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, August 26, 2013

Top Ten for 1952


Overview coming soon.
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1952
Top 5
* * * * * * * * * *
1. Valkoinen peura (The White Reindeer)
Finland / Erik Blomberg / 1/2
* * * * * * * * * *
2. Sudden Fear
USA / David Miller / 1/2
* * * * * * * * * *
3. The Stranger Left No Card
UK [short] / Wendy Toye / 1/2
* * * * * * * * * *
4. The Black Castle
USA / Nathan Juran / 
* * * * * * * * * *
5. Alraune (Mandragore; Unnatural... the Fruit of Evil)
Finland / Arthur Maria Rabenalt / 1/2

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Rounding Out the Top 10:

6. Noita palaa elämään (The Witch) / FinlandRoland af Hällström 
7. Roses Bloom on the Moor Grave (Rosen blühen auf dem Heidegrab) / West Germany / Hans H. König / 1/2
8. My Son, the Vampire (Old Mother Riley Meets the Vampire) / UK / John Gilling / 
9. Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla / USA / William Beaudine / 1/2
10.

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Also seen:

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Horrors of the Black Museum (1959)

... aka: Crimes in the Black Museum

Directed by:
Arthur Crabtree

During the memorably nasty opening sequence, a woman receives an anonymous package with a pair of binoculars inside, tries them out and then gets her eyeballs poked out by retractable blades hidden inside. It's the third brutal murder of a London female in just two weeks. Sensationalist writer Edmond Bancroft (Michael Gough) finds it all "fiendishly clever." Bancroft, who "eats, drinks and sleeps crime," taunts the Scotland Yard detectives handling the case and hobbles around on a cane chain-smoking Tibetan cigars, seems eager to write it all up. While he makes a ton of money dishing out the sordid details to the public, the murders are oddly enough having a strange physical effect on him that even his physician Dr. Ballan (Gerald Andersen) doesn't quite understand. After each killing, Edmond goes into a deep, though temporary, state of shock. Because his patient "manifests a high state of unnatural excitement" discussing death, Dr. Ballan believes he should be committed to a nuthouse... and he is, of course, correct in his assumption.






In the cellar of Bancroft's home is a large museum dedicated to murder and the macabre; one so elaborate he thinks it even makes a mockery of Scotland Yard's famed "Black Museum." In Edmond's personal collection are mannequins acting out various bloody death and torture scenes, tons of antique murder weapons adorning the walls and even a huge computer system. Edmond wants to demonstrate to the world that his "weapons can be used again and again... and that the murderer will never be caught," so he's been sending out his young assistant Rick (Graham Curnow), who has what Edmond refers to as "the gift of obedience,"  to murder women.

In between orchestrating his killings, Edmond's been keeping a drunken blonde trollop, Joan (June Cunningham), cooped up in an apartment he pays for. When sugar daddy refuses to give her extra spending money, the two get into a hilarious fight where he comments on her lack of "service polish" and she calls him an "ugly cripple." After getting drunk and dancing to a Rockola jukebox for a bar full of leering men, Joan returns home and hops into bed, only to quickly a little too late that Rick has turned her headboard into a makeshift guillotine.






Right as Edmond is about to make another kind of killing with his new true crime book "Terror After Dark," an unhinged man attempts to steal his thunder by erroneously confessing to the crimes. To remedy the situation, Edmond kills an antique store owner (Beatrice Varley) who's trying to blackmail him with a giant pair of ice tongs (!) and then electrocutes his shrink and dissolves the body in a vat of acid. He usually leaves the dirty work up to poor Rick, who's certainly not the brightest bulb in the shed and sits back and allows Edmond to give him a "treatment" (injection of green gunk) that turns him into a lumpy face killer. Rick's secretly dating Angela (Shirley Ann Field) but when Edmond finds out about it, he tells Rick that women are "a vicious, unreliable breed" and then instructs him to kill her on the Tunnel of Love ride at the Funfair.






