Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Forgotten Gems: 70's Horror or How Queso Was My Fromage

Silly title for a blog entry, I suppose. I've been in a silly, weird mood lately (as if all the zombie stuff wasn't clue). I suppose it's because I've been trapped indoors since November and I need to get out and start doing. I had a busy weekend and want more. Anyway, the idea for ths entry has been kicking around for a while and then the other day on i09, I came across this entry about the cloning movie, Embryo which sealed the deal. So here, in the order of release are:
Seven from the 70's:
Cheesy Horror Movies I Love, Despite Knowing Better

The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971)

The well-loved and much underrated Vincent Price stars in one of his most memorable horror roles, as Dr. Anton Phibes, a mad, disfigured musician wreaking revenge on those he holds responsible for the death of his beloved wife. With his super-fashionable, though silent assistant with the unlikely name of Vulnavia (Virginia North), Phibes picks off his victims with a series of "themed" murders, based on the Ten Plagues. Joseph Cotton, Terry Thomas, Hugh Griffith and Peter Jeffrey co-star in this darkly comic thriller from director Robert Fuest. Both Griffith and Thomas would return (as different characters) in the sequel, Dr. Phibes Rises Again.

Frogs (1972)
American International Pictures was known for being cheap and outlandish (Phibes is an AIP picture) no matter what the genre, and none so much more than in their horror movies. They also wanted to draw teenagers to the movies and decided to make an ecological disaster movie starring Ray Milland, a very young and very hot Sam Elliott and... are you ready? ... you sure?... OK... Joan friggin' Van Ark! Milland is the crippled patriarch of a family whose money was made by dumping poisoned by-products into the environment. At their 4th of July picnic on a remote island, Mother Nature strikes back. It's just terrible. I like it mostly 'cause we get to see a shirtless Elliott battle hundreds of snakes with just an oar!
Writer/director Larry Cohen is simply insane, and the premises of most of his films are, too. Cohen gave the world movies like Q, The Stuff and more recently, Phone Booth and Cellular. As a kid, I was both desperate and terrified to see this movie, because of Cohen's genius at promotion. First, what may be the greatest tagline of all times: "There's only one thing wrong with the Davis baby... It's Alive!" Then the terrifying trailer below, where they never show you the baby Oh... my... God!!! It must be too horrible to imagine! It was. The movie, that is.
Author Robert Marasco's weird novel about a house that's a living entity, feeding off the fear of those who live within its walls, adapted into an even weirder movie starring Oliver Reed, Karen Black and a far-from-dead-yet though already-ancient Bette Davis. Director Dan Curtis is owed a big thank you for inspiring the trees in Sam Raimi's The Evil Dead, and for creeping me out at one of the first horror movies I saw in a theater alone.
Michael Winner directs a screenplay by Jeffrey Konvitz, based on Konvitz's novel about a brownstone in Brooklyn that may well be something worse than haunted. The cast is top-drawer talent, including Chris Sarandon; Martin Balsalm; John Carradine; Eva Gardner; Arthur Kennedy; Burgess Meredith; Sylvia Miles; Eli Wallach; Christopher Walken; Jerry Orbach and Beverly D’Angelo! Christina Raines is the damsel in distress. A very creepy little thriller that owes more than a debt to Rosemary's Baby. Posted below is fan-made trailer for the movie (and the only one I could find).
The Fury (1978).
Brian DePalma (Carrie; Dressed to Kill; The Untouchables) revisits telekinesis in his rather slow-moving, though fascinating adaptation of John Farris' novel about a pair of "psychic twins" who are being sought after by both domestic and foriegn intelligence agencies. Kirk Douglas, John Cassavetes, Charles Durning and Fiona Lewis are at odds, while Amy Irving (the future ex-Mrs. Spielberg) and former hottie Andrew Stevens are the young folks in distress. Watch closely for an appearance by a very young Darryl Hannah. Plus, the final and inevitible exploding head explodes about 375 times in a row. It's insane!
Thirst (1979)
I don't know that "cheesy" is the right term for this Australian vampire movie. A descendant of Elizabeth Bathory (long believed to the actual inspiration for Dracula) is psychologically tortured by a cult into believing she is their "chosen one" and that they have achieved immortality through vampirism. They even live on a commune where they "farm" their food in a massive 'barn' filled with aneasthetized 'donors' whose many exsanguination tubes resemble nothing less than milking machines. Literally biting satire, Thirst is original take on the vampire legend and features some terrific performances by genre veterans David Hemmings, Henry Silva and Chantal Contouri is lovely as the damsel... no, not gonna do it... as the young heroine.
More, anon.

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