idea whether or not I should recommend this film, because I think, like some of Tigon’s more questionable efforts (The Blood Beast Terror, anyone?), most people will not share my giddy enthusiasm for it. One of the things I appreciate so much about Tigon is that they really made an effort to do something different than either Hammer or Amicus and, in particular, broke away from period settings and polite, often literary explorations of sex and violence in favor of examinations of contemporary themes that were often quite grisly. And The Beast in the Cellar is a particularly noteworthy example of this, whether you share my love or think it’s a dull waste of ninety minutes. (You’re wrong.)

Monday, July 4, 2016

THE BODY STEALERS

Gerry Levy, 1969
Starring: George Sanders, Maurice Evans, Patrick Allen

During a series of jump trainings, paratroopers in the British army mysteriously begin to disappear. The concerned General Armstrong (George Sanders) brings in specialist and NATO agent Bob Megan (Patrick Allen) to investigate — along with a panel of scientists — in the few spare minutes he’s not busy trying to have sex with every woman on the planet. Megan meets a strange woman named Lorna (Lorna Wilde) on the beach and learns that she’s connected to a race of aliens who are behind the disappearances. Meanwhile, Armstrong and Megan meet resistance in their investigation in the form of some government ministers. 

Tigon’s The Body Stealers aka Thin Air aka Out of Thin Air aka Invasion of the Body Stealers is nearly on the same level as the studio’s disappointing Haunted House of Horror in the sense that it’s maybe founded on some interesting ideas, but is an absolute mess. Essentially a weird throwback to cheap sci-fi films like The Trollenberg Terror (1958) and Fiend without a Face (1958), the film is almost a direct rip off of Robert Day’s First Man into Space (1959), another title about disappearing pilots. But I’m genuinely sad to say that while The Body Stealers has the flimsy plot and threadbare production values of those British sci-fi/horror mashups from a decade earlier, it utterly lacks their improbable charm.

In a weird way, it’s basically like ‘50s British sci-fi meets James Bond, thanks to the presence of Patrick Allen (who I can’t even look at without thanking of Captain Crunch thanks to his absurd costume in Hammer pirate/smuggler film Captain Clegg aka Night Creatures), who is on top of his philandering game in this film. The Body Stealers suffers from lots of scenes of stuffy dialogue — though there are some hilarious lines like “Perhaps it’s the work of some Scottish nationalists’ devious plans to repopulate the Highlands?” as an explanation for the disappearances — and little action, but Allen gets plenty of a different kind of action. 

He has some outrageous scenes that make the Bond films look like an exercise in gender equality and the female alien, Lorna, presumably exists just so Megan can have yet another love interest. Not only does he bag her with zero effort — she leaves, but assures him she will come back one day — but he also seduces the film’s only female scientist (Hilary Dwyer of Witchfinder General, Cry of the Banshee, The Oblong Box). Still, amazing as some of the misogyny is (like the scene where he leaves a woman stranded in the middle of nowhere), Hammer would never cast a woman as a scientist and Julie is the one who actually makes the major discovery of the film: the recovered parachutes are irradiated and have begun to somehow change their molecular structure.

The espionage angle trickles out fairly quickly, to the film’s detriment, and it doesn’t do a lot of leg work in terms of making the alien invasion plot particularly plausible. There are basically no special effects outside of the aerial shots and, hilariously, the space ship is actually the same one used in Doctor Who spin-off film, Daleks – Invasion Earth: 2150 A.D., which Amicus bafflingly produced (as the sequel to their Dr. Who and the Daleks). There are some decent parachuting and flying sequences — this seems to be where the whole of the budget went — but the real reason I was so excited to watch The Body Stealers was because of the costarring role for the the great George Sanders, king among men. He is one of the finest human beings to have ever walked this earth, but just looks sort of amazed at what’s going on around him (or perhaps at the complete lack of what’s going on around him). 

You really have to feel sorry for director Gerry Levy, for whom this was his second and final film. He did some uncredited script work on Curse of the Crimson Altar and Haunted House of Horror, and The Body Stealers affectively ended his career in that arena; though he did spend a number of years working as production manager on everything from The Benny Hill Show and Octopussy, to Gorillas in the Mist and The Hunger, as well as genre sequels Howling V and Lawnmower Man 2. I am dying to see his first and only other film, Where Has Poor Mickey Gone? (1964), about boys who terrorize the owner of a magic shop, only to learn that he’s more than meets the eye.

You can find The Body Stealers on DVD in the UK, but I certainly can’t recommend it and you should watch it at your own peril. The film has a certain lazy attitude to its own plot that can’t be saved by wonderfully smarmy performance from Patrick Allen or even from the great George Sanders, who looks both amused and unconcerned for most of the film. The conclusion resolves precious little and I really don’t understand exactly why the aliens are kidnapping paratroopers, of all things, and sending them back to their home planet. 

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Monthly Round Up: June 2016

You may have noticed that in the last few months, I haven't been posting on Satanic Pandemonium quite as much as in years past. While I've always been busy -- I am, after all a workaholic -- the last six months in particular have pulled me in a number of directions. Previously, I posted on here anywhere from four to six times per week; now I'm down to generally two. Part of this is due to Diabolique Magazine; I had been a contributor there off and on for the last few years, but in February I became the site's Assistant Web Editor and was recently offered the position of Associate Editor.

Satanic Pandemonium is still my baby and, in a lot of ways, I think I view it as a sort of ongoing portfolio of my writing. And I'm still keeping on with this British horror series that will likely go on through 2016 and possibly into 2017. But since I'm now doing arguably more writing for other publications than I am here, I've decided to do a round up at the end of each month to share what I've been getting up to elsewhere.

Over at Diabolique, I've spent the last few months working my way through an extensive series of essays on the complete filmography of Polish director Andrzej Żuławski. Recently, I've written about his opera adaptation Boris Godounov (1989), his Chopin biography La note bleue (1991), and his return to violence and hysteria, Szamanka (1996).

We've also begun an American Gothic-themed summer season at Diabolique, where I've contributed the following essays:
Dementia: The Grimy Intersection of Film Noir and Low Budget Horror
Medieval Hysteria, Supernatural Evil, and The Witch: An Interview with Director Robert Eggers
Robert Altman’s Gothic Trilogy: Re-imagining the Woman’s Film
“So Be It” — An Interview with Neil Edwards on Sympathy for the Devil: The True Story of the Process Church of the Final Judgement
The Mausoleum of All Hope and Desire: Southern Gothic Cinema, Part One

I also reviewed Arrow's fantastic Italian horror set, Killer Dames: Two Gothic Chillers by Emilio Miraglia, definitely a contender for release of the year.

For the podcast I co-host, Daughters of Darkness, we finished up our four-part exploration of Żuławski's films and released the first of two episodes inspired by Stephen Thrower's Nightmare USA, where we discuss low budget American horror like Let's Scare Jessica to Death, Messiah of Evil, and Grave of the Vampire.

And finally, FAB Press is reprinting and will soon ship out Satanic Panic: Pop-Cultural Paranoia of the 1980s, a Spectacular Optical book released last year, to which I contributed a chapter.