Ratings Key

= Excellent. The best the genre has to offer.
1/2 = Very Good. Perhaps not "perfect," but undoubtedly a must-see.
★★★ = Good. Accomplishes what it sets out to do and does it well.
★★1/2 = Fair. Clearly flawed and nothing spectacular, but competently made. OK entertainment.
★★ = Mediocre. Either highly uneven or by-the-numbers and uninspired.
1/2 = Bad. Very little to recommend.
= Very Bad. An absolute chore to sit through.
NO STARS! = Abysmal. Unwatchable dreck that isn't even bad-movie amusing.
SBIG = So Bad It's Good. Technically awful movies with massive entertainment value.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Jack el destripador de Londres (1971)

...aka: Jack the Mangler of London
...aka: Jack the Ripper
...aka: Jack the Ripper of London
...aka: Mangler of London
...aka: Sette cadaveri per Scotland Yard
...aka: 7 Murders for Scotland Yard

Directed by:
José Luis Madrid

A Jack the Ripper-style killer is doing his thing in modern day London; cutting up tart streetwalkers with medical precision, removing their body parts and tauntingly sending some of those parts to the Scotland Yard detectives trying to crack the case. Top-billed Paul Naschy plays Pedro Dorian (the character name in the dubbed version I watched), a med-school dropout turned acrobat (!) turned booze swilling vagrant whose career in the circus ended after a high-wire fall left him with a bum leg. He understandably becomes chief suspect in the murders because of his medical knowledge, the fact his hooker wife is murdered and the fact he's seen fleeing a second crime scene after he wakes up covered in blood and finds another of his lovers dead in bed right next to him. Some guys just have all the luck, don't they? Not only do they find themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time on more than one occasion but they also have to star in films with scripts that rely on a ridiculous amount of sheer coincidence to keep the ball rolling. And sometimes they even write them!

Pedro (who the police usually refer to as "that Spaniard") isn't the only suspect, though. There are two more. The first is Scotland Yard's Commissioner Henry Campbell (Renzo Marignano) himself, who one little girl claims she saw at a victim's apartment prior to her murder. The second suspect is muy guapo schoolteacher Winston Avery (Andrés Resino), who has lots of money but just as many relationship problems. For starters, he's impotent. Somehow the police also know he's impotent and that's because the Commissioner may be Winston's wife Sandy's (Orchidea de Santis) secret lover! See what I mean about that sheer coincidence thing? Winston also makes uncomfortable passes at Rosemary, one of his female students, and tries to blackmail her into breaking up with her no-good boyfriend. Rosemary turns up dead with her throat cut, but the cops never say anything about Winston being a suspect. Winston's wife is then found dead, which ties him to just as many dead women as Naschy's character, but the cops never say anything about him being a suspect. Instead, they let him go on a vacation!

The film basically centers around the three men I just mentioned above. There are plenty of women on the payroll too, but none of them really have a character unless you count taking off your clothes, saying one bitchy line and then getting killed as being a character. The only one worth mentioning is a hooker named Lulu (Patricia Loran), who believes Pedro is the killer and organizes a posse of punks to attack him with switchblades. That backfires, she realizes Pedro may actually be innocent and then she tries to help him implicate the Commissioner in the murders. For the finale, Pedro, the Commissioner and Winston all end up in the killer's top secret laboratory (where he stores his collection of body parts - hands, hearts, etc. - in jars) for the big reveal, which actually isn't a big reveal at all when you take into consideration one clumsy clue about the origin of the killer's weapon of choice. But hey, you do get to see Naschy leap off a staircase at one of the other suspects while screaming "You dirty keeeeeler!" I guess that's something.

From a technical standpoint, the cinematography, music and locations are all blandsville. The direction isn't particularly stylish either, and the script and acting are both mediocre. Naschy fails to impress and doesn't register much emotion as he hobbles around on London streets dragging his leg behind him, though he does get to have three separate fight scenes. The film does a fair job of getting you to question your choice of who the killer is at a few points and adds a couple of OK twists here and there.