So this is not a good movie. Much of the dialogue is cringe-worthy, the story line is all over the place, several of the supporting performances are flagrantly awful and it was filmed in early Cinemascope color (by Desmond Dickinson), so the whole thing has this really ugly, murky, muted look. Thankfully, Gough (who headlined KONGA [1961] and BLACK ZOO [1963] for the same production company) is around and steers this dreary little number right into camp territory by going hilariously over-the-top throughout. I love this guy. He's always great playing heartless, hateful and extremely smug sociopaths and here he cranks his performance up to a 20 when it really requires about a 7. Sometimes chewing the scenery is the way to go, and Gough knew when and when not to do it. And boy was it needed here. He's about the only thing to breath any life into this one.






Geoffrey Keen and John Warwick co-star as the detectives, Herman Cohen co-wrote and was the executive producer and future director Jim O'Connolly (who made the amusing Joan Crawford vehicle BERSERK! [1967]; which also featured Gough) was the production manager.

Gingerdead Man, The (2005)

Directed by:
Charles Band

Millard Findlemeyer (Gary Busey) robs Cadillac Jack's Diner and decides to shoot and stab all of the customers while he's there. Among the victims are bakery owner James Leigh (Newell Alexander) and his two grown children. The daughter - Sarah (Robin Sydney) - was lucky enough to survive her gunshot wound that fateful day, and it was her testimony that eventually ended up putting Millard away and onto death row. After his date with the electric chair, Millard's body is cremated and his ashes are sent back to his mother. Two days after the execution, Sarah is at work at her family's bakery when someone wearing a black cloak leaves a box of "Grandma's Gingerbread Seasoning" at the back door. Sarah's highly annoying, profession wrestling obsessed co-worker Brick (Jonathan Chase) accidentally cuts himself while opening the box and drizzles some blood into the seasoning. Never mind that, it's mixed in with some flour anyway to make cookie dough. With that level of quality control, it's no wonder the place on the verge of closing down.






Across the street, a chain restaurant is about to open that threatens to put the Leigh's bakery out of business. Sarah's mother Betty (Margaret Blye), who's taken to the bottle since the murders of her husband and son, attempts to shoot their banner down with a shotgun. Jimmy Dean (Larry Cedar), the loud-mouth, cowboy-hat-wearing owner of the rival eatery who has a bitchy, wanna-be model daughter named Lorna (Alexia Aleman), offers to buy Sarah out for 50,000 thousand dollars but she refuses. Lorna sneaks in with a rat in an attempt to get them closed down by the health department, the ladies get into a cat fight, Lorna's punk-with-a-heart-of-gold boyfriend Amos (Ryan Locke) pops in to break them up, the oven goes haywire and a large gingerbread cookie baking in the oven comes to life. Yes, a walking, talking, killing gingerbread cookie voiced by Gary Busey. If that doesn't scream "Camp!" I don't know what does. The cookie gets to cut off a finger, jump in a car and smash a guy against the wall and knock a girl out with a skillet and then make an ice cream sundae out of her (complete with strategically placed cherries). It also gets to make terrible jokes about ladyfingers, drunks and reminds us that it "sure ain't the Pillsbury Fucking Doughboy."






Because of Busey's presence (he has about five minutes of actual screen time and the rest is just him voicing the cookie) and the ridiculous, outlandish premise, this ended up making money on DVD. Unfortunately, it's all rather terrible... and not in a very good or enjoyable way either. This is one of those movies that tries to defy being called idiotic by being intentionally idiotic: it wants so desperately to be camp. Therein lies the big problem; this is far too forced and obvious to be even remotely amusing if you're above the age of about 8. The combination of terrible acting, awful dialogue, corny one-liners, murky, flat-looking photography, poor lighting and, perhaps most especially, a roster of extremely annoying, toilet mouthed, over-the-top characters sink this in no time. There's not enough material here to even push this to a proper feature run-time. If you exclude the very-slow-moving opening and closing credits, this actually runs less than one hour.






John Carl Buechler and Magical Media Industries created the creature effects, though there's not much in the way of gore and the body count is surprisingly low. It was co-written by Silvia St. Croix (probably a pseudonym for William Butler), who went on to direct GINGERDEAD MAN 2: PASSION OF THE CRUST (2008). There was also GINGERDEAD MAN 3: SATURDAY NIGHT CLEAVER (2011).

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