Friday, October 24, 2008

31 films of halloween (part 1)...

I've noticed a few blogs doing this and I think it's a great idea, so here's part one of my list of 31 favorite horror flicks that'll add some fright to your Halloween night. These first ten comes from the 1970s, certainly a gorily good decade for horror fans, and the era from which I was spawned, just to be gross about it. Here are the horrifying cinematic bummers that vant to suck your blood...

1. Martin (1977)- Perhaps George Romero’s best film, “Martin” stars John Amplas as a possible teenage vampire forced to live with his very old-world uncle in a decaying industrial suburb of Pittsburgh. Martin fantasizes himself as a Lugosi-type bloodsucker of distinction, but he may just be a razor blade wielding serial killer, or it all could be in his mind. Romero layers several levels of reality, as mediated by fantasy, religion, culture, media and identity, as defined by culture, class, religion, etc, creating a tapestry of American despair. One of my favorite all-time films.

2. Daughters of Darkness (1971)- Harry Kumel’s vampire film, a French-Belgian-German co-production, is haunting, sexy and beautiful. Delphine Syerig is stunning as vampiress Countess Elizabeth Bathory.

3. Countess Dracula (1971)- Another Elizabeth Bathory film, this time filtered through the lens of Hammer Films. It’s a superior bodice-ripper, directed by Peter Sasdy and starring Ingrid Pitt in the title role.

4. Phantom of the Paradise (1974)- A stylish, somewhat brilliant retelling of Faust as a comedic rock opera, directed by Brian DePalma. Paul Williams plays the villain and also composed the incredible soundtrack, which includes some wistful ballads, a few pop tunes and a couple of proto-metal tracks worthy of early Alice Cooper. Jessica Harper, from “Suspiria” and “Shock Treatment,” is the female lead (and has an excellent singing voice). One of my all-time favorite films.

5. Crucible of Horror (1970)- This grim, stark English film portrays the very real world horror of spousal abuse. Matriarch Yvonne Mitchell and daughter Sharon Mitchell plot to do away with domineering and violent patriarch Michael Gough, who turns in a truly chilling performance. The story is somewhat similar, though not entirely, to Clouzot's "Diabolique." There’s a DVD out, but unfortunately it’s a pretty poor (cropped fullscreen) transfer.

5. Autopsy (1975)- Psychedelic horror from Italy. Armando Crispino directs Mimsy Farmer plays a pathology student who hallucinates moving corpses and teams with a priest, played by Barry Primus, to investigate an epidemic of suicides blamed on psychosis caused by sun spots! Of course, this being Italy in the 1970s, a black-gloved killer is at large. Strange and stylish in a groovy mod kind of way.

6. Lemora- a Child’s Tale of the Supernatural (1973)- Enigmatic, beautiful b-movie actress Cheryl “Rainbeaux” Smith plays a young girl on a strange journey in this dreamlike film. Vampires, werewolves and witchcraft all come into play, but the tone is as much fairytale as it is horror. Another strange and wonderful movie.

7. Asylum (1972)- One of many excellent horror anthology films produced by UK outfit Amicus in the 1970s. Written by Robert Bloch (“Psycho”) and directed by Roy Ward Baker, this one centers around the delusional lives of patients in a mental hospital. Patrick Magee stars with Peter Cushing, Britt Ekland, Herbert Lom, Barry Morse and Charlotte Rampling.

8. It’s Alive (1974)- One of several very distinctive, fairly political horror and genre films made by Larry Cohen in the 1970s and 1980s. Cohen was really a master at pulling off intelligent, mature but effective horror on a small budget. This one has John P. Ryan and Sharon Farrell facing off against their own murderously mutated offspring. Cohen’s sequel, “It Lives Again” (1978) with Ryan, Frederic Forest, Kathleen Loyd and John Marley, is good too, but the third film, “Island of the Alive” (1987) (also by Cohen) is kind of goofy.

9. Death Dream (1974)- Another political horror film (also featuring John Marley), directed by Bob Clark, who went on to do “Black Christmas” and, later, “A Christmas Story.” The mother of a soldier in Vietnam wills her boy to return home, and he does, even though he’s been killed in combat. Andy tries to fit in, but can’t quite overcome his unquenchable thirst for human blood, which he injects via syringe. Startling, and decidedly ahead of its’ time in its’ portrayal of the damaged war vet of the 1970s trying to make it back in regular life.

10. The Witch Who Came From the Sea (1976)- There’s no witch in this one, just Millie Perkins as a kindhearted yet alcoholic woman who seems to genuinely love the people in her life but is also subject to delusions and hallucinations and who may be a razorblade wielding serial killer, something of a reoccurring theme in bleak 1970s horror films. One character, the tattooed Jack Dracula (played by Stan Ross), is based on a real-life figure immortalized in the photographs of Diane Arbus, which should give you some indication of where this flick, directed by Matt Climber, is coming from. This is another strange and beautiful film, very grim and tragic, ultimately even kind of touching, and certainly one-of-a-kind.

Up next, the 1980s...

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