I saw the release from TeleVista under the title 7 MURDERS FOR SCOTLAND YARD (it was also released to video until several different titles). The print doesn't look too bad, it's dubbed (by a very snooty-sounding British cast) and it's "clothed." As was customary at this time for international productions, two different takes were done with most of the female victims for different markets, one with nudity and another with victims merely in their bras and panties. The TeleVista release uses the underwear scenes, so if you want T&A you'll have to find another cut of the film. There's just a pinch of gore, with some bright red blood and knives going into badly mocked-up torsos and backs that look like someone stabbing into pantyhose filled with lard.


Gui meng jiao (1986)

...aka: Haunted Island, The
...aka: Spooky Spooky

Directed by:
Sammo Hung
Wei Don Lo

A man is put in a wicker cage and, before being tossed into a lake and drowning, vows to come back to haunt all those involved in his death. Many years later, people who swim in the same lake are turning up dead, starting with a female swimmer out late at night in an obviously JAWS-inspired scene. Wang Hsiao-Ming (Alfred Cheung) is the weak-stomached new police officer who has the misfortune of patrolling the West Bay area where the killings are taking place. When the first victim's body washes up on shore, he visits white-haired mortician Dr. Queency (Fat Chung) to get the scoop about what happened and finds out that not only was the woman murdered but the lake area where she was killed is rumored to be "nixed" (is that kinda like hexed?)... Wang also has problems with both the village chief (who doesn't want Wang to cause a stir and drive away business), his hot-headed, stubborn boss and the arrival of a new female police sergeant Pai (Joyce Godenzi), who is one tough cookie. During a teenage beach party, a chubby kid named "Fatty" is killed, and another woman is possessed by the spirit of the murdered man's lover; spurring our heroes into action. They take a boat out to sea, retrieve the corpse of the drowned man and retreat to another more-populated police station where all hell break loose when the corpse comes to life as a super-strong, nearly-unstoppable zombie.

Other than ghosts, multiple possessions and a zombie, this throws in references to everything from JAWS to THE THING to BACK TO THE FUTURE to GHOSTBUSTERS to THE EVIL DEAD, without the annoying habit recent movies have of blatantly pointing all this out through irritating know-it-all characters. There's even a funny bit strangely predating the comic disembodied hand scenes from the sequel to EVIL DEAD, which was filmed a year after this one. The first half is slow but still pretty amusing, but the second half picks up the pace in a big way, has plenty of fast-paced (sometimes slapstick) action, gore, special effects, people being thrown around all over the place and other entertaining stuff. It's quite a bit of fun, with some off-the-wall humor, witty one-liners, a spirited cast and characters who are hard to get a handle on at first, but soon become oddly endearing. It's too bad this is a bit difficult to find here in America. My one major gripe (which is certainly not the filmmakers fault) was the quality of the print (a little blurry) and how the subtitles were done (white print over many bright scenes or white backgrounds, which made them difficult to see). Hopefully a major label will pick it up, do a remaster and distribute this title some day so more people can see it.

Actor/director Sammo Hung, who gets to play the resurrected zombie in this one, also made the horror-comedy ENCOUNTERS OF THE SPOOKY KIND (1980), which I'll be sure to check out sometime soon.

Top Ten for 1985

Overview coming soon.

Top 5
* * * * * * * * * *
1. The Return of the Living Dead
USA / Dan O'Bannon / 1/2
* * * * * * * * * *
2. Phenomena (Creepers)
Italy / Dario Argento / 1/2
* * * * * * * * * *
3. Re-Animator
USA / Stuart Gordon / 1/2
* * * * * * * * * *
4. Geung si sin sang (Mr. Vampire)
Hong Kong / Ricky Lau / 1/2
* * * * * * * * * *
5. Day of the Dead
USA / George A. Romero / 


Rounding Out the Top 10:

6. Fright Night / USA / Tom Holland / 
7. Cemetery of Terror (Cementerio del terror) / Mexico / Rubén Galindo Jr. / 
8. Quiet Earth, The / New Zealand / Geoff Murphy / 
9. Confessions of a Serial Killer / USA / Mark Blair / 
10. Midnight Hour, The (In the Midnight Hour) / USA [TV] / Jack Bender / 


Also seen:

- Alien Predator (Alien Predators; Cosmos Mortal) / Spain, USA / Deran Sarafian / 1/2
- Amazonia: The Catherine Miles Story (Schiave bianche - Violenza in Amazzonia) / Italy / Mario Gariazzo / 1/2
- Attack of the Beast Creatures (Hell Island) / USA / Michael Stanley / 1/2
- Bad Seed, The / USA [TV] / Paul Wendkos / 1/2
Beautiful Teacher in Torture Hell (Oniroku Dan: Bikyoshi jigokuzeme) / Japan / Masahito Segawa / 1/2
- Boggy Creek II: And the Legend Continues / USA / Charles B. Pierce / 1/2
- Bride, The / UK, USA / Franc Roddam / 1/2
- Brutal Storm (Vahset Kasirgasi) / Turkey / Kadir Akgün / SBIG
- Cat's Eye / USA / Lewis Teague / 1/2
- Creature (Titan Find) / USA / William Malone / 
- Cut and Run (Inferno in diretta) / Italy / Ruggero Deodato / 
- Dario Argento's World of Horror (Il mondo dell'orrore di Dario Argento) / Italy [doc] / Michele Soavi / 
- Dark Power, The / USA / Phil Smoot / 1/2
- Def-con 4 (Defense Condition 4) / Canada / Paul Donovan / 
- Demons (Dèmoni) / Italy / Lamberto Bava / 1/2
- Document of the Dead / USA [doc] / Roy Frumkes / 
- Don't Mess With My Sister (American Junkyard) / USA / Meir Zarchi / 1/2
Eternal Evil (The Blue Man) / Canada / George Mihalka / 1/2
- Evils of the Night / USA / Mardi Rustam / 
- Faces of Death III / USA [doc] / John Alan Schwartz / 
- Fogbrook Thing, The (The Berko Brothers) / Australia [short] / Mark Osborn / 
- Formula for a Murder (7, Hyden Park: la casa maledetta) / Italy / Alberto De Martino / 1/2
- Fortress / Australia [TV] / Arch Nicholson / 
- Friday the 13th: A New Beginning / USA / Danny Steinmann / 1/2
- Fright Show (Cinemagic: Fright Show) / USA / Jeffrey Baker, Frank Kerr, Jon Mostow, Damon Santostefano and Richard Taylor) / 
- Gakidama (The Demon Within; The Tasty Flesh) / Japan / Masayoshi Sukita / 1/2
- Galaxy Invader, The / USA / Don Dohler / 1/2
- Greedy Terror (Shock Chamber) / Canada [TV] / Steve DiMarco / 1/2
- Guinea Pig: Flowers of Flesh and Blood (Ginî piggu 2: Chiniku no hana) / Japan / Hideshi Hino / 
- Hard Rock Zombies / USA / Krishna Shah / 1/2
- Haunted Romance, A (Zai shi feng liu jie) / Hong Kong, South Korea / Myeong-hwa Jo, Ching Luk / 
- Horror House on Highway Five (Horror House on Highway 5) / USA / Richard Casey / 
- Howling II: Your Sister Is a Werewolf / UK, USA / Philippe Mora / 1/2
- Igor and the Lunatics (Bloodshed) / USA / Billy Parolini / 
- Junior (A Cut Above) / Canada, USA / Jim Hanley / 
- Lifeforce (Space Intruders; Space Vampires) / UK, USA / Tobe Hooper / 
- Mansion of the Living Dead (La mansión de los muertos vivientes) / Spain / Jesus Franco / 
Massacre in Dinosaur Valley (Nudo e selvaggio) / BrazilItaly / Michele Massimo Tarantini / 
- Murderlust (Mass Murder) / USA / Donald M. Jones / 1/2
- Mutilator, The (Fall Break) / USA / Buddy Cooper / 1/2
- New Kids, The / USA / Sean S. Cunningham / 
- New York Centerfold Massacre, The / USA / Louis Ferriol /
- Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge / USA / Jack Sholder / 1/2
- Night Train to Terror / USA / John Carr, Phillip Marshak, Tom McGowan, Jay Schlossberg-Cohen and Gregg C. Tallas / SBIG
- Nothing Underneath (Sotto il vestito niente) / Italy / Carlo Vanzina / 
- Revenge of the Teenage Vixens from Outer Space / USA / Jeff A. Ferrell / 1/2
- Ripper, The / USA / Christopher Lewis / 
- Savage Island / Italy, Spain, USA / Edoardo Mulgaria, Ted Nicolaou / 1/2
- Silver Bullet / USA / Daniel Attias / 1/2
- Strangeness, The / USA / Melanie Anne Phillips / 
- Strange Regression (Extraña Regresión) / Colombia / Jairo Pinilla Téllez / 1/2
- Stuff, The / USA / Larry Cohen / 1/2
- Survival Earth (Survival 1990) / Canada [TV] / Peter McCubbin / 1/2
- Teen Wolf / USA / Rod Daniel / 1/2
- Tenderloin (Haven of Horror) / USA / Louis Ferriol / 
- Tenement (Game of Survival) / USA / Roberta Findlay / 1/2
- Ten Little Maidens (Ten Lil' Maidens) / USA / John Seeman / 1/2
- Terror on Tape / USA / Robert A. Worms III / 
- Thirteenth Day of Christmas, The ("Time for Murder" series) / UK / Patrick Lau / 1/2
- Transmutations (Underworld) / UK / George Pavlou / 1/2
- Transylvania 6-5000 / USA, Yugoslavia / Rudy De Luca / 
- Treasure of the Amazon, The (El tesoro del Amazonas) / Mexico, USA / René Cardona, Jr. / 
- Victims! / USA / Jeff Hathcock / 1/2
- Warning Sign / USA / Hal Barwood / 
- White Jungle Slave (La esclava blanca) / Spain / Jesus Franco / 


