This is a blog which primarily gives some attention to movies that I find were overlooked (for whatever reason) or are simply underrated. I also comment on other, mainly movie-related issues as well. I welcome any suggestions for films to be added to this distinguished list.

One word of warning: The films listed below contain spoilers, so caution during reading is required.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Premature Burial (1962)

"Can you possibly conceive it? The unendurable oppression of the lungs, the stifling fumes of the damp earth, the rigid embrace of the coffin, the blackness of absolute night and the silence, like an overwhelming sea."
-Guy Carrell.

As this is Halloween, I've spent the past couple of weeks writing reviews of classic horror films on Among them are Roger Corman's great adaptations of Edgar Allan Poe's works. Corman made a total of eight films in this series, beginning with The Fall of the House of Usher (1960) and ending with The Tomb of Ligeia (1965). All of these starred Vincent Price, except the third, The Premature Burial. Perhaps it's the lack of Price that made it less well-known than the other Poe films Corman made. Ironically, Price was Corman's first choice for the lead, Guy Carrell, but Price was under contract with American International Pictures and this film was made by Pathe. However, once filming was underway, AIP bought Pathe, making Burial an AIP production.

But Ray Milland proved a fine choice for Guy, a 19th Century man who lives in constant fear of being buried alive, despite the reassurances of his beloved Emily (Hazel Court), who soon marries him. But his fear remains strong due to the numerous horrible deaths which have befallen his ancestors. Guy enlists his sister Kate (Heather Angel) to help him build a tomb which one can open from the inside.

However, Emily forces him to destroy the tomb, which eventually leads to Guy's worst fear being realized.

As with the other films in Corman's Poe series, the photography looks wonderful and this film, again like the others, captures the spirit of Poe. While we've had many memorable film versions of Frankenstein and Dracula, I often wonder if we will ever see adaptations of Poe's work which will become as famous and as endearing as Corman's.

Corman's work has also become noteworthy for being the starting ground for some who would go onto become major movie legends, including Jack Nicholson and Martin Scorsese. So perhaps I should not be surprised that Francis Ford Coppola, a full decade before he made The Godfather (1972), worked on some of the dialogue for this film.

Monday, October 28, 2013

The Dead Matter (2010)

"A zombie?"
"Actually, I think they prefer the term 'Post-Mortem Americans.'
-Jill and Frank.

This is a film I was graciously given as a gift when I went to the HorrorHound convention in Indianapolis last month. It was made by the music group Midnight Syndicate, which is known for its Halloween music. Edward Douglas, the group's founder (& the one who gave me this) is in the director's chair here.

Gretchen (Sean Serino) finds a mysterious object with strange powers which she uses to contact the spirit of her dead brother. To that end, she conducts a seance with her friend Jill (C.B. Spencer) and their respective boyfriends Mike (Tom Nagel) and Frank (Christopher Robichaud). But the site they pick turns out to be one where vampires roamed centuries ago and are now walking again. Soon, Gretchen has only a vampire hunter (Jason Carter) as her ally.

The characters are all likeable, but, hands down, the scene stealer is a vampire played by legendary gore master Tom Savini. This is not the first time he's appeared on screen, but he is clearly having the time of his life playing the undead. That may sound a bit ironic given the gory death scenes he gave himself in films such as Dawn of the Dead (1978), Maniac (1980) and Grindhouse (2007).

Dramatically speaking, this film may not break new ground. But if you want something fun to watch on Halloween, you can't go wrong with this.

Monday, October 21, 2013

100 Years of Horror (1996)

"I'm Christopher Lee. Join me for 100 Years of Horror!."
-Christopher Lee.

Anyone who went to the movies in 1996 may recall a promo which had a guy taking on various guises and giving patrons the usual rules of being in the theater (such as no smoking or no talking during the film), while pointing out that the cinema was a century old. That same year also saw the release of a documentary which is appropriate viewing for this time of year, and which, yes, is hosted by this site's favorite actor. This multi-part opus discusses many types of stories within the horror genre, going from the silent era to the present day.

Sir Christopher even brings wit at various points of his hosting, such as when he seemingly vanishes in the segment on sorcerers. I also enjoyed his thoughts on playing the title role in The Mummy (1959). He even mentions his role in The Man With the Golden Gun. Among the other segments are ones devoted entirely to Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi. But other actors, including Lee's peers Peter Cushing and Vincent Price, are also referenced.

One segment is, naturally, devoted to the slasher genre, which is often credited (or blamed on, depending on your point of view), Halloween (1978) and which was declared dead by some at the start of the 1990s. Interestingly, the end of 1996 would see the release of Scream, which basically brought the slasher genre back to theaters, with, sadly, the same results.

Some may be disappointed that classics such as Jaws (1975) and Phantasm (1979) are not mentioned (missing out on one or two things is a risk whenever trying to cover any topic, I suppose), but there is no denying that research and devotion went into this production.

