pinterest-858fa Sinful Celluloid: March 2011

Lesbian Blood: Hammer's Karnstein Trilogy (1970-1971)

The Vampire Lovers (1970)
"You must die! Everybody must die!"
On November 23rd 2010, two days after her 73rd birthday, Ingrid Pitt left this world.

She has worn the crown of Queen of vampires for 40 years despite having only played two true vampire characters. Her first vampire role, 1970’s The Vampire Lovers, not only made her an instant horror icon but also set the bar for the subsequent sequels.
In 1968, Ingrid was cast in the WW2 actioner Where Eagles Dare opposite Clint Eastwood and Richard Burton. It was this film that caught the attention of Hammer head James Carreras who cast her as the lead in Vampire Lovers.

The famous novel Carmilla by J. Sheridan Le Fanu was the basis for the film and it remains quite faithful to the source material. The film opens with the Baron Hartog, a vampire hunter, witnessing the rising of a white shrouded vampire, as he watches the graveyard from the dilapidated Castle Karnstein. The vampire, still cloaked, heads towards town in search of a fresh victim. In the meantime, The Baron heads down to the cemetery to retrieve the burial shroud of the vampire for without this, it cannot return to the grave. 

Send More Zombies: Return of the Living Dead (1985)

"No one understands me, you know that? I fucking bust my ass for you guys and what do I get? You're spooky. Fuck you man, fuck you all!"
In 1985, I was discovering my love for zombies and my attachment to the punk rock movement that was taking over Los Angeles. Walking down the streets of Hollywood, I came to a theater showing a new zombie film and the poster caught my eye. A leather clad, Mohawk headed zombie standing by a tombstone with a big breasted zombie to his left. At the bottom of the poster was a flier for the soundtrack featuring The Cramps, The Damned, and T.S.O.L., wow, I was in. I grabbed my popcorn and Coke and grabbed a seat. I have never been the same.

The living Dead and the dying living: Dellamorte Dellamore / Cemetery Man (1994)

“Death, death, death comes sweeping down, filthy death the leering clown, death on wings, death by surprise, failing evil from worldly eyes, death that spawns as life succumbs, while death and love, two kindred drums, beat the time till judgment day, an actor in a passion play, without beginning, without end, evermore, amen”.
Who am I? Why am I here? What is my purpose? These are all questions we ask ourselves at one time or another.  We stop and ask ourselves if our actions have meaning or are we just zombies walking around doing what society tells us we should be doing. Dellamorte Dellamore dares to ask these questions, pushing the zombie film into metaphysical and philosophical realms never before visited in the genre.   

The Lost Art of Art

When was the last time you walked into a friend’s bedroom and saw a movie poster on the wall, and don’t mean a picture of the three sexy leads standing in Abercrombie, looking tragically hip and glittery, I mean a poster that is hanging on the wall of your local theater? I couldn’t tell you the last time I did. Why is that? Are movie posters no longer sold? No, that’s not it. Are people no longer hanging movie characters on their wall? As I mentioned above in my opening statement, they still are. Why then, don’t we see them more often?
The answer is twofold. The truth is that we do see them hanging on friend’s walls, and two, that the Photoshop altered posters of the glittery teens are exactly the kind of movie posters being made today. Sick, isn’t it?
Movie studios stopped trying to sell you their product. They simply take a still from a movie, slap the title and a date on it, and call it good. Well guess what, it’s not good. The bigger the budget, the crappier the poster, let’s start from the beginning so I can show you what I mean.
Back in the 1930’s “talkies” came out and when sound was added, motion pictures became a true spectacle. The early horror posters tried to convey the excitement through poster art and give theater goers a hint of what was in store.

Babysitting for Satan: House of the Devil (2009)

“This one night changes everything for me…”
I remember when horror used to take it’s time. Before Mtv and seizure inducing editing, a story was allowed to unfold at its own pace, take its time to build up atmosphere and characters. Older films did this with fantastic payoffs; which brings us to the most interesting “Retro” film of the past few years, Ti West’s House of the Devil.
Shot on 16 mm film, House of the Devil captures a time when true horror was at its final peak. A time when horror was tension filled, apprehension built, and violence was realistically brutal.
Set in the 1980’s, the film opens with the grainy introduction of our heroine, Samantha Hughes, played by Jocelin Donahue, admiring the view from an apartment she hopes to rent from a kind landlady (Dee Wallace). Samantha secures the apartment, but needs to make $300 within a week to pay the first month’s rent on move in. Desperately searching her college campus’s bulletin boards, she comes across a babysitting job and figures she can earn some quick, under the table cash.