< Back to 1984                    Continue to 1986 >

Top Ten for 1961

Overview coming soon.

Top 5
* * * * * * * * * *
1. The Innocents
UKUSA / Jack Clayton / 
* * * * * * * * * *
2. Scream of Fear (Taste of Fear)
UK / Seth Holt / 1/2
* * * * * * * * * *
3. Homicidal
USA / William Castle / 
* * * * * * * * * *
4. The Curse of the Werewolf
UK / Terence Fisher / 
* * * * * * * * * *
5. The Pit and the Pendulum
USA / Roger Corman / 


Rounding Out the Top 10:

6. World of the Vampires (El mundo de los vampiros) / Mexico / Alfonso Corona Blake / 
7. Shadow of the Cat / UK / John Gilling / 
8. Grim Reaper, The ("Thriller" series) / USA [TV] / Herschel Daugherty / 
9. Ghost of Oiwa (Kaidan Oiwa no borei) / Japan / Tai Katô / 
10. Nightmare (Efialtis; εφιάλτης) / Greece / Erricos Andreou / 


Also seen:

- Beast of Yucca Flats, The / USA / Coleman Francis / SBIG
- Bloodlust! / USA / Ralph Brooke / 1/2
- Brain of Evil (Santo contra cerebro del mal) / Cuba, Mexico / Joselito Rodriguez / 1/2
Creature from the Haunted Sea / USA / Roger Corman / 1/2
- Curse of the Doll People, The (Muñecos infernales) / Mexico / Benito Alazraki / 1/2
- Dead One, The (Blood of the Zombie) / USA / Barry Mahon / 1/2
- Devil's Hand, The / USA / William J. Hole, Jr. / 1/2
- Devil's Partner / USA / Charles R. Rondeau / 1/2
- Doctor Blood's Coffin (Dr. Blood's Coffin) / UK / Sidney J. Furie / 1/2
Hercules in the Haunted World (Ercole al centro della Terra) / Italy / Mario Bava / 1/2
- House of Mystery / UK / Vernon Sewell / 1/2
- Konga (I Was a Teenage Gorilla) / UK, USA / John Lemont / 
- Masquerade ("Thriller" series) / USA [TV] / Herschel Daugherty / 1/2
Mr. Sardonicus (Sardonicus) / USA / William Castle / 1/2
- Naked Witch, The / USA / Claude Alexander and Larry Buchanan / 1/2
- Night Tide / USA / Curtis Harrington / 1/2
Ursula / USA [short] / Lloyd Michael Williams / 
- Werewolf in a Girl's Dormitory (Lycanthropus) / Austria, Italy / Paolo Heusch / 


