Spencer Tracy unleashes the beast on Bergman and Turner.
We don't feature a lot of material from Finland* but this poster for Tri Jekyll ja Mr. Hyde, aka Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, caught our eye. The movie was based on the gothic horror novella by Robert Louis Stevenson, and was the third attempt Hollywood had made at the story, this time with Spencer Tracy as Jekyll/Hyde and Ingrid Bergman as Ivy Peterson. We gather Tracy thought his performance had ruined his career. Talk about being hard on yourself. He's perfectly decent in the role, even if he's a bit unconvincing as an English gentleman, and doesn't even bother tackling the accent. Bergman is decent too, and she does wrestle the accent, and loses, but since she's Swedish you have to forgive her. She'd soon be acknowledged as one of the greatest actresses in cinema. The film also features a pre-superstardom Lana Turner. She would develop a tendency to chew the scenery after she became a global celebrity, but here, in a supporting role under established stars, she's good, and hot as hell to boot—not that Bergman is anything other than dreamy herself.
Do we digress? Not in the least. Their beauty is pivotal to the plot. The two sides of Tracy's personality, the loving and lustful sides, posited as good and evil, are preoccupied by these basically opposite women. This is demonstrated during a nightmare sequence in which Tracy uses a whip to drive a pair of horses, a dark one and a light one, that transform into Bergman and Turner, side by side, windblown, sweaty, and implied as nude. It's a surprising sequence, hotly erotic, and all too brief if you ask us. We could have watched those two all wet and thrashing for a long while. But maybe that's our own Mr. Hyde speaking. In any case, the sequence serves to demonstrate that Dr. Jekyll's beastly Hyde is loose and isn't going back in his cage anytime soon. A career ruining performance from Tracy? On the contrary. His star continued to shine brightly after this highly effective piece of gaslamp horror, and his co-stars' ascents were just beginning. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde premiered in the U.S. in 1941 and reached Finland today in, apparently, 1943. How that happened in the middle of World War II is a mystery to us, but maybe it just shows how pushy Mr. Hyde was.
*While the poster is supposed to be Finnish, it actually seems to contain both Finnish and Swedish lettering. For example "Tri" in Finnish means "doctor," but "Dr.," which is common in Swedish, appears too, Likewise the word "and" is repreated. In Swedish it's "och" but in Finnish it's "ja." We guess the poster was used in both countries.
In space there are no Happy Days.
The gap between the quality of a poster and the quality of the film it promotes is often large, but rarely so much as with the infamous sci-fi b-movie Planet des Schreckens, better known as Galaxy of Terror. We're showing you the West German poster because the movie premiered there today in 1982 after originally opening in 1981 in the U.S. The art is signed by Charo, not the hip shaking dancer-singer, but rather someone who we found no further info about online. This is a spectacular comic book style effort and a rarity that costs a hundred dollars or more to acquire. If you've seen the movie you know the art depicts the death of Taaffe O'Connell's character Damela, who's stripped naked and slimed by a giant maggot. Galaxy of Terror boasts b-movie stalwarts Robert Englund and Sid Haig, plus Erin Moran from television's Happy Days, who was really the entire reason the film was made, but O'Connell's slippery demise is the reason it's a cult classic. We recommend giving it a watch—not for O'Connell, but for its generally amusing nature. It's no Star Crash, but it's pretty close.
Eli Roth and AMC make History with a seven part look at horror cinema.
Those of you in the U.S. who appreciate horror cinema may want to carve out a little time Sunday night for the final episode of the retrospective Eli Roth's History of Horror. It's been airing weekly on the cable network American Movie Classics, aka AMC, since mid-October. Though the British network BBC broadcast a very good three part horror retrospective in 2010 (and it even had a similar title—A History of Horror), genre landscapes shift quickly. The Brit series was made before important films like Get Out, It, Let Me In, its remake Let the Right One In, et al hit cinemas. Eli Roth's History of Horror is a newer and deeper look at fright films. Each 60-minute episode focuses on a specific type of terror, such as vampires, monsters, demons, and slashers.