This place is creepy and it's somber too..."Horror Hotel" (1960)

“For Whitewood, time stands still!”
In late 1960, on a forgotten stretch of earth, a beautiful young blonde woman from out of town rents a room in a small out of the way hotel and brutally stabbed at the hands of the hotel’s seemingly kind owner. Sometime later her boyfriend and sibling come looking for her and their search leads them to the hotel known as…”The Raven’s Inn”. Wait! What?!
No we’re not talking about Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho; we are talking about another film with a similar set up: Horror Hotel. Filmed at about the same time as Psycho, but across the sea, John Llewellyn Moxey’s Horror Hotel aka City of the Dead is a stand on its own masterpiece of Occult cinema. The film has unjustly over the past 50 years, been labeled a Psycho rip off by some (the same types that say “Psycho” is not a horror movie, but a psychological thriller).
I first saw the film in 1998 on Halloween night. I was heading out to a Haunted House with a friend and thought we should set the mood with something spooky. This film didn’t disappoint. Horror Hotel has all the trappings that chills our bones. A fog laden town with a secret, a creepy Inn, terrifying abductions, witches and burning crosses, all underlined by the booming voice of a young Sir Christopher Lee.
Lee plays Prof. Alan Driscoll, originally from the small town of Whitewood, MA. While covering local history and its connections to witchcraft, he intrigues one of his best students, Nan Barlow. Nan, a petite young blonde, insists that she goes to Whitewood, to study and write her final paper. Driscoll recommends a hotel that she can stay at the Raven’s Inn. This is the last bit of brightness we see in the film.
Nan’s journey into eternal darkness is mimicked in the lighting and gorgeously foreboding set pieces. Her drive to Whitewood is in total darkness layered in thick fog. She stops to pick up an elderly man wondering in the darkness himself. For those viewers who laugh at the implausibility of a young woman picking up a hitch-hiker in the middle of total darkness, remember, it was a more innocent time. Sure, for all she knew, the kindly old man could have been the Albert Fish of Whitewood; after all, I don’t recall seeing any young kids in the town. I’m just saying.
Once Nan arrives in town, she stops in front of an old cemetery and her elder hitch-hiking companion disappears. She wonders into the Raven’s Inn, which is across from the cemetery and meets Mrs. Newless played confidently by Patricia Jessel.
Nan’s room is off the lobby and quite small and creepy all on its own. Strange occurrences continue till Nan decides to have a “Scooby Doo” moment, that’s right, she turns into a snooping kid. There is a trap door in her room which she has been told not to open, you know what that means, time to break out the flashlight.

This production by Amicus pictures is rich with foreboding darkness and likeable characters. Thanks to Dennis Lotis (Richard Barlow), Tom Naylor (Bill, the boyfriend), and Patricia Russell (Betta St. John), we are engaged in the search for Nan and the learning of her fate. Though the body count is low, the deaths are poignant, and therefore ring in a true sense of horror and loss. The main theme, though not exactly hummable, will stick in your head for some time after.
A couple of notes:
Elizabeth Selwyn’s spoken bargain with Satan is cut from all “Horror Hotel” prints. This dialogue was intended to set up the basic background of the town of Whitewood, but was found to be too controversial for the U.S. However, the completely uncut film can be found under the original title “City of the Dead” available from VCI Home Entertainment.
The classic New Jersey horror punk band The Misfits recorded a song for their 1980 album “12 Hits from Hell”. Though the album was never released, the song can be found on Misfits: Collection ll and remains a fan favorite.

As time goes on and horror continues to evolve, the less and less these films see broadcast.  Do yourself a favor, buy, not rent, Horror Hotel today. You can certainly do worse for twice the price (and if you’ve seen a lot of theatrical horror last year, you probably have).

Girls who suck: Caged Virgins (1973)

“You cannot be both virgin and vampire!”