< Back to 1960                    Continue to 1962 >

Top Ten for 1960

Where the previous decade was dominated by science fiction and (in the later half) Gothic horror, 1960 marked a big turning point in the genre with the release of Alfred Hitchcock's seminal Psycho. Though the film is noteworthy in too many ways to mention right here, its greatest impact in regards to how it helped shape the genre in the ensuing years is that its stripping away all fantasy and supernatural elements. Psycho's 'horror' was believable and hit close to home with its all-too-human "monster," Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins) in all-too-familiar location; a hotel off the beaten path, doing horrifying things that actually do occur in real life. The massively popular film was a huge hit with both critics and audiences of the day, becoming the # 2 box office draw its year only behind Spartacus. It went on to garner four Academy Awards nominations and a host of other accolades and it's certainly no coincidence it was one of the first horror films - after Frankenstein (1931) and King Kong (1933) - to be selected for preservation by the National Film Registry. In short, Psycho is simply one of the most influential, successful and important genre films that's ever been made and easily earns its top placement here.

In the UK, Peeping Tom tread the same ground as Psycho, only earlier. Filming began in October 1959 (several months before Psycho began production) and it even hit London theaters months ahead of Hitchcock's film in April 1960. However, this time most critics were appalled by what they were seeing. The disturbing story of awkward loner photographer Mark Lewis (Karlheinz Böhm) and his penchant for killing women with a blade hidden inside a tripod while simultaneously filming said act was deemed beyond the pale of decency. It was banned in numerous countries, heavily cut in others, all but destroyed the career of highly-respected director Michael Powell and had some critics even suggesting the film should be tossed into the sewers where it belonged and its negative destroyed. All it took was time for the film's reputation to do a complete 180... decades, in fact. After amassing a small cult following of fans over the years, director Martin Scorsese stepped in and started championing the film, leading to a reappraisal. It's now considered one of the greatest British horror films ever made.

Though Psycho and Peeping Tom were pioneering films in the development of the psychological horror film, they were certainly not the norm in 1960. While sci-fi fatigue was setting in after a full decade of films about alien invasions, trips to Mars and radioactive monsters, the Gothic horror craze kick started three years earlier by Hammer was just starting to hit its stride. The three major releases in this field came from France, Italy and the U.S. In America, Roger Corman's Poe adaptation House of Usher, starring Vincent Price, became a huge hit, finally earned the hard-working director / producer some critical acclaim and eventually (in 2005) joined Psycho as an inductee into the National Film Registry. The notable Gothic horrors from France (Georges Franju's Eyes Without a Face) and Italy (Mario Bava's Black Sunday) were artful, astonishingly photographed and visualized efforts that also tested the limits of on-screen violence at the time. Eyes featured a long, bloody on-screen face-removal scene that raised eyebrows (and was promptly removed from most prints), while Sunday featured numerous gory moments that fell victim to censor scissors. Both Corman and Bava would contribute many other Gothic horror films in the years to come, many of which have gone on to be considered classics.