Interestingly, this documentary is available in an abridged 1 hour, 40 minute version, and in its multi-part format. Happily, both are available on DVD, although I personally recommend the latter for the simple reason that it's longer and, thus, has more info.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Interview with Ami Dolenz

Earlier this week, I had the chance to talk with Ami Dolenz. Her father is Monkee member Mickey Dolenz, but she's made a nice career for herself as an actress, in films such as She's Out of Control (1989), and a writer, with her recently published book, Harold and Agatha: The Mysterious Jewel. Fans can also find out about her upcoming projects on her website.

1. Ami, I’ll start with a question I’m sure you’ve been asked multiple times. What was it like growing up as the daughter of one of the Monkees?

-(laughs) if I had a nickel for every time..(laughs). My dad was a great dad. To me, it didn’t really seem different at all because it was just my dad. I remember Alice Cooper being around all the time because he was a next door neighbor. My dad was very loving, wonderful and funny. His sense of humor is one of the things I remember growing up.

2. At what point did you decide that you wanted to become an actress?

-I was probably in high school. When I was really little I wanted to but I didn’t pursue it. In high school, I started doing plays and got an agent. Now I’m in art school to pursue another profession.

3. Your company, KidPix Productions, stages birthday parties for children like movie shoots. Where did the idea for that come from?

-We decided to get rid of that company when we moved to Vancouver. It was a great company but was a lot of hard work. We had other avenues we wanted to explore. It was the combination of my husband, myself and my father. To tell you the truth, it came from a dinner conversation one night. I don’t remember who brought it up because it was a long time ago. I just remember putting it all together and coming up with ideas, like doing the makeup and hair, and yelling ‘Action!.’ We had to film in sequence, unlike an actual movie shoot. That made it more like a play.

4. Do you have a favorite of the TV or movie appearances you’ve done?

-I guess I’d say, for different reasons, I loved She’s Out of Control because I loved working with Tony Danza, and it was a fun character to play. It was like playing 2 characters, going from being an ugly duckling to someone who’s more confident. I also loved playing a genie (in Miracle Beach) because it was fantasy. General Hospital taught me so much and I love the people on that show. That was the first thing I did. I also love the scary movies I did because I love scary movies.

But I’d say She’s Out of Control sticks out because of the poster with me and Tony Danza.

5. Do you have a favorite co-star? Who would you like to work with?

-Tony Danza, but there are so many I’m trying to remember the names (laughs). I can’t think of one person I didn’t like working with. I really think I go into doing something with the intention of being a team effort.

6. You recently had a children’s book, Harold and Agatha: The Mysterious Jewel, published. What was the inspiration for that story?

-When I was about 7-8 I would spent summers with my dad in England. He’d always start off with a Harold & Agatha story. We never wrote anything down but I started loving these stories. He’d finish each story by the time I returned to the airport. I remember certain names & ideas. The story itself, though, is pretty much mine because we couldn’t remember much from what he told (laughs). I dedicated it to my daddy.

7. Do you plan to write other books?

-I’m working on a picture book with my dad now, & I’ll probably work on another Harold and Agatha story. Right now, I’m studying art at Emily Carr School in Vancouver. I wanted to be a cartoonist before I became an actress.

8. You also taught acting classes for children. What was that like?

-I loved it. I loved working with the kids. They were so much fun and I learned about acting from them, as well. We did KidPix after that. I might go back to teaching kids acting one day.

9. Your husband, Jerry Trimble, is also in show business. Do the two of you plan to work together on a movie?

-We did work on a movie called Shogun Cop. I played a bit part. It was before we married. If something comes up, we’d definitely love to work together. He’s doing youth motivational speaking. I’ve been helping him with that. We met in acting class so we had those scenes with each other.

10. Do you have any future movie or TV appearances in the works?

-Not really that I can discuss right now. But we’ll have to see. Keep your fingers crossed (laughs).

Thursday, October 3, 2013

In Search of Dracula (1975)

"Just a word, ladies and gentlemen. A word of reassurance. When you go to bed tonight and the lights have all been turned out and you look behind the curtain and you dread to see a face appearing at the window, just remember: There are such things!"
-Christopher Lee.

It is the month of Halloween, and one film which is ideal viewing is this wonderful documentary on Dracula. Directed by Swedish filmmaker Calvin Floyd and based on the book by Raymond McNally, this film examines not only the 1897 Bram Stoker book which started it all, but also vampire lore from long before its publication.

It also points out how Dracula was inspired by Vlad Tepes, the 15th Century Prince of Wallachia, who became infamous for the manner of which he disposed of his enemies such as the Turks.

It also looks at other notorious killers, such as Peter Kürten, who became known as the "Vampire of Düsseldorf" due to his drinking the blood of his victims and who, some say, became the basis for Fritz Lang's great movie M (1931), although Lang himself would claim this was not the case.

Naturally, the film looks at the famous screen depictions of the Count, including Nosferatu (1922), Dracula (1931) with Bela Lugosi, and Horror of Dracula (1958) with Christopher Lee, who, appropriately, narrates this documentary as well as appears as Vlad and the Count. Curiously, the scenes with Lee in the cape are from Scars of Dracula (1970).

Although The Satanic Rites of Dracula was released two years earlier, one could call this Sir Christopher's true swan song as the Count because it reveals the Count's origins and why the character has endured for over a century.