 Click… Click…Bang…Bang and that’s how the film opens up, with a female clown pointing a gun at you. Ok, you’ve got my attention. Two female clowns and a leather clad male driver speed down the highway exchanging gun fire with a second car. The clowns pull a quick maneuver and lose the pursuing car but not before their driver are fatally wounded. Being the professionals that they are, they burn their vehicle (with their poor friend inside) and head out on their merry way.
After a change of clothes, they commit a little more theft before running through a cemetery where one of the girls is almost buried alive. The brunette (Michelle) falls into an open grave and is dazed. Two gravediggers return and begin filling in the hole. Once they leave, the blonde (Marie) runs to her rescue and the finds the brunette, her arm out stretched from the grave like a rising member of the undead. 

Death of the hard copy world

I once told someone that as we die, our world dies with us. I truly believe that. Large department store chains slowly disappear, having been eaten up by the big two mega-chains. As one executive elegantly put it; you have Wal-Mart for the poor dumb people and Target for the smart middle-class consumer.
Bookstores are dying by the hundreds. First it was the used book stores, the ones you see in horror films when the hero realizes he’s up against something beyond his imagination and needs to find out how to destroy it. I love a good used bookstore (If only Dick Miller worked in all of them, I would never have a problem killing werewolves).
Now every year it seems new bookstores get rarer and rarer. Why go to the bookstore when I can get it cheaper online and have it delivered to me? Or even better yet, I can download it to my Kindle or Google tablet.
Now it seems that bookstores move more coffee than books. I enjoy a cup of coffee at Borders or Barns and Noble, but I do it while enjoying a book and a couple of magazines I’ve purchased.
A big thing for me was going to the mall and hitting up a record store. Good luck with that. Record stores are dying by the thousands. Like the afore mentioned department stores, the giants of music have died out like they were dinosaurs. Tower Records, Music Plus, Virgin Mega Stores, The Warehouse and Sam Goody’s, once staples across America, now gone. Where does one buy music these days? Oh yeah, online!
 I went to several concerts last year and stood in the PIT, without a scratch. How? Because everyone was just standing there, recording it on their “phones” so they could later put it on YouTube and write about how “Insane” and “Out of control!!!” the show was.
Daily and Weekly childhood traditions have become obsolete (Saturday morning cartoons anyone?) Why watch a cartoon like G.I. Joe when I can “live” it by playing Call of Duty on Wii or the PS3 (fuck X-box)?
I love technology, but damn it, Video killed the Radio star. That phrase is truer now than it was in 1981. Thanks to the mobile internet, you can walk into a coffee shop ( a place you could always meet people) and find 15 unapproachable patrons, as they all will undoubtedly have their faces buried in their phone “texting” their BFF! Why buy a CD when the media has already decided which songs are good for me and I can download them to my phone using ITunes? Why spend $50 dollars at the movies when I can buy it on Blu-Ray in a couple of months and not have to deal with all the inconsiderate people and their techno-addictions.
I know of people that live in the same house, but only communicate through texting and Facebook, sometimes in the same room! Why talk to one friend on the phone, when I can post how I’m feeling for the world to read (wow, aren’t I important!?!) Just like Jeff Bridges in the movie Tron, we’ve all become digitized, down to our thoughts and feelings.
The bottom line is that it’s not that things are changing, the microwave was a change, and the multiplex was a change. It’s that our entire way of living is in Genocide, pushing us towards a day when we don’t leave the comfort of our home or speak to one another at all.  2012 is seen as the date of major change. Maybe that’s the day we cease to be a society of individuals and just become faceless individuals. George Orwell is dead, 1984 has come and gone. We know big brother is watching but, in all honesty, what’s he gonna do?
We are living in the age of Cyberpunk author William Gibson, who described a world where technology was the only commodity and pastime. Where people are voyeurs watching the lives of the rich unfold instead of creating their own interesting lives, a world where the Religious are a fringe society and the true GOD is spelled M-O-N-E-Y. It was just Science Fiction when published in (coincidently) 1984, now it’s the history of future past. And though our world isn’t as flashy looking as his descriptions, it is his world that we live in and the future is dark and lonely indeed. Our world dies with us, but the question is will it be forgotten or will there be a hardcopy left in its wake? 

This Day in Horror