Overall the series is great. Roth discusses not just the movies, but horror's cultural impact, and weights those observations toward the last ten years. Because of the change that has occurred this decade those sections resonate nicely. Horror's ability to make social issues digestible as allegories is a key part of the form's worth. For instance, Get Out's idea of the sunken place, a metaphor for living (and dying) while black in America, would be rejected by many white filmgoers if it were in a standard narrative. But for us the social impact of horror movies is merely a bonus. We love them viscerally first, intellectually second. We lovethe tension that results from not knowing—usually, at least—which characters will survive. We love how the films' kinetic and often low budget natures lead to amazing little accidents, such as the bit in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre when Leatherface grabs Teri McMinn on the porch of his house and both the girl's sandals fly off. That sort of detail isn't in a script. It happens during the shoot, and the director thanks the filmic gods for the extra iota of serendipitous realism.
While very good, the series isn't perfect. In the episode on zombies, Roth discusses slow moving zombies for a while, then erroneously credits the arrival of speedy zombies to Danny Boyle 2002 hit 28 Days Later. But it was 1985's Return of the Living Dead that featured the first sprinting zombies in an American movie, and this was preceded by the 1980 Italian zombie epic Incubo sulla città contaminata, aka Nightmare City. We also were surprised Near Dark was ignored in the vampire episode. Timehas shown it to be better and more influential than The Lost Boys, which was discussed at length. If you doubt that, note that Near Dark's critic score on Rotten Tomatoes is 88%, while Lost Boys' is 27%. Critics are often wrong, especially when it comes to horror, but that level of variance is no fluke. And just to settle the argument, the audience rater on that website also prefers Near Dark. We suspect either box office receipts or Roth's personal preference played a role there, when quality should have been the deciding factor.
But we were gratified to see that many of our cherished beliefs were echoed by Roth and his co-hosts Rob Zombie and The Walking Dead producer Greg Nicotero. Yes, the towering werewolf from The Howling is the scariest ever put on screen. Beyond a doubt, John Carpenter's The Thing, which was close to universally panned upon release, is a top tier thriller. We're anticipating the segment on ghosts, the focus of Sunday night's series finale. We imagine these were saved for last because viewers are most interested in the subject, a curiosity that derives from the fact that many people actually believe ghosts exist. We expect the episode to discuss such old and new classics as The Haunting, The Shining, The Ring, and The Woman in Black. We'll see. But no spoilers, please. If you're in the States you can watch it before we do, whereas we'll have to (totally legally, we swear) download it the next day. But whenever you watch it, the show has been a nice treat for horror aficionados.
G.I. foe: the rise of the cobra.
Some promo posters work exactly as intended. We saw this one for Cult of the Cobra and immediately dropped everything to find the film. We knew it was going to be a cheesy b-movie because we'd never heard of it before, and perhaps having low expectations is the key to enjoying it. In the story six American G.I.s in (presumably) India decide to alleviate their boredom by attending a local cobra cult's ritual. When they disrupt the ceremony in spectacularly boneheaded fashion the high priest curses the group. They pay no attention to this at all.
They return to the U.S. not knowing they've been tracked there, but when they start dropping dead they think, “Hey, didn't that high priest dude curse us?” Yes, he did. In fact, he specifically said the cobra goddess would kill them one by one. Missy Misdemeanor Eliot once memorably rapped in her hit song “Slide,” Behind every curtain there's a snake bitch lurkin', and that neatly encapsulates the problem for the surviving G.I.s—they realize they're in trouble but have no idea who their nemesis could be.
But we viewers don't have to guess. Their homicidal stalker is Faith Domergue, raven haired veteran of many beloved sci-fi and horror films, including This Island Earth and The Atomic Man. She also starred in the occasional decent drama such as Vendetta and Where Danger Lives. She's an unusual looking woman but here her sloe-eyed beauty really works. You can almost believe she'll turn into a snake at any moment. Check her out: Definite snakelike qualities, right?
Cult of the Cobra is a bad but fun Universal International cheapie, what we like to call a popcorn muncher, a time killer you can enjoy and forget immediately thereafter. Its main attractions are Domergue as the snake woman, the luscious Kathleen Hughes as the hero's love interest, and some amusing cobra-vision sequences. And that amazing promo poster. We also have the alternate U.S. promo and Australian promo below. Cult of the Cobra slithered into cinemas for the first time today in 1955.
I can see how excited I've made you. Pour this bowl of cold water on it and see if that helps.
In the promo photo above Femi Benussi appears in costume—in amazing costume—as Lola in the film Il domestico. Benussi was born in Rovigno, Italy, which is now Rovnij, Croatia, and debuted in 1965's Il boia scarlatto, aka Bloody Pit of Horror. She went on to appear more than eighty films, including the giallo Nude per l'assassino, aka Strip Nude for Your Killer and the actioner Storia di sangue, aka Blood Story. The above image is from 1974, and just to make Benussi's outfit complete it also came with a hat, shoes, and a bruise courtesy of the makeup department, below. As we continue to work our way through various 1970s schlock classics you can be sure that Benussi will show up here again
The world of professional ballet is absolute murder.