Another important film in the Gothic cycle was Roberto Gavaldón's Macario, an allegorical tale set during Mexico's "The Day of the Dead," which ended up becoming the very first Mexican film to be nominated for a Best Foreign Language Film Academy Award, Interestingly, it lost out to Ingmar Bergman's The Virgin Spring from Sweden, which went on to become the inspiration behind one of the most important genre films of the following decade: Wes Craven's The Last House on the Left (1972). Hammer itself was up to their old tricks with their take on Jekyll & Hyde, The Two Faces of Dr, Jekyll, and the vampire film The Brides of Dracula, which featured blonde David Peel as the vampire Baron Meinster because Horror of Dracula star Christopher Lee didn't want to play Dracula again. Four other non-Hammer films from the UK actually made a greater impression on me personally: the vivid, lurid and immensely entertaining Circus of Horrors from director by Sidney Hayers, the extremely atmospheric (and foggy!) The City of the Dead aka Horror Hotel from director by John Llewellyn Moxey, John Gilling's turn-of-the-century body snatchers tale The Flesh and the Fiends starring Peter Cushing and Wolf Rilla's creepy alien kids classic Village of the Damned.


Top 5
* * * * * * * * * *
1. Psycho
USA / Alfred Hitchcock / ★★
* * * * * * * * * *
2. Peeping Tom
UK / Michael Powell / ★★
* * * * * * * * * *
3. La maschera del demonio (Black Sunday)
Italy / Mario Bava / ★★1/2
* * * * * * * * * *
4. Les yeux sans visage (Eyes Without a Face)
France, Italy / Georges Franju / ★★1/2
* * * * * * * * * *
5. House of Usher (The Fall of the House of Usher)
USA / Roger Corman / ★★1/2
* * * * * * * * * *


Rounding Out the Top 10:

6. Circus of Horrors / UK / Sidney Hayers / ★★1/2
7. Macario / Mexico / Roberto Gavaldón / ★★
8. Horror Hotel (The City of the Dead) / UK / John Llewellyn Moxey / ★★
9. Flesh and the Fiends, The (Mania) / UK / John Gilling / ★★
10. Village of the Damned / UK / Wolf Rilla / ★★


Also seen:

- Amazing Transparent Man, The / USA / Edgar G. Ulmer / ★★1/2
Atom Age Vampire (Seddok, l'erede di Satana) / Italy / Antonio Giulio Majano / ★★
- Bluebeard's Ten Honeymoons / UK / W. Lee Wilder / ★★1/2
- Brides of Dracula, The / UK / Terence Fisher / ★★
- Cape Canaveral Monsters, The / USA / Phil Tucker / ★★1/2
- Dinosaurus! / USA / Irvin S. Yeaworth Jr. / ★★
- Enchanting Shadow, The (Ching nu yu hun) / Hong Kong / Han Hsiang Li / ★★
- Ghost Cat of Otama Pond, The (Kaibyô Otama-ga-ike) / Japan / Yoshihiro Ishikawa / ★★1/2
- Horrors of Spider Island (Ein Toter hing im Netz) / West Germany / Fritz Böttger / 
- Host, The / USA [short] / Jack Hill / ★★
- House of Terror, The (La casa del terror) / Mexico / Gilberto Martinez Solares /
- Last Woman on Earth / USA / Roger Corman / ★★
- Little Shop of Horrors, The / USA / Roger Corman / ★★
- Master of Horror, The (Obras maestras del terror) / Argentina / Enrique Carreras / ★★1/2
- Mill of the Stone Women (Il mulino delle donne di pietra) / France, Italy / Giorgio Ferroni / ★★
- Prediction, The / USA [TV] / John Brahm / ★★
- Secret of the Telegian, The (Densô ningen) / Japan / Jun Fukuda / ★★1/2
- Ship of Monsters, The (La nave de los monstruos) / Mexico / Rogelio A. González / ★★
- Tell-Tale Heart, The (The Hidden Room of 1,000 Horrors) / UK / Ernest Morris / ★★
- Tormented / USA / Bert I. Gordon / ★★1/2
- Vampire and the Ballerina, The (L'amante del vampiro) / Italy / Renato Polselli / ★★1/2
Virgin Spring, The (Jungfrukällan) / Sweden / Ingmar Bergman / ★★


< Back to 1959                    Continue to 1961 >

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