Suspiria is a legendary giallo, praised by horror fans and mainstream critics alike, and slated for a splashy 2018 remake. The fact that it's being remade is understandable—from Hollywood's perspective it fits with action and horror movies such as Turistas, Hostel, A Lonely Place To Die, Land of Smiles, Taken, et al that over the last decade or so have warned Americans that horrific things will happen to them if they travel overseas. In Suspiria an American dancer gains admittance to a prestigious West German ballet academy, but arrives just in time for a nightmarish series of murders. Jessica Harper stars as the ingenue trapped in this mostly blood red dance academy, a stranger in the strangest land, beset by unexplained illnesses, hallucinatory events, and vicious nocturnal terrors.
Suspiria piles the horror stylings on—from Dario Argento and his surreal direction, to Luciano Tovoli with his baroque lighting schemes and supersaturated colors, to the maggot wrangler who produced many more maggots than could have been reasonably expected, to the scorers (Argento among them) who came up with a percussive and discordant soundtrack that could rattle a bomb disposal robot. The first murder is nothing short of operatic, complete with a shot of a knife piercing the victim's exposed heart. The only real question going forward is whether Argento can possibly keep reaching such heights. And the answer is Suspiria, its brilliance outshining its flaws, is a classic for a reason. The poster above is a classic too. It was painted by Mario de Berardinis to promote the film's premiere in Italy today in 1977.
The Bates Motel offers room service with that personal touch.
When we wrote about Psycho a while back we came across this Yugoslavian poster which we're sharing today, finally. Usually we write about films on their release dates but there isn't an exact one known for Yugoslavia. It arrived there in 1963, though, three years after its U.S. run. This two tone poster is about as low rent as it gets, but it's still effective, we think.
She's ready to go anywhere her legs take her.
British actress Veronica Carlson's first screen role was an uncredited bit in Casino Royale, and her latest role is in 2018's upcoming House of the Gorgon. In between she became well known as a regular player in various Hammer Studios horror films. The above promo image was made when she appeared on the British television series The Saint. She looks a bit sinful, though, don't you think. Copyright 1969.
Nobody wants to be around when the bill comes due.
We've seen a few posters for the Japanese horror classic Jigoku, but never this one. The title is a Japanese word meaning “hell,” and that idea comes across pretty strongly on this bizarre promo. If you haven't seen the movie, it's about a group of people, all who have committed sins of some sort or another, that find themselves in hell. What's that like? Well, there are lakes of pus, pools of boiling water, fields of spikes, etc., as well as numerous baroque tortures, including people buried alive head first up to their ankles, chopped up, torn apart, de-toothed by various brutal means, and worse. In short, the filmmakers showed everything they had the efx capabilities to depict. It must have scared the bejesus out of people, but the movie was so successful it was remade three times. Real film buffs will want to check out the original, which premiered in Japan today in 1960.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1945—Flag Raised on Iwo Jima
Four days after landing on the Japanese-held island of Iwo Jima, American soldiers of the 28th Regiment, 5th Marine Division take Mount Suribachi and raise an American flag. A photograph of the moment shot by Joe Rosenthal becomes one of the most famous images of WWII, and wins him the Pulitzer Prize later that year.
1987—Andy Warhol Dies
American pop artist Andy Warhol, whose creations have sold for as much as 100 million dollars, dies of cardiac arrhythmia following gallbladder surgery in New York City. Warhol, who already suffered lingering physical problems from a 1968 shooting, requested in his will for all but a tiny fraction of his considerable estate to go toward the creation of a foundation dedicated to the advancement of the visual arts.
1947—Edwin Land Unveils His New Camera
In New York City, scientist and inventor Edwin Land demonstrates the first instant camera, the Polaroid Land Camera, at a meeting of the Optical Society of America. The camera, which contains a special film that self-develops prints in a minute, goes on sale the next year to the public and is an immediate sensation.
1965—Malcolm X Is Assassinated
American minister and human rights activist Malcolm X is assassinated at the Audubon Ballroom in New York City by members of the Nation of Islam, who shotgun him in the chest and then shoot him sixteen additional times with handguns. Though three men are eventually convicted of the killing, two have always maintained their innocence, and all have since been paroled.
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